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Aileen Kwun

Aileen is the editor-at-large at The Slowdown. A second-generation Korean American writer, editor, and author based in New York, she covers the intersection of art, design, and culture for a wide range of publications, and helped launch The Slowdown's weekly newsletter themed around the five senses. Her first book, Twenty Over Eighty: Conversations On a Lifetime of Architecture and Design (Princeton Architectural Press), has been published internationally in English, Korean, and Chinese.

Aileen Kwun's Articles

A pitcher of water with a hand holding a honey wand overhead.

How to Make Fermented Drinks at Home, According to Antwerp Chef Barbara Serulus

For her thirtieth birthday, some years ago, Antwerp-based food journalist and chef Barbara Serulus received a living, life-changing gift from a friend: a Scoby, short for “symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast,” the spongy “tea mushroom” commonly used as a starter for kombucha. “My life did change because, from that moment on, fermented drinks have had me under their spell,” she writes in her book Fizz: The Beginner’s Guide to Making Natural, Non-Alcoholic Fermented Drinks (BIS Publishers). Illustrated with artwork by chef Elise van Iterson, it’s a thoroughly readable guide to fermentation, filled with entertaining historical anecdotes and practical tips, methods, and recipes.

A white ceramic lamp on a wood table.

An Elegantly Imperfect Table Lamp, Translated From Cardboard to Clay

Giancarlo Valle, a celebrated New York–based interiors and furniture designer with an artful, worldly eye informed by his upbringing in Guatemala City, Caracas, San Francisco, and Chicago, has produced plenty of sculptural products in his career. Plush, velvet-upholstered armchairs, brass sconces, and wooden side tables and chairs have all become part of his language of understated, comfort-forward luxury. His latest release, the Plateau table lamp, created with self-taught Brooklyn ceramicist Natalie Weinberger, leans into that sensibility with a more craft-centered approach.

A security officer wearing bright yellow and orange safety gear.

“Worn Stories” Explores How Memories Are Made and Maintained Through Clothing

The Proustian madeleine cookie is an oft-cited example of how our memories are intertwined with the senses. But just as evocative are the outfits we wear, and the moments we come to associate with them over time, as demonstrated in Worn Stories, the new Netflix docuseries based on artist and writer Emily Spivack’s New York Times–bestselling book.

The interior of Beverly's pop-up, with a large indigo textile and cookware hanging on a white wall.

Vietnamese-American Stylist Beverly Nguyen Pays Tribute to Her Family and Friends With a New Pop-Up Shop

During a recent stay in her home city of Los Angeles, New York–based stylist Beverly Nguyen (a Vogue alum and the former studio director for Kate Young) was inspired to dream up her latest venture: a pop-up of homewares called Beverly’s, which opened last weekend in downtown Manhattan. The move home, prolonged by the pandemic, wasn’t intended to last most of 2020, and initially left Nguyen feeling “really displaced, and really out of sync with my work. I didn’t have access to my usual tools, and I just had to reevaluate what my craft looked like if I’m not around those things.” In that time, she reconnected with her parents, Vietnamese immigrants who met as refugees on a boat to America in the 1980s, and who have gone on to run a successful fashion and garments manufacturing business. “I started recognizing how much I loved my parents, how much I had missed them,” says Nguyen, who helped shift their business to produce N95 masks during the first lockdown. “After that project, I needed to pivot. I was thinking about what my parents could do, mixed with me trying to make sense of moving back to New York, which manifested in this shop.”

An illustration of two younger adults sharing a bag of groceries with an older adult.

How Heart of Dinner Provides Solace and Sustenance to New York’s Asian American Seniors

One year on, the Covid-19 pandemic has stress-tested the vulnerabilities of our national safety net, with small businesses, elders, and low-income communities of color the hardest hit. In Chinatowns across the country, these issues have been compounded with a rise in anti-Asian hate crimes, fueled by xenophobic scapegoating for a virus that knows no borders or ethnicities.

A man's silhouette sniffs perfume near a bright window.

A New Documentary Traces the Life and Work of Dior’s Master Perfumer

If you’ve ever wondered about the mysterious process of perfume-making, you’ll delight in watching Nose: The Most Secret Job in the World, now streaming on Apple TV, following last year’s premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival. In the hour-long documentary, directors Clément Beauvais and Arthur de Kersauson follow the life and work of François Demachy, Dior’s nez, or nose—perfume industry parlance for an expert perfumer-creator with a finely attuned sense of smell—and his sensorial journey to source the world’s finest natural ingredients.

A gold tongue scraper on a white marble surface.

Why Tongue Scraping Could Put an End to Bad Breath

The drugstore variety of toothpastes today promise all sorts of benefits for optimizing your oral hygiene: whiter teeth, enamel protection, healthy gums, and most of all, fresh breath. The last of those, it turns out, depends less on an artificially flavored chemical formula than the techniques and tools you implement to clean your mouth, and particularly, your tongue, a harbor for microbes and malodorous debris.

Several stacks of bhar on a tray next to paper cups.

An Age-Old Indian Alternative to Single-Use Plastic Cups

Single-use plastics are the epitome of throwaway culture, centered around convenience and profit at the expense of the environment. According to the NRDC, approximately half of the 300 million tons of plastic produced annually worldwide—nearly equivalent to the weight of the entire human population—are single-use items such as drinking straws, utensils, bags, and cups. For remedies to this short-sighted usage causing irrevocable damage, we might look to other cultures for alternatives that are far more sustainable—and defy reliance on the petrochemical industry.

A wide-blade rip saw.

The Tools and Techniques That Built Japan

As the vaccine rollout continues, previously closed galleries and museums have, thankfully, continued to steadily reopen their doors. Starting next week at the Japan Society in midtown Manhattan, “When Practice Becomes Form: Carpentry Tools from Japan,” on view through July 11, presents an ode to the tradition of Japanese architecture and handcraft. On display are an array of woodworking tools used for centuries by architects and master carpenters, or tōryō. The collection of beautiful saws, chisels, and planes demonstrate the ingenuity and resourcefulness of Japanese joinery techniques and, more broadly, of a sustainable, generations-old building philosophy that emphasizes materials from the local environment.

A green bottle of brut with a small tag around its neck reading "obrigado!"

Meet D.M. Brut, a New Limited-Edition Sparkling Wine from Brazil

Even if you’re not a sommelier or a wino, there are enough champagne memes these days for you to know that the bubbly favorite takes its name from the Champagne region of northeast France—and that any variant produced outside of that region is, strictly speaking, not champagne but sparkling wine. Technicalities aside, there’s no need to get fussy with tradition when there are a bevy of options to be found around the world. Spanish vintners make cava; Italians make prosecco; and now, a new Brazilian winemaker, Dom Maria, has offered its local answer, too, with the recent launch of D.M. Brut, a sparkling wine that’s made in the Champagne method—which is to say, fermented in the bottle itself—but with a “Brazilian touch.” Produced from grapes grown in the Valley of the Vineyards, in Southern Brazil, the 60/40 blend of chardonnay and pinot noir is aged for 12 months, and carries notes of tropical fruit. It also comes in a pleasingly minimalist package sealed with an Obrigado!, making for an apt gift. Sure, Dom Maria’s sparkling wine may not be champagne proper, but we’d happily raise a glass and saúde to a round of this.

An orange and blue candle on a wood surface.

A Designer Pays Homage to His Grandfather With a Line of Evocative Candles

The name Bernard may conjure different connotations for different folks—say, Senator Sanders, your favorite breed of mountain dog, or a significant other in your life. For Todd Nickey, cofounder of the Los Angeles design duo Nickey Kehoe, Bernard is the name of his fragrance brand, which recently debuted with a collection of hand-poured candles. “This is a scent memory,” Nickey says. “An untold story of my grandfather Bernard. He was a gentleman who believed in style, not as a superficial gesture, but as a guiding force.” The line includes four scents that have been designed to evoke an array of transporting experiences. Meli, the Greek word for honey, is warm and sweet, with base notes of orris root and leather; Eira takes inspiration from Scandinavia, with top notes of patchouli, pinewood, and tonic bean. Daydreams of an underground Paris, meanwhile, informed Oro, “reminiscent of an heirloom jewel,” while Cleome is scented like your favorite dog-eared novel, inspired by ink, paper, and wood. We might not know Nickey’s grandfather personally, but this is a collection we’d happily wax nostalgic to.

A kintsugi kit on a wooden table, next to several repaired plates.

The Enduring Relevance of Kintsugi, the Japanese Art of Repairing Broken Ceramics

Is our obsession with newness an ailment of capitalism? Kintsugi, the traditional Japanese art of mending broken pottery, has been around for more than four centuries—but its philosophy of embracing flaws and imperfection to create something uniquely beautiful has only recently begun to resonate with Western cultures. The practice—which derives from the word kintsukuroi, meaning “golden repair”—sees breakage as a valuable asset that adds to an object’s history. Fragments are pieced back together with lacquer, then dusted or mixed with fine metal powders, such as gold, silver, or platinum, to emphasize cracks, rather than conceal them.

A white Modern Milk milk press and glass of milk on a black background.

Ditch Supermarket Alt-Milks for This Simple, No-Mess Press

From nuts to oats to rice to hemp seeds to soy, you can find all sorts of alternatives to traditional dairy these days. A standby for those with lactose intolerance or dietary restrictions, plant-based milks are also far less harmful to the environment (though all ingredients fall along the sustainability scale, and almond milk, for example, requires incredible amounts of water consumption to produce). Ditch the supermarket variety of alt-milks, which are often packed with stabilizers and emulsifiers, and make a fresh batch at home. The general basics are simple enough: soak your ingredients to soften, then blend with water, filter, season to taste, and drink.

Three white Dally soap dispensers on a concrete wall.

Dally Goods’s Aromatic Hand Washes Are Designed to Help You Unwind

Hand-wringing and hand-washing seem to be defining this time warp of a pandemic. When it comes to the latter, we’re partial to the Slowdown hand-wash set from the New York upstart Dally Goods—not just for its name (which, to be clear, we’re not connected to), but its ethos of embracing a “slower-paced lifestyle.” With such ambling scents as Barefoot in the Grass, Rolling Wave After Rolling Wave After Rolling Wave, and Naps in the Grove, the trio of soaps evoke smelling and feeling your way through a range of escapist summer settings—and possibly time zones, as its makers suggest, if you let your mind wander far enough. The delightful bottles, created by the design firm Pentagram, even add a little touch of concrete poetry to the mundane. Experts say fantasy can provide a way through difficult times; if harmless daydreaming can get us through this moment, we’ll happily indulge in a bit of wanderlust where we can find it.

A large spread of dishes with three people adding various items to a hotpot.

How to Hot Pot, According to Food Blogger Sarah Leung

Sarah Leung of The Woks of Life, the online recipe trove and cultural genealogy she’s run with her sister and parents since 2013, tells us how to make a hot pot meal at home—and why the communal East Asian dish makes for a most satisfying winter meal.

3rd Ritual's Sun balm in a yellow squeeze tube, on top of a leaf and orange rind.

These Botanical Balms Soothe Body and Mind

Self-care, in times like these, is a necessary balm for both mind and body. When so many factors are pulling at our attention and stoking our anxieties, the smallest acts of TLC can help to ground us in the present—and momentarily stop fretful fingers from doom-scrolling into oblivion. We recommend, for your idle hands, a trio of treat-yourself body creams from 3rd Ritual that play on the planetary elements and impart a range of feel-good benefits. Sun, a body gel made from aloe vera and mango-seed butter, provides a cooling sensation that warms to the touch, as well as an energizing, herbaceous scent. Earth, infused with Kaolin clay, provides deep moisturization for hands and feet, while Moon, a body lotion made from a blend of 12 essential oils and moonstone extract, provides a relaxing wind-down ritual, apt for a bedtime “palm inhalation,” as suggested. Cycling through each concoction, themed from day to night, makes for a kind reminder, if not a luxurious excuse, to stay in tune with oneself—and to take in everything slowly, one day at a time.

Poster for the movie "Totally Under Control" with an American Flag, a silhouette of Donald Trump, and the coronavirus molecule

A New Documentary Brings Clarity to the Chaos of Covid-19

This year has been a blur, but many hard truths remain crystal clear. By now, the Trump administration’s glaring and continuing inaction to guard American lives in the face of Covid-19 is not only well-known, but a well-documented and quantifiable fact: More than 220,000 lives have been lost to the deadly virus on Trump’s watch, and just the other day the U.S. hit the 9 million mark in virus cases. While President Trump has continued to shirk responsibility, scapegoat other countries, and callously state that it “is what it is”—even as the White House itself has become a hot zone, seeing two waves of infections in the span of a single month—we know it didn’t have to be this way. In the new Hulu documentary Totally Under Control, director Alex Gibney, along with co-directors Suzanne Hillinger and Ophelia Harutyunyan, bring sharp-eyed clarity to the chaos with an up-to-the-minute investigation into everything that has gone awry over the past nine months. As a useful point of contrast to frame it all, the film provides details on how South Korea—which reported its first Covid-19 case on Jan. 20, the exact same day as the U.S. did—has handled its cases on an identical timeline, and to vastly different results. The story, of course, as many interviewees explain, to varying levels of detail, is that none of this has been totally under control at all. And while the pain of it may feel too fresh and tender to revisit just yet, there’s hope that the film may prove to be the urgently needed wake-up call for any still-undecided voters during this election cycle.

A small wheel of cheese dusted with green matcha, next to a matcha spoon.

Inside the World of Japanese Cheese

Cheese may not be the first thing that comes to mind when considering Japan’s rich culinary traditions—but as Malory Lane, an American expat and the founder of Japan Cheese Co., tells us, it’s part of a growing artisanal movement among regional producers who are finding ways to create experimental, umami-rich cheeses that are wholly Japanese.

A promo image by The Black Music History Library with white text on black background.

This Digital Archive Will Teach You About Black Music History

The Black Music History Library is here to bless—and educate—your ears. Launched this past August by New York–based music journalist Jenzia Burgos, the free digital archive seeks to address a sorely overlooked blind spot in music history, with more than a thousand (and counting) entries of books, articles, documentaries, radio segments, zines, and other ephemera that catalog the abundance of Black origins in popular and traditional music. Roughly dating from the 18th century to the present day, the materials run the gamut from academic to mainstream culture, and include guitarist Vernon Reid discussing Jimi Hendrix on an episode of the Heat Rocks podcast as well as a list of preeminent musicologists, historians, and scholars. To those open to pure exploration and discovery, Burgos offers a roll-the-dice folder that randomizes selections from the living archive. An online trove and rabbit hole for everyone, and a gift that keeps giving, it charts out the huge influence of artists who have shaped countless genres of music as we know it.

The front and back cover of Spencer Bailey's book, “In Memory Of: Designing Contemporary Memorials”

Spencer Bailey on Memorials, Abstraction, and the Act of Unforgetting

At age 3, Spencer Bailey, writer and editor (and co-founder of The Slowdown), survived the crash-landing of United Airlines Flight 232 in Sioux City, Iowa, on July 19, 1989. In the wake of the tragedy, he found himself the subject of a memorial sculpture, called “The Spirit of Siouxland,” based on a famous photo of him being carried to safety in the arms of Lt. Col. Dennis Nielsen. That cast-in-bronze depiction serves as a jumping-off point for Bailey’s forthcoming book, In Memory Of: Designing Contemporary Memorials (Phaidon), examining the power and potential of memorials designed over the past 40 years, from Maya Lin’s Vietnam Veterans Memorial (1982) in Washington, D.C., to Peter Eisenman’s Memorial to the Murdered Jews (2005) in Berlin, to MASS Design Group’s Gun Violence Memorial (2019). Here, he describes the process of working on the book, and tells us why the power of abstraction may help us all to heal. You began working on this project nearly thirty years after the Flight 232 crash. What has it been like to process and revisit that trauma and experience through this more expansive outlook?

Orange and red bottles of wine in the sunlight on a natural linen tablecloth.

How to Design A Wine Label, According to Apartamento Magazine’s Omar Sosa

Omar Sosa, co-founder of Apartamento magazine and Apartamento Studios, has an unfussy love of natural wine. Here, he describes the process of developing a design for Vivanterre (a riff on the French term for “living earth”), a new line of natural wine produced by Patrick Bouju and Justine Loiseau, and founded by fashion insiders Rosie and Max Assoulin.

A bottle of Hinoki oil on an orange background.

A Cult-Favorite Body Oil, Made From California Olives

Wonder Valley’s hinoki body oil—a cult favorite among beauty and wellness bloggers—is formulated around a simple moisturizer that’s been embraced by various cultures for centuries: extra-virgin olive oil. It’s an ingredient that co-founder Alison Carroll takes seriously. Carroll, who’s based in Joshua Tree, California, and runs the company from there with her husband, Jay, previously worked at the California Olive Oil Council, where she acted as an educator, advocate, and quality-control keeper for the state’s domestic agriculture industry. For its line of products, the brand hand-harvests and mills premium olives from its own groves in Northern California. Scented with soothing notes of Siberian fir and Japanese hinoki, with additional extracts of sea buckthorn, rosemary leaf, and rice bran, Wonder Valley’s body-oil formula smells enticing enough to taste—but you’d be better off savoring the precious drops for massaging into your skin for an all-natural glow, especially as the colder, drier weather picks up this season. We suggest making it part of your morning ritual: warm, slather, soften. Repeat.

A bouquet of flowers floating in outer space above planet Earth

The Japanese Artist Who Launched Flowers Into Outer Space

Japanese artist Makoto Azuma is known for creating poetic botanical sculptures, but the medium in which he works most intimately is time. “Flowers are about something more than just beauty. If you just wanted to see something beautiful, you can go out into nature,” he says in Flower Punk, an award-winning film about his work and life, now available for viewing as part of the The New Yorker Documentary series. In just under 30 minutes, director Alison Klayman captures the artist as he creates spectacular arrangements, and sets about photographing and filming their ephemerality as they wilt and decay, imparting the beauty of age. Azuma and his team even send their blooms into space, as with his 2014 piece “Exobiotanica.” Rigging a camera and a flower bomb to a weather balloon, documenting his terrestrial creation as it soars through the stratosphere, the artist simply wanted to “find out what kind of phenomenon [would occur] if we put plants where they don’t normally exist.” The result is, in a word, transcendent.

A hand holding a small button cactus next to a pot.

Beautify Your Cacti With These Custom Planters

There are roughly 2,000 species of cacti found around the world. The speciality plant store Hot Cactus, run by a collective of creatives in Los Angeles, stocks some of the rarest breeds online and at its shoebox brick-and-mortar in Echo Park (they also run a second outpost on New York’s Lower East Side, though both locations remain momentarily closed due to Covid-19). In addition to plants, succulent lovers and enthusiasts can also find a bevy of custom cacti-oriented goods: apparel, gardening tools, books, and a range of planters shaped to accommodate particular species. One such vessel, an oblong stoneware pot designed by journalist Hamilton Morris (host of the docu-series Hamilton’s Pharmacopeia), is made expressly with the elongated napiform root of peyote in mind. For $70, you can nab one of Morris’s Peyote Pot grow kits: Each comes with four seeds so you can germinate your own Lophophora fricii, a cactus species that’s native to Mexico and commonly referred to as “false peyote.” That is—sorry to disappoint you—not the hallucinogenic kind that’s apt to get you tripping, though no less reason to get your green thumb going with this uncommon houseplant.

A bottle of perfume on a white background.

A Rose Perfume That Smells Like a Man

Francis Kurkdjian, co-creator and creative director of Maison Francis Kurkdjian, and the world-renowned perfumer behind classic scents—most notably Jean Paul Gaultier’s Le Male—tells us about his latest creation: l’Homme À la Rose.

Black and white illustration of a policeman walking on top of a crowd of peaceful protestors holding signs

Featuring Work by World-Class Artists, These Billboards Advertise Activism

Museums and galleries are reopening in New York, and one of the most compelling shows of the season is primed to take place en plein air. Organized by the nonprofit Art at a Time Like This, in collaboration with Save Art Space, “Ministry of Truth: 1984–2020” will reclaim a common component of the city’s visual real estate—the billboard—to display works by an international range of artists, including Dread Scott, Deborah Kass, Marilyn Minter, and Shirin Neshat. Named in reference to George Orwell’s famous dystopian novel, the project, curated by Carmen Hermo, Jerome Lamaar, Sophia Marisa Lucas, Larry Ossei-Mensah, Barbara Pollack, and Anne Verhallen, commissioned each artist to comment on the current polarized state of U.S. politics—“just in time for the election,” the curators note. In all, there will be 20 artworks displayed on 20 billboards throughout the city’s five boroughs and online. Half of the selected works come from an open call, held earlier this year, that yielded more than 1,200 submissions. Opening Oct. 12, the exhibition is a reminder for us all, in this strange and precarious time in American history, to always look up.

Toni Blackman laughing on a yellow brick background.

The Songs Inside a Hip-Hop Meditation Teacher’s Head

An activist, M.C., artist, and the first-ever hip-hop ambassador to the U.S. State Department, Toni Blackman—who runs hip-hop meditation workshops—describes her passion-driven role as being “more of a mindfulness educator, and less of a meditation leader.” Ahead of a series of sessions she’s launching in November for Hip-Hop History Month, the musical polymath shares a playlist of her favorite tracks that help center her. “I was totally unaware of how much music was inside of my head and heart. Some of these songs I play on repeat every once in a while,” says Blackman, who also spoke with us on Ep. 55 of At a Distance earlier this year. “In between tears and mourning and political frustrations, I am enjoying my journey!”

Kristen Griffith-VanderYacht laughing while holding a large bouquet.

The Therapeutic Power of Flowers

Kristen Griffith-VanderYacht, founder of Wild Bloom Floral in Seattle, and the head judge of Netflix’s The Big Flower Fight—essentially, the fantastical floral equivalent of The Great British Baking Show—knows the power of an impactful blossom. Here, he tells us why a fabulous arrangement activates all the senses, and is rarely without an equally memorable scent.

Michael W. Twitty sitting with a plate of biscuits in front of a large open fireplace.

Michael W. Twitty Unpacks the Overlooked History of Southern Food

The award-winning African-American Jewish author and culinary historian Michael W. Twitty got his start in food writing after a formative childhood visit to Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia left him intrigued about traditional cooking. Many years later, in 2010, he launched his popular blog, Afroculinaria, as an outlet to document and celebrate the rich cultural histories of African-American fare and the vital role they have played in shaping what we simply refer to today as “Southern” food. A frequent public speaker and figure of the food world, Twitty made waves with his 2017 memoir, The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African American Culinary History in the Old South—not to mention his open letter to Paula Deen, in 2013, that went viral, even as it was left unanswered by the disgraced Food Network host. Reflecting upon his own background, Twitty often draws parallels between the diasporic cuisines of African-American and Jewish communities. “They’re both oppressed cultures, where the luxury of terroir isn’t a reality,” Twitty said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. “It’s also simply survival—through the mental fortitude of humor, the mental fortitude of memory, and the mental fortitude of resistance.” We’ve been following Twitty on Instagram (@thecookinggene) to keep abreast of what he’s cooking up next: a new non-profit called the Muloma Heritage Center, located on South Carolina’s historic St. Helena Island. Dedicated to educating visitors on African Atlantic culture, cuisine, and traditions, the organization will spend the next several months building three kitchens and farming the area, setting the stage for Twitty’s vital work to flourish for many years to come.

Two hands with purple nails holding a beaker filled with purple liquid.

These Dyes Made by Bacteria Could Transform the Fashion Industry

By now, it’s a well-known fact that the multi-trillion-dollar fashion and apparel industry ranks as a top polluter worldwide, accounting for a whopping 10 percent of annual global carbon emissions. It is also the third-largest consumer of the planet’s water supply—exceeded only by the oil and paper industries—and is set to double its consumption rate by 2030. Much of this water is used to grow the fibers needed to make the textiles, but also to dye and finish them; tracing the manufacturing process for a single pair of blue jeans, to name just one everyday, extreme example, can require a staggering 1,000 gallons of water. As brands and consumers alike grapple with these stark realities, two Rotterdam-based designers, Laura Luchtman and Ilfa Siebenhaar, are turning to biodesign to seek out solutions. With their ongoing project Living Colour, the duo experiment with pigment-producing bacteria as a sustainable alternative to artificial textile dyes, which are both toxic and resource-intensive. “Compared to other natural dye resources, bacteria don’t need vast amounts of land, water, time, and pesticides to grow,” the designers point out, in addition to lower dyeing temperatures. As Luchtman and Siebenhaar found, in a study conducted with sound engineer Eduard van Dommelen, bacteria also create more saturated color when exposed to certain sound-wave frequencies. Most intriguing of all, Living Colour’s work has already seen immediate, real-life applications in the industry. At this year’s Milan Design Week, held virtually in June, Living Colour teamed with Puma to present Design to Fade, the very first bacterial-dyed sportswear collection. “We see it as a collaboration with the organism,” Luchtman says, “and we like to learn from it as well.”

A bright red toilet building with angled entrances and the Tokyo cityscape in the background.

These Public Toilets in Tokyo Promote Good Design and Inclusivity

Japanese culture is known worldwide for its meticulous approach to hospitality—and, ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, the Nippon Foundation sought to extend this care and attention to visitors of the city’s many public urban spaces, including the loo. While the Games have since been postponed, the organization’s Tokyo Toilet project invited 16 world-class designers to rethink this humble, often overlooked, piece of public infrastructure.

