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Saturday, June 20, 2020
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Suggestions for your senses,
every Saturday at 9 a.m.
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Good morning.

This week, we pay a visit to the virtual Covid Art Museum, learn about the phenomenon of “skin hunger,” speak with Whetstone magazine co-founder Stephen Satterfield, listen to designer Jonathan Olivares’s ultimate skateboarding soundtrack, and try out the best natural deodorants on the market.

On our At a Distance podcast, we talk with food artist Laila Gohar, artist Shirazeh Houshiary, and Tortoise Media co-founder and former BBC News director James Harding.

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See
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A Like at the Museum
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Courtesy Santi P. Seoane and Covid Art Museum
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As museums around the world (or, most of them, anyway) remain closed, and a once-global calendar of openings and festivals continues to migrate online in the ongoing pandemic, one new “museum” has seen a surge in visitors. Since launching, in March, @covidartmuseum—started on Instagram by three Barcelona-based art directors, Emma Calvo, Irene Llorca, and Jose Guerrero—has become something of a virtual destination, already amassing more than 110,000 followers. “These days, Covid-19 has jeopardized the entire system, causing the quarantine of millions of people,” they write. “This time of pause and reflection is allowing people to unlock their inner creativity. We are witness to the birth of a new artistic movement: the art in times of quarantine.” Each of the featured works, submitted by users from all over the world with the hashtag #covidartmuseum, responds to the isolation and grief attendant to living through a global pandemic: visuals filled with surgical masks and gloves, surreal videos and collages depicting escapist fantasies, new-fangled hairstyles and home décor schemes fashioned in our newfound downtime. All occupy some place along the spectrum of optimism, absurdist satire, and existential dread, and, together, form a portrait of human resilience and a shared instinct to connect through creativity. 

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Touch
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Touch Points
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Photo: Andrew Zuckerman
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Five months into this pandemic, we can say with certainty that cabin fever is real. Very, very real. Even if there are now countless ways to keep in touch with loved ones online, a well-meaning Zoom call does little toward replacing the warmth of a hug—or, heck, even the unwelcome thrill, in simpler times, of stumbling into a stranger on the street or on the subway. And, as it turns out, there’s a scientific explanation for the toll that a lack of physical social interaction can take on our well-being. Humans are hardwired to crave the human touch from the moment we’re born—a specific type of longing that psychologists call “skin hunger.” Our desire for touch isn’t just emotional, either: Studies show that physical touch reduces the levels of stress hormones within our bodies and triggers the brain’s orbitofrontal cortex to release oxytocin, the “feel-good” chemical that also enhances our feelings of compassion for one another. Hugging can lower blood pressure and actually help our bodies fight off infection by stimulating the thymus, which regulates the production of white blood cells. In our time of prolonged social distancing, this is a particularly ironic and tragic pill to swallow.

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Taste
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Origin Foraging
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Courtesy Stephen Satterfield/Whetstone Magazine
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The co-founder of Whetstone magazine and host of the food anthropology podcast Point of Origin, food writer Stephen Satterfield spent more than a decade working as a sommelier before venturing into the world of media. A regular contributor to Esquire, Food & Wine, New York magazine, and other publications, Satterfield tells us about his role as a self-described “origin forager,” and why the world of food media is just starting to wake up.

After working in restaurants for several years, what inspired you to start Whetstone and move into the world of food media?

There are some overarching principles—ideologies, you could say—in assessing wine that I found to be transferable to other modes of thinking. More specifically, I’m talking about terroir, and analyzing wines through a prism of time and place, and environment and humanity, and kind of having that be the language. 

While working at Nopa in San Francisco, in 2010, I began to befriend many of our purveyors at the restaurant, and through developing that community, became really inspired to chronicle their stories. That started off pretty modestly, as a Tumblr blog, but got progressively more ambitious, culminating in a brand with a voice and an identity that I decided to really pursue—but instead of through a hyper-local Northern California lens, a more global one. Whetstone is a food publication and media company that is dedicated to food culture through this specific framework of origins and anthropology. We don’t really say, explicitly, that our work is political—we believe it’s implied in the message—but how could it not be?

As a society, we’ve become so disconnected to nature and our food systems. How did we get here, and do you feel the ongoing pandemic will have a long-lasting effect on how we consume and rethink our food sources?

Our food system is owned and controlled by corporations, which really defined the entire twentieth-century history of industrialization in this country, and in many other countries. It’s the resulting impact of relinquishing more power to corporations to feed us, decade after decade, and moving further away from the agrarian tradition of the preceding centuries. Fast-forward to today, and you can now press a button on an iPhone to have food show up on your doorstep, which seems like a logical conclusion to all of that. The corporations really deliver on the original promise of the 1950s—with its microwaves, Easy-Bakes, and so forth, [up] through the modern grocery store—that you don’t have to be inconvenienced with canning or pickling things, or making soup stocks, that everything can be acquired, that it will afford you more time to spend with your family, to pursue this life of “American ideals,” whatever that may be. 

