Sunday 9.28.2014 New York Times Digest


1. How to Stop Time

“Are we imposing standards on ourselves that make us mad?”

2. Today’s Police Put On a Gun and a Camera

“The rising use of cameras has put the police in a complex and uncertain landscape of public records law.”

3. For Muslims, Social Media Debate on Extremism Is Reflected in Dueling Hashtags

“The group … began a campaign this month built around the Twitter hashtag #notinmyname, which has denounced the beheading of the British aid worker David Haines and other brutal acts committed by the radical group Islamic State. The hashtag has been tweeted tens of thousands of times, and a YouTube video promoting the campaign has more than 200,000 views. But the campaign has spawned a satirical reaction from Muslims who say it presumes that they are somehow collectively responsible for Islamic extremism.”

4. Colleges Make It Easier for Students to Show, Not Tell, in Their Applications

“A prospective student may apply by submitting two pieces of work (at least one of them a graded high school writing assignment) and a two-minute video, rather than a high school transcript.”

5. Sunday Routine: Vincent Piazza

“I have this thing that I’ve been doing for the last few years where I make it my business, no matter what, to read 30 pages of a book a day.”

6. With His Words and Deeds, Derek Jeter Never Entered Foul Territory

“In 20 years of living onstage in New York City, the so-called media capital of the world, Derek Jeter has never played ball. He has never been caught in a compromising position. He has never embarrassed himself. After a long shift at the ballpark, he has never been known to ooze into one of those establishments that tabloids call jiggle joints, or to stumble out of some meatpacking-district hot spot after too much Veuve Clicquot.”

7. The Unrepentant Bootlegger

“Ms. Beshara … still can’t accept that what she was doing deserved the heavy hammer of the law. She served 16 months in prison for conspiracy and criminal copyright infringement, but she still talks about NinjaVideo as something grand. It was a portal that spirited her away from the doldrums of her regular life as a receptionist living with her parents to an online community that regarded her as its queen. Sure, she showed movies that were still playing in theaters, but it seemed like harmless, small-stakes fun.”

8. Turning Programming Into Child’s Play

“When we teach children how to read and write, we don’t expect everyone to become a journalist or a novelist. But we believe they’ll be able to think in new ways because it opens the doors to thinking. We believe the same thing for the skills of programming and engineering.”

9. Looking at Productivity as a State of Mind

“A modern version of the spirit of Taylorism is sorely needed. It’s time to identify and optimize the specific psychologies that constitute the mental alchemy of productivity.”

10. Pearls of Career Wisdom, Found in the Trash

“Before I was an E.V.P., S.V.P. or V.P., I worked as a janitor. For two summers I cleaned toilets, mopped floors and smelled like garbage. It had nothing to do with my chosen profession. And yet nothing was better for preparing me for work and life as an adult.”

11. The Wilds of Education

“Isn’t education supposed to provoke, disrupt, challenge the paradigms that young people have consciously embraced and attack the prejudices that they have unconsciously absorbed?”

12. Why We Sit Back and Let Apps Do Our Chores

“How do we judge whether technology is making us more productive, or just lazy and impatient?”

13. Building an Ark for the Anthropocene

“By 2100, researchers say, one-third to one-half of all Earth’s species could be wiped out. As a result, efforts to protect species are ramping up as governments, scientists and nonprofit organizations try to build a modern version of Noah’s Ark.”

14. Learning to Love Criticism

“If a woman wants to do substantive work of any kind, she’s going to be criticized — with comments not just about her work but also about herself.”

15. Object Lessons in History

“Objects seem to be emerging as history’s lingua franca.”

16. So You’re Not a Physicist…

“Nothing is intrinsically wrong with applying scientific language metaphorically to human experience. Metaphors are valuable when our experiences are enigmatic or difficult to capture, when existing words don’t fit the situation at hand. Even the incorrect use of technical terms can meaningfully express what we intuit but cannot otherwise say.”

17. Kicking the Facebook Habit

“In our age of so-called social media, my act is inexcusably antisocial. I don’t tumble, tweet or Instagram. I am not linked in, nor have I pinned a pin on Pinterest. But no Facebook? Even in our most secluded moments, Facebook puts the spite in respite; we are expected to brag-post our feet on a lounge chair on some Greek isle, or our wet baby moments after its birth. It’s an orgy of insistent intimacy. I ached to abstain.”

18. The Cult Deficit

“The decline of cults, while good news for anxious parents of potential devotees, might actually be a worrying sign for Western culture, an indicator not only of religious stagnation but of declining creativity writ large.”

