Sunday 6.18.2017 New York Times Digest


1. Admit It. Summer’s Terrible.

“The antiseptic qualities of heat and light are much lauded, I know. Bad things fester and mushroom in the dark, I get it. It’s just that the cold suits me. Put me in a caped woolen coat, see how my gray-blue eyes narrow instinctively against the drizzle, witness my wintry magnificence! Now, wedged into a sundress, I am humiliated.”

2. Whole Foods Deal Shows Amazon’s Prodigious Tolerance for Risk

“While other companies dread making colossal mistakes, Mr. Bezos seems just not to care.”

3. The United States Is Squatting in Paradise

“The initial lease for Guantánamo was set at $2,000 per year, paid in gold coins. The deal can be rescinded only by mutual consent.”

4. The Anti-Uber

“Mrs. Lopez works as a ‘raitera’ — driving people to the doctor’s office, the courthouse and other places found only in Fresno, 52 miles away. She ferries asthmatic children and women who have overdosed on prescription pills to the hospital, and students who have missed the bus to the high school in another town. She once delivered a baby in her car, which has covered 194,000 miles and counting.”

5. The Upside of Bad Genes

“Genetically diverse populations tend to be more resilient, precisely because they have more genetic resources to draw on when unforeseen challenges arise.”

6. Does Trump Embarrass You?

“Embarrassment is the fear that others are judging us incompetent performers of our social roles.”

7. The Children of 1984: Dystopia Down the Decades

“The novel, published in 1949, sold well, but it took the ‘telescreen,’ as Orwell might have put it, to inject its nightmare vision into the cultural bloodstream.”

8. How to Host a Relaxed Dinner Party Like an Italian

“At the root of Western philosophy, there is a dinner party. Whether fictional or real, the Ancient Athenian supper that Plato recounts in his Symposium has all the familiar outlines of our own modern gatherings: drunkenness, attempts at moderation, cures for hiccups, a ‘no shoes’ policy, surprise drop-in guests, flirtations — not to mention some gentle ribbing, one-upmanship and a long, heated discussion of love.”

9. The Hidden Treasures in Italian Libraries

“Why go to the library in Italy when all around you there is fantastic art, exalted architecture, deep history and intense passionate people? Because, as I discovered in the course of a rushed but illuminating week dashing from Venice to Rome, Florence and Milan, the country’s historic libraries contain all of those without the crowds.”

10. How to Ease Travel Anxiety in an Era of Terror: Travel More

“The more I travel, the more I feel at ease about traveling.”

11. Machiavelli: Good Guy or Bad? This Biography Argues for the Former

“Hidden by legend and counterlegend, he is hard to get into view. Like the moralist Nietzsche, who also spun off disconcerting and misquotable epigrams, Machiavelli is at once overfamiliar and obscure.”

12. How Washington Planned for a Cold-War Apocalypse

“The goal of ‘continuity of government’ — an official euphemism for keeping the American state alive even if almost every American citizen ends up dead — has raised enormous ethical, bureaucratic and engineering challenges for generations of planners. Who would be saved? (Many federal officials, but generally not their families — a decision that has frequently been met with dismay.) From what branches of government? (Planning has often prioritized the executive branch over Congress and the courts.) And where would they go? (Underground, mostly.)”

13. Personality Is Everything

“There is something almost clownishly omni-competent about Goethe. He was a great beginner who ultimately finished most of the things he began. (Faust, which he had on the go for about 60 years, was completed in the last year of his life; Rilke’s Duino Elegies look by comparison like something finished the following morning.) He was interested in geology and anatomy, he developed a theory of color, he made watercolors and sketches himself, 3,000 of them. He went looking for something called the Urpflanze — the basic, or original, or prototypical, plant. He acted in his own plays. He wrote poems in many modes effortlessly. They entered the language (German, that is). When he finally grew frustrated with his married friend Charlotte von Stein, he eloped with Italy for a couple of years. He buried his wife; he buried his one surviving son. He buried his best friend, who died at 45. Near the end of his life, he gave perhaps the best description of himself, as ‘a collective singular consisting of several persons with the same name.’”

