Sunday 11.23.2014 New York Times Digest

23lede2-articleLarge1. The Dark Side of Zootopia

“Whatever thrill is to be derived from staring at a captive tiger is quickly dispelled by the animal’s predicament. Awe gives way to abashment and then to a nearly inexpressible loneliness over being the only beast that does this to another. As such, any zoo, in whatever form, becomes not a demonstration of our prowess so much as a pathetically confused and protracted apology made to a series of wholly diminished and uninterested subjects.”

2. Download: John Mackey

“I don’t travel with the Vitamix because you’ll never get it through security because it’s got those blades. Trust me, I’ve tried it.”

3. Promiscuous College Come-Ons

“Ideally, colleges should want students whose interest in them is genuine, and students should be figuring out which colleges suit them best, not applying indiscriminately to schools that have encouraged that by making it as painless (and heedless) as possible.”

4. Studying for the Test by Taking It

“Tests should work for the student, not the other way around.”

5. Companions in Misery

“The ancient Stoics also proposed that we stop complaining, that we minimize negative emotions like sadness and anger in order to maximize joy, tranquillity and peace of mind. The former set will lead to a miserable life while the latter will lead to a good life ‘in accordance with nature.’ They believed that misery is rooted in trying to control things that are out of our hands (wealth, honors and reputation) instead of working on those things that we do have control over (desires, aversions and opinions).”

6. How to Defeat the Impulse Buy

“While feeling happy doesn’t do much to increase patience, feeling grateful does.”

7. Writing to the Beat

“I’ve always been fascinated by triplets — a series of three notes played in the time value of two notes — and prided myself in mastering the ability, as a drummer must, to divide my mind in half so that my right hand thinks in sets of threes while my left thinks in twos. We call it three-against-two. Of course, I did not invent the application of triplets to literature. In the world of words, the third time is also and often a charm. Have you noticed? ‘Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.’ ‘Sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll.’ ‘Truth, justice and the American way.’”

8. Up Next, a Classic Who Loves Old Films

“Hi, I’m Robert Osborne.”

9. Those Who Know Kanye, or Wish They Did

Here is what happens when Kanye West believes in you … Here is what happens when Kanye West indulges you … Here is what happens when Kanye West leans on you … Here is what happens when Kanye West feels protective of you … Here is what happens when Kanye West does not know you exist ….”

10. How to Find a Job With Meditation and Mindfulness

“There could not be two less compatible concepts: the quiet of the ancient practice of meditation and the heart thump of striving New Yorkers looking for the next opportunity. Now, meditation studios and conferences catering to Type A Manhattan careerists are becoming a new hub for networking without the crass obviousness of looking for a job.”

11. Crisis Negotiators Give Thanksgiving Tips

“How might a hostage negotiator help the average American family get through Thanksgiving?”

12. Jaden and Willow Smith on Prana Energy, Time and Why School is Overrated

“You piece it together. You piece together those little moments of inspiration.”

13. Fahrenheit 451, Read by Tim Robbins

“We seem to have forgotten what gives the novel its enduring, prophetic power. It is indeed a story about a world where books are outlawed and burned, but it is also a tale about the value of intellect, the importance of information and the singular, irreplaceable experience of reading books as books — as physical, palpable and precious objects.”

14. A Chosen Exile, by Allyson Hobbs

“Hobbs tells the curious story of the ­upper-class black couple Albert and Thyra Johnston. Married to Thyra in 1924, Albert graduated from medical school but couldn’t get a job as a black doctor, and passed as white in order to gain entry to a reputable hospital. His ruse worked and he and his wife became pillars of an all-white New Hampshire community. For 20 years, he was the town doctor and she was the center of the town’s social world. Their stately home served as the community hub, and there they raised their four children, who believed they were white. Then one day, when their eldest son made an off-the-cuff comment about a black student at his boarding school, Albert blurted out, ‘Well, you’re colored.’”

15. The Chain, by Ted Genoways

“A healthy, virtuous diet is still dependent on a work force vulnerable to wage theft, sexual harassment and even slavery in the fields.”

16. The Republic of Imagination, by Azar Nafisi

The Republic of Imagination bills itself as an exploration of American culture and values through the careful examination of three works of literature: Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn, Sinclair Lewis’s Babbitt and Carson McCullers’s The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter. (There is also an epilogue that focuses on James Baldwin, which might be seen as a nod to diversity, though Nafisi explicitly disclaims any tendency toward ‘political correctness.’) She hopes to use these literary works to demonstrate certain ideas she has about the American mind, the American way of life and American writing in general. She also intends to put forward a larger theory about the function of literature in relation to society — its enduring importance and meaning within any culture.”

