Sunday 8.10.2014 New York Times Digest


1. A Cathedral Under Siege

“That word, sacrilege, may sound a bit overblown — but only to the ear of someone who has never been afforded the chance to grasp, firsthand, what makes this place so utterly unique, a landscape without antecedent or analog. Although it is not the first, nor the largest, nor the most popular of America’s national parks, the Grand Canyon is nevertheless regarded as the touchstone and the centerpiece of the entire system. And rightly so. Because nowhere else has nature provided a more graphic display of its titanic indifference to the works and aspirations of man.”

2. 50 Years an Exile

“The very conditions under which we live incite us to insubordination.”

3. Living Like the Kardashians, via Smartphone

“In some ways, she may represent a new generation of celebrity entrepreneurs, those who don’t merely write checks or appear on billboards next to products, but who treat their own lifestyles as the products that fans will want to buy. The Kardashian game is marketed as an invitation to experience her world, even if only as a cartoon fantasy.”

4. Where Have All the Truckers Gone?

“Trucking companies are turning down business for want of workers.”

5. Download: Nina Hoss

“I’m not such a fan of the concept of social media, though I don’t have anything against it. I still love to call the people I want to be friends with.”

6. Britain’s Drinking Problem

“British history floats on a sea of booze.”

7. Hit the Reset Button in Your Brain

“The summer vacation is more than a quaint tradition. Along with family time, mealtime and weekends, it is an important way that we can make the most of our beautiful brains.”

8. Don’t Let Your Children Grow Up to Be Farmers

“The dirty secret of the food movement is that the much-celebrated small-scale farmer isn’t making a living.”

9. Swimming Against the Rising Tide

“How do we bridge the distance between our own seemingly insignificant lives and actions and the scale of climate change, so global and so slow?”

10. This Is Reform?

“If you separate off the 65 schools in the Big 5 conferences — plus a few others like Boise State in football and the University of Connecticut in basketball — and allow their athletic departments to become ever richer and more powerful, they will be more easily seen for what they are: a form of professionalized and commercialized entertainment that has very little to do with higher education.”

11. Screen Voices, Banished but Not Silenced

“Our past is preserved in our films, predicated on shared fantasies and projected larger than life.”

12. CrossFit Flirting: Talk Burpee to Me

“Perhaps more than disciples of any other type of exercise, people who participate in CrossFit can’t help being drawn to people who do the same.”

13. Facebook’s Change of Face

“Some people are taking to Twitter to bemoan a surfeit of foreign policy chatter on Facebook.”

14. Restoring Acadia’s Trails

“America experienced a naturalist revival in the late 1800s, a belated enlightenment inspired by the likes of Charles Darwin and Henry David Thoreau. Mountain tourism boomed in the Catskill and White Mountains, and walking became a required activity on weekend getaways. A decade after Thomas Cole and the Hudson River School painters returned from Mount Desert with plein-air paintings of the island, the first tourists arrived. And they wanted to walk.”

15. Garrison Keillor: By the Book

“Ecclesiastes tells you all you need to know about Minnesota. ‘Whoever increases knowledge increases sorrow.’ You can say that again. ‘The race is not to the swift nor the battle to the strong nor bread to the wise nor riches to men of understanding, but time and chance happeneth to them all.’ That’s got Minnesota down to a T. You run fast and you trip on a gopher hole, you are heavily armed and well trained and you shoot yourself in the foot, you’re so smart you go broke. ‘The thing that has been is the thing that shall be; and the thing that is done is that which shall be done: There is nothing new under the sun.’ This is the sum and substance of the prevailing philosophy in my state. The optimists among us are either running for public office or on strong medications; the rest of us are skeptical.”

16. The Interpretation of Freud

“From birth to death we are, every last one of us, divided against ourselves. We both want to grow up and don’t want to grow up; hunger for sexual pleasure, dread sexual pleasure; hate our own aggressions — our anger, our cruelty, our humiliations — yet these are derived from the grievances we are least willing to part with. The hope of achieving an integrated self is a vain one as we are equally divided about our own suffering; we do in fact love it and want — nay, intend — never to relinquish it.”

17. On the Record

“Even the keenest strategic minds are inevitably imprisoned in inherited frameworks of perception and understanding.”