19. Pynchon’s Cameo, and Other Surrealities

I know that they talked a lot. Sometimes, he’d say, ‘Oh, I talked to Pynchon last night, and we were talking, he thought maybe it could be like this or like that.’ It was pretty amazing, because it seemed like he was very active in the process through Paul. It seemed like they talked often and he would make suggestions or talk about how to condense three scenes into one.”

20. For Arianna Huffington and Kobe Bryant: First, Success. Then Sleep.

“When you watch me shoot my fadeaway jumper, you’ll notice my leg is always extended. I had problems making that shot in the past. It’s tough. So one day I’m watching the Discovery Channel and see a cheetah hunting. When the cheetah runs, its tail always gives it balance, even if it’s cutting a sharp angle. And that’s when I was like: My leg could be the tail, right?”

21. A Defining Question in an iPhone Age: Live for the Moment or Record It?

“To live the moment or record the moment? It’s become a defining dilemma of the iPhone age.”


22. As Blondie Turns 40, a Look Back Through Chris Stein’s Lens

“Though the photographs in the book span the band’s four decades, they’re rooted mostly in the punk scene that emerged in the ’70s and ’80s, paralleling Blondie’s rise. Their star subject is the astonishingly photogenic Deborah Harry, who, in an essay in the book, calls Stein’s casually intimate pictures ‘the most real and unguarded and ultimately revealing’ of the era’s images of her.”

23. A Night Out With Stephin Merritt, the Singer for Magnetic Fields

“I’m amazed that everyone else is willing to put in a part-time job worth of work in order to manage their social media accounts. I’m too busy playing Scrabble and Words With Friends.”

24. A Recipe for Air Rage

“I find myself thinking of John B. Calhoun’s seminal overpopulation research, published in Scientific American in the 1960s, which found that as rats were increasingly crowded together they became ever more aggressive and exhibited ‘behavior disturbances’ from ‘frenetic overactivity’ to ‘pathological withdrawal.’”

25. Disquiet on the Set

“‘I neither loved nor hated him.’ But he admits: ‘At one point I did seriously plan to firebomb him in his home.’”

26. No Pain, No Game

“At any given instant thousands of people suffer and die, in vain, unjustly, and we are not affected: Our existence is possible only at this price. Sade’s merit is not only that he cried aloud that which each person shamefully admits to himself, but that he did not reconcile himself to it. He chose cruelty over indifference.”

27. Attention Must Be Paid

“As an instructive social parable, Richtel’s densely reported, at times forced yet compassionate and persuasive book deserves a spot next to Fast Food Nation and To Kill a Mockingbird in America’s high school curriculums.”

28. All Atwitter

“The book seems to desublimate itself for you: No sooner does the reader think, ‘This is like the case of Louis Althusser’s murder of his wife,’ than some character makes the comparison for you. The result is provocatively comic, and surreal in the manner of a Max Ernst collage.”

29. The Woman Who Walked 10,000 Miles (No Exaggeration) in Three Years

“Her body changed, and her mind changed, too. Her senses sharpened to the point that she could smell shampoo on a tourist’s hair from a mile away. ‘One day you walk 12 hours, and you don’t feel pain,’ Marquis said. The past and present telescope down to an all-consuming now. ‘There is no before or after. The intellect doesn’t drive you anymore. It doesn’t exist anymore. You become what nature needs you to be: this wild thing.’”

30. Just Say No

“If part of being a happy person is having the ability to say yes — to new people, ideas and experiences — part of being a stylish one seems to be the ability to say no. Mastery of the art of refusal is something every person of great style I’ve ever come across shares: the confidence to reject trends or conventions — whether of living, dressing or decorating — that don’t feel uplifting or authentic.”

31. A Golden Age of Design

“The golden age of design has been heralded many times over the past couple of decades — four, by my count. Now, this previous momentum paired with technology, community and big business has fueled something new: an unprecedented belief in the power of design to not only elevate an idea, but be the idea.”

32. Fringe Benefits

“Bangs are not for seeing; they’re for being seen. On the runway this fall, Louis Vuitton and Saint Laurent had them choppy, showing a little skin. Short bangs are severe, just a bit aggressive — they don’t hesitate. These long bangs are more mysterious. Black-ringed eyes peer out, spooky and sheltered, the forehead hidden. The rest of the hair hangs loose and straight. Big hair, little face: The look is Anna Karina, Jane Birkin, Juliet Berto, Nico. Geniuses of style, all those women used their bangs to hold something back.”

33. The Brains and Braun of Dieter Rams

“Good design is honest.”

34. In Praise of the Humble Knot

“Knot enthusiasts like to say that civilization is held together by knots. It sounds like a wisecrack — but if you take a look around, you may begin to see the truth behind the quip.”

