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Boston2

10/9

Moving to a new city is hard. But its especially hard when the city you move to is suddenly struck by a freakin earthquake, encased in an impassable dome of mist, and then slammed together with another version of itself from another dimension.

I really only moved because of her. We had just finished college on the West Coast, and she got into the Semiotics program at Miskatonic U. Solid program, tuition almost all paid for etc. It was a good deal. And I went along, clutching my little bachelor’s degree and humming Reliant K, assuming that I would find a good job, say, a week or so after I set my suitcases down. It’s been about two months now, and I still don’t have work.

No, it’s okay, my family says from across the country or maybe the cosmos when the fog is thin enough to let internet waves or whatever through. You’ll find something soon. Just keep looking! My dad reminds me of all the food chains various members of the family have worked at and suggests I ask for legacy benefits.

Well, very funny, dad, but fast food doesn’t pay the bills like it did when you were a kid, and who wants to work at a KFC where the meat they use rotates daily is sometimes bipedal. The KFCs in this city were the third things to switch irrevocably over the other dimension’s version—Kelzabub’s Fried Chickin. I think it’s spelled with an ‘i’ because, like I mentioned, the meat is only rarely chicken. I don’t know what consumer protections and liability is like wherever these KFCs come from is like, but I suppose if we think lawyers are too common and generally evil on this side of the dimensional rift, I can only imagine what lawyers are like on the other side.

Still, its not all bad. My neighborhood didn’t get erased like some neighborhoods—it just got shrunk to about half its original size, and our parallel neighborhood slipped in the empty space. So now there are two 63 Highcrest Terraces, which means that Amazon (which is now exclusively staffed by tall, dark-skinned female warriors) gets our packages mixed up even more than they usually did. I’ve tried talking to customer service to explain that no, as a matter of fact, humans don’t generally eat dried newt eyes no wear eight-legged trousers. I found our next package stuck to the door with a rather large spear, and I stopped calling. I kept the spear though—I’m told that winters are bad, and I have a shovel head in head of a new handle.

One of the craziest parts of this brave new world that I live in is how it just seems to go on. You’d think that half your payroll switching places with imps, trolls, faeries, and assorted demonica would cause even the most heartless and efficient corporation to stumble a bit, but you’d be wrong. Turns out executives and archfiends have a lot in common, and so life continued apace.

Not everyone is taking this experience as well as those execs. I’ve been stopping in at all the staffing agencies downtown, hoping that one of them can finally get my resume in front of the right person. It’s rough. Not for me—I just have to show up. But the poor staffing agency folks are being overrun. I saw at least three zombie hiveminds the last time I was there, offering to do data entry and call center work for peanuts. They were decent size—maybe twenty bodies each, they practically filled the lobby. The poor desk clerk took a resume from each, too flustered by the smell to realize that they were all exactly the same (it’s a hivemind, after all). She was buried under a pile of paper, the hive minds were chatting (which means sixty zombie voices were buzzing and groaning all at once), and all the noise excited a bunch of imps in to the air, who then started dive bombing the staffing agency staff from the ceiling. In all the commotion, some of the accounting gnomes got stepped on, and I left when I saw a short parade of slime monsters rolling up the avenue with resumes in hand.

I’ve spoken to several employers, some who I got into contact with thanks to that very office. Most of the potential roles have been above my pay grade—I don’t read runes, can’t cast background check spells, and don’t know how to use Salesforce. I’ve gotten a few interviews, some in person, and some over the phone. The only network that works after the quake the shift is T-Mobile, which is great, because I have T-Mobile and didn’t have to get a new phone, but it is also terrible, because T-Mobile is terrible.

My wife is having the better time of it all. The Semiotics program mysteriously merged with the Arcanology department in Miskatonic2 , so what would have been two years terminal masters in the art of reading books in a much more complicated way than the average person to little discernable benefit has become a two year terminal masters in the art of Practical Logology (she can cast spells now) and Semiotics, in which she finds hidden meanings in books, but also unlocks the source code of the universe from them. The head of the department, a floating, bearded daemon unanimously elected after wiping the mind of the last department head (an kindly Irish Studies professor who hadn’t said a mean word in his life) with a glance, has promised her a position as a university fellow next year. She’ll be teaching a class of freshcreatures either an intro writing class, or tier 1 natural magick—it’s not totally clear yet.

Most changes are small, details really. Buses are still crowded and unreliable, the subway is still loud and you still have to check the seat to make sure you’re not sitting on slime, and food is expensive wherever you go. There is more variety, but its not a good thing. All in all, I’m much the same as before all this happened. I still don’t have a job, I still need to the pay the rent, and I’m still very unhappy. Until next time, dear journal.

Big if True

An article with a fascinating thesis:

Sweden has gone the farthest toward abandoning a knowledge-based core curriculum and a pedagogy in which students internalize and learn to apply knowledge under the teacher’s instruction and supervision. Sweden has a long history of incorporating far-reaching social-constructivist ideas into the school system. At the same time, Sweden is also unique among Western democracies in its commitment to for-profit voucher schools and school competition. This combination has proven profoundly toxic for the quality of Sweden’s education.