18. You Mean It’s Not Dead?

“Schmidt, one deduces, sees the kind of literary criticism sponsored by the ­Anglo-American academy as blighted by restrictive field specialism and the critical monograph — by writing expertly about one thing. A withering exiguity of scope, he would argue. Fiction, for Schmidt, is a gestalt, a field whose vast totality gives meaning to its single elements. You must think big, he implies, if you want to think to any purpose.”

19. Winged Victories

“Despite the putrid menu vultures favor, their excrement is sterile. In fact, letting the waste run down their legs can clean off germs from the gore; it’s their version of freshening up with a moist towelette after a barbecue. Tiny bee hummingbirds are so small you could mail 16 of them for the price of a single stamp. Robins can navigate with the right eye alone, but not the left. Albatrosses, who spend 95 percent of their lives over open ocean, are thought to be able to shut down half their brains while continuing to fly at 40 m.p.h. For blackcap warblers, the direction of migration is clearly innate, so crossbreeding a group of blackcaps who flew south for fall migration with a group that oriented westward resulted in offspring who flew in a southwesterly direction. And if bird breakups are seen in human terms, flamingos’ behavior — their divorce rate is 99 percent — fits their flashy profile. Albatrosses, by contrast, really do hang in there for the long haul, staying together till death.”

20. How to Know When to Unfriend Someone

“We all spend so much time focusing on the outflow of our digital lives, but we should also focus on the inflow. I keep a tally in the Notes app on my iPhone: If I find that seven, eight or nine times out of 10 I see a status from someone that makes me feel jealous or insecure or uncomfortable or sad or frustrated or angry, I’ll unfriend them.”

21. The Brazilian Bus Magnate Who’s Buying Up All the World’s Vinyl Records

RECORD COLLECTIONS. We BUY any record collection. Any style of music. We pay HIGHER prices than anyone else.

22. Has the ‘Libertarian Moment’ Finally Arrived?

“Today, for perhaps the first time, the libertarian movement appears to have genuine political momentum on its side.”

23. Who Knows How This Column Will End?

“Endings are hard.”

Add Your Own Sauce

“I grew up in a subdivision in Baton Rouge. I had no connection to the business at all. But I felt like it’s going to happen to somebody. I was like an athlete who didn’t have any extraordinary skills, but had basic skills, but worked really hard. That was me. I’m a grinder. I’ll beat you because I will not sleep. Whenever I go and talk to aspiring filmmakers, I go, ‘Look, at the end of the day, I can talk about craft, whether you have a soul of an artist, I don’t know.’ Your take on things is what is either going to make you somebody we talk about or no. You have to have a take on shit. It’s got to be specific and engaging. We’re all standing on the shoulders of what other people have done. But you’re supposed to take that and add your own sauce.

Steven Soderbergh

Sunday 8.3.2014 New York Times Digest


1. The Squeeze on the Middlebrow

“In 1949, if you were eating avocado, you were most likely at an upper-middlebrow dinner party. Today, you are probably at Subway.”

2. How Facebook Sold You Krill Oil

“With its trove of knowledge about the likes, histories and social connections of its 1.3 billion users worldwide, Facebook executives argue, it can help advertisers reach exactly the right audience and measure the impact of their ads — while also, like TV, conveying a broad brand message.”

3. Jiminy Cricket! Bugs Could Be Next Food Craze

“There are, like, thousands of insects crawling over one another.”

4. Shattering Myths to Help the Climate

“Reducing CO2 emissions would actually be surprisingly easy.”

5. An Appeal to Our Inner Judge

“Every day, our biases determine what we see and how we judge those around us.”

6. How South Korea Enslaves Its Students

“Herded to various educational outlets and programs by parents, the average South Korean student works up to 13 hours a day, while the average high school student sleeps only 5.5 hours a night to ensure there is sufficient time for studying.”

7. Facebook’s Gateway Drug

“The goal of providing universal, affordable Internet access is a laudatory one. But there’s more to the nonprofit-tinged ‘’ agenda than meets the eye, and its subtext is indicative of a bigger problem with Silicon Valley ‘solutionism’ — the belief that the tech industry could and should solve all of life’s problems.”

8. Three Myths About the Brain

“Myths about the brain typically arise in this fashion: An intriguing experimental result generates a plausible if speculative interpretation (a small part of the lobe seems sufficient) that is later overextended or distorted (we use only 10 percent of our brain). The caricature ultimately infiltrates pop culture and takes on a life of its own, quite independent from the facts that spawned it.”

