Sunday 7.17.2016 New York Times Digest

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1. Professors, Stop Opining About Trump

“I would have no problem with individuals, who also happened to be historians, disseminating their political conclusions in an op-ed or letter to the editor; but I do have a problem when a bunch of individuals claim for themselves a corporate identity and more than imply that they speak for the profession of history.”

2. Want to Work in 18 Miles of Books? First, the Quiz

“How many accurate matches an applicant must make has always been a closely guarded secret. What is the minimum score to be hired?”

3. Eggs That Clear the Cages, but Maybe Not the Conscience

“So-called pasture-raised hens fit many people’s ideal of happy chickens on Old MacDonald’s Farm. They can roam in the sun, peck for insects in the dirt and roost in roomy nests. But pasture-raised eggs are more expensive than those from hens raised in cages or aviaries, and pastures require a lot of space. Satisfying America’s voracious egg appetite this way would require a farm bigger than the state of Massachusetts.”

4. Why Land and Homes Actually Tend to Be Disappointing Investments

“Neither farmland nor housing has been a great place to invest money over the long term.”

5. Pool of Thought

“There is no drug — recreational or prescription — capable of inducing the tranquil euphoria brought on by swimming.”

6. Obamacare’s Kindest Critic

“Despite the subsidies, many people still can’t afford health care. For some middle-class families who buy coverage on the exchanges, the cost of insurance and out-of-pocket expenses like co-pays and deductibles can add up to nearly a quarter of household income.”

7. Don’t Vote for Me, I’m Not Worthy

“Washington’s emotional expressions of reluctance and self-doubt are startling to read in light of the absolute certainty and unbreakable confidence we require presidential candidates to project today.”

8. Cynthia Ozick Takes Up Arms Against Today’s Literary Scene

“Critics, she warns, are not to be confused with reviewers, whose ubiquitous productions merely ‘simulate the skin of a genuine literary culture — rather like those plastic faux-alligator bags sold everywhere, which can almost pass for the real thing.’ Critics are to reviewers as string theorists are to bookkeepers. They call on ‘horizonless freedoms, multiple histories, multiple libraries, multiple metaphysics and intuitions’ to show us how individual novels ‘are connected, what they portend in the aggregate, how they comprise and color an era.’”

9. ‘I Want to Know What It Is Like to Be a Wild Thing’

“The author, Charles Foster, is an eccentric, big-brained Briton who enjoys success as a lawyer, a veterinarian and an Oxford academic (with a Ph.D. in medical law and ethics from Cambridge). But he yearns to be other: a swift, a badger, a fox or perhaps an otter or a red deer. He is a lifelong naturalist, and he has a simple dream, as he puts it: ‘I want to know what it is like to be a wild thing.’ So he devises a series of experiments.”

10. Was She a Feminist? The Complicated Legacy of Helen Gurley Brown.

“Cosmopolitan may have been crass, but it also disseminated feminist messages to a working-class audience whom the canonical front of the women’s movement didn’t reach.”

11. Adrienne Rich’s Poetry Became Political, but It Remained Rooted in Material Fact

“Listen to her long vowels and keen consonants; listen to the leitmotif of pain.”

12. The Dark Side of American Soccer Culture

“Seattle has become one of the main breeding grounds for Europhilic American soccer culture, boasting the highest attendance numbers in Major League Soccer and the Emerald City Supporters (E.C.S.), one of the largest, rowdiest supporter organizations in the country. I was surprised to see small signs in the stands declaring that anyone who said anything racist would be removed from the stadium. Many stadiums in Europe carry such signage for obvious reasons, but why would they be needed in a supposedly progressive city on the West Coast of the United States?”

13. Letter of Recommendation: Audiobooks Read by the Author

“I cannot bear listening to fiction read by anyone other than its author.”