14. How to Live With Critics

“In politics, as in art, the right to criticize is really the right to make an independent judgment of reality. Democracy relies on a citizenry informed and active enough to make such judgments; in a democracy, we are all critics. This pluralism is always frustrating to politicians, just as it is to artists, because both tend to believe so implicitly in their own sincerity and good will that they come to perceive opposition as mere obstinacy.”

15. How ‘Snowflake’ Became America’s Inescapable Tough-Guy

“It is simultaneously emasculating and infantilizing, suggesting fragility but also an inflated sense of a person’s own specialness and a naïve embrace of difference. It evokes the grade-school art classes in which children scissor up folded pieces of construction paper and learn that every snowflake is unique, and every person is, too.”

16. Getting Others Right

“Capturing how things look fools us into thinking that we’ve captured their truth.”

17. Losing Fat, Gaining Brain Power, on the Playground

“The more visceral fat a child shed during the nine months of play, the better he or she performed on the test.”

18. A Whimsical Wordsmith Charts a Course Beyond Twitter

“As Sun sees it, social-media platforms are like urban landscapes, in which popular accounts function almost like landmarks. They are spaces where people go to interact and encounter one another; people imbue them with meaning and, over time, a shared history.”

19. The Man Behind Trump’s Voter-Fraud Obsession

“Kobach’s plans represent a radical reordering of American priorities. They would help preserve Republican majorities. But they could also reduce the size and influence of the country’s nonwhite population. For years, Republicans have used racially coded appeals to white voters as a means to win elections. Kobach has inverted the priorities, using elections, and advocating voting restrictions that make it easier for Republicans to win them, as the vehicle for implementing policies that protect the interests and aims of a shrinking white majority. This has made him one of the leading intellectual architects of a new nativist movement that is rapidly gaining influence not just in the United States but across the globe.”

20. The Long, Lonely Road of Chelsea Manning

“She told me that she believed then, and believes now, that ‘there are plenty of things that should be kept secret.’ ‘Let’s protect sensitive sources. Let’s protect troop movements. Let’s protect nuclear information. Let’s not hide missteps. Let’s not hide misguided policies. Let’s not hide history. Let’s not hide who we are and what we are doing.’”

21. Naomi Klein Is Sick of Benevolent Billionaires

“Trump’s pitch to voters was: ‘I’m rich. Sure, I have absolutely no experience in government, but the fact of my wealth is all the evidence you need that you can trust me to fix everything.’ It’s an absurd pitch, but I don’t know how far away it is from why Americans have trusted Bill Gates to remake the American school system or Africa’s agriculture system. I don’t think there could’ve been a pitch as crass as Trump’s ‘I can fix America because I’m rich’ without that groundwork laid by Davos and the Clinton Global Initiative.”

Shot Caller

Sunday 6.11.2017 New York Times Digest


1. Stop Pretending You’re Not Rich

“The rhetoric of ‘We are the 99 percent’ has in fact been dangerously self-serving, allowing people with healthy six-figure incomes to convince themselves that they are somehow in the same economic boat as ordinary Americans, and that it is just the so-called super rich who are to blame for inequality.”

2. Opioid Dealers Embrace the Dark Web to Send Deadly Drugs by Mail

“Enough fentanyl to get nearly 50,000 people high can fit in a standard first-class envelope.”

3. Religious Liberals Sat Out of Politics for 40 Years. Now They Want in the Game.

“Across the country, religious leaders whose politics fall to the left of center, and who used to shun the political arena, are getting involved — and even recruiting political candidates — to fight back against President Trump’s policies on immigration, health care, poverty and the environment.”

4. Paying a Price for 8 Days of Flying in America

“To understand the forces defining air travel in America today, I spent eight days crisscrossing the country in economy class. Four airlines. Twelve flights (half of them delayed). Twelve cities. Twelve cups of tomato juice. Three trips through whole-body scanners. One alarming use of the words “groin area.” Eight testy conversations with authority figures. One lost bag. Two broken entertainment systems. And a reporter who went a week without washing her hair.”

5. Why Women Don’t See Themselves as Entrepreneurs

“Research shows that women around the world are less likely to consider entrepreneurship as a career path, largely because they don’t see other women entrepreneurs as role models.”