9. ‘Fury,’ Starring Brad Pitt, a Raw Look at Warfare

“American fighters were not saints.”

10. Delayed Zombification

“I was reading a lot of Jacques Derrida at the time, writing Beth. He actually talked about zombies. Zombies sort of typify this ambiguity, that they’re not dead and not alive.”

11. Sci-Fi Beats With a Pacific Flavor

“While outsiders might think the city’s hip-hop scene revolves around the ubiquitous white rapper Macklemore, the reality is more idiosyncratic and diverse. Shabazz Palaces are part of Black Constellation, a collective of visual artists (Maikoiyo Alley-Barnes, Nicholas Galanin and Nep Sidhu, who creates their stage clothing), fashion designers and musicians, including the rapper OCnotes and the avant-R&B duo THEESatisfaction, who host a series of parties called Black Weirdo in Seattle, Toronto, New York and Minneapolis.”

12. Tell Me What You See, Even if It Hurts Me

“People at my school and camp say I’m the most ugliest person they’ve ever seen and I could be the ugliest person that could ever be living. Be honest and tell me if I am ugly or not. I can take it, but please don’t say really mean stuff.”

13. Immortal Beloved

“Swafford repeatedly points out the way Beethoven cunningly derived pieces from a single, simple idea. This is not news — but it’s worth meditating on. Beethoven preferred musical ideas of almost unusable simplicity, things that seem pre-musical, or ur-musical, like chords, or scales — not music, but the stuff music is made of. Imagine a building constructed of blueprints, or a novel based on the word ‘the.’”

14. Mind Ablaze

“Poems and first paragraphs came to him with ‘every word in place, every comma, every period fixed.’ His synesthesia endowed sounds with colors; he had a prodigious memory and a seer’s empathy. In a span of 10 productive years, Crane wrote five novels, two books of poems, several classic stories and many journalistic sketches.”

15. Best Exotic Kingdom

“In Hollywood, she spurned Errol Flynn, whose plan for a film version of the original rajah’s exploits was, she decided, vastly inferior to her own. During her heyday, between the two world wars, she presided over a kingdom the size of England whose subjects greeted her arrival with 21-gun salutes and elaborate parades. Marooned in New York in 1941, with little to sustain her but hot dogs and gin, she was reduced to telling fortunes in a bar called Leon and Eddie’s, ‘where I was known as “Toots.”’”

16. War Comes to America

“The president could be secretive and manipulative. As it turned out, he also had better instincts than the military men who served him.”

17. Head Count

“The biggest problem with Malthusiasm, as Mayhew addresses at length, is that Malthus was wrong.”

18. Math

“We still need math.”

19. The Kids Who Beat Autism

“A small but reliable subset of children really do overcome autism.”

Sunday 7.27.2014 New York Times Digest


1. No Time to Think

“You can’t solve or let go of problems if you don’t allow yourself time to think about them.”

2. Race in Toyland: A Nonwhite Doll Crosses Over

“The kids who are of color see her as an African-American girl, and that’s really big for them. And I think a lot of other kids don’t see her color, and that’s wonderful as well.”

3. ‘Rule Followers’ Flock to a Convention Where Fake Violence Reigns

“Nowhere is violence in entertainment more prominently on display than at Comic-Con. And yet, historically, all of the attendees have been strikingly well behaved.”

4. Heads or Tails? Either Way, You Might Beat a Stock Picker

“Over the last five years, actively managed stock mutual funds have performed even worse than would have been predicted if the fund managers were flipping coins instead of picking stocks.”

5. The Typical Household, Now Worth a Third Less

“The inflation-adjusted net worth for the typical household was $87,992 in 2003. Ten years later, it was only $56,335, or a 36 percent decline.”

6. If Marriage Moves Beyond Our Means

“Only the upper tiers of Americans have the money and time to reasonably hope that their offspring will succeed.”

7. Steering His Own Schedule

“There’s a time-honored tradition in Hollywood of people doing all sorts of odd jobs while waiting to be discovered.”

8. Heard on the Street: E-I-E-I-O

“A growing number of New Yorkers who are turning their personal plots into micro farms. In a metropolis where ‘back to the land’ does not usually apply as a descriptor, New Yorkers are raising hens for eggs, rabbits for meat and bees for honey. They have turned tiny slivers of open space into productive vegetable gardens that often also capture rainwater and compost waste.”

