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.)

Sunday 9.14.2014 New York Times Digest


1. We’re All Nerds Now

“Never before has the boundary between geek culture and mainstream culture been so porous.”

2. Sun and Wind Alter Global Landscape, Leaving Utilities Behind

“Some experts say the electricity business is entering a period of turmoil beyond anything in its 130-year history, a disruption potentially as great as those that have remade the airlines, the music industry and the telephone business.”

3. Police Armored Vehicle Is Unwelcome in California College Town

“Since 2006, police agencies in California have received 8,533 surplus assault weapons, shotguns and pistols, as well as 7,094 pieces of night-vision equipment, the highest allocation of any state in those categories.”

4. What Were They Thinking? Ugly Video, Blind Justice

“When the wife of an N.F.L. cornerback sports a black eye; when the girlfriend of a linebacker has road burn on her thighs because he dragged her outside his car; when a running back’s 4-year-old son is beaten with a small tree branch; when women have finger bruises on their necks, fractured ulnas and splintered clavicles, do league owners and general managers allow their minds to run down darkened alleys toward the truth?”

5. Trying to Hit the Brake on Texting While Driving

“People know they shouldn’t text and drive. Overwhelmingly, they tell pollsters that doing so is unacceptable and dangerous, and yet they do it anyway. They can’t resist. So safety advocates and public officials have called for a technological solution that does an end run around free will and prevents people from texting in the first place.”

6. A Texting Driver’s Education

“Technology distraction is an issue that scientists say is playing out in many aspects of life — not just behind the wheel, but also at work and at home. In an eye blink, the devices designed to become productivity tools can, in fact, enslave us and become decidedly counterproductive, even deadly.”

7. Jeers and Cheers Over Tax Inversions

“American corporations are doing what they do best: finding ways to profit, regardless of national borders.”

8. Looking Another Culture in the Eye

“In Japan, there is an expression popular with young people: ‘kuuki yomenai.’ Often shortened to ‘K.Y.,’ it refers to someone who is unable to read the atmosphere. On my trip to Japan, I learned just how K.Y. I was.”

9. The Way to Beat Poverty

“One reason the United States has not made more progress against poverty is that our interventions come too late. If there’s one overarching lesson from the past few decades of research about how to break the cycles of poverty in the United States, it’s the power of parenting — and of intervening early, ideally in the first year or two of life or even before a child is born.”

10. Download: Lil Buck

“[Emerson’s] one of my favorite philosophers. He tells you to create your own path. Don’t follow the trail that’s already there. Bruce Lee is another philosopher who has had a huge impact on my life. He has a philosophy about being formless and shapeless like water. Water in a teacup becomes the teacup. Put it in a bottle, it becomes the bottle. But don’t fill up too much at once so you have an overflowing cup. Go at your own pace. It’s how I dance and how I try to live my whole life.”

11. A Monet of One’s Own

“No different from falling in love with a song, one may fall in love with a work of art and claim it as one’s own. Ownership does not come free. One must spend time with it; visit at different times of the day or evening; and bring to it one’s full attention. The investment will be repaid as one discovers something new with each viewing — say, a detail in the background, a person nearly cropped from the picture frame, or a tiny patch of canvas left unpainted, deliberately so, one may assume, as if to remind you not to take all the painted parts for granted.”

12. Should We All Take a Bit of Lithium?

“Mother Nature has already put a psychotropic drug in the drinking water, and that drug is lithium. Although this fact has been largely ignored for over half a century, it appears to have important medical implications.”

13. Useless Creatures

“It may seem like the only way to keep what’s left of the natural world from being plowed under by unstoppable human expansion and by our insatiable appetite for what appears to be useful. But usefulness is precisely the argument other people put forward to justify destroying or displacing wildlife, and they generally bring a larger and more persuasive kind of green to the argument.”

14. The Middle East’s Friendless Christians

“Christianity is now the globe’s most persecuted religion.”