6. Ending the Curse of Remedial Math

“Nationwide, only 35 percent of those who start community college receive any form of credential within six years. At urban community colleges, the six-year graduation rate is only 16 percent.”

7. America Made Me a Feminist

“In America, a woman’s body seemed to belong to everybody but herself. Her sexuality belonged to her husband, her opinion of herself belonged to her social circles, and her uterus belonged to the government. She was supposed to be a mother and a lover and a career woman (at a fraction of the pay) while remaining perpetually youthful and slim. In America, important men were desirable. Important women had to be desirable. That got to me.”

8. The 25 Best Films of the 21st Century

“While we’re sure almost everyone will agree with our choices, we’re equally sure that those of you who don’t will let us know.”

9. Prozac Nation Is Now the United States of Xanax

“While to epidemiologists both disorders are medical conditions, anxiety is starting to seem like a sociological condition, too: a shared cultural experience that feeds on alarmist CNN graphics and metastasizes through social media.”

10. Eureka? Yes, Eureka!

“People tend to have creative insights when they are in a positive, relaxed mood. When they are anxious, their thinking narrows and becomes analytical and cautious.”

11. The Empathetic Dog

“The dog senses when his agitation and anxiety begin rising, and sends him signals to begin the controlled breathing and other exercises that help to calm him down.”

12. Better Health Through the ‘Lassie Effect’

“Even though walking the dog can have lifesaving health benefits for owners and pets, a surprisingly large number of dog owners rarely, if ever, walk or otherwise exercise their dogs.”

13. Critical Thinkers: The Ties That Bind Orwell and Churchill

“Neither followed the crowd. Each treated popularity and rejection with equal skepticism. Their unwavering independence, Ricks concludes, put them in ‘a long but direct line from Aristotle and Archimedes to Locke, Hume, Mill and Darwin, and from there through Orwell and Churchill to the “Letter from Birmingham City Jail.” It is the agreement that objective reality exists, that people of good will can perceive it and that other people will change their views when presented with the facts of the matter.’”

14. What Distinguishes Cultural Exchange from Cultural Appropriation?

“One reason art tends to come from looking outward and not just inward is that we’re always speaking from a shaky authority, even when narrating our own experiences — maybe especially when narrating just ourselves. To be entirely against taking anything from another culture would be to condemn everything to memoir — and of all the genres of literature, I think memoir deserves the reputation for being the least true.”

15. How Did ‘Witch Hunt’ Become the Complaint of the Powerful?

“The central paradox of modern witch hunts is that those who claim to be the victims … are often the ones most enthusiastic about carrying them out.”

16. The Internet Is Where We Share — and Steal — the Best Ideas

“The internet has become the go-to place to toss out ideas, in the hope that they could lead to a job, but it has also become the place where people go to find the best ideas, creating a lopsided dynamic that tends to benefit people in power.”

17. Letter of Recommendation: Pothos

“When the traditional signs of adulthood — marriage, homeownership, children — are delayed or otherwise out of reach, it’s comforting to come home to something that depends on you.”

18. The Bounty Hunter of Wall Street

“In the finance world, Left, 46, is what is known as an ‘activist’ short-seller. After he places a bet against the price of a stock, he then publishes research designed to torpedo the company’s value, often by airing accusations of fraud or abuse.”

19. America’s Hidden H.I.V. Epidemic

“If current rates continue, one in two African-American gay and bisexual men will be infected with the virus.”

Sunday 6.4.2017 New York Times Digest


1. Popular People Live Longer

“Being unpopular increases our chance of death more strongly than obesity, physical inactivity or binge drinking.”

2. How G.O.P. Leaders Came to View Climate Change as Fake Science

“Republicans who asserted support for climate change legislation or the seriousness of the climate threat saw their money dry up or, worse, a primary challenger arise.”

3. Neither Hot Nor Cold on Climate

“The problem is that while Paris was not sufficiently rooted in reality, the anti-Paris sentiments that moved Trump weren’t entirely reality-based either. And a clear Republican plan for how to ‘prepare for and adapt to whatever climate change brings’ does not actually exist.”

