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

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.”

Sunday 05.24.2015 New York Times Digest

1. Our Pampered Wilderness

“‘Glamping,’ shorthand for ‘glamorous camping,’ is having a moment. There’s a long tradition of renting old cabins in parks. Moderately priced yurts are popular now, too. But glamping takes this to another level. Imagine sleeping in a spacious, walled canvas tent on a raised platform. Between high-thread-count sheets. With vanity tables.”

2. Young Saudis, Bound by Conservative Strictures, Find Freedom on Their Phones

“Young Saudis are increasingly relying on social media to express and entertain themselves, earn money and meet friends and potential mates.”

3. The Bookstore Built by Jeff Kinney, the ‘Wimpy Kid’

“Many small bookstores nationwide, surprisingly, are holding steady and even thriving. After years of decline, booksellers have rebounded lately as print sales have stabilized, and their ranks are swelling. Last year, the American Booksellers Association counted nearly 2,100 member stores, compared with about 1,650 in 2009.”

4. What to Learn in College to Stay One Step Ahead of Computers

“Computers and robots are already replacing many workers. What can young people learn now that won’t be superseded within their lifetimes by these devices and that will secure them good jobs and solid income over the next 20, 30 or 50 years? In the universities, we are struggling to answer that question.”

5. Infidelity Lurks in Your Genes

“It turns out that genes, gene expression and hormones matter a lot.”

6. Download: Hannes Wingate

“It’s a fairly regular occurrence that people in survival school have tantrums and get upset. We take them into the red zone where they feel like their life is on the line. They faint, cry, vomit. Almost everyone goes through it. But they come out on the other side recalibrated; realizing that when their plane is late and their burger is cold, none of that matters. It’s a liberating experience. You ask a native person, ‘Show me your survival skills,’ and they will have no idea what you are talking about. ‘What do you mean? We are just living.’ I don’t look at what we do at survival school as teaching a bag of tricks. I more see it as bringing people into contact with the environment in which we evolved as a species.”

7. Shoes That Put Women in Their Place

“Pseudoscientific ideas promoted Darwinian concepts of survival of the fittest and linked male height directly to sexual attractiveness. Heels could have been pressed back into service in men’s fashion, yet they were rejected. Heels on men detracted from their masculinity by highlighting a natural lack of height, rather than conferring any advantage gained from artificially increased stature.”

8. How to Lock Up Fewer People

“If we are going to end mass incarceration, we need to recognize that the excessively long sentences we impose for most violent crimes are not necessary, cost-effective or just.”

9. Why Do We Experience Awe?

“We believe that awe deprivation has had a hand in a broad societal shift that has been widely observed over the past 50 years: People have become more individualistic, more self-focused, more materialistic and less connected to others. To reverse this trend, we suggest that people insist on experiencing more everyday awe, to actively seek out what gives them goose bumps.”

10. Dwayne Johnson, Star of San Andreas, Is Solid. Solid as a …

“He may be the oddest superstar we have.”

11. Italy’s Treasured Olive Oil, at the Source

“Olive oil is as old as time. Egyptians, Phoenicians, Greeks and Romans all cultivated it. And here, in this sacred conclave of olive oil producers in a small farmhouse on a hillside — and throughout Tuscany and more rugged regions to the south — it was almost a religion.”

12. The Daemon Knows, by Harold Bloom

“His teacherly aim is to pose the question in close readings of 12 daemon-possessed writers whom he interrogates in pairs: Whitman with Melville, Emerson with Dickinson, Hawthorne with Henry James, Mark Twain with Frost, Stevens with T. S. Eliot, Faulkner with Hart Crane. He might well have chosen 12 others, he tells us, reciting still another blizzard of American luminaries, but dismisses the possibility ‘because these [chosen] writers represent our incessant effort to transcend the human without forsaking humanism.’”

13. Man in Profile: Joseph Mitchell of The New Yorker, by Thomas Kunkel

“He covered the Lindbergh kidnapping trial (‘a mess’), witnessed the electrocution of six men, and watched a woman who had been stabbed in the neck bleed to death while he tried to make her lie still. He might have gone on like that and had a productive if ultimately forgettable career, were it not for a newspaper series he wrote on the anthropologist Franz Boas that became, for Mitchell, ‘a kind of graduate-level seminar’: ‘Don’t take anything for granted,’ Boas told him, among other things. The advice helped transform Mitchell from a competent beat reporter with a graceful prose style into, arguably, our greatest literary journalist — a man who wrote about freaks, barkeeps, street preachers, grandiose hobos and other singular specimens of humanity with compassion and deep, hard-earned understanding, and above all with a novelist’s eyes and ears.”

