Sunday 8.31.2014 New York Times Digest


1. Is Owning Overrated? The Rental Economy Rises

“Entrepreneurs say the rental economy is part of a growing, post-recession movement to value experiences over possessions.”

2. ISIS Displaying a Deft Command of Varied Media

“ISIS is online jihad 3.0. Dozens of Twitter accounts spread its message, and it has posted some major speeches in seven languages. Its videos borrow from Madison Avenue and Hollywood, from combat video games and cable television dramas, and its sensational dispatches are echoed and amplified on social media. When its accounts are blocked, new ones appear immediately. It also uses services like JustPaste to publish battle summaries, SoundCloud to release audio reports, Instagram to share images and WhatsApp to spread graphics and videos.”

3. In E-Sports, Video Gamers Draw Real Crowds and Big Money

“If you don’t want to call it athletics or sports, that doesn’t mean anything to me. That doesn’t change the reality of the massive growth we’re seeing.”

4. Using Gambling to Entice Low-Income Families to Save

“Instead of attacking lotteries, a growing number of credit unions and nonprofit groups are using them to encourage low-income families to save.”

5. No Canvas, No Leather: A Reboot for the Sneaker

“Created by DuPont in 1955, it is made from high-density polyethylene fibers and was originally used, and continues to be used, for things like labels and book jackets. Tyvek has also been used in hazmat suits, banners, medical and industrial packaging, and covers for cars and boats. Now designers are fashioning shoes, bags and other accessories from it.”

6. For a Career Guide, 42 Years of Soft Landings

“Three main points in the book still hold, as Mr. Bolles explained in a personal note he sent along with the book:

  • The traditional job-hunting system is a numbers game that is ‘heavily loaded toward failing the job hunter.’
  • A ‘creative minority’ has come up with nontraditional, highly successful methods of job hunting that involve choosing the places you want to work and approaching the people there who can hire you.
  • Before choosing those places, job hunters must look inward, figuring out what they would most love to do — and where, geographically, they want to do it.

Those three concepts are as relevant in 2014 as they were in 1972, as are the shock of rejection, the loss of self-esteem, and the depression that can result from a prolonged round of job hunting, which Mr. Bolles also covers.”

7. Saving Our Birds

“The passenger pigeon taught us that even the most numerous species can undergo population collapses in astonishingly short periods of time. Cod fishermen of the North Atlantic learned the same painful lesson just two decades ago. It is far more effective and cost-efficient to conserve a species while it is abundant than to wait until it reaches the brink.”

8. Download: Zubin Mehta

“I’m not online. My life is not that. I have a homepage but I have never seen it myself. My secretary does that.”

9. Losing Our Touch

“For all the fascination with bodies, our current technology is arguably exacerbating our carnal alienation. While offering us enormous freedoms of fantasy and encounter, digital eros may also be removing us further from the flesh.”

10. Handmade Landscapes

“If we are learning anything in the Anthropocene, it is that we are not really separate from the plants and animals. An important part of the landscape now, our built environments are also an expression of nature — termites erect mounds, humans erect farms and cities.”

11. When Whites Just Don’t Get It

“United States now has a greater wealth gap by race than South Africa did during apartheid.”

12. Of Pot and Percocet

“Implementation of a medical marijuana law was associated with a 25% lower yearly rate of opioid painkiller overdose deaths, on average.”

13. The Original Charter School Vision

“Mr. Shanker believed deeply that unions played a critical role in democratic societies and wanted charter schools to be unionized. But he also wanted to take democratic values to an even higher level: Students would see workplace democracy in action firsthand in charter schools because they would see teachers who were active participants in decision making. Likewise, students in economically and racially integrated schools would learn on a daily basis that we all deserve a seat at democracy’s table.”

14. André 3000 Is Moving On in Film, Music and Life

“A few hours before the Coachella show, I get a message that Prince and Paul McCartney are going to be there. My spirit is not right, and idols are standing side-stage, so as the show started, I’m bummed. This is horrible. In my mind I was already gone to my hotel room halfway through. So Prince called a couple days after. It was my first time actually talking to Prince. He said: ‘When you come back, people want to be wowed. And what’s the best way to wow people? Just give them the hits.’ I’m explaining to him that I really didn’t want to do it. He said: ‘I’ve been there. I’ve tried to do other things. After you give them the hits, then you can do whatever.’”

