This is the year to de-center your smartphone

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Illustrations from “Goodbye Phone, Hello World” by Emiliano Ponzi

For the sake of yourself and your country, it is time to get off your phone.

Yes, I know you needed to see the latest from the Capitol storming, the impeachment hearings, the Republican backlash, and then you’ll need to know how it’s all going down with the new administration in the first 100 days, and then perhaps you’ll want to check in on the stalled Covid-19 vaccination effort. And then poof, before you know it, midterm elections will be ramping up and you’ll need to scroll and scroll and scroll.

But there’s a good reason to balance a civic duty to stay informed with a personal responsibility to protect yourself. According to online analytics company Chartbeat, Americans burned 173 million hours reading about Trump on their phones over the last four years — more than twice as much time as they spent reading about him on their laptops or desktops. Those same 173 million hours would have been enough time to clean all of our beaches of plastic debris, or tackle any of our myriad personal goals. …

The late, great Jon Rowley, shows the way to a perfect half shell

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Lewis Hine: “7-year old Rosie, oyster shucker, Bluffton, South Carolina, 1913" by trialsanderrors is licensed with CC BY 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit

Shortly before passing on, Jon Rowley, founder of the Pacific Coast Oyster Wine Festival and discoverer of some of the best food in the United States shared his thoughts on how to properly shuck an oyster.

The enjoyment of oysters on the half shell depends in no small part on how well they are shucked. Oyster shucking is as much art as skill. There has never been a machine invented that can out-perform a skilled human hand at opening an oyster. Each species has different shell characteristics and each oyster is uniquely formed. The many styles of oyster knives reflect regional and personal shucking techniques. While some commercial shuckers go through the front or the bill, others, like World Champion, Xavier Caille, prefer to enter from the side. …

This New Year’s Eve don’t ruin your oysters with the wrong wine

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Photo credit: Paul Greenberg

A few years ago, when our son was still very small and difficult, my partner and I managed to secure a rare date night which began, as these things do, with a terrible argument. I have no recollection of the argument’s nature, only that by the time we reached the doorway of Marlow & Sons there was serious contemplation of calling the babysitter and informing her we were on our way home.

But then came the wine and the oysters.

Six excellent North Forks and a cold, crisp white that suited it exactly perfectly. Knot by knot the argument came untied. Another six oysters were ordered, two more glasses of that same wine came and the fight was past tense. Ever since, I have regarded the pairing of oysters and wine as mandatory to the maintenance of my relationship and a necessary prelude to any date. …

What should we eat from the sea for Christmas?

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by Paul Greenberg and Carl Safina

Long ago the Roman Catholic Church decreed Christmas Eve a vigil during which the faithful should solemnly await Christ’s arrival and his deliverance of a better world.

It took Romans and the rest of the Italian world about two seconds to blow past the abstinent part and retranslate La Vigilia di Natale as “Here ya go; knock yourselves out.” …

Owners and workers fight for fish on the ponds of Maine

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“Ice Fishing” by Willy D is licensed with CC BY 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit

A few years back State Representative Matt Dunlap of Old Town, Maine made what turned out to be the most controversial decision of his political career: He tried to shorten ice-fishing season by a month and limit anglers to two holes per man.

“I found myself in the middle of a category five shit-storm,” says a surprised Dunlap, who sponsored the bill after several constituents expressed concern that ice fishing was hurting fish populations. “I never had a reaction to a piece of legislation like this . . .. …

What is Semiotics Anyway?

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Ira Glass, Todd Haynes, Rick Moody, Christine Vachon (and many others) first took the red pill that decoded the universe when they signed up for Brown University’s controversial new major

In 1982 Ira Glass, the future creator and host of the public radio program “This American Life,” graduated from Brown University with a degree in semiotics. In response, his parents took out a classified ad in their local newspaper: “Corporate office seeks semiotics grad for high paying position.” Glass was not discouraged. “My religion was semiotics,” he recalled in a recent interview. “Before semiotics I was, like, a middle-class kid who didn’t know what he believed. . .. …

Trading my smartphone for a flip phone improved every aspect of my life

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Photo: PhotoAlto/Michele Constantini/Getty Images

My son was born in 2006. The iPhone was born in 2007. They have been competing for my attention ever since.

I always knew it was wrong to steal a moment to look at my phone instead of my son. But I thought I had plenty of moments.

And then my son was 12.

My time as the father of a small child had come to an end. What had I given my device that I could have given my son? Like the average American, about four hours a day. Every day. Two waking months out of every year. Two waking years out of the dozen my son had been alive. Gone. And now my son wanted his own phone. Most of his friends already had one. What could I say? I wanted my son to see his thoughts as precious, private. …

A Speculative Fiction in which General George Washington is recalled to Duty, Against his Will, to answer the Challenge of a Tyrant

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“General George Washington” by AZRainman is licensed with CC BY 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit

Just up the way from Apollo’s oracle may be some of the loveliest trails in the world. Welcome to Greece in the off-season.

Photographs by Alec Lesser

Skiers (one holding a dog) atop the ski lift at Mount Helmos in Greece.
Skiers (one holding a dog) atop the ski lift at Mount Helmos in Greece.
Atop the lift at Mount Helmos

The Artemis chairlift was not particularly swift and even a little rickety, but it managed to safely carry me high up the slopes of Mount Helmos, and no matter which way I looked, my eyes fell on something mythic. To the southeast the nymph Thetis had dipped her son Achilles up to his heel in the immortalizing waters of the river Styx. To the west was Erymanthos, where Hercules completed his fourth labor by subduing a giant wild boar. Northward I could make out Mount Parnassos with Delphi on its slope, home to the oracle of Apollo. But most striking of all, beyond the six-foot piles of marshmallow snow, was the sea, sparkling through the jagged, snowy peaks at the edge of the Peloponnese. …

In the age of social media, teens can be an author’s harshest critics

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Photo by on Unsplash

One morning, the students started tweeting at me.

“Hey @4fishgreenberg, is it true that tuna are warm-blooded?”

Another wanted to know if cod were going extinct. Still another student tweeter asked my thoughts on the world’s most sustainable fish. A high school science teacher had evidently assigned my book and found me on social media. And since a whole class full of book purchases makes my publishers happy, I dutifully tweeted back.

But then the bad tweets came.

“Why do I have to read this book by this fag @4fishgreenberg?”

I wrote that I would be telling the teacher about this one. …


Paul Greenberg

Author of six books including the New York Times bestselling Four Fish and the 2020 quit-your-phone how-to guide Goodbye Phone, Hello World

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