Local Landscapes


We sometimes get very Soviet-like landscapes around here. This piece of rusting machinery in a field overgrown with weeds brings back many memories.

I like walking here, though, because there are no dogs around.

Banning Books From a Library

Are you as disgusted by this arrant idiocy as I am?

North Carolina State University will soon open Hunt Library, to the applause of many – it is clean, modern, full of open spaces… but devoid of books.

Time and Ploughshares Literary Magazine compare it to an Apple store. A quick tour via the library’s YouTube video displays bright rooms, full of crayon-toned colors and vaulted ceilings. There are more than 80 types of chairs in the library (from classic wooden models to poppy-red bubble chairs), but only a few sparsely placed bookshelves.

Instead, books are transported from hidden archives through a mechanized procedure called “bookBot.” This system, according to the library, frees space for “collaborative work.” The library features a “Game Lab” with a 21-foot-wide screen and 270-degree projectors. “No other students in the state will have access to as much technology as they’ve had access to here in the Hunt Library,” boasts the digital library’s Associate Director, Kristen Antelman.

Books are removed from a library to free up space for something called “collaborative work”? This sounds like a scene from a nightmare. Or from the Soviet reality. What is this but a totalitarian paradise where the solitary musings of an intellectual are substituted with the collective chirping of the brainless?

If this is happening at North Carolina State University, does that mean that taxpayers are paying for this monument to stupidity and anti-intellectualism? This sorry excuse for a university needs to be boycotted.

A Really Great Post

I just found this really great post that I wanted to share with you:

It seems like elite women who came of age in the 1970s made much more intentional decisions about their lives with respect to feminist values than women like me who came of age in the 1980s and 1990s. Are these elite families aware of the similarities between them and evangelical families in the way they’ve chosen to arrange their household economies and to allocate the labor of adults? Is the shared value of patriarchal privilege in fact a feature, not a bug, even among so-called “liberal” families?

The women and men I’m writing about are the same demographic that Sheryl Sandberg addressed in her recent book, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead. What, I wonder, do these elites tell their daughters about the importance of working hard in school and getting a college education? Don’t they ever wonder what kind of example they’re setting? Do they care? A woman at the reunion (no job, 3 kids) told me that a friend (no job, 3 kids) called her recently in tears because her daughter said to her, “Mom, if you went to such a great school, why don’t you have a job?”

I’m not the type to sympathize with a surly tween, but that’s not a bad question. What was the point of that college/M.A./M.S./Ph.D./M.D./J.D. degree if you’re not going to use it somehow? I can’t believe I’ve lived long enough to see my age-peers give credence to that age-old antifeminist claim that it’s pointless to admit women to college/professional school or to hire them “because they’re just going to get pregnant and quit. Why waste it on them, when their spot could go to a man who will use his education/opportunity?”

There is more, so make sure you follow the link and read it. In case you don’t like links, I will quote the most important part of the post:

Here’s a useful tip: if you have a college education and unemployment seems like a good idea, seek treatment. If you are educated for and capable of a decent job, the disinclination to work should be seen as a symptom of an underlying problem, not a lifestyle “choice.”

This is absolutely true. It is also absolutely true if we remove the “if you are educated for and capable of a decent job” part. Fear of being present in the public sphere is definitely unhealthy.

Why I Like Americans

A very modestly dressed couple in their fifties emerged from the local mortgage facility and approached the bus station where I was waiting for the bus. People who take buses like to share their stories, so the couple told me theirs. They were getting a second mortgage at the local facility.

“Now we need to cash the check they gave us but it turns out they have a fee of $5,” the man explained. “Like hell we were going to lose five bucks! So we are taking the bus to go downtown and cash the check at out bank for free!”

What I find very curious is that these are people of very modest means for whom $5 is a significant enough amount of money. Obviously, N. and I are in a very different financial situation. We, however, do not believe we can afford mortgages or any form of credit lines. The people from the bus stop, in the meanwhile, get mortgages and second mortgages.

N. also experienced cultural differences yesterday. His car’s engine died almost in front of his work. The owner of N.’s company was driving by in his BMW, spotted N.’s struggle with the car, got out, and helped N. push the car into the parking lot. Obviously, we do not come from a culture where owners of companies with branches in several countries do such things. Instead, they drive by, splashing you with mud.

These two episodes might seem very different but they point to a shared cultural trait: these are very open sincere people who trust the world and feel ultimately very comfortable in it.