Two people kissing with black veils over their faces

Antwaun Sargent on the Power of Contemporary Black Art

An art critic, curator, and author, Antwaun Sargent has become a leading voice for a rising class of Black contemporary artists practicing today. Less than a year after publishing his first book, The New Black Vanguard: Photography Between Art and Fashion (Aperture), Sargent is serving up his next, as the editor of Young, Gifted and Black: A New Generation of Artists (D.A.P.), highlighting the works of Black artists from the Lumpkin-Boccuzzi Family Collection of Contemporary Art. An exhibition of the same name is currently on view at the Lehmann College Art Gallery (which is temporarily closed due to Covid-19) in the Bronx, New York, and is set to travel to a number of venues through 2022.

A bottle of R's Koso next to blueberries, half an orange, and herbs.

A Fermented Drink That’s Good for Your Body, Inside and Out

The human gut microbiome contains up to one thousand species of bacteria that, among many functions, produce neurotransmitters and hormones—including an estimated 90 percent of the body’s serotonin, the “feel-good” hormone that shapes your overall sense of well-being. It’s why scientists often refer to the gut as a “second brain,” influencing everything from digestion to metabolism, anxiety, and allergies, and explains the constant spate of probiotic supplements on the market today, whether kombucha, apple cider vinegar tonics, or trendy juice cleanses.

Olivia Jezler gazing into the camera on a gray background.

The Stealthy World of Olfactory Branding, Explained by Olivia Jezler

Olivia Jezler, founder of the scent and design consultancy Future of Smell, which collaborates with the likes of Byredo, Dior, and the World Economic Forum, intimately understands the psychology and science of scent. Here, she provides a window into the big business of olfactory branding—and describes how companies often design every dimension of how and what we smell in our everyday lives, right under our noses.

Cecilia Bembibre in a blue shirt, leaning over a table with a book.

Cecilia Bembibre Is On a Mission to Save the Scents of History

“Smells can be a gateway to our history, helping us understand the sensory worlds of the past,” scent scholar Cecilia Bembibre tells us. A researcher at the University of College London’s Institute for Sustainable Heritage, Bembibre’s focus is rooted in the belief that smells are a crucial, if intangible, part of our cultural heritage—and her work aims to provide a structured approach in researching and preserving them. As part of her Ph.D., she launched Smell of Heritage, a project that delves into the invisible layers often overlooked in historical accounts, archiving aromas that range from leather gloves to mold to dusty old books.

A dark orange glass of génépy on a yellow background.

Stock Your Bar With This Lesser-Known Liqueur from the Alps

In like a lion—and maybe out like a lion, too—summer has passed; it’s suddenly fall. And as our minds wander off to the winter season ahead, we find our curiosities piqued by génépy: an après-ski herbal liqueur enjoyed year-round in the Alpine region, where the rare génépi floral herb, a close relative to the more hardy wormwood, grows in rock crevices and among glacial debris at an altitude of some 650 feet above sea level. Distilled, it yields a distinctly bitter flavor profile that’s reminiscent of green Chartreuse, chamomile, or absinthe. In more traditional times, the plant was used as an herbal medicine to cure fatigue, respiratory infection, and “hot and cold” ailments. Though less commonly imbibed in the U.S, there’s a smattering of good stuff to be found Stateside: The small-batch Brooklyn distillers Forthave Spirits have just produced a version called Yellow, which, like its other offerings (including Red, a botanical aperitif, and Blue, an American dry gin), is simply named for its dominant hue. Genepy Herbetet, made by Italy’s family-run Distilleria Alpe, is another excellent pick, infused with additional aromatics including oregano, mint, and cinnamon that make for a zippy, refreshing taste. Made with herbs sourced from Herbetet Peak, located on the Gran Paradiso mountain in the Graian Alps, it’s fairly high-proof, at 38 percent A.B.V.—some bite that’s sure to warm your bones. We recommend sipping it on ice, with a sprig of basil thrown in for good measure.

Interior of an art installation with walls covered in rainbow-colored words and phrases

New York Inmates and the Ladd Brothers Want You to Think About Prison

New York–based artists and brothers Steven and William Ladd have been creating together for 20 years, using their complementary skills to make intricate handcrafted works, often involving baubles and beads, books, drawings, and tightly coiled strips of upcycled fabric that hark back to their respective creative paths. Steven was fascinated by sewing as a kid, later engaging in costume design, performance, design, and art as a college student, while William took to beading as a teen, and traveled the world as a fashion model in his youth. Together, their collaborative works take on myriad forms, including stackable fabric boxes filled with fantastical miniature environments and immersive installations that recall well-stocked storage containers from a craft store. For their latest installation, “The Other Side,” on view through Oct. 17 at the Invisible Dog Art Center in Brooklyn’s Boerum Hill neighborhood, the Ladds have welcomed a cast of many more collaborators into their usual tête-à-tête approach. For the better part of the past decade, the brothers have been collaborating with inmates from the New York City Department of Correction to create paintings, drawings, and sculptural wall hangings, as well as a series of large-scale installation spaces that depict the architectural trappings of a prison: a cell, a metal detector, and a surveillance booth. Offering visceral and emotional depth to a population of society so often silenced and anonymized behind closed doors, the show is a moving visual testimony that gives voice to those inside the criminal justice system—and provides an opportunity to inspire action and compassion from onlookers.

A Tokyo Slow Mixtape cover image, featuring the inside of an old Japanese house.

Tokyobike’s Refreshingly Eclectic Listening Party

The pandemic and ongoing global shifts have caused us all to slow down—and not just here at The Slowdown. Our friends at Tokyobike are embracing small moments of grace amidst all the chaos, too, and recently launched a digital-playlist series called the Tokyo Slow Mixtapes: guest-curated collections of songs on Spotify to soothe you through these high-stress, anxiety-inducing times. Contributions include playlists by actor and designer Waris Ahluwalia and artist Shantell Martin (whom we interviewed on Ep. 19 and Ep. 36, respectively, of our At a Distance podcast), along with Le Sirenuse hotel co-owners Antonio and Carla Sersale, with nearly 30 to choose from to date. Our own co-founder Spencer Bailey’s mixtape, for which he turned to the 17th-century Katsura Imperial Villa in Kyoto for inspiration, includes tracks by the likes of Nils Frahm, Nicolas Jaar, Photay, Kelsey Lu, Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah, and Kamasi Washington. Tune in to these pleasingly personal playlists for an ideal soundtrack to wind down, at least momentarily, from world-weariness—and revel in the joys of exploring and immersing yourself in some fresh tracks.

A classic ice cream truck in the summer.

A New Ice Cream Truck Jingle, Created by Wu-Tang Clan Rapper RZA

The anticipation of hearing and chasing down an ice cream truck is a nostalgic American pastime, bringing joy to kids on a sweltering afternoon. But beneath the veneer of this seemingly innocent treat lies extremely racist origins: The truck’s familiar jingle, anonymized by a cheery instrumental melody, is based on “Turkey in the Straw,” a 19th-century folk song with British and Irish roots. As the tune made its way to the U.S., it was frequently played by blackface actors in minstrel shows—with mocking lyrics and racial slurs that have been hidden, but not forgotten, over time. In 1916, Columbia Records even released a recorded version of the song, written by actor Harry C. Browne, titled, “N*gger Love A Watermelon Ha! Ha! Ha!,” a disturbing slice of American history that TikTok-er Vanessa Blackwell resurfaced earlier this summer in a viral post. Offering a sorely needed replacement, Wu-Tang Clan’s RZA recently partnered with the ice cream maker Good Humor to create a brand-new jingle for a new era—one that, at long last, puts that problematic tune to rest. “We wanted to make a melody that includes all communities, that’s good for every driver, every kid,” RZA said in a video announcing the project. “I assure you that this one is made with love.” Good Humor released the track for free, urging all ice-cream truck drivers to nix the traditional one. Here’s hoping Mister Softee takes note.

A vintage envelope addressed by former president Abraham Lincoln

The Fascinating, Often Shameful History of U.S. Voting Ballot Design

Election season is upon us here in the U.S., and with all of the anxieties circulating around—pandemic-related risks, potential mail-in voting delays, the defunding of the U.S. Postal Service (need we go on?)—one thing seems certain: For better or worse, the paper ballot is here to stay. Riffing on the common protest chant, This is What Democracy Looked Like: A Visual History of the Printed Ballot (Princeton Architectural Press), a new book by Alicia Yin Cheng, a founding partner of the Brooklyn-based graphic design firm MGMT, delves into the visual evolution of a fundamental yet often overlooked component of design in American culture.

A bedroom at the Eliot Noyes House, with a large blue painting, multicolored bedspread, and brass sculpture near a large glass window.

The Colorful History of the Eliot Noyes House, Explained by Abby Bangser

Abby Bangser, founder and curator of the art and design fair Object & Thing, shook up the New York scene last spring with a refreshing debut that freely mixed online commerce with curated, exhibition-style displays, and eschewed the typical fair model that’s rife with hierarchies, booths, and dealers. For the fair’s sophomore iteration— amidst an ongoing pandemic that’s brought much disruption to the art world—Bangser is switching up the art-fair formula once again by bringing it a little closer to home.

Ghetto Gastro members behind their black and red blender, toasters, coffee maker, and air fryer.

Make Space on Your Counter for Ghetto Gastro’s New Kitchenware Line

Ghetto Gastro, the Bronx-based culinary collective working at the intersection of design, art, and social justice, has cooked up a tasty collaboration with the kitchenware brand Crux. The new seven-piece collection, CRUXGG, includes a range of everyday appliances—a blender, a coffee maker, a toaster oven, an air fryer, and more—with matte-black finishes, red accents, and product names that nod to African royalty, such as Musa, Sata, and Neri. Ahead of the launch, which drops Sept. 29 at Williams Sonoma stores and online, the chefs behind Ghetto Gastro—Lester Walker, Pierre Serrao, and Malcolm Livingston II—as well as the group’s self-proclaimed “dishwasher,” Jon Gray (whom we interviewed on Ep. 2 of our Time Sensitive podcast), have released a rotating double waffle maker, which promises to yield perfectly browned, crisped edges, nooks, and crannies. True to Ghetto Gastro’s mission to ignite conversations about race, class, and inclusion through food and gathering, all proceeds now through the month of October will be donated to the Know Your Rights Camp, a campaign founded by athlete-activist Colin Kaepernick. Consider the cookware, designed to be left out on the kitchen counter, as objets d’art—everyday tools that spark thought and conversation, even when they’re not in use.

Two sculptural toilet paper holders.

Toilet-Paper Holders, Reimagined as Works of Art

Toilet paper, like so many everyday items, has become a political point of contention in this maelstrom of a year, one that’s had us reexamining all that seemed ordinary or mundane in pre-pandemic times. As the onset of Covid-19 lockdown sent Americans panic-stocking their homes with seemingly enough toilet paper to last a lifetime, the rich got richer—by, we feel the need to point out, selling and manufacturing rolls that pollute waterways, are loaded with harmful toxins, and source virgin wood pulp. A single company, owned by Koch Industries, controls a staggering 29 percent of the $31 billion tissue-paper industry in North America, as designers Benjamin Critton and Heidi Korsavong, co-directors of the Los Angeles art and design gallery Marta, point out. And with their latest installation, “Under/Over,” on view through Nov. 1, they’re addressing this dark underlayer of the Big T.P. industry with a group show examining the bathroom as a place of social and environmental politics. In partnership with the start-up manufacturer Plant Paper (which makes toxin- and tree-free toilet paper using only fast-growing, FSC-certified bamboo), Critton and Korsavong invited more than 50 artists and designers to reimagine a “seemingly humble piece of hardware that we invariably interact with every day”: the toilet-paper holder. Among the international range of participants rethinking the toilet-paper wheel are Memphis group alum Peter Shire, Rotterdam-based talent Sabine Marcelis, Italian designer Martino Gamper, and the German-Moroccan studio Bnag, run by Oliver-Selim Boualam and Lukas Marstaller, whose creations bring a playful element of sculpture to even the banal. If, as the show’s title cheekily suggests, your only passing thoughts on the topic revolve around which way the roll should unspool, you’re bound to leave this irreverent show engaged and enraged about all sorts of shit.

Black and white cartoon drawing of a girl with glasses and striped shirt

Writer and Artist Edith Zimmerman Shares Her Media Diet

Brooklyn-based writer and artist Edith Zimmerman served as the founding editor of The Hairpin—the former general-interest women’s website that defined a generation of online journalism, with pieces like the perennially viral and still-very-funny “Women Laughing Alone With Salad”—and has gone on to contribute to outlets including The New York Times Magazine, The Cut, and the podcast This American Life. These days, you can find her work in Drawing Links, a frequently published newsletter of comics and musings. We recently polled Zimmerman about her current media diet. Here, she shares who and what she’s following, reading, and watching—and the YouTube channels that soothe her in times of stress.

Fouteen Le Labo City Scents perfume bottles above an assortment of natural objects and their city names.

Le Labo’s City Exclusives Scents Offer an Olfactory Tour Around the World

Olfactory memories hold transporting qualities—a sensual power that’s oh-so welcome, as international travel remains on hold amid the pandemic. City Exclusives, an ever-expanding collection from cult fragrance company Le Labo, capitalizes upon our nostalgic, wanderlust desires with a set of scents inspired by various locales around the world, from Amsterdam and Paris to Miami and Tokyo. Typically, Le Labo stores only sell each scent in its respective city location. There are 14 fragrances to date—all available online for the month of September only—and the latest addition, Citron 28, celebrates the South Korean capital of Seoul. A blend of lemon, ginger, and jasmine notes, grounded by cedar and musks, the refreshing concoction pays homage to “an alpha city with its own contradictions, rooted in tradition and history yet at the forefront of all that is modern and forward thinking.” A tantalizing thought.

Small piles of red and brown peppercorns on concrete.

Test Your Spicy Food Tolerance with Mouth-Numbing Sichuan Peppercorns

Sichuan cuisine, named for the subtropical province of China where it originates from, is characterized by a diversity of flavors. The most popular of these, málà (a portmanteau meaning “numbing and spicy”), is marked by deep and pungent, peppery notes that you not only taste but feel on the tongue. The signature Sichuan peppercorn, pink in color with a blistering texture, imparts the tingly, mouth-numbing sensation that adds a sensual dimension to a range of spicy, salty, sweet, pungent, sour, bitter, and smoky flavors. Intensely fragrant, it pairs well with aromatics such as garlic, ginger, aniseed, cinnamon, and red chili peppers, and its distinctive sting might send you reaching for a glass of cold water—which strangely multiplies the addicting blitz in your mouth. Until 2005, the U.S. considered Sichuan peppercorns to be contraband; nowadays, you can find the little pink orbs in trendy cocktails that play on its citrus and camphor-like aromas. As this complex and diverse cuisine continues to grow in popularity, you can increasingly find specialty spices at more and more stores. For some of the best quality Sichuan spices this side of the Pacific, look to the Nashville-based importer The Mala Market, an online purveyor that stocks top-grade ingredients directly from Sichuan province. Here, in one fell swoop, you can find varieties of soy sauce, vinegar, bean paste, chili oil, dried chilis, spice blends, and, of course, peppercorns, along with a blog of recipes to kick-start your culinary adventures.

A yellow microphone on a concrete background.

Rashid Johnson Wants You to Speak Your Mind

Museums have begun to reopen in New York City—with appropriate precaution—and after months of prolonged closures and digitized programs, we couldn’t be more enthused. On our calendars for the season is “Rashid Johnson: Stage,” an installation opening next week at MoMA PS1 in Long Island City, Queens, and offering a participatory platform for dialogue and exchange. Five SM58 microphones of varying heights and a yellow powder-coated stage, adorned with Johnson’s signature markings, will provide a soapbox for visitors to speak their minds in the museum’s courtyard. “It’s almost impossible for me to actually categorize a linear or structured time in my work or, oftentimes, in the work of others,” as Johnson, who works in a panoply of media, including painting, sculpture, film, and installation, told us on Ep. 25 of our Time Sensitive podcast. At once referencing hip-hop culture, public oratory, protest, and public intellectual and cultural life, “Stage” will play back participants’ statements, as well as host a range of programs and performances, through fall 2021.

Poster for the Netflix movie "The Social Dilemma"

The Dark Side of Social Media, Explained by the People Who Created Itπ

You are what you Google and “like.” This is an eerie truism of 21st-century life, where our experience of reality is largely mediated by a nexus of algorithms and online platforms that are engineered to manipulate our psychology. In less than two decades, the world has witnessed the positive applications of social media—from its crucial role as a mobilization tool for protesters during the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings to the current Black Lives Matter movement—as well as its opposite extremes, as systems that polarize and divide us. The Social Dilemma, a new docu-drama premiering on Sept. 9 on Netflix, delves into the dangerous human impact that social networking has on society. Silicon Valley insiders behind Facebook, Pinterest, Google, Twitter, Instagram, and other omnipresent platforms explain the dark inner workings of social media, and how it strategically pits psychology against users in order to keep us scrolling, clicking, and liking—and at what cost. As Tristan Harris, co-founder of the Center for Humane Technology (and our guest on Ep. 35 of At a Distance), says in the trailer: “If technology creates mass chaos, loneliness, polarization, more election hacking, [and] more inability to focus on the real issues, we’re toast. This is checkmate for humanity.” Consider this film required viewing.

The black D.S. & Durga perfume truck.

A Perfume Truck Brings D.S. & Durga’s Scents to the Street

“Perfume has a wonderful ability to immerse people directly inside of a world,” says David Moltz, the self-taught perfumer who co-founded the Brooklyn-based fragrance company D.S. & Durga with his wife, Kavi, more than a decade ago. After careers spent in music and architecture, respectively, the duo were drawn to work in a medium that seemingly defied both—though Moltz doesn’t necessarily see them at odds. “All art forms can produce the same idea. Only the materials differ,” he says. “Each has various strengths and weaknesses. Perfume and music are both invisible and allow the sniffer or listener to imagine the worlds they are experiencing.” The couple’s holistic approach has led to a number of projects beyond perfume, including a brick-and-mortar operation in downtown Manhattan, which remains closed until further notice due to Covid-19. Now, with a new roving mobile store stocked with exclusive drops—including candles, air fresheners, fragrances, and gift sets of its “greatest hits” launching next week—they’ll offer a trifecta of sound, scent, and architecture all in one. “We always wanted to do a chilled-perfume ice cream cart,” says Moltz, adding that, when the pandemic led to prolonged retail closures, “we realized a truck was a great, safe way to bring the store outdoors.” To be parked on various blocks throughout New York City, with on-the-fly location updates posted to the brand’s social media accounts, the D.S. & Durga Fume Truck will soon hit the streets. In a city known for its not-so-glamorous sidewalk odors, this is one experiment we’re eager to see—and smell.

Hands holding the threads of a white roll of fabric.

Using Ancient Craftsmanship, Angel Chang Designs Clothes for the Future

When New York Fashion Week announced its anemic lineup for this month’s showings, the writing on the wall was as plain as day: Business as usual can no longer fly, pandemic or not. As the journalist Dana Thomas recently pointed out to us on Ep. 69 of At a Distance, the fashion and apparel industry is a known top contributor to environmental pollution worldwide—and, as it grapples with a grand reassessment, many see such instrumental shifts as an opportunity to right the course.

An assortment of vegetables, dried and preserved foods, meat, and drinks.

Shop This Pantry, Filled with Ingredients by Seattle Chef Edouardo Jordan

Chefs and restaurant owners everywhere have had to rethink their business models this year, as social distancing and new regulations for public safety have turned the equation upside down. Many dine-in eateries have edited their menus to include delivery and takeout-friendly dishes, while others have drastically reduced capacity or opened up sidewalk dining options; others have shuttered completely. And with the colder seasons upon us, the fates of countless small and independent establishments hang in uncertainty.

Ayanna Young in an embroidered shirt, smiling in the wilderness.

A Podcast That Tells Stories of People, Politics, and Nature

The summer of Covid may be coming to an end, but our hearts, ears, and minds are hardly retreating indoors. We’re listening to For the Wild, a weekly podcast and “anthology of the Anthropocene” that’s keeping us curious and engaged about our place in nature. On the program, host Ayana Young invites figures with critical perspectives to discuss the most pertinent issues relating to ecology renewal and resistance through narratives rooted in social justice and intersectional storytelling. Recent guests include anthropologist and Feasting Wild author Gina Rae La Cerva (who also joined us on Ep. 39 of At a Distance) on the “quiet and hidden” stories of foraged foods; The Nap Ministry founder Tricia Hersey on rest as an act of social resistance; and Dr. Robin Wall Kimmerer, an enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Tribe and founding director of the Center for Native Peoples and the Environment, on what we can learn about earth healing from indigenous cultures. Many episodes come with a call to action to up your civic engagement—a healthy reminder this election season that voting is only one crucial part of bringing about enduring change.

An MRI of the human brain.

A New Study Unpacks How the Brain Encodes Information About Odors

Smell is a highly individualized sense: The same odor or olfactory stimulus can trigger common, though not identical, reactions from person to person. A recent study published in the science journal Nature suggests that our diverse experiences with scent have to do with how they are encoded in the brain. “All of us share a common frame of reference with smells,” Sandeep Robert Datta, an associate professor of neurobiology at Harvard Medical School and a senior author of the paper, told The Harvard Gazette. “You and I both think lemon and lime smell similar and agree that they smell different from pizza, but until now, we didn’t know how the brain organizes that kind of information.”

The I Miss the Office website, showing a few different rooms issuing sound.

The Ambient Sounds of Your Office, Simulated by a Cheeky Website

Working from home, at least for those who are fortunate enough to do so, isn’t all bad. Trading workwear for loungewear, ditching the commute, and making home lunches are a few immediate perks, though they’re tempered by many setbacks: Zoom fatigue, Wi-Fi troubles, interrupting pets and kids, and a lack of creative energy from working in isolation. The jury is still out on the “effectiveness” of full-time remote labor, and while there have been more “think pieces” about the future of work than we care to debate, consider the water-cooler effect. Those offhand moments, breaks, and on-the-fly conversations that casually take place away from the desk now seem nearly impossible to foster over a scheduled video chat. The Kids, a creative agency based in Zurich, are not all right with this. The firm’s interactive online project I Miss the Office serves as a cheeky reminder of pre-Covid-19 life that simulates the mundane soundscape of an everyday workplace—the smack of an obnoxious gum chewer, the occasional sneeze, an unidentifiable hum, the click-clack of hands tapping away at a keyboard—which you can “multiply” by adding more virtual co-workers into the mix. In retrospect, the small annoyances that would’ve rattled us in pre-pandemic times now seem quaint and petty, even comforting. The website is no office-hallway chit-chat, but serves as an amusing reminder of collegiality that comes from IRL interaction.

Marbled, multicolor origami paper.

The Alluring Art of Origami Folding

So you’ve tried your hand at jigsaw puzzles and need a different indoor activity to tide your quarantine boredom over. May we suggest more analog fun with the Origami Paper Shop’s themed kits, which include detailed instructions for making all sorts of creations. Fold cats, cranes, dogs, rabbits, flowers, and more using colorful, double-sided papers that come pre-cut as perfect squares. No cuts nor glue are involved in the centuries-old art of origami, which means simply “to fold paper” in Japanese. The painstaking, slightly repetitive process of meditatively creasing and completing each geometric form provides a gratifying pastime for all ages and skill levels. And, better still, these vibrant, often patterned papers—which come in all sorts of fine aestheticized varieties, from hand–silk screened to marbled—make for motivation to put in your very best effort, lest you should waste a precious sheet.

A view from a window looking out onto a neighborhood and sea beyond

A Website That Lets You Enjoy Rooms With a View

Our summer quarantine days have far too often been spent gazing at web browser windows—far and away from vacation views, sadly. For the moment, we’re finding solace in Window Swap, a mash-up of the virtual and physical. Designed as a “quarantine project” by creatives Sonali Ranjit and Vaishnav Balasubramaniam, a husband-and-wife duo based in Singapore, the website invites “all travel-hungry fools” to submit videos of the views from their windows “to help each other feel a little bit better until we can responsibly explore our beautiful planet again.” A recent visit to the site yielded scenes and sounds of tropical leaves swaying in the breeze in Chiang Mai, Thailand; clusters of dense high-rises in an overcast skyline view of Hong Kong; and a serene clip of a dog slumbering in the sunlight, as cyclists pass by an apartment in Copenhagen. The globetrotting assortment is an ever-evolving balm for our escapist impulses. Transporting and mesmerizing in all of their mundaneness, these views vicariously offer a surreal and welcome peek into the homes of others.

Eat Okra co-founder Anthony Edwards in a pink shirt on the sidewalk.

Find Black-Owned Restaurants Near You With the Eat Okra App

Several months into the pandemic, the restaurant industry remains among the hardest hit in the U.S., with scant evidence that any substantial support will come from the federal government. For many independent businesses around the country—particularly those run by BIPOC entrepreneurs, who have been disproportionately affected by coronavirus-related losses—their fates lie directly in continuing sales. Everyday citizens are left with little recourse than to volunteer for and donate to the causes we support, and to vote with our dollars. One resource for doing so is the Eat Okra app, founded by New York couple Anthony and Janique Edwards in 2016, which gives a boost of visibility to Black-owned businesses with its directory of more than 2,800 bakeries, cafés, food trucks, bars, and wineries in more than 30 cities across the country. A welcome alternative to apps like Yelp or FourSquare, Eat Okra not only offers a gateway to a wide array of cuisines, but a service that pays it forward by supporting and amplifying access to local, homegrown economies.

