Salty Lagoons

A series of aerial patterns by David Burdeny called “Salt.” They’re photographs of salterns, pools in which seawater is left to evaporate to harvest salt.

h/t: DAVID BURDENY

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Press An Elevator Button To Go Anywhere

Roald Dahl’s “Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator” is a rare sequel that picks up at the same location where the previous book left off.

Charlie Bucket and his family are aboard the “great glass elevator,” en route to the Mr. Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, when a piloting hiccup sends it hurtling into space. For those wondering if this is a “space elevator”—a transport you come across in hardcore science-fiction novels, such as Kim Stanley Robinson’s “2312,” it’s not.

It’s unlike a space elevator in that it doesn’t go up and down along a cable, whose one end is attached near the equator; the other, to an object in space. The “great glass elevator” is more like a spaceplane—an amphibian vehicle that can fly like an airplane in the atmosphere as well as sail in space—in that has rockets for its mode of propulsion. But then again, it’s unlike it in that it has no wings.

In fact, it’s an ordinary elevator that can do extraordinary feats. It can even tunnel through Earth’s crust, capable of ferrying passengers to the netherworld, not to forget that it can travel sideways too—powered, of course, by a force rooted more in magic and less in technology.

During the orbital adventure, the party saves an American capsule from invasion by hordes of weird, egg-shaped extraterrestrial lifeforms. Back on land, trouble hits again. Two different pills, one of which can reverse age and another that can accelerate senescence, wreak havoc when the young man’s grandparents take an overdose of them. They swing between getting too young or too old.

One mind-expanding thought that this book threw up  is that when a human being ceases to exist in material form, he or she goes from being a “Plus” to a “Minus.”

The Forgotten Little Stick

A pack of six neon pencils.

In the New York Times magazine feature, “Inside One of America’s Last Pencil Factories,” Sam Anderson pays homage to the writing instrument—invented in 16th century England—that could well go the way of the dodo.

A pencil is a little wonder-wand: a stick of wood that traces the tiniest motions of your hand as it moves across a surface.

In an era of infinite screens, the humble pencil feels revolutionarily direct: It does exactly what it does, when it does it, right in front of you. Pencils eschew digital jujitsu. They are pure analog, absolute presence.

They help to rescue us from oblivion. Think of how many of our finest motions disappear, untracked — how many eye blinks and toe twitches and secret glances vanish into nothing. And yet when you hold a pencil, your quietest little hand-dances are mapped exactly, from the loops and slashes to the final dot at the very end of a sentence.

h/t: NYT