15. David Lynch, Who Began as a Visual Artist, Gets a Museum Show

“When I found out adults could do that, that’s all I wanted to do. I wanted to smoke cigarettes, drink coffee and paint.”

16. Bubbles Carry a Lot of Weight

“The three dots shown while someone is drafting a message in iMessage is quite possibly the most important source of eternal hope and ultimate letdown in our daily lives.”

17. The Invasion of the Lobster Legs

“Every summer, it seems, red pants threaten to become a thing. Every summer, they seem trapped by the same old cultural baggage.”

18. Freud’s City, From Couch to Cafes

“Freud’s working life as a young man was erratic; the path to his couch zigzagged. He spent time in Paris studying with the hypnotist Charcot and explored everything from the sexual anatomy of eels to the use of cocaine as an anesthetic. But once Freud settled into his practice and apartment at Berggasse 19, he became a creature of almost obsessional habit. He had his beard trimmed daily by a barber. He would take his dinner at the same hour (1 p.m.), demanding the whole family present, before a stroll to buy cigars or walk his dog. He owned just three suits, three pairs of shoes and three sets of underclothes.”

19. The Delusions We Deserve

“What biological psychiatry has elided in its rush to reduce mental illness to brain dysfunction: the environment as a causal factor in mental breakdown.”

20. Choose Your Own Race

“Martin becomes black not to teach anyone a lesson but to better reflect his ‘true self.’ As in Adam Mansbach’s novel Angry Black White Boy, Martin’s condition speaks to a generation of suburban white kids who came up in the 1990s possessed by a vibrant hip-hop culture that let them access sincere rage at the world’s injustice in a way music hadn’t done since punk.”

21. Does Where You Live Make a Difference in How and What You Write?

“Places do things to you.”

Sunday 8.24.2014 New York Times Digest


1. Dealing With Digital Cruelty

“Whether you’re a celebrity author or a mom with a décor blog, you’re fair game. Anyone with a Twitter account and a mean streak can try to parachute into your psyche.”

2. Why We’re Not Driving the Friendly Skies

“Where are the flying cars?”

3. Rethinking Eating

“Having radically changed the way we communicate, do research, buy books, listen to music, hire a car and get a date, Silicon Valley now aims to transform the way we eat. Just as text messages have replaced more lengthy discourse and digital vetting has diminished the slow and awkward evolution of intimacy, tech entrepreneurs hope to get us hooked on more efficient, algorithmically derived food.”

4. Large Dams Just Aren’t Worth the Cost

“The actual construction costs of large dams are too high to yield a positive return.”

5. Bug Love

“What might be a pest in one context may not be in another.”

6. On Not Writing

“Not writing can be good for one’s writing; indeed, it can make one a better writer.”

7. Kings of Their Very Own Genres

“However they may differ, Werner Herzog and David Lynch, the principal creator of ‘Twin Peaks,’ are two utterly distinctive filmmakers as well as singular personalities; at once solitary searchers and skilled self-promoters, they are avant-garde visionaries who have, on occasion, enjoyed considerable commercial success and have never lacked for devoted fans. Both men emerged from the counterculture of the late 1960s and early 1970s to create their own myths. Although Mr. Lynch could be characterized as some sort of surrealist, and Mr. Herzog is essentially a maker of documentaries, neither belongs to any particular school or shared tendency.”

8. Of Myself I Sing

“Much self-promotion on social media seems less about utility and effective advertising and more about ego sustenance.”

9. Dollywood: A Little Bit Country, a Little Bit Gay

“And then there was us, a middle-aged lesbian couple in expensive yet practical footwear who traveled from Atlanta to see if we could find the campy gay undercurrent that runs through Dollywood, arguably the most culturally conservative amusement park in the country.”

10. You Like a Hotel, It Likes You Back

“The more followers you have, the more robust your social media presence, the more alluring you are to hospitality brands.”

11. On the Syllabus

“Programming was not always such a manly field, by the way. It was originally a field for women, and not just because it was invented by one, Ada Lovelace, in the 1840s. The human ‘computers’ on the atomic bomb project at Los Alamos were women; so were the ‘Eniac girls’ coding for John von Neumann in the 1940s. Chandra recounts the ‘masculinization’ of the industry through male-oriented aptitude tests that led to an influx of what one analyst called ‘often egocentric, slightly neurotic’ programmers disproportionately equipped with beards and sandals.”

