Sunday 6.17.2018 New York Times Digest

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1. What Kept Me From Killing Myself

“For the first time in a long while I recognized myself in another, and somehow that simple tether allowed me to slowly pull myself away from one of the most terrifying beliefs common to the kind of ailment I’m describing: that one is utterly alone, uniquely so, and that this condition is permanent.”

2. Pregnancy Discrimination Is Rampant Inside America’s Biggest Companies

“Whether women work at Walmart or on Wall Street, getting pregnant is often the moment they are knocked off the professional ladder.”

3. Why Aren’t More Men Working?

“In 1950, 14 percent of men were out of the labor force. Today, that figure stands at 31 percent.”

4. Sometimes You Have to Quit to Get Ahead

“In order to pursue one option, we must forgo certain others.”

5. Flippers, Meet Reality

“Real estate brokers, designers and contractors credit the popularity of reality TV, specifically scrappy, do-it-yourself flipper shows, with encouraging this new generation of investors.”

6. The Ornithologist the Internet Called a Murderer

“It wasn’t until the public realized that Dr. Filardi had ‘collected’ the bird — killing it for the museum’s research collection — that the adulation turned to venom.”

7. We Can’t Stop the Hackers

“We have spent so much time worrying about a ‘cyber Pearl Harbor,’ the attack that takes out the power grid, that we have focused far too little on the subtle manipulation of data that can mean that no election, medical record or self-driving car can be truly trusted. And ultimately that absence of trust will destroy the glue of American society the way the Stuxnet computer worm destroyed those Iranian centrifuges. It will cause them to spin out of control.”

8. The Bible’s #MeToo Problem

“The muting of the #MeToos of the Bible is a direct reflection of the culture of silence at work in our congregations. An assumption is woven into our sacred texts: that the experiences of women don’t matter. If religious communities fail to tell stories that reflect the experience of the women of our past, we will inevitably fail to address the sense of entitlement, assumption of superiority and lust for punishment carried through those stories and inherited by men of the present.”

9. Stop Pretending Black Midwesterners Don’t Exist

“There are more black people in the Midwest than in the Northeast or the West.”

10. The Trouble With Hollywood’s Gender Flips

“Even when a Hollywood franchise is retooled around women, it still revolves around men — the story lines they wrote, the characters they created, the worlds they built.”

11. At Snapchat, Redrawing the Bounds of Reality

“Unlike virtual reality, which demands that the natural world be forfeited for seductive ones and zeros, the allure of augmented reality is a kind of perceptual truce, with our digital preoccupations layered harmoniously atop the natural landscape. The holy grail is a scenario in which all of your screens — phone, laptop, television set — are no longer necessary, replaced by interactive holograms that simulate, or improve on, their essential functions.”

12. A Word with Jeff Goldblum

“My teacher Sanford Meisner said it takes 20 years of continual work before you can even call yourself an actor.”

13. Are Genetic Testing Sites the New Social Networks?

“The companies use their large databases to match willing participants with others who share their DNA. In many cases, long-lost relatives are reuniting, becoming best friends, travel partners, genealogical resources or confidantes. The result is a more layered version of what happened when Facebook first emerged and out-of-touch friends and family members found one another. Children of long-ago casual sperm donors are finding their fathers. Adoptees are bonding to biological family members they’ve been searching for their entire lives.”

14. In an Age of Gene Editing and Surrogacy, What Does Heredity Mean?

“We cannot understand the natural world with a simplistic notion of genetic heredity.”

15. Under Modernity’s Hood: Precision Engineering

“Our cars, planes, cellphones, washing machines, computers, every manufactured mechanism, are all the result of our pursuit of this fundamental concept.”

16. How Did the Nazis Gain Power in Germany?

“Hitler believed in telling lies so big that their very scale left some residue of credibility.”

17. Is Our Obsession With Wellness Doing Us In?

Natural Causes asks us to accept that our bodies defy our control.”

18. White People Are Noticing Something New: Their Own Whiteness

“White people are losing the luxury of non-self-awareness, an emotionally complicated shift that we are not always taking well.”

19. Letter of Recommendation: ‘Live Like a French Woman’ Books

“The Frenchwoman in these books is always the same person: Parisian, insouciant, effortlessly chic, usually white, untouched by any hint of cultural strife or political upheaval. She mixes high and low fashion, Cartesian rationalism and unbridled joie de vivre, and also neutral shades. She wears a red lip for a day and indulges with restraint.”

20. How to Make More Free Throws

“Experts at a given motor skill maintain quiet eye some 62 percent longer than nonexperts.”

21. The Strange Case of the Missing Joyce Scholar

“One or two who had been told Kidd was dead had also heard other, even wilder rumors.”

22. The Wounds of the Drone Warrior

“The sanitized language that public officials have used to describe drone strikes (‘pinpoint,’ ‘surgical’) has played into the perception that drones have turned warfare into a costless and bloodless exercise. Instead of risking more casualties, drones have fostered the alluring prospect that terrorism can be eliminated with the push of a button, a function performed by ‘joystick warriors’ engaged in an activity as carefree and impersonal as a video game. Critics of the drone program have sometimes reinforced this impression. Philip Alston, the former United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, warned in 2010 that remotely piloted aircraft could create a ‘PlayStation mentality to killing’ that shears war of its moral gravity. But the more we have learned about the experiences of actual drone fighters, the more this idea has been revealed as a fantasy.”