14. The American Who Accidentally Became a Chinese Movie Star

“He rarely played bad guys, because there are very few American villains in Chinese movies (those roles tend to go to the woeful cohort of Japanese actors working in China). Instead, Kos-Read was often typecast as a ‘dumb guy,’ he says. Most frequently, he was an arrogant foreign businessman who falls for a local beauty, only to be spurned as she inevitably makes the virtuous choice to stay with her Chinese suitor. Sometimes he played the foreign friend whose presence onscreen is intended to make the main character seem more worldly; Kos-Read dubbed another stock character ‘the fool,’ an arrogant Westerner whose disdain for China is, by the end of the movie, transformed into admiration.”

15. The Mysterious Metamorphosis of Chuck Close

“What you are seeing isn’t really there. You are no longer looking at the actual surface of the painting, but some apparition hovering above it, a numinous specter that arises in part from the engagement of your own imagination. Through the painting, Close has accessed the perceptual center of your mind, exploiting the way we process human identity: the gaps of knowledge and the unknown spaces we fill with our own presumptions, the expectations and delusions we layer upon everyone we meet.”

Smile

Sunday 7.10.2016 New York Times Digest

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1. A Struggle for Common Ground, Amid Fears of a National Fracture

“Even as political leaders, protesters and law enforcement officials struggled to find common ground and lit candles of shared grief, there was an inescapable fear that the United States was being pulled further apart in its anger and anguish over back-to-back fatal shootings by police officers followed by a sniper attack by a military veteran who said he wanted to kill white police officers.”

2. Deep-Pocketed N.B.A. Has Short Arms When Offering a Hand Up

“The owners and the players’ union should collectively bargain an agreement that would finally pay a fair working wage to players at the developmental level and, even better, enact much-needed cultural change by disavowing the practice of forcing high school graduates into the clutches of the exploitive N.C.A.A.”

3. How Wall Street Bro Talk Keeps Women Down

“The everyday sexism I saw, and participated in, during high school and college was nothing compared with what I witnessed on Wall Street.”

4. Solving All the Wrong Problems

“Every day, innovative companies promise to make the world a better place. Are they succeeding?”

5. A Medical Mystery of the Best Kind: Major Diseases Are in Decline

“Major diseases, like colon cancer, dementia and heart disease, are waning in wealthy countries, and improved diagnosis and treatment cannot fully explain it.”

6. Silicon Valley-Driven Hype for Self-Driving Cars

“The sad reality of autonomous car technology is that the easy parts of have yet to be proven safe, and the hard parts have yet to be proven possible.”

7. The Paradox of Disclosure

“It often has the opposite of its intended effect, not only increasing bias in advisers but also making advisees more likely to follow biased advice.”

8. Peter Doig Says He Didn’t Paint This. Now He Has to Prove It.

“This has become about much more than Peter’s painting. It’s about authorship. It’s about being forced to put your name on another artist’s work.”

9. Checking In at Trump Hotels

“Are Trump Hotels as big, brash and over the top as the man for whom they’re named?”

10. What It Is Actually Like to Be in the Engine Room of the Start-Up Economy

“This is a place, he points out, where people take their laptops into a toilet stall and keep typing as they do what they came to do. If that strikes you as unseemly or unnecessary, you’ll never make it in Palo Alto.”

11. Two Books Recount How Our Postal System Created a Communications Revolution

“He offers a host of interesting anecdotes, including one about an Idaho family who sent their child 75 miles by parcel post because it was cheaper than going by train.”

12. Letter of Recommendation: Pen & Pixel

“Its gaudy, dreamlike album covers were like crass, lunatic vision-boards, offering vibrant Photoshop collages of palm trees and pineapples, Hummers and helicopters, skulls and city skylines and diamond-studded goblets. There were nearly always Champagne bottles, lightning bolts and pastel-colored luxury cars, all of it arranged carefully in graveyards or deserts or swamps, on the lawns of palatial estates or on the moon. The fonts tended to be three-dimensional, seemingly cast in gold or other precious metals.”

13. Marie Kondo and the Ruthless War on Stuff

“Joy is the only goal, Kondo said, and the room nodded, yes, yes, in emphatic agreement, heads bobbing and mouths agape in wonder that something so simple needed to be taught to them. ‘My dream is to organize the world,’ Kondo said as she wrapped up her talk. The crowd cheered, and Kondo raised her arms into the air like Rocky.”