12. The Enclosure of the American Mind

“The elite university, for Deresiewicz, is the little world that forms the great one, the training ground where members of the international ruling class learn two vital lessons: that they are superior to all others, and that even if they break rules or fail, they will never suffer.”

13. Progress Report

“Almost every idea for reforming education over the past 25 years has been tried before — and failed to make a meaningful difference.”

14. Uncram

“Ease up, take a break, get a good night’s sleep and stop the cramming.”

15. Not Giving an Inch

“As France descended into terror and war, the metric system became entangled in a worldwide struggle over its legacy. To its supporters it stood for reason and democracy; to its detractors, godlessness and the guillotine. It was not until the aftermath of World War II, when new global institutions were established and a host of new nations adopted the meter, that its place as the near-­universal measure was secured.”

16. The New School

“This kind of teaching can look like … nothing at all. So can working on just one problem per class, as though the teacher is just watching the clock while students chase a false supposition down a rabbit hole. In fact, those rabbit holes are where we learn; we begin to understand through trial and error, dead ends and towers of reasoning that collapse because of their faulty assumptions. Allowing students to make these errors, then identify and correct them, is one of the best things a teacher can do.”

17. Of Two Minds

“Defying the myth of the lone genius, he makes the case that the chemistry of creative pairs — of people, of groups — forms the primary (albeit frequently hidden) structural basis of innovation.”

18. The Mind

“In 1982, something disturbing began happening to men in northeastern India: Their penises started to shrink.”

19. Delivery Start-Ups Are Back Like It’s 1999

“The question comes down to how much people are willing to pay to be lazy. To economists, laziness isn’t necessarily a bad thing. To the sympathetic onlooker, these companies could be a step on the path to the world prophesied by John Maynard Keynes (and even ‘The Jetsons’), in which technology advances to the point that chores are replaced by leisure time. But even this suggests a gloomy outcome: On-demand delivery could create a two-tier economy — the people who can afford to hire others to do their errands and the people who do them. That is, unless Amazon succeeds in automating grunt work out of existence. (It already has robots that pick items off shelves and pack them in boxes; it wants to have a fleet of delivery drones.)”

20. Is Breakfast Overrated?

“If you like breakfast, fine; but if not, don’t sweat it.”

21. Who Made Those Bluejeans?

“Regardless of brand, jeans have reflected the mood of the country since the moment they were introduced. ‘You went from cuffed jeans in the ’50s to faded and bell-bottoms in the ’60s and early ’70s, to the designer jeans of the disco era, the saggy jeans of the hip-hop era and on to the exclusive $300 jeans we now call premium,’ Sullivan says. And like all truly revolutionary products, jeans have inspired adoration, outrage and everything in between. As Yves Saint Laurent said more than once, ‘I wish I had invented bluejeans.’”

22. A Recipe for Happiness

“It’s not just health (and skinniness) we’re after from our diets — it’s happiness. The gluten-free converts talk of being clear-minded, and any juice bar offers a host of emotional and psychological claims along with its cups of pulverized shrubbery. So if a goji berry stirs the libido and clams reduce anger, can it all be mixed into a recipe that can feed the soul while also tasting delicious?”

23. The Invasion of the Flats

“In Hollywood, Audrey Hepburn taught the world that flat could be feminine. Her embrace of the Ferragamo ballet slipper in 1957 (a year after Brigitte Bardot wore the Cinderella slipper by Repetto) made the shoes a necessary gamine accessory, providing a demure counterpoint to conventional midcentury notions of sex appeal. Meanwhile, the continental sexpots of the New Wave — from Anna Karina to Jean Seberg — were frequently pictured in ballet flats or the mod Roger Vivier varietal. Like everything we fetishize about the mythical French woman, the flat — along with the striped shirt and the scarf, other essentials for the cartoon dame — denoted practicality and childlike grace. Susan Sontag was a devotee of the tennis shoe. Joan Didion wore flats (and presumably still does). The fashion editor Diana Vreeland, dismissive of ‘hideous strappy high heels’ and the mincing walk they imparted, had her flats custom-made by obliging cobblers.”

24. A Beautiful Mind

“Getting in touch with Federico Forquet requires perseverance. The 83-year-old Neapolitan, who took the haute couture world by storm in the 1960s before turning his passions to gardening and interior design, does not own a cellphone. A fax machine, he says, is too unsightly. And he refuses to open an email account. Friends know that to get in touch they must send an email to his friend Alessandra Di Castro, the Roman antiques dealer. She will print out the message and have it delivered by hand to his flat in Rome or his country retreat near Cetona, Tuscany, where ‘Federico the Great’ — as Women’s Wear Daily dubbed him in 1966 — spends much of his time.”

