In all of the stress about finding a house in Boston I forgot to tell one of my favorite stories from the week.
One afternoon John and I went to Peet’s Coffee near Harvard Square. It was pretty crowded and we had to sit right next to several people. To my left sat two men, one of which had just finished his PhD at Harvard. The other man was a professor of some sort. They were talking about applying for teaching positions and the kinds of things that universities look for in professors.
Then they started talking about a concept that I had, up the that point, never heard of. They started talking about Soft Power. From what I deduced from their conversation (and confirmed through a little research) soft power is the influence that one entity can have over another through un-intrusive means like attraction. Soft power would be things like cultural influence and ideas rather than military force or payment for goods or influence.
Then the recently-graduated PhD started talking about Pokemon. Seriously.
He started talking about how Pokemon was an example of Japan’s exercise of soft power. Then he started going into this deep, intellectual discussion about how the different characters of Pokemon (Picachu in particular) relate to a broad cultural audience in a way that political power never could.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t disagree with the guy. I just thought that it was hilarious that I sat in one of the most pretentious coffee shop locations in the entire United States and listened to a serious discussion about the global impact of Picachu.