9. Repeal Prohibition, Again

“The federal government should repeal the ban on marijuana.”

10. The New Instability

“Since the 1970s, families have become more egalitarian in their internal relationships. But inequality among families has soared. Women have become more secure as their real wages and legal rights have increased. But families have become more insecure as their income and job instability have worsened.”

11. We’re Missing the Story

“Our stories about others tell us more about ourselves.”

12. Failure Is Our Muse

“Three hundred thousand books are published in the United States every year. A few hundred, at most, could be called financial or creative successes. The majority of books by successful writers are failures. The majority of writers are failures. And then there are the would-be writers, those who have failed to be writers in the first place, a category which, if you believe what people tell you at parties, constitutes the bulk of the species.”

13. Why the Beach Is a Bummer

“Sixty-one percent of Americans don’t live anywhere near a beach. We spend a surprising amount of time hearing about this place we will hardly ever see. We watch commercials, TV shows and movies in which nubile young women and their strapping male counterparts frolic on sand, their hair golden and sun-streaked. Long walks on the beach are the supposed holy grail of a romantic evening. The beach becomes a kind of utopia — the place where all our dreams come true.”

14. Where Reason Ends and Faith Begins

“Praying in an ancient language you don’t understand is fine; praying in tongues (not a human language, but thought to be a spiritual one) anathema. A god who has a human son whom he allows to be killed is natural; a god with eight arms and a lusty sexual appetite is weird. You believe in the Holy Spirit, but you draw the line at exorcism. You take for granted that Christ will come again to earth, but riding on a white horse and wearing a robe dipped in blood? That’s obviously a prophet’s besotted fantasy.”

15. Powerful and Coldhearted

“Studies have repeatedly shown that participants who are in high positions of power (or who are temporarily induced to feel powerful) are less able to adopt the visual, cognitive or emotional perspective of other people, compared to participants who are powerless (or are made to feel so).”

16. Goofy Guy Takes a Galactic Leap

“The draft beer he had ordered (though not before saying: ‘I hope you don’t mind? I don’t work tomorrow’) sat before him, untouched. Five weeks earlier, he and a reporter from Entertainment Weekly spent an afternoon together doing shots of Jack Daniel’s. Not so this week. ‘I don’t know why I ordered this,” he said. ‘Turns out I don’t like beer anymore.’ Instead, he did a 180, and asked for camomile tea.”

17. His Own Godfather

Brown, who died on Christmas Day 2006, began his career in the ’50s under the spell of Little Richard and ended it as a major influence on current singer-dancers like Usher and Chris Brown. Michael Jackson and Prince, of course, were acolytes. Reared on gospel, blues and jazz, Brown was a dominant force in the soul ’60s, created funk, inspired disco and laid hip-hop’s foundation with his beats.

18. Passing of a Video Store and a Downtown Aesthetic

“For a time, you could go treasure hunting at the Strand for books, the vintage hot spot Antique Boutique for clothes, and Kim’s for videos.”

19. To Pop Legends, He Was a Guitar Hero

“Maybe they don’t look like rock stars, or their voices aren’t accessible enough, or they just don’t have the merciless drive and ambition it takes to top the charts. Instead, these musicians contribute to a kind of shadow history of rock, adding not only songs that become best known through cover versions, but also passing along some particular, unique approach to playing or arranging that reverberates to the world through their peers.”

20. The Emoji Have Won the Battle of Words

“An emoji-only version of Moby Dick, called Emoji Dick, was recently accepted into the Library of Congress.”

21. Devilish Audacity

“Several traits make a worthy biographer. (1) Affection for his subject, but not blind adulation. (2) An interesting personality with a winning style. (3) Neither excessive brevity nor tiresome long-windedness. (4) A judicious sense of what ­matters and what doesn’t. (5) Awareness that a portrait requires a suitable frame, i.e., attention to context and background. (6) A far-ranging erudition. (7) Maybe most important: a sense of humor.”

22. The Wealth of Ideas

“Fawcett aims to make liberalism comprehensible to contemporary readers. To do so, he takes a commendably liberal approach, bringing as many within the tent as possible. Liberals, he insists, do not argue from a doctrinal checklist so much as they understand that conflict is unavoidable, distrust unjust authority, hold faith in progress and respect all, or at least most, people.”