25. Welcome to the Integratron

“To spend even an hour at the Integratron is to find your mind opening to esoteric possibilities — to feel your doubts melting away beneath the desert sun, skepticism bending toward curiosity. You may not go as far as the thousands who traveled here decades ago, when Van Tassel hosted the annual Giant Rock Spacecraft Convention, a gathering of U.F.O. enthusiasts and alien ‘contactees.’ You may not subscribe to Van Tassel’s belief that ancient Egyptians were capable of levitating ‘anything, including themselves,’ that there are spaceship bases on the moon, that the Integratron is capable of rejuvenating your cells and reversing the aging process. But an Integratron sound bath will startle your ears, and, perhaps, awaken your imagination.”

26. Flipping the Script

“No longer content just to be making movies, a new generation of critically heralded female directors is rivaling the male establishment at the box office — and redefining what it means to be a woman in Hollywood.”

Au Courant

“People talk of keeping au courant, and no doubt an intellectual cannot ignore the human race, nor be indifferent to what is written in his special field; but take care lest the current should carry away with it all your capacity for work, and, instead of bearing you onwards, prevent you from making any headway against it….

What you must principally cut down is the less solid and serious kind of reading. There must be no question at all of poisoning your mind with novels. One from time to time, if you like, as a recreation and not to neglect some literary glory, but that is a concession; for the greater number of novels upset the mind without refreshing it; they disturb and confuse one’s thoughts.

As to newspapers, defend yourself against them with the energy that the continuity and the indiscretion of their assault make indispensable. You must know what the papers contain, but they contain so little; and it would be easy to learn it all without settling down to interminable lazy sittings!…

A serious worker should be content, one would think, with the weekly or bi-monthly chronicle in a review; and for the rest, with keeping his ears open, and turning to the daily papers only when a remarkable article or a grave event is brought to his notice.”

—A. G. Sertillanges, O.P., from The Intellectual Life: Its Spirit, Conditions, Methods (first published in 1921)

(Via Alan Jacobs.)

Sunday 8.17.2014 New York Times Digest


1. Playing Soldier in the Suburbs

“In the name of local preparedness, Washington has been bestowing antiterror grants and Pentagon surplus on communities barely touched by major crime, let alone by terrorism. Tanks and aircraft, helmets and armor, guns and grenade launchers have flowed to police departments from Des Moines (home of two $180,000 bomb-disarming robots) to Keene, N.H. (population 23,000, murder rate infinitesimal and the proud custodian of an armored BearCat).”

2. Deep Tensions Rise to Surface After Ferguson Shooting

“As African-Americans moved into the city and whites moved out, real estate agents and city leaders, in a pattern familiar elsewhere in the country, conspired to keep blacks out of the suburbs through the use of zoning ordinances and restrictive covenants. But by the 1970s, some of those barriers had started to fall, and whites moved even farther away from the city. These days, Ferguson is like many of the suburbs around St. Louis, inner-ring towns that accommodated white flight decades ago but that are now largely black. And yet they retain a white power structure.”

3. In Push to Shorten Games, There’s No Time to Waste

“Attention spans are getting shorter while games are getting longer.”

4. In the Sharing Economy, Workers Find Both Freedom and Uncertainty

“In the promising parlance of the sharing economy, whose sites and apps connect people seeking services with sellers of those services, Ms. Guidry is a microentrepreneur. That is, an independent contractor who earns money by providing her skills, time or property to consumers in search of a lift, a room to sleep in, a dry-cleaning pickup, a chef, an organizer of closets.”

5. Authenticity, Repurposed, in a Mason Jar

“Until several years ago, the simple Mason jar was more likely to be found in the nooks of grandmothers’ pantries than on retailers’ shelves. It was salvaged from near extinction by businesses eager for a homespun aesthetic in a sturdy, affordable package — many of them hoping to lure the millennials who have fetishized the jars in photographs on Instagram and Pinterest.”

6. Download: Nadya Tolokonnikova

“I also listen to Doris Day. My father played for me when I was a child. ‘Que Sera, Sera.’ Whatever will be, will be. Yesterday we listened all day to Marilyn Monroe’s ‘Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend.’ It’s about conceptual femininity and I like to think about it and reflect on it.”

