July 13, 2024

Recommendations are late this week. I am teaching an accelerated summer class, which among other things meets on Friday mornings, making the time when I normally put these together unavailable. I am thinking about how to deal with that, but in any case the class will only last another three weeks. In any case, there’s some good stuff here to check out. I’ll begin with two pieces of writing about the value of education— from very different angles.


Article: Why American Colleges Are Becoming a Force for Inequality by Josh Freedman

Freedman begins this article by saying that “We like to view higher education as the ‘great equalizer’ that leads to social mobility. But selective colleges have long been accused of perpetuating class divides, rather than blurring them.” He then goes on to show that this accusation has some merit today. Selective private schools (and even many public ones) are stuck in a “business model” (Freedman doesn’t seem to see any problem using this term to refer to non-profit educational institutions) based on high spending, especially for capital projects that don’t improve educational outcomes but do improve reputation, and paying for it by actively seeking out “full pay” students, who do not need aid, to increase tuition revenues. This means that even the most high-achieving low-income students are effectively excluded from these schools, which are of course one of the most likely paths to a good career later. Freedman argues, I think plausibly, that getting out of this cycle will require government action to change the incentives for schools, rewarding those who make themselves more accessible to low-income students. Unfortunately, that seems extremely unlikely at the moment, considering the House just passed a bill that would significantly increase student loan interest rates, making college even less affordable for the many students who rely on such loans.


Speech: Commencement Speech at Kenyon College, 1990 by Bill Watterson

With the concerns raised above in mind, it is worth paying attention to what exactly we expect a college education to do for us— and what it can’t do as well. Bill Watterson, as I hope everyone is aware, is the creator of Calvin and Hobbes, which is brilliant— funny and original and thoughtful and wise. This speech is also all of those things. There’s a lot of stuff in here that will be familiar, about doing something you love doing instead of working just to make money, and about not compromising the integrity of what you make; but all of that is good to hear now and again, even if you’ve heard it before. Watterson also makes it clear that his success is not due only to his magical “talent,” but to years of hard work and practice and working at a job he hated to pay the bills while he got better at the thing he loves.



And, on a totally different note:

Video: Saudi Drivers in “Sidewalk Skiing” Craze by BBC News

I can’t find a way to embed this video, but you should definitely go watch it. “Sidewalk Skiing” involves getting a car up on two wheels and driving it that way, possibly while some of the passengers sit on the outside. In the video, some guys change a tire while doing this. More evidence, if any were needed, that boredom is the mother of invention. Also that people are crazy.


Song: “World” by Julia Holter.

Julia Holter’s last album, Ekstasis, was one of the most interesting and original releases of 2012. That might sound like code for “weird,” and it kind of is— this will not be everybody’s thing. But this song is lovely, layers of vocals built gradually into a peaceful 3:00 AM soundscape. If you don’t know her work, you should definitely check this out.

Julia Holter’s new album, Loud City Song, is out August 20. (Via)


Images: Minimalist Posters for Classic Movies by Michael Krasnopolski

Using a very basic template— a circle inscribed in a square and divided by two diagonal lines— Krasnopolski creates surprisingly evocative images for familiar movies. They can be pretty abstract— I still don’t get the one for Pulp Fiction— but they are also brilliantly economical and quite nice to look at .

My favorite poster, for Singin’ in the Rain, is below.

Read more about the posters here.

Singin' in the Rain

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