Coming Soon:

The following books by Robert Paul Wolff are available on Amazon.com as e-books: KANT'S THEORY OF MENTAL ACTIVITY, THE AUTONOMY OF REASON, UNDERSTANDING MARX, UNDERSTANDING RAWLS, THE POVERTY OF LIBERALISM, A LIFE IN THE ACADEMY, MONEYBAGS MUST BE SO LUCKY, AN INTRODUCTION TO THE USE OF FORMAL METHODS IN POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY.
Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.

NOW AVAILABLE ON YOUTUBE: LECTURES ON KANT'S CRITIQUE OF PURE REASON. To view the lectures, go to YouTube and search for "Robert Paul Wolff Kant." There they will be.

To contact me about organizing, email me at rpwolff750@gmail.com




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Sunday, October 28, 2012

"THE NAME'S THE SAME"

An old and familiar conundrum to impress the uninitiate at parties is to ask, "In a room with twenty-three people in it, what are the odds that two of them have the same birthday?"  Everyone is always surprised that the answer is "better than fifty-fifty."   In a country of three hundred million people, what are the odds that someone has your name? The answer is obviously pretty near 100%.  My younger son, whose full name is Tobias Barrington Wolff [Barrington Moore, Jr. was his godfather], has an extremely uncommon name.  Unfortunately for him, the only other person in American, so far as we can tell, whose name is Tobias Wolff is of course a famous writer, which produced some contretemps until my Tobias became rather famous as well, although in a different line of work.  Tobias, who is a law professor, visited at Stanford Law School a while back, and who was running the Writing Program there?  Yup.  The other Tobias Wolff.  I mean, what are the odds?

I used to think that my full name, "Robert Paul Wolff," was unique in America until idly Googling myself one day [yes, I do Google myself -- make of it what you will], I came upon this entry:

"Robert Paul Wolff, of the 23000 block of Walton Avenue, Port Charlotte, was charged Wednesday with resisting an officer and driving with a suspended license."

I guess I had better steer clear of Port Charlotte.  [For those of you who, like me, have never heard of Port Charlotte, it is on the western side of lower Florida about twenty-five miles north of Fort Myers.]

Anyone doing a fullscale search of criminal records for the name "Robert Paul Wolff" would come up with an arrest for disorderly conduct in 1986 [anti-apartheid protest at Harvard's Fogg Art Museum] and "resisting an officer and driving with a suspended license" a quarter century later.  One could fabricate an interesting story from these data points about an aging leftie reduced in his golden years to petty crimes.

6 comments:

Magpie said...

If you ever go to Florida, perhaps you'll need to to like so:

Placido Domingo: Lohengrin - In fernem Land
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ur91bc3QYBU

Jim Westrich said...

story from the days before widespread internet use while I was an undergrad.

I showed up for the first day of work at a summer job and my new boss greeted me sitting at his desk reading the city paper. "I did not know if you would be coming in today" he said dryly. He then proceeded to show me a small article near the back of the front section showing that "Jim Westrich" (different middle initial, but still) had been arrested for attempted murder the day before. I smiled confusedly but politely and started my work.

It took me a few years but I now think this man was a comic genius.

Robert Paul Wolff said...

Very nice. Attempted murder is way better than resisting arrest and driving without a license!

Roger Hagan said...

Delightful story, Robert. Glad I Googled you. Googled Marcuse too. You are much more alive and funnier.

Roger Hagan said...

Delightful story, Robert. Glad I Googled you. Googled Marcuse too. You are much more alive and funnier.

James Camien McGuiggan said...

Until you posted this I thought that that short story I read - and which I read because I figured that your son might be as good a writer as you - was by your son! Now I don't feel at all as guilty that I didn't like the guy's story that much. Well, it was all right.