15. Learning How to Exert Self-Control

“There are two warring parts of the brain: a hot part demanding immediate gratification (the limbic system), and a cool, goal-oriented part (the prefrontal cortex). The secret of self-control, he says, is to train the prefrontal cortex to kick in first.”

16. The Lighthouse Keepers

“As marine navigation tools have become more sophisticated, lighthouses have become less necessary, and automated technology has eliminated the need for people to actually operate them. As a result, more and more lighthouses have been decommissioned, creating a quandary as to whether to pursue preservation or privatization, or simply let some fall into neglect.”

17. A Kiss, a Sigh … and a Postage Stamp

“A man who writes a good love letter is a man who knows how to seduce with words.”

18. The Homework Squabbles

“In my house, it’s not homework wars as much as homework squabbles, little questions and doubts that build up and start to nag.”

19. Global Warning

“Liberal democracy remains the best system for dealing with the challenges of modernity, and there is little reason to believe that Chinese, Russian or Islamist alternatives can provide the diverse range of economic, social and political goods that all humans crave. But unless liberal democracies can somehow manage to reform themselves and combat institutional decay, history will end not with a bang but with a resounding whimper.”

20. Can a Book Ever Change a Reader’s Life for the Worse?

“It has become popular to consider fiction in terms of empathy — how it can catalyze and deepen our awareness of lives beyond our own — but what if it can also catalyze other tendencies, other capacities or grooves of thought?”

21. Lena Dunham Is Not Done Confessing

“For all the comparisons to Ephron and even to independent female filmmakers like Nicole Holofcener and Miranda July, the artist to whom she’s most analogous is Allen. With her awkward screen presence, her preoccupation with sex, her frank exploration of her own neuroses and, above all, her willingness to play the part of herself almost to the point of caricature, Dunham has ensured that her work be guided by her own persona, which in turn has been shaped by the twin forces of profound anxiety and exhaustive (though, again like Allen, somewhat roving and undisciplined) intellectual engagement. Plus, of course, extensive therapy.”

22. The Death of Adulthood in American Culture

“It seems that, in doing away with patriarchal authority, we have also, perhaps unwittingly, killed off all the grown-ups.”

23. The Big Leagues

“It is hard to overstate how drastic a change is required of basketball players, most of them barely old enough to drink, when they go pro. One day they’re students who live and breathe the sport; the next, they’re multimillionaires who are expected not only to be exceptional athletes but also exceptional role models, media personalities and holders of that elusive thing, that golden ticket: the personal brand.”

24. Destiny in Taos

“My father, Dennis Hopper, believed that being on the road in search of something was very American. You had to keep moving forward no matter what. Ride into town, gunfight at high noon, then off into the sunset.”

25. Animal Traffic

“From the outside, the place doesn’t look like much. It’s a low-slung glass and concrete pile, set back from the road behind some drab landscaping. It could be mistaken for a small office park, or an administrative building at the neighboring Southern Oregon University. In fact, it’s home to one of the most unique law enforcement institutions in the United States, or anywhere else: the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Forensics Laboratory, the world’s only full-service science lab devoted to crimes against wildlife.”

Sunday 9.7.2014 New York Times Digest


1. Why Flunking Exams Is Actually a Good Thing

“Testing might be the key to studying, rather than the other way around. As it turns out, a test is not only a measurement tool. It’s a way of enriching and altering memory.”

2. OkCupid’s Unblushing Analyst of Attraction

“The data was sitting right there on our servers. It was an irresistible social opportunity.”

3. The Motherhood Penalty vs. the Fatherhood Bonus

“One of the worst career moves a woman can make is to have children. Mothers are less likely to be hired for jobs, to be perceived as competent at work or to be paid as much as their male colleagues with the same qualifications. For men, meanwhile, having a child is good for their careers. They are more likely to be hired than childless men, and tend to be paid more after they have children.”

4. Words of a Slain Journalist

“Everyone has two lives. The second one begins when you realize you have only one.”

