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Saturday, May 9, 2020
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Suggestions for your senses,
every Saturday at 9 a.m.
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Good morning.

This week, we poll climate and environment journalist Tatiana Schlossberg about her media diet, revel in the simple joys of house slippers, test out a few of our favorite cookware sets, put together the new D.I.Y. speaker-making kit from Ojas, and learn about scent bonding between newborns and mothers.

On our At a Distance podcast, we talk with Rhode Island School of Design president Rosanne Somerson, Institute for New Economic Thinking president Rob Johnson, philosopher Markus Gabriel, and Financial Times editor-at-large Gillian Tett.

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See
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Climate Action
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Photo: Elizabeth Cecil
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Journalist Tatiana Schlossberg, the author of the book Inconspicuous Consumption: The Environmental Impact You Don’t Know You Have, reports on climate and environment issues shaping our planet today, from consumer habits and industry practices to the latest scientific research. Here, she shares with us the outlets, reads, and listens that are part of her current media diet. (For more from Schlossberg, listen to Ep. 18 of At a Distance.)

What are some of your go-to, indispensable daily reads and/or listens?

I get the Climate Nexus newsletter every morning. For climate and environment stuff, E&E News and InsideClimate News. Otherwise, I read The New York Times, the Financial Times, The New Yorker, and The Washington Post

Any apps or feeds you prefer in particular?

I’ve been trying to look at my phone less, so I actually got rid of all the news apps. I feel like this is probably the first time in the last ten years where I just can’t listen to or look at the daily news updates. It’s not helping me to know every little thing.

As a writer and journalist, how do you strike the balance of staying up-to-date while also maintaining the space to dig deeper in your own work?

Obviously, everything intersects with Covid-19 and the pandemic [right now], but I think a lot of climate news that people would otherwise be paying attention to is falling through the cracks, so I’m trying to keep up with that, and keep writing about the areas that I’m interested in. I’m working on a few things about plastics, and how Covid might affect that, or affect sustainability in hospitals. So it’s related to the news, but apart from the steady drumbeat of things that makes me anxious.

Any favorite podcasts?

I always listen to Fresh Air, though I know that’s not a podcast. Then there’s a podcast from the London Review of Books called Talking Politics, which just launched a new series called “History of Ideas.” Each episode is about a thinker, their big idea, and how it’s shaped politics. It started with Hobbes’s Leviathan and Mary Wollstonecraft, and now I’m listening to Marx and Engels. It’s all the people you hear about in school and maybe forget about, so it’s great to have a refresher. 

Which outlets do you prefer to still read in print?

I pretty much read online, but we get The New Yorker and The Economist at home, which I’ll sometimes read in magazine form. And I still read real books—I can’t really read books on a screen.

Favorite writers or reporters that you’re following?

The climate team that I used to work for at the Times were just named finalists for the Pulitzer, which was really great to see. For climate stuff, Elizabeth Kolbert at The New Yorker. I think Robinson Meyer at The Atlantic does really great work. And I always read Jill Lepore in The New Yorker, even if she’s not a climate person. 

Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or TikTok?

I’m not on Facebook. And I’m not that old, but I feel that TikTok has passed me by—maybe in my next life. I have Twitter and Instagram, and I have a love/hate relationship with them both, as I’m sure most people do.

Any guilty pleasures when it comes to your media intake?

For news, not really, although I would say that my family and I have been following the Megxit story pretty closely. 

How is social distancing impacting journalism, in your opinion?

I think, right now, when all of the news is about the pandemic, there’s just not a lot of field reporting that can be done. It’d be interesting to see how people go back to doing that sort of local reporting.

In general, I have a hard time focusing on work, and especially now, it’s hard to feel like I know what’s going on when I can’t see other people or see what’s happening. I’ve heard from some climate change researchers that their summer research trips, to places like Greenland or Antarctica, have been canceled. I’m worried about what that means, and know that the administration is using this as an opportunity to loosen a lot of pollution regulations, so I hope that those sorts of things don’t fall too far through the cracks.

Okay, maybe enough news talk for now. What are you watching or reading for pleasure?

I’ve been rewatching The Good Wife, which has taken over a lot of my time. I don’t think I’ve watched it since it was first on. It’s so good. For books, I read Of Human Bondage by Somerset Maugham recently, which I had been meaning to read for a long time. Earlier on [in the pandemic], I read Mary McCarthy’s autobiography, Memories of a Catholic Girlhood, which was made especially poignant, because it starts right when both of her parents die from the Spanish flu, so it was kind of an amazing coincidence to pick that up. I just finished Trust Exercise by Susan Choi. I don’t know what I’ll read next. I have a few environment books I’ve been meaning to read, so maybe I’ll get to those, but it’s hard to read climate change books before bed.