17. How Disney Turned Frozen Into a Cash Cow

“In January, Frozen wedding dresses go on sale for $1,200.”

18. The Secret Life of Passwords

“There is more to passwords than their annoyance. In our authorship of them, in the fact that we construct them so that we (and only we) will remember them, they take on secret lives. Many of our passwords are suffused with pathos, mischief, sometimes even poetry. Often they have rich back stories. A motivational mantra, a swipe at the boss, a hidden shrine to a lost love, an inside joke with ourselves, a defining emotional scar — these keepsake passwords, as I came to call them, are like tchotchkes of our inner lives. They derive from anything: Scripture, horoscopes, nicknames, lyrics, book passages. Like a tattoo on a private part of the body, they tend to be intimate, compact and expressive.”

Creative Process

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by Christoph Niemann

Sunday 11.16.2014 New York Times Digest

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1. The Death of the Private Eye

“In an age when GPS tracking, oversharing and 8 Signs Your Man Is Cheating listicles make their services unnecessary, the old-school gumshoe feels as irrelevant as Sherlock Holmes and Miss Marple felt a generation before. All P.I. stories are now period pieces.”

2. More Federal Agencies Are Using Undercover Operations

“Undercover work has become common enough that undercover agents sometimes find themselves investigating a supposed criminal who turns out to be someone from a different agency.”

3. No. 1 With a Bullet: ‘Nadeshot’ Becomes a Call of Duty Star

“Three years ago, he was flipping burgers at McDonald’s. Today Mr. Haag, 22, skinny and blindingly pale, makes his living playing Call of Duty, a popular series of war games where players run around trying to shoot one another.”

4. Applications by the Dozen, as Anxious Seniors Hedge College Bets

“10 applications is now commonplace; 20 is taking on a familiar ring; even 30 is not beyond imagining.”

5. How Can Community Colleges Get a Piece of the Billions That Donors Give to Higher Education?

“Educational institutions and services remain the second biggest beneficiaries of philanthropy in the country, after religious organizations, but little of the money flows to community colleges, the mostly public institutions that now enroll 45 percent of the country’s undergraduates, most of them poor or working-class and many of them requiring extensive remedial learning.”

6. Living Out Knicks Dream, Complete With Nightmares

“I think there’s a metaphor between what’s happening with the team and what’s happening in my own life.”

7. Another Widening Gap: The Haves vs. the Have-Mores

“The wealthy now have a wealth gap of their own, as economic gains become more highly concentrated at the very top. As the top one-hundredth of the 1 percent pulls away from the rest of that group, the superrich are leaving the merely very rich behind. That has created two markets in the upper reaches of the economy: one for the haves and one for the have-mores.”

8. Mishandling Rape

“Our strategy for dealing with rape on college campuses has failed abysmally.”

9. When Whites Just Don’t Get It, Part 4

“Centuries of racial subjugation still shape inequity in the 21st century.”

10. The Civil War’s Environmental Impact

“This was an environmental catastrophe of the first magnitude, with effects that endured long after the guns were silenced. It could be argued that they have never ended.”

11. On Smushing Bugs

“It’s impossible even to live and move through this world without killing something.”

12. On Elite Campuses, an Arts Race

“Elite campuses across the country have emerged from the recession riding a multibillion-dollar wave of architecturally ambitious arts facilities, even as community arts programs struggle against public indifference.”

13. Claire Prentice’s ‘Lost Tribe of Coney Island’

“Prentice brings to life a shocking story of exploitation and degradation that should not be forgotten.”

14. ‘Thrown,’ by Kerry Howley

Thrown is compulsively readable, informative, hilarious and partly true. It is also a ferocious dissection of the essence of the spectator.”

15. The Internet and the Mind

“Why do we turn to digital devices to alleviate time pressure and yet blame them for driving it?”

16. What an Uncensored Letter to M.L.K. Reveals

“Today it is almost impossible to imagine the press refusing a juicy story. To a scandal-hungry media, the bedroom practices of our public officials and moral leaders are usually fair game. And a sex scandal is often — though not always — a cheap one-way ticket out of public life. Faced with today’s political environment, perhaps King would have made different decisions in his personal affairs. Perhaps, though, he never would have had the chance to emerge as the public leader he ultimately became.”