14. Should There Be a Minimum Age for Writing a Memoir?

“We really do not need yet another memoir by a person too young to have undergone any genuinely interesting and instructive experiences — or, having had such experiences, too young to know what to make of them — and too self­involved to have any genuine empathy for those whose paths he crosses.”

15. Death in the Browser Tab

“This was at a time when death still happened in the home. The bereaved propped up their beloved dead, dressed them in good clothes and had them photographed as though they were still alive. But postmortem pictures, with their melancholy grandeur and intimate setting, are different from images that capture the rude shock of sudden death.”

16. Letter of Recommendation: Uni-ball Signo UM-151

“The cost is such that I do not mind if I lose it (almost inevitably, I will). Aesthetically, there is the sleek silhouette, the smooth barrel, the graceful link of the arcing clip to the gentle curving cap; viewed on its side, the pen perfectly evokes a Shinkansen bullet train. I love the way the silver conical tip sits visible through its clear plastic housing, like a rocket waiting to be deployed. I love the small black rubber grip, with its pairs of dimples, arranged in a pattern whose logic evades but intrigues me. The pen slides discreetly into a pocket, and like a sinuous dagger it just feels meant to be held.”

17. Proving My Blackness

“Some people wondered why, in a society that represses black people, I would even want to be black. But I never wanted to be black. I was black. What I wanted was to retain my connection to my heritage, my community, my family. To my mom. And I wanted proof. So last summer, after exhausting my attempt at amateur genealogy, I spit into a test tube for a DNA test. Only then did I realize, in a panic, that my life of racial ambiguity would soon be over.”

18. Judy Blume Knows All Your Secrets

“For those of us who were teenagers in the early ’80s and in the decade before — Are You There God? was published in 1970 — there was no Sassy magazine, there was no Internet; there was just Judy Blume, planting the radical idea, for generations of women, that their bodies would be, should be, a source of pleasure and not of shame. Her credibility was total, a young person’s raw perspective, filtered — subtly — through the common sense of a frank, funny woman.”

19. Can China Take a Joke?

“Comedy in the People’s Republic isn’t so much an attitude or philosophical viewpoint as it is a set of forms. The most widespread is xiangsheng — typically (if imperfectly) translated as ‘cross-talk’ — a traditional two-person comedic performance that often features wordplay and references to Chinese literary classics, as well as singing and dancing. Cross-talk originated with street performers during the late Qing dynasty. In 1861, the Xianfeng Emperor died and the government declared a 100-day period of mourning, which meant all stage shows were canceled. Many artists resorted to illegal busking, and a Peking-opera performer named Zhu Shaowen hung up a sign in a public square: ‘I’m poor, and I’m not afraid to stand on the street corner and shoot the breeze,’ goes one loose translation.”

Sunday 05.17.2015 New York Times Digest

1. Rise of the Robots and Shadow Work

“The disappearance of jobs has not ushered in a new age of leisure, as social theorists predicted uneasily in the 1950s. Would the masses utilize their freedom from labor in productive ways, such as civic participation and the arts, or would they die of boredom in their ranch houses? Somehow, it was usually assumed, they would still manage to eat.”

2. Don’t Be So Sure the Economy Will Return to Normal

“Are these economic problems transitory, or are we glimpsing the beginnings of a grimmer future?”

3. Want a Green Card? Invest in Real Estate

“Under the federal program, a foreigner who invests $500,000 — and in some instances, $1 million — in a project that will create at least 10 jobs can apply for a green card. It generally takes from 22 to 26 months to obtain legal residency through the program, as opposed to several years for other visa programs.”

4. Primates of Park Avenue

“It didn’t take long for me to realize that my background in anthropology might help me figure it all out, and that this elite tribe and its practices made for a fascinating story.”

5. No Longer Wanting to Die

“This dialectic tension between acceptance and change is the root concept of dialectical behavior therapy.”

6. I Love the Post Office

“Like the D.M.V. and jury duty, the post office is one of the last great equalizing institutions.”

7. Thou Shalt Worship None of the Above

“To live in a country as pluralistic as the United States is inevitably to be influenced by a grab bag of beliefs. ‘Thou shalt reconsider assumptions you held as a child and remain open to new ideas’ might as well be the first commandment of our national faith.”

