Sunday 7.6.2014 New York Times Digest

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1. How to Redraw the World Map

“The mountains of western Colorado are totally alien from the wheat fields of eastern Colorado. And Miami is part not of Florida, but its own watery Caribbean realm. And what a terrible idea is ‘California.’ It behaves as if it covers three warring civilizations.”

2. Shaping a School System, From the Ground Up

“Ideo had been hired by a Peruvian businessman, Carlos Rodriguez-Pastor, to work on a new type of project: designing a network of low-cost private schools from scratch, including the classrooms, the curriculum, the teacher-training strategies and the business model.”

3. Rethinking the Wild

“We need to rethink the Wilderness Act. We need to toss out the ‘hands-off’ philosophy that has guided our stewardship for 50 years. We must replace it with a more nuanced, flexible approach — including a willingness to put our hands on America’s wildest places more, not less, if we’re going to help them to adapt and thrive in the diminished future we’ve thrust upon them.”

4. Less Sexy, Better for Sex

“With Google cars, there is nothing to learn, nothing to master. This car fosters passivity, nurtures infancy. It has no driver, only passengers.”

5. The Emojis We Really Need

“I’m favoriting your tweet only because you’re in a position to help me professionally.”

6. When Beliefs and Facts Collide

“More people know what scientists think about high-profile scientific controversies than polls suggest; they just aren’t willing to endorse the consensus when it contradicts their political or religious views.”

7. North Korea’s Fear of Hollywood

“Never underestimate the power of marijuana in Hollywood, and phallic jokes about rockets and cigars.”

8. Do I Have the Right to Be?

“All of us are alive today thanks at least partly to some mass atrocity that was committed in the past. This is because war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide and ethnic cleansing invariably affect who is born after them.”

9. The Secret of Effective Motivation

“Instrumental motives are not always an asset and can actually be counterproductive to success.”

10. Fine Perfumes of the Animal World

“The duped males respond at first with clumsy groping and then quickly proceed to copulation, sometimes to the point of ejaculation. It gets more interesting: Some male wasps actually seem to prefer the scent of make-believe females. They will break away from a real female to have sex with a flower.”

11. A Company Liberals Could Love

“A retail chain with nearly 600 stores and 13,000 workers, this business sets its lowest full-time wage at $15 an hour, and raised wages steadily through the stagnant postrecession years. (Its do-gooder policies also include donating 10 percent of its profits to charity and giving all employees Sunday off.) And the chain is thriving commercially — offering … a clear example of how ‘doing good for workers can also mean doing good for business.’ Of course I’m talking about Hobby Lobby, the Christian-owned craft store that’s currently playing the role of liberalism’s public enemy No. 1.”

12. Looking at Photos the Master Never Saw

“Is the clicking of the camera shutter only a first step, after which — if an artistic photograph is to be distinguished from the deluge of thoughtless shots — the proofing, editing and printing of the image must follow? Or can a photographer who exposes the film but goes no further nonetheless be an artist?”

13. Casting Time as a Lead Character

“A film so formally bold that it is without an exact precedent.”

14. Social Media’s Vampires: They Text by Night

“Sometimes I look up and it’s 3 a.m. and I’m watching a video of a giraffe eating a steak,” he said. “And I wonder, ‘How did I get here?’”

15. Clicking Their Way to Outrage

“Although we tend to share the happiness only of people we are close to, we are willing to join in the rage of strangers.”

16. Empowering Words

“American society frequently sees the claims of liberty and equality as pulling in opposite directions; the more you have of one, the less you have of the other. Furthermore, in the battle between liberty and equality, the claims of individual liberty have generally trumped those of equality. Allen says this is a false dilemma. Liberty and equality are not parts of a zero-sum game, but two mutually supportive aspects of a common democratic culture. It seems hardly fortuitous that a book arguing for the centrality of equality should appear at just the moment when we have discovered the effects of inequality in our public life.”

17. Patriarch and Pariah

“He was tarred and feathered; a furious mob in Ohio once ordered a local doctor to castrate him. Some of the passions he aroused were prompted by financial chicanery.”

