not to undercut my own attempts to sell it something, but i have gone very off the nytimes op-ed page. it would be hard to imagine a more superficial, repetitive, predictable discourse. one convention is that everything you write about has to show something pseudo-profound about where the whole culture is going etc. today's piece by david brooks about isaiah berlin and anna akhmatova is perhaps itself supposed to be an ecstatic tribute to poetic profundity or something. instead brooks tries to describe excellent and deep writers with flat, blank cliche-peddling: "Today we live in a utilitarian moment. We’re surrounded by data and fast-flowing information". why is that sentence and several more like it in this piece? oh because that's what brooks writes in every column. indeed, everyone has written it in every column since 1992. it is without signification, much less the love and pathos and power he is writing about. the volcanic passion he is supposed to be describing becomes "the whole Great Books/Big Ideas thing". he emerges as a person who could not possibly understand the intellectual and emotional exchange he is describing. he is the situation he's lamenting.