8. Let the Kids Learn Through Play

“Play is often perceived as immature behavior that doesn’t achieve anything, but it’s essential to their development. They need to learn to persevere, to control attention, to control emotions. Kids learn these things through playing.”

9. What’s Lurking Behind the Suicides?

“What the news media often misses though, and what tribal members understand but rarely discuss above a whisper, is that youth suicides here are inextricably linked to a multigenerational scourge of sexual abuse, with investigations into possible abuse now open in at least two of the nine recent suicides.”

10. Mounting Evidence of Advantages for Children of Working Mothers

“Evidence is mounting that having a working mother has some economic, educational and social benefits for children of both sexes.”

11. Detroit’s Recovery, and My Dad’s, Too

“Curious things happen when people begin to pull themselves out of a rut. Some friends and family members will say they always knew things would turn around. Some will take credit. For others, the memory of the way the person was before, the slights, the insults and the sheer embarrassment of witnessing someone so low will always be what they remember.”

12. How to Get People to Pitch In

“What does consistently work may be surprising: interventions based not on money, but on leveraging social concerns.”

13. They Built It. No One Came.

“They bought 63 acres for $63,000 in Pitman, a tiny community in Eldred Township, and they began to rescue period cabins and structures in the area and move them to the site. Filled with Colonial zeal, they bought an antique letterpress and began printing brochures to advertise their concept. Dressed in their homespun linen garments, made from flax they had planted and sewn themselves, they set up tables at gay-pride festivals, living-history farms and farming museums. ‘People would look at us and say, “Oh, so you’re gay Amish?”’ Johannes said. They did get a few takers: a man who was interested in the culture of the early German settlers, but preferred to observe its customs rather than pitch in; a guy they called ‘the Primitive man,’ who set up a lean-to on the property and wore loincloths in the summer (he stayed the longest but turned out to be mentally ill).”

14. For Brittney Griner and Glory Johnson, a Complicated Match Made on the Hardwood

“‘I’m not a lesbian,’ Ms. Johnson said. ‘But Brittney is different.’”

15. The Tyranny of Constant Contact

“Even those of us who don’t have small children or jobs with the State Department, it seems, now need to be accessible at all hours of the day. It’s as if we’re doctors on call.”

16. Swearing Off the Modern Man

“I decided to swear off modern men. No more Twitter games. No more Instagram dissections. No more Facebook predation. I wanted someone mature.”

17. Travel Industry Responds to Rise in Solo Sojourners

“If a spouse or partner can’t leave work, has a conflict, or is disinterested in a destination that his or her partner is pining to see, the partners have no qualms about heading off on their own.”

18. Joseph J. Ellis: By the Book

“I think The Scarlet Letter is the great morality tale in American literature that defies all merely moralistic categories. With Gatsby it’s all about style. I try to reread it every summer for rhythm and flow. When I was younger I would have picked Hemingway, especially the Nick Adams stories during trout season, but he’s faded as I’ve aged.”

19. Elon Musk, by Ashlee Vance

“Musk is brutal on himself, routinely working 100-hour weeks. He is brutal as a boss, too, often berating or summarily firing colleagues while hogging credit for others’ accomplishments. Yet he is without question a leader who pushes risky ideas forward through a combination of long-range vision and deep technical intelligence. He knows how to hire good people and how to motivate them. Most important, he never, ever gives up.”

20. On the Move, by Oliver Sacks

“The emergent field of narrative medicine, in which a patient’s life story is elicited in order that his immediate health crisis may be addressed, in many ways reflects Sacks’ belief that a patient may know more about his condition than those treating him do, and that doctors’ ability to listen can therefore outrank technical erudition. Common standards of physician neutrality are in Sacks’ view cold and unforgiving — a trespass not merely against a patient’s wish for loving care, but also against efficacy. Sacks has insisted for decades that symptoms are often not what they seem, and that while specialization allows the refinement of expertise, it should never replace the generalism that connects the dots, nor thwart the tenderness that good doctoring requires.”

21. Future Crimes, by Marc Goodman

“The cornucopia of technology that we are accepting into our lives, with little or no self-reflection or thoughtful examination, may very well come back and bite us.”

22. Toward an Oral Art

“At Audible, arguably the premier venue for audiobooks, poetry represents around half a percent of the total offerings, and Audible itself has produced only 35 or so poetry audiobooks, as against their nearly 23,000 recordings in other genres. The numbers at Audible’s competitors are similarly discouraging for poets. Among more than 11,000 available titles at Audiobooks and more than 30,000 at Scribd, only a fraction are poetry collections.”