Vertical split screen of a woman wearing a face mask and a man wearing a space helmet

Designer Lydia Cambron Makes a Quarantine Version of the Finale of “2001: A Space Odyssey”

For the past five years, as one of the co-founders of the annual “JONALDDUDD”  exhibition, designer Lydia Cambron has put on one of the most consistently surprising and challenging presentations of New York Design Week. The group show irreverently eschews all the gloss and polish of contemporary furniture design by lampooning notions of function, elegance, and efficiency—and embracing oozing slime as a running motif.

The nose fragment of a stone sculpture.

That Tasty Treat You Ate Yesterday? Thank Your Sense of Smell

Our sense of smell can cast mysteriously large impressions onto our memories—and it’s all by nature’s design. The olfactory bulb, located at the front of the human brain, dispatches signals to other areas of the body for further “sensing.” Odors swiftly head to the limbic system, a set of structures in the brain that regulates memory and emotional responses—which explains, in large part, why scent memories linger after their initial stimuli. According to Harvard biology professor Venkatesh Murthy, olfactory signals even color other senses, notably taste. Molecules from food “make their way back retro-nasally to your nasal epithelium” as you chew, he says, meaning that much of the memory about your most recent meal has to do with your internal response to its aroma. It’s what helps us discern different tastes within the same family—say, two kinds of sweets, like vanilla and chocolate—as more distinct, individual flavors. To test the theory, Murthy suggests pinching your nose while noshing on ice cream: instead of tasting the flavor, “all you can taste is sweet.”

The Get Sleepy podcast art.

Nod Off With This Podcast Made to Put You to Sleep

At first listen, the Get Sleepy podcast’s format is surprisingly basic: Cue the lulling intonations of a British narrator, who slowly reads an intentional yet perfectly dull tale against the ambient, cozy sounds of a crackling fireplace or the soft pitter-patter of rainfall. It’s an oddly effective combination from episode to episode, designed with a team of meditation experts and consultants from the National Sleep Foundation to maximize drowsiness and get you snoozing posthaste. The series’ main host, Tom Jones, is even somewhat of a nighttime podcast veteran (he’s also the voiceover for the app Slumber, launched in 2018). Get Sleepy’s ASMR-meets-bedtime stories appeal is apt for these high-anxiety existential times that keep us tossing and turning all night. We challenge you not to drift off by the end of the narrator’s opening introduction: “The podcast where we listen, we relax, and we get sleepy.”

A Goshi towel in a yellow package.

Ditch Your Loofah for This Exfoliating Shower Towel From Japan

Getting a full-body exfoliating treatment is an experience, to say the least—one that will leave you feeling silky smooth (and in slight dismay by just how much a good scrub can slough off). But it doesn’t need to be just an occasional treat: You can easily bring a piece of the spa into your home with a simple exfoliating shower towel. The Goshi towel, made in Gunma, a prefecture of Japan touted for its textile and silk manufacturing, is no mere loofah. Woven with two types of rip-resistant exfoliating fibers—one for lathering, the other for scrubbing—it’s conveniently long enough to scrub all those hard-to-reach spots on your back, and dries quickly to avoid the bacterial buildup that’s so common to scrub brushes and the like. For just $15, it’s an affordable treat-yourself splurge to up your squeaky-clean game.

Pete Simoneaux's "Pineapple Pilot for Spaceship Earth" recipe, with an illustration of a pineapple in black and white.

Architecture-Themed Recipes to Cook, from Buckminster Fuller and his Friends

The 20th-century futurist, theorist, inventor, and architect R. Buckminster Fuller was a tireless visionary and radical thinker who wrote dozens of books and proposed theoretical designs advocating for a holistic rethinking of the built environment. He was, it turns out, also a giant foodie. To commemorate his 125th birthday this year, the Swiss publisher Lars Müller released a limited-edition reprint of Synergetic Stew: Explorations in Dymaxion Dining, a collection of recipes and anecdotes originally compiled by Fuller’s friends as a surprise gift for his 86th birthday. Dishes such as Amy Edmondson’s “Allspace-Filling Whole Wheat Bread,” Peter Simoneaux’s “Pineapple Pilot for Spaceship Earth,” and Shirley Sharkey’s “GEODESICANDY” serve as cheeky, affectionate odes to their dear friend’s well-known works. Fuller’s own specialties, including a tomato ice cream, are also present. Short bios on each of the cookbook’s contributors, added for the limited-edition run, paint a picture of Fuller’s lively orbit of artists, friends, and colleagues—John Cage, John Denver, and Isamu Noguchi among them—and the kind of legendary dinner parties at which we’d happily be flies on the wall.

Giorno's Dial-a-Poem phone in a white gallery setting.

From John Giorno’s Dial-a-Poem to Callin’ Oates, Amusing Hotlines to Ring

Zoom fatigue—which is to say, screen fatigue—is all too real in these extremely online and indoor times, making old-school telephone calls a welcome, intimate reprieve. While we eagerly await museum reopenings, we’re getting our fix by dialing in to a handful of audio-based artworks. The late poet and performance artist John Giorno launched his legendary Dial-a-Poem hotline in 1967, offering automated readings of short poems over the phone—an innovative technology at the time and a clever, playful way of connecting wider audiences in a more accessible way. While the original number is no longer in service, an iteration now lives on at 641-793-8122, thanks to the New Museum, and the seeds of Giorno’s revolutionary art-by-phone experiment have taken a rather comical turn in recent years, with a spate of humorous hotlines.

A painting depicts a young woman smelling a red flower.

According to This French Historian, “Bad” Odors Are Learned, Not Inherent

“Our sense of smell is entirely shaped by cultural phenomena arising as a result of specific historical processes,” Robert Muchembled writes in his new book, Smells: A Cultural History of Odors in Early Modern Times (Polity). The French historian and professor—who has previously written books on subjects including the devil, violence, and orgasms—offers a distinctive, deeply researched, and often amusing olfactory lens onto 16th to 18th century France. His accounts include wild historical tales: There’s mention of a journal entry from princess Elizabeth Charlotte, who describes a farting contest between herself, her husband, and their son. Elsewhere, he recalls questionable medicine and beauty practices of the 17th century, in which people used ingredients such as animal droppings to cure ailments and, as a commonly prescribed moisturizer, “urine from a young person who drinks nothing but wine.”

A stack of brick-like bread loaves with a green lawn in the background.

Artist-Baker Lexie Smith on the Beauty, Craft, and Politics of Bread

Lexie Smith is an artist and baker, though it’s only relatively recently, after years of working in restaurant kitchens and balancing creative pursuits on the side, that she wholly fused both passions through her community-based art project, Bread on Earth. Her work often takes on various forms, from performance and installation to photography, writing, and publishing, all centered around bread and its cultural resonances. As New York City went into lockdown this spring, Smith offered to send a free sourdough starter to anyone who requested one, and has mailed out more than 1,000 to date. We recently spoke with Smith, just as she was harvesting her first crop of grains in Upstate New York, about why the humble food serves as an apt vehicle for discussing social, political, economic, and ecological concerns.

A WaterRower machine on a white background.

The Analog, MoMA-Approved Rowing Machine Giving Us a Full-Body Workout

Finding a new exercise routine that provides total-body training can be a challenge, especially as we spend more time indoors. Though there’s no shortage of techy apps and products that exemplify the brave new world of home fitness, we’re intrigued by a machine that’s blissfully analog. The stationary WaterRower rowing machine, designed in 1987 by John Duke and carried exclusively by the MoMA Design Store, is built around a patented fly wheel that’s filled with water to authentically simulate the experience of rowing. Unlike most gym equipment, it’s also made with ethically sourced cherrywood that ages beautifully with time and acts as a natural sound insulator. We’d opt for an old-fashioned row in the lake any day—but if you’ve got the space and the wanderlust, this offers an efficient and escapist workout. (And for those seeking the Peloton of rowing machines, look to the high-tech Hydrow.)

Artwork made from draped textiles and wood poles

Try These Energizing Art Lessons from the Studio Museum of Harlem

School’s out forever—or at least for the immediate future, depending on what city you live in—and it’s certainly taking a toll on parents as they attempt to balance work, life, and remote home-schooling through a pandemic. Not all online education is bleak: Many institutions and organizations have stepped up with creative lesson plans to help families battle the restlessness of a summer spent cooped up indoors. The Studio Museum of Harlem, for one, has created a series of hands-on lesson plans, open-sourced and free to download, that are inspired by artists and objects from its permanent collection. “Fashioning Self,” a lesson on the sculptural paintings by Eric N. Mack, for example, instructs students to experiment with abstraction and assemblage using fabric, paint, and found materials, while “On My Street” examines painter Jordan Casteel’s intimate portraits of Harlem locals as a jumping-off point to exploring themes of home, community, and identity. There are 18 art lessons offered, in all, featuring works by Glenn Ligon, Derrick Adams, Elizabeth Catlett, and others, with an all-ages appeal that will likely leave you enjoying some extra homework.

A hand pours a bottle of red wine into a wine glass on a green background.

How Sommeliers Use Scent to Discern a Wine’s Complex Notes

The saying “like a fine wine” is often used to describe something that improves with age. But, as any sommelier will tell you, the expression is a bit misplaced, as tasting notes are never quite that simple. Older does not necessarily mean better, and the prime age of a vintage depends upon a host of variables, including the grape varietal, harvest, terroir, and how the wine has been stored and fermented—much of which sommeliers are trained to discern largely by scent, before the vino even touches their lips. Generally, by the 10-year mark, a wine’s primary flavors (such as cherry, berry, apple, or citrus) will fade along with its “bouquet” of aromas, while those that have been aging for longer will begin to take on a different set of scents and flavors with more complex, funky notes. There are plenty of scientific processes and valuation rubrics in play in the wine world, but as André Hueston Mack, owner of Maison Noir Wines and the Brooklyn “ham bar” and grocery & Sons, said on a recent episode of At a Distance, it all comes down to personal preference. “I think wine sometimes gets interlaced into geekdom, which is cool,” he told us. “But, for me, wine is for the people—it’s not a meal if there’s no wine on the table. Wine is a condiment. It belongs on your table next to the salt and pepper shaker.”

A man in virtual reality playing an exercise game, floating on a disk above a lake.

Break a Sweat to Supernatural, a Home Gym With a VR Twist

We’re living at work, working at home, and, on good days, working out somewhere between, in the same space every day. It’s enough to make anyone pine for an escape, and one zany fitness start-up, Supernatural, offers precisely that in the form of a VR exercise class. The next-level experience offers a range of cardio, upper-body, and lower-body workouts set against transporting backdrops, in far-flung destinations ranging from the mountain ridges of Machu Picchu to the 1,500 islands of the Indonesian archipelago Raja Ampat. A subscription to the platform runs close to the typical cost of a streaming service, but unlike Netflix or Hulu, this one will actually get you off the couch—even if just a few steps from it—and momentarily transport you into another, fitter world.

Matt Jozwiak in light snow in front of a brick wall.

A Veteran Chef Fights Food Insecurity With His Nonprofit

After years in various kitchens, working his way up from dishwasher to cook, and ultimately chef de partie at Eleven Madison Park, Matt Jozwiak left the fine-dining world behind in 2017 to start Rethink Food NYC, a nonprofit organization that partners with restaurants and grocery stores to reduce excess food and make nutritious, low-cost meals available to the communities that need it most. The organization now counts one café, three roving food trucks, and a number of food-world entities—including Ghetto Gastro and Jozwiak’s former boss, chef Daniel Humm—as collaborators in its mission to fight food insecurity and foster a more sustainable, equitable food system.

Black and white photo of a woman jumping rope

How the Pandemic Has Altered the Way We View Everyday Objects

Five months on, living in a pandemic has become a new liminal normal, shifting our gaze toward the familiar sights, sounds, and objects that once filled our days. The curators at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum are no doubt feeling this shift on some ontological level. This past spring, on the V&A blog, they started “Pandemic Objects,” an ongoing editorial project that highlights and reflects upon everyday objects (defined in the broadest sense) that have become charged with new urgency and meaning in the midst of the coronavirus. Senior design curator Brendan Cormier considers the gaze of the drone, which has seen a surge in use worldwide in recent months, with people dispatching them in their hometowns—even to take their dogs for a walk. Other highlights include soap, street trees, and the ubiquitous canvas tote bag, the latter overly produced as swag for events and festivals that have since been canceled, further calling the “sustainability” of reusable bags into question. For staffer Gina Koutsika, it’s a jump rope that gives her pause as she riffles through the museum’s archives, uncovering photos, artworks, and accounts about the age-old pastime before going for a jump herself: “After a bit of research practicality gave into nostalgia, and armed with a compact, lightweight rope with tangle-free coated table and anti-slip foam handles, I ventured to the park.”

David Rockwell standing in an amphitheater.

Architect and Broadway Set Designer David Rockwell Shares His Favorite Show Tunes

A love of theater and drama drives the work of architect and designer David Rockwell, who grew up in a theater-going family and is a longtime fan of the stage. His firm, Rockwell Group, has designed numerous hospitality, entertainment, and cultural spaces—from Nobu to NeueHouse to The Shed—plus dozens of Broadway sets, including ones for Kinky Boots and Hairspray. While theaters are officially closed for the rest of the year, here Rockwell brings the spirit of the stage home to us with a playlist of some of his favorite musical numbers. (For more from Rockwell, listen to Spencer interview him on Ep. 1 of The Workspace of Tomorrow podcast.)

Green celery growing in a metal pail.

Why the Sweet Scent of Celery Reminds Us of the Fall Harvest to Come

Early August marks the start of planting season for celery. Picked in fall and early winter, it makes for a sweet and crisp addition to salads and cocktails, juiced for (somewhat dubious, overly trending) cleansing benefits, or an easy snack on its own—though the scent of celery, curiously, is always much stronger than its taste. As a scent, celery seed essential oils have been used throughout history as an herbal medicine (in Ayurveda), as well as an aphrodisiac (due to its similarity to androsterone, a pheromone), and, it would naturally follow, as a perfume note: Demeter’s Celery cologne, Guerlain’s Mitsouko, and Monsillage’s Eau de Céleri are among the many fragrances composed around the deeply herbaceous and slightly sweet scent, which strangely reminds some of an earthier, greener maple syrup—and serves as a sensual reminder of the fall harvest season to come.

María Elena Pombo stacking bricks for an exhibition.

How Artist and Designer María Elena Pombo Is Sowing Seeds for Change

From textiles to fashion to research and installation art, creative endeavors often take on varying forms for the Venezuelan-American artist and designer María Elena Pombo, who started her studio, Fragmentario, in 2016, after stints studying industrial engineering and working as a fashion designer. Here, she tells us about her current focus—experimenting with avocado seeds as a material for dyeing fabric and making bricks and even face masks—and how this rigorous project serves as a platform for considering slowness, as well as the social, political, and environmental consequences of a singular economy.

A split avocado in bright, moody lighting.

Miguel Gonzalez, AKA Davocadoguy, on the Perfect Avocado

Extolled by New York City’s finest restaurants, from Daniel to Eleven Madison Park and abcV, as well as a growing coterie of home cooks, Miguel Gonzalez, known simply as Davocadoguy, is seemingly everyone’s go-to guy for the best avocados. He keeps his supply consistently stocked and perfectly ripened—a skill that, far from being down to a science, comes from an intuitive sixth sense, as he tells us.

The Earth on a black background

What We’re Reading on the Internet Archive

The Internet Archive is one rabbit hole we’ve willingly jumped into more than a handful of times since the quarantine began. A welcome temporary retreat from the chaos of social media and churning news cycles, the nonprofit site carries millions of free digitized holdings—books, films, software, music, and more—to be perused at leisure. Until it’s safe to go digging around in libraries again, it offers the next best thing, with plenty of gems to be found. Fans of the seminal Whole Earth Catalog, the 1960s counterculture print publication often referred to as “the web before the web existed”—its iconic, jam-packed pages overflowing with information, offering a pre-Google repository of knowledge—will want to pore over the Electric Whole Earth Catalog, now available on the site. Originally launched in 1998 on CD-ROM (how quaint!), the lo-fi “electric” edition offers a digital version of the analog original, complete with hyperlinks: at the time, a relatively novel concept. It’s a blast from the past, to say the least, and a refreshing deep dive into the kind of holistic, big-picture thinking we could all use more of right now.

A seismograph needle drawing a black line across white paper.

In the Age of “Anthropause,” Scientists Are Studying a Seismic Hush

This time of year usually signals rest and recharging for many, with relaxation and summer travels in store. All of that has changed due to the pandemic, as the sudden extended period of slowness has drastically reduced human activity levels at an unprecedented global scale. In a recent article published in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution, scientists have coined a term for this particular window of time—the “anthropause”—and have set out to quantify its effects, using this rare moment in history, in the face of human tragedy, to better understand humanity's impact on Earth and the many species we share it with. “There is an amazing research opportunity, which has come about through really tragic circumstances,” biologist Christian Rutz, one of the paper’s lead authors, told Wired. “And we acknowledge that in the article. But it’s one which we, as a scientific community, really can’t afford to miss. It’s an opportunity to find more about how humans and wildlife interact on this planet.” Among the many research directions being taken up, one involves tracking the significant “seismic hush” that’s allowing scientists to more closely listen and study natural sound patterns and ambient noises—such as earthquakes and tectonic shifts—that are normally drowned out by human travel and industrial activity. By tracking smaller earthquakes and movements, for example, scientists hope to better predict when a larger quake may occur. “This is likely to become a landmark article in the fields of seismic monitoring and ambient noise tomography,” one scientist, volcanologist Jan Lindsay, said. “The ‘2020 seismic noise quiet period’ will likely become something that Earth science students of the future will learn about in textbooks.”

Blue emergency lights.

The Psychological Impact of Sirens

As civic life came to a grinding halt this spring, with cities in lockdown around the world, the vivacious cacophony of urban life dulled to a quiet murmur, overcome only by the wail of ambulance sirens cutting through empty streets. Several months on, the trauma and alarm of that sound rings on heavily, with a delicate unease, in our hearts and minds. “Every alarm signals a person in crisis, and that person’s fate is inevitably bound to the fates of others—family and friends. It is a noise that deserves moral attention,” as Siri Hustvedt wrote in a beautiful Financial Times essay in late April. “I have come to think of the sirens as the city’s heartbreaking music, a high-pitched dirge that accompanies the number in the newspaper every day.”

A black Angell bike on concrete in profile.

The Three Best E-Bikes on the Market

Bicycling has seen a welcome boom in recent months, as the pandemic has made restless city dwellers wary of both public transportation and gyms, and in need of some regular, stress-busting exercise. Cycling has always offered a sensible, sustainable alternative method of getting around, of course, though new commuters traversing longer distances may need some extra juice. The Angell, designed by Ora-Ïto and currently available for pre-order, may be the most stylish and affordable e-bike option we’ve come across. Equipped with four preset riding modes, integrated lights, and a small touch-screen control panel, it can be charged in just two hours, and is impressively lightweight, at under 4.5 pounds—something you’ll appreciate as you haul it up the stairs, because you won’t want to leave this beauty locked up on the street. Space, of course, is at a premium for apartment-dwellers, and though many folding bikes (including this rather absurd inflatable prototype) can tend to look a bit goofy, the Mate City eBike combines performance and style for the more serious cyclist seeking a longer-term investment. The Danish company also produces a range of more rugged models with fatter tires suitable for all-terrain riding and inclement weather (including this high-performance model with fashion brand Moncler). If neither space nor budget are an issue, look to the Dutch bike-maker VanMoof’s S3, a top-of-the-line offering that boasts a near-silent electric mechanism and a distinctive frame that conceals the battery pack.

An assortment of brightly colored fruits and vegetables in close up.

The Ugliest, Most Delicious Produce You’ll Ever Eat

Supermarkets put billions of pounds of perfectly fine, edible food to waste each year for the very silly, Goldilocks reason of them simply not appearing to be “perfect” enough: Misshapen, too small, too big, or slightly bruised or discolored fruits and vegetables are often deemed unsellable for purely cosmetic reasons—a fact that’s all the more infuriating when you consider that this industry-standard frivolity accounts for one of the largest culprits of carbon emissions worldwide. In the U.S., nearly half of all harvested produce is never eaten. The home-delivery start-up Misfits Market aims to right the wrong of this senseless global food crisis, selling only produce that is certified organic, non-GMO, and free of pesticides—no superficial criteria necessary. The company offers a subscription-based service of a rotating assortment to arrive on a weekly or biweekly basis, similar to a CSA box. The often quirky, imperfect, and—we hesitate to call it this, but yes, “ugly”—produce snubbed by big-box grocers reflects a variability that’s inherent to nature and, looks aside, tastes downright delicious.

The red cover of the book Smellosophy.

Historian Ann-Sophie Barwich on Why Smell Remains the Most Mysterious Sense

What does our sense of smell have to do with philosophy? In her new book, Smellosophy: What the Nose Tells the Mind (Harvard University Press), cognitive scientist and sense historian Ann-Sophie Barwich delves into the perceptual dimensions of smell. Here, she tells us why scent as yet remains the most mysterious and variable of senses.

Illustration of a tree with leaves next to a tree without leaves

The Natural World, in Book Form

Long summer days make for more time spent outdoors, in these precarious times at a safe social distance. Especially when we’re cooped up indoors, the next hike or laze in a tree-lined park is never far from our minds—and on our reading lists.

An arrangement of colorful dishes in stone and clay bowls on a wood table.

Marfa’s Culinary Culture, in a New Cookbook

Marfa may be known as a site of pilgrimage for lovers of minimalist art—its expansive desert sky, open landscape, and off-the-beaten path locale, home to Donald Judd’s Chinati Foundation, continues to attract artists, musicians, and creatives. But for transplants, locals, and longtime residents of the small West Texas city, the isolated and unusual desert community is simply a way of life. “There is a certain vibration, a certain pitch small towns possess, especially this one,” write husband-and-wife duo Virginia Lebermann and Rocky Barnette in their new book, Cooking in Marfa: Welcome, We’ve Been Expecting You (Phaidon). The collection of essays and recipes, featuring local ingredients and dishes, from prickly pear to chicharrón, served up at their celebrated restaurant, The Capri, offers a forward-looking take on flavors and tastes from the Texan border—and plenty of poetic musings that are sure to feed both your hunger and your wanderlust for the eccentric town.

A pair of Felco shears cutting a small branch.

The Perfect Hand Tools for Pruning Your Plants

A skilled gardener or houseplant parent is never without a good pair of quality shears. In addition to removing damaged or overgrown branches, regular pruning, when properly done, can improve a plant’s air circulation, stimulating its natural healing process to promote healthy growth and resistance against disease. The extremely durable, Swiss-made Felco shears have remained virtually unchanged for decades, and for good reason: They get the job done, and are a worthwhile addition to your gardening tool kit, featuring ergonomic, rubber-coated handles that provide grip and ease of movement. We’re also keen on these elegant Japanese gardening tools from the Beijing- and Hangzhou-based Fnji Furniture, made with solid-cast zinc-aluminum alloy that will accrue a pleasing, well-worn patina with use over time.

NASA's Eau de Luna perfume next to a pile of moon rocks.

NASA’s “Eau de Space” Fragrance Recreates the Smell of Outer Space

What do gun powder, seared steak, raspberries, and rum have in common? Hint: It’s not what’s for dinner. According to the chemist Steve Pearce, of Omega Ingredients, the makers of a new “Eau de Space” fragrance, the strange cocktail of earthly scents comes particularly close to approximating the otherworldly smell of outer space—and it’s got the NASA chops to prove it. NASA first developed a version of the peculiar aroma decades ago during the Space Race, using the scent as a training simulation tool to prepare astronauts before sending them into orbit. In 2008, NASA contracted Pearce to recreate the scent, based on various accounts from astronauts, to approximate the interior smell of the Mir Space Station, for an exhibition.

Michel Rojkind smiling and facing to the left, with a blurry background of the New York City skyline.

Michel Rojkind on Rhythm, Drumming, and How Music Influences His Design Practice

Michel Rojkind, founder of the namesake firm Rojkind Arquitectos, is known as a leading figure of Mexico City’s contemporary architecture scene—all the more impressive considering that design is his second career. A literal rockstar architect, Rojkind was the drummer of the pop-rock band Aleks Syntek y la Gente Normal for much of his twenties, recording four albums and playing live stadium shows across North, South, and Latin America. He credits this formative chapter of his youth to his understanding of the built environment: “It wasn’t until I traveled and toured that I started paying attention to infrastructure, public spaces, streets, buildings, and that started becoming very powerful to me because I started to understand the power of a public plaza or the power of a public space, of an interstitial area where you can only walk and not use the car,” he says.

Four images arranged in a grid depicting a man in a suit, the words "Less than Zero" in red on a black background, an address, and a picture of an outdoor courtyard

Benjamin Critton on Modernist Homes in Popular Films

Home is where the heart is—but, on the silver screen, it can be a bit forlorn. In his recently published broadside publication Sad People in Modernist Homes in Popular Films, Los Angeles–based designer and art director Benjamin Critton explores the much-maligned trope of the Modernist home in popular culture, with contributing essays from writers Erik Benjamins, Andrew Romano, Adam Štěch, and Mimi Zeiger, that explore the topic with humor, a critical eye, and a winking irreverence. We recently caught up with Critton to chat about Sad People—the long-awaited follow-up to his 2010 edition, Evil People in Modernist Homes in Popular Films—and what filmic mood may strike him next for volume three of the ongoing project.

A note card on a desk with a pen, carafe, and sprig of herbs.