As I have zero knowledge of Sweden, I am not in position to make any determinative judgement. I find the nexus of topics fascinating, as it cuts against consensus views on both sides of the traditional aisle. However, it has the feel of Haidt’s Coddling of the American Mind –that is, fascinating and appealing, but feels too simple to be fully true. To be fair, the article is adapted from a longer piece with full citations.

Wendell Berry and Higher Education |Reviewed by First Things

First Things reviewing Front Porch Republic Editor Jeffrey Bilbro’s book on Wendell Berry can only go well.

Higher education is currently designed to “prepare students and faculty alike for a ‘better place’ than home.” As Berry’s friend Wes Jackson has put it, “upward mobility” is now the only major offered. Baker and Bilbro join Jackson and Berry in calling for an education focused instead on “homecoming,” a course of study designed to help people fit into their particular places rather than join in the ruining of creation in accordance with an abstract notion of progress.

 

They also reply to some of Berry’s critics, such as those who see the language of “hierarchy” and “knowing your place” as a cover for repression based on sex and race. While acknowledging that a cycle of oppression is a real risk historically, the authors argue that the threat today comes not from “too-rigid hierarchies” but from “a chaotic lack of any order whatsoever.” With assists from Peter Leithart and Wilfred McClay, Baker and Bilbro propose that a proper “gratitude” includes the “freedom to correct and improve the gifts of our inheritance.”

Is Yoram Hazony’s “The Virtue of Nationalism” the localist’s response to a global liberal order?

For some time I’ve wondered what a localist response to the seeming necessity of an international liberal order would look like. RR Reno’s recent (and deeply disappointing) review of Jonah Goldberg’s Suicide of the West is an example of how to not make the case.

However, a recent review of  Yoram Hazony’s The Virtue of Nationalism gives me the idea that perhaps there is a way to answer the challenge. The book and its author have been making the rounds on all the podcasts I listen to, so I have some small idea of what Hazony’s speaks. The review highlights a few interesting and sundry notes:

Perhaps controversial for those who take their marching orders from the liberal media, Hazony goes to great and convincing lengths to show why Nazism was not, properly speaking, nationalist but a form of universalist imperialism with a nihilistic streak. The biological universalism of Nazism is fundamentally incompatible with any pluralist nationalist worldview.

But also strikes at the heart of the matter:

Liberalism is antithetical to nationhood because its foundational claim is atomistic individualism—the primacy of the isolated individual’s right to free movement and free choice. Moreover, the liberal vision of political order is determined by a reductionist anthropology. The free-moving and free-choosing individual cannot have impediments to his movement and choice, therefore anything that serves a potential barrier to the individual’s desires must be reduced in order for the individual to be made absolutely free. Therefore, the order of nations is eventually seen as a barrier to the liberal conception of “freedom.”

I certainly find this compelling, and worthy of further research–it seems to be an addition to the works of discontents like Patrick Deneen and Adrian Vermeule, but one that focuses specifically on the international order.

9/3/2018 Assorted Links

  1. The Facebookification of Local Politics: Extending the Wall of the Bathroom Stall A short commentary on social media’s effects on local politics mixed with a review of Cass Sunstein’s #Republic, which paints a rather optimistic picture of the future of social media and democracy. However, the book fails to take into account that local politics requires local knowledge, while social media is inevitably focused on national or international subjects.
  2. Sexual Libertinism Won’t Save the Church Classic wisdom from David French. He spends a few short paragraphs unpacking the idiocy of the modern ethic that claims that libertinism is the solution to the scandals facing the Church. File the NYT article he reviews and its pleasantly modern interpretation of Christ to the recent NowThis special on the beer-drinking all-lifestyle-affirming hipster church in California (from where else could it come?).
  3. Facebook Flags, Censors NPR Report on Inflated Government School Shooting Statistics Another disturbing instance of social media malfeasance–as well as report one would not usually expect from NPR. Good journalism lives, apparently.
  4. End of History Author Francis Fukuyama Thinks Leftist Identity Politics Helped Create Trump We all love to hate Fukuyama, but he affirms some common right-wing opinions on the darkness behind Trump (on both sides of the aisle). Plus a dig at Derrida, which never hurts.
  5. The Predator, the Diplomat, and the Pope I’ve found Michael Brendan Dougherty to be a welcome Catholic voice in these trying times–always looking for reform, untainted by the kind of traditionalism that allows abuses to go unchallenged, but still committed to the Church in its orthodox form. A few key paragraphs:

 

The next thing that can be said of Viganò’s letter is that it is rather obviously the work of a man with grievances against the current pope, and an open detestation of the set of people the pope has elevated in the Church, including Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego, Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago, Cardinal Wuerl, and Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark. Viganò’s letter is written in a way that inextricably links the sexual-abuse and blackmail crisis to beloved figures on the progressive side.

However, the Viganò letter is a sprawling, long, detailed set of accusations and claims. He names so many bishops and cardinals, and describes so many discrete events, that it will be relatively easy for reporters to begin digging through it and verifying or discrediting many of its claims. It is astonishing that so few of the bishops and cardinals who have responded to it — even those who deny individual facts — have contested its main damning accusation against Pope Francis.

In short, there are politcs at play, but the response of the Pope thus far (and of supporters like Cardinal Wuerl) mean that this conversation is far from over.