New York Thought: Smart Things to Do in NYC This Week

Talks on how to do nothing, the science of laughter, and life on Earth after warming highlight our picks for the best smart things to do in NYC this week.

Monday, July 22

Artist and critic Jenny Odell argues that nothing is harder today than doing nothing. Find her in conversation on her new field guide to focus, How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy, which posits that our attention is “the most precious—and overdrawn—resource we have.” McNally Jackson.

Go behind bars with Buddhist teacher, scholar, and writer Cuong Lu, who shares his book The Buddha in Jail: Restoring Lives, Finding Hope and Freedom, with vignettes from six years in the life of a prison chaplain. Tibet House US.

New York-based typeface designer Colin Ford leads a session on an ubiquitous facet of modern design. From the 1964 Tokyo Olympics to ‘90s mobile phones to Unicode and Apple, Ford reveals a hidden history and shares his insights into the subconscious effect emojis have on our communicationThe Cooper Union.

Tuesday, July 23

NYU professor and clinically trained psychologist Lawrence Ian Reed, an expert in mood and emotional disorders, lends his expertise to the realm of laughter. At the next “Think & Drink” session, Reed analyzes what makes situations humorous, with a look at the scientific studies that support the theories. Subject.

Make progress at this talk on New York governor and 1928 Democratic presidential nominee Alfred E. Smith and his strain of American progressivism. New York Public Library—Grand Central Library.

Entertainment historian John Kenrick heads up to the rooftop of the Sutton Place Synagogue to talk von Trapps and how Rodgers & Hammerstein brought The Sound of Music to the stage and screen. Light refreshments will be provided; in case of severe weather the talk will be held indoors.

Wednesday, July 24

“It is worse, much worse, than you think,” is the opening of David Wallace-Wells’s sobering new bestseller The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming. Wallace-Wells brushes aside prevailing ostrich-head-in-sand attitudes to illuminate imminent food and water shortages, mass refugee movements, and the very real possibility of most of Earth no longer being able to support life. Revolution Books.

Queer your understanding of the American Revolution at this talk on Deborah Sampson, who dressed as a man to fight in the Revolution, and how she fits into our current understanding of transgender identity. New-York Historical Society.

Thursday, July 25

Interesting times. General (Ret.) David H. Petraeus sits down with Pulitzer Prizewinner Bret Stephens to take the U.S. perspective on a laundry list of dilemmas, from Islamist extremism to the complexities of Iran, Russia, and North Korea to cyberthreats to the fallout from rising populism. 92nd Street Y.

Be bivalve-curious at this Brooklyn Historical Society session on Oysters 101, full of the culinary, historical, and environmental secrets of a half-shell staple.


Find our picks for the weekend here.

When a Nobel Laureate speaks, who listens? Sign up for Thought Gallery’s weekly Curriculum and get the best of smart NYC delivered right to your inbox.