These Elegant, Easy-to-Customize Note Cards Add an Artful Touch to Letter Writing

People have been bemoaning the decline of penmanship since the earliest days of typewriters, the once-newfangled, speedy writing machines seen as the cause of increasing illegibility among adults’ handwriting. And yet, even in today’s tech-heavy world, that skill is defying obsolescence, as the lost art of letter writing finds new footing in the current generation of snail-mailers, now stuck at home and probably sick of screens. These elegant note card and stationery sets from the Canadian startup Maurèle add an artful, personal touch to the analog communiqué, with a range of customizable designs and distinctive typefaces to choose from, each inspired by the personal letterhead of a famous cultural figure, from Hannah Arendt to Leonard Cohen. In this era of social distancing, a handwritten note can feel infinitely more intimate than a knee-jerk text—and the delayed gratification of sending and receiving a letter in the post offers a small antidote for these extremely online times. Siri, add classy stationery to the wish list of “sparks joy” indulgences.

Disembodied plastic limbs on a grey background.

How Social Distancing and Quarantine May Be Changing the Makeup of Your Body Odors

Short of a vaccine, masks and social distancing measures are here to stay, for the foreseeable future, anyway—and your nostrils may have picked up on some of the sudden lifestyle changes connected to this new normal. As the spaces and people we come into contact with are kept to a minimum, so has the everyday sample set that our extensive “microbiological auras” were once normally exposed to, in actively out-and-about, pre-pandemic times. Our bodies, hosts to a community of microbiomes that contribute to their odors, may be reaching a level of bacterial stasis, as a result, and depending on where you live and with whom, you’re likely taking on the scent and microbial makeup of your surroundings.

Rebecca Solnit and Brit Marling.

You Won’t Want to Miss These Virtual Talks and Book Readings

Festivals are canceled for the year, and online dance parties now a bit played out, several months into the pandemic—restlessness is high. Luckily for the indoors kids and bookworms, there are plenty of online readings, workshops, and talks to give your eyes a rest and make the solitary act of reading a little less so, even if only virtually. House Party, a digital performance and semiweekly publication series from The Poetry Project (not to be confused with the social media app of the same name), launched this March as a way to share readings, songs, dances, and new and older works alike—“from the hearts and living rooms and bathtubs of our collective digital church,” in the organization’s words, along with a regularly updated list of emergency grants and resources for writers and artists. Over at the Center for Fiction, book talks with authors, such as one taking place on July 31 titled “The Long View: New Fiction from Edmund White and Yiyun Li,” are continuing online, as are various workshops, including a communal writing experience, along with a meditation for the hands led by a Jivamukti yoga teacher. Another can’t-miss is the ongoing digital series at San Francisco’s City Arts & Lectures, home to a trove of previously recorded conversations and upcoming talks that will be webcast and later available to the public with a suggested donation. We highly recommend taking the time to watch this recent webcast between author Rebecca Solnit and actor and screenwriter Brit Marling (pictured above).

The José Gourmet conservas line of brightly colored boxes on a white surface.

Why Conservas Should Be Among the Most Practical Additions to Your Pantry Stock

The idea of “pantry cooking” connotes a sense of resourcefulness—the humble term focused on the shelf lives of whatever ingredients are around, more than their quality or taste—but as Esquire food and drinks editor Jeff Gordinier told us on Ep. 10 of At a Distance, canned food can be every bit as delicious as the fresh stuff, if not exceedingly so. Conservas, tinned seafood products from Spain and Portugal, can last for months, if not years, in the cupboard, but that seems to be secondary to the range of ingredients and flavors you can find: from delicacies like octopus in Galician sauce, to sweet roasted piquillo peppers stuffed with bonito tuna. Chicken of the Sea, these are not. Fortunately, you can browse and find all sorts of conservas online from grocers such as La Tienda and Chicago’s Wixter Market, and fuel those wanderlust dreams of a trip to the Iberian coast. “The other day I tried zamburiñas,” Gordinier told us on the podcast, with excitement. “Have you heard of that? See, this is interesting. I'm still seeking out adventure with my freaking pantry!”

author and environmental anthropologist Gina Rae La Cerva

Environmental Anthropologist and “Feasting Wild” Author Gina Rae La Cerva’s Media Diet

Geographer and environmental anthropologist Gina Rae La Cerva spent three years journeying around the world in search of undomesticated food for her new book, Feasting Wild: In Search of the Last Untamed Food (Greystone Books). We recently caught up with La Cerva, currently stationed in Santa Fe, to ask about her media diet. (For more with La Cerva, check out Ep. 39 of At a Distance.)

Ricotta on a carving board with a cheese grater and two pieces of okra.

Make Homemade Ricotta With This Simple Two-Ingredient Solution

First came the sourdough craze; next, homemade cheese. Ricotta, to be specific. Since pandemic times, home cooking has taken on a life of its own. As the spaces in which we work, eat, play, and sleep have become, for many people, one and the same—and trips to run errands and grab groceries are kept to a socially distanced minimum—home cooks everywhere are embracing a slower, more intentional, zero-waste approach to cooking everyday foods, making do with ingredients on hand. “Obviously, we have a lot more time now than we did before, and I think it’s great that people are learning how to provide for themselves and their families,” said food artist Laila Gohar on a recent episode of At a Distance. “For me, it was so wild how far away we had come from that, as a species—the fact that most people don’t know how to handle a knife, don’t know what to do with a raw vegetable, is a little bit shocking. The fact that we’ve kind of been forced to go back to that, I think, is a really beautiful thing.” Now, making cheese at home may sound like a fussy ordeal, with different varieties calling for particular enzymes, ripening times, and methods to facilitate the fermentation process. Fresh ricotta, however, is incredibly simple (try this recipe), requiring only two ingredients: milk and lemon. Add a bit of patience, which is something we could all stand to practice, and enjoy.

MoMA curator Paola Antonelli

MoMA Curator Paola Antonelli on Pandemics and Protests

For more than 25 years, Paola Antonelli, the director of R&D and senior curator of design and architecture at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, has critically expanded and challenged our understanding of design, with an astute and forward-looking perspective on the systems, objects, and environments that make up modern society. As chief curator of last year’s Milan Triennial, “Broken Nature,” she turned heads with the provocative idea that, in the face of environmental collapse, design should play a hand in creating a more “elegant ending” to mankind’s inevitable demise. With her latest project, Design Emergency, Antonelli has teamed with renowned London-based design critic Alice Rawsthorn to explore the role design has played—and could play—in addressing the global Covid-19 pandemic. Together, Antonelli and Rawsthorn are tracking and highlighting crucial developments and needs, amplifying the work of designers engaged in health care and social justice, and co-hosting weekly Instagram Live talks. We recently caught up with Antonelli, who’s been working remotely from home in Manhattan since the onset of the pandemic. (For more, listen to Spencer and Andrew interview Antonelli on Ep. 25 of our At a Distance podcast.)

Five sake soaks in different colors.

Why You Need to Try a Japanese Sake Bath Soak

Self-care is always a good idea—and given the anxieties and uncertainties of living in a pandemic, a crucial way to maintain your mental and physical resilience. Baths have been prized for centuries in cultures around the world, and for good reason: Stress causes muscles in your body to contract, and a hot bath can go long way to loosen you up and relieve tension, not to mention elevate your mood, reduce blood pressure, and boost the natural production of melatonin for a more restful sleep. These colorful sake soaks by Basin take your home-bathing ritual to the next level. The bottled concoctions, made from Japanese sake and a blend of all-natural moisturizing oils aren’t for drinking, but rather for adding straight into the tub. Kojic acid, a by-product of the rice-fermentation process used in sake, is said to have soothing, brightening, and anti-aging effects on skin—enough to consider making Sunday sake soaks a new weekend thing. A bonus to the resulting buzz? Zero hangover.

Chickens hanging around a grill in summer.

The Flavor of Smoke Is Actually Smell

Holiday weekend or not, summertime means grilling time. A waft of burning hickory or charcoal from a smoky barbecue grill is enough to make anyone’s mouth water—though, curiously, the smoke itself isn’t something we can actually taste, as the receptors on human taste buds don’t respond to smoke, at least on their own. Taste is formed by texture, flavor, and scent combined, and, as sensory scientist Marcia Pelchat once explained to The Independent, “Most of the flavor of smoke is smell.” Because scent is processed through the limbic system, the sensation also persists in our long-term memory, which may explain why a smoky aroma can elicit more memories than the meal itself. And as any BBQ lover knows, the sweet, smoky scent is bound to linger and cling to every fiber of the shirt on your back.

A large white fireworks explosion in a black sky.

The Fraught, Noisy History of Fireworks in America

The 4th of July has at times been a fraught holiday for Americans, and the cause for celebration feels especially dubious this year, as protests for social justice continue amid a pandemic that’s spiking across the country (and hitting communities of color, including Native Americans, disproportionately hard). In recent weeks, the nostalgia of fireworks—a visual and auditory spectacle innovated by Chinese alchemists as early as 600 A.D., and used to celebrate Independence Day in the U.S. since 1777—have come under fire themselves. In major cities across the country, the blaring sounds of illicit fireworks going off late into the night have filled the streets for the past several weeks, at a rate unprecedented in recent years. In New York City, the number of complaints filed by residents in response to the constant booming, hissing, crackling, and popping of Macy’s-grade pyrotechnics increased nearly a hundredfold in the last month—and have given rise to more than a handful of conspiracy theories on social media. They’ve also sparked debates about race, gentrification, class, and the privilege of calling the police for “quality of life” complaints at all, at a time when police brutality and unlawful misconduct is being protested in the streets. News outlets, meanwhile, warn that “fireworks and hand sanitizer could make for a dangerous combination,” making the dazzling explosives, at least for this year, a peculiar, precarious assault on the senses, in more ways than one.

Black and white illustration of a forest on a cliff viewed from above

Calm Your Nerves With This Free-to-Download Quarantine Coloring Book

States across the U.S. may be entering Phase 2 of post-lockdown reopenings, but short of a vaccine, public health experts hazard that all precautions of social distancing—with masks on—should remain in place. Not surprisingly, puzzles and board games have made a comeback in these Covid-19 times, and you can add to that list another resurgent analog pastime for idle hands: coloring books. In April, as the country was in the thick of lockdown, artists Sara Taylor and Gerard Way called upon their network of friends to create the Quarantine Coloring Book, uploading a new free, downloadable image by a different illustrator each day. The project exploded overnight, with thousands of fans posting their colorful results online with the hashtag #tqcb. And as it turns out, coloring books aren’t just for the kids: According to research, coloring can have a similar effect on our minds as meditation, helping to ease anxiety, fears, and restless thoughts—in short, the sum of non-lethal yet all-too-pervasive side effects of a life in prolonged quarantine.

Amy Helm and the Curbside Pickup Band playing music on a front lawn.

Amy Helm’s Traveling Curbside Pickup Band Brings Live Music to Your Doorstep

Live music is the lifeblood for the Woodstock, New York–based musician Amy Helm, who grew up with two musical parents, The Band’s drummer Levon Helm and singer Libby Titus. When the Covid-19 pandemic forced music venues to shutter for the unforeseeable future, Helm teamed up with Steely Dan guitarist Connor Kennedy to take their show on the road, and to doorsteps around the Hudson Valley. We caught up with Helm just as New York was approaching Phase 2 of reopening—and a few days short of her and Kennedy’s 100th show as the Curbside Pickup Band.

A closeup photo of a green peppermint stalk.

Why Peppermint Is Nature’s Best Insect Repellent

With the summer season come longer days, more time spent outdoors under the sun—and, unfortunately, all of the attendant pesky bites that can follow from wasps, bees, and mosquitos. In 2020, we also have the arrival of murder hornets to fear, of course (as if this year hadn’t offered enough unwelcome surprises), and store-bought repellants are often loaded with hazardous chemicals, potentially introducing more harm than help. Luckily, nature provides a salve to its own stings, at least in this respect: While insects can be attracted to a range of scents and perfumes, peppermint acts as a natural pesticide, due to its primary active ingredient, menthol. Grow fresh peppermint in your herb garden, roll some essential oils onto your skin, or dilute it with a bit of water to spray a simple solution that will fend off the winged aggressors. The lingering minty fresh scent, of course, is a pleasant side effect—and the natural menthol leaves behind a slight tingling sensation that’s much cooler than the skin-stinging alternative.

A jade gua sha tool next to a sprig of rosemary.

The World of Gua Sha Facial Massages

Anxiety and stress can take a serious toll on your health—and your skin. This may, in part, explain why the wellness world has finally taken note of gua sha, a traditional Chinese medicinal technique for relaxing and relieving tension to aid in myofascial release. The method is used to relieve tension in muscles throughout the body, and gua sha facials have garnered a particularly fervent following in recent years. You may have noticed, if you pay attention to these kinds of things, a flurry of influencers and beauty retailers hawking the jade roller, something of an entry-level intro to the array of gua sha tools: small, handheld stone instruments that come in a number of shapes and contours, designed to smooth and scrape over the skin’s surface. The Brooklyn-based holistic healing studio Lanshin carries some of the best, carved from materials including rose quartz, jade, and nephrite. Founder Sandra Lanshin Chiu, an accredited acupuncturist and herbalist, also offers online tutorials to get you started on your new favorite facial workout. Think of the small spatula- and spoon-like implements as doing for your face what a foam roller can do for your back, only much more intimately and delicately. While the advertised results for a more youthful, sculpted appearance may vary, the treatment is a totally doable, daily treat-yourself routine that just feels—to this writer, anyway—plain amazing.

Dr. Brian Fisher smiling and examining a pinned wasp.

Entomologist Dr. Brian Fisher on Why Edible Insects are Good for Your Health

Dr. Brian Fisher, an entomologist and curator at the California Academy of Sciences, has studied and identified countless species of ants around the world—making for a career that has earned him the singular title of “ant man.” For nearly 30years, Fisher has been conducting field work in Madagascar, studying Malagasy ant diversity and advocating for an insect-focused approach to nutrition and natural conservation. Here, Fisher tells us why eating insects is a healthy practice for both our bodies and the planet.

A lineup of four Humankind deodorants in multicolored applicators.

The Best All-Natural Deodorants on the Market

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.

Jonathan Olivares sitting on a daybed in his library, reading a large art book.

Designer Jonathan Olivares’s All-Time Favorite Skateboarding Soundtrack

The Los Angeles–based industrial designer 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.”

Various people encased in glass bubbles stand on the beach near the ocean

A Digital Art Museum for the Time of Covid-19

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.

A person's bare back against a black background.

Why Hugs Are Good for Your Health

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.

Steven Satterfield in a hat and jacket, on a gray background.

Whetstone Magazine Co-Founder and “Origin Forager” Stephen Satterfield on Food, Culture, and Identity

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.

Five dye pots with colored fabrics inside them.

The Terroir of Natural Color Dyes

Textile artist Sasha Duerr centers her work around plant-based dyes with the curiosity of a dedicated alchemist, growing and foraging leaves, branches, prunings, wood chips, flowers, and even food waste to create vibrant hues. Her latest book, Natural Palettes: Inspiration from Plant-Based Color (Princeton Architectural Press), presents an antidote to the exacting industry-standard Pantone swatch—one that’s defined by biodiversity over industry trends, and embraces a circular approach to fashion, clothing, and food.

A ladle ladling Japanese chicken curry from a large clay pot into a bowl.

How to Make the Perfect Japanese Curry Brick

Sweet, spicy, and loaded with umami, Japanese curry was adapted from its Indian counterpart using spices that were brought to Japan by the British, and over the years, has become a ubiquitous comfort dish, often served with a side of rice or katsu. Home cooks can find Japanese curry bricks at most Asian grocery stores, but the savory, bouillon-like cubes can also be made completely from scratch, sans any preservatives—and in batches that can keep for weeks. Here, the writer, teacher, and cook Sonoko Sakai shares her homemade curry brick recipe, from her recently published cookbook, Japanese Home Cooking (Roost Books).

Jose Parla in a bright blue jacket and glasses, painting two canvases.

José Parlá’s Cuban Summer Playlist

Layered compositions, calligraphic abstractions, and public spaces often factor into the works of Brooklyn-based Cuban-American artist José Parlá, who has exhibited worldwide and installed large-scale murals in spaces ranging from inside the lobby of One World Trade Center to at the Havana Biennale. (His first solo museum exhibition, “José Parlá: It’s Yours,” is currently on view at the Bronx Museum, through Jan. 10, 2021, though the museum is temporarily closed at the moment due to Covid-19.) As the summer heat sets in, Parlá, who keeps a D.J. setup in his studio, shares with us a playlist of some of his favorite Cuban songs to move to.

Two hands holding ground tea leaves in white cups.

How Iced Tea Came to Be

“What makes a good cup of tea?” anthropologist Sarah Besky asks, in the introduction to her latest book, Tasting Qualities: The Past and Future of Tea (University of California Press). “Ask consumers in different tea-loving places, from London to Lucknow to Louisville, and you’ll likely get different answers.” Tea, like so many everyday foods found at the grocery store, has a long history of commodity, globalization, and trade. And despite its natural variability in taste and scent that, much like wine, can be attributed to seasonality and terroir, modern industrial food science has led to a host of standardized proprietary blends that obscure their sources of origin, often in the name of marketability.

A large crowd protesting for Black Lives Matter in New York City.

Lawyer-Turned-Photographer Cindy Trinh on Documenting New York City Protests

For the better part of the past decade, Cindy Trinh has been documenting social justice movements around New York City with her ongoing Activist NYC project. Here, Trinh, a photographer with a background in law, shares her observations on the current Black Lives Matter protests, while reflecting on numerous other social and environmental justice issues we face today, and why protesting is intrinsic to American life.

White curtains in front of stalks of wheat.

These New Ikea Curtains Literally Create Fresh Air

When it released its air-purifying Gunrid curtains earlier this year, the Swedish big-box furniture giant Ikea made a compelling argument for dressing up your windows: “Air is a precondition for life.” While clean air has long been an issue of global concern, as we soon enter the fourth month of this pandemic, that quippy selling point couldn’t have felt more eerily prescient or urgently spot-on. The floor-length curtains, while ordinary in appearance, are coated with an innovative mineral that Ikea first teased last year, noting that it has been years in the making. Activated by both outdoor and indoor light, harnessing a process similar to the way plants photosynthesize in nature, this engineered photo-catalyst coating works to break down common air pollutants and odors. It’s a high-tech breakthrough for a pleasantly low-tech solution, and one that is made entirely of recycled materials, requires no electricity, takes up little to no floor space—and, best of all, is even touted as self-cleaning. Add this to your army of indoor plants to keep the air quality of your home pure and fresh.

A dew-covered white and pink rose.

Author and Curator Peter Kukielski on the Wonders of Roses in Bloom

Rose expert Peter Kukielski, the author of Roses Without Chemicals: 150 Disease-Free Varieties That Will Change the Way You Grow Roses and former curator of the Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden at the New York Botanical Garden, tells us about the rose-blooming season upon us.

Small green sprouts emerging from wet soil.

The Heirloom Seeds You Should Plant This Season

With Memorial Day weekend behind us, summer has officially begun, and for many home-growers, this signifies the busiest few weeks yet of planting seeds for the harvest ahead. If you’re growing an edible garden, opt for heirloom seeds, which will yield more nutritious vegetables and fruits that are bound to taste better than the average, genetically modified grocery-store standard. The Oakland, California–based Kitazawa Seed Company, founded in 1917 by a Japanese American family, sells some of the best, and offers more than 500 seed varieties of dento yasai, traditional heirloom varieties of a diverse array of Asian vegetables used in Japanese, Korean, and Chinese cuisines, to name just a few. Browse the extensive catalog to learn about all the delicious varieties, and pick up some recipes for dishes such as sunomono, a simple and refreshing cucumber salad, and kinpira gobo, a savory side of burdock root sautéed in sweet soy sauce.

A Radiooooo illustration with a woman with red hair and blue skin.

Avoid Algorithms With the Incredibly Refreshing Radiooooo

In an era where music streaming algorithms and data-driven suggestions can throw you for a loop, somehow leading you to listen to the same five songs on repeat, it can feel like we’ve swapped serendipitous discovery for convenience. Artist Benjamin Moreau and his friend Raphaël Hamburger, a music producer with a sizable record collection, started Radiooooo—spelled with, count ’em, five O’s—around the idea of creating a crowdsourced time machine of music. While popular platforms like Spotify and Pandora allow you to browse songs by genre or title, Radiooooo shares a set of staff-curated playlists that are instead organized by decade and geography: two factors that open up a whole new way of exploring music digitally. And the visual interface, navigated by clicking different countries on a world map, and choosing any decade from 1900 to the present, takes on the air of an old-timey jukebox. Each of the songs has been uploaded by a worldwide network of more than 30,000 music nerds and obsessives, many who’ve digitized rare or hard-to-find vinyl treasures and deep cuts that you’d be hard-pressed to stumble across elsewhere, online or off. (If you’d like to go even deeper into internet radioland, we also recommend Radio Garden, which lets you tune into more than 8,000 radio stations from all over the world, each plotted onto a Google Earth–like interface.) Until the days of crate-digging at our favorite record stores return, we’re finding a satisfying standby in these transporting tunes.

Two copies of Offscreen magazine featuring a woman with black glasses on the front cover.

Editor and Publisher Kai Brach’s Inspiringly Minimalist Media Intake

Melbourne-based Kai Brach, a former web designer and the publisher/editor of Offscreen, an independent print magazine about technology, and Dense Discovery, a weekly newsletter about productivity and inspiration, shares his current media diet with us—and why he firmly believes print has a place in 2020 and beyond.

An illustration from Night Sky featuring the Virgo constellation.

This App Brings the Cosmos into Your Pocket

The limbo of the pandemic looms on, and as our feeds fill up with more hot takes and navel-gazing observations about life in the time of Covid-19, we’re opting to look beyond the horizon, and up into the sky, for a wider perspective—with a little help from a handy app to guide us. Night Sky is the Google Maps of stargazing apps, offering a planetarium-like experience in the palm of your hand, with features that allow you to identify, search, and explore stars, constellations, and planets, and even track satellites. The app will also notify you when the weather is ideal for stargazing, as well as send you alerts about future astronomical events, so you don’t miss out on a rare asteroid shower or comet sighting. It’s an ideal companion for exploring the wonders of space, and a welcome resource for armchair travels.

Manufactum's seed pot press next to a seedling.

The Perfect Press for Making D.I.Y. Seed Pots

Seed pots, much like baking staples such as yeast and flour, have been in higher demand in quarantine times, as many people—in some demonstration of productive homebound self-sufficiency—take newfound interest in baking their own breads and growing herbs or gardens. Conveniently, you can easily make your own seed pots from cardboard egg cartons or newspapers, and these helpful little molds from Manufactum make the task a bit smoother and more consistent. The two-part presses are made from solid-waxed beechwood, and are as pleasing to hold in the hand as a small pepper mill. So efficient and simple, the refreshingly humble tool is practically future-proof.

Orange and red hot sauces, unlabeled.

How a California Entrepreneur Is Profoundly Fixing Food Waste

Thirty to forty percent of perfectly good, fresh produce grown in the U.S. goes to waste each year simply due to bruising or ripening that most markets deem unacceptable for sale. That astounding figure has only increased during the pandemic, as widespread closures of restaurants, schools, and businesses have led farmers to dump their surpluses of eggs, milk, and potatoes—all this as needy families line up in growing numbers at food banks across the country. Tabitha Stroup, a former chef and restaurant veteran of nearly 20 years, tells us how she’s working to help close the loop and boost local independent farms in California’s Pajaro Valley with Terroir in a Jar, a company with a serious mission to reduce food waste and put profits back into the hands of growers.

Rain soaked soil seen through a tangle of grass and plants.

That New Rain Smell, Explained

April showers bring May flowers, as the age-old saying goes—and with both comes the scent of freshly dampened soil that we’ve come to associate strongly with spring. This distinctively earthy scent is more than just wet dirt, and scientists have known of geosmin, the chemical compound to which we attribute the smell of fresh rain, since the 1960s. But recent research reveals its role in nature’s grand algorithm: According to New Atlas, geosmin is produced by certain bacteria from the genus Streptomyces as a way to attract a specific arthropod, called a springtail, which helps spread its spores. Researchers suggest that this selective advantage evolved over time to create a symbiotic relationship between bacteria and the arthropods, similar to what birds and bees are to flowers, making it a “500-million-year-old example of chemical communication.” If you love the smell of fresh rain as much as we do, but remain largely stuck indoors right now, D.S. & Durga’s Big Sur After Rain fragrance, available as a hand soap and a hand-sanitizer spray (the candle option, sadly, is sold out, at least for the moment), offers a close-to-the-real-thing alternative in a bottle.

Dr. Bessel van der Kolk in a dark suit with his hands clasped, smiling.

Body, Mind, and Soul: Dr. Bessel van der Kolk’s Virtual Trauma Conference

With #StayHome campaigns driving home the importance of social distancing while the race to find a vaccine continues, professionals are expressing concerns about our mental health in this era of prolonged isolation. As post-traumatic stress expert Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, author of the book The Body Keeps Score (currently No. 1 on The New York Times paperback nonfiction best-seller list), said on Ep. 2 of our At a Distance podcast, now is as good a time as any to start a meditation practice or new exercise routine to calm your autonomic nervous system. Maintaining control of our bodies at a moment like this, explains van der Kolk, is crucial “because we are our bodies. In our culture, we see our bodies as an appendage, but our body needs to eat, sleep, and run, and though it’s not celebrated as such, we actually have a brain in order to take care of our bodies.” Van der Kolk will further delve into this topic next weekend at “Psychological Trauma in the Age of Coronavirus: The Interplay of Neuroscience, Embodiment, and the Regulation of the Self,” a virtual conference he’s hosting with the Trauma Research Foundation—a healthy reminder that learning about self-care is a lifelong journey.

