“If Mr. Kristof Is Taking Names, Apple Should Be Next.” Anthony Barr points out the profit-generated blind spot that permits Apple, Disney, and other American companies from profiting off of slave labor in Xinjiang.
“Barry Lopez, Acclaimed Author And Traveler Beyond Many Horizons, Dies At 75.” Dave Blanchard remembers the life of a remarkable writer: “his writings weren’t simply accounts of his journeys—they were reminders of how precious life on earth is, and of our responsibility to care for it.”
“Reginald Foster, Vatican Latinist Who Tweeted in the Language, Dies at 81.” Margalit Fox writes a fitting obituary for a “monk who looked like a stevedore, dressed like a janitor, swore like a sailor (usually in Latin) and spoke Latin with the riverine fluency of a Roman orator.” And don’t miss John Byron Kuhner’s moving tribute to him in First Things.
“Recovering the Theology of Creation.” James Matthew Wilson worries climage change offers a convenient excuse to bolster centralization, but such misguided solutions only intensify our need for the rich theology of creation on offer in Laudato Si’:
With many such problems visible to us, each with its local habitation and name, why is the only solution ever advanced by “climate change” enthusiasts an international bureaucratic one? Increasing centralization and bureaucratization is perhaps the central political problem of the last 400 years. The Church’s social doctrine of subsidiarity was conceived, in part, to reverse this lamentable but longstanding trend. It gives me pause, then, to hear individuals and organizations already at home with this ever-increasing centralization of political power warming to an environmental cause that so conveniently would advance those aims.
“James Rebanks: Nature is my Office, Come Rain or Shine.” James Rebanks considers the perks of working outside: “My working life can be painted as mindless rural drudgery or as romantic idyll in a pastoral landscape, but the truth is it is a whole range of good, bad and mediocre experiences, just like yours.”
“Ray Bradbury at 100: A Conversation Between Sam Weller and Dana Gioia.” Sam Weller interviews Dana Gioia about Bradbury and his remarkable ability to write excellent stories that appealed to a broad audience: “The way we teach literature has failed to engage the imagination of the new generation of readers. Unless we acknowledge and build on their experience in popular culture, nothing will improve.”
“Taking Humanity Seriously.” Jennifer Frey critiques shallow understandings of happiness as “subjective well-being” and commends the more substantive tradition that understands happiness as rooted in the activities that “could possibly most satisfy, fulfill, or complete a human being, a creature that naturally desires to know what is true and to love what is good and beautiful. This tradition took it as obvious that such an activity would require a certain kind of training and discipline to perform excellently, and that it would consist in a kind of communion with a good that is outside the self.”
“2020: The Year the Elites Failed Upwards.” Jacob Siegel offers a blistering and depressing account of how elites have benefited from their own failures during the crises of the past year:
For millions of people, a disenchantment has broken the spell which upheld their faith in rational, scientific knowledge as the best means to tame the natural chaos of reality and administer the business of society. On top of all the other disenchantments undermining America’s founding myths, this one erodes the foundation on which the entire technocratic regime of modern society rests.
“Biden’s Choice of Vilsack for U.S.D.A. Raises Fears for Small Farmers.” It looks like USDA will continue to subsidize big ag and put the squeeze on small farmers. Going from Sonny Perdue to Tom Vilsack isn’t much of an improvement.
“Studying With Miss Bishop Review: Learning His Lines.” James Campbell reviews Dana Gioia’s forthcoming book, in which he remembers six people who played formative roles in his development as a poet.
“A Penitent Midwestern Regionalism.” Matt Miller reviews two new books about the Midwest and draws on recent work by Matthew Milliner in offering them as exemplars of penitent regionalism:
A penitent regionalism, then, must first be penitent; it cannot turn away from the responsibility that even a much-loved place bears for violence and exclusion, environmental degradation and economic injustice. We cannot make excuses or whitewash the past. At the same time, any grappling with the injustices of a place that aims to effect meaningful change must do so not out of bitterness and disdain but must rather come from affection and hope.
“Civilizing Sketches.” John Byron Kuhner praises Washington Irving’s The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent., “a quiet hymn to the enchantments of history and literature, a guide to how to be a gentleman, a ‘sentimental education’ by example.”
“What Thomas Jefferson Could Never Understand About Jesus.” Vinson Cunningham reviews Peter Manseau’s recent book on Jefferson’s Bible and ponders the importance of what Jefferson left out.
“Falling Letters.” Brian Miller ponders the cultural value of ephemera on the turning of the year.
“After Recent Price Spike, Bitcoin Requires Enough Power for a Country of More than 200 Million People.” Looking for a definition of decadence? Steve Goldstein reports on the ridiculous amount of energy and computing power used to mine bitcoin.