18. I Am the Real Nick Cave

“Cave’s public persona has been called ‘theatrical,’ but a more precise term might be cinematic. Like many self-mythologizers, charismatics and plain old eccentrics, he has always appeared to be performing in a movie only he himself could see.”

19. Zoo Animals and Their Discontents

“An animal in the wild can’t afford to be depressed.”

We Hope You Find the Test a Pleasant Experience

The Parallax Corporation’s testing montage from The Parallax View (1974).

If You Love Something, Say Something

“If you love something that somebody does – some art, some words, some sounds – you tell them that you love it. You tell everyone how much you love it, repeatedly and enthusiastically. Don’t save your appreciation for later, or worry about wearing people out with your passion. Because the happy truth is this: If a piece of art truly moves you, you will never, ever run out of new adjectives to express how much you love it. Getting to love someone’s art is one of the very finest parts of being alive.”

Paul Constant

Sunday 6.29.2014 New York Times Digest

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1. San Francisco Noir

“San Francisco is well known for its transformations, the most recent one fueled by tech money that has seemingly scrubbed much of the city clean. Evidence of it tends to be easy to mock: the $4 artisanal toast, the shuttle buses carrying workers from the city interior to Silicon Valley, the preponderance of reclaimed wood. But for almost a century, the city has been indelibly linked with an enigmatic genre that might be considered an antidote to all of that: noir.”

2. When a Health Plan Knows How You Shop

“This intensive, intrusive kind of data analytics that leads to differential treatment of customers, even if we are fine with it in the business context, needs to be disclosed in the medical context.”

3. Cupid’s Arrows Fly on Social Media, Too

“While there is no shortage of apps and services to help people find someone to date, it can be easier to unearth them in online spaces one already frequents, like Instagram.”

4. Why Teenagers Act Crazy

“Largely because of a quirk of brain development, adolescents, on average, experience more anxiety and fear and have a harder time learning how not to be afraid than either children or adults.”

5. Americans Think We Have the World’s Best Colleges. We Don’t.

“There is no reason to believe that American colleges are, on average, the best in the world.”

6. ‘Be Not Afraid of My Body’

“Walt Whitman was my Adamic other, and as he approached, he beckoned me to touch him, to embrace him, to lay hold of his language, to seize his rugged, electric self in all of its untamed authenticity.”

7. The Right to Write

“For centuries, African-Americans couldn’t fully participate in the literary conversation, since for many of them literacy was forbidden. Why wouldn’t they resent the fact that their stories were told by whites? But does this mean that, as novelists, we can write stories only of our own race, our own gender, our own subcultural niche?”

8. Stopping Campus Rape

“Here are three shifts I suspect would, in combination, do more to reduce the rate of sexual assault than any disciplinary change being contemplated.”

9. The Lively Soul of a Decaying City

“‘There are cities that get by on their good looks, offer climate and scenery, views of mountains or oceans, rockbound or with palm trees,’ Elmore Leonard wrote. ‘And there are cities like Detroit that have to work for a living.’”

10. Gluten-Free Dining in Italy

“You’d think Italy would be hell for the gluten-intolerant. To our surprise, we found it to be closer to heaven.”

11. A Call to Rally

“Their thesis: For 500 years, the West’s ability to reinvent the state has enabled it to lead the world. Today, however, the West is weighed down by dysfunctional governments, bloated budgets and self-indulgent publics; it risks losing its edge to the hungrier, more autocratic Asian states. Nonetheless, if we in the West can only learn to put ‘more emphasis on individual rights and less on social rights’ and thereby lighten ‘the burden,’ we can still revive ‘the spirit of democracy’ — which remains ‘the best guarantee of innovation and problem solving.’”

12. When We Read Fiction, How Relevant Is the Author’s Biography?

“Novelists’ lives are considerably less interesting than they used to be. Longer, yes, but much drier in every sense; less full of rivalrous brawling, less harrowed by the unemployment that was so often their lot before creative writing programs started offering them day jobs.”

