Werner Herzog on Los Angeles

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“What I like about Los Angeles is that it allows everyone to live his or her own lifestyle. Drive around the hills and you find a Moorish castle next to a Swiss chalet sitting beside a house shaped like a UFO. There is a lot of creative energy in Los Angeles not channelled into the film business. Florence and Venice have great surface beauty, but as cities they feel like museums, whereas for me Los Angeles is the city in America with the most substance, even if it’s raw, uncouth and sometimes quite bizarre. Wherever you look is an immense depth, a tumult that resonates with me. New York is more concerned with finance than anything else. It doesn’t create culture, only consumes it; most of what you find in New York comes from elsewhere. Things actually get done in Los Angeles. Look beyond the glitz and glamour of Hollywood and a wild excitement of intense dreams opens up; it has more horizons than any other place. There is a great deal of industry in the city and a real working class; I also appreciate the vibrant presence of the Mexicans. In the last half century every significant cultural and technical trend has emerged from California, including the Free Speech Movement and the acceptance of gays and lesbians as an integral part of a dignified society, computers and the Internet, and—thanks to Hollywood—the collective dreams of the entire world. A fascinating density of things exists there like nowhere else in the world. Muslim fundamentalism is probably the only contemporary mass movement that wasn’t born there. One reason I’m so comfortable in Los Angeles is that Hollywood doesn’t need me and I don’t need Hollywood.”

Werner Herzog

Previously: Geoff Manaugh, Michael Maltzan, and Harlan Ellison on Los Angeles.

Sunday 06.28.2015 New York Times Digest

Triangle Offense
1. The Obtuse Triangle

“The system is basketball’s Gödel, Escher, Bach, renowned for being highbrow and difficult to understand. Yet trying to get through an abstruse book about the essence of cognition is one thing; that basketball could be over our heads is somehow harder to take.”

2. ISIS and the Lonely Young American

“Even though the Islamic State’s ideology is explicitly at odds with the West, the group is making a relentless effort to recruit Westerners into its ranks, eager to exploit them for their outsize propaganda value. Through January this year, at least 100 Americans were thought to have traveled to join jihadists in Syria and Iraq, among nearly 4,000 Westerners who had done so.”

3. Straddling Old and New, a South Where ‘a Flag Is Not Worth a Job’

“The South is uniquely burdened. But the problem is fundamentally American.”

4. The Bronx Zoo’s Loneliest Elephant

“Is it right to keep intelligent and behaviorally complex animals like elephants in captivity?”

5. The Mouth Is Mightier Than the Pen

“New research shows that text-based communications may make individuals sound less intelligent and employable than when the same information is communicated orally. The findings imply that old-fashioned phone conversations or in-person visits may be more effective when trying to impress a prospective employer or, perhaps, close a deal.”

6. Regulating Sex

“The more casual sex becomes, the more we demand that our institutions and government police the line between what’s consensual and what isn’t.”

7. Maiden Names, on the Rise Again

“For many women, sociologists say, keeping their maiden names has lost its significance in defining their independence and its symbolism as a feminist act.”

8. Marilyn Minter: Pretty/Dirty

“Excommunicated from the art world in the early ’90s for her cheerful paintings of hard-core pornography — Minter said feminists accused her of sexism — today she shows her work at the Venice Biennale; she’s collected by the Guggenheim and Jay Z and is a godmother to a new generation of artists experimenting with what she calls ‘the feminine grotesque.’”

9. The Female Gaze

“Young women are pushing back at content policies on social media sites, protesting that the routine removal of images considered to be too ‘mature’ or ‘obscene’ is just another example of how women’s bodies are subject to scrutiny and policing.”

10. The Joy of (Just the Right Amount of) Sex

“Increasing the frequency of intercourse from once a month to once a week increased happiness to the same extent as having an additional $50,000 in the bank.”

11. Tell It About Your Mother

“If the great psychologists of the past were still alive today, including Sigmund Freud, I have no question that they would be using these tools to understand the brain basis for what we observe in the consulting rooms.”

12. Can the Bacteria in Your Gut Explain Your Mood?

“Micro-organisms in our gut secrete a profound number of chemicals, and researchers … have found that among those chemicals are the same substances used by our neurons to communicate and regulate mood, like dopamine, serotonin and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). These, in turn, appear to play a function in intestinal disorders, which coincide with high levels of major depression and anxiety.”