23. Radical Inquiry

“There’s a striking difference between those pages and the penetrative depth of Willis’s thinking — the result of a painstakingly slow writing process and scrupulous self-questioning that gave her work moral and intellectual authority. That disparity may lead one to wonder if such thinking is even possible at a time when discourse is shaped by the Internet, which demands self-congratulatory clique-building and fresh outrage every hour on the hour.”

24. Much Ado About Everything

Stuff Matters is about hidden wonders, the astonishing properties of materials we think boring, banal and unworthy of attention — paper, concrete, glass, plastic. They are given what the sociologist Erving Goffman called ‘civil inattention,’ lumped together under the ample but unilluminating category of “stuff,” even though some varieties of that stuff have been so important, historically, that eras have been named after them: Stone, Bronze, Iron.”

25. When It Comes to Fiction About National Tragedy, How Soon Is Too Soon?

“Although many people have strong feelings about historical tragedies, few have the ability to process them in a way that makes them intellectually or artistically meaningful.”

26. Why Do Americans Stink at Math?

“The trouble always starts when teachers are told to put innovative ideas into practice without much guidance on how to do it. In the hands of unprepared teachers, the reforms turn to nonsense, perplexing students more than helping them.”

27. What Do Chinese Dumplings Have to Do With Global Warming?

“Cooling is already responsible for 15 percent of all electricity consumption worldwide, and leaks of chemical refrigerants are a major source of greenhouse-gas pollution. Of all the shifts in lifestyle that threaten the planet right now, perhaps not one is as important as the changing way that Chinese people eat.”

28. Manhattan’s Secret Pools and Gardens

“You wouldn’t know it, but they’re up there — those turquoise oases, invisible to those of us who cope each day with sour summer smells, sweltering subway platforms and scorching sidewalks. More than any other city, New York converts the graph of its income inequality into a vertical urban plan, with most people spread out at street level — conniving to linger for just one extra second before an air-conditioned storefront when its door swings open — and the lucky few in their secret aeries and tiny triangle bikinis, lolling poolside.”

James Garner (1928–2014)

James Garner11

James Garner played cowboys, soldiers, detectives, astronauts, and race car drivers. He was, as Brandon David Wilson said on Twitter, “American manhood personified,” “a kind of ideal midpoint,” as Ned Raggett tweeted, “between laconic cool and comic vulnerability – like Steve McQueen plus Cary Grant.”

In a great piece for the Atlantic on the dearth of charm among American men, Benjamin Schwarz basically designates Garner – with his “casual wit,” “good-natured ease,” “liking for and appreciation of women,” and “quizzical detachment” – America’s last charming man. He writes, “Garner had a magical ability to convey his offscreen persona of red-blooded, hardworking, plain, and thorough decency, even as his charming onscreen persona didn’t fully gibe with it. He thereby made a light touch and an ironic stance qualities that men found not just appealing but worthy.”

Of the three mid-20th century male TV stars who made the jump to movies – Steve McQueen, Clint Eastwood, and James Garner – Clive James likes Garner the best, mainly because, unlike the more taciturn McQueen and Eastwood, Garner had a facility with words, a crucial component of charm. It doesn’t hurt that Garner was also, by all accounts, a pretty nice guy: married to the same woman since 1956, civil rights advocate, lifelong marijuana smoker.

Garner’s oft-remarked-upon charm is present from the beginning of his career in the late 1950s. Unlike Cary Grant, who didn’t hit his stride charm-wise until well into his career, Garner’s charm appeared more or less fully formed. This, I hypothesize, is partly due to the fact that he did stuff before becoming an actor. He lived life. The New York Times explains:

Mr. Garner came to acting late, and by accident. On his own after the age of 14 and a bit of a drifter, he had been working an endless series of jobs: telephone installer, oilfield roughneck, chauffeur, dishwasher, janitor, lifeguard, grocery clerk, salesman and, fatefully, gas station attendant. While pumping gas in Los Angeles, he met a young man named Paul Gregory, who was working nearby as a soda jerk but wanted to be an agent.

Years later, after Mr. Garner had served in the Army during the Korean War – he was wounded in action twice, earning two Purple Hearts – he was working as a carpet layer in Los Angeles for a business run by his father. One afternoon he was driving on La Cienega Boulevard and saw a sign: Paul Gregory & Associates. Just then a car pulled out of a space in front of the building, and Mr. Garner, on a whim, pulled in. He was 25.

