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Category Archives: Culture


If you don’t want to watch the 2011 film “Contagion” right now, that’s certainly understandable. However, I watched it last night, and I found it to be more educational and encouraging than scary. Clearly a lot of research went into this film. I’m guessing that the screenwriters worked with experts in communicable diseases to work […]

A real-world test for the authoritarian mind

There are three conditions of the human psyche that are puzzling and frightening to those of us who don’t have those conditions. Those conditions are authoritarianism, religious fanaticism, and not being very smart. All three of these conditions are commonly found in the same person. To have even one of them can be debilitating. To […]

Lest we forget: Nature bats last

“The Course of Empires: Destruction.” Thomas Cole, 1836. Click here for high-resolution version. About two years ago, I reviewed Kyle Harper’s book The Fate of Rome: Climate, Disease, and the End of an Empire. Harper drew on new climate research and what we might call archeological microbiology to remind us that political histories are only […]

Sherlock Holmes ★★★★

Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon, 1943 When my search for newer fiction fails to come up with anything that I want to read, I start looking for classics. I vaguely remember reading Arthur Conan Doyle many years ago, but if I’ve ever read The Hound of the Baskervilles, I don’t recall it. What fun! […]

Another waste of a big production budget

Above are the opening 38 seconds of Season 2, Episode 1, of The Expanse. How much of the dialogue can you understand? As if things weren’t already scary enough out in the real world, we now have to add the possibility of a global pandemic to our worry list. Good mental health requires some escape. […]

The end of the road for all you can eat home cookin’?

Hillbilly Hideway. See below for more. It’s true everywhere, but here in the American South, our cuisine is (or was) an essential part of our culture and identity. Passing that culture and identity from generation to generation is very important work. But — at least here in the American South — that work is breaking […]

A parable of justice

In the Shadow of Justice: Postwar Liberalism and the Remaking of Political Philosophy. Katrina Forrester, Princeton University Press, 2019. 402 pages. ★★★★ A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, liberal ideas ruled. There had been a terrible Depression, followed by a terrible world war. Seventy-five million people died. Great cities and vast […]

Conservatism, with lipstick and without

Roger Scruton. Wikipedia photo. The Washington Post has an obituary this morning for Roger Scruton, whom the Post describes as a “British philosopher, author and high priest of conservatism.” Scruton was a lipstick conservative. By that I mean that his fundamental meanness was masked by good manners, nice clothes, connections to Cambridge, and even a […]

His Dark Materials ★★★☆

Until the next truly smashing science fiction or fantasy series comes along, His Dark Materials will help a bit to tide us over. Some reviewers seem to think that it’s a Game of Thrones knockoff. It looks more like Harry Potter to me. Still, there are strong elements of originality. A big part of what […]

The center of the universe at 3 p.m. GMT on Dec. 24

The opening of the 2015 broadcast It’s a saying of mine that the center of the universe is not a fixed place. It moves constantly. Young Luke Skywalker touches on this in Star Wars episode IV, when the says, “Well, if there’s a bright center of the universe, you’re on the planet that it’s farthest […]