17. The Ice-Bucket Racket

“We hate being asked for money, yet we give generously when we are.”

18. Welcome to the Failure Age!

“An age of constant invention naturally begets one of constant failure. The life span of an innovation, in fact, has never been shorter. An African hand ax from 285,000 years ago, for instance, was essentially identical to those made some 250,000 years later. The Sumerians believed that the hoe was invented by a godlike figure named Enlil a few thousand years before Jesus, but a similar tool was being used a thousand years after his death. During the Middle Ages, amid major advances in agriculture, warfare and building technology, the failure loop closed to less than a century. During the Enlightenment and early Industrial Revolution, it was reduced to about a lifetime. By the 20th century, it could be measured in decades. Today, it is best measured in years and, for some products, even less.”

19. Virtual Reality Fails Its Way to Success

“All hail: the Oculus Rift doesn’t make you vomit.”

20. In Defense of Technology

“To believe in progress is not only to believe in the future: It is also to usher in the possibility that the past wasn’t all that. I now feel — and this is a revelation — that my past was an interesting and quite fallow period spent waiting for the Internet. At home, I’ll continue to cause a festival of eye-rolling with my notion that some values were preserved by the low-tech environment, but, more generally speaking, life has just gotten better and better.”

21. Old Books, New Thoughts

“The novel had me lost the entire process. The beginning only revealed itself at the end. Very frustrating to find yourself having to start at the beginning again, but that’s how this writing game is. Rarely anything linear about it. In the end I handed the book to my editor convinced that what I had written was a colossal failure. I spent the next eight months demoralized about the 11 years I had wasted on the book.”

Law of Two

The Towering Inferno (1974) was made by two studios, has two stars, was lensed by two cinematographers, was based on two separate books (one of which was written by two people), and directed by two directors.

inferno

Sunday 11.9.2014 New York Times Digest

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1. Living Life Secondhand

“Will cyberspace sidetrack us from not only outdoor but direct experience?”

2. Paternity Leave: The Rewards and the Remaining Stigma

“Taking time off for family obligations, including paternity leave, could have long-term negative effects on a man’s career — like lower pay or being passed over for promotions.”

3. Wearing Your Failures on Your Sleeve

“Failure is emerging as a badge of honor among some Silicon Valley start-ups, as entrepreneurs publicly trumpet how they have faced adversity head-on.”

4. On LinkedIn, a Reference List You Didn’t Write

“The legislators who enacted the Fair Credit Reporting Act of 1970 did not anticipate social media. They were concerned about protecting consumers who might be unfairly denied a mortgage, a rental apartment or a job because of incorrect credit histories. Among other things, the law requires companies called consumer reporting agencies — which compile and share consumers’ information with third parties for pre-employment background screening — to make sure that their reports are as accurate as possible. Customers of those agencies must also inform a consumer if he or she is being denied a job based on information in those reports. Today, it is standard practice for employers and job recruiters themselves to scour social media to identify job candidates. But the situation becomes more complicated when they hire outside firms to compile reports on potential employees.”

5. Republicans and the Puzzle of Uber

“In practice, it’s not clear Republicans are any more pro-market than Democrats when it comes to business regulation.”

6. Prehistory’s Brilliant Future

“Here we are, in the age of the microchip and the Mars explorer, and yet some of our most exciting and extraordinary scientific discoveries are extinct species in Earth’s fossil record.”

7. For Millennials, the End of the TV Viewing Party

“The television set has started to look at best like a luxury, if not an irrelevance, in the eyes of many members of the wired generation, who have moved past the ‘cord-cutter’ stage, in which they get rid of cable, to getting rid of their TV sets entirely.”

8. The Life of a Pot Critic: Clean, With Citrus Notes

“We have a restaurant critic and wine reviewers. We have an award-winning craft beer blog. From that logic you do need a pot critic — and maybe a few of them.”

9. On Twitter and Instagram, Hiding in Plain E-Sight

“Even though we know that posting a comment to the Internet is akin to broadcasting it publicly, we don’t take into consideration each and every person who may be seeing our hastily thumb-typed communication. Almost any action we take on social media, even tapping a screen twice to form a thumbs-up or heart, is a time-stamped signpost that we were paying attention to at least some of our smartphone communication.”