14. Should the United States Save Tangier Island From Oblivion?

“An excruciating question is how we will decide which coastal communities to rescue and which to relinquish to the sea. But a number of other difficulties attend those decisions. How do we re-engineer the land, roads and neighborhoods of the places deemed worthy of salvation? How do we relocate residents whose homes can’t (or won’t) be saved?”

15. How a $2 Roadside Drug Test Sends Innocent People to Jail

“Police officers arrest more than 1.2 million people a year in the United States on charges of illegal drug possession. Field tests like the one Officer Helms used in front of Amy Albritton help them move quickly from suspicion to conviction. But the kits — which cost about $2 each and have changed little since 1973 — are far from reliable.”

Fourth of July

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(by Arno Kathollnig.)

Sunday 7.3.2016 New York Times Digest

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1. Oh, Say, Can You See (but Not Hear) Those Fireworks?

“Pet shelters also claim to take in the most runaway dogs each year on July 5.”

2. ‘Brexit’ Bats Aside Younger Generation’s European Identity

“For them, it is perfectly normal to grow up in one country, study in another, work in a third, share a flat with people who have different passports and partner up without regard to nationality.”

3. Obama After Dark: The Precious Hours Alone

“He seems to be somebody who is at home with himself.”

4. Pillars of Black Media, Once Vibrant, Now Fighting for Survival

“Black ownership is dying.”

5. Military Is Asked to March to a Less Expensive Tune

“The Pentagon fields more than 130 military bands worldwide, made up of about 6,500 musicians, and not just in traditional brass and drum corps like the kind that will march in many Fourth of July parades on Monday. There are also military rock acts with artsy names, conservatory-trained military jazz ensembles, military bluegrass pickers, even a military calypso band based in the Virgin Islands. All of this cost about $437 million last year — almost three times the budget of the National Endowment for the Arts.”

6. American Dreams

“I have always been intrigued by the concept of the American dream, of a set of aspirations supposedly shared by and accessible to the diverse citizens of a complex and unequal country.”

7. Star Wars and the Fantasy of American Violence

“The literary historian Richard Slotkin called this story ‘the myth of regeneration through violence,’ and he traces it from the earliest Indian captivity narratives through the golden age of the western, and it’s the same story we often tell ourselves today. It’s a story about how violence makes us American. It’s a story about how violence makes us good.”

8. The Myth of Cosmopolitanism

“Our tribe of self-styled cosmopolitans doesn’t see itself clearly as a tribe.”

9. Dolly Parton Is Proud of Her Gay Fans and Hillary Clinton

“I still use my little tape recorder, and I still write longhand. I can’t think unless I’ve got a pen or a pencil in my hand, with a big old yellow legal pad. I think my writing is as good as it ever was. In some ways, I think it’s better because I’ve lived longer and I’ve experienced more stuff.”

10. Viggo Mortensen Goes Off the Grid With Captain Fantastic

“He is famously picky about roles and makes only a movie or so a year without worrying too much about whether it makes any money. The rest of the time, he paints; takes photographs; writes poetry and music; and runs a small eclectic publishing house, Perceval Press, where he personally edits, proofreads and supervises the printing of all the books.”

11. Maxwell Is on His Own Timetable

“He retreated for a second time, filling his days with ‘a lot of Netflix, listening to music, traveling, days on the beach.’”

12. Working With Bill Cunningham

“George Clooney and Julia Roberts were co-hosting the Met Gala one year. He didn’t know who they were. He didn’t go to the movies or have a TV. Bill didn’t care about celebrities.”

13. ‘Child, I Trust You’: On Deadline With Bill Cunningham

“Bill embraced fashion’s eccentrics and didn’t care about celebrities. (He refused to say Kanye West’s name in the most recent Met Gala video, referring to him as ‘one man.’) Though it was a photo of Greta Garbo that earned him his first half-page spread of pictures in 1978, the only reason he had photographed her was because he loved how her coat fell on her shoulder.”

14. The Good, the True, the Beautiful and Chuck Klosterman

“The premise of this book can be succinctly stated: Most of what we believe is likely to be wrong.”

