“The 60-Year-Old Scientific Screwup That Helped Covid Kill.” Megan Molteni tells a fascinating and disturbing story about the complicated ways in which medical research makes its way into public health recommendations. “Science” doesn’t take place in a vacuum but involves messy social interactions.
“Dante and Liberty.” Scott B. Nelson shows how Dante understands liberty as depending on a proper respect for limits: “Dante argues that judgment consists in knowing and pursuing the good. Those who err in either respect are not free.”
“Faith in the News? Christianity and Journalism in the New Media Economy.” In a few weeks I’ll be participating in an online panel hosted by Anselm House with Emma Green, Josh Good, and Bonnie Kristian to tackle some tough questions: “How can we become better readers of the news? How can journalists maintain dedication to the truth and build trust, including covering religion well?”
“LaffCon5.” On June 12, the folks at Lafferty League are hosting an online conference dedicated to the writings and ideas of R.A. Lafferty.
“Facing the Past.” Miles Smith IV finds much to commend in Bob Elder’s biography of John Calhoun: “What this biography excels at is placing Calhoun’s ideas at the forefront of his political life without sliding into anachronistic screeds or moralizing editorialization. Elder argues that Calhoun cannot be seen merely as a benighted foil to an inevitably free and progressive America, but instead that the Carolinian was a major player in the broader American story.”
“Reconciliation Is Spiritual Formation.” Now that my physical copy of Comment has arrived, I’ve been enjoying the essays in the latest issue on the dynamics of moral agency. In particular, David Bailey’s exhortation to genuine reconciliation is quite good.
“Thelonious Monk Deserves the Last Note.” Bill Kauffman has some monumental recommendations.
“The 2021 Wendell Berry Farming Program Commencement Ceremony.” Wendell Berry gave the commencement address at this graduation ceremony, and he speaks some about the broader crisis of health that the recent pandemic has only intensified. He then concludes with some essential advice about how to be happy.
“An Agrarian Life.” Brian Miller reflects on how his commitment to a place and a farm has changed his habits of mind.
“As the West Faces a Drought Emergency, Some Ranchers are Restoring Grasslands to Build Water Reserves.” Greta Moran reports on several ways that ranchers are adapting to drought and trying to sell beef directly to local consumers rather than meatpackers.
“Foucault’s Realignment.” Ross Douthat notes that Foucault has becoming increasingly neglected by the left and is now seen as an ally by some on the right: “Having conservatives turn Foucauldian to own the libs doesn’t seem worth the ironies — however rich and telling they may be.”
“Bill and Melinda Gates’ Empire of Dirt.”
“Stench in Farm Country: How Poultry Waste has Led to Uproar.” Andy Miller details the ecological and health consequences of dumping chicken carcases on farmland.
“Lawn Care.” Alan Jacobs considers the joys and frustrations of a reel mower. Just yesterday, as I was mowing my lawn with a reel mower, I was frustrated by its uneven cut and thinking that perhaps when we move this summer, I should “upgrade” to a gas mower. But then I took 15 minutes to adjust the blades, and I was reminded how ridiculously low-maintenance these mowers are. My new lawn will be a bit bigger than our current one, but I hope to continue using what is a very efficient tool. If, as Ivan Illich argues in Energy and Equity, bicycles are more efficient than cars, reel mowers are similarly more efficient than gasoline ones.
“The Anxiety of Influencers.” Barrett Swanson visits an influencer house in LA and ponders the kind of person formed by TikTok and the influencer economy. As he argues, this kind of algorithmic formation shapes even those of us to whom this world seems like an alien landscape.
“An Insurance Startup Bragged It Uses AI to Detect Fraud. It Didn’t Go Well.” Todd Feathers and Janus Rose try to parse some ambiguous claims from Lemonade: “‘Our AI carefully analyzes these videos for signs of fraud. It can pick up non-verbal cues that traditional insurers can’t, since they don’t use a digital claims process,’ the company said in a now-deleted tweet. The thread implied that Lemonade was able to detect whether a person was lying in their video and could thus decline insurance claims if its AI believed a person was lying.” What could go wrong?
“A Time to Replant, A Time to Rebuild.” Tessa Carman reviews Robert Treuer’s memoir The Tree Farm: Replanting a Life, which she describes as “the story of a father’s long, dedicated effort to pass on a rooted inheritance, a full metaxu, to his sons.”
“Surviving the Show: The Case For An Askesis of Perception.” L.M. Sacasas draws on Illich in this exploration of the embodied nature of attention. His reflections here remind me of Borgmann’s notion of “focal practices” and Josef Pieper’s essay “Learning How to See Again.” If attention is embodied, rightly ordering it will entail exercising our senses.
“Eric Carle, Writer and Illustrator who Gave Life to The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Dies at 91.” Emily Langer remembers the remarkable life and work of Eric Carle: “His hallmark collage illustrations, which he created by layering hand-painted tissue paper, needed no translation. Nor did his timeless themes: the joys of discovering a world that was filled with beauty, despite the darkness he had intimately known.”
“Rock and Roll and the Founding of America.” Michele Malia McAloon interviews Will Hoyt about his new book, published by FPR, The Seven Ranges: Ground Zero for the Staging of America.
“It’s Time to Bring Back Place-Based Policymaking.” Rob Atkinson argues that America’s growing regional inequity is the result, in part, of in federal policy. It doesn’t have to be this way.