4. Jerry Stackhouse: A Life in Movies (Hours and Hours of Movies)

“For the past 20 years, Stackhouse has worked to preserve his personal history — on film. During his playing days, he set up tripods to record his workouts. He took camcorders to team meetings. This season, he hired two cameramen to document his every move as a first-year coach in the N.B.A. Development League. He had to build a computer with a vast amount of storage to house all the digital footage.”

5. The Doctor Is In. Co-Pay? $40,000.

“As many Americans struggle to pay for health care — or even, with the future of the Affordable Care Act in question on Capitol Hill, face a loss of coverage — this corner of what some doctors call the medical-industrial complex is booming: boutique doctors and high-end hospital wards.”

6. The Specialists’ Stranglehold on Medicine

“To the extent that we can call it a market at all, health care is not self-correcting. Instead, it is a colossal network of unaccountable profit centers, the pricing of which has been controlled by medical specialists since the mid-20th century. Neither Republicans nor Democrats have been willing to address this.”

7. Why I Wrote This Article on Malcolm Gladwell’s Keyboard

“Do lucky objects actually help us perform better? If we believe in their special power, research suggests that they can.”

8. What No One Ever Tells You About Tiny Homes

“We are residents of tiny homes not by design, but because it is all our money can rent.”

9. How to Raise a Feminist Son

“Boys are particularly responsive to spending time with role models, even more than girls, research shows.”

10. How Interracial Love Is Saving America

“Through intimacy across racial lines, a growing class of whites has come to value and empathize with African-Americans and other minorities. They are not dismantling white supremacy so much as chipping away at it.”

11. What Monkeys Can Teach Us About Fairness

“Societies are shaped not just by disadvantage at the bottom but also by inequality across the spectrum. Addressing inequality must be a priority, for we humans are social creatures.”

12. For Carl Reiner and His Fellow Nonagenarians, Death Can Wait

“There is living and dying; there’s no retirement.”

13. The Fashion Outlaw Dapper Dan

“I think what Dap did, he actually taught an entire generation how to engage with luxury brands. Luxury brands, at that point, were not for us. They didn’t even have sizing for black people. So every time I walk into Louis Vuitton to buy a pair of sneakers, or buy a pair of pants in my size, I know they’re only doing it because of Dapper Dan.”

14. In California, Finding Fat City With the Man Who Wrote It

“The Stockton of Fat City is lurid and legendary. It’s where guys with flasks in their pockets line up on street corners at 4 a.m. to ride rattletrap buses into agricultural fields to pick tomatoes or top onions. Downtown is rife with greasy diners, fleabag hotels and steamy dive bars. Drunks take cover from the rain in incinerator silos. Boxers bust each other’s noses in basement gyms. Dissolute men pine for wives who have ditched them, and dissolute women carp at no-good boyfriends. It’s not pretty, yet somehow, through the honesty of its grime and the earnest way its inhabitants try to scrape and spar their way out of it, it becomes beautiful. Fat City is an Edward Hopper painting, a Robert Frank photograph, a midnight-choir Tom Waits operetta plunked on an out-of-tune piano.”

15. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: By the Book

“I used to own and breed a dozen Arabian horses. There’s a lot that goes into caring for them, and I wanted to learn everything I could about it.”

16. Soul of the ’60s: Otis Redding’s Short Life and Long Reach

“Always think different from the next person.”

17. John Grisham’s Do’s and Don’ts for Writing Popular Fiction

“Nothing will happen until you are producing at least one page per day.”

18. Photos, Gardens, Birds, Trees: What’s Happening in the Great Outdoors

“He describes how trees communicate using scent; how they experience pain, have memory and make family groups. Trees, he informs us, are able to identify marauding insects by their saliva. Wohlleben describes ‘fungi that operate like fiber-optic internet cables,’ linking many species by sending chemical and electrical signals through fungal networks and root tips. When trees are thirsty, they begin to scream at an ultrasonic level.”

19. Putting Cowboys — and Their Industry — in True Historical Context

“We learn why the story played out as it did — why beef overtook pork in the national diet, why the city of Chicago and not St. Louis grew huge, how the rise of barbed wire contributed to the fall of the cowboy.”

