7.01.2012 New York Times Digest

1. “The ‘Busy’ Trap

“Idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence or a vice; it is as indispensable to the brain as vitamin D is to the body, and deprived of it we suffer a mental affliction as disfiguring as rickets. The space and quiet that idleness provides is a necessary condition for standing back from life and seeing it whole, for making unexpected connections and waiting for the wild summer lightning strikes of inspiration – it is, paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done.”

2. “A Jobs Boom Built on Sweat in an Age of Belt-Tightening

“The kind of job where you come in and work 9 to 5, and where someone tells you what to do all day is becoming scarcer and scarcer.”

3. “How Delaware Thrives as a Corporate Tax Haven

“Nearly half of all public corporations in the United States are incorporated in Delaware.”

4. “I Took a Web Detour, and Now I Feel Better

“Sometimes I’ve found that losing myself in the Web can be invigorating. Instead of needing to turn off the noise of the Web, I often use it to calm my nerves so I can finish my work.”

5. “The Kindest Cut of Meat Is Ground

“At your local farmers’ market, ground meat is a great value and a far more ecologically wise choice than strip steak.”

6. “What Really Makes Us Fat

“The fewer carbohydrates we eat, the more easily we remain lean. The more carbohydrates, the more difficult.”

7. “An Armchair Revolution, and Barbie, Too

“As filmmakers, distributors and exhibitors wrestle with the rise of digital platforms that let us watch movies on laptops and cellphones, it’s worth remembering another time when advances in technology gave viewers the power to decide where and when they got their entertainment.”

8. “The Picky Eater Who Came to Dinner

“Our appetites are stratified by an ever-widening array of restrictions: gluten free, vegan, sugar free, low fat, low sodium, no carb, no dairy, soyless, meatless, wheatless, macrobiotic, probiotic, antioxidant, sustainable, local and raw.”

9. “Vacation Sabotage: Don’t Let It Happen to You!

“Is there a way to get the most out of a vacation? Or at least not to ruin it?”

10. “The Best of All Possible Worlds

“It is far superior to have decent judgments about useful matters than to have precise knowledge about useless things.”

11. “Dreams of Prosperity

“Ward knew that finance is a universe of the imagination, floating above the real economy of services and stuff. Prices bounce with each emotion. Any fear can be boxed as a derivative. The entrepreneur and swindler both create dreams of what might be, then convert them into stocks and bonds – optimism in its marketable form. ‘How much confidence you give me, so much hope do I give you,’ Melville’s confidence man declares. Any founder of a start-up could say the same. ‘Credit’ is money talk for ‘I believe you.’ Good credit makes dreams as real as bricks, as long as credit lasts. Anyone who sold Enron’s stock before it burst made a lawful profit. It must be so, for the honest fantasy needs time to grow into substance. Augustus Melmotte, Anthony Trollope’s financier in The Way We Live Now, describes ‘the nature of credit, how strong it is, – as the air, – to buoy you up; how slight it is, – as a mere vapor, – when roughly touched.’”

12. “Little Estate on the Prairie

“This delightfully absurd community (thwarted by a lack of Iowa foxes, the sporting colonists chased after prairie chickens) was also led to inexorable failure based on a fundamental miscalculation. The land around Le Mars proved as useless for fields of wheat as for pastureland. Swine cholera decimated the colonists’ herds of hogs; hailstones the size of cricket balls could kill a cow or even injure a gentleman’s leg. And as for tornadoes: definitely not one’s cup of tea. ‘English people can have no idea what storms are like out here,’ one of the forlorn young settlers wrote. ‘They are a regular terror.’”

13. “Against the Grain

“Plastic-wrapped loaves were impossible to really see or smell, so we did what we could, and squeezed. And so softness became a proxy for freshness. On the industrialization marched: the softer loaves were too squooshy to slice neatly at home, and mechanical slicing was born.”

14. “The Taming of the Stooge

“I couldn’t stand the sincere punks. I never believed them. Still don’t.”

15. “How Does the Film Industry Actually Make Money?

“Hollywood is, somewhat surprisingly, a remarkably stable industry. Over the past 80 years or so, its basic model – in which financiers in New York lend money to creative people in Los Angeles – has been largely unaltered.”

16. “On YouTube, Amateur Is the New Pro

“YouTube is not just television on a computer, and YouTubers, whether established or aspiring, are their own breed. The Next Up winners are an almost random group of nonfamous people with an idiosyncratic range of talents, striving to succeed and fully conversant in the culture of this relatively young medium. And this medium definitely has its own culture. Any YouTuber could tell you that.”

17. “How William Faulkner Tackled Race – and Freed the South From Itsel

“It attempts something that had never been tried before in the art of fiction, and as far as I know has never been since, not in so pure a form – to dramatize historical consciousness itself, not just human lives but the forest of time in which the whole notion of human life must find its only meaning. Not to have failed completely at such a task is indistinguishable from triumph.”

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