The Vitsoe kitchen.

Vitsoe’s In-House Chef Will Leigh on Keeping the Company Fed in a Pandemic

As the in-house chef for Vitsœ—the midcentury furniture manufacturer that’s been producing Dieter Rams designs since 1959—Will Leigh is a fixture who keeps everyone at the British company happily fed, preparing daily breakfast, tea, and lunch for staff from a kitchen outfitted, naturally, in its famous 606 modular shelving. Though much of the Vitsœ team has been working remotely these past several weeks, Leigh, along with a dozen or so essential workers, continues to report to work at the headquarters and production facility in Royal Leamington Spa. Here, Leigh tells us what it’s been like to transition from years of cooking at restaurants to working for a design company, and what’s on his menu this spring and summer.

Breau on fire on a white stone.

This Amazonian Sap Will Ease Your Mind

Breu resin, a shiny, white sap extracted from the almécega tree found in the Amazon rain forests, as well as from various regions throughout Brazil and South America, has been harvested and treasured for thousands of years by local indigenous cultures, used in healing rituals and sacred ceremonies. The aromatic Breuzinho is used to enhance focus and attain peace of mind, and is scientifically shown to have various medicinal properties as an anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, antioxidant, and analgesic, to name a few uses. And this is to say nothing of its incredible woodsy scent, redolent of earthy soil and crushed leaves. These days, you can find breu incense from the Brooklyn-based company Incausa, in stick form, coated in resin and sprinkled with chips of palo santo; as well as in its more natural, raw form, as a hunk of solid oleoresin from Costa Brazil, fashion designer Francisco Costa’s beauty brand, which pairs it with a ceramic tray. To enjoy the aroma, simply light the resin stone, and let it gently burn and smolder. And remember: Breathe.

A woman kneels and paints a large rolled canvas on the ground, in front of other paintings lined up on a wall.

Helen Molesworth on the “Radical Women” Featured in the Getty’s New Podcast

Helen Molesworth, the longtime art curator behind major shows such as “Leap Before You Look: Black Mountain College, 1933–1957” and “Kerry James Marshall: Mastry,” has leapt headfirst into audio as the host of “Radical Women,” the first season of the Getty Museum’s Recording Artists podcast. Here, we chat with her about the trailblazing female artists featured in the series.

A round basket with a blue cushion and small cat figurine sitting inside.

The Ingenious Creations of an Instagram Club of Basketmakers

After a string of announcements from the organizers of Milan’s Salone del Mobile that the largest annual event for the design industry would be definitely happening in April, then that it was postponed two months to June, and then that it was finally, officially, canceled for 2020, many furniture and interior designers suddenly found their busiest, highest-stress season of launches and deadlines turned upside down. Toronto-based product designer Jamie Wolfond, who made a name early in his career for his pleasing, utilitarian designs as the founder of Good Thing, chooses to see this strange period of prolonged isolation and pause as a chance for “some inward focus time, just working on some kind of iterative process and following it,” he says. “That’s something we always try to do, but it’s always cut short by a deadline.” Over a Google Hangout one recent afternoon, as he fiddled with a tangle of colorful packing straps, Wolfond got to telling us about his latest point of obsession: basket weaving (yes, you heard us right).

A black and white illustration of plants by Katie Holten.

Emergence Magazine Is at the Top of Our Reading List

At a time when the constant stream of updates on the Covid-19 crisis feels all-consuming, we’re finding solace in media outlets that offer a wider lens on our relationship to nature and our place within it. Currently topping our list of reads: the excellent online quarterly Emergence Magazine, which covers a wide range of topics focused around ecology, culture, and spirituality. A project of the Kalliopeia Foundation, a nonprofit based in Northern California, and creatively overseen by filmmaker Emmanuel Vaughan-Lee, Emergence offers a mix of op-eds, essays, photo essays, and multimedia stories that bring the vibe and holistic kind of thinking embodied by Stewart Brand’s Whole Earth Catalog into the present day.

Misen's seven-piece cookware set on a white background.

This Cookware Makes Cooking All the More Pleasurable

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.

Rose-colored Le Monde Beryl Venetian slippers.

Slip Into These Slippers While You’re Quarantined at Home

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.

A photo of a newborn on its mother's chest.

The Unflappable Olfactory Bond Between Mother and Newborn

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.

Tatiana Schlossberg smiling next to the front cover of Inconspicuous Consumption.

Environmental Journalist Tatiana Schlossberg Shares Her Media Diet

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.)

An Ojas bookshelf speaker in black and white.

Devon Turnbull’s D.I.Y. Speaker-Making Kits Are the Ultimate Home Audio Solution

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 man doing bicep curls with a Forme home gym.

Get Your Home Gym (and Yourself) Into Shape With These Solutions

As gym closures continue (that is to say, most everywhere), the age of home fitness has arrived, and with it, a spate of online classes to match. Popular fitness studios like Sky Ting and Modo Yoga have recently transitioned to hosting live sessions online (as has Ashtanga yoga teacher Eddie Stern, who was just a guest on our At a Distance podcast), while apps such as Nike Training Club are temporarily offering free access. We’re also fans of the newsletter TheWorkout.Today, which sends a fresh routine to your inbox each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, along with a self-reflection exercise to hone your mind as well as your body. There’s plenty you can do from your living room with just a few free weights, a quality Gorilla Mat, and some good ol’ motivation.

Images from Family Meal recipes.

Cook These Recipes While Supporting New York City Restaurants

The ongoing Covid-19 closures have brought the unimaginable to so many local and small businesses across the country and around the world, and the restaurant industry has been among the hardest hit. With limited ways to contribute—and a growing list of restaurants that are sorely missed and in need of funds—two food-loving designers in New York are paying it forward with Family Meal, a site and Instagram account of recipe cards featuring dishes from their favorite local restaurants. All are available for download, with suggested donations. Among the delectable recipes, which will continue to be rolled out every few weeks, are bagna cauda from Popina, challah from The Lighthouse, and lou rou fan from Win Son.

A wild looking bouquet of orange flowers on a blue background.

Entriken’s Katherine Carothers on Creating Beautiful Flower Arrangements at Home

Katherine Carothers, owner of the Brooklyn-based floral design studio Entriken, shares her favorite scent, tips on where to source and gift flowers in the time of Covid-19, and how to create your own simple, beautiful arrangement at home.

An orange and white handout from Black Mountain College.

Black Mountain College Is About to Come to a Screen Near You

Founded in 1933 in a small town in North Carolina, the storied Black Mountain College was in operation for just shy of 25 years, but continues to carry an outsize influence to this day. Emphasizing interdisciplinary work, community, and experimentation, the short-lived arts school counted among its faculty members such visionaries as Josef and Anni Albers, Willem de Kooning, John Cage, and Merce Cunningham. Its board of directors included William Carlos Williams and Albert Einstein, and many more great thinkers and creatives were among its students: Ruth Asawa, Cy Twombly, Ray Johnson, and Robert Rauschenberg, to name just a few. Free of schooling conventions—no grades, no tests—students created their own curricula and were all required to participate in cooperative labor, working in the kitchen, on the farm, and on construction projects.

Geometric shapes and colors with the At a Distance logo above.

This New Less-Is-More Podcasting App Helps Us Digest the News

One upside to the ongoing Covid-19 crisis: a renaissance of podcasts and audio content to take in. These days, we’re tuning into the app for a curated selection of the best narrated and audio journalism being produced today. The helpful, easy-to-navigate app spotlights top stories by leading media outlets including the Financial Times, The Guardian, The Washington Post, and The Economist—and we’re chuffed to have The Slowdown in such great company, with our very own At a Distance podcast now available on the platform, too. With personalized feeds and unlimited ad-free listening both online and offline, it’s a small luxury to be able to unplug and listen to the news, unmoored from the screen, and away from all the attention-clamoring push notifications.

Azzedina Alaïa's Taking Time on a white desk.

Azzedine Alaïa’s Ruminations on the Value of Taking Time

Curator and critic Donatien Grau—who was on our At a Distance podcast last week—talks with us here about the new book he produced in collaboration with the late couturier Azzedine Alaïa, Taking Time (Rizzoli), a series of wide-ranging conversations on art, time, and creativity. Among the visionary voices featured—most of whom were close friends of Alaïa’s—are Ronan Bouroullec, Isabelle Huppert, Charlotte Rampling, Julian Schnabel, and Robert Wilson.

A FarmBot waters a bed of herbs and vegetables.

Plot an Edible Home Garden With This Automated, Open-Source Bot

Between homeschooling, working from home, and/or cooking at home more than ever, many of us are spending our days staying put. But that doesn’t necessarily mean there are more hours in the day. If you’re fortunate enough to have a garden or a plot of outdoor space at your disposal, the task of starting an edible home garden might be a more manageable prospect than you think, thanks to an automated, open-source system called FarmBot that’s been slowly cultivating a fan base of users online. Controlled using an app, and assembled from a kit of parts, the CNC bot uses a series of tools to perform a range of functions—it can seed, weed, and even measure the soil’s moisture content, as well as factor in the weather forecast as it waters on a programmed schedule. Describing it as “a really big 3-D printer, but for plants,” creator Rory Aronson, who began designing FarmBot while taking an organic agriculture class at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, has said that he hopes that his contraption might one day become as ubiquitous as any other home and kitchen appliance. “Just like everyone has a refrigerator and a washing machine and a dryer, maybe you have a Farmbot, too... You turn on your faucet and water comes out; you go out into your backyard and there’s food that’s been grown for you.”

Meet NASA’s “Nasalnaut”

For chemical specialist George Aldrich, his keen sense of scent doesn’t just make him an expert—it acts as NASA’s first line of olfactory defense. As the organization’s self-described “Nasalnaut,” whose nose is government-certified three times a year, Aldrich conducts toxicity tests on all objects before they’re sent into space. In his forty-odd years working at the agency’s White Sands Test Facility’s Molecular Desorption and Analysis Laboratory, in New Mexico, he has completed more than 800 “smell missions” to detect potentially noxious and unpleasant smells that might harm or distract astronauts from completing their missions—or, more importantly, tamper with the delicately balanced internal climate of a space shuttle’s confined quarters. After all, you can’t just crack a window when you’re hurtling through outer space.

A man wearing an army green face mask.

These Masks Bring New Meaning to “Facial Expressions”

For a few weeks now, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been recommending that Americans wear cloth face coverings while social distancing, as a measure to slow the spread of Covid-19. In some places, including New York and New Jersey, not wearing one in public may even stick you a fine. With many fashion and product designers shifting their resources to help curb the pandemic—and often donating masks to frontline workers—there are now many ways to express yourself while still staying safe, even if half of your face is covered.

Landscape's Stereo Field, a yellow and gold synthesizer.

These Compact Analog Instruments Pack a Punch

Brooklyn-based musician Eric Pitra first began tinkering with synthesizers several years ago as part of a D.I.Y. pet project, self-learning his way through the world of audio gear as an artist with an initial background in photography. He’s since run his own workshop under the moniker Landscape, specializing in handheld, analog electronic musical instruments that have found a home among numerous artists—musicians such as Arca and Kid Koala, video game composer Mic Gordon, and the sound design teams at Lucas Films and the legendary Electric Lady Studios in New York’s Greenwich Village.

Story collections on the Reasons to be Cheerful website.

David Byrne’s Reasons to Be Cheerful Cheers Us Up

Will Doig, co-editor of the online magazine Reasons to Be Cheerful—founded and launched by David Byrne, with a focus on “solutions-oriented” stories—tells us why a dose of positivity can be a potent salve and a welcome tonic during an unrelenting news cycle.

An assortment of colorful Claus Porto soaps on their white box.

Take a Vacation With These Soaps

As most of us remain stuck indoors, the spring days passing us by, inching toward summer and conjuring attendant escapist daydreams of afternoons spent lazing on beaches and in parks, we’re finding ourselves drawn to scents that evoke luscious memories of vacations past (and those we hope to take). More than those of our other four senses, olfactory memories imprint themselves in our minds—a fact that, thankfully, we can use to imbue a special touch to our daily hand-washing or bathing routines. Lather up with Claus Porto’s handsomely wrapped and scented soaps and let your mind wander to Portugal. Or head over to Positano by way of a bottle of Eau d’Italie shower gel. Famously stocked at the spectacular, immaculate Le Sirenuse hotel, it captures the salty-citrus musk of Italy’s Amalfi Coast. Cleaning up with this beautiful green Scändic farmer soap made with stone-ground grits and geranium, patchouli, and lemongrass essential oils, meanwhile, has us imagining an endless summer day in the Norwegian countryside‚ where the sun barely sets for much of June and July. We also love Binu Binu’s marble-swirled Korean Kiln Sauna Soap. Made with pine, activated charcoal, and red clay, it transports us directly to a long, relaxing day on South Korea’s Jeju Island.

A bowl of yellow squash and tomatoes.

This App Will Help Get Your Green Thumb Going

The prospect of starting a home garden might conjure some Thoreauvian notion of going “back to the land” or returning to a now-forgotten analog way of living. That doesn’t necessarily need to be the case. To nurture a budding green thumb, there are now more accessible digital and smart-home tools than ever, and we’re obsessed. Two weeks ago in the newsletter, we highlighted the Edn smart garden; another we recommend—an especially aesthetically pleasing option—is the SproutsIO system. There’s also a user-friendly mobile app for this new reality: Made by a team of British developers, Garden Plan Pro offers an update to the classic Farmers’ Almanac, with a detailed glossary of plants and flowers along with their peak seasonal ranges and the ideal plantings to pair them with. A planner allows you to mock up a layout-and-grow schedule into a calendar to visually track your progress. With all sorts of suggestions, from how to best space your plantings, to reminders as to when to harvest and rotate your crops, it’s like the modern farmer’s little black book and SimCity rolled into one. Siri, let’s get gardening.

Daniel Libeskind in a black suit in front of a red wall, sitting on a geometric seat.

Daniel Libeskind’s “Classical Studies” Playlist

The prolific Polish-American architect and artist Daniel Libeskind—renowned for his bold-faced projects, such as the Jewish Museum in Berlin and the Denver Art Museum—finds great inspiration and creative kinship in music. A lesser-known fact: He was a regularly performing accordion prodigy for much of his childhood. Here, he shares with us a playlist of classical pieces that are helping him navigate this tumultuous time.

Dram's Big Mood CBD dropper on a blue-green background.

Dram Apothecary’s Calming CBD Solution

Daytime drinking is on the up—hey, it’s 5 p.m. somewhere (not that we can keep track of time these days, though the #HandMarkingTime Stories on our Instagram at least help us remember which day of the month it is). But if you prefer not to risk getting a hangover, or weakening your immunity, there are other ways to imbibe and unwind without getting tipsy. Indulging in a sparkling drink spiked with adaptogens and a bit of CBD (that’s the calming, relaxing counterpart to marijuana’s THC—it won’t get you high) feels like a sigh of relief in a can. The Colorado-based Dram Apothecary makes a version of the increasingly popular drink in a range of flavors, such as cardamom and black tea, using CBD extracted from organic local hemp. The company also offers botanical bitters (our favorite is Wild Mountain Sage) and switchels, as well as a set of CBD tinctures that you can either drop directly on your tongue, or add to any drink or recipe you like—responsibly, of course.

Pauline Oliveros and IONE performing on a black stage.

We’ll Be Tuning Into This Tuning Meditation

The days of festivals and shows in concert halls may be put on pause for now, but live music is still very much alive and kicking—on fire escapes, stoops, blocks, and patios around the world, and, of course, online. Each Saturday this month, the International Contemporary Ensemble, an artists’ collective with a focus on contemporary classical music, will host a free, interactive performance of “The World-Wide Tuning Meditation,” by the late composer Pauline Oliveros. Led by artists IONE, Claire Chase, and Raquel Acevedo Klein via the video-chat platform Zoom, each performance is open to anyone and all with an online RSVP, and asks that participants join in on the “sound-a-long” meditation—no prior singing or music experience necessary—for a communal, cathartic session of sonic healing across borders. Count us in. 🙏

A tin of 4ever mints in peppermint flavor.

Fix Your Bad Breath With These Minty Solutions

We’re entering week five of self-quarantine in many cities around the U.S., and cabin fever is setting in for many of us. Regardless of whether your living situation involves a partner, kids, roommates, pets, or some combination of the above, you’re likely cooking more than ever before, keeping to closer quarters than accustomed to—and sharing more, ahem, bodily smells than any sane person would care to. There are few factors in our control at the moment, but, at least when it comes to bad breath, you can spare your co-habitants with a tin of 4evermints, developed by a team of doctors and scientists who tout it as the strongest and longest-lasting breath mints on the market—a single, tiny 4evermint is designed to slowly dissolve in your mouth over three hours. Or, if you’re more concerned about taste, we recommend a box of heritage Wilhelmina Peppermints, named after the Dutch princess whose profile is stamped on each round tablet, like a little gulden coin. For a much-needed chill pill during stressful times, there are also a host of CBD-infused mints to refresh both your mouth and mind. You also can’t go wrong with a mint-flavored toothpaste. Try our favorite, Marvis’s Classic Strong Mint (and, for good measure, add on its Strong Mint mouthwash concentrate).

A submersible robot traveling below the Thwaites Glacier.

This Video Footage of the Thwaites Glacier Shows the Sea Levels Rising Before Our Very Eyes

For several years now, climate scientists have been studying “grounding lines”—the point at which a large glacier is buoyant enough to detach from the seafloor and become a floating ice shelf—in order to track the effects of global warming and predict future changes to the world’s coastlines. But only in recent months have they (in this case, a team from Georgia Tech’s School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences and their handy “robotic oceanographer” Icefin) actually been able to capture video footage of the grounding zone of the Thwaites Glacier, part of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, where it’s steadily leaking freshwater into the ocean. We now have, in other words, a direct time-based visual of sea levels rising before our very eyes, far from myths, theories, or long-term abstractions.

A black bottle reading Saunders & Long.

Saunders & Long’s Ingenious 5-in-1 Grooming Solution

Nick Saunders and Jonathan Long, co-founders of the recently launched grooming line Saunders & Long, tell us about the ethos behind their brand and describe a bit of the science behind The Long Weekender—the label’s proprietary 5-in-1 formula of shampoo, conditioner, body wash, shaving cream, and dry grooming.

A box of orange, red, and yellow citrus fruits.

In New York? Natoora Has Your Grocery Delivery Covered

The ongoing Covid-19 crisis has put a sudden and massive halt on the restaurant industry: Bars, small businesses, mega-chain restaurants and fine-dining establishments alike remain shuttered, reducing services to take-out and delivery where possible—though this is just the tip of an entire ecosystem of chefs, sommeliers, line cooks, service workers, and families affected by the pandemic. Some industry heavyweights, such as Momofuku’s David Chang, fear these closures won’t be temporary for most restaurants, causing a “morbidly high business death rate.” (There’s an episode of our At a Distance podcast on this very subject with Esquire food and drinks editor Jeff Gordinier coming out soon.) As wholesale restaurant suppliers now find their client bases on hold and drastically reduced, several of them have quickly pivoted to offer their goods directly to local residences for the first time.

A bundle of vetiver on a white background.

Why Vetiver Is Our Favorite Botanical Right Now

Ongoing self-quarantine and social distancing measures in the U.S. could very well last through this spring, and as the death toll continues to rise, Americans have been directed to stay put at least through April, which really is starting to feel like the cruellest month. The window of time from winter to summer can feel fleetingly short, especially from indoors, but one way to embrace the changing of seasons is to bring a little piece of the outdoors inside.

A selection of colorful puzzles.

A Renaissance of Artful Puzzle-Making

So you’ve made it through your Netflix queue while scrolling through your Instagram feed, wondering why you spent all that time watching Tiger King—it’s probably time to step away from the screen (any of them). May we suggest: an idle afternoon with a jigsaw puzzle, the latest trending adult pastime, especially now that self-quarantining means that a lot of us have a bit of extra time on our hands. Call it the next slime or coloring book craze. In reality, the social media fixation on this purely analog activity has been building for some time, embraced for its slow and methodical meditative nature that’s said to help relieve anxiety and build short-term memory skills.

Our New At a Distance Podcast Takes a Good Look at the Big Picture

Time has seemingly come to a standstill as countries around the world press pause on economic and cultural life in an effort to contain the coronavirus pandemic. In this precarious and alarming period, we’re taking a step back for a wider look at the planet with the launch of our new podcast series focused on the bigger picture. Hosted by The Slowdown’s co-founders, Spencer Bailey and Andrew Zuckerman, At a Distance calls upon leading minds for a whole-earth, long-view perspective, offering a respite from the fear- and anxiety-inducing, 24-hour news cycle that’s taken ahold of our minds and moods (all the more so the past few weeks).

Edn's home garden with an assortment of herbs.

A Low-Maintenance Home Garden for the Botanically Challenged

As people everywhere settle into new home-cooking routines, finding resourceful ways to make their pantry goods stretch a bit longer and keeping trips to the grocery store to a safe minimum—this new wave of domesticity (however involuntary) has also given way to what feels like an update on the 20th-century victory garden. Luckily for apartment dwellers without a backyard or access to much green space (more than half the world, basically), all you need is a corner of a countertop to grow some fresh herbs indoors. Better still, and for the botanically challenged, there are now plenty of advanced “smart” tools to get your green thumb going, such as those offered by Edn. The company makes wifi-controlled kits that come with a built-in LED grow light; simple seed pods for no-fuss, soilless planting; and a smartphone app that will even send you text notifications reminding you when to water. In partnership with One Tree Planted, Edn will also plant a tree for every Small Garden order placed—a welcome reminder, in these uncertain times, that your efforts to stay indoors can make a difference for the greater good, in more ways than one.

A set of five New York Times Magazines fanned out across a white table.

David Marchese’s New York Times Magazine Talk Column Should Be Required Reading

“The truth of the interaction is the thing that you're trying to get across,” journalist David Marchese, columnist of The New York Times Magazine’s Talk column, says of the craft of interviewing. Known for his deft, often revealing longform interviews with well-known cultural figures and celebrities of all kinds, from Whoopi Goldberg to Radiohead’s Thom Yorke, Marchese maintains a running log of some 500 folks, in his own estimation, that he’d like to one day add to that list. It’s a humbling detail to learn from the guy who, in his previous work with New York magazine, famously captured an 85-year-old Quincy Jones calling Harvey Weinstein “a jive motherfucker,” elsewhere referring to Trump as “limited mentally—a megalomaniac, narcissistic” while also confirming, on the record, that he once dated Ivanka. Regardless of his subject, Marchese, who deserves plenty of praise, has an immense and studied cultural knowledge that comes across with a casual ease in each conversation, even as he pushes to ask difficult questions. His masterful portrayals of public personalities and brilliant minds in their most intimate, no-filter moments can make you feel like a fly on the wall—a quality that we especially appreciate in our current days of couch-bound social distancing.

A screenshot from House Party featuring some of The Slowdown team.

The App That Everyone Is Going to Be Using During the Covid-19 Quarantine

As cities across the United States continue to be locked down amidst the novel coronavirus, with all of us self-quarantined at home and getting more and more stir-crazy by the hour, the idea of a house party might be the last thing on our minds. But here at The Slowdown, we’re finding some much-needed enjoyment in a digital version of that kind of bash: Houseparty, a new video-chat app that our friend the fashion stylist Kate Young tipped us off to. Unlike Zoom or Google Hangouts, it’s designed for more serendipitous and casual mingling among friends, and friends of friends—kind of like the good ol’ days of going to events, outings, and actual parties, which suddenly feel further away than ever. The app, which has gone viral in these past few weeks of social distancing, allows you to see which of your friends are online, and jump in and out of their chat rooms, which can host up to eight people at a time (limited to a safe two degrees of separation). You can also “lock” a room at any time, if you want to keep it private, and screenshare or play in-app games as a group. Best of all, you can do it all without risking the health and safety of others (or having to get out of your pajamas).

The blurry outline of a nose.

Why You Need to Know About Anosmia

News reports suggest that self-quarantining efforts may need to continue for the next several months, all but canceling the now-cursed year that is 2020. A great deal of that vague and looming uncertainty lies in the fact that the novel coronavirus has both a quick transmission rate and a prolonged incubation period. The onset of symptoms, which may include shortness of breath, fever, and dry cough, may not begin to appear for up to two weeks after one is infected—which is just one reason why it’s important to stay home and practice social distancing, even if you feel just fine. Even still more puzzling to experts is that many of those infected may feel only mild symptoms, or none at all, increasing the risk and likelihood of passing the illness along to others. All these challenges are compounded by a severe shortage of medical supplies and tests to alleviate, treat, and isolate confirmed cases.

A purple and gold canister of House of Waris Night of Nights tea.

Waris Ahluwalia on His Buzzy New Tea Brand

The New York City–based designer, actor, and man-about-town Waris Ahluwalia tells us about his company, House of Waris—which specializes in tea and botanicals, with a café in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood and a team of herbalists—and why it’s becoming more and more important to slow down.

Laura Baldassari on a red background, singing.

Laura Baldassari’s Opera Playlist Is Exactly What We’re Craving Right Now

Laura Baldassari, an opera singer, actress, artist, and partner in the multidisciplinary studio Atelier Biagetti, shares a playlist of some of her favorite opera songs and the performers who are providing her solace at the moment. “I’ve been thinking of an emotional journey through opera arias of the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, in which the voice is tinged with different shades, with light and darkness, with infinite tints and contrasts, with wonder and amazement in favor of a profound dive into ourselves,” she tells us from her home in Milan, where she’s been in quarantine for the past several weeks. “It is a music that touches the deepest edges of the human soul, dazes and stuns—it’s a music that still speaks to us, here and now.”

