It was just a normal day at the Tabs factory. I arrived bright and early at the crack of 10:30 and started warming up the machinery. But as I stretched to reach the reciprocating confabulator, I slipped in a puddle of wordle and knocked the whippersnapper all the way negative without noticing! And you know what that means: today’s run of Tabs came out nothing but Interns. With the supply chain the way it is, I can’t afford to throw away a whole day’s product, so we’re just going to have to make the best of it. —Rusty
Vicky Mochama (Tabs Intern, Feb. 2015)
Remember Neil De Grasse Tyson? No, neither do I. Which reminds me: Are the vibes actually off?
I don’t know what’s going on today or any other day, but the vibes are off, that much is clear.
The vibes have been off at least since we entered the newsreel portion in a disaster film—which disaster movie? Oh, all of them, I say sagely. But, can the vibes be… on?
I reached out to NASA and the Canadian Space Agency to see if they’d sensed a change in Earth’s general vibes, science-wise. Astronauts are always claiming to do research up there so you’d think they’d have something to say on a broadly agreed-upon shift in Earth’s ambiance. NASA did not respond and the CSA had no comment. Suspicious.
But Ida Wells didn’t pave the way just for me to give up on this important question.
I spoke to Markus Buehler, a professor of civil engineering at MIT, who works with sonificiation, the process of turning data into sound. He is literally listening for the vibes: “Every single atom, if you go small enough in time and length, becomes a vibrational object.” All around you, vibes. Eerie.
COVID? Yeah, that’s a vibe, says professor Buehler. “The COVID pathogen attaches to your cell. It doesn’t happen as a machine. It happens through the dance of these molecules [proteins] that are interacting, wiggling, and there’s a connection formed. And then the infection happens.”
The vibes are always on, it turns out, but they are also (I say, still sagely) off.
Tess Lynch (Tabs Intern, May 2021)
This is a brief appreciation for the piece of art that has defined 2022 more than any other: “And Just Like That.” Despite being spoiled with not one but two great shows in the first month of the calendar year—”Yellowjackets” and “Station Eleven”—AJLT has managed to dominate the feed. Ink has been spilled over the whole Peloton thing, and then the sequel to the Peloton thing, and finally the spinoff of the Peloton thing; Samantha’s absence was covered by Vogue, the NYT, the Hollywood Reporter and a billion other places; not to mention the omnipresent specter of Che Diaz, including this very long and very thoughtful essay that I read in its entirety because—I don’t even know why anymore!
Those of us still trapped in this punishing viewership are working very hard to justify ourselves. My personal thesis is that the draw is almost entirely AJLT’s version of the pandemic, a fictionalized flash-in-the-pan Covid mostly notable for distorting every character into a hallucinatory funhouse version of their past selves. What if AJLT is actually post-apocalyptic science fiction, and Carrie, Miranda and Charlotte are all lying lifeless in a lab while their digitized personas are forced to continue the “Sex and the City” franchise for our enjoyment, like “San Junipero,” but bad. Samantha is the only survivor, playing Sims with her former friends in a luxurious loft, cackling while she punches a button to force Carrie to piss into a soft drink bottle and then lie in her own filth. It’s just the most logical explanation, plot-wise, and I look forward to being proven right during the finale.
Karen K. Ho (Tabs Intern, May 2015)
It's getting harder to ignore the red light from my air purifier and what it tells me about my gas stove.
Every time the stove is lit, the light switches from blue to red, indicating my apartment is "highly polluted". A big reason is my kitchen doesn't have a ventilation hood. But there's also a growing body research showing that gas stoves are bad for the environment. A new study published last week found gas stoves leak small amounts of methane even when they're off, and can emit high levels of nitrous dioxide when they’re lit. This is incredibly bad, because methane is a greenhouse gas estimated to be 25 times worse than carbon dioxide in contributing to climate change.
At my sister's house in Toronto, I don't have the same concerns about air quality. Her kitchen has an induction stove. Reviews show that these appliances are faster, safer, and more efficient than their electric and gas counterparts.
In December, New York City passed a ban on gas stoves in new buildings. However, the changes won't go into effect for several years, and even later for taller structures. Several other US cities that have also implemented bans as part of sustainability initiatives.