At the onset of the pandemic, when the grocery stores were wiped clean, it was a frightening and really pivotal moment for a lot of people, and hopefully, a time to really start thinking more critically and asking: What and how do we actually feed ourselves, and where does our food come from? For us, it’s one of the essential questions.

As a co-founder of one the only black-owned food media companies in the country, what do you make of the current reckoning that’s happening in mainstream food media, at publications like Bon Appetit, and the difficult and painful conversations that are taking place?

Well, these aren’t difficult conversations for us because we have always been talking about this from the onset. And largely, the reason for our existence is the kind of racism that we experience—speaking of myself, personally—and basically felt uninspired by. We saw what was happening at these companies as antithetical to what we were trying to make, and in a sense, it gave us the guidance to understand what we didn’t want to do, in the way of appropriation, voice, and our editorial vision. 

The reckoning is very necessary, and the erasure of other cultures—through appropriation, through excluding people of color from financial and professional opportunities—is in keeping with a centuries-long tradition of exploiting people of color, and specifically black people, for labor. This reckoning is largely about saying that the time’s up for that. We support it, and we think it’s only going to produce better products from the brands we love. I feel really sorry for the people who were harmed from all of the abuse that was happening within those organizations, but it does feel like there is a new enlightened moment. I’m not sure how long it will last, but it does unequivocally feel like a different moment—and that’s encouraging, to be in an unprecedented moment of racial justice. 

One of the things we found particularly offensive is the working assumption, of the former editor [of Bon Appétit, Adam Rapoport], that the audience wasn’t sophisticated enough to absorb global or even diasporic cuisine. And in fact, the ultra-white filter applied to their stories actually wasn’t in keeping with broader food culture in the country, where people have been, in unprecedented ways, going to different kinds of restaurants and embracing all kinds of cuisines more than ever before. There was a real curiosity that they really could have led and brought their readers along upon, instead of undermining their intelligence by using this really, you know, milquetoast filter.

The power of this moment, and of your platform, is that people are hungry to learn more about food at a deeper level, and to recognize its cultural currency across so many spheres.

I’m always impressed with how sophisticated our readers are, and a lot of times they themselves will be independent scholars. I, myself, don’t have formal anthropology training, but I love reading about food origins, and there are so many others like me, who’ve used food as a pathway to deepening relationships to their own cultural, racial, ethnic, and religious identities. 

Eating is something we all do and embody, in a way, which we can’t really say about anything else. We believe in the power of food as a way of radicalizing people, nourishing people, educating people, politicizing people—and we don’t really need to change our message to do that. We can tell really honest stories, whether about food culture in a contemporary context, or sometimes in a reported, anthropological story around indigeneity, that helps us understand how we got here. And I think a lot of that is a credit to the language, the vibe, and the products that we put out into the world, based around our working assumption about people’s comprehension, intelligence, and curiosity to keep up with what we’re talking about.

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Hear
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Songs to Skate To
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Photo: Sam Frost
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The Los Angeles–based industrial designer, writer, and researcher Jonathan Olivares produces works with a profound understanding and observation of how the human body sits and moves through space. But his first passion, before discovering design, was skateboarding. Ahead of national Go Skateboarding Day tomorrow, here he shares a playlist of his favorite skateboarding songs, and the legendary video parts that feature them. “This is a selection of songs that have been paired with some of my favorite skate-video parts,” Olivares says. “I continue to watch these videos and skate with these songs in my headphones. They conjure an attitude and aesthetic that influence and inspire my work as a designer.”

“Know the Ledge,” Eric B. & Rakim Juice (featured in: Eric Koston, H-Street – Next Generation, 1992)

“Cuz It’s Wrong,” Slick Rick (featured in: Eric Koston, Goldfish, 1993)
“I was first exposed to new school–style street skating at my middle school, in 1992. While I had messed around with an old-school board in the eighties, it was the new-school, hip-hop–influenced skateboarding aesthetic that really captivated my attention and turned me into a lifelong skater. These two video parts capture all the raw energy and potential exhibited in Eric Koston’s early years of professional skating.”

“Lose In the End,” Casual (featured in: Mike Carroll, Plan B Virtual Reality, 1993)
“Mike Carroll was unstoppable in this era, which was an intense period of innovation for street skating. The Bay Area hip-hop that Carroll and his peers introduced to the skateboarding world through their video parts changed the sound of skate culture. Carroll and Casual’s laid-back styles are a perfect match for each other, and the part and song are just as motivating today as they were in 1993. Two of Carroll’s other parts from this period include the De La Soul songs ‘I Am I Be’ and ‘Oodles of O’s’.”

“007 (Shanty Town),” Desmond Dekker & The Aces (featured in: Keenan Milton, Las Nueve Vidas de Paco, 1995)

“Worldwide (Instrumental),” Royal Flush (featured in: Keenan Milton & Gino Iannucci, Mouse, 1996)
“Keenan Milton and Gino Iannucci’s skating in these video parts set a standard for quality and execution that I try to follow in my work: Do it fast, do it big, do it with style—ride away clean. When Milton’s part in Mouse came out, it was before the app Shazam existed, and also before all skate videos credited songs. It took me a couple years to identify this song as the instrumental [version] of Royal Flush’s ‘Worldwide,’ and, in the meantime, I figured out how to dub an audio cassette from a VHS tape so I could play the song on my Walkman. The sounds of skateboarding, running on top of my bootleg copy, made it even better.”

