Now for an entirely different experience, let’s talk about animals. Back in Issue #29, Feb. 11, 2016? Indie
Now for an entirely different experience, let’s talk about animals.
Back in Issue #29, Feb. 11, 2016?
In this moving piece about the effects of climate change and the power of lineage, former restaurant critic Wyatt Williams travels to Utqiagvik, Alaska, because he wants to eat whale. He does, at a nalukataq, a festival of the hunting season. But instead of feeling affirmed by the community celebration, Mr. Williams turns melancholy. “I wanted to tell people that if only we could eat more like the whalers, sharing the food of our own communities, we’d probably be better off,” he writes. “But I knew it wouldn’t really matter. The world would go on continuing to end.” (26 min)
Since last year’s pandemic pet surge, Millennials have now surpassed Baby Boomers as the generation most likely to own dogs. How come? According to Amanda Mull, herself a chihuahua lover, the reasons are systemic (wage stagnation, student loan debt, other ills of late-stage capitalism), Millennial (e.g., delayed marriage, delayed parenthood) and personal (e.g., the desire for touch and companionship). Most viscerally, Ms. Mull says, taking care of Midge (her “booboo”) is a way “to soothe the psychic wounds of modern life” and “a balm for purgatorial anxieties.” (11 min)
Years before the Netflix documentary My Octopus Teacher, Sy Montgomery got to know and appreciate Athena, a Pacific octopus. Athena is 5 feet long, weighs 40 pounds, has a brain the size of a walnut, and can slither inside small holes and change shape and texture. Most amazing, though, is Athena’s ability to connect through touch. (Each arm includes 200 suckers and millions of neurons.) “Meeting an octopus is like meeting an intelligent alien,” Ms. Montgomery writes. But if humans and octopuses diverged 500 million years ago from our common ancestors, how did both species become so smart? (22 min)
This week on my commute (a book a week!), I’m reading Klara and the Sun, by Kazuo Ishiguro, about an “Artificial Friend” and her ability to love. While artificial intelligence has not yet brought us human companions, robot dogs – that bark and play and respond to touch – are already here, thanks to Sony. This article by Meghan O’Gieblyn begins playful but then delves deeply (and creepily, I must add) into issues of consciousness, free will, and whether machines can have inner lives. (16 min)
Mr. Pokee, an African pygmy hedgehog, has 1.9 million Instagram followers and enjoys taking pictures out in nature and inside ice cream cones. He’s cute, and so are Cinnamon and Maple and Lionel. But there’s a dark underbelly to the hedgehog craze, as Noelle Mateer reveals in this piece. Since 2017, thousands of people have made exotic hedgehogs their pets without knowing how to take care of them. The poop, the high rate of cancer, and wobbly hedgehog syndrome have left many hedgehogs abandoned, with states cracking down on their distribution and ownership. (14 min)
I’m not a birder, though I appreciate people who know about and appreciate birds. So when VIPs Phoebe and
introduced me to Wingspan, by Elizabeth Hargrave, I didn’t know what to expect from the game. But the experience turned out calming and delightful, as this article explains, a respite from the stress of the outside world – and a great way to connect with the people you love, uncompetitively, while you place your birds in their habitats, make sure they’re fed, and remind yourself of the glory of nature. (17 min)
for reading this week’s issue of The Highlighter. Did you enjoy the theme? Or do you think we should go back to the regular format (fewer animals, more race / education / culture)? Let me know by clicking on “Yes” or ”No” below. I like hearing from you.
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