I know a lot of people only cook using gas and are resistant to change. The natural gas industry is actively fighting to preserve the status quo through state law proposals that would prevent new buildings from only installing electric appliances. The American Gas Association has also recruited gas-fluencers on Instagram. But climate scientists and chefs like Jon Kung are making it clear why you should switch to induction, before methane leaks and widespread gas help to cook the planet even more.
Karen K. Ho is a business reporter who also writes about sustainability and culture. She splits her time between Toronto and New York.
Linda Yu (Tabs Intern, June 2021)
There is a small island sixty kilometres off the coast of a Southern Hemisphere country — an oblong outcropping of land that inexplicably became geo-strategically important eighty years ago. On that island, which was temporarily designated a nature reserve while global powers fought over its sovereignty, there is a small forest planted by the scientists of a survey crew. Now, the island previously had no native trees and was covered in dense clumps of tussac grass, but over the years the forest grew. The tallest of the trees was an old pine that had been relocated from the mainland. Within a hollow of that tree lived a family of red-bellied squirrels, also transplants.
It was a single parent home; the mother squirrel died in a tragic encounter with a sea lion, leaving the father to raise the litter himself. Of the six young, only two survived. The younger brother was premature and slow to develop, so the father set out to educate his older son in the finer details of foraging first. Like his own father before him, he showed his child how to hunt for nuts, then separate and cache them in different locations by variety. It was a simple task, one the father had done many seasons, but his son took to it poorly, often mixing up his cashews and walnuts or entirely forgetting his hiding places.
"That was fifteen pecans!" Father squirrel raged, flinging an almond hard against the tree bark next to his son. He loved his child, would never physically hurt him, but his son had to learn if he wanted to survive the hard winter.
The eldest squirrel tried his best, murmuring mnemonics as he paced through the branches, but the more his father's temper exploded, the less he found himself able to remember anything. As he practised, his younger brother finally became old enough to venture out into the trees. Their father was more patient this time, and while the younger squirrel was not a prodigy, he acquitted himself well. By the year's end, both brothers had moved out of the burrow to start their own families.
Several years later, their father had become quite stooped and infirm, and had been unable to leave the confines of that handsome old pine for many months. The siblings returned home to decide on his care.
"I wash my hands of him," said the elder brother, surprised by his own anger.
"It was very strong of him," replied the younger brother gently, "to raise us by himself while he was grieving."
The older squirrel was struck by the desire to push his brother off the tree like he saw the meadowlarks do to their young, but supposed his sibling would simply land on his feet. Instead, he returned home to his wife and children.
Later, the eldest squirrel remembered the happiness of dashing through the pines on soft feet with their father. Of being fed fruits, fungi, seeds, and caterpillars.
Intern Linda is currently spending her time spotting pigeons, listening Kazakh pop music, and writing cover letters. Her father has been emailing her about law school.
Bijan Stephen (Tabs Intern, 2014-2022 inclusive)
My relationship to theory and/or philosophy is basically this: if it’s useful I’ll take it. They’re tools, you know? A few months ago I was reading from the prison notebooks. I’ll let you guess the starting point. Anyway what I mean is: lately I’ve been having a difficult time understanding what it is that anyone’s ever talking about.
Let me give you an example. So Rihanna is pregnant, right? And the first thing I see—aside from that frankly excellent photo of her and Rocky—is a tweet that’s just like “if Rihanna’s having a baby she must have a plan for the climate crisis.” As many have noted: yes she does, and it’s being insanely rich.
But beyond that I was like: Are we still doing this? Are we really? Relatively minor, but you understand.
The other day I saw a thread from some anti-woke guy who was like: Covid is the left’s new god. And he was presenting this as some kind of revelation. Like, what dude? Take it easy, bro. Breathe. I understand that you may not enjoy the aesthetics and incoherence of living in a failing state, but that’s okay because your heart is still beating or whatever. Drink your juice.
Maybe I’m just hungry or thirsty or getting old or something, but it makes me feel like I’m an alien. I dunno. I guess it’s like the disconnect between the falcon and the falconer. Regardless the gyre widens inexorably, etc. Cringe.
What a fiasco, I’m gonna mop up all this wordle and make sure nothing like this ever happens again. I hate to even include it but…
Today’s Song: Bo Burnham, “Unpaid Intern”