20. Getting Beyond ‘I Love It’: How to Understand Movies

“In Talking Pictures: How to Watch Movies, Ann Hornaday provides a pleasantly calm, eminently sensible, down-the-middle primer for the movie lover — amateur, professional or Twitter-centric orator — who would like to acquire and sharpen basic viewing skills.”

Sunday 5.28.2017 New York Times Digest


1. The Assault on Colleges — and the American Dream

“The United States is investing less in college education, at the same time that the globalized, digital economy has made that education more important than ever. Gaps between college graduates and everyone else are growing in one realm of society after another, including unemployment, wealth and health.”

2. Route to Air Travel Discomfort Starts on Wall Street

“Relentless pressure on corporate America is creating an increasingly Dickensian experience for many consumers as companies focus on maximizing profit. And nowhere is the trend as stark as in the airline industry, whose service is delivered in an aluminum tube packed with up to four different classes, cheek by jowl, 35,000 feet in the air.”

3. There Was No ‘Golden Age’ of Air Travel

“One of the reasons that flying has become such a melee is because so many people now have the means to partake in it.”

4. Hollywood-Style Heroism Is Latest Trend in Police Videos

“In promoting videos recorded on the very sort of body-worn cameras that have documented episodes of police misconduct, law enforcement officials say they are trying to use the positive images as a counterbalance.”

5. Is China Outsmarting America in A.I.?

“The balance of power in technology is shifting. China, which for years watched enviously as the West invented the software and the chips powering today’s digital age, has become a major player in artificial intelligence, what some think may be the most important technology of the future. Experts widely believe China is only a step behind the United States.”

6. The Instagram Obituaries of the Young Manchester Victims

“The internet has provided a surprisingly intimate glimpse into the lives of many of the victims of the Manchester attack. A handful were teenage girls or young women. Because that’s who goes to see Ariana Grande in concert; there’s no subtlety in who the bombers were targeting.”

7. Don’t Judge Montana for a Single Body Slam

“Will the readers of this East Coast newspaper ever stop picturing Montanans as unhinged, authoritarian hotheads and remember that some of us are Lynch-loving, Lebowski-quoting, lily-livered lefties who have a postelection tradition of walking over to the Jeannette Rankin statue in front of the post office and putting our ‘I Voted’ stickers on the heel of her boot even though we can see how that could technically be construed as littering?”

8. For Trump and G.O.P., the Welfare State Shouldn’t Be the Enemy

“For decades, Republicans have traded on confusion in the meaning of ‘big government’ and ‘free markets.’ The regulatory state and the size of government are intertwined, but they contain logically and practically separable strands.”

9. Saturday Night Fever at 40: You Should Still Be Dancing

“The most prescient notice was the New Yorker critic Pauline Kael’s. Well before MTV, she recognized Saturday Night Fever as a new sort of musical, writing that the ‘sustained disco beat keeps the audience in an empathetic rhythm with the characters.’”

10. Waiting for the Credits to End? Movies Are Naming More Names

“Credits have ballooned to their greatest lengths in the past decade. At least 50 films in the movie database have cast and crew credits that surpass 2,000 names each.”

11. Wanting Monogamy as 1,946 Men Await My Swipe

“They tempt you to keep swiping, and as you whiz through tens, hundreds or even thousands of profiles, you can only infer the obvious. Out of all these people, there’s got to be someone better than the person I’m seeing right now.”

12. For Frank Lloyd Wright’s 150th, Tours, Exhibitions and Tattoos

“This year is the 150th anniversary of the birth of the prolific American architect and designer Frank Lloyd Wright. Born on June 8, 1867, Wright designed more than a thousand structures during a career that shaped the country’s architectural and cultural identity. To commemorate the milestone, historic Wright sites, museums and hotels are celebrating with special events, new exhibitions and anniversary packages.”

13. The Gulf of Mexico in the Age of Petrochemicals

“It was the rumor of gold and silver that caused the first Europeans to probe gulf waters. Many met with shipwreck and starvation, even as a native culture thrived along the coastal estuaries, feasting on that bounteous supply of seafood. Despite their complex communication networks and endlessly renewable source of protein, the natives were destroyed in the blink of an eye. Mostly it was the newcomers’ pathogens that did them in, although some were victims of an attitude that viewed them as ‘artless and lazy’ for not exploiting their material abundance for purposes of commerce.”

