News 05.11.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets


News 05.11.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 05.11.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 05.11.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

One day in December 2016 a 37-year-old British artist named Sam Winston equipped himself with a step-ladder, a pair of scissors, several rolls of black-out cloth and a huge supply of duct tape, and set about a project he had been considering for some time. Slight and bearded, with large grey-blue eyes, Winston had moved to London from Devon in the late 1990s. He supported himself through his 20s and 30s by teaching, doing illustrations for magazines and selling larger, freer-form artworks, many of them pencil-drawn, to collectors and museums. He had just collaborated on a children’s book with author Oliver Jeffers, and done his part to propel “Child of Books” up the bestseller lists. Grateful as he was for commercial success, Winston found he disliked corporate publishing. All the emails! He saw himself as a lead-smudged idealist, an artist-hermit at heart. He’d been troubled by nervous energy and stress since he was young, was an intermittent insomniac, had difficulty filtering noise and distractions in public spaces, and was someone who – like so many of us – increasingly relied on his phone and computer. So Winston decided to hole up for a few days. No screens. No sun. No visual stimulation of any kind. He was going to spend some time alone in the dark.

Read the rest of this article at: 1843

News 05.11.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 05.11.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

NOSTALGIA HAS an air of total irreconcilability. There is the feeling the word describes, of course: a fundamentally impossible yearning, a longing to go back even as we are driven ceaselessly forward, pushed further away from our desire even as we sit contemplating it. But it’s the actual feeling, too, that ceaselessly resists any attempt to give it shape or sense. If we say we feel nostalgic, in general or about something in particular, it rarely needs an explanation, and there likely isn’t a good one anyway: Why should it be the smell of our grandmother’s cookies or the feel of a particular sweater or the sight of a certain tree in a certain playground, and not something else, that sends us searching backward? Why is it welling up now, on an otherwise unremarkable Tuesday? Why haven’t I felt this way for a long time? Why does it matter? And that assumes it even occurs to us to interrogate this sudden rush: one of nostalgia’s more persistent qualities is its ability to elide reason, to be felt deeply without prompting any further inquiry.

It’s this strange aura of elusive profundity that makes nostalgia seem less like some sort of modern condition and more like a universal feeling that took us some time to put our finger on. If feelings in general are internal experiences that demand expression whether or not we have the means for it, our inability to actually do anything with nostalgia might be what kept it ineffable for so long. Most kinds of longing can be settled in one way or another, if not necessarily to the satisfaction of the yearner. Nostalgia can only be lived in or abandoned: it is yearning distilled to its essence, yearning not really for its own sake but because there is nothing else to be done. Maybe it resisted definition for so long because naming it doesn’t help resolve anything anyway.

Appropriately for the elusiveness of the concept, the word nostalgia did not originally mean what we now consider it to—also appropriately, it was coined with a longing for a time when there was no word for what it described. In 1688, a Swiss medical student named Johannes Hofer gave the name nostalgia to a malady he had noticed in young Swiss people who had been sent abroad—chiefly mercenaries, one of Switzerland’s prime exports at the time, though also household servants and others who found themselves in “foreign regions.” As was the style at the time in the nascent field of “medicine more complicated than bleeding humours,” Hofer used a portmanteau from an indistinctly highfalutin form of Ancient Greek: nostos roughly means “home”—although it more often means “homecoming,” which incidentally was also the name for an entire subcategory of Greek literature, most notably the Odyssey—while algos means, more simply, “pain,” derived from Algea, the personifications of sorrow and grief, and a common classification at the time, attached to a variety of maladies that have since gotten either more precise or more vernacular names. (If you ever want to stoke excessive sympathy from, say, your boss, tell them you have cephalgia or myalgia—a headache or sore muscles, respectively.)

Read the rest of this article at: The Walrus


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Like many morose sybarites before me, my guilty pleasure is looking at photographs of the interior of the Titanic. I know they’re real, but the scale of their luxury is almost impossible to believe. There was a wood-paneled gym with steel columns fancier than any Equinox; gold crown moldings in every first-class room; that giant staircase; hand-tufted rugs and jacquard wall upholstery; and weirdly, 3,000 pounds of garlic bread—on a boat.

I thought of those images over the last week while reading about the glory days of Neiman Marcus, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Thursday morning. There are photographs of Oscar de la Renta and Emanuel Ungaro, then kings of international fashion, staging shows in its Newport Beach and Beverly Hills stores in the 1990s and 2000s. There is the Christmas book: a bible of “bizarre offerings,” as former president Stanley Marcus described it in his 1974 memoir Minding the Store, that included outrageous ideas like an elephant, and His and Her gifts like Jaguars (a car for him and a coat for her); robes made out of the most expensive fabric in the world (shahtoosh—have a Google!); and submarines—“the ultimate in togetherness.” In 1999, the catalog included a $35 million Boeing Jet. There are photos of Coco Chanel at the Dallas airport embracing Stanley, the son of the founder. Interior images of the store show total splendor—gold, gleaming, thick, where women with red-lacquered talons peddle tweed ladies-who-lunch jackets—that seems too opulent to be true. Like the Titanic photographs, these images seemed somehow difficult to believe—because instead of existing on a boat, they existed in a store in America.