23. After the Tall Timber Collects Renata Adler’s Nonfiction

“Adler made her name covering many of the same subjects as her peers — the civil rights movement in the South, the hippies in California, the New Left — from a contrarian perspective she called the ‘radical middle.’”

24. Goebbels: A Biography, by Peter Longerich

“Goebbels’s path to his death in the bunker below the ruins of Hitler’s Chancellery began in 1924, when he became a founding member of a chapter of the National Socialist Workers Party in his hometown, Rheydt, a small city in the Rhineland, not far from Düsseldorf. That year Goebbels turned 27 years old, without past accomplishments or future prospects: unmarried, unemployed and still living at home, he was the author of an unpublished doctoral dissertation on a deservedly obscure German writer and a few unfinished works of autobiographical fiction.”

25. One Nation Under God,’ by Kevin M. Kruse

“Kruse tells a big and important story about the mingling of religiosity and politics since the 1930s. Still, he oversells his basic premise. Americans easily accepted placing God’s name on their currency and in the oath children recite every school day because similar invocations were already routine in public discourse — from the Declaration’s reference to the ‘unalienable Rights’ endowed by the ‘Creator’ to the official chaplains who have opened sessions of the House and Senate with a prayer since 1789. Following the attacks of 9/11, we’ve added the ubiquitous ‘God Bless America’ to bumper stickers, to the ends of political speeches and to many a seventh-inning stretch. As features of what the sociologist Robert Bellah called ‘civil religion’ (a term he borrowed from Rousseau), the familiarity of these practices comforts some without making particular demands on anyone else. Even back in the age of Eisenhower, the A.C.L.U. understood that.”

26. The Underground Art of the Insult

“At its most refined, shade should have an element of plausible deniability, so that the shade-thrower can pretend that he or she didn’t actually mean to behave with incivility, making it all the more delicious.”

27. The Makeup Shake-Up

“Many of these videos simply help viewers learn professional makeup techniques at home: the angular wings of a cat-eye, say, or smoky eyes just like Kim Kardashian’s. But with those basics covered, the ironclad law of web content — that there must always be more — has now brought us tutorials that go beyond these utilitarian roots and into territory that is artsier, weirder and far more subversive.”

28. Leaving It All Behind

“I will give up all vehicles, mobile phones, cosmetics, colorful clothes, footwear, money, ornaments. Renouncers can have only white clothes, just a few of them. You are allowed to own only books about Jain religion, a bowl in which we can eat food and the broom we use to clear the path that we walk on.”

29. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang

“They are marquee stars of urban fiction, or street lit, a genre whose inner-city settings and lurid mix of crime, sex and sensationalism have earned it comparisons to gangsta rap. The emergence of street lit is one of the big stories in recent American publishing, a juggernaut that has generated huge sales by catering to a readership — young, black and, for the most part, female — that historically has been ill-served by the book business. But the genre is also widely maligned. Street lit is subject to a kind of triple snobbery: scorned by literati who look down on genre fiction generally, ignored by a white publishing establishment that remains largely indifferent to black books and disparaged by African-American intellectuals for poor writing, coarse values and trafficking in racial stereotypes.”

30. Works in Progress

“A very small sampling of the female artists now in their 80s and 90s we should have known about decades ago.”

Gay Talese’s Address Book

(Via Grantland.)

This blog is a Gay Talese fanzone. Previously: Gay Talese’s Daily Routine, Gay Talese’s Office, Dressed for a Dungeon, “I Don’t Use Notebooks. I Use Shirt Boards,” and The Species of Tailoring Is Threatened by the Outside World.

Sunday 05.10.2015 New York Times Digest


1. Tell-Tale Signs of the Modern-Day Yuppie

“Three decades ago, the yuppie was viewed as a self-interested alien invader in an America that had experienced a solid 20 years of radical activism and meaningful progress in civil rights and women’s liberation. A generation and a half later, we have so deeply internalized the values of the yuppie that we have ceased to notice when one is in our midst — or when we have become one ourselves.”

2. The Price of Nice Nails

“Nail salons are governed by their own rituals and mores, a hidden world behind the glass exteriors and cute corner shops. In it, a rigid racial and ethnic caste system reigns in modern-day New York City, dictating not only pay but also how workers are treated.”

3. Mom: The Designated Worrier

“Sociologists sometimes call the management of familial duties ‘worry work,’ and the person who does it the ‘designated worrier,’ because you need large reserves of emotional energy to stay on top of it all.”

