By nature, French artist Edgar Degas was conservative. His friend the etcher Jean-Louis Forain believed in progress. Forain had recently installed that newfangled invention, the telephone. Arranging to have a friend phone him during the meal, he invited Degas to dinner. The phone rang; Forain rushed to answer it, then returned, beaming with pride. Degas merely said, “So that’s the telephone. It rings and you run.”
Nicholas Carr On How The Internet Is Rewiring Our Brains
As we increasingly connect with the world through computer screens, we’re removing ourselves from direct sensory contact with nature. In other words, we’re learning to substitute symbols of reality for reality itself. I think that’s particularly true for children who’ve grown up surrounded by screens from a young age. You could argue that this isn’t necessarily something new, that it’s just a continuation of what we saw with other electronic media like radio or TV. But I do think it’s an amplification of those trends.
Whenever we heard the word layoff, my siblings and I thought of the food we’d soon be eating: watered-down beef stews and jar upon jar of canned beans and tomatoes that had been put up at the end of the previous summer. Meals during a layoff or a strike were always an inferior imitation of the ones we’d been raised on, as if someone had replaced our mother’s cooking with a cheap, generic version, all bland vegetables and thin broth.
No matter where I turned, there was food, leering, taunting: M&Ms wedged at the bottoms of pockets, cookies in the zippered compartment of my book bag, a pound of Twizzlers jammed into the medicine cabinet. I consumed it all fitfully, bulking up, belching, squirming, farting. My children joked that I carried spoons in my pocket in case soup rained from the sky.
“I can’t come to New York,” Edith says over the phone to her only living daughter. She is squeezing a sponge that doesn’t need to be squeezed, standing at her kitchen sink, where a window looks out at skeletal tree branches. It is early April, and the trees of Boston have weathered much this winter: blizzards that smothered cars, wind that twisted metal, hail that punched through glass.
At Vicky’s invitation I accompanied her on a weeklong route. When I arrived with all my camera equipment, Vicky laughed. “Girl, I can’t believe how much you packed.” After loading the cab, Vicky made sure her cat Simba was curled safely on the bunk, and the three of us headed out.