Read the rest of this article at: GQ

News 05.11.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 05.11.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Sea level—perpetual flux. There is a micromillimetre on the surface of the ocean that moves between sea and sky and is simultaneously both and neither. Every known life-form exists in relation to this layer. Above it, the world of land, air, sunlight, and lungs. Below it, the world of water, depth, and pressure. The deeper you go, the darker, the more hostile, the less familiar, the less measured, the less known.

A splash in the South Pacific, last June, marked a historic breach of that world. A crane lowered a small white submersible off the back of a ship and plonked it in the water. For a moment, it bobbed quietly on the surface, its buoyancy calibrated to the weight of the pilot, its only occupant. Then he flipped a switch, and the submarine emitted a frantic, high-pitched whirr. Electric pumps sucked seawater into an empty chamber, weighing the vessel down. The surface frothed as the water poured in—then silence, as the top of the submersible dipped below the waterline, and the ocean absorbed it.

Most submarines go down several hundred metres, then across; this one was designed to sink like a stone. It was the shape of a bulging briefcase, with a protruding bulb at the bottom. This was the pressure hull—a titanium sphere, five feet in diameter, which was sealed off from the rest of the submersible and housed the pilot and all his controls. Under the passenger seat was a tuna-fish sandwich, the pilot’s lunch. He gazed out of one of the viewports, into the blue. It would take nearly four hours to reach the bottom.

Sunlight cuts through the first thousand feet of water. This is the epipelagic zone, the layer of plankton, kelp, and reefs. It contains the entire ecosystem of marine plants, as well as the mammals and the fish that eat them. An Egyptian diver once descended to the limits of this layer. The feat required a lifetime of training, four years of planning, a team of support divers, an array of specialized air tanks, and a tedious, thirteen-hour ascent, with constant decompression stops, so that his blood would not be poisoned and his lungs would not explode.

Read the rest of this article at: The New Yorker

News 05.11.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Father Michael, a priest my family has never met, in a city we never identified, gave my father a version of the last rites over the telephone on the night of April 4th. My father, John Collins, had received a diagnosis of acute myeloid leukemia in January. After spending nearly two months undergoing chemotherapy at Duke University Medical Center, in Durham, North Carolina, he was finally discharged from the hospital in mid-March, just as the coronavirus pandemic broke out. He and my mother, Sue, returned to their home in Wilmington. Everyone was scrambling. There were cancelled appointments, appointments rescheduled for Zoom; Zoom appointments cancelled, too, when my father’s new, outpatient doctors, having determined that it was too risky for him to continue commuting to Durham, acknowledged that they couldn’t very well devise a treatment plan without being able to physically examine him.

The coronavirus may have accelerated his decline, or it may not have. Leukemia was the disease at fault. Still, the demands on medical personnel, amid the general chaos, made recovering at home dangerous and dying at home unworkable. On the afternoon of April 3rd, my father entered a hospice center. He had not been a churchgoer in recent years, and hadn’t attended a Catholic church since adolescence. Still, we knew that last rites were something he wanted, so we tried hard to make it happen. In the course of the evening and the next day, my mother called “a zillion friends” to try to rustle up a Catholic officiant. No one local would come. Her friend’s sister-in-law’s acquaintance finally found a willing Father Michael somewhere in California. “Just heard from one priest who does not know how to do FaceTime,” the friend’s sister-in-law texted. “He’s now checking with another priest. If he’s tech savvy, he can do all except the anointing.”

I learned about this when I woke up in Paris on April 5th and checked my WhatsApp messages. “Sorry you missed it, but had to take the call when he rang,” my mother had written, referring to the priest, at 2:39 a.m. I should have had my ringer on. I had also missed a video call at 6:11, and one at 6:13. I called my mother at 6:19, and she told me that my father had died. It took me a few minutes to switch on the light in my bedroom, during which time I appeared to my mother in the form of a pitch-black rectangle. She asked if I wanted to see him, and, not really knowing whether I did, I said yes. First, she aimed the camera at the door (“Mom, that’s the door”), and then she turned it toward the bed, where my father’s body lay. The bad lighting and the slow connection produced greenish, unfiltered alloys of pixel and flesh.

Despite having lived abroad for a decade, I’d always thought of FaceTime as a weak substitute for first-order interaction, whether in person or in writing. Like Diet Coke, it was to be avoided except when there were no other decent options. Better to have the real thing, less frequently, than to settle for constant interruptions and glitches. Video calls are unsatisfying not just because of the lack of touch but because they require mutual active presence. Conversation is only a part of companionship. It’s hard to just be when you’re on a call, hard to see when you’re constantly looking.

Because of the coronavirus, I was quarantined in France. When we’d last pushed for a prognosis, in early March, my father’s doctors had guessed that he had somewhere between a year and eighteen months left to live. I had a ticket home for March 19th, but, after the pandemic hit, we decided to postpone the visit. Soon, though, it became clear that my father’s condition was deteriorating. The doctors could see it in his blood-cell counts, but I understood that he was dying when, one afternoon, my kids demanded that he do the Funky Chicken, as he often did for them on FaceTime. After a knockout performance—elbows flapping, knees knocking, bent low enough that he could reach down and slap the floor—he collapsed back into his deck chair, and said that he needed to sleep.

Read the rest of this article at: The New Yorker

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