Good Speech

One thing is obvious: Obama can give a darn good speech:

“This whole notion that has sprung up recently about Democrats’ need to choose between trying to appeal to white working-class voters, or voters of color and women and LGBT Americans—that’s nonsense,” he said. “I got votes from every demographic. We won because we reached out to everybody and [by] competing everywhere and by fighting for every vote, and that’s what we’ve got to do in this election and every election after that.”

Book Notes: Vargas Llosa’s Story of Mayta

This is a novel by the greatest Peruvian writer that is usually dismissed by critics and scholars. It’s considered to be a political hatchet job, Vargas Llosa’s attack on Leftists he is known to despise.

In reality, though, the novel is amazing and has nothing whatsoever to do with facile political judgments. Vargas Llosa always said it’s his most literary novel, and it’s true. The craftsmanship is phenomenal. But as usual with Vargas Llosa, the literary experimentation doesn’t come at the expense of the plot or the ease of reading.

The writer’s portrayal of the leftist guerrilleros is actually extremely generous. He leaves room for no doubt that they are sincerely motivated by feeling the pain of the downtrodden. I don’t share Vargas Llosa’s belief in the profound goodness of the earnest, self-sacrificing revolutionaries like Mayta. But I admire the author’s capacity to look at them kindly.

Forget the damn guerrilleros, though. It’s just a really, really good novel. It’s tons of fun to read, which is really all that matters. Everything that Vargas Llosa wrote before somewhere around 2005 is great. Since then it went a little downhill but that’s normal given his age.

Young Ukrainian Woman

Some time ago, I co-authored an article with an older male scholar. Today, I discovered that there was a published review of the article where the male co-author was referred to as “Professor [his name]” and I was referred to as “a young Ukrainian woman scholar.” I wasn’t all that young when it was published (I was over 30 years old) and I had been a citizen of Canada for years. I don’t bill myself as Ukrainian anywhere in my scholarship.

It’s bizarre and not very pleasant to see one discussed in this bizarre way in a scholarly publication.

NYTimes: How the Far Right Conquered Sweden

I was stumped when I found an honest article on Sweden in the paper. And then I realized that the author was a German who writes for Die Zeit. What he describes in Sweden has existed in places like Belgium and parts of France for about 20 years. Crime-ridden, piss-poor, isolated ghettos that feed fanaticism both inside and outside of them.

Is this one of the posts that should go under the password? The categories of the unsayable expand daily, so it’s hard to keep up.

Who Can Value Liberal Arts?

A colleague shared an interesting story. He asks students in class, “If you could make the exact same salary being a garbage hauler or a doctor, which profession would you choose?”

Students invariably choose garbage hauler.

This is part of the discussion of why students see absolutely no value to the college education but that of getting a credential needed to find a job. It’s a class thing. You need to be of a certain social class (and I mean social, not economic. You can be poor as a church mouse) to value liberal arts education because it expands your horizons and offers you access to the most beautiful achievements of humanity.

This is to say that the many folks who see a college degree as nothing but a gateway to a job are just as right as those few who see it as a chance to experience the pleasure of learning. They come at it from different realities, and each approach makes sense in their particular reality.