The Ever Given is very big and very stuck

The hull of the Ever Given stuck on the shore of the Suez Canal in front of a relatively tiny excavating machine.
The hull of the Ever Given stuck on the shore of the Suez Canal in front of a relatively tiny excavating machine.
Photo: Associated Press

Yesterday, with only a few minutes left in my weekly Zoom appointment with my therapist, I decided to derail the proceedings to ask her what I believed was an essential question. It had nothing to do with my fear of vulnerability or difficulty asking for help; in fact, it had nothing to do with me at all.

Had she seen the stuck boat?

The boat, of course, is the Ever Given, a massive container ship operated by the Taiwan-based shipping company Evergreen, which probably now wishes its name wasn’t painted on the boat’s sides in such enormous letters. On its…


Your weird pandemic eating habits are probably fine.

Black-and-white vintage photo of a teenage boy tilting his head to eat a drumstick while sitting with his elbows propped on the dinner table.
Black-and-white vintage photo of a teenage boy tilting his head to eat a drumstick while sitting with his elbows propped on the dinner table.
Photo: Harold M. Lambert/Getty Images

For the first 34 years of my life, I always ate three meals a day. I never thought much about it — the routine was satisfying, it fit easily into my life, and eating three meals a day is just what Americans generally do. By the end of last summer, though, those decades of habit had begun to erode. The time-blindness of working from home and having no social plans left me with no real reason to plod over to my refrigerator at any specific hour of the day. …


A cellphone with a TikTok-like app with a can of Spaghetti-os, a hand spraying whipped cream into it, on a pizza.
A cellphone with a TikTok-like app with a can of Spaghetti-os, a hand spraying whipped cream into it, on a pizza.
Image: The Atlantic/Getty Images

Spaghetti-Os pie has warped my understanding of reality.

There are many points at which one’s understanding of reality could conceivably start to slip while watching a stranger on the internet construct a pie out of Spaghetti-Os. It could be when the cook, a young woman named Janelle Elise Flom, holds up her container of garlic powder to the camera in the exact same way that YouTube makeup artists introduce a lip gloss. It could be when she adds a splash of milk, to make things “juicy.” …


There’s a reason you miss the people you didn’t even know that well.

Collage: vintage black-&-white photos of people with blank faces. The 1 in the center is wearing a dress on a yellow circle.
Collage: vintage black-&-white photos of people with blank faces. The 1 in the center is wearing a dress on a yellow circle.
Illustration: Valerie Chiang

A few months ago, when millions of Americans were watching the Netflix series Emily in Paris because it was what we had been given that week, I cued up the first episode and was beset almost immediately by an intense longing. Not for travel, or for opportunities to wear beautiful clothes — two commonly cited high points in an otherwise charmless show — but for sports. Specifically, watching sports in a packed bar, which is what the titular character’s boyfriend is doing when the viewer meets him.

The scene is fleeting, and it’s also pretty bad. It doesn’t come close…


Quarantine is turning you into a stiff, hunched-over, itchy, sore, headachy husk.

A person bending backwards and a person lounging on their back, all on a graphic background of different-colored triangles.
A person bending backwards and a person lounging on their back, all on a graphic background of different-colored triangles.
Illustrations: Hannah R. Anderson

The first time my hips locked up, the reason was at least a little bit glamorous. It was 2018, and I was returning from vacation in Sicily, which was the fanciest thing I’d ever done by several orders of magnitude. As I went through the motions — and, perhaps more important, the lack of motion — of international flight, my gait began to stiffen, and my stride contracted to a fraction of its former self. My body, settling into its mid-30s, rebelled against the hours spent in airplane seats, the nights in unfamiliar beds, the constant, awkward physicality of travel.


This is why you can eat in a restaurant but can’t have Thanksgiving.

2 signs by the side of the road. 1 says, “Salon is open!” and the other says, “Stay home and stay safe!”
2 signs by the side of the road. 1 says, “Salon is open!” and the other says, “Stay home and stay safe!”
Photo: Suzanne Kreiter/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

By Amanda Mull

Two weeks ago, I staged a reluctant intervention via Instagram direct message. The subject was a longtime friend, Josh, who had been sharing photos of himself and his fiancé occasionally dining indoors at restaurants since New York City, where we both live, had reopened them in late September. At first, I hadn’t said anything. Preliminary research suggests that when people congregate indoors, an infected person is almost 20 times more likely to transmit the virus than if they were outside. But restaurants are open legally in New York, and I am not the COVID police. …


The pandemic’s at-home workers are discovering what internet influencers have long known: If you want to be taken seriously, get good lighting.

Illustration of a blue computer screen with a curved line in the shape of a face in side profile. The eye blinks.
Illustration of a blue computer screen with a curved line in the shape of a face in side profile. The eye blinks.
Image: Asia Pietrzyk

By Amanda Mull

In the mid-2000s, news anchors found themselves with a problem: They didn’t look so hot anymore. Their real-life visages hadn’t changed, but the technology that beamed them into millions of households had outpaced their faces’ ability to keep up. High-definition cameras proliferated, as did the enormous HDTVs that render blemishes, pancake makeup, and flyaways in larger-than-life detail. Local newscasters with limited budgets fretted over judgment from viewers. CNN’s Anderson Cooper considered plastic surgery. Makeup and lighting crews scrambled to adjust.

When the pandemic hit, the same thing happened to millions of Americans. This was hardly our worst…


The pandemic has broken Americans’ understanding of what to fear.

2 used surgical gloves on a green surface with a rectangular shadow falling between them.
2 used surgical gloves on a green surface with a rectangular shadow falling between them.
Photo: Francesco Carta fotografo/Moment/Getty Images

On a normal day, the White House is one of the safest buildings in the world. Secret Service snipers stand guard on the roof, their aim tested monthly to ensure their accuracy up to 1,000 feet. Their heavily armed colleagues patrol the ground below and staff security checkpoints. Belgian Malinois guard dogs lie in wait for anyone who manages to jump the property’s massive iron fence.

But safety means something different in a pandemic. Over the past few days, several aides to Vice President Mike Pence, including his chief of staff, have tested positive for the coronavirus. The outbreak is…


A clever bit of marketing has obscured the more nuanced nature of human well-being

Photo: AlexanderNikiforov/Getty Images

In America, the conventional wisdom of how to live healthily is full of axioms that long ago shed their origins. Drink eight glasses of water a day. Get eight hours of sleep. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Two thousand calories is a normal diet. Even people who don’t regularly see a doctor are likely to have encountered this information, which forms the basis of a cultural shorthand. Tick these boxes, and you’re a healthy person.

In the past decade, as pedometers have proliferated in smartphone apps and wearable fitness trackers, another benchmark has entered the lexicon…


The human brain can’t contend with the vastness of online shopping

Photo: structuresxx/Getty Images

In theory, Amazon is a site meant to serve the needs of humans. The mega-retailer’s boundless inventory gives people easy access to household supplies and other everyday products that are rarely fun to shop for. Most people probably aren’t eager to buy clothes hangers, for instance. They just want to have hangers when they need them.

But when you type hangers into Amazon’s search box, the mega-retailer delivers “over 200,000” options. On the first page of results, half are nearly identical velvet hangers, and most of the rest are nearly identical plastic. They don’t vary much by price, and almost…

Amanda Mull

Writer for places like Rolling Stone and Racked, native Atlantan in Brooklyn

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