American Barn.” In a marvelous essay, Joshua Mabie reflects on the iconic meaning of barns in America: “Attention to barns’ actual history as well as to their cultural value can help us reckon with the complexity of the nation’s agricultural past — and, perhaps, find a better way forward both for consumers who have lost connection to the sources of their food, and for small farmers under threat of losing their livelihoods and homes.”

The Need to Be Whole.” Elisabeth Lasch-Quinn finds Berry’s new book refreshing in an age of partisan talking points: “Berry’s Need to Be Whole is a long ramble of a book. In most cases we would assume such an observation amounts to criticism. In this case, it is cause for celebration.”

Let’s Stigmatize Smartphones.” Elayne Allen looks to communal spheres, places between individual discipline and government regulation, where social groups can exert formative pressure to help people find healthier ways of using their smartphones: “we need to create stigmas around social media and smartphone use—culturally agreed upon limits on device usage, and designated times and places where screen time is socially unacceptable.”

The Screen Is Not Your Master.” In a preliminary effort to outline a theology of digital media, Dan Churchwell puts Nick Ripatrazone’s book Digital Communion: Marshal McLuhan’s Spiritual Vision for a Virtual Age in conversation with Redeeming Technology: A Christian Approach to Healthy Digital Habits by A. Trevor Sutton and Brian Smith.

Achieving Commonness.” This review essay by J. Colin Bradley frustrated me at points, but for the most part he wrestles honestly with the implications of Adrian Vermeule’s Common Good Constitutionalism: “if we can set aside the crusading element, Vermeule’s work poses important questions for the left, too. For many on the left are in fact eager to accept the basic posture of Vermeule’s embrace of a politics explicitly oriented toward something called the ‘common good.’”

Confessions of a ‘Christian Nationalist.’” Rachel Lu weighs into the definitional disputes over “Christian Nationalism” and calls for some more nuance: “It is more difficult than ever today to draw appropriate lines between church and state, but that’s all the more reason to be judicious and circumspect in our discussions of faith and freedom.”

Bruno Latour, French Philosopher and Anthropologist, Dies Aged 75.” Lucy Knight and Angelique Chrisafis remember the life and work of Latour: “A pioneer of science and technology studies, Latour argued that facts generally came about through interactions between experts, and were therefore socially and technically constructed. While philosophers have historically recognised the separation of facts and values – the difference between knowledge and judgment, for example – Latour believed that this separation was wrong.”

Ag Companies’ Loyalty Programs Unfairly Extract Profits from Consumers.” Lina M. Khan, chair of the Federal Trade Commission, outlines the mechanisms that large chemical companies use to charge high prices for their pesticides.

Beyond Good and Evil: On Wendell Berry’s Brave New Book.” Bill Lueders reviews Wendell Berry’s Need to Be Whole: “This is the essential wisdom of Wendell Berry: Things are complicated. Dividing the world into a simplistic dichotomy of good and evil, he cautions in The Need to Be Whole, ‘forbids actual thought or discourse about moral issues, as it forbids self-knowledge, humor, and forgiveness.’”

A California City’s Water Supply is Expected to Run Out in Two Months.” Joshua Partlow visits the town of Coalinga where drought and politics are causing fierce disputes over rising costs for water.

When Is There Too Much Whisky?” John Horvat examines a place where business is booming, but this growth is threatening the local culture: “The island [of Islay] is especially known for its peat-flavored Laphroaig (owned now by Beam Suntory) and its smoky Lagavulin (part of Diageo spirits). Many complain that this expansion is forgetting something essential. The island may be making good whisky, but it may also be selling its soul.” (Recommended by Brian Miller.)

How Catholics Became Prisoners of Vatican II.” Ross Douthat ponders the possibilities of vibrant tradition today as he looks back on the 60-year legacy of Vatican II: “You begin from where you are. The lines of healing run along the lines of fracture, the wounds remain after the resurrection, and even the Catholicism that arrives, not today but someday, at a true After Vatican II will still be marked by the unnecessary breakages created by its attempt at a necessary reform.”

Biden’s Rescue Plan made Inflation Worse but the Economy Better.” David J. Lynch tries to discern how much of today’s inflation is due to the American Rescue Plan and the billions of dollars it sent to Americans: “While experts disagree about the extent of the rescue plan’s contribution to inflation, it seems clear that its role has been larger than the Biden administration concedes while falling short of the calamity that Republicans claim.”

Under Construction: A 26-storey Pig House.” Karen Willoughby details plans for China’s unbelievably huge pig mansion, which is projected to produce 1.2 million pigs per year.

Wesley McNair’s Humble Poetry of Passing Things.” Come for Nick Ripatrazone’s stories about Donald Hall. Stay for his deft reading of McNair’s poems: “McNair melds the prosaic with the surreal — and in doing so, he captures a paint-peeling nostalgia particular to New England.”

Local Culture
Local Culture
Local Culture
Local Culture