A Few Interesting Articles from the News, Pt. 2

Like I said last week, I read a lot of articles and sometimes I like to share what I find. Here’s another batch of interesting and/or fun things I’ve come across recently in the news, mostly from the past week:

1.) “How the Pandemic Defeated America” – by Ed Yong, The Atlantic, Sept. 2020

[Note: This is a long read, but an excellent analysis of how the U. S. has utterly bungled the COVID crisis and of what it has revealed about our country. Below is just a little taste…]

Since the pandemic began, I have spoken with more than 100 experts in a variety of fields. I’ve learned that almost everything that went wrong with America’s response to the pandemic was predictable and preventable. A sluggish response by a government denuded of expertise allowed the coronavirus to gain a foothold. Chronic underfunding of public health neutered the nation’s ability to prevent the pathogen’s spread. A bloated, inefficient health-care system left hospitals ill-prepared for the ensuing wave of sickness. Racist policies that have endured since the days of colonization and slavery left Indigenous and Black Americans especially vulnerable to COVID‑19. The decades-long process of shredding the nation’s social safety net forced millions of essential workers in low-paying jobs to risk their life for their livelihood. The same social-media platforms that sowed partisanship and misinformation during the 2014 Ebola outbreak in Africa and the 2016 U.S. election became vectors for conspiracy theories during the 2020 pandemic.

Check it out here: https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2020/09/coronavirus-american-failure/614191/

2.) “Hygiene Theater Is a Huge Waste of Time” – by Derek Thompson, The Atlantic, July 27, 2020

To some American companies and Florida men, COVID-19 is apparently a war that will be won through antimicrobial blasting, to ensure that pathogens are banished from every square inch of America’s surface area. But what if this is all just a huge waste of time?

In May, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its guidelines to clarify that while COVID-19 spreads easily among speakers and sneezers in close encounters, touching a surface “isn’t thought to be the main way the virus spreads.” Other scientists have reached a more forceful conclusion. “Surface transmission of COVID-19 is not justified at all by the science,” Emanuel Goldman, a microbiology professor at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, told me. …

There is a historical echo here. After 9/11, physical security became a national obsession, especially in airports, where the Transportation Security Administration patted down the crotches of innumerable grandmothers for possible explosives. My colleague Jim Fallows repeatedly referred to this wasteful bonanza as “security theater.”

COVID-19 has reawakened America’s spirit of misdirected anxiety, inspiring businesses and families to obsess over risk-reduction rituals that make us feel safer but don’t actually do much to reduce risk—even as more dangerous activities are still allowed. This is hygiene theater.

Check it out here: https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/07/scourge-hygiene-theater/614599/

3.) “The Mask Slackers of 1918” – by Christine Hauser, New York Times, Aug. 3, 2020

In 1918 and 1919, as bars, saloons, restaurants, theaters and schools were closed, masks became a scapegoat, a symbol of government overreach, inspiring protests, petitions and defiant bare-face gatherings. All the while, thousands of Americans were dying in a deadly pandemic…

The final death toll reached an estimated 675,000 nationwide…

Dr. Dolan said the story of the Anti-Mask League, which has drawn renewed interest now in 2020, demonstrates the disconnect between individual choice and universal compliance.

Check it out here: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/03/us/mask-protests-1918.html

4.) “Your Ancestors Knew Death in Ways You Never Will” – by Donald G. McNeil Jr., New York Times, July 15, 2020

This past March, before coronavirus cases began to mount, the annual death rate in New York City was about six per 1,000 New Yorkers. The virus’s first wave added about 2.5 more deaths per 1,000 to that baseline. By contrast, from 1800 into the 1850s, deaths in the city rose in a relentless series of epidemic spikes, year after year, with only brief respites in between.

The annual baseline back then was about 25 deaths per 1,000 New Yorkers, and in some years the toll reached 50 per 1,000. In other words, in bad years, New Yorkers saw twice as many people around them die as usual. And they were used to seeing about four times as much death as we now do.

The sharpest peaks were the cholera epidemics of 1832, 1849 and 1854. But plagues came in waves, sometimes more than one simultaneously: yellow fever, smallpox, measles, scarlet fever, diphtheria, typhus and meningitis.