14. Nor Any Drop to Drink?: Why the Great Lakes Face a Murky Future

“Ever since the completion of the Erie Canal in 1825, and accelerating after the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway in 1959 — which allowed large shipping barges to travel from the Atlantic to Chicago — the lakes have experienced a parade of evermore villainous invaders.”

15. The Colorado River and Its Unnatural World

“The problem then, as now, is people — and what we have chosen to do with the water.”

16. A Hemingway Tell-All Bares His Tall Tales

“When he wanted to get his ears pierced in Africa, his fourth wife, Mary Welsh, sent a tactful note to dissuade him: ‘Your wearing earrings will have a deleterious effect on your reputation.’”

17. New and Noteworthy Books on Military History, from Afghanistan to Waterloo

“Focusing military history on battles is the wrong way to understand wars because what wins conflicts is almost always attrition, not battle.”

18. New in Memoir: The Intersex Body, the Dead Body, the Body in Grief

“Many Native American tribes ‘believed that, unlike regular people,’ intersex people ‘had an elevated view of life’s experiences and could “see down both sides of the mountain,”’ Viloria writes. Viloria also shows how gender privilege works both ways. Despite enjoying the swaggering confidence that comes from presenting as male, Viloria tires of ‘the limitations around expressing my emotions and the tough veneer that I have to put on to protect myself every time I get around a group of young men.’ Roughed up by cops while getting arrested at a protest in Berkeley, Viloria finds that the police suddenly become gentler when they believe they’re dealing with a girl instead of a boy. The charges are later dropped.”

19. How Amanda Chantal Bacon Perfected the Celebrity Wellness Business

“Bacon is a lifestyle guru, and this is what lifestyle gurus do. They insist on a connection between what you buy and who you are. And then they sell you stuff.”

20. How to Build a Fallout Shelter

“The most important thing is to build underground.”

Sunday 5.21.2017 New York Times Digest


1. We Aren’t Built to Live in the Moment

“What best distinguishes our species is an ability that scientists are just beginning to appreciate: We contemplate the future.”

2. The Conservative Force Behind Speeches Roiling College Campuses

“It’s part of a larger systematic and extremely well-funded effort to disrupt public universities and create tension among student groups on campus.”

3. ‘The Internet Is Broken’: @ev Is Trying to Salvage It

“The trouble with the internet, Mr. Williams says, is that it rewards extremes. Say you’re driving down the road and see a car crash. Of course you look. Everyone looks. The internet interprets behavior like this to mean everyone is asking for car crashes, so it tries to supply them.”

4. When Power Makes Leaders More Sensitive

“When you see power as a source of freedom, you are likely to use it to serve yourself, selfishly. But when you see it as responsibility, you tend to be selfless.”

5. If Every Day Is a Rainy Day, What Am I Saving For?

“I grew up without money, but adjacent to the kind of wealth that afforded my classmates cars with electronic windows and multiple pairs of quality jeans. It never occurred to me that once I got ahold of even the littlest bit of money myself, I should carefully ration it.”

6. You Still Need Your Brain

“It’s a grave mistake to think Google can replace your memory.”

7. How ‘Twin Peaks’ Got Lost, and Found Its Way Back + Was ‘Twin Peaks’ Ahead of Its Time? Let’s Look Back and See + The People of ‘Twin Peaks’: Here’s Where We Left Off

“I always say, if you had a little goose that laid golden eggs, why in the world would you kill that little goose?”

8. Jeffrey Tambor: By the Book

“I still check books out at our local library here in New York — there is something about reading a book that you know other people enjoyed that thrills me — it’s all about ‘connection,’ isn’t it?”

9. The Value and Virtue of Good Writing (Rule No. 7: Don’t Be a Bore)

“Writing well is a two-stage process: (1) write not so well; (2) fix it.”

10. Three 18th-Century Revolutions and Why They Matter in 2017

“What forces account for differing degrees of upheaval when societies are in crisis?”

