Boredom

I’ve elaborated on the joys of Instapaper before, but the reality is that I rarely use it. Most of my reading on the subway, and elsewhere, is still done with hard copies of a handful of magazines (The New Yorker, Atlantic, Wired, Esquire, New York), or whatever book is on the top of my pile (currently, The Corrections). But where Instapaper earns its keep is in those moments when I finish the magazine and have nothing else to read. Or am stuck in a subway station on a Friday night, when carrying a book to a bar seems frowned upon.

Basically, Instapaper has eliminated any possibility of boredom in my life. In The Atlantic’s latest issue, all about “Ideas,” Walter Kirn writes about the extinction of boredom:

Thanks to Twitter, iPads, BlackBerrys, voice-activated in-dash navigation systems, and a hundred other technologies that offer distraction anywhere, anytime, boredom has loosened its grip on us at last—that once-crushing “weight” has become, for the most part, a memory. Even the worst blind dates don’t bore us now; we’re never more than a click away from freedom, from an instantaneous change of conversation partners.

He goes on to lament a potential loss in creativity, owing to a lack of daydreaming, or something. And it might be true. But this is one crutch I’m quite happy to have.

On Board #74

You too can be a featured On Board contributor. This one comes from Kasia Cannella. Do you have World Cup fever? Yes? Well why aren’t you wearing a cape?

June 17, 6:52 p.m.
2 Train, Nevins St. to Grand Army Plaza

Modern Cartography

Each one of these U.S. maps from Michael Crawford are more amusing than the last. Here, Oklahoma fears another Dust Bowl:

There’s something nice about Google Dropcloth. More here.

This Week’s Best Profile – The Trophy Son

Among the thanks I can offer to my father this week, not putting any sporting pressure on my young body is among the top. Perhaps my will-o’-the-wisp frame led him to make the right decision, but point is, the rewards are minimal. See this, from 1998:

The injustice of it all finally brought Mr. Rutherford to express himself again. Mrs. Rutherford, because of her work with the football programs, had been asked to help organize a farewell book for the graduating seniors. There would be ads from parents wishing their children the best — Kyle’s would be one of the few full-page ads — and there would be “wills,” in which seniors would take parting shots at those they were leaving behind.

The wills were supposed to be exclusively from seniors, but Mr. Rutherford later confessed to authoring two anonymous bequests. One, “to all football parents,” offered the number of a good real estate agent: “Call 444-MOVE!!!” Another left Coach Hooks “a new set of earplugs so you can’t hear the other coaches in the district laughing at you.”

Mr. Rutherford also had a suggestion for Kyle’s will. As Mrs. Rutherford recalled, Kyle said, “But Coach Hooks will get mad, won’t he?”

“Well, what can he do to you?” asked Mr. Rutherford. “You’re out of school. You’ll never see him again.”

“Well, okay,” Kyle said, and he sat down to write the will that would change his life. To one comrade, he left “some of my blazing speed”; to another, “some of my smarts I don’t use”; and to a third, a can of Skoal. And just as his daddy told him, Kyle wrote, “To Coach Hooks, I leave a $40,000 debt. I figure you cost me that much with your 37 season.”

Parents going off the deep end, and ruining a kid’s childhood, here.

McSweeney’s Monday

The following is a beach house listing on CraigsList:

$1,000 wk/8BR — Come enjoy beautiful East Hampton this summer! Awesome beach house just steps from ocean, with fabulous views throughout. New Weber grill. Plenty of rooms to sob in. Totally did not just rent this and hope I could find seven other people to spend the summer with me. Tennis nearby.

Interested renters inquire here.

Whoa there…

…I’m not much for fancy book readin’.

On Board #73

Read, then send.

August 4, 6:36 p.m.
B Train – 42nd Street to 96th Street

Few subway-related struggles seem worse than dealing with a stroller, a friend recently noted. True, I thought, except for handling a child just large enough to make a stroller unreasonable. Here we have a mother and  a stroller. The stroller holds two children, but she pays them no attention, with good reason: her focus is on another child, around six, busily applying a black marker to a subway pole. Mom snatches the marker and gives a lecture in Spanish. Roughly translated:

Mom: Stop that. You need to draw on your paper.

Girl: [Throws yellow paper to the floor. One side is covered in lines and shapes, the other with an advertisement for a Chinese restaurant.] No! No! No!

Mom has had a long day: brow furrowed, eyes locked on points unknown around the car, mouth forming an unwavering horizontal line. She holds a red mesh shopping bag next to her with a baby’s bottle, roll of toilet paper and cell phone sticking out of the top. She checks the phone, quickly.

The girl leans into her mother’s arm.

“Ewwww,” she spouts.

“That’s what perfume smells like,” Mom answers, in English, without a hint of sheepishness.

There is a second stroller in the car that might alleviate some of the crying if it weren’t tucked behind the two children, out of view. A man in a black polo and jeans holds a yellow cage that looks like a see-through rolling suitcase. Inside is a Yorkshire terrier that keeps still, though its open eyes betray that it’s awake. The man folds the extended handle and picks up the cage as he exits the car, the three children never the wiser.

The girl has moved from graffiti to gymnastics. She lays on her back, her head resting awkwardly at a 45 degree angle on her mother’s lap. She sticks her legs straight up, then spreads them like a reverse jumping jack. As a final flourish, she wraps her knees around the horizontal bar and pulls her torso up into a human arch.

“Look, I spit in the train,” the girl says as she, sure enough, spits in the train.

“Don’t do that,” her mother finally snaps, giving her a mild slap on the wrist. “That’s disgusting.”

The girl turns to face an ad for Dallas BBQ. Though she does not comment on the leathery texture of it’s brisket, she does begin reciting the letters she recognizes in the poster, in no particular order.

“That’s not the right order,” Mom says, in her best teaching voice.

The girl stops and recites the alphabet from a to t, then hums an indistinguishable tune. She’s too busy for u, v, w, x, y, and z.