Check it out here: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/15/sunday-review/coronavirus-history-pandemics.html?action=click&module=RelatedLinks&pgtype=Article

5.) “I’ve eaten at restaurants, gone to a mall and attended concerts. That is life in France.” – by Timothy Searchinger, Washington Post, July 30, 2020

Over the past six weeks, I’ve eaten out at restaurants five times, attended two concerts, visited a large, busy indoor mall three times, had two haircuts, and repeatedly watched school kids run around the schoolyard. But that’s all been responsible behavior — because instead of being locked down in my house in the D.C. area, I’ve been in France, where life and the economy are now carrying on close to normal.

What France, like virtually all of Europe, has shown is that following standard expert recommendations for dealing with covid-19 works. France had a massive outbreak of covid-19 in the spring… The deaths began occurring late March and reached more than 24,000 by the end of April — a higher death rate than even the United States at the time.

But while the outbreak occurred primarily in only two parts of France, French President Emmanuel Macron imposed a severe, nationwide lockdown on March 16. And during that lockdown, the government put extensive testing and contact tracing in place. Almost exactly two months later, France mostly reopened. And for the last two and a half months, the country has functioned in a primarily open status with around 500 new cases per day and only about 450 deaths in the last month.

Check it out here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/07/30/us-could-learn-frances-response-covid-19/

6.) “Many Americans Are Convinced Crime Is Rising In The U.S. They’re Wrong.” – by Maggie Koerth and Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux, FiveThirtyEight, Aug. 3, 2020

The history of “law and order” campaigns is riddled with dog whistles, and Trump’s recent rhetoric about sending federal agents to combat crime in cities like Chicago arguably falls into this category, according to Justin Pickett, a criminologist at the University of Albany… Talking about the dangers of crime, he said, can turn into a cover for racist attitudes.

None of this has made us safer. And ironically, fear of crime can actually lead to other behaviors that put us at greater risk, like buying and carrying guns. If anxiety about crime keeps Americans from embracing different ways of thinking about criminal justice, that may be doing more harm than good, too. For instance, there’s no real evidence that putting more people behind bars contributed to the decrease in crime or that imprisoning fewer people will raise crime. Instead, a mountain of research points in the opposite direction to problems and inequalities linked to mass incarceration.

The trouble is that fear about crime isn’t rational, and it’s hard to convince people to think differently about a problem that they don’t experience on a day-to-day basis anyway. “You can tell Americans that the crime rate is lower today than it was in the 1990s, but it won’t feel real to them,” said Kevin Wozniak, a sociologist at the University of Massachusetts Boston. “That is, unless politicians stop drumming up the crime rate and people stop hearing about murder every night on the local news.”

Check it out here: https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/many-americans-are-convinced-crime-is-rising-in-the-u-s-theyre-wrong/

7.) “Trump Is Trying to Bend Reality to His Will” – by Thomas B. Edsall, New York Times, July 29, 2020

[Note: This is another long read, but it’s packed with insights about what’s going in U. S. culture and politics. Below is just a little taste…]

“Modern democracies are currently experiencing destabilizing events… including the emergence of demagogic leaders, the onset of street riots, circulation of misinformation and extremely hostile political engagements on social media.”

Driving this destabilization, according their new paper, “Beyond Populism,” is the feeling millions of voters continue to have of being left behind, of “‘losing out’ in a world marked by, on the one hand, traditional gender-and race-based hierarchies, which limits the mobility of minority groups, and, on the other hand, globalized competition, which puts a premium on human capital” — especially on “learning capacity,” roughly measured by the presence or absence of a college degree.

The crucial role of human capital is illustrated in a 2011 study published in the American Economic Review, “Sources of Lifetime Inequality,” by… economists at Georgetown, Arizona State and the University of Pennsylvania.

The authors found that human capital, including learning skills, accounted for “61.2, 62.4, and 66.0 percent of the variation in lifetime earnings, lifetime wealth, and lifetime utility” — a measure of life satisfaction.

Petersen and his colleagues found that those experiencing rising levels of frustration are motivated to turn to the relative extremes of the political spectrum reflecting “discontent with one’s own personal standing.”…

When inequality increases, the issue of status becomes sharper, and “people will simultaneously feel that (a) it is important to get status and (b) that it is very difficult to do so.” In such a situation, at the extremes, “some people will feel that the use of fear and intimidation is an attractive shortcut to getting recognition,” Petersen wrote by email.