15. In America’s Long History of Slavery, New England Shares the Guilt

“The behavior of New England settlers differed less from that of their contemporaries who established plantation colonies in the Chesapeake and the Caribbean than might be assumed.”

16. Donald Trump Versus the ‘Haters’

“Trump’s usage of ‘hater’ has the distinctive flavor of hip-hop parlance, in which it’s not enough to simply note the presence of a hater: He must be condemned, then dismissed.”

17. How ‘Advantage Players’ Game the Casinos

“Many casino executives despise gamblers like Grosjean. They accuse him of cheating. Yet what he does is entirely legal.”

18. The Humiliating Practice of Sex-Testing Female Athletes

“No governing body has so tenaciously tried to determine who counts as a woman for the purpose of sports as the I.A.A.F. and the International Olympic Committee (I.O.C.). Those two influential organizations have spent a half-century vigorously policing gender boundaries. Their rationale for decades was to catch male athletes masquerading as women, though they never once discovered an impostor. Instead, the athletes snagged in those efforts have been intersex women — scores of them.”

Sunday 6.26.2016 New York Times Digest

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1. Artificial Intelligence’s White Guy Problem

“Sexism, racism and other forms of discrimination are being built into the machine-learning algorithms that underlie the technology behind many ‘intelligent’ systems that shape how we are categorized and advertised to.”

2. Britain Rattles Postwar Order and Its Place as Pillar of Stability

“Is the post-1945 order imposed on the world by the United States and its allies unraveling, too?”

3. When You Dial 911 and Wall Street Answers

“Since the 2008 financial crisis, private equity firms, the ‘corporate raiders’ of an earlier era, have increasingly taken over a wide array of civic and financial services that are central to American life.”

4. Jack Daniel’s Embraces a Hidden Ingredient: Help From a Slave

“Slavery and whiskey, far from being two separate strands of Southern history, were inextricably entwined. Enslaved men not only made up the bulk of the distilling labor force, but they often played crucial skilled roles in the whiskey-making process. In the same way that white cookbook authors often appropriated recipes from their black cooks, white distillery owners took credit for the whiskey.”

5. Bill Cunningham, Legendary Times Fashion Photographer, Dies at 87

“He didn’t go to the movies. He didn’t own a television. He ate breakfast nearly every day at the Stage Star Deli on West 55th Street, where a cup of coffee and a sausage, egg and cheese could be had, until very recently, for under $3. He lived until 2010 in a studio above Carnegie Hall amid rows and rows of file cabinets, where he kept all of his negatives. He slept on a single-size cot, showered in a shared bathroom and, when he was asked why he spent years ripping up checks from magazines like Details (which he helped Annie Flanders launch in 1982), he said: ‘Money’s the cheapest thing. Liberty and freedom is the most expensive.’”

6. A Noah’s Ark in Kentucky, Dinosaurs Included

“And Mr. Ham said, let us build a gargantuan Noah’s ark only 45 minutes away to draw millions more visitors. And let it be constructed by Amish woodworkers, and financed with donations, junk bonds and tax rebates from the state of Kentucky. And let it hold an animatronic Noah and lifelike models of some of the creatures that came on board two-by-two, such as bears, short-necked giraffes — and juvenile Tyrannosaurus rexes. And it was so.”

7. In Search of the Felon-Friendly Workplace

“When released prisoners can’t find work, it contributes to a costly, negative social and economic cycle of recidivism, crime, and ultimately perhaps a return to imprisonment, all at the expense of taxpayers and communities.”

8. A Family-Friendly Policy That’s Friendliest to Male Professors

“Men who took parental leave used the extra year to publish their research, amassing impressive publication records. But there was no parallel rise in the output of female economists.”

9. Don’t Ban Photos of Skinny Models

“To judge a body healthy or unhealthy is still to judge it.”

10. Who Blames the Victim?

“The more strongly you privilege loyalty, obedience and purity — as opposed to values such as care and fairness — the more likely you are to blame the victim.”

11. The Bad Faith of the White Working Class

“Church attendance has fallen substantially among the members of the white working class in recent years, just when they need it most.”

