Offbeat

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.

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

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Offbeat

Can Santa Be A Mushroom?

Two gnomes happen upon a giant mushroom.

One reason I enjoy folklore and fairy tales is that they’re peppered with strange beings and fabulous beasts: unicorns, gnomes, goblins, pixies, and elves.

They also have enchanting flora, the most famous of which is the red-and-white toadstool mushroom, the home of the Smurfs. Known as Amanita muscaria (or fly agaric), it can be found in terrestrial forests.

But is it connected to a certain portly man in a red coat, trimmed with white fur? I didn’t think so. But some scholars believe that his trademark outfit could have derived from the colors of these magic shrooms.

h/t: LIVE SCIENCE