Copy
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
This newsletter may be cut short by your email program. View it in full
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
Saturday, November 7, 2020
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
Suggestions for your senses,
every Saturday at 9 a.m.
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
SPONSORED BY
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif

Good morning.

This week, we quiz journalist and filmmaker Saleem Reshamwala on his media diet, play with Michelle Rinow’s Transforming Touch lights, use baked potatoes as edible hand-warmers, mellow out to Max Richter’s Sleep app, and have a sniff around a field guide to the world’s smells.

On our At a Distance podcast, we talk with poet and essayist Elisa Gabbert and deputy lord mayor of Sydney, Australia, Jess Scully.

249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
c0a5b558-f175-41b1-8fdd-8742f22f9a80.jpg
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
See
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
Deep Focus
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
Courtesy Saleem Reshamwala
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif

Durham, North Carolina–based journalist and filmmaker Saleem Reshamwala has been particularly productive of late: In addition to shooting his first fictional film, a contribution to the Becoming America anthology, he’s host of the TED podcast Pindrop and a mentor to emerging Asian and Asian-American filmmakers through a new fellowship program called The Sauce

We recently spoke with Reshamwala about his media diet. “The things that I find myself feeling happiest after tend to be slow things,” he says. “I’m a huge fan of print, and I really love
Lapham’s Quarterly. I like getting things where, once I have it in my hands, it’s all I’m doing—it can’t turn into a game or turn into Twitter.” Here, he shares who and what he’s following, reading, and watching to get through 2020. 

How do you start your mornings?

I wake up and try to write down three things I’m grateful for, and three things I’m looking forward to about the day. I picked it up from one of those Five-Minute Journals, and I found that, during the pandemic, it helps me separate the days from each other. I rise early and have some time to myself, and usually read some nonfiction. If I read fiction in the morning, I get too drawn into the story and just want to keep doing that instead of working. I’ll also listen to a podcast while I make my tea.

What are some of your favorite podcasts?

That’s changed quite a bit since I started hosting a podcast, because it’s gotten much more exploratory. One thing I listen to really consistently is Planet Money and its [short, daily] show, The Indicator. They’re both about economics and business and money, which are things that I wouldn’t have seen myself putting that kind of time into learning more about, but they’re just so well done. Mogul is a hip-hop podcast that uses sound to tell a story, and the people they get on the show are unbelievable. And then there’s a nerdy philosophy podcast called The Philosopher’s Zone out of Australia—that’s a nice thing in the morning, because it feels so outside of the news cycle. One recent [episode] I really liked was an interview with philosopher Catarina Dutilh Novaes, who explains when it’s valuable to argue, and when it’s not, in a deep, interesting way.

What are your daily reads?

I like Kottke.org. The top post on it right now is an interface for exploring Ed Ruscha’s photos of Sunset Boulevard, and the second one is about the New York Public Library’s essential reads on feminism. That’s something that I’m really looking for now: media that will go deep on one news story. I’m more into the long reads lately. I wish I checked Twitter less than I do. This year, it’s been hard to feel like I’ve been gaining cumulative knowledge. It’s been challenging at times to feel like things are adding up to anything—there’s so much doom-scrolling. So I find myself looking for that [other] stuff. MasterClass is freaking amazing. Mira Nair, the Indian filmmaker, teaches Independent filmmaking; Jodie Foster has a great class on directing

What newsletters do you recommend? 

I’m always intrigued by Robin Sloan, who has been doing the newsletter thing for a long time and seems to be successful. I’m very, very intrigued by people who can figure out how to operate outside of massive corporate-owned social media. That’s something I would love to solve for myself.

What are you watching or reading for fun? 

I just read Circe [by Madeline Miller], an amazing novel and a real page-turner. I’ll pick up an Elmore Leonard book here and there. And I just watched The Umbrella Academy with my wife—that felt like a guilty pleasure.

What do podcasts need to do to stand out these days?

I want to live in a world where podcasts are all very weird and distinct from each other. I really enjoy listening to the Chinese Mythology Podcast occasionally. It’s deeply itself. I know nothing about Chinese mythology, but it’s incredibly charming—it’s just this Chinese woman [Yang Li] explaining certain Chinese myths to her husband [Eric Parfitt], and it’s clearly a very small project. But I’m really intrigued by ways that people can do a super deep-dive into something. George Saunders said something like, “Art is a black box, and what matters is that when you come out of the box, you should be different than when you went into it.” I’m really into things that make me feel different for a little while when I’m in them—especially during quarantine, when so many things feel distant. 

249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
02817334-c281-4083-8c48-cc1cd3aab3d1.jpg
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
Touch
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
Knit Wit
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
Courtesy Michelle Rinow
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif

“Many people think play is just for children,” says London-based designer Michelle Rinow. “But it’s necessary through all stages of life.” This sentiment is what led the Royal College of Art graduate, who earned a master’s degree in textiles earlier this year, to develop Transforming Touch, a series of knitted lights that encourage users of every age to engage in a bout of old-fashioned fun. Rinow cleverly employed tricky weaving techniques and vibrant colors to entice curious fingers onto the lighting’s tactile surfaces. Made out of cotton and silk industrial yarn, touch sensors, and LED lights, the objects transform and respond when handled: Squeeze, stroke, or poke the rim of a wall-mounted fixture to turn it on and activate its rubber center, which inflates and deflates like a beating heart, or pull apart an accordion-like table lamp to reveal hidden hues between its folds. 

