The Death of the Alt-Weekly

The obituarists issued last rites for Baltimore’s alternative weekly, City Paper, last month not long after they penned the same for the 62-year-old Village Voice. In 2015, they gave the Philadelphia City Paper its death notices, and before that the San Francisco Bay Guardian (2014) and the Boston Phoenix (2013). Today, reporters are sharpening their quills should they be assigned to bury the Washington City Paper—a paper I once … Continued

Ethics and Human Nature

Questions about what matters, and why, and what exists in the world, are quintessentially philosophical. The answers to many of these questions are informed by how we conceive of ourselves. How has what is often described as the ‘Copernican revolution’ effected by Charles Darwin changed our self-conception? One particularly surprising feature of evolutionary biology is … Continued

Hate Speech and Free Speech on Campus

“We should refuse to allow hateful speakers on campus,” a campus faculty member said. The statement was met with resounding applause. I mentally prepared for the response to what I was going to say next. It was September, and I was at a forum at which several professors, including me, discussed free speech issues before … Continued

What Dickens Disliked About Americans

Charles Dickens’ unfettered joy at first arriving in Boston Harbor in 1842 reads like Ebenezer Scrooge’s awakening on Christmas morning. Biographer Peter Ackroyd reports that he flew up the steps of the Tremont House Hotel, sprang into the hall, and greeted a curious throng with a bright “Here we are!” He took to the streets … Continued

The Bias Behind ‘Word of the Year’

Merriam-Webster named “feminism” its Word of the Year for 2017—not 1971, as might have been more appropriate. The reference company’s shortlist for consideration included “Antifa,” “White Fragility” (two words?), and “Broflake,” defined as “a man who is readily upset or offended by progressive attitudes that conflict with his more conventional or conservative views.” At the … Continued

A ‘Twilight Zone’ for the Twenty-First Century

In a 1961 episode of The Twilight Zone titled “It’s a Good Life,” a small town in Ohio has fallen victim to a despot. The tyrant is endlessly cosseted and indulged by his inner circle, who excessively praise everything he does (anyone who criticizes him is banished to a terrifying hinterland). He’s obsessed with television, which he … Continued

Don’t Spy on Your Kids

For the past two years, Mandie Snyder, an accountant near Spokane, Washington, has been “monitoring” her daughter. With a handy tech tool known as mSpy, Snyder is able to review her 13-year-old’s text messages, photos, videos, app downloads, and browser history. She makes no apologies for it. Last summer, she says, she was able to … Continued

The Origin of the Toast

During the holidays, we often try to capture the feeling of celebrations past. Usually, that means making traditional foods, whether it’s our great-aunt’s fruitcake or the family eggnog. Holidays have a way of preserving vintage recipes that we’d never normally consider. But one custom has truly died out: the centuries-old tradition of toasting with actual … Continued

How to Get Today’s Students to Study the Ancient Greeks

Study of Latin and Greek at Howard University in Washington, D.C., goes back to its formal founding in 1867, when the school was chartered by Congress. Long afterward, the tradition was still going strong. Nobel laureate in literature, Toni Morrison, class of 1953, for instance, minored in classics. Lately, however, the university has made substantial … Continued

Why Writers Should Read the Bible

For Min Jin Lee, the author of Pachinko, writing a novel is a nearly god-like act of creation, a way to preside over a small universe that authors fashion in the image of their beliefs. In a conversation for this series, she explained why her commitment to third-person “omniscient” narration is not just an aesthetic choice, but … Continued