10. With Some Dating Apps: Less Casual Sex Than Casual Text

“More and more technophilic and commitment-phobic millennials are shying away from physical encounters and supplanting them with the emotional gratification of virtual quasi relationships, flirting via their phones and computers with no intention of ever meeting their romantic quarry: less casual sex than casual text.”

11. ‘The Glass Cage,’ by Nicholas Carr

“For all its ­miraculous-seeming benefits, automation also can and often does impair our mental and physical skills, cause dreadful mistakes and accidents, particularly in medicine and aviation, and threaten to turn the algorithms we create as servants into our mindless masters — what sci-fi movies have been warning us about for at least two or three decades now.”

12. Naomi Klein’s ‘This Changes Everything’

“Klein, Monbiot and Bill McKibben all insist that we cannot avert the ecological disaster that confronts us without loosening the grip of that superannuated zombie ideology. That philosophy — ­neoliberalism — promotes a high-consumption, ­carbon-hungry system. Neoliberalism has encouraged mega-mergers, trade agreements hostile to environmental and labor regulations, and global hypermobility, enabling a corporation like Exxon to make, as McKibben has noted, ‘more money last year than any company in the history of money.’”

13. Atul Gawande’s ‘Being Mortal’

“Medical professionals are the ones who are largely in control of how we spend our ‘waning days,’ he writes, yet they are focused on disease, not on living.”

14. ‘Empire of Sin,’ by Gary Krist

“The first American metropolis to build an opera house, New Orleans was, Krist writes, ‘the last to build a sewerage system.’”

15. Losing Our Way,’ by Bob Herbert

“The simple truth is that bridges fall down because of an unwillingness to spend the money that is necessary to build them properly and keep them in good repair.”

16. ‘Censors at Work,’ by Robert Darnton

“There are two possible ways of looking at censorship, he says: a narrow one, concentrating exclusively on the censors’ strategies, and another, more generous one that considers literature ‘as a cultural system embedded in a social order.’”

17. A Manual for Life

“The Handbook for Boys expresses the best of the American ethos as it was at the middle of the 20th century, unparalleled for its brilliance of pedagogy and its uncompromising declaration of democratic ideals.”

18. As a Writer, What Influences You Other Than Books?

“From my fellow bakers, those yeasty intellectuals, I learned about industry and cohesion and the moral obligation to be cheerful. The last lesson was the most important, and extended out of the bakery and into life. If you’re depressed, maimed, crocked in some way, fair enough — let us know. But if not, then in the name of humanity stop moaning. Keep a lightness about you, a readiness. Preserve the digestions of your co-workers; spare them your mutterings and vibings. It’s highly nonliterary, but there we are: Be nice.”

19. How One Lawyer’s Crusade Could Change Football Forever

“What if the template for football’s future is not the fate of boxing but rather that of the tobacco industry? The parallels, of course, are not perfect. But tobacco, like football, was once deeply embedded in the American economy, culture and mythology. Its history, in fact, is inseparable from that of the nation itself. The first crop was planted by an early settler in Jamestown, John Rolfe (also known as the husband of Pocahontas), and it quickly became Virginia’s largest export and a primary impetus for the growth of slavery through much of the South. Cigarette smoking surged at the beginning of the 20th century, and into the mid-1970s, about 40 percent of American adults were smokers, and they could smoke everywhere they wanted — in restaurants, on buses and airplanes, in workplaces and college classrooms, in their cars with the windows up and their children in the passenger seats.”

20. The Unbelievable Skepticism of the Amazing Randi

“For almost 60 years, he has been offering up a cash reward to anyone who could demonstrate scientific evidence of paranormal activity, and no one had ever received a single penny.”

Sunday 11.2.2014 New York Times Digest

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1. A Natural Fix for A.D.H.D.

“People with A.D.H.D. may not have a disease, so much as a set of behavioral traits that don’t match the expectations of our contemporary culture.”

2. Even Brutes Can Learn to Cry

“I think it went pretty well considering that these things were new to me. I did not have experience with acting, and I did not have experience with crushing a man’s face with my hands.”

3. That Devil on Your Shoulder Likes to Sleep In

“A person’s ability to self-regulate declines as the day wears on, increasing the likelihood of cheating, lying or committing fraud.”

4. There Is No ‘Healthy’ Microbiome

“We cling to the desire for simple panaceas that will bestow good health with minimal effort. But biology is rarely that charitable. So we need to learn how tweaking our diets, lifestyles and environments can nudge and shape the ecosystems in our bodies. And we need ways of regularly monitoring a person’s microbiome to understand how its members flicker over time, and whether certain communities are more steadfast than others.”