“Watermelon Man,” Herbie Hancock (featured in Guy Mariano, Mouse, 1996)
“Like many skaters of the mid-’90s, I watched this video hundreds of times, and often in slow motion so as to better observe it. In this part, Mariano elevated skateboarding beyond what was thought to be possible, and the use of Herbie Hancock’s ‘Watermelon Man’ helped fashion a new kind of atmosphere for skateboarding.”

“Bounce, Rock, Skate Roll,” Vaughn Mason (featured in: Montage, Zoo York's Mixtape, 1997)
“The first skateboards were made in the 1950s, using trucks and wheels from roller skates, so a skateboard is essentially a stretch roller-skate. In the seventies and eighties, roller disco—another evolution of roller-skating—was born, so roller-disco and skateboarding are like cousins. I was introduced to roller-disco music—one of my favorite genres—through this montage in Zoo York’s 1997 video Mixtape.”

“9 Little Millimeta Boys,” 8ball & MJG (featured in: Ishod Wair’s Sabotage 3, 2013)

“Shots to Tha Double Glock,” Bone Thugs-N-Harmony (featured in: Ishod Wair, Told Ya, 2015)
“Great skateboarding, like great hip-hop or basketball, requires a high degree of bravado and panache, and Ishod Wair has the most of any skater in his generation. His style, sense of humor, technical skill, the symmetry of his skating (regular and goofy), and his other four-wheeled hobbies (Carreras and E30s) make him a tremendous pleasure to watch.”

“Night Moves,” Bob Seger (featured in: Cory Kennedy, Pretty Sweet, 2012)

“Old School,” 2Pac (featured in: Cory Kennedy, Pump on This, 2019)
“Riding around on a wooden board with wheels is inherently carefree and light-hearted. Giving advice to young skaters seeking sponsorship, a recent issue of Thrasher states that ‘taking yourself too seriously can be a drag,’ that you can blow it by ‘not try[ing] hard enough or try[ing] too hard,’ and that teams look for ‘multi-faceted, interesting people who are fun-loving.’ While being good, or great, at skateboarding requires hard work, the best skaters make it look effortless and, more importantly, they make it look fun. Cory Kennedy is one of these figures, and the fun he has while he skates is highly contagious.”

“Playground Love,” Air Featuring Gordon Tracks

“Sphynx,” La Femme (both featured in: Mark Suciu, Verso, 2019)
“Throughout my career as a designer, I have searched to find the right analogy between skateboarding and design. In a 2020 Thrasher interview, where he discusses his video part Verso, Mark Suciu says, ‘There are certain photographs by photographers from the seventies of certain buildings of modernist architecture that I look at as being perfectly composed—perfection in every sense—and I felt the same way when I watched Ishod do that noseblunt. What I think I’m looking for are instances of just complete unity with your board. When you achieve that kind of perfection, there’s an absence of technique that is pure skating.’ Then, at the 4:27 mark of Verso, in one of my favorite sequences ever, Suciu does switch heelflips over one of Enzo Mari’s Mobile Street blocks at Stazione Centrale in Milan—a perfect trick over a perfect object. In this moment, I understood mastery in skateboarding and mastery in design as being perfection, unity and purity.”

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Smell
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Au Naturel
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Courtesy By Humankind
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The first commercial deodorants sold in the U.S. date back to the late 19th century, when a Philadelphia outfit launched the brand Mum, packaged as a jar of cream to be scooped up and applied by hand to your underarms—a messy high-maintenance affair, to say the least. The more convenient stick form commonly sold these days didn’t make headway until the 1950s, as manufacturers began to introduce antiperspirants to their formulas, using aluminum-based compounds that temporarily block sweat pores. Recent studies, however, suggest that these compounds may be harmful to our health, and can even increase the risk of breast cancer. 

No need to sweat it, though: There are several new all-natural options out there we recommend. Available in scented and unscented versions, Ursa Major forgoes any aluminum or baking soda additives in its stick deodorants, instead using a clean, healthy mixture of hops, aloe, kaolin clay, and various flower, root, and citrus extracts. For sensitive skin, the New York–based brand Malin+Goetz’s odor-neutralizing formula, available in eucalyptus or bergamot, has been a cult favorite for years. By Humankind, a personal-care startup looking to eliminate single-use plastics, ups the ante with a deodorant stick that leaves a lighter footprint with reusable containers. You can buy refills of the company's refreshing scents, such as lavender-citrus and rosemary-mint, made from an ethically made, vegan formula touted as “so natural, you can eat it”—not that you, uh, should, though we’d understand the excitement. After a long winter indoors and all of spring spent in quarantine, we’re looking forward to warmer days outdoors and all the sweaty, summertime funk that comes along with it.

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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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