A roll of Who Gives a Crap "Emergency Roll!!" toilet paper in orange wrapping.

This Cheekily Named Toilet Paper Brand Truly Gives a Crap

While you may find yourself tempted to hoard toilet paper, we hope that, instead of overcompensating, you’ve picked up just enough to get you through the coming weeks. Consider this fact to put the temporary panic-induced shortages into perspective: More people in the world own mobile phones than they do toilets, according to Who Gives a Crap, a cheekily named BCorp on a serious mission to improve the lives of the 2.3 billion people without access to a toilet and basic sanitation systems. Who Gives a Crap also tackles the footprint of the toilet paper industry itself, which often sources virgin wood pulp to make your precious two-ply, if you can believe it. By using recycled materials and donating 50 percent of its profits to supporting in-need communities around the world, Who Gives a Crap is offering the kind of corporate vision and altruism we could certainly use more of, now more than ever. It may very well prove to be a silver lining to this cloud we’re all under right now.

Billy Martin standing before a bright, white light, looking into the camera.

Drummer Billy Martin’s Covid-19 Quarantine Playlist

Artist and musician Billy Martin, drummer of the band Medeski Martin & Wood and a sometime collaborator with The Slowdown (he composed the jingle of our Time Sensitive podcast), created for us a playlist of songs that are helping him get through the current coronavirus quarantine. While chatting with him about his selection, Martin invoked the words of Samuel Beckett: “You must go on. I can’t go on. I’ll go on.”

A close-up photo of the sun's golden surface.

What the Sun’s Molten Surface Looks Like

After NASA’s Apollo 8 orbited the moon in 1968, its crew brought back with them the most stunning of photo souvenirs. “Earthrise,” taken by William Anders using 70mm color film, pictured our planet as a distant orb in the vastness of outer space—an image that would come to stand for humanity and, eventually, the environmental zeitgeist, popularized on the covers of Stewart Brand’s Whole Earth Catalog and forever imprinted in the public mind. As Anders later said, “We set out to explore the moon and instead discovered the Earth.”

Alessia Resta in her plant-and-neon-filled apartment.

Apartment Botanist’s Alessia Resta on Being a “Plant Parent”

Alessia Resta, founder of the blog and online shop Apartment Botanist, is a proudly self-professed “plant parent,” who shares her Manhattan apartment with her boyfriend, two dogs, and more than 175 houseplants. Here, she tells us about her rituals of caring for and communing with plants, and why many other millennials and Gen-Zers are nurturing their green thumbs in an age of uncertainty.

Two bundles of palo santo sticks in a gold tray.

The Cleansing Craze Around Palo Santo

The healing and spiritual uses of palo santo, an aromatic wood native to Latin and South America, date all the way back to the Incan era. But the “holy wood” (as it translates from Spanish) has seen a huge uptick in recent years as self-care enthusiasts and wellness acolytes have taken a liking to its cleansing properties, appropriating it to help banish negative energy and bad vibes. You’ve likely smelled palo santo’s slightly sweet, bright blend of pine and lemon notes in trendy boutique stores and hotel lobbies. The Milk + Honey spa, founded in 2006 in Austin—and now, with several other Texas locations and two planned for Los Angeles—sells a nifty little bundle.

An assortment of brightly colored Dada snack packs.

DADA Daily Makes Healthy Snacking Incredibly Appetizing

Self-quarantine and social distancing in the age of the coronavirus are not to be taken lightly, and if, like us, you’re staying put at home for the next few weeks—and we sincerely, seriously hope you are, for your own safety and for the safety of others—you may be asking yourself what to stock your pantries with. Add to cart: DADA Daily, a line of tasty and healthy snacks that are neither heavy-handedly survivalist nor overprocessed and, not to mention, an appetizing treat for the eyes. “I started DADA Daily from a desire to unite my two parallel lives that I had lived basically my whole life,” says founder Claire Oshan, a self-professed health nut who spent 16 years in the world of art and fashion. “I came out at age 32, older, wiser, and much more in tune to my adolescent dream of working in health food.” The startup offers items such as matcha latte chocolates, crispy almond brussels sprouts, and cheesy cauliflower popcorn florets that sound and taste more decadent than they are: DADA’s snacks are almost entirely vegan (some contain a bit of honey), low in sugar, and free of artificial and chemical ingredients. Whatever you choose to munch on, remember that stocking up does not mean hoarding—so don’t be that bulk-buying, toilet paper-stockpiling jerk.

A bottle of Floris Bespoke on a white background.

Book a Scent Consultation With This 300-Year-Old Fragrance House

Everyone has a natural essence—we have our pheromones to thank for that—and scientists even consider our personal odors to be as unique as our fingerprints. Rather than mask yours with an off-the-shelf scent, certain speciality perfumeries offer the option of buying completely customized scents that you can have mixed to your individual preferences. At one of the standouts, the elegant and royal (literally—it’s been the perfumer to the Queen since 1730) London-based Floris, you can book in-person scent consultations with their team of experts for the ultimate bespoke experience. Afterwards, they’ll even archive your one-of-a-kind formula in their 300-year-old company ledgers for future refills, as well as for family members, making the pricey luxury treat (which can cost from $760 to $7,000) an instant heirloom.

A drawing of a woman looking into a mirror near a window.

This New Platform Makes Fiction Pulled From Real-News Headlines

“The news has gotten even faster, and more and more I find myself reading headlines, and then opinions about the headlines on Twitter,” says Tyler Cabot, a media consultant and former editor at Esquire, where he worked on features and fiction for more than a decade. “It feels like you can never actually catch up, or even understand anything before everyone else is telling you what it already said, or what to know about it or not.” Cabot is hoping to change that with his newly launched project, The Chronicles of Now, which commissions authors to produce short pieces of fiction about a timely news topic worth digesting further. Roxane Gay and Benjamin Percy air anxieties about self-quarantining in the age of coronavirus, for example, while Sloane Crosley writes about the recent college admissions scandal, channeling the interior monologue of Lori Laughlin. Cabot’s venture publishes one story per week, each with a brief sidebar of news coverage around the topic, for factual context and further reading.

A photo of a model in a glittering dress, from inside Studio 54.

A Studio 54 Playlist by Brooklyn Museum Curator Matthew Yakobosky

Matthew Yokobosky, senior curator of fashion and material culture at the Brooklyn Museum, shares a playlist of disco tracks from “Studio 54: Night Magic,” an exhibition on the history, social politics, and aesthetics of the legendary New York nightclub. The show will be on view through July 5, but due to the coronavirus, the museum is currently closed until further notice.

A wooden panda.

Bjarke Ingels’s Miniature Wooden Panda for Architectmade

From Eileen Gray and Frank Lloyd Wright to Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Frank Gehry, there’s a long history of famous architects who are as well known for their furniture and product designs as their buildings. This is partly a function of furnishing their projects with an aesthetic to match, but it’s also a means to break away, if momentarily, into a perhaps more forgiving medium, of smaller and more playful scale. Proudly homing in on this tradition, the Danish company Architectmade sells a range of such objects by some of the country’s most celebrated architects and designers. These include a range of homewares by Danish midcentury greats such as Finn Juhl and Paul Kjaerholm, as well as objets by more contemporary talents, including wooden animal figurines by Bjarke Ingels (a panda) and Nikolaj Klitgaard (an owl). The collection of sculptural items are imminently giftable and ageless, made of high-quality marble, brass, and walnut.

The book cover for Fanny Singer's Always Home.

Fanny Singer’s Ode to Her Legendary Mother, Chez Panisse’s Alice Waters

As the daughter of Slow Food pioneer and Chez Panisse founder Alice Waters, Fanny Singer has had her share of Proustian madeleine moments. Part memoir, part recipe book, her new book, Always Home: A Daughter’s Recipes and Stories (Alfred A. Knopf), offers a warm and sensorial portrait of her mother, and of an upbringing that often revolved around food. Here, she tells us about growing up with a food-famous mother, spending time abroad, and why she’s back in California for the long haul.

A woman in a field records audio of two large cows.

Ever Wonder How Cows Co-moo-nicate?

Humans aren’t the only species with a developed sense of language. Nearly all living things on earth, from plants to animals, have evolved to communicate with one another in some form. As one grad student at the University of Sydney has found in her research, cows “talk” to one another, expressing individual identity through their mooing, and maintain this throughout their lives. “Cows are gregarious, social animals,” says Ph.D. student Alexandra Green, who spent five months doing field work with a group of Holstein Friesian heifers, a breed of dairy cattle, to record and study variances in their voices. “In one sense, it isn’t surprising they assert their individual identity throughout their life and not just during mother-calf imprinting. But this is the first time we have been able to analyze voice to have conclusive evidence of this trait.” Reviewing 333 sound samples with a team of leading bio-acousticians in Italy and France, she says, “We found that cattle vocal individuality is relatively stable across different emotionally loaded farming contexts.” The future of farming, Green suggests, could involve using this knowledge to respond to the cows’ individual needs and even improve their overall welfare. How now, brown cow?

Willi Smith looking into the camera, his hand on a model with a red bathing suit, facing away.

The Cooper-Hewitt’s Exhibition on Willi Smith Is a Must-See

“I don’t design clothes for the Queen, but for the people who wave at her as she goes by,” the late designer Willi Smith once said. For a time, Smith—who died in 1987 from AIDS complications, at the age of 39—was the toast of New York City, and the proprietor of a wildly popular fashion line that fused sportswear with street style and high fashion, pioneering a hybrid approach that was far ahead of its time. With his label WilliWear Limited, launched with business partner Laurie Mallet in 1976, Smith’s work voiced a different sartorial aspiration, using clothing—as well as events, installations, and experiences—as an expressive medium, traversing boundaries across class, race, and gender. The first exhibition dedicated to Smith’s prolific and multifaceted work, “Willi Smith: Street Couture,” curated by Alexandra Cunningham Cameron, opens next week (and will be on view through Oct. 25) at the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, also marking the institution’s first show dedicated to a black designer. “It’s a project that is about fashion to some degree, but also about architecture, performance, identity, and avant-garde art in a way that felt really important to do, especially at this moment,” Cameron says. “Street Couture” is accompanied by a catalogue, as well as an online community archive of remembrances and ephemera crowd-sourced from Smith’s rich network of friends, artists, and collaborators—which included everyone from Bethann Hardison and Christo to Maira Kalman and Kim Hastreiter.

The book cover for Sugar Free 3.

Michele Promaulayko on Controlling Your Sugar Cravings Through Smell

Refined sugar is often called out as a “silent killer,” increasing the risk of heart attack and stroke, not to mention a major disruptor of energy, sleep, brain health, and weight management—and even if you exercise restraint at dessert time, its presence in everyday food is more pernicious than you may think. “One of the major reasons we’ve developed sugar dependence is that sugar hides out in some very surprising places, even in foods you don’t think of as sweet,” wellness expert and former Cosmopolitan magazine editor-in-chief Michele Promaulayko tells us. “Food scientists often engineer products to have just the right amount of sweetness to make you crave more and more, and then stick it in everything from soft drinks to spaghetti sauce.” In her new book, Sugar Free 3, which comes with an Openfit app, Promaulayko outlines a three-week plan to “reset your body and cravings,” offering recipes, videos, and tips to eliminate added sugars and sweeteners—including a simple hack of our olfactory sensations. Our sense of smell and appetite are intertwined, as Promaulayko points out, and we may even be able to use the power of aromatherapy and scent to “outsmart” our cravings. According to her research, 80 to 90 percent of what we taste can actually be attributed to our sense of smell. To flip the script on your sweet tooth, Promaulayko recommends an array of essential oils, from cinnamon bark, to geranium, lavender, peppermint, and more: “A simple inhale of essential oil triggers their effects. We smell with our brains, where scent receptors receive odor molecules, interpret them, and quickly transmit the messages to various parts of the body.”

The Dimes cookbook on a soccer goal's net.

One of Our Favorite Manhattan Restaurants Debuts a Cookbook

Dimes, the all-day café, bar, and market founded by Sabrina De Sousa and Alissa Wagner in downtown Manhattan, has always done things a bit differently. Here, De Sousa tells us about their new cookbook, Dimes Times: Emotional Eating (Karma Books)—which she says is the first in a series of more publications to come.

Snow Shimazu meditating next to a hotel pool.

Snow Shimazu’s Air Beautiful Is the Ultimate Jet-Lag Cure

Flying long distances does a number on our bodies—something that wellness expert Snow Shimazu, founder of the holistic travel consultancy Air Beautiful, knows all too well. We can credit the grogginess and exhaustion of jet lag to the disruption of our circadian rhythms, as well as a host of environmental conditions (not to mention germs) that are nearly impossible to escape while in the air. “We aren’t designed to sit still in the same place for a prolonged time, which is quite unnatural for the body,” says Shimazu, who in her practice (she’s also a resident healer at the Four Seasons New York Downtown spa) works with clients to provide a range of speciality massage and lymphatic cleansing services, but there are also many small hacks that you can employ on your own to prepare for your next long-haul flight:

A large analog synthesizer covered in Christmas lights.

MIDI 2.0 Expands the Digital Music-Making Toolbox

If you’ve ever listened to a song with synths, drum machines, or other digital instrumentation—which is to say, most any genre of music produced since the ’80s, aside from classical or acoustic—you’ve likely heard the powers of MIDI, short for “musical instrument digital interface,” at play. First introduced in 1983, MIDI revolutionized the recording industry by allowing musicians and producers to input a range of hardware and digital instruments for further mixing, programming, and adjusting on a computer. Retro as that may sound in today’s tech-driven landscape—in which nearly every bedroom musician has access to GarageBand on their laptop—MIDI is the industry-standard protocol that converts digital information into audio. Despite its age, creatives have continually found ways to innovate with MIDI, and the sandbox just got much more interesting: A few weeks ago, MIDI received its first major update with the rollout of MIDI 2.0. Chief among the updates is a two-way control system, and a much higher resolution of sound, allowing for deeper textures, tonalities, and ranges—something many producers say will open up a host of music-making possibilities we can’t yet fathom.

A white Light Phone in grass.

A Smartphone Alternative We Can Totally Get Behind

Americans spend an average of more than four hours a day on their smartphones—and it’s hardly innocent fun. A new study finds that smartphone addiction can have the same effect on the brain as drug addiction, reducing gray matter and delivering a dopamine rush that’s even likened to the high of snorting cocaine. For artist Joe Hollier, it took just one stint working in an experimental program at Google—where he was tasked to conceive the very apps designed to keep users glued to their screens—to convince him to take an about-face approach to tech. “I kind of said, well, geez, could being any more connected to my smartphone for another two hours a day be what I actually need,” he recalls, “or am I constantly craving escape and wishing I lived in a van off the grid?”

Koji wrapped in white gauze on a black background.

Fermentation Expert Rich Shih Explains the Particularities of Koji

Rich Shih, founder of the blog Our Cook Quest and co-author of the forthcoming book Koji Alchemy: Rediscovering the Magic of Mold-Based Fermentation, is a self-taught cook and fermentation expert who makes everything from takuan pickles to fish sauce from scratch, tweaking each ingredient, method and process along the way. Here, Shih tells us about the special fungus in koji, the source of umami in fermented ingredients like miso, soy sauce, mirin, and more.

Shantell Martin's book, Wonder.

Shantell Martin’s Debut Book Follows the Line of Her Life and Workπ

With a chunky marker in hand, artist and illustrator Shantell Martin is widely known for the distinctive black-and-white line drawings she creates in meditative, stream-of-consciousness grooves, live and in real-time, transforming everyday spaces and objects into canvases for her freewheeling compositions. The performative and often ephemeral nature of Martin’s works is partly why, despite being no stranger to pen and paper, working on her first book, the soon-to-launch Lines (Heni Publishing)—with texts from Katharine Stout and Hans Ulrich Obrist—was more of an undertaking than she’d imagined. While the book’s title was a no-brainer (“everything starts with drawing, everything starts with lines,” Martin says), revisiting her earlier works from the aughts was a trickier task that required digging through her old hard drives and tracking down photographic documentation. A graduate of Central Saint Martins, she got her start as a “visual DJ” while teaching English in Tokyo, partly as a scrappy way to forgo cover entry into the city’s clubs. “I attribute the acceleration of my style to those formative years,” Martin says, though the fast-paced nature of the work meant they were rarely documented. That’s since changed—as has Martin’s work. A number of solo exhibitions and high-profile collaborations (with the likes of Nike, Max Mara, and Kendrick Lamar) have given rise to a global fanbase. And while Martin’s works are arguably best experienced in live, in-person sessions—you can catch her in action this May, as the featured artist of our #HandMarkingTime series on the Instagram—seeing her works printed and bound offers a satisfying second.

A hinoki bathtub in a concrete room with a small tree.

Hinoki Is the World’s Absolutely Best-Smelling Wood

A species of cypress native to central Japan, hinoki is prized for its deeply fragrant scent, and its soft-wood timber is used to build a range of buildings and interiors—from 800-year-old castles and shrines, to everyday sushi bars and hard-wood flooring in homes. “Hinoki is not only a material, it is a spiritual and aesthetic concept,” says Italian expat Iacopo Torrini of Kobe-based Bartok Design, a top exporter of the wood. “Hinoki grows straight. Its color is light and its fragrance is fresh but delicate.” Despite its ubiquity in modern times, he adds, “Hinoki symbolizes purity and sincerity, therefore it is the preferred choice for buildings dedicated to the gods, as in the shinto shrines.”

The book cover of The Essence, depicting a woman donning perfume.

This New Book Unpacks the World of Fragrance

Scent has become a gargantuan global business, valued to the tune of $31.4 billion as of 2018, and predicted to grow further in the coming years. A new book called The Essence—Discovering the World of Scent, Perfume & Fragrance (Gestalten) offers a fascinating look at the industry, covering the history, origins, and methods used to produce fragrances over the years, as well as the figures who are bringing the perfume-making craft into the 21st century. There are also plenty of punchy, entertaining sidebars, including a timeline of significant launches, from Issey Miyake’s definitive 1990s aquatic scent, to artist Lucy McRae’s 2011 “Swallowable Perfume,” which comes in the form of a pill that, once ingested, emits scent through the user’s own skin and sweat.

A donabe pot on a burner with mushrooms, noodles, and other ingredients in the background.

Why Every Kitchen Needs a Donabe Pot

Naoko Takei Moore, owner of the specialty Japanese kitchen boutique Toiro in Los Angeles, tells us about the centuries-old culture and history of cooking with traditional ceramic Japanese earthenware pots called donabe.

Fashion designer Phillip Lim in profile, in a suit, in a black and white photograph.

Fashion Designer Phillip Lim’s Chill Out Playlist

After nearly 20 years in the fashion business, 15 of those spent running his eponymous label, Phillip Lim is taking an intentional slowdown. Last month, the designer released a statement on why he was pausing from the runway, citing “sustainability in all its forms” as a top concern: “I’d like to take a moment to breathe, to allow myself the time to think about the act of joyful creation again, not just the hustle.” In place of 3.1 Phillip Lim’s runway presentation at New York Fashion Week this season, the designer hosted a “studio day” at his flagship store on Great Jones Street. An all-day house party, it was an open invite to all: “no rsvp, no rush, no stress.”

An Adam Fuss fungus photogram.

How Mushrooms Have Proliferated as a Material for Art-Making

Artists, chefs, and scientists have long found creative inspiration in mushrooms, and for a variety of reasons. Prized for centuries for its range of psychedelic, medicinal, and culinary applications, the versatile fungi have more recently become an experimental medium that designers are using to make eco-friendly textiles, products, and even construction materials. As exemplified in the works of British artist Adam Fuss—who creates photograms by placing spores on light-sensitive paper and letting them bloom in contact to create an abstract print of their unique growth patterns—mushrooms are also simply a source of visual intrigue and natural beauty. One thing’s for sure: the fungus is among us, seemingly cropping up in all areas of the creative sphere. On view through April 26 at London’s Somerset House, “Mushrooms: The Art, Design, and Future of Fungi,” organized by Francesca Gavin, examines the widespread influence of the humble organism, featuring the work of 40 artists, designers, and musicians. Highlights include composer John Cage’s illustrated Mushroom Book of recipes and observations, artworks by Cy Twombly, and a series of events including a pop-up dinner by chef Skye Gyngell and a hands-on workshop for learning how to grow your own mushrooms at home.

A blue, brown, and translucent sculpture by Neri Oxman.

Neri Oxman’s “Material Ecology” Gets the MoMA Spotlight

As the founder and director of MIT’s Mediated Matter group, the Israeli-American designer and futurist Neri Oxman is pioneering the way forward for “material ecology,” renegotiating the relationship between nature and the man-made with otherworldly creations that seem straight out of a sci-fi movie, pushing the boundaries of biology, engineering, and design. Whereas past eras—the Stone Age, the Iron Age, and the Bronze Age—were defined by materials, and our current one by digital technology, in Oxman’s mind, we’ve already entered the dawn of the next era: the Biological Age. As she put it last year on Ep. 16 of our Time Sensitive podcast, “The Biological Age is an age where we have disassociated ourselves from physical materials as the single defining element of our existence in the universe.”

A map of the world with red dots and forms drawn over it.

Rem Koolhaas Brings the Country to the City With a Guggenheim Show

Dutch architect, urbanist, and theorist Rem Koolhaas is the rare figure whose outsize influence is evidenced in cities around the world, as well as in our thinking about them. The designs of the Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA), the firm he cofounded, in 1975, are as famous as the books he’s written over the years, not to mention the number of architects under OMA’s employ—Jeanne Gang, Joshua Prince-Ramus, and Ole Scheeren, among many others referred to as “Baby Rems”—who have gone on to make their own marks in the field. This month, Koolhaas presents his latest thesis and provocative topic of interest—the countryside—with a building-wide exhibition at the Guggenheim in New York. Organized by curator Troy Therrien, “Countryside, The Future” (on view from Feb. 20–Aug. 14) would seem to be a departure from the architect’s career-long focus on cities, an irony not lost on him: “New York is obviously a fantastic platform to launch a show which is about the absolute opposite of New York—the space on the earth outside the city, that is, the countryside,” Koolhaas says. “The countryside is now the site where the most radical, modern components of our civilization are taking place.” Presenting original findings with an international team of researchers, the show promises to address urgent environmental, political, and socioeconomic issues by looking at the countryside to forecast possibilities for the future.

A wooden polygonal massage tool.

Be Your Own Masseuse With These Handcrafted Massage Tools

Designer Juliana Huang spent much of her childhood in Taiwan, before moving to Los Angeles after high school. Living halfway around the world fostered an appreciation for everyday objects found back home, and with her project, The Wax Apple—affectionately named after her favorite fruit native to Taiwan—she’s able to share a little piece of her culture with a stateside audience. A catchall moniker for her roving series of pop-ups, events, and food workshops, The Wax Apple was “never intended to compete with the mass market,” Huang says (especially in the age of Amazon), though she does keep an online shop. “I find that the objects are most powerful when you can physically touch and see them.”

Stefan Sagmeister looking straight into the camera.

Stefan Sagmeister’s Playlist of David Bryne Cover Songs

Stefan Sagmeister has designed a lot of album covers in his day—among them, David Byrne’s Feelings (1997) and Talking Heads’s 2003 box set Once in a Lifetime. Here, the notoriously cheeky graphic designer (interviewed by Spencer on Ep. 8 of our Time Sensitive podcast), shares a playlist of some of his favorite Byrne cover songs. Byrne himself wraps his Broadway tour of American Utopia tomorrow, Feb. 16, after a four-month run.

A carafe, glass, and can of Makku on a green backdrop.

Makgeolli Gets a Hip Millennial Update

South Korean cinema has been on everyone’s lips this week, in the afterglow of director Bong Joon-ho’s triumphant Oscars sweep for Parasite, the grand finale to a months-long award spree that began with a Palme d’Or win at the Cannes Film Festival last year. Set in Seoul, the timely and genre-bending social satire of class warfare took home four Oscars this past Sunday—making history in more ways than one. By his second acceptance speech, Bong, whose reactions were being duly memed, was ready to hit the bar. His exact words: “I’m ready to drink now, until the morning.” A total mood.

Various scented objects archived in trays.

Mandy Aftel’s Willy Wonka–Like Wonderland of Curious Scents

Natural perfume-maker Mandy Aftel was hiking through old ghost towns in California’s Gold Rush country when she found unlikely inspiration in an old folk museum the size of a living room. “There were these little, little personal museums, about the area and about the people that live there,” she says, “and I looked at it one day and thought, I could do that.”

A red human heart on a black background.

Jesse Carmichael of Maroon 5’s Valentine’s Day Playlist

With Valentine’s Day on the way, singer-songwriter Jesse Carmichael, the keyboardist and rhythm guitarist of Maroon 5 (and a sometime collaborator of The Slowdown), shares a playlist featuring a few of his favorite love songs.

A single red rose on a white background.

Why Roses Are Synonymous With Love

Gardener, rose expert and the author of several books on roses, Stephen Scanniello has had a hand in creating some of the world’s most famous rose gardens, including the Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden at the New York Botanical Garden and the Elizabeth Park Conservancy in West Hartford, Connecticut. Here, he shares a bit of the long and colorful history of roses.

The Gentlewoman magazine featuring Margaret Atwood, on a red background next to a centimeter ruler.

