1. (Meal Replacements) - The New Yorker published a fascinating article about a meal replacement named Soylent that some college kids (particularly engineering folks) live on.
"The doctors I spoke to agreed that you could subsist on Soylent. But would it be a good idea? The debate, for the most part, revolves around substances found in real food, especially phytochemicals, which come from plants. Such compounds are not known to be essential for survival, but, in epidemiological studies, they appear to provide important health benefits. Lycopene, which makes tomatoes red, has been linked to lower rates of prostate cancer; flavonoid compounds, which make blueberries blue (and can be found in chocolate), have been associated with lower rates of diabetes. The science behind how our bodies use these chemicals isn’t precisely understood. But Walter Willett, the chair of the nutrition department at the Harvard School of Public Health, said that it would be unwise to miss out on them. “It’s a little bit presumptuous to think that we actually know everything that goes into an optimally healthy diet,” he told me. You can live without plant chemicals. “But you may not live maximally, and you may not have optimal function. We’re concerned about much more than just surviving.”
Rhinehart, naturally, is doubtful about this line of thinking. “How many humans in history were even getting broccoli and tomatoes?” he asked. As part of his research into Soylent’s formula, he told me, he considered adding some phytochemicals, but after reading dozens of inconclusive and contradictory studies, he said, it didn’t seem like an efficient use of resources.
. . . .
Living on Soylent has its benefits, though. As Rhinehart puts it, you “cruise” through the day. If you’re in a groove at your computer, and feel a hunger pang, you don’t have to stop for lunch. Your energy levels stay consistent: “There’s no afternoon crash, no post-burrito coma.” Afternoons can be just as productive as mornings.
But that is Soylent’s downside, too. You begin to realize how much of your day revolves around food. Meals provide punctuation to our lives: we’re constantly recovering from them, anticipating them, riding the emotional ups and downs of a good or a bad sandwich. With a bottle of Soylent on your desk, time stretches before you, featureless and a little sad. On Saturday, I woke up and sipped a glass of Soylent. What to do? Breakfast wasn’t an issue. Neither was lunch. I had work to do, but I didn’t want to do it, so I went out for coffee. On the way there, I passed my neighborhood bagel place, where I saw someone ordering my usual breakfast: a bagel with butter. I watched with envy. I wasn’t hungry, and I knew that I was better off than the bagel eater: the Soylent was cheaper, and it had provided me with fewer empty calories and much better nutrition. Buttered bagels aren’t even that great; I shouldn’t be eating them. But Soylent makes you realize how many daily indulgences we allow ourselves in the name of sustenance."
2. (Tom Cruise) - How YouTube and Internet Journalism Destroyed Tom Cruise -
"The Internet told us Tom Cruise killed Oprah. The truth is the Internet tried to kill him.
Today, when even ABCNews.com runs "5 Things to Know About George Clooney's Fiancee, Amal Alamuddin," it's hard to remember that just nine years ago, the worlds of tabloid and legitimate journalism were more sharply defined. (The Huffington Post has made a fortune blurring the line.) In turn, we've become more cynical about click-baiting headlines, even as celebrities have figured out the new rules. After the summer of Cruise and the couch, celebrities go on network TV fully aware that anything they say could go viral. Actors weaned on the web can wield it to their advantage — think Emma Stone lip-synching on Jimmy Fallon.
Today's Internet-driven media culture isn't necessarily worse than the one run by the big, boring conglomerates that Pat Kingsley expertly controlled. Even Cruise has figured out how to navigate the new playing field.
But the lesson came at a cost."
3. ("Book Girls") - I loved this short NPR piece on the power of "book girls." (yay books!! yay girls!! yay teenagers!!)
"The Book Girls are only partly real; like most heavily marketed-to demographics, they only sort of exist. Every Book Girl is something else, too – a sportsy girl, a scientist, a nail-art aficionado, a poet, a prodigy, a patient. But the force they are exerting is real. They have created a market for what they love, and they insist upon it. The things marketed to them are not the only things they love –some of the same girls who later showed up at the Roth panel were at the morning panel with John Grisham and Carl Hiaasen, neither of whom is probably being sold with the idea that he's sharing a lot of readers with dystopian YA. They have allies in boyfriends and boy friends, in parents and other adults, in librarians and book critics. The world of their books is much more complicated than just them, and they are more complicated than just their books.