7. The Disappearing Volunteer Firefighter

“What was once an iconic part of American life is losing its allure, in part because the work — some would say the calling — is a lot less fun than it used to be.”

8. Playing the Numbers in Digital Dating

“What if it turns out that relying on algorithms doesn’t make dating less chaotic, but more so, in a whole new way? What if, instead of finding our way to a partner, following certain algorithms leads us only further away?”

9. Teaching Is Not a Business

“The process of teaching and learning is an intimate act that neither computers nor markets can hope to replicate.”

10. The Obituary Lottery

“It is a cruel thing, this wheel of obituary fortune. You can never be assured that your passage to eternal bliss will get the attention it deserves.”

11. Should We Teach Plato in Gym Class?

“The training of the body is directly related to the development of a fundamental aspect of the human psyche: what Plato, that pre-eminent teacher of teaching, called thymos. In English we don’t have a word for this concept, but it encompasses both bravery and the urge for glory. Perhaps the closest we have is ‘spiritedness,’ as in ‘a spirited competitor.’ Plato knew that thymos is a marvelous quality that needs to be developed and strengthened, especially in those who represent the community as soldiers. But Plato also knew that thymos can be dangerous. The spirited part of the soul can take control and turn what would have been an admirable man or woman into a beast.”

12. The Wisdom of the Exile

“Uprooting is a devastating blow because you have to separate yourself overnight from something that, for as long as you can remember, has been an important part of your identity. In a sense, you are your culture, customs, language, country, your family, your lovers. Yet exile, should you survive it, can be the greatest of philosophical gifts, a blessing in disguise. In fact, philosophers, too, should be uprooted. At least once in their lives. They should be exiled, displaced, deported — that should be part of their training. For when your old world goes down it also takes with it all your assumptions, commonplaces, prejudices and preconceived ideas.”

13. Pioneer in France and on the Frontier

“Here, as in Paris Blues, Mr. Poitier embodies historical memory. His understated empathy for the Garner and Andersson characters is the film’s tacit reminder that ours is a nation stained by the sins of slavery and ethnic cleansing. Duel at Diablo is another reminder: The demise of the Hollywood western eliminated a genre that once served as an arena where popular artists debated the nature of the national past.”

14. Generation Nice

“Why this microscopic attention paid to a generation whose oldest members are only now entering the prime of their adult lives? One answer is that millennials, the first people to come of age in the 21st century, with its dizzying rate of technological change, have been forced to invent new ways of navigating it.”

15. A Makeover for the Hijab, via Instagram

“Muslim women in their 20s and 30s are making their own mark on hijab culture, while propagating it in a way particular to the ‘selfie generation’: by posting pictures and videos of themselves on various social media sites.”

16. Them Dames

“The story is a thoughtful meditation on female identity and whether the not-so-simple art of murder can ever be defended as a moral necessity. It is a story about stories, the myths we have to create in order to keep putting one foot in front of the other.”

17. In the Rearview Mirror

“The car birthed or fostered not only highways, motels, drive-through restaurants and drive-in movies, municipal parking garages and innovations in home architecture to accommodate the one-car garage, but also mail-order businesses, holidays, campgrounds, ski resorts and destinations like Vermont, which was ‘a quiet, remote backwater until the car and its highway came along.’”

18. How to Monetize Your Cat

“Just kinda go with it.”

19. The Rise of Beefcake Yoga

“The curious Venn diagram overlap of battered war vets, couch potatoes and former wrestlers was not lost on anybody in Page’s camp. Jake Roberts, in some sense, was its center point — an athlete who had taken a severe physical beating and had also given up on himself. When Page heard that his old friend was squirreled away in Gainesville, smoking crack and boozing, he decided that he wanted to help him.”

20. Inside the Dark, Lucrative World of Consumer Debt Collection

“Siegel struck out on his own, investing in distressed consumer debt — basically buying up the right to collect unpaid credit-card bills. When debtors stop paying those bills, the banks regard the balances as assets for 180 days. After that, they are of questionable worth. So banks ‘charge off’ the accounts, taking a loss, and other creditors act similarly. These huge, routine sell-offs have created a vast market for unpaid debts — not just credit-card debts but also auto loans, medical loans, gym fees, payday loans, overdue cellphone tabs, old utility bills, delinquent book-club accounts. The scale is breathtaking. From 2006 to 2009, for example, the nation’s top nine debt buyers purchased almost 90 million consumer accounts with more than $140 billion in ‘face value.’ And they bought at a steep discount. On average, they paid just 4.5 cents on the dollar. These debt buyers collect what they can and then sell the remaining accounts to other buyers, and so on. Those who trade in such debt call it ‘paper.’”