13. Carl Hart: ‘Crack Wasn’t the Real Problem’

“The problem was that crack wasn’t the real problem. The real problem was unemployment, lack of education, lack of skills. Politicians are happy not to have to focus on those larger issues. You can just focus on crack cocaine, put more cops on the street and make tougher laws.”

14. What’s the Matter With Eastern Kentucky?

“In its persistent poverty, Eastern Kentucky — land of storybook hills and drawls — just might be the hardest place to live in the United States.”

15. Kendrick Lamar, Hip-Hop’s Newest Old-School Star

“In person, Lamar is so serene and warm, and on his record, so erudite and philosophical, that it’s tempting to read him as a mellow, cerebral guy, a monk reincarnated as a young rap star. But that would be a mistake.”

What Would Denzel Do?

“Generally, I just think there is a real lacking in men knowing how to hit on women. I have this whole running joke with someone: What Would Denzel Do? Like, you don’t think about how many days you should wait to call the girl – you just do it when you want. Fuckin’ Denzel. You do what you want, you know what you want.”

Emily Ratajkowski

The Equalizer

I’m a sucker for movies like this.

Sunday 6.22.2014 New York Times Digest

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1. The Descent

“Competitive freediving, Nestor quickly makes clear, is a ridiculous sport. Divers hold their breath and see how low they can go without suffering grievous harm. Top divers submerge for more than three minutes and reach depths below 300 feet, where pressure causes human lungs to ‘shrink to the size of two baseballs,’ Nestor writes. At first intrigued, Nestor quickly becomes disgusted as one diver after another surfaces with blood pouring from their noses, or dragged unconscious by rescue divers or in cardiac arrest. (In November, The New York Times ignited a public discussion of journalistic ethics with a photo of bulging-eyed Nicholas Mevoli moments after he emerged from a freedive record attempt and just before he blacked out and died.) When practiced outside the ­structure of competition and the reckless chasing of depth records, however, freediving can be practical, even beautiful.”

2. Baptism by Fire

“You never forget it. Not your first fire. To a firefighter, the first fire is like a police officer’s first collar, a lawyer’s first jury trial, a fisherman’s first tuna. It becomes chiseled into your memory in big block letters, rolled out and dusted off for a lifetime of reminiscence. Ask a firefighter about his first fire. Details pour out. It was at 78th and York, in the ductwork of a Chinese restaurant. It was on Woodhaven Boulevard in Elmhurst, a man fell asleep with his cigarette burning. It was a chemistry lab of a school, a pizza parlor, a laundromat. It was Macon Street in Bedford-Stuyvesant, top floor of a brownstone, backup man on the hose. The captain took a picture, probie at his first fire, and it sits in a frame at home.”

3. Seeing Sons’ Violent Potential, but Finding Little Help or Hope

“Shootings in places like Isla Vista, Calif., and Newtown, Conn., have turned a spotlight on the mental health system, and particularly how it handles young, troubled males with an aggressive streak. About one in 100 teenagers fits this category.”

4. Unblinking Eyes Track Employees

“Advanced technological tools are beginning to make it possible to measure and monitor employees as never before, with the promise of fundamentally changing how we work — along with raising concerns about privacy and the specter of unchecked surveillance in the workplace.”

5. A Job Seeker’s Desperate Choice

“The night before the interview, she put the children to bed at her parents’ house and went to a Walmart parking lot, where she spent hours scrounging up recyclable cans and asking passers-by for gas money, to make sure she had enough for the 35-mile drive to the interview. Her parents would be at work the next day, so she had arranged to leave the boys at a babysitter’s house, she said. But when she arrived, she said, no one answered the door.”

6. Held Captive by Flawed Credit Reports

“Inaccuracies often show up in consumers’ credit reports, and these errors have real consequences, like increasing borrowing costs or barring people from financing a home or renting an apartment. And once an error is found, getting it fixed can take months of exasperating work.”

7. Espousing Equality, but Embracing a Hierarchy

“Hierarchies are a form of structure that we embrace for comfort in a chaotic world.”

8. Streaming Eagles

“Maybe we latch on to the species we’ve willfully not destroyed as proof of our compassion, and as living props with which to demonstrate that compassion again and again. Maybe it just feels good to know they’re still out there, in some safe-seeming corner of the wilderness. And maybe that’s why we’ve pointed a bunch of webcams at them: so we can check in whenever we want and keep watch.”

9. Two-Parent Households Can Be Lethal

“Women experiencing domestic abuse are told by our culture that being a good mother means marrying the father of her children and supporting a relationship between them.”

10. Hacker Tactic: Holding Data Hostage

“When the enemy is relaxed, make them toil; when full, make them starve; when settled, make them move.”

11. Fear Not the Coming of the Robots

“Call it automation, call it robots, or call it technology; it all comes down to the concept of producing more with fewer workers. Far from being a scary prospect, that’s a good thing.”

12. Why Are We Importing Our Own Fish?

“While a majority of the seafood Americans eat is foreign, a third of what Americans catch is sold to foreigners.”

13. Gaming the Poor

“The casinos’ method is to induce low-income gamblers to make a huge number of small bets per visit, to visit the casino several times per month, or even per week, and to sustain this pattern over a period of years. The key to executing this method is the slot machine.”

14. Was This Student Dangerous?

“I remember the student’s response to my carefully scripted question about a possible plan to harm himself or others: ‘If I were going to pull a Virginia Tech or a Columbine,’ he said, ‘I wouldn’t tell you about it, would I?’”

15. But I Want to Do Your Homework

“Therein lies the big honking problem of helping with homework. First, you are conveying to your kids that they can’t make it without Mom and Dad’s help. (Though in my case, I managed to convey to my son that if he took Mom’s help again, he was likely to flunk out of middle school.) But more important, you are sending the unmistakable and not so subtle message that it’s better to be right than smart.”

16. The Corporate Daddy

“It’s a sad day when we have to look to corporations for education, health care and basic ways to boost the middle class. Most advanced nations do those things for their people. We used to — witness the G.I. Bill, which helped millions of returning soldiers get a lift to a better life. But you go to war against the income gap with the system you have, and ours is currently broken. By default, we have no choice but to lean on our corporate overlords.”

17. Our Moral Tongue

“When people are presented with the trolley problem in a foreign language, they are more willing to sacrifice one person to save five than when they are presented with the dilemma in their native tongue.”

18. A War to End All Innocence

“World War I remains embedded in the popular consciousness. Publicized in its day as ‘the war to end all wars,’ it has instead become the war to which all subsequent wars, and much else in modern life, seem to refer. Words and phrases once specifically associated with the experience of combat on the Western Front are still part of the common language. We barely recognize ‘in the trenches,’ ‘no man’s land’ or ‘over the top’ as figures of speech, much less as images that evoke what was once a novel form of organized mass death. And we seldom notice that our collective understanding of what has happened in foxholes, jungles, mountains and deserts far removed in space and time from the sandbags and barbed wire of France and Belgium is filtered through the blood, smoke and misery of those earlier engagements.”

19. Telling Folk Heroes From Monsters

“Woe to the once-hallowed trickster. In ancient mythologies, the riddler-thief and agent of change held a position of prestige. Now, we don’t know what to do with him. In our two Americas, we do black and white, either/or, with us or against us. The trickster is in between, both and neither, a character on the fringes.”

20. But Can They Write Fashion Code?

“We all went to a Kanye concert once and we were on the subway and somebody asked, ‘Are you guys a cult?’”

21. John Waters on Hitchhiking Across America

“Picking up a hitchhiker is as much an adventure as it is to hitchhike. It’s a risk on both sides.”

22. Has the Electronic Image Supplanted the Written Word?

“If Gutenberg’s printing press marks a sea change in the history of human consciousness (for McLuhan, not necessarily a positive one, since he’s not above extolling the exoticized ‘tribal’ immediacy of preliterate cultures), what happens when we all become our own instantaneous Gutenbergs?”

23. It’s Official: The Boomerang Kids Won’t Leave

“Sleeping in a twin bed under some old Avril Lavigne posters is not a sign of giving up; it’s an economic plan.”

24. Richard Linklater’s Leading Boy

“Time is actually the lead character in the film.”