12. Can You Get Over an Addiction?

“Addiction is indeed a brain problem, but it’s not a degenerative pathology like Alzheimer’s disease or cancer, nor is it evidence of a criminal mind. Instead, it’s a learning disorder.”

13. Same Character, Different Film: Recurring Roles in Non-Sequels

“When Mr. Tarantino and Steven Soderbergh discovered that they were almost simultaneously shooting adaptations of two Elmore Leonard novels that featured Ray, the same cocky-but-slightly-dim federal agent, in a supporting role, it seemed only natural to cast Mr. Keaton to play him in both films.”

14. Two Astonishing Views of O.J. Simpson and His Trial

“The two series embody two ways of seeing history, personal versus social, micro versus macro. In one version, these events happened because these people with these characteristics made these choices. In the other, greater forces spanning millions of people and hundreds of years lead to a particular moment.”

15. As Airbnb Grows, So Do Claims of Discrimination

“I think this needed to happen to get them out of their tech mind-set.”

16. When Republicans Draw District Boundaries, They Can’t Lose. Literally.

“Democrats and likely Democrats have been systematically packed together to ensure landslide victories in a handful of districts, sometimes with the help of underrepresented Democratic minorities looking to secure a seat in Congress — a shortsighted strategy of tragic proportions. Republican voters and those leaning conservative, in turn, have been spread out to maximize their voting power across as much territory as possible.”

17. Why Conservative Intellectuals Hate Trump

“Levin believes that both parties, in their different ways, are caught up in the fundamental mistake of wanting to restore such features of post-World War II America as steadily rising incomes and low economic inequality, hegemony in the global economy, growing government, broad membership in the mainstream religions and a white-bread mass culture. Such goals, which are especially appealing to politicians of the baby boom generation who were young back then, are, Levin insists, nostalgic and unachievable. We need to accept that the country is now unalterably far more decentralized, and to devise political solutions around that reality.”

18. A Look at America’s Long and Troubled History of White Poverty

“British colonizers saw their North American empire as a place to dump their human waste: the idle, indigent and criminal. Richard Hakluyt the younger, one of the many colorful characters who fill these pages, saw the continent as ‘one giant workhouse,’ in Isenberg’s phrase, where the feckless poor could be turned into industrious drudges.”

19. Finance Is the Master Technology — and It’s Funded the World

“It is now generally agreed, for example, that in the West both numeracy and literacy were invented not in the context of scientific or artistic pursuits, but in the service of finance and commerce … Goetzmann also argues convincingly that finance is responsible for our modern conception of time.”

20. What Do This Season’s Political Books Tell Us About the Election?

“Our diagnosticians themselves often sound like patients.”

21. Why Are Whites So Angry?

“Over the last eight years something very important has emerged in the way race gets discussed in America: the foregrounding of whiteness.”

22. Why the War on Terror May Never End

“It is easier for this form of war to continue indefinitely because it has been brought within law governing the conduct of hostilities to a remarkable extent.”

23. Is the Idea of ‘Art for Art’s Sake’ a Sign of Social Privilege?

“The insistence on creating art for art’s sake may appear to be aimed at rich connoisseurs. But it originally expressed the frustration of artists with nouveau-riche consumers.”

24. How an Archive of the Internet Could Change History

“Social media might one day offer a dazzling, and even overwhelming, array of source material for historians. Such an abundance presents a logistical challenge (the total number of tweets ever written is nearing half a trillion) as well as an ethical one (will people get to opt out of having ephemeral thoughts entered into the historical record?). But this plethora of new media and materials may function as a totally new type of archive: a multidimensional ledger of events that academics, scholars, researchers and the general public can parse to generate a more prismatic recollection of history.”

25. Cynthia Ozick’s Long Crusade

“These are not fashionable opinions; and indeed, it may testify to the soundness of Ozick’s bleak assessment that she herself, one of the last great exemplars of the values whose eclipse she laments, is now so underrecognized.”

Research

“I don’t do any research. Your entire life is research.”

—Lee Child in Reacher Said Nothing: Lee Child and the Making of Make Me