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News 08.26.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

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News 08.26.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
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News 08.26.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
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News 08.26.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
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‘Let’s face the considerable evidence that all sitting is harmful,” writes Galen Cranz, a design historian whose book The Chair traces this object’s long history. Not all sitting, of course. For people who use wheelchairs, they’re an elegant and crucial technology. And sitting itself is not the culprit; any unchanging, repetitive motion or posture fails to give the body the variation it needs. But Cranz, writing primarily for an audience of ambulatory readers in industrialised and therefore sedentary societies, is one of many researchers who have been saying for decades that chairs are a major cause of pain and disability.

Sitting for hours and hours can weaken your back and core muscles, pinch the nerves of your rear end and constrain the flow of blood that your body needs for peak energy and attention. Most people’s bodies are largely unsuited to extended periods in these structures. Extensive research confirms that sitting in chairs is correlated, Cranz notes, with “back pain of all sorts, fatigue, varicose veins, stress and problems with the diaphragm, circulation, digestion, elimination and general body development”. There is growing evidence that relentlessly sedentary jobs – in some, such as bus driving and forklift operating, bodies are literally strapped to chairs – are harmful enough to shorten life expectancy.

Read the rest of this article at: The Guardian

News 08.26.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 08.26.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

There Jaron Lanier and I were, side by side on my computer screen, in a virtual space that looked a little like a conference room and a little like a movie theater. We could’ve been jurors, maybe. I was able to approximate rubbing his head. “As you have discovered,” Lanier said, noticing, “you can reach and interact with people a little bit. So there is this shared-space quality.” He was in Berkeley, California, in the hills above the city, in a house that looks out over the bay. I was in Los Angeles. Five minutes ago we were in our own separate video-chat windows, the ones many of us now see as we’re going to sleep, our dumb faces staring back at us. Then he had hit some buttons. Now we were together.

Lanier calls this technology Together mode; he helped design it this spring for Microsoft, where he has a post as an in-house seer of sorts. Initially he’d conceived of Together mode as a way to help Stephen Colbert—in whose house band Lanier sometimes performs when he’s in New York—figure out how to host his show in front of a remote audience. (Lanier is sometimes credited as the father of virtual reality; he is also sometimes credited as the owner of the world’s largest flute, in addition to the many other exotic instruments he collects and expertly plays.) But mostly he was trying to solve, as he’s been doing since the early ’80s, a problem relating to technology and how humans might use it. In this case: How could we better, more naturally communicate with one another in the middle of a pandemic?

He explained a bit more about how Together mode worked, how it soothed what the medium had previously tended to aggravate. Being side by side, instead of separated—and being able to make eye contact, as we now could—worked on the psychology; it made you a little more playful, a little more relaxed. It might even help build, in the words of the NBA—which swiftly adopted Together mode as a way to project remote fans onto courtside monitors in otherwise empty Florida arenas—“a sense of community.”

Read the rest of this article at: GQ

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Donald Weber was startled to be suddenly confronted by two men from El Paso at his girlfriend’s apartment in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Chiang Mai is a large city in the northwestern part of the country, an energetic mix of markets, shops and packed thoroughfares, a place where people can easily disappear into the anonymity of bustling urbanity.

It was early January 1991, and Weber, at the time 30, had been in the country for about four months. With a thin frame and a long face that made him look a bit like Kevin Bacon, he’d made every effort to stay unnoticed among the mass of people going about their lives. Weber had stayed at hostels, where he slipped the proprietors some cash to not record his real name, and he was now living with his girlfriend, a Thai college student named Tsom, and her little dog Lychee. His name wasn’t on the lease or even the mailbox, and it was alarming that these men had tracked him down all the way from Texas.

Read the rest of this article at: Narratively

News 08.26.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 08.26.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Quick inventory: Among the many things you might be feeling more of these days, is boredom one of them? It might seem like something to disavow, automatically, when the country is roiling. The American plot thickens by the hour. We need to be paying attention. But boredom, like many an inconvenient human sensation, can steal over a person at unseemly moments. And, in some ways, the psychic limbo of the pandemic has been a breeding ground for it—or at least for a restless, buzzing frustration that can feel a lot like it.

Fundamentally, boredom is, as Tolstoy defined it, “a desire for desires.” The psychoanalyst Adam Phillips, describing the feeling that sometimes drops over children like a scratchy blanket, elaborated on this notion: boredom is “that state of suspended animation in which things are started and nothing begins, the mood of diffuse restlessness which contains that most absurd and paradoxical wish, the wish for a desire.” In a new book, “Out of My Skull: The Psychology of Boredom,” James Danckert, a neuroscientist, and John D. Eastwood, a psychologist, nicely describe it as a cognitive state that has something in common with tip-of-the-tongue syndrome—a sensation that something is missing, though we can’t quite say what.