This Mini Magazine Celebrates a Decade of The Gentlewoman

When British editor Penny Martin and the creators of BUTT and Fantastic Man launched The Gentlewoman, in 2010, it boldly introduced a new type of “women’s magazine.” Redefining notions of female aspiration and personal style altogether, The Gentlewoman features candid profiles and in-depth interviews with figures across the age, cultural, and professional spectrum—everyone from Adele and Angela Lansbury to Simone Biles and Sofia Coppola. Now in its tenth year, the biannual publication with highbrow taste and a cult following is, cheekily, celebrating the major milestone with a mini-magazine. Measuring less than 3.5 inches tall, and nearly as thick as it is wide, it’s designed to fit in the palm of your hand, though the message is no less powerful for its size. Clocking in at 580 pages, it collects all The Gentlewoman’s cover stories to date, including those printed in its earliest (and now rare and sought-after) issues. At once understated and adorable, the handheld compendium is a delightful design object in itself—an ideal gift for the discerning modern woman, print-obsessive, and/or Irma Boom fan in your life. With its sleek white cover, it makes for a playful foil to the everyman’s little black book.

A painting of a woman composed of blocks of color.

Derrick Adams’s Evocative “Beauty Works” Series

Explorations of black culture and identity in America figure prominently in the work of artist Derrick Adams, whose diverse practice spans painting, collage, sculpture, performance, sound, video, and more. For his latest show, “Transformers,” at Luxembourg & Dayan’s London gallery (on view through April 4), Adams shares new large-scale works from his “Beauty Works” series, which takes inspiration from the beauty supply stores, wig shops, hair-braiding parlors, and nail salons found in his Brooklyn neighborhood (and many other cities around the world, including Baltimore, where Adams was born and raised). Reflecting on these cultural and social rituals, his multilayered portraits celebrate, construct, and deconstruct the physical act of grooming, personal style, and consumerism. “Transformers” is just one in a trio of shows by Adams to catch these next few weeks: Salon 94 is presenting a new series of his work, “We Came to Party and Plan,” at Frieze Los Angeles next weekend, and his solo exhibition “Buoyant” opens March 7 at the Hudson River Museum in New York. Adams’s work seems to be everywhere these days—we even noticed one of his paintings hanging behind Jay-Z in a recent New York Times portrait taken at Roc Nation’s Los Angeles offices.

Matcha tea in a chawan in front of a matcha whisk.

Kettl’s Zach Mangan on Identifying Top-Quality Matcha

Zach Mangan, founder of the specialty Japanese tea importer, gallery, and café Kettl, tells us what to look, smell, and taste for in a top-quality matcha.

One of Chen and Williams sculptural food machines.

Chen Chen and Kai Williams on Playing With Food

Process, materiality, and a sense of playfulness often figure into the work of designers Chen Chen and Kai Williams. As does a love of food: When not making furniture or products, the Brooklyn-based duo are known to stage intricate food installations involving custom machinery, from an industrial Cheeto machine to a dry-ice cocktail fountain, and even a “satanic hot dog spit.” Here, they tell us how designing food and objects are more similar than we think.

Headphones on a glass of liquid.

This Luxury Skincare “Miracle Broth” Is the Result of Sonochemistry

The luxury skincare line La Mer is known for plenty of things—most notably, its hype and hefty price tag: A single jar of its signature Crème de la Mer moisturizing cream runs for $325 (for 2 ounces) and goes up to $2,400 (for 16.5 ounces). Apparently, there’s even a secondary market for hawking empty La Mer jars, an LOL for aspirational shopping and late capitalism if there ever was one. But what’s a month’s worth of rent, after all, compared to the cost of living in your own visage? So the brand’s diehard cult following—celebrities from Kim Kardashian to Kevin Hart are among the converted—would have you wonder.

An app screen of 72 Seasons reading "Major Cold."

This App Tracks the 72 Seasons of the Japanese Lunar Calendar

Most would associate February with the dead of winter—long past the joy of the holiday season, yet far enough from April to make us yearn for the warmth of spring. There are only four seasons to anticipate each year, at least in the Western world, but the ancient Japanese lunar calendar, which follows the waxing and waning of the moon, counts many more: 72, to be exact, as we’ve pleasantly discovered in the recently launched app 72 Seasons. Updated every five days, the average length of each micro-season, the app shares more about this cultural tradition, along with haikus, observations on the natural world, seasonal phrases and activities, and the best ingredients to eat and cook at a given time of year. We’re currently in the micro-season of “Major Cold”—though we didn’t need it to tell us that, brrr!—which is set to continue for the next few days. This is the peak season for red seabream, celery, burdock root, as well as when, with spring on the way, “the chicken begins to lay her eggs.”

Incense burning on a pack of sticks on a red background.

The Best Japanese Incense Sticks Around

The earliest recorded uses of incense in Japan date back to 595 A.D., around the same time Buddhism arrived to the country, when a piece of fragrant driftwood landed upon the shores of Awaji Island. To the delight of locals, it smelled wonderful when burned. One of the country’s oldest purveyors of quality scents, the Kyoto-based company Shoyeido has been making traditional Japanese stick incense since 1705—though you wouldn’t be able to tell from the impeccable packaging. We’re particularly fans of the multi-colored Horin assortment packs that are nearly as compact as a matchbox, and as visually pleasing as a fresh set of pastels. It’s the small details that make it a treat for the eyes as well as the nose, and contribute to what the Japanese call mon-koh, a multisensory and ceremonial appreciation that translates to “listening to incense.”

Illustrations of various Los Angeles landmark buildings.

Emilien Crespo Explores the Soul of Los Angeles Today

What Los Angeles lacks in density, it delivers in latitude: miles of freeway and a stunning array of neighborhoods, each as large and diverse as a mini city. The experience can be overwhelming, even puzzling, for visitors not accustomed to tackling a metropolis of such a scale. “People come with so many clichés, and I think L.A. suffers for it,” says cultural strategist and Purple editor-at-large Emilien Crespo, a veritable bon vivant, French expat, and Angeleno of more than 10 years. “It’s a tough city, it’s not easy to navigate—but it’s so full of secret gems.” For his first book, Soul of Los Angeles (Jonglez Publishing), Crespo shares a list of 30 adventures (chosen from 1,000) for locals and visitors alike in his adopted hometown. His picks include a bit of everything the city has to offer—art, architecture, film, sights, shopping, food, and more, including interviews with locals such as Jonathan Gold, the late Los Angeles Times Pulitzer Prize–winning food critic, and Sqirl’s Jessica Koslow. There’s even a gem to be found in the tourist trap of Hollywood, at the historic Musso and Frank’s Grill, a 100-year-old institution where the martinis are stiff and “legendary red booths and wooden panels make you feel like you’re entering a time machine, a relic of a bygone era.” The book is the latest in a series that includes guides to Tokyo, Venice, and Berlin—and we hear a New York City guide, authored by travel and food writer Tarajia Morrell, is coming next.

A forest in winter, with snow in evergreen branches and bushes.

Jon Mooallem’s Walking Podcast: Like Receiving a Butt-Dial From a Nature-Loving Friend

As everyday life becomes increasingly enmeshed with technology, our attention spans fragmented by constant distractions of the attention economy, one podcast makes a case for unplugging and simply taking a hike. In his Walking podcast, journalist and author Jon Mooallem doesn’t interview guests, host any celebrities, or sound off on current affairs. Instead, with a recorder in hand, he simply takes us along for a walk.

Two astronaut gloves touching on a grey background.

Understanding the Sensations of the Skin

Long before we learn how to speak or read an alphabet, we grasp and feel our way around the world, and listen to our bodies to discern between pleasure and pain. Skin is the largest organ of the human body, and houses receptors that perceive what we touch externally, but understanding the mechanisms that control and communicate the sense of touch and feel inside our bodies has long remained a bit of a mystery—though researchers have begun to crack the code over the past 10 years.

A building designed by MASS Design Group.

MASS Design Group’s Model for Building a More Just Society Through Architecture

“Architecture is not agnostic about ethics,” writes Michael Murphy, founding principal and executive director of MASS Design Group. “As with art, the political is inherent in architectural choices. Architecture points forward, it must consider the environment and the society around it.” The collective nonprofit’s new book, Justice Is Beauty (Monacelli Press), gathers work from its first 10 years of practice, taking stock of the progressive and public-facing projects around the world for which MASS—short for Model of Architecture Serving Society—has come to be known. Among these are the Butaro District Hospital in Rwanda; the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama; and the recent Gun Violence Memorial Project installed at the Chicago Architecture Biennial.

A window with lettering at The Orchard Townhouse.

The Orchard Townhouse: Our New Favorite Neighborhood Restaurant

Phil Winser, co-owner of Silkstone, the hospitality company behind celebrated restaurants such as The Fat Radish, on New York City’s Lower East Side, tells us about his latest project, The Orchard Townhouse, a cozy restaurant in Chelsea that’s soon to open a garden and six fully furnished long-stay rental apartments upstairs—room service optional.

The interior of a fragrance boutique, with many bottles lined up on shelves.

Parisian Fragrance Boutique Nose Offers an “Olfactory Diagnosis”

Finding a signature scent can be a challenge—especially when shopping online. After all, perfumes not only go directly on our skin, they follow us around, setting our mood and acting as a primal greeting to those we encounter. Nose, a Parisian fragrance boutique, offers customers an online “olfactory diagnosis” to help them navigate its large library of scents. Entering a list of the last three perfumes you’ve owned, along with how long you’ve worn each, will render an “olfactory portrait,” synthesizing your preferred olfactive families, along with your favorite head, heart, and base notes. Afterward, you can order a sample kit of your top five recommendations, based on your results, for less than $12. The survey, however simplistic, is a helpful hack for modern times—and, for the lazy lover shopping for an intimate gift, a solid way to sniff out a scent the recipient will actually like.

A piece of Monique Péan's jewelry.

Jewelry Designer Monique Péan Creates a Feat of Meteoric Proportions, Literally

Jewelry designer Monique Péan shares a window into the geologic formations, cosmic artifacts, and natural sciences that inspired her latest series, Cosma 67°48”x 23°68”, which showcases the Muonionalusta—an ancient protoplanet predating the earth itself.

Bright Orange turmeric root and powder on a green background.

Why Turmeric Is Everywhere Right Now

Turmeric, a flowering plant that’s part of the ginger family (and similarly harvested for its roots), is having its moment in the sun. Wellness hounds rave over turmeric-spiked drinks like switchel, a tonic made from apple cider vinegar, honey, and lime; and golden milk, blended with warm coconut milk. By now, every Insta-foodie and their mother has had their try of NYT Cooking’s spiced chickpea stew—so popular it’s simply referred to as #TheStew—by cookbook author and columnist Alison Roman, whose flavorful and simple recipes often go viral and are known to spike the sales of certain ingredients.

Ojas speakers, amplifiers, and turntable in an NYC apartment.

Devon Turnbull on Building His Cultish Handcrafted Speakers

Devon Turnbull, founder of Ojas, creates bespoke, hi-fi audio gear and speakers that are often commissioned and collected as pieces of art, with clients that include Virgil Abloh, Ace Hotel, and Public Records. Here, he tells us what goes into building a premium hi-fi system by hand and the audio heritage he’s trying to keep alive.

Three people underneath an Olafur Elaisson video installation.

Olafur Elaisson’s Latest Exhibition Offers a Hopeful Vision of the Future

A fascination with science and nature defines the many avenues of creative work by Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Elaisson, whose large-scale installations are often visceral, atmospheric experiences that prod our perspective of—and connection to—the natural world. Where a painter uses canvas and color, Eliasson invokes artificial fog, an indoor simulation of the sun, man-made waterfalls, and color-bombed rivers that have been secretly dyed fluorescent green in cities across the world. Socially and environmentally oriented, he also runs a nonprofit for solar-power energy, and was appointed Goodwill Ambassador for climate action and the Sustainable Development Goals by the United Nations last fall. In his latest solo exhibition, “Symbiotic Seeing,” on view through March 22 at Kunsthaus Zurich, Eliasson once again urges us to be aware of our place in the world, highlighting the relationship between humans and non-humans coexisting on the same planet. It’s art made for our times, to say the least. Though the source material may be bleak, Eliasson’s attitude and message has always remained optimistic: “If our vision of the future doesn’t have an element of hope,” he says, “we are less likely to do something.”

White and red flowers with green leaves on a solid black background.

Horticulturist Ken Druse on Exploring the World of Botanical Fragrance

Roses are red, violets are blue, this trite nursery rhyme is familiar to you (see what I did there?). But anecdotally, it’s also telling of our own perceptual biases. We tend to see before we smell, or at the very least, we’re more inclined to comment on an object’s appearance before its scent, and certainly have developed a richer vocabulary for discussing visual aesthetics. In an extensive new book, The Scentual Garden: Exploring the World of Botanical Fragrance (Harry N. Abrams), author Ken Druse makes the case for having it the other way around, with fascinating texts that explore the science of how plants communicate through scent to attract their pollinators—as well as to steer predators away, and to “talk” and “warn” one another of danger. “When describing a species or variety, most catalogs and reference sources will simply say ‘fragrant’ when scent is a factor. I wanted to know more and say more,” Druse writes. “We’ve named a thousand colors, for instance, from scarlet to puce. But words to categorize plant fragrances are hard to come by.”

Photay in a black and white photograph taken in the woods, in front of a small lake.

Photay’s Motivational Playlist for 2020

New year, new grooves. Evan Shornstein, the Woodstock, New York, native behind the ambient-electronic outfit Photay, shares with us a playlist of motivational tracks to usher in good vibes for 2020. A particular surprise—for us, anyway—is the second-to-last track, Bob Dylan’s “All the Tired Horses,” from his 1970 album Self Portrait. Like us, you’ll probably have it on heavy rotation in the months ahead.

Omar Sosa reclining on a brightly colored couch in his brightly colored Friedman Benda show.

Apartamento Magazine’s Omar Sosa Explores Comfort With a Friedman Benda Show

Omar Sosa, creative director and cofounder of the influential interiors magazine Apartamento, tells us about his first curatorial effort, “Comfort,” a group show of unconventional and provocative art and design works—which range from a wonky Ettore Sottsass bookshelf, to a Bless-designed hammock made of pillows, to a toilet-sink hybrid by Guillermo Santoma—on view through Feb. 15 at New York’s Friedman Benda gallery.

A bottle of Westwind Orchard maple syrup.

Westwind Orchard Makes the Tastiest Maple Syrup We’ve Ever Tried

Eighteen years ago, Italian-born Fabio Chizzola traded fashion photography for farming, when he purchased an heirloom apple farm in upstate New York, where he now runs Westwind Orchard year-round. While summer and fall are easily his busiest seasons, with spring spent preparing for both, Chizzola tells us about the peak, all-too-brief harvest he looks forward to each winter: maple syrup.

Snow caught in bare branches in sunlight.

The Sensory Hit of Cold Weather on Our Noses, Explained

We associate summer with the smell of salt and sand, and autumn with cinnamon and campfires—but what about winter? The peak of fresh pine has escaped us for the moment, our holiday wreaths and Christmas trees mulched. As it turns out, cold weather has an adverse effect on our senses. The scent of a “crisp” and snowy winter day is, in fact, one of absence and void. Fresh snowfall brings humidity to the air we breathe in, giving our noses a sensory hit that we feel more than we smell. Molecules in the air slow down in colder temperatures, while, as researchers have found, our olfactory receptors also retract a bit more into our noses, possibly as a natural bodily defense against cold air. Whether it’s snowy or not, we smell fewer odors than we’re accustomed to during the winter as a result. For the moment, the silver lining is consolation enough for us here at The Slowdown, daydreaming of warmer weather.

The interior of Object Limited, with a floor marquee sign and rack of clothes.

Object Limited Is the Secondhand Solution We’ve Been Yearning For

With increasing awareness and reporting on the ongoing climate crisis, we’ve learned more about the top industry offenders and culprits with the largest footprints. Fossil fuels and agriculture top the list—but the clothing and apparel industry takes a significant toll as well, accounting for 10 percent of humanity’s carbon emissions and a major consumer—not to mention polluter—of the planet’s water supply. Producing a single pair of jeans requires 2,000 gallons of water, on average, and laundering synthetic fibers are to blame for nearly a third of all microplastics found in oceans. Meanwhile, 85 percent of all textiles end up in the dump, as fast fashion feeds an appetite for constantly buying new, cheaply made garments. (To go deeper into all of this, we recommend Tatiana Schlossberg’s new book, Inconspicuous Consumption.)

Two hands cupping a dorodango mud ball.

The Joyful Japanese Art of Making Mud Balls

Mudslinging gets a bad rap. But for artist and author Bruce Gardner, an Albuquerque, New Mexico, native, the natural and abundant earthen material is not just a part of the local landscape; it’s his primary palette for a calming, meditative practice called hikaru dorodango—the Japanese craft of making beautiful spheres from, why yes, mud. While it may sound deceivingly simple, Gardner, who first learned of the art form in 2002, after reading an essay by writer William Gibson in Tate Etc. magazine, details the range of the surprisingly complex and challenging practice in his new book, Dorodango: The Japanese Art of Making Mud Balls (Laurence King). “I am struck by how these objects, created from such a humble material, are the near-perfect expression of process refinement. The process itself is art,” Gardner writes, noting that one of the most compelling aspects begins with sourcing, shoveling, and preparing the dirt from the local desert terroir. “The act of creating a dorodango irrevocably completes the transition; dirt is no longer ‘dirty’—it is an art medium.”

A closeup of two green leaves.

Renowned Perfumer Jean-Marc Chaillan’s Patchouli Obsession

The scent of patchouli may be redolent of head shops and college dorm rooms, canonized as the pothead’s perennial choice of potpourri in American pop culture. Which makes it all the more surprising that the musky, earthy note should be the all-time favorite of renowned perfumer Jean-Marc Chaillan, who knows his way around a fragrance. Raised in Grasse, France—the perfume capital of the world—he’s also the son of legendary perfumer Raymond Chaillan, who made Yves Saint Laurent’s Opium, and the apple hasn’t fallen far from the tree. “Patchouli is the most sexy, sweet, and supernatural product I know,” says Jean-Marc, for whom the scent holds the power of Proust’s madeleine, hard-wired into a formative childhood memory that has continued to color his work.

A sound-wave illustration.

Psychoacoustics Expert Dr. Susan Rogers on How Musicians Hear

Before entering academia, Susan Rogers, director of the Berklee Music Perception and Cognition Laboratory, worked as a producer and sound engineer with artists ranging from Prince to David Byrne. Here, the Ph.D. pro discusses the science of how musicians listen.

Beatrice Galilee writing in a notebook with her laptop before her.

Beatrice Galilee’s New Architecture Conference Takes a Whole-Earth Perspective

Beatrice Galilee, curator, writer, and the former associate curator of architecture and design at the Metropolitan Museum of Art—where she spearheaded the annual symposium, A Year of Architecture in a Day—tells us about her latest venture, The World Around, a global architecture forum launching Jan. 25 with a conference at the Times Center in New York City.

A woman walking in a field surrounded by palm trees.

The Cleansing Detox We’ll Be Starting the Year Off With

Holiday heart is a real thing, and as you ease back into work this coming week, you may consider jump-starting the decade with a cleansing detox. Our co-founder Andrew recommends the Clean program, founded by Dr. Alejandro Junger, an adrenal fatigue expert and the author of new book Clean 7, whose work has garnered A-list devotees in everyone from Demi Moore to Naomi Campbell. Gwyneth Paltrow, another die-hard fan, is also known to begin her new year by inviting Goop readers to follow along on her routine cleanse. Junger’s detox kit offers a few different plans: a 21-day cleanse, a less intensive 21-day elimination diet, and a much abbreviated 3-day mini cleanse (which recently launched and comes with far fewer demands that make it feasible to incorporate into a long weekend). There are smoothies, supplements, and a list of “cleanse-approved” foods, which, TL:DR, means a cold-turkey goodbye to coffee, sugar, wine, alcohol, and nightshades, among other energy-sapping culprits. Andrew attests: It’s much better than it sounds.

A bottle of Jus Jus next to a pear, purple grapes, and a white flower.

The Sparkling Beverage We’ll Be Ringing In the New Year With

Artist, cookbook author, and chef Julia Sherman has had her fair share of memorable meals—her popular blog, Salad For President, posts photographs and recipes of the many dishes she’s shared in the company of friends and fellow artists: jerk shrimp and breadfruit with Simon Benjamin; green salad and dukkah with Joan Jonas, Gwenn Thomas, and Joana Avillez. But it was a happy accident that led to the idea of her latest project, Jus Jus, a sparkling alcoholic beverage made from verjus, a tart juice pressed from unripe grapes that’s typically used as a vinegary note in salads and marinades. Sherman had a homemade bottle of the stuff lying around, and one day discovered it had aged and fermented, producing a gentle fizz and a soft, mellow buzz when she tasted it. So she did what any artist-chef would do—she called up her winemaking friend Martha Stoumen, to experiment and see if they could make a batch of the stuff on purpose. Two years on, the duo has just launched their first pressing, a blend of unripe petite sirah and sweet muscat grapes, with an A.B.V. that’s so low, at 3 percent, that “it can’t be considered wine,” Sherman says, “but it’s similar to wine in that it’s always going to be changing from year to year.”

Pink and purple flowers in a window display.

How to Pick a Potent Flower Arrangement

Robin Hilleary, the singular one-woman talent behind the New York City floral studio Fleurotica, offers advice on choosing the perennial please-all gift: a fragrant, freshly cut bouquet of flowers.

A sparkler firecracker.

A Renowned British Composer Explains Four Legendary Christmas Songs

Andrew Gant, a British composer, singer, Oxford University lecturer, and the author of Christmas Carols: From Village Green to Church Choir (Profile Books), shares a sampling of classic Christmas songs and elaborates on their surprising folk origins.

A pink and blue throw blanket over a grey felt couch.

Røros Tweed’s Intricately Crafted, Beautifully Designed Throw Blankets

Sweater weather begets snuggly blanket weather, and we’re particularly taken by the lush and puffy woolen creations of Norwegian heritage brand Røros Tweed. Named for the 17th-century copper mining town on Unesco’s list of World Heritage sites, the textiles company grew out of an apprentice and charity program that was originally established in the late 1700s, with funds bequeathed by the mine’s director, Peder Hiort; it only later became a commercial entity, in the 1940s. Today, Røros fuses centuries-old craft with modern-day design, issuing collaborations with contemporary talents like the New York– and Oslo-based architecture firm Snøhetta, whose angular, graphic pattern is designed to fold into the shape of the studio’s namesake, the Snøhetta mountain in the Dovrefjell range, and the French designer Inga Sempé, whose intricate patterns and gradients have featured in three collections to date (one of which is pictured above). Sara Wright Polmar’s Toskaft throw is available in the U.S. through Design Within Reach; you can also find Røros’s wares through the Scandinavian design retailer Fjørn. It’s the perfect warm-and-fuzzy for someone on your nice list.

A series of bullhorns and purple wiring installed in a gallery corner.

Jónsi of Sigur Rós Expands His Range With a Solo Exhibition in L.A.

The ethereal and eerie, sonic landscapes of the Icelandic avant-garde rock band Sigur Rós transcend language—and only partly on account of lyrics that are sung in both their native tongue and an unintelligible, invented one that’s been called “Hopelandic.” Frontman Jón Þór “Jónsi” Birgisson morphs and bends his folkloric falsetto like an ambient drone, chartering an otherworldly sound that first garnered global acclaim in the early aughts. In the years following, the vocalist and multi-instrumentalist has collaborated with a myriad of artists, including Doug Aitken, Olafur Eliasson, and Merce Cunningham, across many mediums.

A forest of pine trees in the snow on a mountain.

How to Bring the Scent of Pine Home Without Uprooting a Tree

There’s no need to cry over spilled milk—especially when it brings with it a whiff of opportunity. German-Canadian perfumer Julius Samaan first introduced the ubiquitous Little Trees pine-scented car freshener in 1952, after meeting a milk truck driver from upstate New York who complained of the smell of spills throughout the day. With its sharp and pungent aroma, the tree-shaped cardboard cutout was a small but simple solution for the driver’s relatable occupational hazard (and, really, anyone with a little funk in their trunk). Sold at gas stations for a thrifty $1.99 to this day, the kitschy little ornaments now come in dozens of sickly scents, from Black Ice to Caribbean Colada, that stray far too far from the original thing, let alone anything you’d ever want to smell, spilled milk or not. Then and now, the smell of fresh evergreen pine is synonymous with festivities of the holiday season, and you can easily enjoy the scent without the guilt of uprooting a whole tree—or giving into a sad artificial stand-in: Simply boil some dry or fallen needles in water at home for a similar effect, and an instant quench for time-honored nostalgia.

A doughnut-shaped stone Noguchi sculpture on a plinth.

The Noguchi Museum’s Ginormous Online Archive, at Your Fingertips

The lasting legacy of the late Japanese-American artist and designer Isamu Noguchi can be seen everywhere in popular culture, from the influence of his Akari lantern lights, much-imitated and still produced today, to public outdoor artworks, to a coffee table that’s a part of the modernist canon (to the point of parody). These are but mere skims on the surface of a vast and rigorous body of work that included playgrounds, landscapes, plazas, set designs, lighting, furniture, and of course sculpture, his principal mode of making—smooth and contoured abstractions, impossibly carved, polished and stippled from weighty, solid stone. The extent of Noguchi’s prodigious output and mastery is the latest internet rabbit hole to take over our minds and screens—thanks to his namesake museum in Long Island City, Queens, which has spent years digitizing a comprehensive archive and expanded catalog raisonné of his life and work. (Full disclosure: this newsletter’s editor is on the museum’s board.)