“It would be wrong to exclusively think of this as a right-wing phenomenon. People on the extremes of both the left-wing and the right-wing are likely to be high in dominance motivations,” Petersen continued, adding that “we should expect dominance to be a key motivational factor among people supporting or advocating the use of violence for political purposes. While such supporters may appeal to a number of higher-order ideological principles, a personal craving for status seems to be a key motivational factor according to our research.”

The difficulty of rising up the economic ladder is reflected in the decline in mobility in the United States. Research by Raj Chetty and colleagues has demonstrated that the percentage of children who make more than their parents has fallen from just over 90 percent for those born in 1940 to 50 percent for those born in 1984. The declines have been sharpest in the South and Midwest, as shown in the accompanying map — in many of the areas that provided key support to Donald Trump in 2016.

Check it out here: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/29/opinion/trump-2020-populism.html

8.) “Trump is resurrecting the census’s horrific history” – by Karen Bass and Stacey Abrams, Washington Post, Aug. 3, 2020

The mandatory decennial count is laid out in the founding documents of our nation. Over time, we have bettered its process from its original horrific approach. For nearly a century, for every five black Americans, only three were included in the count — the despicable Three-Fifths Compromise built on the assumption that each Black person was subhuman, three-fifths of one. After the Civil War, the 14th Amendment eliminated this practice and, now, the Constitution guarantees an enumeration of “whole” persons.

Unfortunately, in 2020, a century and a half later, the current president is regressing toward that more dishonorable history. His recent executive action to exclude undocumented people from the census holds terrible echoes of erasure and exclusion. The memo is clearly a repeat of his previous efforts to stoke fear of immigrants, refugees and communities of color and to distort the true picture of America. Along with this fear tactic, the Trump administration is stealthily trying to end the 2020 Census early, without accurately counting Black, Latino or Native American communities, whose response rates currently trail the national average. Asian and Pacific Islander communities are also at risk of being undercounted. Worse, the Trump administration wants to use the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse to use a flawed statistical tool that will cement the erasure of these populations.

The consequences of that erasure will be dire. Every 10 years, the census count is used to allocate federal funds and to reallocate political power through reapportionment and redistricting. At stake is the annual distribution of $1.5 trillion for everything from schools to health care to the roads and bridges we drive on. Undercounted communities will get less than their real need…

But there’s more. The 2020 Census will also guide the distribution of political power. With an inaccurate count, under Trump’s scheme, congressional districts, apportioned by Congress every 10 years, will become whiter and more Republican, despite population trends that run the exact opposite direction. The electoral college will be further weighted against the will of the people.

Check it out here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/08/03/karen-bass-stacey-abrams-trump-census/

9.) “Together, You Can Redeem the Soul of Our Nation” – by John Lewis, New York Times, July 30, 2020

[Note: Lewis wrote this essay shortly before his death, to be published upon the day of his funeral.]

Emmett Till was my George Floyd. He was my Rayshard Brooks, Sandra Bland and Breonna Taylor. He was 14 when he was killed, and I was only 15 years old at the time. I will never ever forget the moment when it became so clear that he could easily have been me. In those days, fear constrained us like an imaginary prison, and troubling thoughts of potential brutality committed for no understandable reason were the bars…

Like so many young people today, I was searching for a way out, or some might say a way in, and then I heard the voice of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on an old radio. He was talking about the philosophy and discipline of nonviolence. He said we are all complicit when we tolerate injustice. He said it is not enough to say it will get better by and by. … Democracy is not a state. It is an act, and each generation must do its part to help build what we called the Beloved Community…

Ordinary people with extraordinary vision can redeem the soul of America by getting in what I call good trouble, necessary trouble. Voting and participating in the democratic process are key. The vote is the most powerful nonviolent change agent you have in a democratic society. You must use it because it is not guaranteed. You can lose it…

Though I may not be here with you, I urge you to answer the highest calling of your heart and stand up for what you truly believe. In my life I have done all I can to demonstrate that the way of peace, the way of love and nonviolence is the more excellent way. Now it is your turn to let freedom ring…

So I say to you, walk with the wind, brothers and sisters, and let the spirit of peace and the power of everlasting love be your guide.