While the project came about when Rinow was still in school (she wrote her dissertation on how play can help with the increased stresses, demands, and fast pace of daily life), it’s become even more pertinent to her during the pandemic. How does she imagine her design might evolve? “Thinking about people’s increasing struggles with mental health and feelings of isolation, the lamps’ technology could go a step further and assist in connecting us,” she says, noting that the fixtures could be wired to act as a communication tool. “So if your loved one in a different city interacts with their light, it [would trigger] a response in the light in your home.” In other words, her kinetic creations offer more than just illumination—they reimagine how we interface with everyday household items, and with each other.

249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
SPONSORED BY
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
ac88f66b-0c77-4443-b441-7965dbd27806.jpg
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
Taste
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
Heat and Potatoes
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
Courtesy Canadian Food Safety Training
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif

If you’ve found disposable hand-warmers to be tepid at best, consider the baked potato. According to historian Geri Walton, in the Victorian era, street hawkers doled out the humble spud as more than a meal: Large, coarse-skinned French Regent potatoes were baked for an hour and a half, swaddled in emerald green baize (the felt-like fabric of pool tables), then kept in a heated can—some of them very ornate, with polished brass-plated fronts adorned with names like the “Prince of Wales”—to be sold on frigid streets to warm the hands (and the cockles) of passersby. And those hot tubers could be big sellers. In a single chilly day, one vendor in Smithfield, England, was reported to dish out a thousand potatoes; customers would heat their palms with them in their pockets, and later devour them for dinner. 

Such resourcefulness is food for thought—especially as we head into the colder months of the pandemic. In a recent article for Bloomberg CityLab, architecture and design critic Alexandra Lange praises the ingenuity of using the root vegetable for a dual purpose. It is “inexpensive, portable, requires minimal setup to cook, and comes in its own wrapper,” she writes. “For the winter ahead, American cities need a lot more ideas like the baked potato: pop-up comforts, at many scales, that can gather a crowd outdoors and ensure people get the sun and socialization they need.”

249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
d29f0557-b414-4fea-82c5-a15d9da127ac.jpg
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
Hear
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
Sleepy Time
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
Courtesy Max Richter
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif

In 2015, German-born British composer Max Richter wrote an epic eight-and-a-half-hour-long musical cycle titled “Sleep,” with the intention of it being the soundtrack to one night’s snooze. It consists of 31 tracks that each last about half an hour, and has been performed around the world and streamed more than half a billion times. “It’s protest music against this sort of very super-industrialized, intense, mechanized way of living right now,” Richter said ahead of the piece’s U.S. premiere. “It’s a political work in that sense. It’s a call to arms to stop what we’re doing.”

Recently, with the help of the Berlin-based record label Deutsche Grammophon, Richter transformed the score into an app of the same name. Divided into three sessions—Sleep, Meditate, and Focus—users can set timers for the music to play according to a chosen activity. (There’s also a tranquil alarm sound, created by Richter specifically for the project.) As a possible deterrent to flicking endlessly through social media, a soothing animation of planetary movements appears on-screen when the app is in use. Each song is an immersive, transporting experience—and a surefire way to reach peak mellow.

249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
baead8ed-590e-4c70-8193-fb78540a1493.jpg
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
Smell
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
Nasal Probe
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
Courtesy Penguin Press
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif

Your nose knows best. So says Harold McGee, a leading expert on the science of food and cooking, and author of the new book Nose Dive: A Field Guide To The World’s Smells. Developed over the course of a decade, the blockbuster attempts to unpack the science of scent by looking in great depth (the tome is just shy of 700 pages) at all manner of whiffs, spanning the odor of wet pavement to the pong of swamps to the aroma of truffles. Learn why skin sometimes has a metallic tang, how parmesan can adopt the flavor of pineapple, and the reason that green tea tastes like the seaside (and how strange that is, given that the seaside technically is un-tasteable). It’s a geeky, meticulously researched compendium that reflects McGee’s deep-seated belief that all scents exist to be noticed. Smells “can tell us about how they came to be, about the otherwise insensible workings of the world,” he writes. “There’s a rich world of sensations and significance out there, intangible and invisible and fleeting, but vivid and real.”

249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
6e1482bb-d358-4d02-bf91-1afb9922204a.gif
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif

Until next week...

Today’s email was written by Kathryn O’Shea-Evans, who contributed the See and Taste columns, and Tom Morris, who contributed the Touch, Hear, and Smell columns.

Co-Editors: Spencer Bailey and Tiffany Jow
Creative Director: Andrew Zuckerman
Producer: Mike Lala
Copy Editor: Mimi Hannon

Enjoying The Slowdown? Forward to a friend!
If a friend forwarded it to you, subscribe to receive future newsletters.

Send us sense suggestions, collaboration ideas, or general feedback at newsletter@slowdownmedia.com

Not enjoying it? No worries. Click here to unsubscribe.

Click here to update your profile.

The Slowdown | 508 West 26th Street, 7A | New York, NY 10001 | United States

6e1482bb-d358-4d02-bf91-1afb9922204a.gif
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif