Sunday 04.13.2014 New York Times Digest

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1. Who Are Hit Men?

“That idea, of doing something so inhuman, makes the hit man intriguing. Getting close to the unknowable, creating a character who occupies the corners so dark no normal person can see into them. We don’t want to be hit men. We don’t find them glamorous; we’re repulsed by them. But we want to understand.”

2. Diversity and Dishonesty

“We have far too many powerful communities (corporate, academic, journalistic) that are simultaneously dogmatic and dishonest about it.”

3. Sweet Tale of Friendship (Sex, Too)

“Mr. Turturro and Mr. Allen share a barber, and one day Mr. Turturro idly suggested while getting his hair cut that he should write a movie in which he played a prostitute and Mr. Allen played his pimp.”

4. You’ll Go Far, My Pet

“Being a pet parent today — nobody uses the word ‘owner’ anymore, apparently — means cultivating intelligence, manners and communication skills the way the parent of, say, a small human might.”

5. The Justice Gap

“One theme implicit in Taibbi’s reporting is the extent to which the justice system’s newer kinds of inequalities are driven by technology. Computers encourage both the government and the banks to operate on a scale at which consideration of individual circumstance isn’t really possible.”

6. Home Improvement

“Basic problems like educating millions of people, giving them safe drinking water and making sure they have food cannot be solved by hacking the system; change on that scale requires changing the system.”

7. Models With Doctorates

“The clothier has asked women who are Ph.D.s or doctoral candidates to model ‘smart new spring fashions’ (get it?).”

8. Who Advises Best, Pros or Profs?

“Over the past several decades, student support services has been the fastest-growing category of employment in higher education, and the positions, which include academic advising, now make up nearly one-third of professional jobs on campuses.”

9. Looking for America Beyond Its Borders

“Has a discipline that in the 1950s and 1960s was a model of bold interdisciplinary inquiry — fusing literature and history, sociology and economics, popular culture and ethnography — changed, or degenerated, into a bastion of ideological militancy?”

10. Free to Be Mean: Does This Student Satire Cross the Line?

“Issues are peppered with jokes about homosexuals, Jews, Latinos, African-Americans, cancer patients and injured orphans.”

11. 10 Courses With a Twist

“Some professors can make a subject sing, and their courses are not just a credit but an event.”

12. What You Don’t Know About Financial Aid (but Should)

“I literally cried for three days when we got that first financial aid offer. I was in such shock, it took me three days to regain my composure and call them and say, ‘How are we supposed to afford this? You must be kidding.’”

13. The Fading Honor Code

“Ethical judgment, it seems, has been supplanted by our need to succeed.”

14. The Ballad of Geeshie and Elvie

“There are musicians as obscure as Wiley and Thomas, and musicians as great, but in none does the Venn diagram of greatness and lostness reveal such vast and bewildering co-extent.”

15. The Triumph of Personal Style

“The more you know about the past, the more you realize that there is little comfort in extremes. The enduring interiors are often the underdecorated ones, and maybe even the ‘undecorated’ ones — the rooms where somebody tried less to create a ‘look,’ than just be themselves.”

16. A Dual Review of What’s New, Starring Kelis and Alejandro Jodorowsky

“I never eat popcorn because, for me, it’s a symbol of the idiocy in the cinemas.”

17. The Aesthetes

“It’s an old story — as old as sailing and sex — yet there is always something new coming over the strait. Indeed, it may be the hunt for newness in an old port that brought them here, adventurers and outsiders — from Mark Twain and Delacroix to Yves Saint Laurent and Tennessee Williams — who merely broke the path for the uprooted of today. Deep in the Casbah and high on the slopes of Vieille Montagne, you find these people, these elegant, exotic plants who fill their days with lunch parties and gossip. They may be the harmless denizens of an old idea, doing it with style, living beyond their means but strictly within their taste. It is a painted city where ripe vegetables and aged spies litter the souks, where men of hidden consequence can always find a drink. Most of all, Tangier is a city where attention to detail is undivided, a place where you meet people just crazy for beauty.”

Sunday 04.06.2014 New York Times Digest

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1. A Rationalist’s Mystical Moment

“There were no visions, no prophetic voices or visits by totemic animals, just this blazing everywhere. Something poured into me and I poured out into it. This was not the passive beatific merger with ‘the All,’ as promised by the Eastern mystics. It was a furious encounter with a living substance that was coming at me through all things at once, too vast and violent to hold on to, too heartbreakingly beautiful to let go of. It seemed to me that whether you start as a twig or a gorgeous tapestry, you will be recruited into the flame and made indistinguishable from the rest of the blaze. I felt ecstatic and somehow completed, but also shattered.”

2. Last Bohemian Turns Out the Lights

“I didn’t really leave the Lower East Side. It left me.”

3. N.C.A.A. Cashes In, but Not the Players

“In a tournament that has been packed with upsets and surprises, one of the few mainstays has been the prominence of the logos of corporate sponsors alongside the N.C.A.A.’s. In total, some 19 major partners and corporate supporters are listed in the official fan guide of the Final Four.”

4. Technology’s Man Problem

“Tech needs to grow up in a lot of ways.”

5. I Had a Nice Time With You Tonight. On the App.

“We are now in constant and continuous communication with our friends, co-workers and family over the course of a day. These interactions can help us feel physically close, even if they happen through a screen.”

6. The Oracle of Omaha, Lately Looking a Bit Ordinary

“Put 10 percent of the cash in short-term government bonds and 90 percent in a very low-cost S.&P. 500 index fund. (I suggest Vanguard’s.) I believe the trust’s long-term results from this policy will be superior to those attained by most investors — whether pension funds, institutions or individuals — who employ high-fee managers.”

7. Automation Alone Isn’t Killing Jobs

“What we’re facing isn’t your grandfather’s unemployment problem.”

8. The New Gay Orthodoxy

“Endorsement of same-sex marriage has rather suddenly become nonnegotiable. Expected. Assumed. Proof of a baseline level of enlightenment and humanity. Akin to the understanding that all people, regardless of race or color, warrant the same rights and respect.”

9. Like, Degrading the Language? No Way

“Linguistically, underneath the distractions of incivility, America is taking a page from Dale Carnegie’s classic How to Win Friends and Influence People. There is, overall, an awareness of the states of minds of others in much of what is typically regarded as Clearasil-scented grammatical sloth.”

10. The Trick of Life

“Seven years into writing a novel, I started to lose my mind.”

11. This Time, Jim Jarmusch Is Kissing Vampires

“I don’t have enough time as it is to read a book or make music, or see my friends. People don’t believe me, too. They think I’m just saying that because I don’t want to give it to them. But no, I do not have email.”

12. Brothers of Invention

“‘Silicon Valley’ buys into the central dogma of Silicon Valley: Finding new methods to make everything faster, cheaper, more convenient and more efficient will be good for the world.”

13. Banking on My Future as a Father

“Dr. Paul Turek, a men’s fertility specialist and director of the Turek Clinic in San Francisco and Los Angeles, told me he’s been seeing an uptick in young men in the San Francisco area banking their sperm, fearful of the effects of advanced paternal age. Dr. Turek described these men as the ‘aggressive Internet crowd who are single, and want to protect their fertility.’”

14. The Found Art of Thank-You Notes

“The handwritten gratitude intervention seems to be experiencing a moment of vogue.”

15. ’90s Nostalgia Propels Coogi Brand Resurgence

“It’s quite a crazy sweater, to be honest.”

16. Death of a Pied Piper

“In the ’80s, as disco fell out of favor, Mr. Knuckles moved to Chicago and helped pioneer the sound that came to be known as house music, producing club records by day and spinning at night at the Warehouse, which became one of seminal nightclubs of the era.”

17. Who Are You on Facebook Now?

“Facebook recently announced that it would offer users 50 different possibilities and permutations of gender identification. In the gender category under ‘Basic Information,’ the drop-down box now includes such ‘custom’ choices as non-binary, intersex, neutrois, androgyne, agender, gender questioning, gender fluid, gender variant, genderqueer and neither.”

18. Epic Fail

“How do we learn to stop worrying and love it when we bomb?”

19. The Pursuit of Happiness

“Adopting an unusual interpretation of American history, Beckman, a professor of English at the United States Naval Academy, explores the ways outlaw, oppressed and otherwise defiant groups reacted to their condition by creating and celebrating acts of raucous jubilation that represented quests for freedom.”

20. Hey, Robot: Which Cat Is Cuter?

“Many Turkers are actively helping to put themselves out of jobs.”

21. Peter Matthiessen’s Homegoing

“After quitting the C.I.A., Matthiessen returned to America with Patsy and soon settled in Sagaponack, where he would supplement his writing income with commercial fishing. He described those early years on Long Island as the happiest of his life, ‘when I was writing but also doing hard physical labor.’ He referenced a line from Turgenev a few times, from the suicide note of a character named Nejdanov: ‘I could not simplify myself.’ ‘That really struck home,’ Matthiessen said. ‘I knew exactly what he means.’ He paused and then whispered it again. ‘“I could not simplify myself,”’ and then he added, ‘That’s always been my goal.’”

22. The Pernicious Rise of Poptimism

“No matter the field, a critic’s job is to argue and plead for the underappreciated, not just to cheer on the winners.”

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Closed Circuit (2013)

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True Detective (2014)

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Sunday 03.30.2014 New York Times Digest

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1. Civilization’s Starter Kit

“Over the past generation or two we’ve gone from being producers and tinkerers to consumers. As a result, I think we feel a sense of disconnect between our modern existence and the underlying processes that support our lives. Who has any real understanding of where their last meal came from or how the objects in their pockets were dug out of the earth and transformed into useful materials? What would we do if, in some science-fiction scenario, a global catastrophe collapsed civilization and we were members of a small society of survivors?”

2. Found in Mud: Precious Links to Loved Ones

“After a disaster that has left so many missing, some perhaps never to be found, these ordinary objects have become connections to loved ones and lost lives. They are all that is left.”

3. A Mudslide, Foretold

“It is human nature, if not the American way, to look potential disaster in the face and prefer to see a bright and shining lie. The ‘taming’ of this continent, in five centuries and change, required a mighty mustering of cognitive dissonance. As a result, most of us live with the danger of wildfire, earthquake, tornado, flooding, drought, hurricane or yet-to-be-defined and climate-change-influenced superstorm. A legacy of settlement is the delusion that large-scale manipulation of the natural world can be done without consequence.”

4. A Communal Space, but Still My Own

“Co-working represents one of the first pieces of infrastructure to support the needs of a creative independent work force.”

5. For a Cattle Rancher, a Legacy on the Range

“Standing outside, the moment just before the sun rises, when it’s still and quiet. You hear only the sounds of nature and God’s creatures, whether it’s piñon trees whistling in the breeze, antelope in the brush, or birds. It’s the greatest gift of living on a ranch.”

6. Serial Renters in New York City

“Probably the key thing about my being able to move so often is that I didn’t own a single piece of furniture.”

7. How Businesses Use Your SATs

“Many employers are still asking job applicants for their test scores, even if they are years out of date.”

8. Is the Lime an Endangered Species?

“A sudden and unprecedented shortage of limes has sent nationwide wholesale prices soaring from around $25 for a 40-pound carton in early February to more than $100 today.”

9. Hodinkee, Watch Cheerleader

“It sounds like a grandiose statement, but there are watches that have assisted in changing history.”

10. I’m a Cat Lady? Thank You

“They sleep while you’re at work, eat food out of a can and jump on your lap while you watch Netflix: the perfect pet for the so-called millennial.”

11. Chasing Kurt Cobain in Washington State

“Cobain’s bedroom was just as he left it: with a hole punched in the wall and plenty of graffiti paying homage to bands he liked (Led Zeppelin, Iron Maiden) and perhaps his favorite beer, Olde English 800.”

12. From Airlines to Hotels, a Quest to Help You Sleep

“Sleep is the enemy of capitalism.”

13. The End of a Long Road

“David Brion Davis’s The Problem of Slavery in the Age of Emancipation, reviewed this week by Brenda Wineapple, concludes a trilogy that Davis began writing in 1959, after he won a Guggenheim fellowship. ‘I was planning on doing a book on American and British antislavery movements,’ he said in an email interview, ‘but soon found that the first chapter on “historical background” should really constitute a book in itself — ranging from ancient Greece to the late 1700s, with a revolutionary shift in the moral perception of slavery.’ That first volume, The Problem of Slavery in Western Culture, was published in 1966. The Problem of Slavery in the Age of Revolution followed in 1975. In the nearly 40 years between the second and third installments, Davis wrote several other books, two of which — Slavery and Human Progress and Inhuman Bondage — ‘deserve a kind of honorary place in the trilogy,’ he said.”

14. Playing John Wayne

“They say I’m an action actor, but I’m really a reaction actor.”

15. On Top of Everything Else

“Mostly good suggestions. But like all self-help advice, they don’t measure up against the entrenched forces that are indifferent if not hostile to the emotional well-being of a majority of Americans. Schulte is fighting SEAL Team Six with a pair of fingernail scissors.”

16. The Price of Slavery

“As a consequence, an American dream of freedom and opportunity was inseparable from a white illusion of superiority, bolstered by the subjugation and ‘animalization’ of black people. That is, slaves were considered domesticated savages who would, if given the chance, revert to murder and mayhem. To many whites, particularly pro-slavery Southerners, this seemed the lesson of the violent and ultimately successful Haitian Revolution, which represented, as Davis puts it, ‘the unleashing of pure Id.’”

17. Who Needs a Boss?

“In a worker co-op, the workers own the business and decide what to do with the profits (as opposed to consumer co-ops, which are typically stores owned by members who shop at a discount). Historically, worker co-ops have held the most appeal when things seem most perilous for laborers. The present is no exception. And yet, despite their ability to empower workers, co-ops remain largely relegated to boutique status in the United States.”

18. Piracy 101

“In 1976, Congress created copyright exceptions for educational purposes. Copyright law allows ‘face-to-face’ exhibition and presentation of a copyrighted work, assuming the purpose is academic. There is also the doctrine of fair use, which states that copies ‘for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship or research, is not an infringement of copyright.’”

Sunday 03.23.2014 New York Times Digest

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1. A Mystery Woman’s Eye on the World

“There are still some people who don’t need to be on television as evidence they exist.”

2. Today’s Girls Love Pink Bows as Playthings, but These Shoot

“Heroines for young girls are rapidly changing, and the toy industry — long adept at capitalizing on gender stereotypes — is scrambling to catch up.”

3. Au Revoir, Entrepreneurs

“France has a lot of problems. There’s a feeling of gloom that seems to be growing deeper. The economy is not going well, and if you want to get ahead or run your own business, the environment is not good.”

4. Just Don’t Call Them Hearing Aids

“The market is proliferating with lots of devices not necessarily made for impaired hearing, but for someone who wants a boost in certain challenging conditions like lectures.”

5. Lessons From the Little Ice Age

“In the 17th century, the fatal synergy of weather, wars and rebellions killed millions. A natural catastrophe of analogous proportions today — whether or not humans are to blame — could kill billions.”

6. The Lost Art of the Unsent Angry Letter

“The unsent angry letter has a venerable tradition. Its purpose is twofold. It serves as a type of emotional catharsis, a way to let it all out without the repercussions of true engagement. And it acts as a strategic catharsis, an exercise in saying what you really think, which Mark Twain (himself a notable non-sender of correspondence) believed provided ‘unallowable frankness & freedom.’”

7. A Common Core for All of Us

“What we’re arguing about is what we want from our children’s education, and what, in fact, ‘getting an education’ actually means. For some parents, the primary desire is for our sons and daughters to wind up, more or less, like ourselves. Education, in this model, means handing down shared values of the community to the next generation. Sometimes it can also mean shielding children from aspects of the culture we do not approve of, or fear. For others, education means enlightening our children’s minds with the uncensored scientific and artistic truth of the world. If that means making our own sons and daughters strangers to us, then so be it.”

8. The Pilots in the Basement

“If it’s an airline in the real world, there’s probably a virtual version.”

9. The Geography of Fame

“Your chances of achieving notability were highly dependent on where you were born.”

10. The Evil of the Outdoor Cat

“Cats have caused or contributed to the extinction of 33 species.”

11. Don’t Worry, Get Botox

“New research suggests that it is possible to treat depression by paralyzing key facial muscles with Botox, which prevents patients from frowning and having unhappy-looking faces.”

12. What I’d Say to My Fat Son

“I don’t have a son, though I’m still hoping for one. If I ever do, and I see him getting fat, I’m going to encourage him to play football or wrestle or play an instrument or do whatever he can to rock his weight. If his siblings or friends pick on him, I’ll intervene, not conspire with them to humiliate and torture him. If my boy comes to me and says, ‘Dad, I think I want to lose some weight,’ I’ll take him to the gym and basketball court and boxing classes and I’ll teach him more about portion control and vegetables and tell him not to pay too much attention to his weight, just work out and eat right and hold his head high.”

13. Really? You’re Not in a Book Club?

“Reading is a solitary act, an experience of interiority. To read a book is to burst the confines of one’s consciousness and enter another world. What happens when you read a book in the company of others? You enter its world together but see it in your own way; and it’s through sharing those differences of perception that the book group acquires its emotional power.”

14. An Online Generation Redefines Mourning

“Text message was also the preferred medium of a 20-something who asked a funeral home in Los Angeles to text him a picture of his mother’s corpse to help him avoid having to go in and identify the body.”

15. The Decline and Fall of the ‘H’ Word

“The early gay-rights movement was called the homophile movement because its founders explicitly rejected the word homosexual; they did not want to be identified as exclusively sexual beings.”

16. Alter Ego Rattles Author’s Ego

“There is no truth when it comes to human beings.”

17. In a Squall of Mayhem, Lines Not Crossed

“You set a certain amount of rules, and you don’t break them, at least most of the time.”

18. Reflecting on a Writer’s Walk Through Europe

“During his lifetime, he was stabbed in Bulgaria, car-bombed in Greece, targeted in a blood vendetta, and hunted by German soldiers after kidnapping their commander on the island of Crete and handing him off to a waiting British submarine during World War II.”

19. Wizard of Westwood

“U.C.L.A. initially paid him so little he had to take a second job as a dispatcher for a dairy company.”

20. How Would a Book Like Harold Bloom’s ‘Western Canon’ Be Received Today?

“All that the Western canon can bring one is the proper use of one’s own solitude.”

21. The Razor’s Edge

“The swarthier a place, the better its barbers will be, and vice versa.”

22. The Thing About Noah and the Ark

“Men could live so long that Methusaleh was 369 years old when his grandson Noah was born but didn’t die until hundreds of years after Noah’s birth. Later in the Bible, mighty beasts, leviathans and behemoths ranged over land and sea. This didn’t sound like ancient Judea. It sounded like something much grander and less familiar. Here was a mythological world potentially as distinct as Middle Earth: a biblical, fantastical world.”

23. Who Made That Standing Desk?

“Standing desks are nothing new.”

24. The Scientific Quest to Prove Bisexuality Exists

“Do we really have to keep debating whether bisexuality exists?”

25. How Did Sleep Become So Nightmarish?

“Instead of being a strange, wild, mysterious Land of Nod whose purpose we don’t fully understand, sleep has been colonized by our ambition, becoming just another zone of the day to be farmed for productivity, generating new components necessary for performance like serotonin and healthy glial cells.”

Appealing Workspaces Are to Be Avoided

“Appealing workspaces are to be avoided.”

—Annie Dillard, The Writing Life