13. Confessions of a Seduction Addict

“If the man was already involved in a committed relationship, I knew that I didn’t need to be prettier or better than his existing girlfriend; I just needed to be different. (The novel doesn’t always win out over the familiar, mind you, but it often does.) The trick was to study the other woman and to become her opposite, thereby positioning myself to this man as a sparkling alternative to his regular life.”

14. The Town Shrink

“Fullilove increasingly came to see cities as ecosystems, with streams and channels, one flowing unseen into the next, disruptions wreaking havoc, threatening vitality everywhere.”

15. ‘I Don’t Believe in God, but I Believe in Lithium’

“After a few months off lithium, I felt energetic, engaged, even electric. It’s hard to know if that feeling was just a ramping up toward mania again or if it was the lifting of a lithium fog. But this is what ended up happening: I turned down jobs and burned all professional bridges with sharp and illogical emails, many of them referring to Eminem; I kept a stash of homemade granola in my pocket to hand out to anyone who would accept a stranger’s dirty pocket granola; I developed an alter ego, a rapper named Jamya; I painted my face with spectacular green-and-gold eye shadow; I was kicked out of a bar without even drinking; I stood on my head every morning; my apartment burned down; I served as the sole witness to a stranger’s wedding on top of the World Trade Center; I wore 800 necklaces and spoke in a slow growl or sometimes a high-pitched squeal; I saved a corgi from being hit by a cab on Central Park West (on which occasion Ben Vereen stopped to call a dog ambulance); I spoke to strangers with the intensity of a car salesman stuck in a Mamet monologue; I preached about Jesus wherever I went, which for a Jew is unusual; I spent almost $700 on butternut squash and assorted seasonal gourds. My clothes smelled of fire, from the burned-out apartment. I scared the scary people on the subway. All that took place over two weeks, maybe three, as I made my way back and forth between Los Angeles and New York.”

Sunday 06.21.2015 New York Times Digest

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1. Why Grow Up? by Susan Neiman

“In infancy, we have no choice but to accept the world as it is. In adolescence, we rebel against the discrepancy between the ‘is’ and the ‘ought.’ Adulthood, for Kant and for Neiman, ‘requires facing squarely the fact that you will never get the world you want, while refusing to talk yourself out of wanting it.’ It is a state of neither easy cynicism nor naïve idealism, but of engaged reasonableness.”

2. Oh, to Be Young, Millennial, and So Wanted by Marketers

“Not since the baby boomers came of age has a generation been the target of such fixation.”

3. Around the Globe, a Desperate Flight From Turmoil

“Nearly 60 million people are displaced around the world because of conflict
and persecution, the largest number ever recorded by the United Nations.”

4. Radio D.J.s Offer Comfort and Community After Charleston Church Killings

“Across the country, many local stations with primarily black audiences — known as urban radio, playing mostly soul, rap, R&B and gospel — put the music largely aside in favor of discussing the Charleston killings. In trying to make sense of the shootings, seen by many as a hate crime, stations used their traditional medium to relay the latest news and act as a community sounding board. They took calls from listeners, channeling their shock, grief, anger and distress. And they altered their playlists to reflect the somber mood.”

5. For the New Superrich, Life Is Much More Than a Beach

“The new rich have developed their own annual migration pattern. While the wealthy of the past traveled mainly for leisure and climate — the ocean breezes of New England in the summer and the sunny golf greens of Palm Beach in winter — today’s rich crisscross the globe almost monthly in search of access, entertainment and intellectual status. Traveling in flocks of private G5 and Citation jets, they have created a new social calendar of economic conferences, entertainment events, exclusive parties and art auctions. And in the separate nation of the rich, citizens no longer speak in terms of countries. They simply say, ‘We’ll see you at Art Basel.’”

6. No Time to Be Nice at Work

“How we believe others see us shapes who we are. We ride a wave of pride or get swallowed in a sea of embarrassment based on brief interactions that signal respect or disrespect. Individuals feel valued and powerful when respected. Civility lifts people. Incivility holds people down. It makes people feel small.”

7. Can Wikipedia Survive?

“The pool of potential Wikipedia editors could dry up as the number of mobile users keeps growing; it’s simply too hard to manipulate complex code on a tiny screen.”