The rest, as they say, is history, but Garner never really shed his “regular guy who works odd jobs” persona. I think this accounted for, insofar as it gave him a certain world-weariness, a fair chunk of his charm. World-weariness is, in fact, a key ingredient of charm according to Schwarz, who writes that “Only the self-aware can have charm: It’s bound up with a sensibility that at best approaches wisdom, or at least worldliness, and at worst goes well beyond cynicism.” “I was never enamored of the business, never even wanted to be an actor, really,” Garner told the New York Times in 1984 in a quote reproduced at the end of their obituary for him yesterday. “It’s always been a means to an end, which is to make a living.” Now, some of this may be false modesty on Garner’s part, but at a time when it seems like everyone and their mother wants desperately to be famous, Garner’s “take it or leave it” attitude, and the life experience that led to it, strikes me not just as indicative of charm, but of virtue. It’s usually stupid to try to emulate actors, but James Garner might be the exception to the rule.

Sunday 7.20.2014 New York Times Digest


1. Love People, Not Pleasure

“People who rate materialistic goals like wealth as top personal priorities are significantly likelier to be more anxious, more depressed and more frequent drug users, and even to have more physical ailments than those who set their sights on more intrinsic values.”

2. The Pickpocket’s Tale

“These are lean years for pickpockets. People carry more credit cards and less cash; men wear suits less, and tightfitting pants more.”

3. New Dimension in Scoreboard Watching

“As teams reap billions of dollars from television networks that carry their games in increasingly vivid detail, fans are finding more reasons to stay home, especially as the costs of tickets, parking and food escalate. So in a twist that would make Marshall McLuhan proud, teams are trying to recreate the living room experience in stadiums. In recent years, they have installed televisions in suites, boosted Wi-Fi and cellphone signals, and created lounges where fans can track their fantasy football teams.”

4. Jeter, Like Duncan, Makes the Routine Extraordinary

“His legacy also represents baseball’s most enduring and endearing qualities, an appreciation of nuance that sets it apart from its primary competition.”

5. Sometimes, Early Birds Are Too Early

“People appear wired to incur a significant physical cost to eliminate a mental burden.”

6. Income Inequality Is Not Rising Globally. It’s Falling.

“Income inequality for the world as a whole has been falling for most of the last 20 years.”

7. The Job That Keeps Playing in My Head

“Over the next months, more friends moved away from Iowa City as they found jobs and made plans to start families, or found agents and received grants. My book, though, was a mess. I found myself increasingly alone. With Ned. With the house. The stink of pigs grew rich and complicated as the weather warmed, as the cold prairie came back to life.”

8. The Data-Driven Home Search

“The growing accessibility of highly detailed demographic data plays into the natural tendency of home buyers to look for ‘people like us,’ which is as old as the subdivided hills.”

9. The Future of Robot Caregivers

“Are there ethical issues we will need to address? Of course.”

10. Our Love Affair With the Mug Shot

“From the iconic images of Butch Cassidy and his crew to the gangster mug shots in 1920s and ’30s pulp magazines, from the introduction of the F.B.I.’s most-wanted posters in 1950 to today’s click-bait online mug shot slide shows, we have always sought the chance to gaze at accused criminals.”

11. The End of ‘Genius’

“The lone genius is a myth that has outlived its usefulness. Fortunately, a more truthful model is emerging: the creative network, as with the crowd-sourced Wikipedia or the writer’s room at ‘The Daily Show’ or — the real heart of creativity — the intimate exchange of the creative pair, such as John Lennon and Paul McCartney and myriad other examples with which we’ve yet to fully reckon.”

12. Real Adventurers Read Maps

“There’s admittedly something satisfying about watching the blue-dot version of yourself inch closer to its destination. And sure, for the rush-hour commuter it’s very 21st century for your phone to alert you to an accident snarling traffic up ahead. But I would argue that a road trip, especially one taken with another person, is a lesser experience with GPS or navigation apps.”

13. How Tests Make Us Smarter

“Used properly, testing as part of an educational routine provides an important tool not just to measure learning, but to promote it.”

14. Staring at the Flame

“Philip took vivid stock of everything, all the time. It was painful and exhausting work, and probably in the end his undoing. The world was too bright for him to handle. He had to screw up his eyes or be dazzled to death. Like Chatterton, he went seven times round the moon to your one, and every time he set off, you were never sure he’d come back, which is what I believe somebody said about the German poet Hölderlin: Whenever he left the room, you were afraid you’d seen the last of him. And if that sounds like wisdom after the event, it isn’t. Philip was burning himself out before your eyes.”