21. Should You Fear the Pizzly Bear?

“The creation story … begins during European colonization, when the Eastern wolf was hunted and poisoned out of existence in its native Northeast. A remnant population … migrated to Canada. At the same time, coyotes, native to the Great Plains, began pushing eastward and mated with the refugee wolves. Their descendants in turn bred with coyotes and dogs. The result has been a creature with enough strength to hunt the abundant woodland deer, which it followed into the recovering Eastern forests. Coywolves, or Eastern coyotes … have since pushed south to Virginia and east to Newfoundland. The Eastern coyote is a study in the balancing act required to survive as a medium-size predator in a landscape full of people. It can be as much as 40 percent larger than the Western coyote, with powerful wolflike jaws; it has also inherited the wolf’s more social nature, which allows for pack hunting. (In 2009, a pack of Eastern coyotes attacked and killed a 19-year-old Canadian folk singer named Taylor Mitchell in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia.) But it shares with coyotes, some 2,000 of which live within Chicago’s city limits, a remarkable ability to thrive in humanized landscapes.”

22. A Mother’s Journey Through the Unnerving Universe of ‘Unboxing’ Videos

“Unboxing is not so much a craze anymore as a genre — a manifestation of a new world of consumer expression.”

Sunday 8.10.2014 New York Times Digest


1. A Cathedral Under Siege

“That word, sacrilege, may sound a bit overblown — but only to the ear of someone who has never been afforded the chance to grasp, firsthand, what makes this place so utterly unique, a landscape without antecedent or analog. Although it is not the first, nor the largest, nor the most popular of America’s national parks, the Grand Canyon is nevertheless regarded as the touchstone and the centerpiece of the entire system. And rightly so. Because nowhere else has nature provided a more graphic display of its titanic indifference to the works and aspirations of man.”

2. 50 Years an Exile

“The very conditions under which we live incite us to insubordination.”

3. Living Like the Kardashians, via Smartphone

“In some ways, she may represent a new generation of celebrity entrepreneurs, those who don’t merely write checks or appear on billboards next to products, but who treat their own lifestyles as the products that fans will want to buy. The Kardashian game is marketed as an invitation to experience her world, even if only as a cartoon fantasy.”

4. Where Have All the Truckers Gone?

“Trucking companies are turning down business for want of workers.”

5. Download: Nina Hoss

“I’m not such a fan of the concept of social media, though I don’t have anything against it. I still love to call the people I want to be friends with.”

6. Britain’s Drinking Problem

“British history floats on a sea of booze.”

7. Hit the Reset Button in Your Brain

“The summer vacation is more than a quaint tradition. Along with family time, mealtime and weekends, it is an important way that we can make the most of our beautiful brains.”

8. Don’t Let Your Children Grow Up to Be Farmers

“The dirty secret of the food movement is that the much-celebrated small-scale farmer isn’t making a living.”

9. Swimming Against the Rising Tide

“How do we bridge the distance between our own seemingly insignificant lives and actions and the scale of climate change, so global and so slow?”

10. This Is Reform?

“If you separate off the 65 schools in the Big 5 conferences — plus a few others like Boise State in football and the University of Connecticut in basketball — and allow their athletic departments to become ever richer and more powerful, they will be more easily seen for what they are: a form of professionalized and commercialized entertainment that has very little to do with higher education.”

11. Screen Voices, Banished but Not Silenced

“Our past is preserved in our films, predicated on shared fantasies and projected larger than life.”

12. CrossFit Flirting: Talk Burpee to Me

“Perhaps more than disciples of any other type of exercise, people who participate in CrossFit can’t help being drawn to people who do the same.”

13. Facebook’s Change of Face

“Some people are taking to Twitter to bemoan a surfeit of foreign policy chatter on Facebook.”

