Rage against the Baseball Machine.” Bill Kauffman wasn’t keen on watching a baseball game where balls and strikes were determined by a machine: “We are told by ABS advocates that transferring the most significant function of an umpire from human beings to a machine will ensure uniformity and standardization of the strike zone — as if bloodless precision is to be desired. I mean… it’s only a game!”

Pinball is of the Body: Why Modern Tech Can’t Recreate the World under Glass.” Rae Hodge explores pinball culture and reflects on repair, Wendell Berry, and the difference between digital and analog games: “A purist as far as these things go, Berry would likely say I’m wrong to equate his ecological principles to the cultural conservation of aging media tech. . . . The thing is, a well-crafted pinball cabinet embodies the memory of, and respect for, its internal computers and tech-craft.

What If All Our Residence Halls Were Tech Free?” Adam Smith shares some lessons he learned from teaching a course this may that entailed students giving up their screens: “I’m tired of reading books about how bad it is. I’m tired of reading statistics about anxiety and depression and suicide; tired of reading about monitoring and surveillance; tired of reading about device addiction and porn addiction; tired of reading about the atrophy of social life and the dominance of anti-social media; tired of reading about how no one knows how to read anymore. I’m a philosopher, but I’m tired of arguments; I’m itching to do something. And the time is right, because it’s not just me. The itch is spreading.”

What Problem Does ChatGPT Solve?” This spring I became rather obsessed with trying to identify why, precisely, ChatGPT and its ilk disturbed me. I wrote this essay in order to articulate these frustrations: “To the extent that we inhabit a culture where thought and writing have become effortless, we will also inhabit a culture incapable of responsible and redemptive relationships.”

Paying Attention.” Shira Telushkin reviews Caleb Smith’s Thoreau’s Axe and Jamie Kreiner’s The Wandering Mind, two books that turn to previous eras to learn how they imagined and cultivated right attention: “We are convinced distraction is a modern problem. It is not. But what does feel modern, by the close of the book, is how vaguely we can define or even describe the goal of our efforts to regain attention. The monks wanted to unite their minds with the divine world through unceasing prayer. We want … to not hate ourselves?”

What Was the Fact?” Jon Askonas continues his series of essays on the erosion of a shared sense of reality, and this new essay is as incisive as the earlier ones: “the power of facts is now waning, not because we don’t have enough of them but because we have so many. What is replacing the old hegemony of facts is not a better and more authoritative form of knowledge but a digital deluge that leaves us once again drifting apart. As the old divisions come back into force, our institutions are haplessly trying to neutralize them. This project is hopeless — and so we must find another way. Learning to live together in truth even when the fact has lost its power is perhaps the most serious moral challenge of the twenty-first century.”

A Hard History of Love.” Musician Matt Wheeler is releasing a new album featuring songs inspired by Wendell Berry’s short story collection That Distant Land.

The Bear in Your Back Yard.” Jill Lepore reviews Gloria Dickie’s Eight Bears: Mythic Past and Imperiled Future and ponders the future of bear-human relations: “Bears … are coming back to places they haven’t been in generations. What does it mean to rewild Montclair, New Jersey, or Grand Rapids, Michigan, or Atlanta, Georgia?”

What if We’re the Bad Guys Here?” David Brooks pens a remarkably honest column about the ways in which elite privilege generates a populist backlash: “The ideal that ‘we’re all in this together’ was replaced with the reality that the educated class lives in a world up here, and everybody else is forced into a world down there. Members of our class are always publicly speaking out for the marginalized, but somehow we always end up building systems that serve ourselves.”

The Regimes They Are A-Changin.” Jon D. Schaff has one of the best reviews I’ve seen of Patrick Deneen’s new book: “One criticism of Why Liberalism Failed was that it was almost all critique, no solution. There was the obligatory ‘Where do we go from here?’ at the end of the book, but it, frankly, felt tacked on. Regime Change: Toward a Postliberal Future is a response to this criticism. Those interested in smart, engaging, thoughtful critiques of the liberal project should read both books. Then, at least, one can make an intelligent critique of postliberalism.”

Our Democracy is Menaced by Two Dragons. Here’s How to Slay Them.” Danielle Allen agrees with Deneen about the need to expand the size of the House, and she delves into detail on what the results of such a change might entail: “I’ve been going on for many moons about the need to grow the House of Representatives. But there are still two major arguments left for why this is so important. It turns out that growing the House is the way to address both the increasing illegitimacy of the electoral college and the corrosion to our system caused by gerrymandered political districts.”

For America’s 250th Birthday, Let’s Think Local.” Hans Zeiger draws on the lessons of the nation’s Bicentennial to urge a local focus for the upcoming Semiquincentennial celebrations: “There is particular urgency in the work of recording local histories. For one thing, we have witnessed the steep decline of local newspapers, and the corresponding means to preserve a record and continuity. Many of the very social forces that shaped our history also changed the nature of its transmission – from the decline of folkways by which oral traditions were once passed, to the incredible mobility of our population—uprooting, re-rooting, and sometimes returning—to the replacement of written records with electronic ones.”

Local Culture
Local Culture
Local Culture
Local Culture


  1. That Brooks column in hilarious. He says that the “elites” “always end up building systems that serve ourselves”, then of course he has to conclude:
    “Are Trump supporters right that the indictments are just a political witch hunt? Of course not. As a card-carrying member of my class, I still basically trust the legal system and the neutral arbiters of justice.”
    So that legal system that was built by and for the “elites” is of course totally trustworthy and neutral. Got it, Dave, your elite card is safe.

    “Trump is a monster in the way we’ve all been saying for years and deserves to go to prison.”
    No rationality, no thought, no argument, just pure emotive vomit. He’s a perfect distillation of the “elites”, Obama is perfect because of his perfectly creased pants, and Trump is a monster, just because.

    (re: Kauffman, I’m as “traditionalist” as it comes about baseball, and robo-umps can’t come soon enough, the current crop of umps are completely grossly incompetent and show zero interest in improving. Mistakes are one thing, total disregard for the game and their jobs is another.)

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