5. The ‘Kind of, Sort of’ Era

“Our language is reflecting modern life.”

6. How Uber Is Changing Night Life in Los Angeles

“Mr. O’Connell is part of a growing contingent of urbanites who have made Ubering (it’s as much a verb as ‘Googling’) an indispensable part of their day and especially their night life. Untethered from their vehicles, Angelenos are suddenly free to drink, party and walk places. Even as their business models are evolving, these ride-sharing services, which include Lyft, Sidecar and others, have upended the social habits of the area, and rallied its residents to be more peripatetic.”

7. The Political Power Watch Stops Ticking

“Most office holders, in the United States anyway, seem unwilling to risk C.E.O.-level timepieces that were once the birthright of the ruling class.”

8. Bruce Springsteen: By the Book

“I just finished Moby-Dick, which scared me off for a long time due to the hype of its difficulty. I found it to be a beautiful boy’s adventure story and not that difficult to read. Warning: You will learn more about whales than you have ever wished to know. On the other hand, I never wanted it to end.”

9. The Nazis Next Door

“We welcomed approximately 10,000 Nazis, some of whom had played pivotal roles in the genocide.”

10. Take Notes From the Pros

“The real value of note-taking is not so much in the taking as in the having.”

11. A Conversation With Goucher’s New President

“Universities were created at a time when knowledge was scarce. Now knowledge is available everywhere. So If what faculty do is profess to students, their relative value has diminished. If we’re going to stay in business, we’re going to have to offer something of value that people will pay for, something that no one else does. The most important thing is that students are actively learning in your class, that they have a reason to go. If they can get the same experience online for free, we’re all going to be out of business.”

12. Demystifying the MOOC

“The average student in a MOOC is not a Turkish villager with no other access to higher education but a young white American man with a bachelor’s degree and a full-time job.”

13. The Astonishing Weaponry of Dung Beetles

“Chance mutations lead to increasingly grotesque or extreme armaments, which beat opponents with smaller weapons. And in doing so, these beetles secure opportunities to breed. Their progeny, as impressive in their weapons as their parents, quickly replace earlier forms and advance the population another notch in weapon size. As this process repeats itself, it pushes the population still further on the path to the extreme.”

14. Bernard Hopkins, Boxing’s Oldest – and Most Cunning – Champion

“Unlike most other boxers, who train down to their fighting weight only when they have a bout coming up, Hopkins keeps himself right around the 175-pound light-heavyweight limit. Fight people marvel at the ascetic rigor that has kept him perpetually in superb shape for almost three decades, his habit of returning to the gym first thing Monday morning after a Saturday-night fight, the list of pleasurable things he won’t eat, drink or do. But to fetishize the no-nonsense perfection of his body, which displays none of the extraneous defined muscular bulk that impresses fans but doesn’t help win fights, is to miss what makes Hopkins an exemplar of sustaining and extending powers that are supposed to be in natural decline. He has no peer in the ability to strategize both the round-by-round conduct of a fight and also the shifts and adjustments entailed by an astonishingly long career in the hurt business. He has kept his body supple and fit enough to obey his fighting mind, but it’s the continuing suppleness of that mind, as he strategizes, that has always constituted his principal advantage. Opponents don’t worry about facing his speed or power. They fear what’s going on in his head.”

15. The Exacting, Expansive Mind of Christopher Nolan

“Nolan’s own look accords with his strict regimen of optimal resource allocation and flexibility: He long ago decided it was a waste of energy to choose anew what to wear each day, and the clubbable but muted uniform on which he settled splits the difference between the demands of an executive suite and a tundra. The ensemble is smart with a hint of frowzy, a dark, narrow-lapeled jacket over a blue dress shirt with a lightly fraying collar, plus durable black trousers over scuffed, sensible shoes. In colder weather, Nolan outfits himself with a fitted herringbone waistcoat, the bottom button left open. A pair of woven periwinkle cuff links and rather garish striped socks represent his only concessions to whimsy or sentimentality; they have about them the sweet, gestural, last-minute air of Father’s Day presents.”

16. A Hotel Room of One’s Own

“In a perfect world, everybody would have a hotel room of one’s own. It could be treated, in the Virginia Woolf mode, as a matter of personal freedom. It needs to be somewhere you can call your own, a place that appeals to an idealized version of yourself.”

Video

Fast & Furious 7