14. Restoring Acadia’s Trails

“America experienced a naturalist revival in the late 1800s, a belated enlightenment inspired by the likes of Charles Darwin and Henry David Thoreau. Mountain tourism boomed in the Catskill and White Mountains, and walking became a required activity on weekend getaways. A decade after Thomas Cole and the Hudson River School painters returned from Mount Desert with plein-air paintings of the island, the first tourists arrived. And they wanted to walk.”

15. Garrison Keillor: By the Book

“Ecclesiastes tells you all you need to know about Minnesota. ‘Whoever increases knowledge increases sorrow.’ You can say that again. ‘The race is not to the swift nor the battle to the strong nor bread to the wise nor riches to men of understanding, but time and chance happeneth to them all.’ That’s got Minnesota down to a T. You run fast and you trip on a gopher hole, you are heavily armed and well trained and you shoot yourself in the foot, you’re so smart you go broke. ‘The thing that has been is the thing that shall be; and the thing that is done is that which shall be done: There is nothing new under the sun.’ This is the sum and substance of the prevailing philosophy in my state. The optimists among us are either running for public office or on strong medications; the rest of us are skeptical.”

16. The Interpretation of Freud

“From birth to death we are, every last one of us, divided against ourselves. We both want to grow up and don’t want to grow up; hunger for sexual pleasure, dread sexual pleasure; hate our own aggressions — our anger, our cruelty, our humiliations — yet these are derived from the grievances we are least willing to part with. The hope of achieving an integrated self is a vain one as we are equally divided about our own suffering; we do in fact love it and want — nay, intend — never to relinquish it.”

17. On the Record

“Even the keenest strategic minds are inevitably imprisoned in inherited frameworks of perception and understanding.”

18. You Mean It’s Not Dead?

“Schmidt, one deduces, sees the kind of literary criticism sponsored by the ­Anglo-American academy as blighted by restrictive field specialism and the critical monograph — by writing expertly about one thing. A withering exiguity of scope, he would argue. Fiction, for Schmidt, is a gestalt, a field whose vast totality gives meaning to its single elements. You must think big, he implies, if you want to think to any purpose.”

19. Winged Victories

“Despite the putrid menu vultures favor, their excrement is sterile. In fact, letting the waste run down their legs can clean off germs from the gore; it’s their version of freshening up with a moist towelette after a barbecue. Tiny bee hummingbirds are so small you could mail 16 of them for the price of a single stamp. Robins can navigate with the right eye alone, but not the left. Albatrosses, who spend 95 percent of their lives over open ocean, are thought to be able to shut down half their brains while continuing to fly at 40 m.p.h. For blackcap warblers, the direction of migration is clearly innate, so crossbreeding a group of blackcaps who flew south for fall migration with a group that oriented westward resulted in offspring who flew in a southwesterly direction. And if bird breakups are seen in human terms, flamingos’ behavior — their divorce rate is 99 percent — fits their flashy profile. Albatrosses, by contrast, really do hang in there for the long haul, staying together till death.”

20. How to Know When to Unfriend Someone

“We all spend so much time focusing on the outflow of our digital lives, but we should also focus on the inflow. I keep a tally in the Notes app on my iPhone: If I find that seven, eight or nine times out of 10 I see a status from someone that makes me feel jealous or insecure or uncomfortable or sad or frustrated or angry, I’ll unfriend them.”

21. The Brazilian Bus Magnate Who’s Buying Up All the World’s Vinyl Records

RECORD COLLECTIONS. We BUY any record collection. Any style of music. We pay HIGHER prices than anyone else.

22. Has the ‘Libertarian Moment’ Finally Arrived?

“Today, for perhaps the first time, the libertarian movement appears to have genuine political momentum on its side.”

23. Who Knows How This Column Will End?

“Endings are hard.”

Add Your Own Sauce

“I grew up in a subdivision in Baton Rouge. I had no connection to the business at all. But I felt like it’s going to happen to somebody. I was like an athlete who didn’t have any extraordinary skills, but had basic skills, but worked really hard. That was me. I’m a grinder. I’ll beat you because I will not sleep. Whenever I go and talk to aspiring filmmakers, I go, ‘Look, at the end of the day, I can talk about craft, whether you have a soul of an artist, I don’t know.’ Your take on things is what is either going to make you somebody we talk about or no. You have to have a take on shit. It’s got to be specific and engaging. We’re all standing on the shoulders of what other people have done. But you’re supposed to take that and add your own sauce.

