From The Hedgehog Review

Several years ago someone recommended Hedgehog here. I had seen ads for it and bits of essays and thought it was worth a try, so I subscribed. It's a little expensive, and I probably wouldn't have ventured if I hadn't gotten some kind of promotional discount offer.
I was somewhat disappointed, not because the work wasn't good but because most of it just wasn't that relevant or interesting to me. Issues accumulated without my doing more than glancing at them. One, for instance, was devoted to our relationship to animals, another to our relationship to food ("our" being, I think, Americans). The Summer 2020 edition is called "Monsters" and seems to be concerned with the presence of same in popular culture, although I'm not sure because I haven't read it. These things are certainly worth studying, and the writing and research seem to be of very high quality, as is the physical production. But I myself am not interested enough in them to spend much time reading about them.
I wouldn't have renewed for a second year, but they offered it to me at a steep discount, so I gave it another year, with more or less the same result. I had decided definitely not to renew for a third year, until the most recent issue arrived. It's called "America On the Brink," and it concerns, as you would suppose, our political and cultural situation. I've only read the first essay, "Dissent and Solidarity," by James Davison Hunter. It alone has me thinking of renewing my subscription after all. He includes this quotation from Martin Luther King:
The question, What is man? is one of the most important questions confronting any generation. The whole political, social, and economic structure of society is largely determined by its answer to this pressing question. Indeed, the conflict which we witness in the world today between totalitarianism and democracy is at bottom a conflict over the question, What is man?
That question, I submit, is at the root of the division. I don't think I'll try, in a blog post, to summarize the answers given by the two factions, especially as they are not as a rule clearly articulated, except in the case of orthodox Christians. Neither does Hunter, but he makes this observation:
Fault lines already well established between elites and the general public and between the left and the right became open cleavages through the 1970s and 1980s. Those cleavages deepened even more after 1989. With the end of the Cold War, there was no longer a common enemy against which to define shared national identity. With no external enemy, collective identities were formed against the enemy within America itself.
The emphasis is mine. This is the state of things: the factions regard each other not as fellow citizens with whom they disagree, but as enemies. For the most part they offer different answers for King's question. And that is another way of saying that the conflict is a religious one. You can read the whole essay here. It's faintly hopeful. 

Aimee Mann: Bachelor Number 2

After this first paragraph, this is something I posted on Facebook a week or so ago. Before hard disk space became so cheap, I backed up a lot of mp3 files to cd. I've kept them and there are dozens of them, each with typically at least 100 tracks, if it's pop music. Sometimes I pick one at random and put in the cd player in the car and leave it there for a while. I get a lot of surprises, some good and some bad. This was one of the good ones. I thought I had written about this album here at one time, ten or more years ago, but apparently I did not. I remember saying to someone at the time that it was extremely good although a little on the too cool and polished side for my taste. I am hereby raising my opinion from"extremely good" to "outstanding."
All you old folks who tend to think pop music doesn't have all that much to offer past 1975 or so, listen to Aimee Mann's Bachelor Number 2 (or The Last Remains of the Dodo). This is some of the most brilliant songwriting of the last 50 years, with performances to match. It came out in 2000, so not exactly of the moment, but it's timeless, within the pop frame of reference. Musically there are a lot of Beatles-y and Bacharach-y touches.
My only reservation is that in subject matter and general effect the songs don't really touch the depths for me, tending toward rather cool and sharp personal complaints about what seem to be specific people. But dang, she's good. Here's one song, with lyrics, so you can see how well-crafted they are.

Josephine Tey: The Franchise Affair (audio)

On the weekend of November 6, i.e. the weekend after the election, my wife and I made an overnight trip to my ancestral homeland of northern Alabama. It's a 5 1/2 hour drive at least, more if you make more than the minimal stops, so we usually listen to an audio book on the way up and back, trying to find one that will take most of the time but not go over it. This time it was the above-mentioned Josephine Tey novel, read by Carole Boyd. 

It's pretty rare for me that I recognize the name of the reader of an audio book, and the pattern held here. The quality of this one is so fine that I wanted to know more about the narrator, so as soon as I got home I looked her up. It turns out that Carole Boyd is a moderately successful actress (see Wikipedia), especially so at voice work.

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