8. What Is Whiteness?

“We don’t know the history of whiteness, and therefore are ignorant of the many ways it has changed over the years. If you investigate that history, you’ll see that white identity has been no more stable than black identity.”

9. Pope Francis’ Call to Action Goes Beyond the Environment

“Reading Laudato Si’ simply as a case for taking climate change seriously misses the depth of its critique — which extends to the whole ‘technological paradigm’ of our civilization, all the ways (economic and cultural) that we live now.”

10. Nina Simone’s Time Is Now, Again

“Every generation has to discover Nina Simone. She is evidence that female genius is real.”

11. Clues to the Mood for ‘True Detective,’ Season 2, on HBO

“Here are four things to watch, listen to and read to get in the appropriate mind space.”

12. Turning to a Ghostwriter for a Personal Toast

“Then Mr. Ruggiero had an idea: Maybe he could hire someone to help script his remarks.”

13. Keep It Fake, by Eric G. Wilson

“Wilson adopted a more self-consciously performative role in all of his relationships, and he found that rather than feeling what we might fear for him — a kind of disjunctive distance from himself and others — his social life, his love life and his depression all improved. It wasn’t just ‘fake it till you make it.’ He had to be more intelligent than that; he had to recognize his strengths and weaknesses, and be willing to actively cultivate those habits that contributed to his particular flourishing in the many different roles he had to perform. Like any good actor, he had to play to his strengths.”

14. Is Self-Loathing a Requirement for Writers?

“The aggrieved writer’s immortal longings represent, finally, a loathing not of the self but of the human condition, a desire to thwart the tragic fact of death. Writing has always offered a particularly good means of doing that. Books are extremely durable and, in their wide distribution, less vulnerable to toppling than most of Ozymandias’ works. Carefully wrought and revised, they can say exactly what the writer wishes — a special boon to the creature seeking to ‘get back his own.’ The writer need never suffer from staircase wit; his books keep him forever in the room, striking his opponents dumb.”

15. Identification, Please

“Even the simplest of field guides are far from transparent windows onto nature: You have to learn how to read them against the messiness of reality. Out in the field, birds and insects are often seen briefly, at a distance, in low light or half-obscured by foliage; they do not resemble the tabular arrangements of paintings in guides, where similar species are brought together on a plain background on the same page, all facing one way and bathed in bright, shadowless light so they may be easily compared. To use field guides successfully, you must learn to ask the right questions of the living organism in front of you: Assess its size and habitat, disassemble it into relevant details (tail length, leg length, particular patterns of wing cases or scales or plumage), check each against images of similar species, read the accompanying text, squint at tiny maps showing the animal’s usual geographical range, then look back to the image again, refining your identification until you have fixed it to your satisfaction.”

16. Comedy Central in the Post-TV Era

“The network, owned by the media conglomerate Viacom, is trying to adapt to trends that have changed the television business irrevocably since Stewart began hosting ‘The Daily Show’ in 1999, and the program sits at the center of thorny questions about how best to face the future. Contemporary news cycles can seem to comprise nanoseconds and to unfold as much on social media as anywhere else. And viewers — especially the younger ones Comedy Central wants in its cross hairs — slip elusively among smartphone apps, Xbox consoles, YouTube windows, Apple TVs, bootleg streaming portals, Roku units, Hulu pages, Netflix accounts, Amazon interfaces, torrent clients and, if they even own them, cable boxes. Any traditional media institution faces a version of this challenge, but Comedy Central’s quandary is almost paradoxically acute: What does a television network do when its bread-and-butter demographic — young, piracy-fluent, glued to phones — stops watching television?”

17. Better Judgment

“Judges rarely change their minds. They often feel they can’t. When they put on their robes, they wrap themselves in a mythos of authority and certainty. They’re supposed to be distant, neutral and wise. They’re supposed to have all the answers.”

Sunday 06.14.2015 New York Times Digest

L.A. Homeless
1. Los Angeles Confronts a Spike in Homelessness Amid Prosperity

“The homeless census … put the official homeless population for Los Angeles County, which includes the city of Los Angeles, at 44,359.”

2. Cap and Gown

“You will always regret taking a half swing, I promise. You will never regret taking a full swing. If you’re going to strike out, you go down swinging — not by watching the pitch go by.”