Steven Soderbergh

Sunday 8.3.2014 New York Times Digest


1. The Squeeze on the Middlebrow

“In 1949, if you were eating avocado, you were most likely at an upper-middlebrow dinner party. Today, you are probably at Subway.”

2. How Facebook Sold You Krill Oil

“With its trove of knowledge about the likes, histories and social connections of its 1.3 billion users worldwide, Facebook executives argue, it can help advertisers reach exactly the right audience and measure the impact of their ads — while also, like TV, conveying a broad brand message.”

3. Jiminy Cricket! Bugs Could Be Next Food Craze

“There are, like, thousands of insects crawling over one another.”

4. Shattering Myths to Help the Climate

“Reducing CO2 emissions would actually be surprisingly easy.”

5. An Appeal to Our Inner Judge

“Every day, our biases determine what we see and how we judge those around us.”

6. How South Korea Enslaves Its Students

“Herded to various educational outlets and programs by parents, the average South Korean student works up to 13 hours a day, while the average high school student sleeps only 5.5 hours a night to ensure there is sufficient time for studying.”

7. Facebook’s Gateway Drug

“The goal of providing universal, affordable Internet access is a laudatory one. But there’s more to the nonprofit-tinged ‘’ agenda than meets the eye, and its subtext is indicative of a bigger problem with Silicon Valley ‘solutionism’ — the belief that the tech industry could and should solve all of life’s problems.”

8. Three Myths About the Brain

“Myths about the brain typically arise in this fashion: An intriguing experimental result generates a plausible if speculative interpretation (a small part of the lobe seems sufficient) that is later overextended or distorted (we use only 10 percent of our brain). The caricature ultimately infiltrates pop culture and takes on a life of its own, quite independent from the facts that spawned it.”

9. ‘Fury,’ Starring Brad Pitt, a Raw Look at Warfare

“American fighters were not saints.”

10. Delayed Zombification

“I was reading a lot of Jacques Derrida at the time, writing Beth. He actually talked about zombies. Zombies sort of typify this ambiguity, that they’re not dead and not alive.”

11. Sci-Fi Beats With a Pacific Flavor

“While outsiders might think the city’s hip-hop scene revolves around the ubiquitous white rapper Macklemore, the reality is more idiosyncratic and diverse. Shabazz Palaces are part of Black Constellation, a collective of visual artists (Maikoiyo Alley-Barnes, Nicholas Galanin and Nep Sidhu, who creates their stage clothing), fashion designers and musicians, including the rapper OCnotes and the avant-R&B duo THEESatisfaction, who host a series of parties called Black Weirdo in Seattle, Toronto, New York and Minneapolis.”

12. Tell Me What You See, Even if It Hurts Me

“People at my school and camp say I’m the most ugliest person they’ve ever seen and I could be the ugliest person that could ever be living. Be honest and tell me if I am ugly or not. I can take it, but please don’t say really mean stuff.”

13. Immortal Beloved

“Swafford repeatedly points out the way Beethoven cunningly derived pieces from a single, simple idea. This is not news — but it’s worth meditating on. Beethoven preferred musical ideas of almost unusable simplicity, things that seem pre-musical, or ur-musical, like chords, or scales — not music, but the stuff music is made of. Imagine a building constructed of blueprints, or a novel based on the word ‘the.’”

14. Mind Ablaze

“Poems and first paragraphs came to him with ‘every word in place, every comma, every period fixed.’ His synesthesia endowed sounds with colors; he had a prodigious memory and a seer’s empathy. In a span of 10 productive years, Crane wrote five novels, two books of poems, several classic stories and many journalistic sketches.”

15. Best Exotic Kingdom

“In Hollywood, she spurned Errol Flynn, whose plan for a film version of the original rajah’s exploits was, she decided, vastly inferior to her own. During her heyday, between the two world wars, she presided over a kingdom the size of England whose subjects greeted her arrival with 21-gun salutes and elaborate parades. Marooned in New York in 1941, with little to sustain her but hot dogs and gin, she was reduced to telling fortunes in a bar called Leon and Eddie’s, ‘where I was known as “Toots.”’”

16. War Comes to America

“The president could be secretive and manipulative. As it turned out, he also had better instincts than the military men who served him.”

17. Head Count

“The biggest problem with Malthusiasm, as Mayhew addresses at length, is that Malthus was wrong.”

18. Math

“We still need math.”

19. The Kids Who Beat Autism

“A small but reliable subset of children really do overcome autism.”