Check it out here: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/30/opinion/john-lewis-civil-rights-america.html

10.) “Forty-Eight Years After John Lewis Was Attacked” – by David Zahl, Mockingbird, July 31, 2020

[Note: This is an excerpt from John Lewis’ final book, Across That Bridge: A Vision for Change and the Future of America. Here Lewis describes his 2009 reconciliation with the former Klansmen that beat him senseless 48 years prior.]

Elwin Wilson also said that he was glad we did not have any weapons that day. If Albert Bigelow and I had inflicted harm in Rock Hill, we would have fueled the flames of violence instead of putting them out. Any sense of remorse would have had to compete with the fire of anger. Instead of a possible reconciliation, revenge would have been the product of that violent confrontation in Rock Hill. But because we met this man in love and offered him our respect despite his obvious hatred, it gave him nothing to justify his anger. He left that day only to review it in his mind so many times over the years. The resonance of our innocence made room in his own soul for the realization that he needed to ask for forgiveness. I was surprised to hear him clearly restate forty-eight years later the essence of what I had said to the police officer as I declined to press charges almost half a century earlier: “We’re not here to cause trouble. We’re here so that people will love each other.” That was how he put it. The impact we left was undeniable.

What Elwin Wilson did took courage. He could have simply made amends in his heart, but to publicly put aside his differences and admit his error is unique and bold. By doing this, he demonstrated so poignantly for all to see that love that opens its arms to help heal the pain of another’s suffering — not violence in self-defense — has the power to ultimately disarm the attacker, preserve his or her integrity, and enable the truth to do its work. Love that meets the separating action of violence with forgiveness affirms that our ultimate and eternal unity is transformative.

Check it out here: https://mbird.com/2020/07/forty-eight-years-after-john-lewis-was-attacked/

11.) “Race at Baylor” – by Alan Jacobs, blog.ayjay.org, July 28, 2020

[Note: This is a blog post by a humanities professor at Baylor University, and references statements made by the University about its commitment to weeding out racism in its midst. It is written from a Christian perspective.]

But any quibbles I have about what’s included in Baylor’s statements are insignificant in comparison to my concern about what’s not in them. There is quite a lot about repentance, but I have yet to find one single word about forgiveness, or reconciliation, or hope.

Christianity has a lot to say about sin, repentance, and forgiveness. It tells us that we all sin. It tells us that when we sin against a sister or brother, in thought, word, or deed, we must seek to make it right, and to ask that person’s forgiveness. And if we feel that someone has sinned against us, we are to tell that person so, to give them the opportunity to repent…

If you’re not a Christian, this stuff probably looks like a way to let people off easy. And in one sense it is. As Hamlet says, “Treat every man according to his desert, and who should ’scape whipping?” Christianity is all about people not getting what they deserve, and genuine repentance + the grace of forgiveness is the engine that makes this happen. And, for Christians, them’s the universal rules: there are no exceptions.

It’s become fashionable, in some circles, to denounce calls for reconciliation. Some say, “We don’t want reconciliation, we want justice.” But to Christians, reconciliation is what justice is for. When injustice marks our relations, then what is unjust must be repaired or healed in some way, insofar as that is possible, so that we may live peaceably and lovingly with one another. Walking away from one another is not, for Christians, an option. Forgiveness must be asked for and granted, ordered and received.

In my judgment, it is the opportunity to receive and extend forgiveness that is the greatest possible inducement to repentance and amendment of life, and—I cannot stress this too strongly—a shared repentance and amendment of life make genuine community possible… We will join the prophets and cry out for justice to roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. But we will also echo St. Paul and tell you that we Christians forgive others because God in Christ has forgiven us. We will tell you that your shortcomings and failures can never outpace the mercy of God, who loves his wayward children, all of them, and will someday wipe from their eyes every tear. This is the great hope of those who wound as well as those who are wounded. And all of us sometimes wound and sometimes are wounded.