Don’t Be Late

“Show up on time. I learned this from the mentor who I call Bigfoot in Kitchen Confidential. If you didn’t show up 15 minutes exactly before your shift — if you were 13 minutes early — you lost the shift, you were sent home. The second time you were fired. It is the basis of everything. I make all my major decisions on other people based on that. Give the people you work with or deal with or have relationships with the respect to show up at the time you said you were going to. And by that I mean, every day, always and forever. Always be on time. It is a simple demonstration of discipline, good work habits, and most importantly respect for other people.”

—Anthony Bourdain



Belated Bohemianism

“The life-style of belated bohemianism forced on the non-academic philosopher is itself enough to give him a fatal affinity to the world of arts-and-crafts, crackpot religion and half-educated sectarianism.”

—Theodor Adorno, Minima Moralia (1951)

Sunday 9.21.2014 New York Times Digest


1. Climate Realities

“The world is now on track to more than double current greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere by the end of the century. This would push up average global temperatures by three to eight degrees Celsius and could mean the disappearance of glaciers, droughts in the mid-to-low latitudes, decreased crop productivity, increased sea levels and flooding, vanishing islands and coastal wetlands, greater storm frequency and intensity, the risk of species extinction and a significant spread of infectious disease.”

2. After Surgery, Surprise $117,000 Medical Bill From Doctor He Didn’t Know

“In an increasingly common practice that some medical experts call drive-by doctoring, assistants, consultants and other hospital employees are charging patients or their insurers hefty fees. They may be called in when the need for them is questionable. And patients usually do not realize they have been involved or are charging until the bill arrives.”

3. A Writerly Chill at Jeff Bezos’ Fire

“There are impressive dinners, accompanied by live music. There is horseback riding, skeet shooting and lazing by the pool. In the mornings, there are formal talks on highbrow topics. One guest fondly recalled that the swag included down vests, fleeces, shoulder bags and small suitcases to carry all the loot home. Getting back to mundane reality was postponed for the attendees who took one of the private jets. (Others say they took scheduled flights.)”

4. Coming Soon, a Century Late: A Black Film Gem

“Williams’s use of blackface, used by whites to mimic and mock black people, has been the subject of fascination to scholars and critics. African-American performers appeared to have donned blackface for different reasons: to mollify white audiences by obscuring their individuality, to continue the minstrel tradition, or even to heighten the absurdity of the convention. So was Williams’s use of it pragmatic, ironic, subversive or just sad? W. C. Fields once commented that Williams was ‘the funniest man I ever saw and the saddest man I ever knew.’”

5. Many Veterans Adapt to a Strange World, One With Walls

“The department embraced a ‘housing first’ philosophy — that people are better able to deal with underlying mental health and substance abuse problems if they have a stable place to live.”

6. Jack Devine: The Spymaster Who Goes to Mass

“When I was in the business, I would be highly focused when I was going to do something that was clandestine. And truly, you can feel what’s going on. You don’t look in windows. You don’t look over your shoulder. You actually begin to develop patterns of walking that after a while you can feel surveillance.”

7. In Scotland and Beyond, a Crisis of Faith in the Global Elite

“There has been an implicit agreement in modern democracies: It is fine for the wealthy and powerful to enjoy private jets and outlandishly expensive homes so long as the mass of people also see steadily rising standards of living. Only the first part of that bargain has been met, and voters are expressing their frustration in ways that vary depending on the country but that have in common a sense that the established order isn’t serving them.”

8. The Phone Call Is Back

“As much as I enjoy sending and receiving messages, they can be confusing, particularly when it comes to conveying sarcasm or sincerity. And as much as I love using emoji — those colorful cartoons that can be inserted into text messages to infuse them with warmth and humor, they don’t have all that much nuance. Using them isn’t always a guaranteed way of getting my feelings across.”

9. In Suburban Seattle, New Nests for China’s Rich

“Wealthy Chinese have become far and away the biggest foreign buyers of real estate in Seattle in recent years.”

10. Why Federal College Ratings Won’t Rein In Tuition

“From 1988 to 2013, average tuition at four-year public colleges more than doubled, even after adjusting for inflation.”

11. In Checking Accounts, the Less You Have, the More You May Pay

“People with more money tend to pay lower fees.”

12. Dancing With the Start-Ups

“I think it’s a fair statement to say most people would rather be Mark Zuckerberg than Will Smith. I think that’s a fair statement, and that’s pretty fascinating.”

13. What ‘ASAP’ Really Means

“You get a request to fill out a report — or whatever — ‘as soon as possible.’ You consider how soon you might actually be able to do it, given everything else you’re dealing with. Then you add some extra time.”