15. Eileen Ford’s Legacy

“Eileen was the person who made modeling really respectable. It was something that nice girls could do. Before that, it was a step up from being a hatcheck girl at the Copacabana.”

16. Technology’s Rainbow Connection

“Looking at the elated faces in the crowd, many stamped with that Facebook ‘Like,’ it almost seemed as if the tech industry and the gay communities in San Francisco had merged in a kind of ecstatically branded, hashtag-enabled celebration of shared ascendancy. And yet, for all these public strides, insiders say the culture has yet to fully transcend its frat-boy programmer reputation.”

17. Real Men Don’t Drink Pink

“The idea of assessing sexuality or character through what is in someone’s refrigerator is absurd, although anyone who sees an extra-large Domino’s Pizza box in a man’s refrigerator and sticks around is getting no sympathy from me.”

18. Bill Hader: By the Book

“I don’t believe in the term ‘guilty pleasure,’ because it implies I should feel ashamed for liking something. A real guilty pleasure would be, I don’t know, taking gratification in some stranger’s ghastly death or something — which I guess I do enjoy, because I read a ton of true crime. So, O.K., O.K., I have a guilty pleasure, and it’s true crime.”

19. The Woman

“Luce ‘could enter a room where there were other women, more beautiful, better dressed with better figures, and they faded into the background, foils for her radiance.’”

20. Sing to Me, O Muse (But Keep It Brief)

“Technology has routed the humanities. Everyone wants the latest app, the best device, the slickest new gadget. Put on the defensive, advocates for the humanities have failed to make an effective case for their fields. There have been efforts to promote the digital humanities, it being understood that the adjective ‘digital’ is what rescues ‘humanities’ in the phrase. Has the faculty thrown in the towel too soon? Have literature departments and libraries welcomed the end of the book with unseemly haste? Have the conservators of culture embraced the acceleration of change that may endanger the study of the literary humanities as if — like the clock face, cursive script and the rotary phone — it, too, can be effectively consigned to the ash heap of the analog era?”

21. Content and Its Discontents

“Taylor’s thesis is simply stated. The pre-Internet cultural industry, populated mainly by exploitative conglomerates, was far from perfect, but at least the ancien régime felt some need to cultivate cultural institutions, and to pay for talent at all levels. Along came the web, which swept away hierarchies — as well as paychecks, leaving behind creators of all kinds only the chance to be fleetingly ‘Internet famous.’”

22. What Are the Last Literary Taboos?

“There will always be taboos as long as the powerful are allowed to define what writers are forbidden to write.”

23. Let’s Cool It in the Bedroom

“You can almost effortlessly tweak your metabolic health by turning down the bedroom thermostat a few degrees.”

24. The Weird, Scary and Ingenious Brain of Maria Bamford

“Bamford talks about mental illness the same way Sarah Silverman talks about being Jewish or Louis C.K. talks about being divorced, with the flippant knowingness of an insider.”

25. The Pageant King of Alabama

“Alverson is one of the most successful beauty-pageant coaches in America today.”

26. Is Your Relationship With Fido on the Rocks?

“Today, dogs are one of the primary relationships — if not the primary relationship — in many people’s lives. We think of our dogs as family members, as kids, so it’s no surprise we would have conflicts with them. Our dogs can unintentionally push our buttons.”

Sunday 7.13.2014 New York Times Digest


1. A Rare Bond

“Anyone who thinks the bond between man and dog or cat is the supreme human-house pet attachment will have to reconsider after reading Martin Windrow’s touching account of the bird who changed his life, a possessive and characterful tawny owl named Mumble who was his domestic companion for 15 action-packed years.”

2. Reporting Rape, and Wishing She Hadn’t

“School disciplinary panels are a world unto themselves, operating in secret with scant accountability and limited protections for the accuser or the accused.”

3. Amazon, a Friendly Giant as Long as It’s Fed

“From household names to deeply obscure scribblers, authors are inflamed this summer, perhaps more deeply divided than at any point in nearly a half-century. Back then, it was the question of being a hawk or dove on Vietnam. Now it is not a war but an Internet retailer and its unparalleled grip on the cultural machinery that is provoking fierce controversy.”

4. The Children of the Drug Wars

“What the United States is seeing on its borders now is not an immigration crisis. It is a refugee crisis.”