3. Gawker’s Moment of Truth

“Before you can think about it too much, just put it out there, just share it out there. I think that’s the essence of who we are.”

4. Fossil Fuel Divestment Movement Harnesses the Power of Shame

“Divestment in itself is neither here nor there. On its own, it’s not going to generate any real impact.”

5. It’s Not Just About Bad Choices

“This is a really difficult conversation because you very quickly can end up in the corner of blaming the poor for poverty, and that’s not the message I’ve been telling. Rather, it’s circumstances that can land you in a situation where it’s really hard to make a good decision because you’re so stressed out. And the ones you get wrong matter much more, because there’s less slack to play with.”

6. How to Make Online Dating Work

“If you are a woman, take a high-angle selfie, with cleavage, while you’re underwater near some buried treasure. If you are a guy, take a shot of yourself spelunking in a dark cave while holding your puppy and looking away from the camera, without smiling.”

7. Mow the Lawn

“I’ve grown suspicious of the inspirational. It’s overrated. I suspect duty — that half-forgotten word — may be more related to happiness than we think. Want to be happy? Mow the lawn. Collect the dead leaves. Paint the room. Do the dishes. Get a job. Labor until fatigue is in your very bones. Persist day after day. Be stoical. Never whine. Think less about the why of what you do than getting it done. Get the column written. Start pondering the next.”

8. Brothers of The Wolfpack Step Out of Their World

“It wasn’t until half a year later that Ms. Moselle learned why the brothers were such avid film fans: They had spent most of their lives indoors, cloistered in a four-bedroom, 16th-floor apartment in a public housing complex on the Lower East Side. Since moving into the apartment with his wife, Susanne, and their growing brood in the mid-90s, their father, Oscar, fearful of drugs and crime in the city, had forbidden his family from freely venturing out.”

9. Dope Revisits the ‘Hood, With Joy and Wit

Dope, opening on June 19, is a sort of photonegative of those films, keeping their structure while upending their conventions — almost a Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead approach to that era. Winks to those films are sprinkled throughout Dope, but the harshness of that era, and its reliance on gangster narratives, is largely replaced with joy and wit.”

10. Goodfellas, 25 Years On: Cast Members Reminisce

“After production, I felt guilty about it for about six months. My image of myself is artist, painter, poet, sculptor, thinker, author. What am I really? Am I a killer? It bothered me. It unsettled me. Then I came to the conclusion, I rationalized, if this isn’t in all of us, how does the military of any country inculcate a killing drive into soldiers, to go confront people [toward] which they have no natural animus and kill them? I was in the Army, I know it’s possible. They dig that out of you. That’s how I got out of it.”

11. Nintendo 64s and Vintage PlayStations as Home Décor

“The tech detritus of the 1980s and ’90s is finding a second life as a new generation of artists, designers and geek-nostalgists is repurposing the early-digital-era flotsam of its youth as art, home décor and jewelry, along with plenty of irony-laced kitsch.”

12. The Aspirational R.S.V.P.: Saying Yes When You Mean No

“Reservations-making without commitment is the apotheosis of digital glibness.”

13. The Dorito Effect, by Mark Schatzker

“Over the last 70 years, American animal and plant breeding has focused on yield, pest resistance and appearance — not flavor.”

14. See and Be Seen

“Acting as a mask that fuses with the features, glasses serve as a spotlight or a proscenium arch or a stage for the soul in the theater of everyday life. The bespectacled face asks the world to see it a certain way by telling the world something about how it is seen.”

15. Scott Walker and the Fate of the Union

“After contract negotiations with the Federal Aviation Administration failed, the members of the union voted to strike, violating an oath signed by federal employees. Reagan was unsympathetic. After 48 hours, he invoked a provision of Taft-­Hartley and not only fired more than 11,000 air traffic controllers, but also had them permanently replaced. The union’s strike fund was frozen, many of its local leaders were imprisoned and, until 1993, the former strikers were banned from the Civil Service. Since Reagan broke that union, the number of large-scale strikes begun in a given year in the United States has fallen to 11 (last year) from 145 (in 1981). In 2014, only 11 percent of all American workers and 7 percent of private-­sector workers belonged to a union.”

