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Jack Hitt

Jack Hitt’s most recent book is Bunch of Amateurs (Crown, 2012). A contributor to the New Yorker, Harper’s, and This American Life, Hitt is the recipient of the Pope, Peabody, and Livingston awards. His book Off the Road: A Modern-Day Walk Down the Pilgrim’s Route into Spain (Simon & Schuster, 1994) was made into a motion picture, The Way (2010).

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Illustration by Chris Buzelli

The Meaning of Antonin Scalia

Fall 2017 | Essays

The subtlest feat of modern trolling ended in June 2015, when, as so often happens in America, it was taken all the way to the Supreme Court. For enthusiasts, one gratifying form of trolling involves the simple repetition of a deliberate misunderstanding. Think of it as a reverse con, where the mark is all too aware of what’s going on as the pranksters feign a Who, me? naïveté. In this case, the crew of rogues was the federal judiciary, and the livid sucker was the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

The prank was subtle enough that only law professors and beat reporters really had the pleasure. Like any arcane joke, it required a good bit of in-group background to understand. The setup, however, was vaguely familiar to most Americans: the recent but shifting rulings that led to an embrace of same-sex marriage in 2015 as the newest manifestation of American liberty. The key signpost on that road dates back to 2003, when the court held in Lawrence v. Texas that criminalizing homosexual sex was wrong.


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Photo by Damon Casarez

The Sky Is Calling

Spring 2017 | Interviews

On February 14, 2017, Jim Edwards spoke with Jack Hitt as part of the ongoing series “Amateur Hour,” in which various tinkerers, zealots, and collectors discuss their obsessions. Edwards is a retired aerospace engineer with a passionate interest in astronomy and space exploration. His home observatory in Redondo Beach, California, is designated U73 by the Minor Planet Center for his collection of asteroid data. Edwards has recently been collecting data on the exoplanet WASP-33b. The conversation that follows has been edited for brevity and meaning.

Photograph by Daniel Terna

The Circle Is Now Complete

Winter 2017 | Interviews

On September 30, 2016, Alex Bird joined Jack Hitt onstage at the Institute Library in New Haven, Connecticut, as part of the ongoing series “Amateur Hour,” in which various tinkerers, zealots, and collectors discuss their obsessions. Bird, who lives in Kingston, New York, works to restore cognitive and social skills in survivors of brain injuries. He is ranked as a knight and deacon at the Temple of the Jedi Order, where he has three apprentices. The conversation that follows was recorded live and has been edited for brevity and meaning.

Photograph by Adam Watkins

Amateur Hour: Social Justice

Fall 2016 | Interviews

On August 5, 2016, Tricia Griffith joined Jack Hitt onstage at the Institute Library in New Haven, Connecticut, as part of the ongoing series “Amateur Hour,” in which various tinkerers, zealots, and collectors discuss their obsessions. Griffith operates the online forum Websleuths, which is dedicated to crowdsourcing solutions to baffling crimes, including in-depth examinations of cold cases and the uncovering of key evidence in ongoing investigations. The conversation that follows has been edited for brevity and meaning.

Helfand at home in New York, 2015. (Kirsten Luce)

Amateur Hour: One Born Every Minute

Spring 2015 | Interviews

On September 23, 2014, William Helfand joined Jack Hitt onstage at the Institute Library in New Haven, Connecticut, as part of the ongoing series “Amateur Hour,” in which various tinkerers, zealots, and collectors discuss their obsessions. Helf [...]

Amateur Hour: If You Print It, They Will Come

Fall 2014 | Interviews

On April 1, 2014, Andrew Chastain joined Jack Hitt onstage at the Institute Library in New Haven, Connecticut, as part of the ongoing series “Amateur Hour,” in which various tinkerers, zealots, and collectors discuss their obsessions. Chastain, whose day job is R&D Manager at an ink and printer manufacturer, is also a member of a New Haven hackerspace known as MakeHaven, which hosts various projects in mechanics, biology, electronics, digital art, and other disciplines.

Ronald Mallett. Coventry, CT, February 2014. (Christina Paige)

Amateur Hour: Looper

Spring 2014 | Interviews

A conversation with Ronald L. Mallett, a Research Professor of Physics at the University of Connecticut, where he has been developing a theory for time travel.