11. The American Revolution: A History of Violence

“The United States took shape not only in coffeehouses and on the pages of political pamphlets, but also on blood-soaked battlefields.”

12. The Scam Economy Is Entering Its Baroque Phase

“Where is the line, exactly, between a poorly produced but well-advertised product and a con?”

13. Should Students Get ‘Grades 13 and 14’ Free of Charge?

“It’s hard to do almost any job now without a 13th or 14th year of schooling.”

14. Scotland’s Love Affair With Seaweed

“To many urban westerners, seaweed is Asian fare, a staple of the sushi bar, but it has long been regarded as a delicacy in the western highlands and islands of Scotland.”

15. In Praise of International Crime Dramas

“In a time of deflating globalism, it is curious, to say the least, that TV is offering a defense of a fading internationalist vision of the world.”

16. Running Free in Germany’s Outdoor Preschools

“Robin Hood Waldkindergarten, which opened in 2005, is one of more than 1,500 waldkitas, or ‘forest kindergartens,’ in Germany; Berlin alone has about 20. Most have opened in the last 15 years and are usually located in the city’s parks, with a bare-bones structure serving as a sort of home base, but others, like Robin Hood, rely on public transportation to shuttle their charges daily out into the wilderness, where they spend most of the day, regardless of weather. Toys, typically disparaged at waldkitas, are replaced by the imaginative use of sticks, rocks and leaves.”

17. L.A.’s Vintage Bookstores

“Despite its richly deserved reputation for superficiality, Los Angeles is indeed a reading town, but with a uniquely transactional relationship to books, especially those that are remnants of bygone eras.”

18. What Animals Taught Me About Being Human

“Animals don’t exist in order to teach us things, but that is what they have always done, and most of what they teach us is what we think we know about ourselves.”

19. Why Close Encounters With Animals Soothe Us

“Something extraordinary occurs when we’re in the presence of a fellow sentient being. When we let go of language’s tacit conceptual constraints and judgments, we allow ourselves a kind of time travel toward our own inner animal. Science is revealing the ways that the physiology of our psychology can be found across species: the common neuronal structures and attendant nerve wirings that we share in varying measures with a startling array of both vertebrates and invertebrates, including fellow primates, elephants, whales, parrots, bees and fruit flies. Animal therapy makes us aware of this cross-species interconnectivity on the purest, subconscious level.”

20. The Mystery of the Wasting House-Cats

“Beginning in the 1970s, large quantities of the chemicals were routinely added to many household goods, including couch cushions, carpet padding and electronics. PBDEs can be itinerant compounds; they leach from our sofas and TVs and latch onto particles of house dust, coating our floors and furniture. They drift into soil, water and air and slip into the bodies of animals, collecting in everything from the eggs of peregrine falcons to the blubber of beluga whales. PBDEs also happen to have a chemical structure that resembles thyroid hormones and may mimic or compete with these hormones in the body, binding to their receptors and interfering with their transport and metabolism.”

21. A Pet Tortoise Who Will Outlive Us All

“To be in the company of a tortoise is to be reminded — instantly, inarticulably — of the oldness of the world and the newness of us (humans, specifically, but also mammals in general). Nature has created thousands of creatures, but most of us have been redrawn over the millenniums: Our heads have grown larger, our teeth smaller, our legs longer, our jaws weaker. But tortoises, some varieties of which are 300 million years old, older than the dinosaurs, are a rough draft that was never refined, because they never needed to be. They are proof of nature’s genius and of our own imperfection, our fragility and brevity in a world that existed long before us and will exist long after we’re gone.”

22. The Self-Medicating Animal

“In recent decades, primatologists have shown that chimps use tools, know right from wrong and even have the ability, called theory of mind, to imagine what other chimps are experiencing. Huffman’s contribution to this increasingly nuanced understanding of our nearest relative has been to establish that, even though they lack the abilities we consider might be necessary for the development of medical knowledge — namely, humanlike language — chimps practice a form of rudimentary medicine. They know enough about the plants around them to treat illness.”

Sunday 5.14.2017 New York Times Digest


1. How Google Took Over the Classroom

“Schools may be giving Google more than they are getting: generations of future customers.”