But they, moving and talking and starring and sharing and making fan art and packing paperbacks in their pocketbooks, have helped create a space where girls who fight and feel things are not genre-breaking but genre-defining elements. They can stroll around with The Fault In Our Stars-branded tissue packs, which they acknowledge are funny, stuffed into a Grisham tote bag along with a treasured copy of a novel about death that has a fireball on the cover.
They are voracious and fascinating, curious and powerful, and they have arrived, loudly."
4. (Busyness) - The New Yorker's Elizabeth Kolbert asks "How Did We Get So Busy?"
"One theory she entertains early on is that busyness has acquired social status. The busier you are the more important you seem; thus, people compete to be—or, at least, to appear to be—harried. A researcher she consults at the University of North Dakota, Ann Burnett, has collected five decades’ worth of holiday letters and found that they’ve come to dwell less and less on the blessings of the season and more and more on how jam-packed the previous year has been. Based on this archive, Burnett has concluded that keeping up with the Joneses now means trying to outschedule them. (In one recent letter, a mother boasts of schlepping her kids to so many activities that she drives “a hundred miles a day.”) “There’s a real ‘busier than thou’ attitude,” Burnett says.
A second theory that Schulte considers is that “the overwhelm” is a function not so much of how many things Americans have to do but of how much time they spend thinking about how many things they have to do. A doctor who’s running through the list of groceries she needs to pick up on the way home is not actually any busier than one who’s concentrating on the task at hand, but she may feel more beleaguered."
5. (Life Off the Grid) - I LOVED this blog post on spending a year, somewhat unintentionally, off the grid (thanks to Julia's Book Bag for the link).
"For four people and a dog and a cat, living in tight quarters is . . . well . . . tight. But it’s been a beautiful year of togetherness, grieving, healing, and growing. The kids have been blessedly TV-free without remembering the difference (though some nights we do put a movie on the computer, and we do have an iPad) and with free reign to roam and nothing but time, they’ve been forced to find things to do outside and with each other. They always surprise me with their resilience, their willingness to go with whatever we throw at them. Sure, they’re tired of the long road to school. Sure, I’d love to turn a faucet and have hot water. But this is where we are and we’re making the most of it, together. Everything has become a process (dishes, lighting, cleaning, shoveling in a particularly heavy-snowfall and freezing cold winter) and we’ve really had to embrace it all. I’ve loved giving them that. “Getting back to basics” is actually a lot of work, but it’s been an eye opening year for us, one I really appreciate and am thankful for. It’s not something I would have wanted to do, not something I was necessarily prepared for, but it’s an experience that I’m glad we’ll all have in our back pockets.
6. (Women You Should Read) - Equality is so complicated, hence The Trouble With "Women You Should Be Reading" Lists
"What a sad state of affairs it is that people need to be reminded or instructed to read women. That people need to perform their reading of women, to read a female writer as if they are adopting a stretch of highway—look at me participating in this oh-so-worthy endeavor, reading The Goldfinch. Hashtag social action. Hashtag women."
7. (Unattended Children) - And finally, I have to say thank you to Free Range Kids for defending the woman who BRIEFLY left her child in a car unattended.
"If we judge parents for putting their kids at very low risk, we could jail them for serving solid food (the child could choke!) letting them walk down stairs (the child could fall!) or permitting them to join a sport (concussions!). Our first order of business would be to prosecute any parent who drives her kid anywhere: The number one way children die is as passengers in cars.
We haven't made those things illegal (yet) because we understand there is no such thing as a risk-free world. But one risk does loom large: Being a parent in these unforgiving times."
ETC. - If you're up for more reading, the Atlantic published a list (with links) of over 100 fantastic pieces of journalism, which I keep planning to make my way through.