Danckert and Eastwood are hardly alone in their inquiries. In the past couple of decades, a whole field of boredom studies has flourished, complete with conferences, seminars, symposiums, workshops, and a succession of papers with such titles as “In Search of Meaningfulness: Nostalgia as an Antidote to Boredom” (been there) and “Eaten Up by Boredom: Consuming Food to Escape Awareness of the Bored Self” (definitely been there). And, of course, there’s a “Boredom Studies Reader,” which bears the suitably stolid subtitle “Frameworks and Perspectives.”

Boredom, it’s become clear, has a history, a set of social determinants, and, in particular, a pungent association with modernity. Leisure was one precondition: enough people had to be free of the demands of subsistence to have time on their hands that required filling. Modern capitalism multiplied amusements and consumables, while undermining spiritual sources of meaning that had once been conferred more or less automatically. Expectations grew that life would be, at least some of the time, amusing, and people, including oneself, interesting—and so did the disappointment when they weren’t. In the industrial city, work and leisure were cleaved in a way that they had not been in traditional communities, and work itself was often more monotonous and regimented. Moreover, as the political scientist Erik Ringmar points out in his contribution to the “Boredom Studies Reader,” boredom often comes about when we are constrained to pay attention, and in modern, urban society there was simply so much more that human beings were expected to pay attention to—factory whistles, school bells, traffic signals, office rules, bureaucratic procedures, chalk-and-talk lectures. (Zoom meetings.)

Read the rest of this article at: The New Yorker

News 08.26.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Welcome to my mom’s house,” Joe Biden called from the bottom of the stairs, an instant before his sweep of white hair rose into view.

The former Vice-President of the United States and the Democratic nominee for President reached the second floor of a cottage at the foot of his property in Greenville, Delaware, a wooded, well-to-do suburb of Wilmington. He wore a trim blue dress shirt, sleeves rolled to the elbows, a pen tucked between the buttons, and a bright-white N95 mask. It was ninety-nine days to the election. The death toll from the coronavirus pandemic was approaching a hundred and fifty thousand, three times as many lives as America lost in Vietnam; the economy had crumbled faster than at any other time in the nation’s history; in Portland, Oregon, federal agents in unmarked uniforms were tear-gassing protesters, whom Donald Trump called “sick and deranged Anarchists & Agitators.” On Twitter that day, Trump warned that the demonstrators would “destroy our American cities, and worse, if Sleepy Joe Biden, the puppet of the Left, ever won. Markets would crash and cities would burn.”

The man who stands between Americans and four more years of Trump lives with his wife, Jill, on four sloping acres that overlook a small lake. These days, the Biden place feels as solemn and secluded as an abbey. To avoid contagion, Biden’s advisers had put me in a carriage house, a hundred yards from the house where the family lives. The cottage, styled in Celtic themes (green shutters, a thistle pattern on the throw pillows), doubles as a command post for the Secret Service, and large men with holstered guns stalked in and out. Biden settled into an armchair across the room from me and splayed his hands, a socially distanced salute. “The docs keep it really tight,” he explained.

Later that afternoon, the Bidens were due on Capitol Hill, to pay their respects to the recently deceased John Lewis, of Georgia, a civil-rights icon who endured a fractured skull at the hands of state troopers in Selma, Alabama, before rising to the House of Representatives and becoming known as the “conscience of Congress.” It would be a rare excursion. Since the covid shutdown began, in March, Biden had circulated mostly between his back porch, where he convened fund-raisers on Zoom, a gym upstairs, and the basement rec room, where he sat for TV interviews in front of a bookcase and a folded flag. The campaign apparatus had scattered into the homes of some twenty-three hundred employees. Biden seemed pleased to have company. Before I could ask a question, he explained the origins of the cottage. When his father, Joe, Sr., fell ill, in 2002, Biden renovated the basement of the main house and moved his parents in. “God love him, he lasted for about six months,” he said. “I thought my mom would stay.” She had other ideas. (Biden’s mother, the former Jean Finnegan, plays a formidable role in his recounting of family history. In grammar school, he recalls, a nun mocked him for stuttering, and his mother, a devout Catholic, told her, “If you ever speak to my son like that again, I’ll come back and rip that bonnet off your head.”)

After Jean became a widow, Biden said, she offered him a proposition: “She said, ‘Joey, if you build me a house, I’ll move in here.’ I said, ‘Honey, I don’t have the money to build you a house.’ She said, ‘I know you don’t.’ She said, ‘But I talked to your brothers and sister. Sell my house and build me an apartment.’ ” For years, Biden, who relied on his government salary, was among the least prosperous members of the United States Senate. (In the two years after he left the Vice-Presidency, the Bidens earned more than fifteen million dollars, from speeches, teaching, and book deals.) Biden renovated an old garage and his mother moved in. “I’d walk in and she’d be in that chair downstairs, facing the fireplace, watching television,” he said. “There’d always be a caregiver on the stool, and she’d be hearing her confession.”

Read the rest of this article at: The New Yorker

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