16. Michael Wolff Thinks We Could All Learn From Fox News

“Everybody in print media says that digital is the future. I think that if those mooks are saying, ‘Digital is the future,’ that would be a fairly strong indication that digital is probably not the future.”

Sunday 06.07.2015 New York Times Digest


California Dreamin'1. California Farmers Dig Deeper for Water, Sipping Their Neighbors Dry

“It’s about survival. Everybody is pulling water out of the ground.”

2. Transgender Children’s Books Fill a Void and Break a Taboo

“A few years ago, gender fluidity was rarely addressed in children’s and young adult fiction. It remained one of the last taboos in a publishing category that had already taken on difficult issues like suicide, drug abuse, rape and sex trafficking. But children’s literature is catching up to the broader culture.”

3. What Makes a Woman?

“As the movement becomes mainstream, it’s growing harder to avoid asking pointed questions about the frequent attacks by some trans leaders on women’s right to define ourselves, our discourse and our bodies. After all, the trans movement isn’t simply echoing African-Americans, Chicanos, gays or women by demanding an end to the violence and discrimination, and to be treated with a full measure of respect. It’s demanding that women reconceptualize ourselves.”

4. The Deadly Combination of Heat and Humidity

“Carrying on this way through the 22nd century locks in a trajectory where summer outdoor conditions could become physiologically intolerable for humans and livestock in the eastern United States — and in regions currently home to more than half the planet’s population.”

5. Why I Defaulted on My Student Loans

“I could give up what had become my vocation (in my case, being a writer) and take a job that I didn’t want in order to repay the huge debt I had accumulated in college and graduate school. Or I could take what I had been led to believe was both the morally and legally reprehensible step of defaulting on my student loans, which was the only way I could survive without wasting my life in a job that had nothing to do with my particular usefulness to society.”

6. A Crisis at the Edge of Physics

“Today, our most ambitious science can seem at odds with the empirical methodology that has historically given the field its credibility.”

7. How to Pose Like a Man

“Two days before the shoot, I flipped through a book of Ms. Ettlinger’s photos to get a sense of how authors typically dressed for their portraits. I made a startling discovery: The male and female authors posed differently. The men looked simpler, more straightforward. The women looked dreamy, often gazing off into the distance. Their limbs were sometimes entwined, like vines. I decided that I wanted to pose like a man. I also thought: No wonder books by women don’t get reviewed as often as those by men. Maybe it was the poses.”

8. Imagining the Lives of Others

“Instead of assuming that we can know what it is like to be them, we should focus more on listening to what they have to say. This isn’t perfect — people sometimes lie, or are confused, or deluded — but it’s by far the best method of figuring out the needs, desires and histories of people who are different from us.”

9. Finding the Right Balance

“Simply staying upright is, in some ways, a full-body exercise. You have fluid-filled ‘organs of balance’ in your inner ear that monitor the position and rotation of your head; and there are sensors known as proprioceptors in muscles and tendons throughout your body that detect subtle stretches and deformations. Your feet alone contain 11 small stretch-sensing muscles: No matter how many calf raises you do in the gym, your balance won’t be stable unless your brain is attuned to the signals from these sensors. Even wearing socks interferes with this subtle feedback and worsens your balance.”

10. Adjusting to a World That Won’t Laugh With You

“It is often said that we are living in a golden age of comedy, when new varieties of funny sprout from every screen and nightclub stage. … But we’re also in the midst of a humor crisis. The world is full of jokes and also of people who can’t take them.”

11. Giorgio Moroder, the Cat in the ‘Stache, Comes Back

“A lot of kids that are big D.J.s now, they don’t even know the influence of these people because they’ve been through the filter of people like me already. Or they might be influenced by another electronic producer that they heard a decade before. But they don’t know that all of this is coming from people like Giorgio Moroder.”

12. Escape to Bro-topia

“Inside, the space was toasty and light-filled, decorated in a cabin-y version of Young Bachelor. A shelf by the door held Mr. Huntington’s cameras and lenses; his iMac sat on a simple desk against one wall, a surfboard propped next to it. Large windows looked straight into green-needled limbs.”

13. These Dads Are Writing Their Own Tickets

“The stay-at-home father and part-time artist is no longer quite as rare a sighting, particularly in liberal metropolises. That doesn’t mean, however, that it’s an easy balance to strike — logistically, as any primary caregiver knows, but also psychologically.”