5. The Data of Hate

“Perhaps it was my own naïveté, but I would have imagined white nationalists’ inhabiting a different universe from that of my friends and me. Instead, they have long threads praising ‘Breaking Bad’ and discussing the comparative merits of online dating sites, like Plenty of Fish and OkCupid.”

6. All Children Should Be Delinquents

“By making things, breaking things and taking real risks, by becoming citizens in our ad hoc community, we used the fallow days of summer to put our Catholic-school education, and our parents’ parenting, to the test. Trial and error often proved that they were right. But in discovering what we enjoyed most — not what we were taught to enjoy — we also discovered new parts of ourselves: artists, engineers, combatants, daredevils, explorers, criminals, comedians and more. Our summer fun was a field study in life, which is the last thing we would have thought at the time.”

7. The Afterlife

“Two and half years ago, he died after mixing heroin and alcohol, at the age of 21. That has not stopped the slow and steady trickle of mail and email, oblivious to our loss.”

8. How to Talk About Pain

“We have made great strides in making patients more comfortable over the last few centuries. We may no longer believe that pain is sent by God to test us; and we may no longer need lengthy descriptions of pain to arrive at diagnoses. But pain will always be with us, and by listening closely to the stories patients tell us about their pain, we can gain hints about the nature of their suffering and the best way we can provide succor. This is why the clinical sciences need disciplines like history and the medical humanities.”

9. Look Homeward, LeBron

“Now he’s making the migration in reverse, returning to the battered Midwestern city he famously betrayed. And strikingly, his statement announcing the move doubled as a kind of communitarian manifesto, implicitly critiquing the values underlying elite self-segregation in America.”

10. Turning ‘Likes’ Into a Career

“People like Mr. Lachtman and his co-founder, Rob Fishman, run what may be seen as a parallel universe to Hollywood, one in which shares and likes matter more than box-office sales and paparazzi shots.”

11. They’re Dropping Like Middle Initials

“John Q. Public has spoken: Time to K.O. the Q.”

12. Into the Deep

“We learn that squid can ejaculate in our mouths after we cook them and eat them, and that because squid ink is ‘invulnerable to decay,’ people in 19th-century England were able to use the ink of a 150-million-year-old squid to make drawings of its carcass.”

13. Unlikely Warriors

“Williams would later fall in love with and marry an attractive and like-minded young woman, Susan Rowland, who once ‘pardoned’ two ducks that were intended for dinner, and kept them as pets. Unlike most company wives, Susan stayed by her husband’s side as he traversed the jungle. At one camp, the newlywed Susan was alarmed by a strange odor rising from their bed. Williams investigated, and discovered that one of the servants had greased the frame with pig fat to reduce the sounds of their enthusiastic lovemaking.”

14. School for a Scoundrel

“Above all, he embodies the central conflict of human life: Can we be good while engaging with the imperfect world around us?”

15. The Mystery of the Vanishing Screwball

“A pitcher’s typical menu includes a fastball, a curveball and a changeup as the meat and potatoes, with perhaps a slider, cut fastball or sinker as a side. The screwball is another dish entirely. Those who serve one have typically been looked upon as oddities, custodians of a quirky art beyond the realm of conventional pitching. Over time, the word itself has taken on the characteristics of both the pitch and those who throw it: erratic, irrational or illogical, unexpected. Unlike the knuckleball, which is easy to throw but hard to master, the screwball requires special expertise just to get it to the plate.”

16. The Post-Post-Apocalyptic Detroit

“The belief in Detroit’s imminent revival has spread far beyond Dan Gilbert and the skyscrapers of downtown. Out in the neighborhoods, there is a legion of mini-Gilberts, longtime Detroiters and recent transplants alike, who have united around a conviction that the city has fallen as far as it can go — that the time to buy in is at hand. Just a couple of years after Detroit slid into what the national news media incessantly called a ‘post-apocalyptic’ collapse, the city now teems with a post-post-apocalyptic optimism.”

17. The Future Sure Looks Better From the Past

“In addition to our retreat into wishfulness, something else was brewing: a sense that the past was not only better than the present, but that the past’s predictions for the future were also better than what had actually become the present. No longer content to live in (or through) our memories of the past, we also yearned to live in the past’s vision of the future. We were nostalgic for yesterday’s prognostications: You could say that we succumbed to prognostalgia.”