Café Culture

Clive James on the importance of the café culture to… well, culture:

Today, people use machinery to write, and need a telephone right in front of them, instead of in a little booth downstairs next to the lavatory. They write at the studio or in the office. They might meet for lunch at the café, but a lunch hour isn’t long enough to get the unimportant things said. The talk that counts is the talk that doesn’t matter, and to get that you need time to spare.

Cafés have been taken from us, too. But hey, we can always have coffee dates on Zoom, amirite?

Bastards.

11 thoughts on “Café Culture”

  1. We can obviously link this with the previous conversation regarding remote teaching. Those moments when you talk with colleagues after class or after a meeting, when you discuss and suddenly you have a good idea for a conference, an event with students, or a new program? Or those moments when you talk with staff and a student overhears the conversation and joins you. When students hear you laugh in Spanish when you talk with a colleague, and the student thinks “I want to laugh too!” Or when you recruit a student because you took the same elevator. This is all gone.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. OK, now I feel like crying.

      But it’s true, all true. These times when students would huddle together in the hallway or our lab, talking, going over the material. That was priceless. It’s all been destroyed and for what? For what???

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      1. Exactly. I had conversations with colleagues from different faculty, and they say that it may be different in Business, Psychology, or Chemistry, where online vs in class is less of an issue. I do not buy this. I think that the social and intellectual fabric of the university is the most precious thing, and is beauty happens in person, on campus, regardless of the discipline.

        Liked by 1 person

          1. Of course I know you in person. Look at the initials. I have just realized today that tons of my recent comments never made it to your blog, probably because of my new computer.

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        1. It is exactly the same way in the Sciences and Engineering. Some of my best research ideas have come from random hallway conversations with colleagues. I haven’t had a single super-creative idea of this sort ever since the pandemic started. The whole “remote work” thing is a disaster for any kind of creative endeavour.

          Liked by 1 person

    2. Also the times where you bond with colleagues over criticizing administration. The times where you have a meeting and everyone goes through the motions like a good boy/girl, but then you meet in the hallway with a couple of your trusted colleagues and you say “Well that was a waste of time ain’t it”. On Zoom (and e-mail) you have to keep your good boy persona forever, there’s no way out, and I cannot for the life of me comprehend why even my most anti-admin, union-active colleagues cannot see this and are happy to be Zoom University forever. In a “meta” way, this applies even to attitudes around Covidmania: everyone is there on Zoom looking to be happy to be on Zoom and delighted with blended learning. I have been very disappointed at the Covid-doomerism of my faculty management (senior management, at university level, hasn’t been that bad actually) but it’s impossible to tell whether anyone else agrees with me, as everyone seems just so happy with the state of affairs “until it is safe to come back”. I finally plucked up the courage yesterday to e-mail someone in management about that, but at this stage I am resigned to be seen as an enemy of the people.

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      1. You know that moment in a meeting when somebody is saying something stupid, and you make eye contact with your buddy across the table, and you raise your brows ever so slightly, and the buddy smiles a little, and you know that you are understood. These moments of solidarity, friendship, humor, contact – they are all gone.

        I’m not the most sociable person in the world, to put it mildly. But I really miss these moments.

        I’ll put this in a separate post. Thank you for being a rare person who gets this.

        Like

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