Someone presenting a gift wrapped in a red polka-dot tenegui.

The Art of Gift Wrapping, Japanese-Style

Gift wrap can transform an everyday object to something more special and thoughtful, and nowhere else is this custom taken more delicately than in Japan, where the style of wrapping varies from item to item. “We love the emphasis on gift-wrapping in Japanese culture: It not only makes the experience of accepting the gift better, but also of giving the gift,” says Angélique J.V. Chmielewski, a frequent traveler to Japan and co-founder of the specialty home and gift shop Nalata Nalata, which stocks a curated assortment of crafted goods from all over the country. “The value of the gift is not as important as the manner of presentation. If you’re offering money, it typically is inserted into an envelope that has a decorative rice-paper cord knot on the front, called a mizuhiki. For objects, there are cloths called furoshiki that are available. They evolved from a need to wrap items for protection during transport centuries ago, and became a part of how items are offered to friends and family.”

A closeup of Forthave Spirits' Brown coffee liqueur bottle.

Brooklyn’s Forthave Spirits Collaborates on a Liqueur With Café Integral

Brooklyn distillers and artists Aaron Fox and Daniel de la Nuez, co-founders of the botanicals-focused Forthave Spirits, tell us about their latest concoction, Brown, a coffee liqueur made with locally roasted beans from Café Integral.

Editions of animal photos on Andrew Zuckerman's website.

Andrew Zuckerman’s Exquisite Pictures of the Natural World, Newly Editioned

Capturing the exquisite beauty of the natural world—flora and fauna, various walks of humankind, animals (or, more correctly, creatures), the cosmos, much of it photographed in arresting and hyperreal detail—is a signature of the photography work of The Slowdown co-founder Andrew Zuckerman, who’s just launched a new online store of limited-edition prints and works. Though his subjects may come directly from a natural order, his strikingly rigorous compositions are the result of a set of complex technical feats only afforded by modern technology. Minimalist in form and largely presented against a stark backdrop, Andrew’s works ponder and celebrate through a clear-eyed lens the enormity and diversity, not to mention fragility, of life on Earth—and beyond, in the case of his Apollo series of pictures.

Harriet Tubman's face stamped onto a $20 bill.

Harriet Tubman’s Face Can Appear on a $20 Bill After All

Next year would have marked a momentous change to the U.S $20 bill, in step with a nationwide plan—first announced in April 2016—to begin circulating a redesign featuring abolitionist and slavery activist Harriet Tubman on its front side, in place of former president Andrew Jackson, whose mug would be relegated to its back. That historic decision has since been delayed by the Trump administration, a disappointment that caused New York City–based industrial designer Dano Wall to take matters into his own hands with the Tubman Stamp, a simple solution for retrofitting your own bills as you please. On sale at Etsy for, why yes, $20, the stamp comes with a circular notch that flushes with the federal reserve seal, a useful detail to ensure the perfect alignment of Tubman’s face upon Jackson’s.

A digital collage featuring scam rap stars, financial app logos, and piles of bitcoin tokens and U.S. dollars.

A&R Rep Kolby Turnher’s “Scam Rap” Playlist

From infamous grifters like Anna Delvey to the explosive Fyre Fest debacle, to election and identity fraud, we’re living in an age of scam—and for every age, there’s an art movement. Creative director, A&R rep, and industry pro Kolby Turnher tells us about the rise and appeal of the “scam rap” genre, and shares a playlist of 40 tracks that epitomize it, with songs by Cash Kidd, Coco Vango, Desiigner, and more.

A brown and gold bottle of perfume next to a box reading "Old Faithful."

Caswell-Massey Bottles the Smell of Yellowstone Park, Literally

Common household soaps and detergents claiming to have the scent of “mountain air” or “fresh pine” might seem a far-flung marketing ploy, though they don’t need to be. Teaming with Yellowstone Forever, the official nonprofit partner of Yellowstone National Park, the beauty and fragrance makers Caswell-Massey have produced a collection of oils and tonics that are directly and scientifically sampled at the source. Launched this year, with more to come in 2020, the special releases were developed over the course of five years with fragrance scientists at IFF, who were granted a scientific research permit to work with Yellowstone’s botanists to carefully study and preserve rare and living flora that are unique to the park.

A yellow plate half filled with black beans.

Food Artist Laila Gohar Simply Can’t Get Enough of Beans

Part edible sculptures, part performance pieces, food artist Laila Gohar’s multilayered creations are more than a meal—they’re an experience. Here, she tells us about one of her favorite ingredients to cook and eat: the humble bean.

An Aesop book leaning in a windowframe.

How Aesop Grew Into an “Anti-Salon” Beauty Empire

The precise and pared-down aesthetic of the Australian beauty company Aesop might seem completely of-the-moment—the Apple or Muji equivalent of skin care—until you realize that, like both of those brands, its lasting power goes back to the ’80s (though it has been owned by a Brazilian company for the better part of the past decade). Once a cult brand, it now runs more than 235 stores worldwide, its translucent amber bottles ubiquitous in boutique hotels and upscale restaurants.

Rodrigo Bravo's pink marble vessels in various shapes.

Where We’re Turning for Our Gifts This Holiday Season

Nobody wants a last-minute gift ordered off of Amazon—and the lazy convenience is certainly not worth the toll it takes on its holiday workers, not to mention the environment. Fortunately, it’s also the season of pop-up shops and plenty of studio sales offering rare finds and deals, so you have no excuse. Coming up soon, in New York City: “Friends Like Family,” a tightly edited holiday store—organized by partners Jamie Gray, owner of the design gallery Matter, and interior designer Olivia Sammons—will feature gifts from a range of independent designers and studios, including Rodrigo Bravo (whose vessels are pictured above), Ana Kraš, and Objects of Common Interest, as well as aesthetically forward wares from candle and fragrance maker D.S. & Durga,  smoking accessories label Tetra, Belgian design studio Muller van Severen, and others. Starting Dec. 12, and available at Matter through Jan. 4, 2020 (yes, we’re actually that close to the new decade), the sale will donate a portion of its proceeds to the Robin Hood Foundation.

A large, open synagogue interior with a stained glass triangular chandelier.

Song and Art at a Synagogue Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright

“It’s often the case that curators invite artists to make projects; this time, the artist invited the curator,” says Cole Akers, curator and special projects manager at Philip Johnson’s Glass House in New Canaan, Connecticut, who has organized an installation of artist David Hartt’s work at another site of cultural and historical significance: the Frank Lloyd Wright–designed Beth Sholom Synagogue in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, near Philadelphia. On view through Dec. 19, “The Histories (Le Mancenillier)” references a 19th-century piano composition written by the American composer Louis Moreau Gottschalk, and the sweet-but-poisonous tropical plant he named it after. Born in New Orleans to a Jewish father and a Creole mother, Gottschalk was “the first to synthesize the classical tradition with African American and Afro-Caribbean song,” Akers says, “anticipating jazz and ragtime by more than fifty years.”

A chocolate bar with a green leaf inside.

Has Casa Bosques Created the Most Incredible Chocolate Bar Ever?

Rafael Prieto, creative director of the New York City– and Mexico City–based studio Savvy, and the founder of Casa Bosques and Casa Bosques Chocolates, tells us about hoja santa, the special aromatic herb found in his latest concoction.

A white wall piece reading "0925" in dotted lines.

Four Do-Not-Miss Highlights at This Year’s Design Miami Fair

The name of Stockholm-based studio Humans Since 1982 is a nod to the birth year of its two founders, which might shed some light on their ongoing project “A Million Times,” a collection of kinetic sculptures with analog clock hands that have been programmed to rotate each minute to display the time in a digital format. The choreographed clocks remain their best-known work, and it’s the type of mash-up between retro and cutting-edge technology that a pair of elder millennials—old enough to cherish analog, young enough to be digital natives—would think to create. Seeing each of the synchronized hands turn and rearrange in harmonic unison to the next formation is visually arresting, like watching a finely tuned marching band or a Sol LeWitt composition in motion.

The covers of four new books on the climate crisis.

Four New Must-Reads on the Climate Crisis

We read to grow our perspectives—and in the time of Twitter, long reads allow us to crucially step back from the sea of knee-jerk missives and to better see the big picture. Among this year’s most compelling nonfiction reads are four takes on the ongoing climate emergency, a term that Oxford Dictionaries has just declared its Word of the Year (other considerations on the shortlist, all pertaining to the environment: “climate action,” “climate denial,” and “eco-anxiety”). Oxford’s move echoes The Guardian, which, earlier this year, drafted changes to its style guide and deemed the term “climate change” too benign—and inaccurate—for the scope of urgency and danger at hand. Language shapes our thought processes, and if we are collectively grasping for better vocabulary with which to discuss these existential matters, these four books provide a much-needed wake-up call.

A crinkled green tote bag on a white plinth.

A Waterproof, Washable Bag That’s Actually Environmentally Friendly

If, while tunneling through the depths of your closet during a good Kondo-ing session, you’ve ever had the experience of unearthing a Russian doll of tote bags—that is to say, a tote bag of many tote bags crammed with, why yes, more tote bags—likely the last thing to come to mind is, “I need another bag.” A recent study from Denmark’s ministry of environment and food determined that an organic cotton tote bag may even be worse than a single-use plastic shopping bag, requiring more than 20,000 uses to negate the cumulative impact of the water and energy expended to make it (unintuitively, a conventional cotton bag requires 7,100 uses). The mandate of “shop less, buy fewer” certainly applies here. But the temptation occasionally re-emerges, as it does with Lost Explorer’s durable and cheekily named Another Bag. If you must buy or gift another tote, this might be a more conscionable choice: The waterproof and washable paper bag is somehow both soft and durable, boasting an artful wrinkle and patina that softens with time, and is made from sustainably sourced pulp, non-toxic dyes, and natural latex. Profits go toward one of four causes, ranging from reforestation of the Amazon to the Rwanda Women’s Collective, and the company has also partnered with One Tree Planted to have 20 trees planted for every bag purchased.

Sara Auster sounding four singing bowls as several people lay on their backs around her.

Sound Therapist Sara Auster’s “Deep Listening” Playlist

Sara Auster, a New York–based musician turned sound therapist, and author of the new book Sound Bath: Meditate, Heal, and Connect Through Listening (Simon & Schuster), leads us through meditation with a few songs to unwind to. “We listen to help transform and transport,” she says, “to examine and understand the space around us and within. We listen to learn, to express, and to help manifest our purpose. Through listening, we share and build connections based on empathy and openness.”

A sculptural bottle of perfume is balancing between two pieces of carved stone.

Maison d’Etto Applies a Gender-Neutral Mindset to Scent

After more than 15 years working on the branding and consulting side of the fashion and beauty world, collaborating with clients ranging from Alexander Wang to Loeffler Randall, the New York–based entrepreneur Brianna Lipovsky is taking the reins with the launch of her own fragrance company, Maison d’Etto, and with a splash: Her debut collection, available online and through The Future Perfect, includes five gender-neutral scents—tested on hundreds of users representing a spectrum of races, skin types, and genders—that buck longstanding norms shaped by a his-and-hers mentality. “I wanted to take all the rules of beauty and fragrance, smash them down, and say no. I’m on the millennial cusp, and the whole idea of gendered scent to me just seems so archaic and dated,” she says. “The opportunity I saw was to create this moment for human connection through a product.” Also a mother, competitive equestrian, and once a pre-med hopeful who, in another lifetime, took three years off to enroll in a post-bac program at Hunter College, the fashion veteran has found an unlikely way to find common ground for these different dimensions of her life through fragrance—a world that blends science, nature, and intuition. “One of my favorite subjects was organic chemistry, so I like getting into the science of everything, which would sometimes scare the perfumers,” she says. “Some of them would try to make sexual analogies about mixing the different scents, like, ‘The scents need to take time, they need to make love…’ and I would say, ‘Can you just tell me about the scientific reaction happening here?’” Chemistry aside, Lipvosky cites an “animalic” passion at the core of her new career: “Scent is such an intuitive thing. It should be primal, guttural; a direct reaction in how it makes you feel. This was about tapping into that and keeping myself as pure and as reactionary as I could be, without getting too into my own head.”

A live turkey on a white background.

“Struggle Meals” Host Frankie Celenza’s Guide to Thanksgiving Turkey

Frankie Celenza, the chef and host of Struggle Meals and Frankie’s World on Tastemade, shares a no-bullshit approach to cooking the most intimidating—and probably overrated—dish of year: the Thanksgiving turkey.

A clear bottle of Air Co. vodka.

A Carbon-Negative Vodka Straight Out of a Sci-Fi Storyline

Joe Doucet, designer and partner of the new startup Air Co., tells us about the groundbreaking process of transforming carbon dioxide into ultra-refined products—beginning with the world’s first carbon-negative vodka.

An old pair of scissors with a yellow handle.

This Necessary New Book Honors the Craftsmanship of Tools

For as long as humans have walked the earth, we’ve devised ways of making life easier for ourselves. Some tools remain unchanged throughout the ages—“no need to reinvent the wheel,” after all—while others are impossibly novel, becoming obsolete before they’re adopted into mass existence. The use of tools is “arguably the very thing that makes us human. Our ability to fashion the objects around us—be they bone, stone, wood, or flint—into the implements that first aided us in our attempts to hunt, eat, cook, make, and build, mark[s] a pivotal point in our evolution,” writes Hole & Corner editor Mark Hopper, in his new book, The Story of Tools (Rizzoli). “Once prehistoric man learnt to shape the world around him to his own needs, it marked our difference from all other animals.”

Pat McCusker looking off and to the left.

Guitarist and Audio Engineer Pat McCusker’s “Active Listening” Playlist

Pat McCusker, a guitarist (in David Duchovny’s band), producer, and audio engineer (the sharp ear behind our Time Sensitive and The Workspace of Tomorrow podcasts) deeply believes in the act of “active listening.”

Three clear perfume vials with insects encased in their glass stand on a white backdrop.

Artist Anicka Yi Mines Biology and Technology to Craft a Line of Perfumes

Olfactory landscapes, living matter, and time are just a few of the elements known to factor into the highly experiential works of the conceptual artist Anicka Yi, whose philosophical turn of mind looks to biology, technology, and beyond. Here, she shares her thoughts on the power of smell, ahead of her first foray into commercial scent, Biography, a trio of perfumes launching next week at Dover Street Market.

A plush Mathieu Lehanneur sculpture.

Mathieu Lehanneur’s Ethereal Objects at the Salon Art + Design Fair

The French designer Mathieu Lehanneur is known for creating both artful furniture and lighting as well as electronics, with a rare technical craftsmanship that combines art and design with science and technology. For his latest presentation, at New York’s Salon Art + Design fair, on view through Nov. 18 at the Park Avenue Armory, Lehanneur responded to the history of the building itself—a late 19th-century brick Gothic Revival structure, formerly the headquarters for the 7th regiment of the New York Militia—with “Soldier’s Retreat,” a collection of objects that embody the natural elements, seemingly frozen in time.

The Apollo Theater's neon marquee.

Three Things to Catch at Harlem’s Apollo Theater This Fall

One commonality shared by Michael Jackson, B.B. King, Diana Ross, and James Brown: They all did their thing at the Apollo. “If the United States is the big circle, inside of that is New York. Inside of New York, of course, is New York City. Inside of New York City, of course, is Harlem. And inside of Harlem is the Apollo theater,” journalist Herb Boyd says in HBO’s The Apollo, a new documentary about the historic epicenter of black cultural production, community-making, and artistic expression of more than 85 years.

Hundreds of flowers spill out of a phone booth on on New York City street corner.

The Story Behind Lewis Miller’s Unforgettable #FlowerFlash Installations

The renowned floral designer Lewis Miller, creator of the Insta-popular #FlowerFlash (in which he installs exquisite, over-the-top bouquets in public spaces throughout New York City) and author of the book Styling Nature, tells us why the spontaneous act of spreading beauty gives him the “ultimate dopamine rush.”

Gyokuro tea in a small red teapot.

Tea Expert Micah Spear’s Gyokuro Infatuation

Tea enthusiast and expert Micah Spear shares his epiphanic encounter with gyokuro, the centuries-old Japanese varietal of green tea that keeps him buzzing.

The Workspace of Tomorrow cover art, featuring a white cube and text on grey-green background.

Introducing Our New Podcast About the Future of Work

From social change to technological advancement, from innovation to creativity, today’s workspace sits at the nexus of several rapidly shifting concerns. In The Workspace of Tomorrow, a new interview podcast series that the New York City startup ROOM is producing in partnership with The Slowdown, our co-founder (and this newsletter’s editor) Spencer Bailey speaks about the future of work with a range of leaders in business, the social sciences, design, and architecture.

A page excerpt of the book.

This New Book Highlights Spaces Made to Engage the Senses

Good design doesn’t just look good; it also feels good, in all senses of the word. That’s the driving ethos behind The Touch: Spaces Designed for the Senses (Gestalten), a handsome new book—full of polish, warmth, and sophistication—from Kinfolk magazine founder Nathan Williams and Jonas Bjerre-Poulsen, of Norm Architects, the Danish design studio whose work spans architecture, interior design, industrial design, photography, and art direction.

A bright white and orange bowl of soup on a marble surface.

This New Manhattan Restaurant Makes Flowers the Focal Point

Botany takes center stage at Il Fiorista, a new concept restaurant from husband-and-wife duo Mario and Alessandra Benedetti that includes an in-house floral boutique and hands-on workshops and classes. Here, the Benedettis share the source of their endless inspiration, and why they traded Milan for Manhattan with the dream to create an edible temple to herbs and flowers.

A woman face-down on two rolls, in a grainy screenshot.

The Absurdly Wonderful @breadfaceblog

Part performance art, part trendy food blog, the strange Instagram sensation @breadfaceblog is absurdly, succinctly, and exactly on the nose of what its handle suggests: a person planting her face—sometimes violently thrashing, other times prodding or rubbing, in a gentle caress—upon a variety of carb-laden goods of all kinds and cultures, from croissants to ciabattas to baos, obliterating each to crumbs.

Neanderthal perfume in a white case.

Lonneke Gordijn of Studio Drift’s Favorite Perfume

Lonneke Gordijn, co-founder of the Amsterdam-based Studio Drift, tells us about her favorite scent, Neandertal. A “beastly” olfactory creation by artist Kentaro Yamada, it surprised our editor’s nose when Gordijn was wearing it at a recent opening at New York’s Pace Gallery.

The cover of the book Hearing the Cloud.

What the Internet Sounds Like: A Playlist

In his new book, Hearing the Cloud: Can Music Help Reimagine the Future? (Zero Books), Australian writer and composer Emile Frankel tackles online politics and technology through the lens of listening. Here, he shares a playlist of tech-crafted tunes, culled from YouTube, Soundcloud, and elsewhere, for our dystopian times.

A photograph of a woman in a bright red dress on the beach.

Antwaun Sargent’s New Tome to Black Image-Making in Fashion Today

Last year’s September issue of Vogue was a particularly monumental addition to the pop-culture canon. Not on account of its cover star, Beyoncé, who’d fronted the magazine at least three times before, but for the photographer she chose to have behind the lens: the 24-year-old rising talent Tyler Mitchell, who effectively became the youngest and first black photographer to ever land a Vogue cover commission. As Beyoncé put it in the pages of that issue, “If people in powerful positions continue to hire and cast only hire people who look like them, they will never have a greater understanding of experiences different from their own. They will curate the same art over and over again, and we will all lose.” Two months ago, a photo from Mitchell’s cover shoot was acquired by the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery.

Autumn trees viewed from above.

The Sweet, Sweet Scent of Fall, Explained

The crunch of leaves underfoot, bare branches and colorful canopies of auburns, yellows, and fading greens: Fall is here—pumpkin-spice lattes and all—and we don’t just see it and feel it in the temperature drop. As it turns out, we also smell the changing seasons. Some may associate fall with the scent of harvest, or melancholy; for others, October brings to mind cinnamon and campfires. All are hardwired into our memories, and combined with our other senses, fall is more than a season; it’s a feeling. And no, it’s not a nostalgic figment of your imagination.

A bumpy white chair filled with black holes.

Marlène Huissoud Crafts a Provocative Chair for Insects

Chairs are to designers what paintings are, say, to fine artists: an enduring, if traditional, form that’s often tied to one’s creative signature. For the London-based designer Marlène Huissoud—who’s known to take a hands-on craft approach, and counts honeybees and silkworms as “collaborators” on her vases, armoires, and tables—devising a chair was the next natural step. “As a designer, it’s important to design a chair at some point in your career,” says Huissoud, who’s gained international recognition for her unearthly yet literally earthly works. For whom and how the chair would be made, however, was entirely up for experimentation.

The entrance to the Bauhaus Museum Dessau.

A New Bauhaus Museum Worthy of Its Lineage

One hundred years after the opening of the original Bauhaus—the progressive German art school that championed Modernist art and craft as a democratizing force—the influences of figures like Josef and Anni Albers, Walter Gropius, Paul Klee, and Wassily Kandinsky remain alive and well. Slick yet sturdy, functional yet beautiful, and seamlessly suited to the digital age, the Bauhaus movement was perhaps best described by the school’s founder, Gropius, as the “crystal symbol of the new faith of the future.”

An eight-cone speaker system on a white background.

Hi-Fi Audio Design: An Expert’s Exceptional Primer

Gideon Schwartz, owner of the New York City high-end audio emporium Audio Arts and author of the new book Hi-Fi: The History of High-End Audio Design (Phaidon), tells us about finding a second career in his lifelong passion, and how to choose the best gear.

Three monolithic bread loaves on a yellow tablecloth.

Esther Choi’s Edible Homages to Le Corbusier, Agnes Martin, and Others

An artist, home cook, and self-professed “recovering academic” with a Ph.D. in architectural history, Esther Choi tells us about her new experimental cookbook, Le Corbuffet: Edible Art & Design Classics (Prestel), a punny collection of inspired dishes that critically question taste, consumption, and the canon—and very much encourage you to play with your food.

Michael Pinsky's Pollution Pod domes, with people inside and out.

Artist Michael Pinsky’s Climate-Action Plan: “Pollution Pods”

A new traveling exhibition gives visitors a whiff of global travel—just not the scents you’re wont to remember. “Pollution Pods,” a collaboration between artist Michael Pinsky, the innovation lab IFF, and a coterie of perfumers, simulates the conditions of urban air quality from five locales around the world: Norway, London, Delhi, Beijing, and São Paulo. Last month, following installations in England, Switzerland, Germany, and Norway over the past year, the pods were stationed outside the U.N. in New York, where they were visited by 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg.

Mina Stone laughing in her kitchen.

Chef Mina Stone’s Healthy Olive Oil Obsession

Mina Stone, author of Cooking for Artists, opens her first restaurant, Mina’s, at MoMA PS1 in Long Island City, Queens, this November. Here, she talks about her affinity for top-quality olive oil.

Purple aurora borealis in a Teresita Fernández piece.

Artist Teresita Fernández’s “Archipelago-Like Existence”

The large-scale sculptures, installations, and mixed-media works of artist Teresita Fernández center around landscapes—both literal and metaphorical—that are multilayered and nuanced, at turns probing the historical, cultural, sociopolitical, and often violent conditions of contemporary American life. “As a child of exiles, you’re never really from the place you’re born in; you’re the place your parents are from,” she shared on Ep. 5 of our Time Sensitive podcast. “I really think of myself as Cuban, even though I’m Cuban American. There’s a kind of displacement, a sense of an archipelago-like existence.” Nature, too, plays a central role for the artist, who finds “slow sculpture” in the everyday, from a freshly laid chicken egg to bonsai trees to shakkei, the Japanese garden design principle of bringing a “borrowed landscape” into a composition. “The garden has, in all cultures, always been a metaphor for the universe,” Fernández says.

Ted Gioia in front of a large window.

Jazz Critic and Historian Ted Gioia’s “Subversive Songs” Playlist

In his new book, Music: A Subversive History (Basic Books), historian Ted Gioia explores 4,000 years of dangerous songs. Here, he exclusively shares with us a playlist of tracks with rebellious underpinnings.

Two hands playing with yellow slime.

Why Slime Is All the Rage These Days

You may have seen it ooze along three-inch acrylic nails in the latest campaign of Spanish luxury house Loewe, fondled in the hands of Gen Z influencers, and in the ever-multiplying feed of #slime Instagram posts (now 13-plus-million strong and counting)—slime ticks all the boxes for Internet virality. At once aesthetically pleasing, instantly gratifying, and slightly repulsive, it’s become a playful salve for our increasingly angsty, anxiety-riddled modern lives. The easily DIY’ed non-Newtonian goop, made from mixing household ingredients such as glue and detergent, has fashionistas, tweens, and “VSCO girls” alike glomming, bubbling, and popping. The feeling of watching hands sink, stab, and prod into a fluorescent blob is both ASMR-adjacent and oddly violent—an aggressive, if completely benign, outlet for daily grievances. Now popular to the point of being profitable, there are entire conventions dedicated to it, like Brooklyn’s recent Slime Expo, which attracted droves of fans with a program of tutorials, competitions, and meet-and-greets with “slime stars.” Similar but (thankfully) less saccharine than the Museum of Ice Cream, the Sloomoo Institute, which opens next week in New York City, offers the “ultimate interactive playground” for slime enthusiasts, or just those curious about the beguiling power of this friendly, gooey glob. Apparently, this is how we hand-wring in the 21st century.