4. Invite Some Germs to Dinner

“Some experts wonder if we’ve reached a point of diminishing returns in food safety — whether our food could perhaps be too clean.”

5. When Humans Declared War on Fish

“World War II brought a leap in human ingenuity, power and technical ability that led to an unprecedented assault on our oceans. Not only did ships themselves become larger, faster and more numerous, but the war-derived technologies they carried exponentially increased their fishing power.”

6. See Death as a Triumph, Not a Failure

“What I came to realize was that the Victorians cared about the mortal body; its very mortality mattered profoundly to them. Today we try to deny the body’s movement toward death, its inevitable decay. The Victorians, instead of fearing the process of dying and the corpse, felt reverence. These were stages in the life of a beloved body and should be treasured.”

7. The Real Problem With America’s Inner Cities

“The real problem we now face: on one hand, a vicious tangle of concentrated poverty, disconnected youth and a culture of violence among a small but destructive minority in the inner cities; and, on the other hand, of out-of-control law-enforcement practices abetted by a police culture that prioritizes racial profiling and violent constraint.”

8. The Plagiarism Jitters

“My fear is not that I will knowingly borrow narrative and get caught — my fear is that a sticky sentence or apt aphorism will be caught up in my least attentive literary browsing, and I will find it all too readily as I search to complete my own thoughts.”

9. Frida Kahlo Is Having a Moment

“There is little doubt Kahlo continues to exist as a potent figure of myth.”

10. The Wright Brothers, by David McCullough

“There is no fortuity in the Wright brothers’ saga as related by McCullough, no unexpected events that changed their course. Except for Orville’s startling emergence from a horrible wreck during one of his flights, there’s not even any luck. Neither brother attended college, nor had been trained in physics or engineering, yet each step they took was not only correct but in many cases brilliant, and in nearly all cases original. That every one of those steps was also achieved through excruciating patience and obsessive attention to detail does not diminish the only word that can express what Wilbur, particularly, possessed: genius.”

11. Freedom of Speech, by David K. Shipler

“Parents are rumbling with teachers and administrators over which novels get assigned in class; federal prosecutors are muzzling whistle-blowers and journalists; a theater faces defunding for its edgy political work; on the Internet, bigots are testing our free speech principles; and across the nation, activists fear that the Citizens United decision will allow the moneyed to smother free speech with television commercials.”

12. What Hollywood Can Teach Us About the Future of Work

“This approach to business is sometimes called the ‘Hollywood model.’ A project is identified; a team is assembled; it works together for precisely as long as is needed to complete the task; then the team disbands. This short-­term, project-­based business structure is an alternative to the corporate model, in which capital is spent up front to build a business, which then hires workers for long-­term, open-­ended jobs that can last for years, even a lifetime. It’s also distinct from the Uber-­style ‘gig economy,’ which is designed to take care of extremely short-­term tasks, manageable by one person, typically in less than a day.”

13. Letter of Recommendation: ‘X Minus One’

“At its worst, ‘X Minus One’ is dated drama told well, but its better episodes have matured into half-hour exercises in a peculiar and intoxicating form of temporal eavesdropping. They let us watch, with great ease and clarity, people who are straining much harder to see us. Usually they’re looking just slightly off to the side. Sometimes they’re looking the wrong way entirely. But occasionally, in the show’s most thrillingly prescient moments, it’s as if they were staring straight at us.”

14. Where Would the Kardashians Be Without Kris Jenner?

“There are still people who dismiss Kris Jenner, 59, and her family — Kourtney, Kim and Khloé Kardashian, all in their 30s; her son, Rob Kardashian, 28; and Kendall and Kylie Jenner, 19 and 17 — as ‘famous for being famous,’ a silly reality-show family creating a contrived spectacle. But we have reached the point at which the Jenners and the Kardashians are not famous for being famous: They are famous for the industry that they’ve created, the Kardashian/Jenner megacomplex, which has not just invaded the culture but metastasized into it, with the family members emerging as legitimate businesspeople and Kris the mother-leader of them all.”

15. ‘Our Demand Is Simple: Stop Killing Us’

“Their innovation has been to marry the strengths of social media — the swift, morally blunt consensus that can be created by hashtags; the personal connection that a charismatic online persona can make with followers; the broad networks that allow for the easy distribution of documentary photos and videos — with an effort to quickly mobilize protests in each new city where a police shooting occurs.”