2. With New Digital Tools, Even Nonexperts Can Wage Cyberattacks

“Now anyone can visit a web page, generate a ransomware file with the click of a mouse, encrypt someone’s systems and demand a ransom to restore access to the files. If the victim pays, the ransomware provider takes a cut of the payment.”

3. U Can’t Talk to Ur Professor Like This

“Explaining the rules of professional interaction is not an act of condescension; it’s the first step in treating students like adults.”

4. If Liberals Hate Him, Then Trump Must Be Doing Something Right

“Mr. Trump’s most vocal supporters don’t have to defend his specific actions as long as they make liberal heads explode.”

5. The Census and Right-Wing Hysteria

“Whites are already seeing the descendants of some Asian and Latino immigrants as being similar to them. Consequently, whites treat them as white. This ‘whitening’ process will only increase in the future.”

6. Aziz Ansari on the Return of ‘Master of None’ and that ‘S.N.L.’ Monologue

“You always hear that people come up with ideas in the shower — when I live in these places, it’s like living my whole life in the shower.”

7. The Rich, Famous and Oh So Vulnerable

“Almost all celebrities aim for an impregnable public image, one that can hold up to any assault. But in this era of 24-7-365 mythmaking, the most visionary ones understand the value and uses of weakness, too.”

8. Where, Oh Where, Has My Little Dog Gone? Refresh Your Feeds

“An animal is lost. A message or picture is broadcast on social media. Hundreds of concerned ‘friends’ — some you may not have heard from since the 2016 presidential election — will repost on Instagram or retweet a lost pet notice without hesitation. The same fur fervor that causes people to mourn helplessly the death of Cecil the Lion, watch a runaway llama or consider depressed pandas at the zoo is in these cases channeled into helpful community activity rather than selfies.”

9. Solving a Reign of Terror Against Native Americans

“Among the towering thefts and crimes visited upon the native peoples of the continent, what was done to the Osage must rank among the most depraved and ignoble.”

10. How Privacy Became a Commodity for the Rich and Powerful

“Data-mining companies know everything about us, but we know very little about what they know. And just as ‘privacy’ has grown into an anxious buzzword, the powerful have co-opted it in order to maintain control over others and evade accountability. As we bargain away the amount of privacy that an ordinary person expects, we’ve also watched businesses and government figures grow ever more indignant about their own need to be left alone.”

11. Can Prairie Dogs Talk?

“Beyond identifying the type of predator, prairie-dog calls also specified its size, shape, color and speed; the animals could even combine the structural elements of their calls in novel ways to describe something they had never seen before. No scientist had ever put forward such a thorough guide to the native tongue of a wild species or discovered one so intricate. Prairie-dog communication is so complex, Slobodchikoff says — so expressive and rich in information — that it constitutes nothing less than language.”

12. Is an Open Marriage a Happier Marriage?

“Divorce, or not marrying in the first place, might seem like a more logical response to a desire for openness. But even as marriage rates have declined in this country, the institution has retained a seductive status for Americans. In his 2010 book, The Marriage-Go-Round, Andrew J. Cherlin, a sociologist at Johns Hopkins University, argues that Americans, who are more religious than their counterparts in other wealthy, developed nations, are also more infatuated with marriage. And yet the tradition is nonetheless at odds, he argues, with the country’s emphasis on individualism, a tension that leads to high rates of divorce but also to remarriage, with worrisome outcomes for finances and children. Openness in a marriage, for better or for worse, would seem a natural outgrowth of those conflicting cultural values, especially since same-sex marriage, open adoptions, single-parent homes, and ideas about gender fluidity have already redefined what constitutes a family.”

13. How Homeownership Became the Engine of American Inequality

“Because of rising housing costs and stagnant wages, slightly more than half of all poor renting families in the country spend more than 50 percent of their income on housing costs, and at least one in four spends more than 70 percent. Yet America’s national housing policy gives affluent homeowners large benefits; middle-class homeowners, smaller benefits; and most renters, who are disproportionately poor, nothing. It is difficult to think of another social policy that more successfully multiplies America’s inequality in such a sweeping fashion.”