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Touch
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Foot Loose
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Courtesy Le Monde Beryl
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Perhaps your new WFH commute includes spending more time in the garage or backyard; maybe your temporary “workspace” is just steps from your bed, or is, most of the time, the dining table. Whatever the setup, getting dressed into any sort of “workwear” may be feeling more optional by the day. But consider the power of the home slipper: fully functional and non-disruptive to your coziness, with plenty of styles to elevate and give structure to your Sisyphean day. Sasawashi’s room shoes, available from one of our all-time favorite shops in New York City, Nalata Nalata, are made from a soft, natural mix of paper and plant fibers that are a Platonic balance of comfort and durability. For a more out-of-the-ordinary option, the minimalist L.A.-based brand Building Block just launched a fancy upgrade to the standard terry-cloth house slipper, updated in smooth leather, and roomy enough that you won’t need to fuss over mixing up your left foot from your right. Then there are these classy yet refreshingly unostentatious velvet Venetian slippers from Le Monde Beryl (pictured), inspired by the footwear worn by gondoliers. Available in mule, slipper, and heeled variations, they might be the look that helps ease the eventual transition to city-smart kicks—or fuel a short but welcome escapist fantasy.

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Taste
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Hot Pots
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Courtesy Misen
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As we enter yet another week of social distancing in many cities throughout the U.S., home cooking, it seems, is here to stay. Fortunately, there’s a spate of new, affordable, quality cookware sets available online for both the novice and seasoned cook. One of our longtime staples is a Dutch oven, a versatile stovetop-to-oven workhorse—suitable for cooking stews, sauces, braises, roasts, as well as baking bread—which makes for a worthy investment that can last you for years. Great Jones, the direct-to-consumer startup co-founded by Grub Street alum Sierra Tishgart, makes a beautiful enamel cast-iron version, cheekily named The Dutchess, in a range of cheery colors to brighten any kitchen drudgery. For the more minimalist or solo cook looking to save space, the heavy-duty Always Pan from Our Place is an ideal starter piece, with a ceramic non-stick coating and various nesting accessories that give it a multifunctional design. As for the more experienced, multitasking cook seeking a good alternative to industry-standby All-Clad, Misen’s durable seven-piece cookware set, designed by the Brooklyn studio Visibility, offers a clean, no-nonsense take, with ergonomic handles designed for comfort and ease (this newsletter’s editor has had these pots and pans in heavy rotation this quarantine). It all makes us long for the days of dinner parties, group gathering occasions, and, heck, even the dishwashing that follows. Here’s to hoping those moments will be back soon enough.

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Hear
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Speakers of the House
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Courtesy Ojas
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As concerts, festivals, and group gatherings remain on hold worldwide, more or less steadily finding a place online, we increasingly feel the pull to bring live-music quality sound home. Devon Turnbull of Ojas, the bespoke hi-fi audio gear workshop that creates high-end sound systems, has been achieving this for years with his impeccable creations—and has now launched a more accessible series of flat-packed speaker-building kits for fellow audiophiles to assemble at home. While Turnbull’s custom analog speakers are known for their utilitarian aesthetic and larger-than-life presence at venues and stores such as Public Records, Supreme, and Saturdays NYC, his new kits are smaller and suitable for the home, and come with instructional videos showing how to piece the components together on your own.

A new audio setup is sure to add timbre and color to your homebound lifestyle, and we can’t recommend Ojas gear enough. Priced at cost for the rare parts (“This is a civilian relief effort,” Turnbull says), the units just rolled out this week, available for purchase on the Ojas website he developed with the help of Virgil Abloh, a friend and longtime collaborator. “I have been working tirelessly to make this project a reality,” Turnbull recently wrote on Instagram, “and that has been an amazing way of occupying my time during the lockdown. I hope you can all jump in and take a proactive role in crafting your sound wave surf craft. Let’s all build a shrine to music!”
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Smell
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Maternal Olfaction
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Photo: Andrew Zuckerman
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Smell is among the earliest senses that babies develop—long before they learn to walk, talk, or even focus their eyes to properly see, and, as it turns out, scent is also the primary, and primal, source of bonding and familiarity forged between newborns and their mothers. There’s a science behind this mysterious, unflappable olfactory bond: According to Smithsonian Magazine, this is a “carefully concocted perfume of biological manipulation, evolved to trigger maternal bonding.” Hospitals even give newborns in the neonatal intensive care unit a small piece of fabric scented like their mothers to provide a source of tactile comfort and closeness in those crucial moments when they can’t be directly bedside. As for mom, the scent of a newborn is not only deeply emotional, but visceral: Studies show that the scent of a newborn triggers dopamine pathways in a region of the brain that is associated with reward-learning—similar to the surge of pleasure that comes with satisfying a sexual craving or using certain drugs—and is felt even more strongly among women who are mothers than those who are not. (As if we needed another reason to get sentimental about our moms this weekend!) From all of us at The Slowdown, Happy Mother’s Day to you and yours.
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Until next week...

Today’s email was written by Aileen Kwun.

Editor: Spencer Bailey
Creative Director: Andrew Zuckerman
Producer: Mike Lala
Copy Editor: Mimi Hannon

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