Check it out here: https://blog.ayjay.org/race-at-baylor/

12.) “Purity Politics Makes Nothing Happen” – by Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic, July 29, 2020

Rangel was Black. Buckley was white. Rangel had demonstrated a lifelong commitment to the full equality of Black people. Buckley had repeatedly stood athwart civil-rights advances, yelling “Stop!” Yet on debate night in 1991, the Democratic representative [Rangel] was the one arguing that the arrest and mass incarceration of Americans caught possessing or selling drugs should continue. And the Reaganite conservative was the one insisting that the human costs of a “law and order” approach were too steep to bear, citing roughly 800,000 Americans arrested that year…

What insights can today’s War on Drugs abolitionists take from this story? First, that in politics and policy making, neither all good nor all bad things go together. A person might care deeply about racial equality, as Rangel did, yet support a policy that fuels racial disparities. A rival might reject anti-racist politics, even siding with white supremacists on some issues, as Buckley did, while fighting to abandon a ruinous policy that has disproportionately harmed generations of Black people. “It is outrageous to live in a society whose laws tolerate sending young people to life in prison because they grew, or distributed, a dozen ounces of marijuana,” Buckley wrote to the New York Bar Association in 1995 as part of his ongoing advocacy… In 1996, National Review joined him, editorializing “that the war on drugs has failed, that it is diverting intelligent energy away from how to deal with the problem of addiction, that it is wasting our resources, and that it is encouraging civil, judicial, and penal procedures associated with police states.”…

[Ultimately] impure alliances are the path to success. 

Check it out here: https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/07/praise-impure-alliances/614695/

13.) “‘Success Addicts’ Choose Being Special Over Being Happy” – by Arthur C. Brooks, The Atlantic, July 30, 2020

Though it isn’t a conventional medical addiction, for many people success has addictive properties. To a certain extent, I mean that literally—praise stimulates the neurotransmitter dopamine, which is implicated in all addictive behaviors. (This is basically how social media keeps people hooked … )

But success also resembles addiction in its effect on human relationships. People sacrifice their links with others for their true love, success. They travel for business on anniversaries; they miss Little League games and recitals while working long hours. Some forgo marriage for their careers—earning the appellation of being “married to their work”—even though a good relationship is more satisfying than any job.

Many scholars… have shown that people willingly sacrifice their own well-being through overwork to keep getting hits of success. I know a thing or two about this: As I once found myself confessing to a close friend, “I would prefer to be special than happy.” He asked why. “Anyone can do the things it takes to be happy—going on vacation with family, relaxing with friends … but not everyone can accomplish great things.” My friend scoffed at this, but I started asking other people in my circles and found that I wasn’t unusual. Many of them had made the success addict’s choice of specialness over happiness. They (and sometimes I) would put off ordinary delights of relaxation and time with loved ones until after this project, or that promotion, when finally it would be time to rest.

But, of course, that day never seemed to arrive.

Check it out here: https://www.theatlantic.com/family/archive/2020/07/why-success-wont-make-you-happy/614731/

14.) “Members Of The Class Of 2020 Face A Brutal Job Market” – by Uri Berliner, NPR, July 31, 2020

It is a very challenging time to be a new college graduate… [C]ompared with the labor market in February before COVID hits, we have seen job postings for the entry-level positions most popular among new college graduates fall by 73%.

Check it out here: https://www.npr.org/2020/07/31/897615460/members-of-the-class-of-2020-face-a-brutal-job-market

15.) “The Panopticon Is Already Here” – by Ross Andersen, The Atlantic, Sept. 2020

[Note: This is another LONG article—in this case, about China’s drift toward an Orwellian techno-state—but it’s an important subject. Here’s a taste…]

China already has hundreds of millions of surveillance cameras in place. Xi’s government hopes to soon achieve full video coverage of key public areas. Much of the footage collected by China’s cameras is parsed by algorithms for security threats of one kind or another. In the near future, every person who enters a public space could be identified, instantly, by AI matching them to an ocean of personal data, including their every text communication, and their body’s one-of-a-kind protein-construction schema. In time, algorithms will be able to string together data points from a broad range of sources—travel records, friends and associates, reading habits, purchases—to predict political resistance before it happens. China’s government could soon achieve an unprecedented political stranglehold on more than 1 billion people.

Xi wants to use artificial intelligence to build a digital system of social control, patrolled by precog algorithms that identify dissenters in real time.

Early in the coronavirus outbreak, China’s citizens were subjected to a form of risk scoring. An algorithm assigned people a color code—green, yellow, or red—that determined their ability to take transit or enter buildings in China’s megacities. In a sophisticated digital system of social control, codes like these could be used to score a person’s perceived political pliancy as well.

A crude version of such a system is already in operation in China’s northwestern territory of Xinjiang, where more than 1 million Muslim Uighurs have been imprisoned, the largest internment of an ethnic-religious minority since the fall of the Third Reich. Once Xi perfects this system in Xinjiang, no technological limitations will prevent him from extending AI surveillance across China. He could also export it beyond the country’s borders, entrenching the power of a whole generation of autocrats.

China has recently embarked on a number of ambitious infrastructure projects abroad—megacity construction, high-speed rail networks, not to mention the country’s much-vaunted Belt and Road Initiative. But these won’t reshape history like China’s digital infrastructure, which could shift the balance of power between the individual and the state worldwide.

American policy makers from across the political spectrum are concerned about this scenario. Michael Kratsios… told me that technological leadership from democratic nations has “never been more imperative” and that “if we want to make sure that Western values are baked into the technologies of the future, we need to make sure we’re leading in those technologies.”

Despite China’s considerable strides, industry analysts expect America to retain its current AI lead for another decade at least. But this is cold comfort: China is already developing powerful new surveillance tools, and exporting them to dozens of the world’s actual and would-be autocracies. Over the next few years, those technologies will be refined and integrated into all-encompassing surveillance systems that dictators can plug and play.

Check it out here: https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2020/09/china-ai-surveillance/614197/

16.) “Ketchup: A Fishy History” – by Science Diction, WNYC Studios, July 28, 2020

Americans eat $800 million worth of ketchup every year, hot dogs, burgers, french fries, eggs. In the US, we put that stuff on everything.

Except ketchup, and the name itself, didn’t come from the US at all. It came from East Asia. And the original ketchup didn’t include the one ingredient that we think of as the most integral, defining, essential thing that makes ketchup ketchup. It had no tomatoes. The original ketchup was fish sauce.

It’s a little murky precisely when and where ketchup as fish sauce came to be. And there’s no single original ketchup mother sauce recipe. But we do know that for centuries, people have been making these fish sauces all over East and Southeast Asia, the kinds you’d probably associate with Thai and Vietnamese food. And one of the places that made these sauces was the Fujian province of China, where they speak a dialect called Hokkien. And in Hokkien, fish was “kay”. Sauce was “chup”.

Check it out here: https://www.wnycstudios.org/podcasts/science-diction/articles/ketchup-a-fishy-history

17.) “The Last Giraffes on Earth” – by Ed Yong, The Atlantic, Apr. 2020

Giraffes are so beloved and familiar that it’s tempting to think their numbers are solid and their future secure. Neither is true. Giraffe populations have decreased by 30 percent over the past three decades. Only 111,000 individuals remain. There are at least four African elephants for every giraffe. To safeguard a future for giraffes, researchers need basic information about how far they roam. GPS trackers can offer answers, but to get a tracker on a giraffe, one must first take it down.

Check it out here: https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2020/04/how-to-tackle-a-giraffe/606787/

18.) “How Poetry Can Guide Us Through Trauma” – by Hannah Giorgis, The Atlantic, Aug. 1, 2020

[T]he acknowledgment of long-buried trauma and how it reverberates also functions as an unburdening… “I go back again and again to [the words of the English poet Percy Bysshe] Shelley—‘Poetry is the mirror that makes beautiful that which is distorted,’” Trethewey told me. “It is the wonderful things you can do with language, the sonic textures and repetition…  that actually make whatever it is I’m writing about lighter.”…

Trethewey, whose mother also died in June, sees the poem as a heavy but hopeful reminder. “It’s that sentiment right there that again and again, I had to put my grief in the mouth of language, because it’s the only thing that will grieve with me,” she told me. “I think a poem like that reminds us of both the isolation that you can feel when you’re grieving, but also the communal feeling that you can feel because of language reminding you that this [process] is ancient and ongoing.”

The pains being exorcised in America now are ancient and ongoing, too—no matter how unprecedented the times. Whether by conveying the scale of national grief during a pandemic, or exposing the relentlessness of racism, poetry has already created new ways of experiencing, and surviving, life’s darkest chapters.

Check it out here: https://www.theatlantic.com/culture/archive/2020/08/memorial-drive-poet-natasha-trethewey-on-grief/614848/

19.) “The Benefits of Talking to Strangers” – by Jane E. Brody, New York Times, Aug. 3, 2020

I’m a lifelong extrovert who readily establishes and relishes casual contacts with people I encounter during daily life: while walking my dog, shopping for groceries, working out at the Y, even sweeping my sidewalk. These ephemeral connections add variety to my life, are a source of useful information and often provide needed emotional and physical support…

In recent months, under stay-at-home orders because of the coronavirus pandemic, many people lost such daily encounters. I, on the other hand, have done my best to maintain as many of them as possible while striving to remain safe… [T]he brief socially distant contacts with people in my neighborhood, both those I’ve known casually for years and others I just met, have been crucial to my emotional and practical well-being and maybe even my health.

The benefits I associate with my casual connections were reinforced recently by a fortuitous find. During a Covid-inspired cleanup I stumbled upon a book in my library called “Consequential Strangers: The Power of People Who Don’t Seem to Matter … But Really Do.” Published 11 years ago, this enlightening tome was written by Melinda Blau… and Karen L. Fingerman… who studies the nature and effects of so-called weak ties that people have with others in their lives…

In an interview, Dr. Fingerman noted that casual connections with people encountered in the course of daily life can give people a feeling that they belong to a community, which she described as “a basic human need.”

As she and Ms. Blau wrote in their book, consequential strangers “are as vital to our well-being, growth, and day-to-day existence as family and close friends. Consequential strangers anchor us in the world and give us a sense of being plugged into something larger. They also enhance and enrich our lives and offer us opportunities for novel experiences and information that is beyond the purview of our inner circles.”…

Covid-19 lockdowns have reminded so many of us of how important our relationships are to our quality of life — not only relationships with the friends and family members we love and know well and who know us well, but also with more casual ones that help us maintain a positive outlook during dark and distressing times.

Check it out here: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/03/well/family/the-benefits-of-talking-to-strangers.html

20.) “Whence Came Stonehenge’s Stones? Now We Know” – by Franz Lidz, New York Times, July 29, 2020

Two kinds of stones make up the roughly 5,000-year-old monument known as Stonehenge. A small inner horseshoe consists of 2- to 4-ton blocks of varied geology, called bluestone after the bluish-gray hue they have when wet or freshly broken. The sarsens, sandstone slabs that weigh 20 tons on average, form Stonehenge’s enormous central horseshoe, the uprights and lintels of the ragged outer circle…

Geologists determined nearly a century ago that the bluestones were dragged, carried or rolled to Stonehenge from somewhere in the Preseli Hills in western Wales, some 180 miles away…

As for the sarsens, conventional wisdom holds that they derived from deposits on the highest points of the Marlborough Downs, 18 miles north of Stonehenge…

Dr. Nash has traced the source of almost all the sarsens to West Woods, on the southern edge of the Downs and several miles closer to Stonehenge.

Check it out here: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/29/science/stonehenge-archaeology-sarsens.html

21.) “Local Man Gets in Touch With Nature by Relentlessly Instagramming Hike” – by Dan Luberto, The Hard Times, Nov. 6, 2015

Local man Aaron Forks spent the greater part of his day staring into his phone, attempting to post photos of an afternoon hike to his Instagram while “just trying to get away from it all,” sources confirmed.

“I really needed to get back to nature for a bit, but nobody really told me how shitty the service is out here,” said Forks after posing for an Instagram photo that would eventually collect 13 likes. “I was Snapchatting with this girl I met on Tinder, and a quarter-mile in I’m at zero bars. What if she is trying to send me something right now and I have no idea if people think this trail is cool because this picture is taking forever to upload?”

Check it out here: https://thehardtimes.net/culture/local-man-gets-in-touch-with-nature-by-relentlessly-instagramming-hike/

22.) “Tomato Looks Like Larry Bird Because The World Needs This Right Now” – by Ron Dicker, Huffington Post, Aug. 3, 2020

One day you’re Basketball Hall of Famer Larry Bird. The next you’re a pot away from becoming marinara sauce.

The former Boston Celtics great trended on Twitter over the weekend for his resemblance to a tomato. Or rather, for the tomato’s resemblance to him.

Check it out here: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/larry-bird-tomato_n_5f282184c5b656e9b09e7581

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