The Death of Conservatism Is Greatly Exaggerated.” In her critical response to Jon Askonas’s essay on how technologies erode traditions, Christine Rosen takes issue with his argument that conservatism has failed to adequately respond to technological disruptions: “In our technology-saturated society, convinced we can achieve lives of frictionless ease in metaverses of our own making, conservatism reminds us to come back down to earth, and to the reality of our limitations and our wonderfully contradictory, creative, messy, and extraordinary humanity.” I’m not sure, though, that FPR and the other voices she cites as “conservatives” concerned about technology have been as influential as she implies.

Wendell Berry’s The Need to Be Whole.” Speaking of voices that have not been heeded, Wendell Berry’s recent book hasn’t received much attention from established taste-makers. But the reviews that are coming out find it a bracing and necessary book. Jerry Salyer is the latest case in point: “More than ever, America is split between populist nationalism and left-wing internationalism, with little room in either ideology for anything like Mr. Berry’s vision of local patriotic devotion.”

The Beekeepers Who Don’t Want You to Buy More Bees.” David Segal reports on how the growing numbers of honey bees crowd out other pollinators: “Hives are now getting installed at what beekeeping association leaders say is a record pace. As with the B&B Hotel, they are typically motivated by an impulse to do something positive for the environment that is also highly visible — an apiary form of greenwashing. (Hivewashing?).” (Recommended by Tom Bilbro.)

NOAA Is Rolling Out a Plan to Radically Expand Offshore Aquaculture. Not Everyone Is Onboard.” Monique Brouillette details debates over expanding aquaculture in US waters: “There are more opinions about aquaculture than there are fish in the sea. For many opponents, environmental concerns are top of mind. Whether it is concerns over fish effluent and its contribution to harmful algal blooms; the spread of invasive species; or the spread of disease from crowded farmed fish to wild ones, including a range of infectious agents and parasites, such as sea lice; critics have much to worry about.”

Musical Localism and the Rebirth of Culture.” In a fascinating essay commending the goods of music making, John Ahern fingers classical music rather than modern dissonance or various recording technologies as turning music into an expert activity that most of us passively listen to. Regardless of the different reasons for this decline, any good localist can agree with Ahern’s celebration of the “re-emergence of some fundamental part of human nature which wishes to see music not as a thing to be consumed but an activity to be done by many distinct participants.”

Killing the Humanities at WVU: Déjà Vu All Over Again.” Some college should hire Nadya Williams as a consultant. She’s noticed an odd phenomenon: “The institutions where enrollment has been growing over the past few years are those that are investing in the humanities in various ways. By contrast, no one has yet reversed enrollment decline by jettisoning the humanities and liberal arts programs and investing instead in vocational programs. But it doesn’t mean they aren’t trying.”

Resistance in the Arts.” Alan Jacobs considers what conditions promote good art: “There was a period, beginning around 1590 and ending around 1620, when the English theater burned more brightly that it ever had before and ever has since. It is true that the old always commend the days of their youth, always see that time bathed in a golden light. But here’s the thing: sometimes they are right to do so. And an important question, for those of us who love the arts and want to see them flourish, is: Why? Why are certain arts better, clearly and obviously better, at some times than others, in some places than others?” Part of the answer, Jacobs thinks, entails proper responses to limits: “The unresisted work is rarely worth examining.” As Berry writes, “The mind that is not baffled is not employed. The impeded stream is the one that sings.”

How to Possess All World Knowledge … Kind Of.” Jonathan Malesic writes in praise of The World Almanac and Book of Facts. Rather than pretending to offer total, comprehensive knowledge, it figures a kind of beauty: “The Almanac, then, is an art object, a Wunderkammer of trinkets from the land of facts. Freed from the burden of arbitrating truth, its records and lists exhibit gratuitous order — the essence of beauty.”

How to Go Off-grid in Alaska.” Ashley Colby responds to the backlash against one Alaskan family’s perceived poverty. Are they “really poor,” or are they “free to be poor”?

The Genius of David Jones.” Christopher Akers gives a fine introduction to this great Welsh poet and artist and surveys the major themes of his work: “A key concern for Jones is the civilisational shift driven by modern technologies. This presents problems for our capacity to discover man-the-artist, with its eternal truths about man and art, in the ever-changing tides of modernity. This line of thinking bears similarities to the essays of contemporary writer Paul Kingsnorth, who has written on the threats the technological “machine” poses to the human soul.”

Doctor’s Orders.” In a brilliant cover story for Harper’s, Jason Blakely delves into the ways that COVID exposed the epistemic contradictions at the core of American public life: “American democracy and scientific authority are suffering parallel crises of credibility, each standing accused by the other. This twofold crisis has many causes, among them political polarization and the spread of misinformation on social media, as well as long-standing antirationalist religious traditions and anti-intellectual strains in American business and culture. None of these factors should be minimized when attempting to understand America’s widespread antiscientific sentiment. But they need to be supplemented by another, far less widely acknowledged, fount of skepticism—one that requires contending with what the populist view gets right: scientific expertise has encroached on domains in which its methods are unsuited to addressing, let alone resolving, the issue at hand.”

Summering in Scranton.”Bill Kauffman ruminates on a recent trip to the exotic locale of Scranton, PA and muses on mobility: “Pennsylvania ranks fifth in the nation in the percentage of its residents (71) who were born in the state. Bravo! (Last, predictably, is Nevada at a pathetic 25 percent.) And while we’re at it, a beleaguered little city in Pennsylvania owns the most fascinating statistical pairing in my ken: at one point in 1983, Johnstown had the highest unemployment rate and the lowest crime rate in America. Someone oughta study that one.”

Local Culture
Local Culture
Local Culture
Local Culture