14. Can a Computer Replace Your Doctor?

“Silicon Valley is bringing a host of new data-driven technologies to health care, many of them with enormous potential. But before we rush to measure every human attribute in real time, it would be a good idea to ask: When is more data actually useful to promote and ensure better health? And when does technology add true value to health care? The results have been mixed.”

15. The New Conservative Love Affair With Canada

“The things conservatives love about Canada are closely linked to the things they hate most about Canada.”

16. Too Young to Die, Too Old to Worry

“When should we set aside a life lived for the future and, instead, embrace the pleasures of the present?”

17. Sad Dads in the Empty Nest

“Men’s identity is now invested in a more intimate, hands-on fatherhood; fathers see themselves not just as breadwinners but as caregivers and confidants, and feel deeply attached to kids they have changed and bathed and driven.”

18. Who Runs the Girls?

“V.I.P. night life is an industry run by men, for men, and on women, who are ubiquitously called ‘girls.’ The girls are brought in to attract big-spending clients from among the young global elite, willing to spend thousands of dollars on alcohol. Hence the V.I.P. party is sometimes half-jokingly described as ‘models and bottles.’ The girls are seen as interchangeable; one club owner calls them ‘buffers’ because rows of them frame his Instagram party pictures. They are recruited through friends of friends, scouted on the streets of SoHo, with its clusters of fashion agencies, or tracked down at model castings.”

19. The Case for Delayed Adulthood

“Prolonged adolescence, in the right circumstances, is actually a good thing, for it fosters novelty-seeking and the acquisition of new skills.”

20. On Film, a City Shows Its Noir Side

“Boston is a city of venerable neighborhoods, rich cultural history and academic distinction. But lately, at least on film, it seems as if it’s a city of melancholy. It has taken a turn for the bleak on the big screen, where in little more than a decade, films like The Town, The Departed, and Mystic River have depicted a sense of corruption and unrest, with characters often at a breaking point. The darkened streets and bad behavior are once again illuminated in The Equalizer, opening Sept. 26 and featuring Denzel Washington as a man with a mysterious past who seeks solace, and an ordinary life, in the city. But trouble is often nearby (mostly in the form of Russian gangsters and crooked cops), and he must take matters into his own hands in an effort to make the dark side of the city a little brighter.”

21. The Paleo Lifestyle: The Way, Way, Way Back

“Lately, Paleo has charged toward the mainstream, not only as a hugely popular diet … but also as a cave-man-inspired lifestyle that has spawned a fast-growing industry.”

22. Amy Cuddy Takes a Stand

“Adopting a confident pose — or simply visualizing one … — delivers almost instant self-assurance.”

23. Making a Splash on Campus

“In the university recreation center arms race … the latest thing is to turn a piece of campus into something approaching a water theme park.”

24. Man Down

“That one man can contain such contradictions makes for an astonishing, tragic story. In Hobbs’s hands, though, it becomes something more: an interrogation of our national creed of self-invention. It reminds us that there are origins in this country of ours that cannot be escaped, traumas that have no balm, holes that Medicaid and charter schools and better mental health care and prison reform can never fill.”

25. Stand-Up Man

“Bill Cosby was once just a comic working out his act.”

26. Be Polite With Your Books

“An academic I once met, jealous of the sales figures a colleague was yielding with his popularizations of history, used to walk into bookstores, scoop up any of the colleague’s books in sight, and reshelve them in Humor.”

27. Will Portland Always Be a Retirement Community for the Young?

“People move to New York to be in media or finance; they move to L.A. to be in show business. People move to Portland to move to Portland.”

The Long Game

Part I:

Part II:


“My own writing life is as predictable as the old priest preparing to say the dawn mass. The pleasant cold, the mild pain of being alive. I have the same breakfast every day—cold cereal, yogurt, coffee. I read the newspapers. I take a fistful of vitamins. I shower. I linger at my bookshelf or at the window. I read a chapter or a poem from a shelf I keep above my desk of former lovers and seducers, impossible rivals—Nabokov or Lawrence, Larkin. Woolf. Sitting down at the computer is as daunting as the altar boy’s first genuflection. ¶ Aquinas described writing as a form of prayer. Writing is for me dishearteningly hermetic. Revision is writing. Revision is humiliation—Tuesday saying something less well than Monday. Revision is open to noticing connections. Revision is joy at precisely that moment when the sentence no longer seems mine but speaks back to me and haughtily resists further revision. ¶ I read in the afternoons. I take long walks. I watch TV in the evening. I write letters at all times.”

Richard Rodriquez

(Via Wesley Hill.)