14. You Want a Cappuccino With That Haircut?

“The guy that will spend $45 on a haircut will also spend $5 on a cup of coffee.”

15. Photographer Edward S. Curtis’s Southwest

“From Seattle, his adopted hometown, Curtis cobwebbed through Navajo and Apache country in the Southwest, across the Great Plains of the Sioux and Cheyenne, and up to Walla Walla and Kwakiutl lands in the Pacific Northwest. He worked 16-hour days, seven days a week, more or less nonstop for 30 years, and eventually published a landmark 20-volume work, The North American Indian. The project was disastrous on nearly every level: It drove him into bankruptcy, probably ruined his marriage and almost got him killed several times. In the end he lost the copyrights to all 40,000 photographs to John Pierpont Morgan, who had financed the project.”

16. Words Without Music, by Philip Glass

“One struggles to imagine how any human could have kept his schedule in the late ’50s and early ’60s: composing from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., loading trucks in the evenings, practicing piano several hours a day, attending classes, taking music and yoga lessons, going to movies and art exhibitions with friends, driving a motorcycle cross-country.”

17. Spectacle: The Astonishing Life of Ota Benga, by Pamela Newkirk

“Two years after an appearance at the 1904 St. Louis World Fair, he was brought to the New York Zoological Park (better known as the Bronx Zoo), where he was locked in a cage with an orangutan before a jeering throng. The display was more than mere entertainment; it was propaganda. The low evolutionary status of a monkey-man was supposed to persuade the masses who were resistant to Darwin and evolutionary theory.… Even after Benga was rescued and embraced by African-American communities in Brooklyn and Lynchburg, Va., he was haunted by a longing for his Congo home. In March 1916, he committed suicide by shooting a bullet through his heart.”

18. Does the Size of a Book Suggest Significance?

“‘Efficiency’ is a terrible word to apply to art. Yet, one sentence hence, and this shall serve as my sole warning to you, I am about to apply it. I think an artist can validly choose to value efficiency, to seek to do as much as possible with as little as possible. In fact, given the constraints all around us — the finiteness of time in a human life, of nature’s tolerance of our abuses, of available food and energy and clean drinking water — an aesthetic of leanness strikes me as just as appropriate to literature, and to one’s existence, as an aesthetic of expansiveness.”

19. Welcome to the Age of Digital Imperialism

“Call it digital imperialism, perhaps, in that the values are arriving not inside artworks made by others but through a tool that locals can use themselves. As Thailand is discovering, the smartphone — for all its indispensability as a tool of business and practicality — is also a bearer of values; it is not a culturally neutral device. On the matter of privacy, for example, the pull toward sharing more and concealing less begins with the mere existence of the camera, tucked in every pocket, available whenever the impulse arises. It continues through the design of the apps we use, which have been calibrated to make our uploading seamless, to make our posts default to public, to make the less private choice always and everywhere more attractive to us in a cycle of escalating self-revelation. Thanks to the Internet’s ability to find for us, in an instant, hordes of other people with the same impulse as ours — to photograph, say, the underside of a taboo body part — we can feel secure in that impulse, even if it’s not shared by anyone else within a hundred or a thousand miles. We Americans might praise this shift as liberatory, or laugh it off as harmless, but we cannot pretend that it is somehow value-free.”

20. Uber’s French Resistance

“Until recently, French taxis faced almost no competition. The state strictly regulated the number of medallions available, keeping the fleet small. Though the government issues medallions to drivers at no cost, this scarcity makes them outrageously expensive on the secondary market. In Paris, the going price is about 2o0,000 euros, or $219,000. Today, the city has just 17,702 taxis, only a few thousand more than it had before the Nazis invaded. Yet virtually every time the government tries to expand the fleet, irate taxi drivers protest with a form of strike they call Operation Escargot, in which cabbies inch along thoroughfares, snarling traffic all over the capital.”

21. Can the Swiss Watchmaker Survive the Digital Age?

“At graduations in the 1990s, students receive gifts from their parents — some the latest mobile phone, others a Montblanc fountain pen. Decades later, a phone from the ’90s is a useless relic. But the Montblanc pen is as good as ever; indeed, the years have imparted character. ‘It has a meaning, it has little scratches,’ Schmiedt said. ‘If I ever scratch up a watch, or — I don’t know, my child maybe dropped it — it’s a mark of life.’ Our electronics are much less tolerant of faults, he noted, grinning as he held up his own iPhone, whose screen was spider-webbed with cracks.”

