- If you’ve been stuck indoors all day, take a moment to pause and listen to some sweet birdsongs, compiled by the Washington Post’s Richard Sima in his report on the mental health benefits offered by our feathered friends’ music and presence:
One hypothesis on nature’s salubrious effects, known as the attention restoration theory, posits that being in nature is good for improving concentration and decreasing the mental fatigue associated with living in stressful urban environments. Natural stimuli, such as birdsong, may allow us to engage in “soft fascination,” which holds our attention but also allows it to replenish.
Nature — and birdsong — also reduce stress. Previous research has found that time spent in green outdoor spaces can lower blood pressure and cortisol levels, Hammoud said.
It is not yet understood how birdsong affects our brains, but neuroimaging studies have found brain responses of stress reduction to other forms of nature exposure.
- PBS’s new Clarence and Ginni Thomas documentary has arrived, tracking their trajectories and surprising tidbits like Clarence’s brief stint in the Black Power Movement. All we can say is, brace yourself, and don’t forget to support your local reproductive justice clinic!
- Speaking of which: For the New Yorker, Eyal Press breaks down why some independent clinics have grown wary of Planned Parenthood’s corporate makeup and practices:
The organization’s new initiatives are welcome, but they represent only a fraction of the combined annual budgets of Planned Parenthood ’s national and global offices and its affiliates, which is $1.7 billion. The Abortion Care Network has launched a fund-raising drive to support independent providers: it has raised just five million dollars in the past year. An abortion provider in Missoula named Joey Banks told me that after Dobbs she and her peers hoped that, because Planned Parenthood had the largest budget, it would be “the first to stand up and say, ‘Well, we have to close these three clinics that are redundant—we are going to find the biggest wasteland of abortion access and we’re gonna put some clinics there.’ ” Instead, she said, all the new brick-and-mortar clinics she knew of were independently run by people who, despite their more limited resources, were willing to act in a time of crisis.
- You might be familiar with siblings Muna and Mohammed El-Kurd, activists based in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Marking this week’s 75th anniversary of the Nakba, Mohammed shared his reflections on occupation, Zionism, and Palestinian resistance in a must-read for the Nation:
For Palestinians, the Nakba is relentless and recurring. It happens in the present tense—and it happens everywhere on the map. Not a corner of our geography is spared, not a generation since the 1940s. For my own family, the Nakba was my grandmother’s experience of expulsion from Haifa by the Haganah in 1948—but it was also her cautionary tales warning me of what would inevitably be my fate when army-backed settlers with Brooklyn accents took over half of my home in Sheikh Jarrah in 2009, declaring my house their own by divine decree. For other families, the Nakba began when a beloved grandfather was expelled from Jaffa and sought refuge in Gaza—where it continues in the rumble of the warplanes dropping bombs on overcrowded refugee camps, introducing his grandchildren to their first (or perhaps third or sixth) war. It is their faces on the posters that are yet to be printed.
- Monosodium glutamate (MSG), once disparaged in racially charged critiques of its supposed health risks, may actually be a key to reducing salt intake. Yasmin Tayag tells the story of its impending comeback for the Atlantic:
On the whole, MSG does seem better than salt itself, considering that excessive salt consumption poses so many chronic health risks. A relatively small amount of MSG could be used to rescue flavor in reduced-salt products without endangering health. This is possible partly because of MSG’s molecular makeup. It satisfies the need for salt to a certain extent because it contains sodium (it’s right there in the name, after all)—but just a third of the amount, by weight, that salt does. The rest of the molecule is made of the amino acid L-glutamate, which registers as the savory, “brothy” flavor known as umami.
- In an era when your phone eats first, TikTok’s food content is shifting the way many people dine out — and forced restaurants to reconsider their practices, too, Ezra Marcus explains in GrubStreet:
That burger raises another crucial point: The food can’t just sit there. It must be as performative as the staff, if not more so. Nothing hooks a viewer more than items that melt and drip and stretch. “Anything cheesy is always good, because there’s some kind of action item,” says Raum. It could be syrup ladled over a dessert, rare steaks dribbling blood and hemoglobin, or strands of melted mozzarella distended between halves of a saucy meatball sub.
Increasingly, chefs design food specifically to generate these moments. “It’s very evident when you look at a menu and someone in the kitchen has said, like, ‘Yo, what’s our viral dish?’” Delany says. At Bad Roman — the first name anyone mentions when asked about restaurants designed specifically for TikTok — that dish is filet mignon topped with a single oversize “cacio e pepe raviolo,” which is essentially a sauce–filled pasta balloon, the contents of which explode across the steak as everything is sliced open.
- Journalist and crossword-maker Anna Schechtman penned a lengthy exploration of labor, gender, entertainment, and profit in The Real Housewives for the New York Review. As with the infamous TV show itself, keep popcorn nearby as you proceed:
The labor of the lower-case housewife is invisible—it’s not legible as work, which is capitalism’s and patriarchy’s alibi for denying the housewife entrance into the waged economy. Tending to house and home is her passion, her nature. In being a housewife, she is merely being herself. The labor of the reality TV star is also invisible—she is merely being herself, albeit in front of cameras. This was TV executives’ alibi for having her scab. Although PBS’s 1973 documentary series An American Family is widely considered the seed of reality television, the genre didn’t bud until the Writers Guild strikes of 1988 or blossom until the Guild’s strikes of 2007– 2008. Without new scripted content, network executives poured resources into unscripted alternatives. Nonunionized TV personalities substituted for striking writers, crossing picket lines on the way to fifteen minutes of fame.
- The New York Times proves itself, once again, as nothing if not consistent:
- Artist Stephanie Syjuco shared a hilarious gem of a spam email that made it into her inbox recently. Some phishers are also art-world people, and it shows:
Required Reading is published every Thursday afternoon, and it is comprised of a short list of art-related links to long-form articles, videos, blog posts, or photo essays worth a second look.