Marlboro Enters Space Age

Do you remember in 2001: A Space Odyssey, when the computer called Hal tries to undermine the Jupiter mission by killing all those aboard the spaceship and singing “Daisy Bell” so slowly it hurts to listen? Well, Marlboro’s new online pre-enrollment process is nothing like that. But sure enough, the future has touched down on campus: Students can pre-enroll for all their favorite classes as easily as they can download photos of the Italian prime minister getting hit in the face with a cathedral statuette or look for the cutest cat videos on YouTube.

“It’s like jumping from the Stone Age right into the Space Age,” said Julie Richardson, Marlboro’s interim registrar, who can no longer be found wearing animal-skin garments. She and Tobias Gelston, academic tech coordinator, demonstrated the easy new pre-enrollment module during lunch all last week—I’m not kidding, the hardest thing about it was not dripping pizza juice onto their laptops. As Julie showed me, students can nimbly scroll down the tantalizing list of courses offered and select those that interest them, from Special Relativity to Sex, Violence and Religion: The Art of Caravaggio.

As if by some miracle, all of the classes you choose can be displayed in a handy-dandy weekly schedule and amended until they are just right, and you can sleep until noon on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays for example. You can keep revising your “proposal” until it goes to your advisor in January. Needless to say, but being the obvious type I say it anyway, this digital breakthrough will save reams of paper and endless shuffling across campus for signatures on crinkled slips. Of course the students are still finding lots of other reasons to shuffle across campus this final week of the semester, what with papers and finals and oral exams and fond farewells until next month. But at least all of their pre-enrolling is at their fingertips and going as smoothly as docking on a space station to the tune of Strauss’s Blue Danube. If the students start singing “Daisy Bell,” I will worry.



Books on Tap

I ask you, what could be cozier than curling up with a good book on a cold, blustery, winter day? Why, curling up with 38 books and a chocolate-chip cookie, of course. I did just that yesterday afternoon, during this semester’s session of “rapid reviews,” an event I like to think of as the New York Times Book Review on really strong coffee. Three students and two staff members each gave blistering, heart-racing, one-minute reviews of six-to-ten of their favorite books. It was cold and windy outside, but inside Appletree we were toasty just from the calories generated by the rapidly flapping jaws of these fast-talking bookworms. Homemade cookies from Bonny White ’85, library assistant, didn’t hurt either. Bonny organized this well-read rodeo and had the unenviable task of cutting people off at one minute on the nose with an ear-splitting “beep-beep-beep-beep.”

Here’s my review of the event, also in a blistering one minute or less: Senior Amanda DeBisschop inspired the audience with her articulate description of books of short fiction and poetry, especially Galway Kinnell’s The Book of Nightmares, the basis of part of her Plan. Everyone stopped munching their cookies for sophomore Anne Saunders’ review of Plato’s Theaetetus, and not only because she could pronounce the title. Anne said this lesser-known work of Plato describes “learning as midwifery,” which at first evoked images for me of blood and sweat and screaming but then I got her drift. Assistant Librarian Amber Johnson introduced some lighter fare, but got the biggest laughs out of Shinta Cho’s The Gas We Pass: The Story of Farts. Senior Adam Keller, the only guy on the panel, featured more manly titles like Adrift: 76 Days Lost at Sea and Calvin and Hobbes: It’s a Magical World. Finally, Lisa Christensen, chief advancement officer and the only panelist whose name didn’t start with an “A,” showed her practical side with two quintessential cookbooks, Julia Child’s The Way to Cook and Mark Bittman’s Best Recipes in the World. All-in-all it the rapid reviews was, um…were remarkably, er, “beep-beep-beep-beep.”

For more information, see the video or check out the books listed below:

Lisa: Cat’s Eye; Best Recipes in the World; The Way to Cook; The Last Samurai; An Echo in the Bone; Smilla’s Sense of Snow; The Lacuna; World Made by Hand; Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

Amanda: The Dream Songs; No One Belongs Here More than You; The Book of Nightmares; The Ballad of the Sad Café and Other Stories; The Shipping News; The Branch Will Not Break.

Adam: Adrift: 76 Days Lost at Sea; High Fidelity; The Things They Carried; The Giving Tree; Calvin and Hobbes: It’s a Magical World; Talk to Me Like the Rain and Let Me Listen.

Amber: Oryx and Crake; The Gas We Pass: The Story of Farts; The Fourfold Path to Healing; Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: a Year of Food Life; Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal; Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH.

Anne: The Arcades Project; The Brothers Karamazov; Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant: Confessions of Cooking for One; The Kitchen Book; Tekkon Kinkreet / Black and White; The People of Paper; Theaetetus; Cooking, the Quintessential Art; Adventures of Huckleberry Finn; Ring for Jeeves.



From Denmark, with Höpe

Snow! There is nothing like the first good snowstorm to remind us all of what we have to look forward to for the next four-to-eight months. Those who are skiers or snowshoe-bunnies are already thinking about strapping their feet onto long, pointy boards or modified tennis rackets, respectively, and crashing around through the peaceful woods. Meanwhile, we more mild-mannered and uncoordinated folks are looking forward to wiping out, banana-peel style, and sliding down the hill in front of the library on our butts. But while most of us at Marlboro are putting hot baked potatoes in our long underwear to ward off the first winter chill, one of our number is doing his part to make sure that Vermont winters stay in Vermont for years to come.

At this very moment, sophomore Drew Tanabe is in Copenhagen, that’s right, Denmark, representing a youth-run NGO at the U.N. climate conference going on there. Drew has already sat in on rousing speeches calling for bold action, with animated applause reminiscent of Marlboro Town Meeting, only ten times louder because there are more than a thousand people and nobody is wearing mittens. He reports that the sense of urgency is palpable, as palpably urgent as drinking gallons of coffee in a huge plenary room full of people with only one bathroom. He didn’t really say that, but he did say that the youth presence is very vibrant and involved and hopeful. To learn more about what Drew is experiencing, while the rest of us are huddling here in the snow, check out his blog called To Copenhagen and Beyond.



Real Life 101

Okay, so I might know the difference between transcendental idealism and representative realism, but how would my liberal arts erudition help me, or anyone, run a farm or an art museum? Some students were jumping at the chance to find out at an “intern and volunteer opportunity” table in the dining hall during lunch yesterday, coordinated by our very own euphoniously named career counselor, Desha Peacock. The table featured several local businesses and organizations looking for strapping young students to delve into the epistemological implications of their activities.

“Organizations benefit because Marlboro students are typically self-motivated, with highly developed analytical and writing skills,” said Desha, whose name curiously rhymes with sashay. “These skills are an asset to any organization.” She hopes to build a strong internship program with a wide variety of local organizations, where students can earn credit as part of a class or tutorial, and I have no doubt that her hopes will be realized because Desha can be very convincing. “Interning is experiential learning at it’s best,” she said, and I had to agree, just like that.

At Desha’s magical table of opportunity, there were representatives from Insight Photography, Fertile Fields Farm, Vermont Partnership for Fairness and Diversity and other organizations. I thought the coolest addition was called Brattleboro Time Trade, which is sort of like old-timey bartering on cognitive-enhancing drugs. It’s no longer just “I’ll help you slaughter your hogs if you help me dig an irrigation ditch with your bare hands” anymore. People can get “time credits” for doing odd jobs, cooking, tutoring, transportation, bicycle tune-ups or any old thing for their neighbors, and then cash in those credits on things offered by other community members. How cool is that, and how perfect for idealistic Marlboro students with liberal arts cleverness in abundance to share.