22. A Music-Sharing Network for the Unconnected

“Mali’s homegrown, offline digital music has created a space for sharing songs that is in many ways more vibrant than the algorithm-driven way music is so often experienced in the United States — more personal, more curated, more human.”

23. Is Translation an Art or a Math Problem?

“Human translators, today, have virtually nothing to do with the work being done in machine translation. A majority of the leading figures in machine translation have little to no background in linguistics, much less in foreign languages or literatures. Instead, virtually all of them are computer scientists. Their relationship with language is mediated via arm’s-length protective gloves through plate-glass walls.”

24. Making and Unmaking the Digital World

“The rapid cycle of obsolescence and replacement that feeds the expansion also produces a lot of garbage — nearly 42 million metric tons of toxic e-waste in 2014, less than a sixth of which made it into the regulated recycling stream, with much of the rest being broken down by workers at dumps throughout the developing world.”

Go Visit the Prairies in June

“Go visit the Prairies in June, when for scores on scores of miles you wade knee-deep among Tiger-lilies—what is the one charm wanting?—Water—there is not a drop of water there! Were Niagara but a cataract of sand, would you travel your thousand miles to see it? Why did the poor poet of Tennessee, upon suddenly receiving two handfuls of silver, deliberate whether to buy him a coat, which he sadly needed, or invest his money in a pedestrian trip to Rockaway Beach? Why is almost every robust healthy boy with a robust healthy soul in him, at some time or other crazy to go to sea? Why upon your first voyage as a passenger, did you yourself feel such a mystical vibration, when first told that you and your ship were now out of sight of land? Why did the old Persians hold the sea holy? Why did the Greeks give it a separate deity, and own brother of Jove? Surely all this is not without meaning.”

—Herman Melville, Moby Dick, chapter 1

Sunday 05.31.2015 New York Times Digest

Clutter
1. Let’s Celebrate the Art of Clutter

“In living, we accumulate. We admire. We desire. We love. We collect. We display.”

2. U.S. Paid Residents Linked to Nazi Crimes $20 Million in Benefits, Report Says

“The American government paid $20.2 million in Social Security benefits to more than 130 United States residents linked to Nazi atrocities over the course of more than a half-century, with some of the payments made as recently as this year.”

3. For the Warriors, Practice Makes Perfect Silliness

“All of their heaves may have a more practical purpose than many of the players realize. John Fontanella, a professor emeritus of physics at the Naval Academy and the author of the book The Physics of Basketball, said he suspected that the Warriors were giving themselves a psychological edge by attempting so many long-distance shots. ‘There is absolutely something to this idea of extreme training,’ Fontanella said in a telephone interview. ‘When you go beyond what you’re required to do, it makes your job seem a lot easier.’”

4. In Europe, Fake Jobs Can Have Real Benefits

“Inside the companies, workers rotate through payroll, accounting, advertising and other departments. They also receive virtual salaries to spend within the make-believe economy. Some of the faux companies even hold strikes — a common occurrence in France. Axisco, a virtual payment processing center in Val d’Oise, recently staged a fake protest, with slogans and painted banners, to teach workers’ rights and to train human resources staff members to calm tensions.”

5. Windshield Devices Bring Distracted Driving Debate to Eye Level

“The Navdy device falls into a booming category of in-car gadgetry that might be fairly categorized as ‘you can have your cake and eat it too.’ Drive, get texts, talk on the phone, even interact on social media, and do it all without compromising safety, according to various makers of the so-called head-up displays.”

6. The 24/7 Work Culture’s Toll on Families and Gender Equality

“The pressure of a round-the-clock work culture — in which people are expected to answer emails at 11 p.m. and take cellphone calls on Sunday morning — is particularly acute in highly skilled, highly paid professional services jobs like law, finance, consulting and accounting. Offering family-friendly policies is too narrow a solution to the problem, recent research argues, and can have unintended consequences. When women cut back at work to cope with long hours, they end up stunting their careers. And men aren’t necessarily happy to be expected to work extreme hours, either.”

