Bang-ZOOM go the fireworks

At the end of each home game that the Washington Nationals won this year, fireworks were set off at RFK Stadium. Charlie Slowes, one of the Nationals' radio broadcasters, invariably let loose with a dramatic "bang-ZOOM go the fireworks!" call, which just punctuated the excitement of the Nats having emerged victorious.

I feel like setting off some fireworks and having that call applied to me right now, as I just performed the academic equivalent of pitching a perfect game. It was one of those presentations where everything just worked, from the tech accompaniment to the delivery to the audience response. I imagine that it was what a pitcher feels when they're pitching a perfect game, when all the pitches are just working, and you can't seem to make any mistakes: the curveball curves, the cut fastball darts, the change-up fools batters, and that marginal pitch right on the outside corner of the plate? You get the call, and the batter strikes out.

Obviously, a presentation isn't precisely the same as pitching a baseball game. It's less explicitly oppositional, for one thing; the goal is to reach the audience, not to retire them in order. But there's a similar sense of "being in the zone" when all the pitches are working, so that when questions (which might be thought of as swings of the bat) are tendered, they aren't anything that derails you.

I've only given presentations like that very rarely. One of the most memorable was my job talk back in November 1999, when I was campaigning for the job that I currently hold; another was the talk I gave to the Council on Comparative Studies about "civilizations" maybe four years ago. In all of these cases, once I start into the presentation, it's as if something other than myself takes control of the performance, and I'm just sitting back and watching what happens, as amazed as anyone else at how well things are working. It's an experience of being in form, performing well enough that everything seems both inevitable and wholly contingent at the same time: it felt as though I could have done anything and it would have worked out just as well as though it had been inevitably destined.

In that way I can't completely claim credit for the performance. Yes, I practice presenting; yes, I prepared this talk; yes, I went out there ready to give it my all. But the results -- those I feel like I can only be grateful for, grateful that everything went so well and that I was able to deliver a compelling performance.

And there were Apple people in the audience, several of whom said that they enjoyed what I did and that they were interested in having me do it again in the future. Me? Pitch for Apple? Hell yes. Sign me up. No compunctions whatsoever -- Apple is a company and obviously is interested in selling products and making profits, but I like what they produce and I'm more than happy to tell others and to show them what I have been able to do with Apple hardware and software. If my telling people produces more sales for the company, so be it. And it's not like pitching in that way would require me to make any compromises or to alter the content of what I'm doing, so why the heck not?

I'm not sure how well my perfect game translated to audio, but you can (if you're interested) download the podcast I made of the event during the event here.

[Posted with ecto]

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