07.08.2012 New York Times Digest

1. “Don’t Indulge. Be Happy.

“Using Gallup data collected from almost half a million Americans, researchers at Princeton found that higher household incomes were associated with better moods on a daily basis – but the beneficial effects of money tapered off entirely after the $75,000 mark.”

2. “In Ads, the Workers Rise Up … and Go to Lunch

“Marketers are urging workers to commit small acts of so-called rebellion – like taking a vacation, or going on a lunch break.”

3. “Has ‘Organic’ Been Oversized?

“Bear Naked, Wholesome & Hearty, Kashi: all three and more actually belong to the cereals giant Kellogg. Naked Juice? That would be PepsiCo, of Pepsi and Fritos fame. And behind the pastoral-sounding Walnut Acres, Healthy Valley and Spectrum Organics is none other than Hain Celestial, once affiliated with Heinz, the grand old name in ketchup.”

4. “A Northwest Pipeline to Silicon Valley

“It’s the most underrated computer science department I’ve seen.”

5. “Yes, Norma Desmond, the Pictures Are Getting Small Again

“The convenience is wonderful, of course, but it comes at a price: the loss of the immersive cinematic experience.”

6. “Beyond the Blink

“E-mail, social media and the 24-hour news cycle are informational amphetamines, a cocktail of pills that we pop at an increasingly fast pace – and that lead us to make mistaken split-second decisions. Economists label the problem ‘present bias’: we are vulnerable to fast, salient stimulation. Fortunately, there is an antidote: the conscious pause. Scientists have found that although we are prone to snap overreactions, if we take a moment and think about how we are likely to react, we can reduce or even eliminate the negative effects of our quick, hard-wired responses.”

7. “The New Elitists

“And so if elites have a culture today, it is a culture of individual self-cultivation. Their rhetoric emphasizes such individualism and the talents required to ‘make it.’ Yet there is something pernicious about this self-presentation. The narrative of openness and talent obscures the bitter truth of the American experience. Talents are costly to develop, and we refuse to socialize these costs. To be an outstanding student requires not just smarts and dedication but a well-supported school, a safe, comfortable home and leisure time to cultivate the self.”

8. “Reclaiming Travel

“Travel is a search for meaning, not only in our own lives, but also in the lives of others. The humility required for genuine travel is exactly what is missing from its opposite extreme, tourism.”

9. “Got Milk? You Don’t Need It

“Avoid all foods derived from milk for at least five days and see what happens.”

10. “The Fires This Time

“Nature makes a mockery of our vanity.”

11. “Creating His Own Gravity

“He makes warm, cloudy soul with echoes of Stevie Wonder, Prince and Pharrell Williams that’s almost never about seduction. In Mr. Ocean’s universe, pretty much everyone is broken beyond repair.”

12. “The Rake’s Progress: A Midcareer Leap for McConaughey

“When a reporter approached him at the Greenwich Hotel in TriBeCa recently, he was lost in thought, scribbling on a notepad. Everyone who spoke about Mr. McConaughey for this article remarked on his penchant for preparation, and it turns out he was taking notes for the interview.”

13. “Man of Action

“His million-­decibel yell had enough intensity and pitch to topple tall buildings. What if a building fell on him? A tickle at most. His nostrils were super-acute. His typing was super-fast … His gaze was intense enough to hypnotize a whole tribe of South American Indians at once. He could converse with a mermaid in her native tongue and beat a checkers expert his first time playing.”

14. “Who Made That Cigarette Filter?

“Filters are the deadliest fraud in the history of human civilization.”

15. “The Worst Marriage in Georgetown

“There’s a long history of fabulists who have ascended Washington’s social pyramid. There was the lobbyist Edward von Kloberg III (the ‘von’ was an affectation, as was the title of baron he used and the silk-lined capes he wore), whose motto was ‘Shame is for sissies.’ Starting in the 1980s, he specialized in representing autocrats like Saddam Hussein and Nicolae Ceausescu. In 2005, he killed himself, plunging from the walls of the Castel Sant’Angelo in Rome. Before Kloberg, there was Craig Spence. In 1989, Time dubbed him ‘Washington’s Man From Nowhere,’ because he never explained the genesis of his wealth. While guests like Ted Koppel and William Safire attended Spence’s parties, he eavesdropped on their conversations with microphones and two-way mirrors hidden in his home. Dressed in a tuxedo, he committed suicide at the Boston Ritz-Carlton, after his enormous expenditures on male prostitutes were exposed. Then there was the pioneering work of Steven Martindale, who legendarily invited Alice Roosevelt Longworth and Henry Kissinger to his home by telling each that he was giving a party in honor of the other.”

16. “LeBron James Is a Sack of Melons

“For roughly 10 years, in his current incarnation, LeBron James has been a flying contradiction – a man whose every positive virtue contains its own negation. He is (according to the popular narrative) both lovable and odious, a ball hog and too deferential, incredibly clutch and a choke artist. He is Schrödinger’s superstar: simultaneously one of the very greatest players of all time and a fundamentally flawed squanderer of talent. If anything, his championship this year will not simplify this story. It only makes it more complex.”

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