7. Wanted: A Theology of Atheism

“Most Christians, especially evangelical Protestants, would find the outlines of Sunday Assembly familiar: hymns and a worship band; a sermon; afterward, coffee hour. (The organization attracts a mix of recovering believers and people who have never been religious.) The meeting last month even featured a ritual that echoed the ancient Christian practice of the Passing of the Peace, the moment when congregants reconcile with one another, often by shaking hands. Instead, the Assembly leader asked us to turn to our neighbors for a quick thumb-wrestling match.”

8. What YouTube Taught Me

“The will to teach — a close cousin of the desire to perform — far exceeds the educational value of most online tutorials.”

9. How to Find Your Place in the World After Graduation

“I based my talk on a common French expression that’s optimistic, but not grandiose: Vous allez trouver votre place. You will find your place. I’ve always liked this idea that, somewhere in the world, there’s a gap shaped just like you. Once you find it, you’ll slide right in. That still left a critical question: How do you find this place? This is especially relevant for creative types, who often won’t have a clear career sequence to follow. They’re not trying to become vice president of something. They’re the something. They’ll probably spend lots of time alone in rooms, struggling to make things.”

10. Guess Who Doesn’t Fit In at Work

“Cultural fit has morphed into a far more nebulous and potentially dangerous concept. It has shifted from systematic analysis of who will thrive in a given workplace to snap judgments by managers about who they’d rather hang out with. In the process, fit has become a catchall used to justify hiring people who are similar to decision makers and rejecting people who are not.”

11. The Pressure to Look Good

“Every day is Class Picture Day. Every phone is a camera. Every picture, or video, ends up on the Internet. Everyone, from your eighth-grade classmates to the wife of the guy you worked with 10 years ago, can see. And for every news story about Spanx giving up its grip (only to be replaced by slightly more forgiving yoga pants), or every real-size heroine like Mindy Kaling on the cover of InStyle or Rebel Wilson topping the box-office charts, it seems that here in the real world, the beauty culture has only gotten more demanding.”

12. Jerry Seinfeld, Online Force

“The less you know about a field, the better your odds.”

13. Ty Cobb: A Terrible Beauty, by Charles Leerhsen

“Cobb once beat up a teammate, the pitcher Ed Siever, continuing to punch him after he was probably already unconscious and then kicking him in the face. He went into the stands and severely assaulted a heckler who was missing seven fingers, having lost them in a workplace accident, even as surrounding spectators yelled, ‘He has no hands!’”

14. Travel

“Herzog’s account begs to be read aloud. Seeing a lone raven, ‘his head bowed in the rain,’ sitting ‘motionless and freezing,’ all ‘wrapped in his raven’s thoughts,’ Herzog writes, ‘A brotherly feeling flashed through me, and loneliness filled my breast.’ Later, nearly delirious from the cold, he bleakly ruminates: ‘I could hardly put one foot in front of the other. I headed toward a fire, a fire that kept burning in front of me like a glimmering wall. It was a fire of frost, one that brings on Coldness, not Heat, one that makes water turn immediately into ice.’”

15. What We Don’t See

“It’s a glib reply to a comrade’s boasting — coming out of Internet gaming forums to rebut boasts about high scores and awesome kills — but the fact is we like proof. Proof in the instant replay that decides the big game, the vacation pic that persuades us we were happy once, the selfie that reassures us that our face is still our own. ‘Pics or it didn’t happen’ gained traction because in an age of bountiful technology, when everyone is armed with a camera, there is no excuse for not having evidence.”

16. The Secret Sadness of Pregnancy With Depression

“Pregnancy is highly motivating. About a quarter of American women smoke in the three months before pregnancy, but by the last trimester only 10 percent do. This reveals how willing pregnant women are to change their behavior for the sake of the baby — and there is an increasing number of ways to do this. We have defined pregnancy as a universal Lent in which a thousand talismanic things must be forsaken for the health of the developing child. The conventional wisdom in the United States is that women should not sip half a glass of wine during pregnancy, or do the wrong kind of exercise, or take prescription medication of any kind. Some women find these relinquishments reassuring; they support an illusion that the mother’s behavior can guarantee a healthy baby. But this presumption of self-sacrifice often frightens depressed women away from seeking help.”

17. Bomani Jones Takes the Dismal Science to ESPN

“If it turned out Stevie could see, I wouldn’t be shocked.”