5. Demanding More From College

“We live in a country of sharpening divisions, pronounced tribalism, corrosive polarization. And I wish we would nudge kids — no, I wish we would push them — to use college as an exception and a retort to that, as a pre-emptive strike against it, as a staging ground for behaving and living in a different, broader, healthier way.”

6. Why Don’t More Men Go Into Teaching?

“Teaching is an overwhelmingly female profession, and in fact has become more so over time. More than three-quarters of all teachers in kindergarten through high school are women.”

7. Can’t Place That Smell? You Must Be American

“In recent years anthropologists have begun to point out that sensory perception is culturally specific.”

8. Giving Up My Small-Town Fantasy

“It was so easy to want to live in Hudson, so hard to actually live in Hudson.”

9. Why Don’t Americans Take Vacation?

“According to a new report, four in 10 American workers allow some of their paid vacation days to go unused. Why aren’t we taking time off? Is it because we’re a culture of workaholics or are companies not doing enough to accommodate paid vacation?”

10. When Whites Just Don’t Get It, Part 2

“Mass incarceration means that the United States imprisons a higher proportion of its black population than apartheid South Africa did.”

11. Liking Work Really Matters

“Interest matters more than we ever knew. It is crucial to keeping us motivated and effective without emptying our mental gas tank, and it can turn the mundane into something exciting.”

12. Rape and Rotherham

“The crucial issue in both scandals isn’t some problem that’s exclusive to traditionalism or progressivism. Rather, it’s the protean nature of power and exploitation, and the way that very different forms of willful blindness can combine to frustrate justice.”

13. Future Footprints

“Ackerman’s optimism can feel eerily unearned in the absence of a measured acknowledgment of the losses, the traumas, the scars that afflict human and nonhuman communities in this volatile new age.”

14. The Big Sweep

“Ellroy was compared a lot to Chandler in those days. He compared himself to Tolstoy. But his true forebear was Conrad. They shared similar obsessions with the savagery at the heart of man, a kindred prose style — sentences that were concrete in their center but occasionally lush around the edges — and both swung for the fences when it came to pronouncements on the human condition.”

15. SS-­Obersturmbannführer (Retired)

“The enduring image of Eichmann as faceless and order-obeying, Stangneth argues, is the result of his uncanny ability to tailor his narrative to the desires and fantasies of his listeners. Arendt was not the only one to be taken in.”

16. Art of Murder

“Reacher is always up for a good fight, most entertainingly when he goes mano a mano with a seven-foot, 300-pound monster of a mobster named Little Joey. But it’s Reacher the Teacher who wows here, instructing Casey Nice and us in the assets of the AK-47 and the properties of bulletproof glass, while passing on neat tricks like how to stroll through airport security, buy a gun when you’re out of town and smash a guy’s nose with your elbow.”

17. Should Literature Be Considered Useful?

“Literature is the record we have of the conversation between those of us now alive on earth and everyone who’s come before and will come after, the cumulative repository of humanity’s knowledge, wonder, curiosity, passion, rage, grief and delight. It’s as useless as a spun-sugar snowflake and as practical as a Swiss Army knife (or, in Kafka’s stunning description of what a book should be, ‘an ice-axe to break the sea frozen inside us’).”

18. Put the Physical in Education

“Recent research suggests that even small amounts of exercise enable children to improve their focus and academic performance.”

19. So Bill Gates Has This Idea for a History Class …

“I remember the chain of thought. I had to do prehistory, so I have to do some archaeology. But to do it seriously, I’m going to talk about how humans evolved, so, yikes, I’m in biology now. I thought: To do it seriously, I have to talk about how mammals evolved, how primates evolved. I have to go back to multicelled organisms, I have to go back to primeval slime. And then I thought: I have to talk about how life was created, how life appeared on earth! I have to talk geology, the history of the planet. And so you can see, this is pushing me back and back and back, until I realized there’s a stopping point — which is the Big Bang.”