23. First Canada Tried to Charm Trump. Now It’s Fighting Back.

“If Canada can’t rely on the United States, then what country can?”

 

Sunday 6.10.2018 New York Times Digest

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1. The Kind of ‘Bad Boy’ We Need More Of

“The world has lost more than a talented chef, writer and media personality. We also lost a man who brilliantly and bravely wove political education into food culture in a way that provided the kind of historical context and compassion for the oppressed that Americans need now more than ever.”

2. Anthony Bourdain: The Man Who Ate the World

“There are two ways of traveling, which are really two ways of looking at the world. You can see another country as simply an experience to consume, a place to collect trophies. Or you can look at it as an environment to interact with, something that changes you through the encounter and that you inevitably change by visiting.”

3. In Newark, Police Cameras, and the Internet, Watch You

“Surveillance cameras are an inescapable fixture of the modern city. Law enforcement agencies have deployed vast networks to guard against terrorism and combat street crime. But in Newark, the police have taken an extraordinary step that few, if any, other departments in the country have pursued: They have opened up feeds from dozens of closed-circuit cameras to the public, asking viewers to assist the force by watching over the city and reporting anything suspicious.”

4. The Resource Curse of Appalachia

“An abundance of coal, oil and natural gas has been, at best, a mixed blessing for rural Americans.”

5. Selling the Protected Area Myth

“Designating protected areas is relatively easy (and with publicity bonus points for politicians), but hardly anyone seems to be bothering with the hard work of actually protecting them.”

6. The Magic of a Cardboard Box

“The box is an avatar of inspiration, no charging required. Cardboard is the ideal material for creativity, and has been since the big purchase, and the big box, became a fixture of American postwar homes.”

7. African-Americans and the Strains of the National Anthem

“African-American anthem dissidents are heirs to a venerable tradition of critical patriotism that dates to what W.E.B. Du Bois termed ‘double consciousness’ — the feeling of being part of the American polity yet not fully of it.”

8. Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk and the Feud Over Killer Robots

“Warnings about the risks of artificial intelligence have been around for years, of course. But few of those Cassandras have the tech cred of Mr. Musk. Few, if any, have spent as much time and money on it. And perhaps none has had as complicated a history with the technology.”

9. Kevin Costner, Tall in the Saddle Again

“The story of America just repeated itself from sea to shining sea. There were the Native Americans everywhere, and we ingratiated ourselves the best we could. And then, when there were enough of us, we killed them. And as America expanded, we kept repeating these promises that we’re just passing through, that we’ll share the land, and none of it was true.”

10. Fred Rogers’s Life in 5 Artifacts

“If you look at the old scripts, there are pages and pages of notes, just tons of notations, on every single episode. For something that seemed so simple, he put in an incredible amount of work.”

11. The Rich Are Planning to Leave This Wretched Planet

“Maybe it will be so nice they’ll want to stay there.”

12. ‘Saved by the Bell’ Now a Restaurant

“People’s interest in the show hasn’t died.”

13. Bill Cunningham’s Unseen Scrapbooks

“As a milliner, he catered to Jackie Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe, Jayne Mansfield and Josephine Baker.”

14. Take Acid. Not Too Much…

“Why does anyone take drugs? The simplest answer is that drugs are generally fun to take, until they aren’t. But psychedelics are different. They don’t drape you in marijuana’s gauzy haze or imbue you with cocaine’s wintry, italicized focus. They’re nothing like opioids, which balance the human body on a knife’s edge between pleasure and death. Psychedelics are to drugs what the Pyramids are to architecture — majestic, ancient and a little frightening. Pollan persuasively argues that our anxieties are misplaced when it comes to psychedelics, most of which are nonaddictive.”

15. A Battle for the ‘Soul of America’? It’s as Old as America, One Historian Notes

“Meacham commends a particular liberal disposition that once dominated our politics but whose influence has long since waned. It is a public philosophy akin to what Schlesinger described as the politics of ‘the vital center,’ devoted to egalitarian reform but disbelieving in human perfection, fierce in its advocacy but humble in the face of human folly. Above all, it is pragmatic, its idealism tempered not by timidity or cupidity or corporate fealty but by a respect for its own limits. This is also, of course, the view of James Madison, and it undergirds the Constitution. By its very nature, it is anti-Trump, whose narcissism is only the beginning of his antithesis to the American political tradition. Yet it is also at odds with the strident purism so evident today from many quarters that insists on turning politics into a kind of crusading hysteria.”

16. How Christians Destroyed the Ancient World

“While we lionize Christian culture for preserving works of learning, sponsoring exquisite art and adhering to an ethos of ‘love thy neighbor,’ the early church was in fact a master of anti-intellectualism, iconoclasm and mortal prejudice.”

17. Kicking the Geeks Where It Hurts

“What he’s really asking is that we remember that the tools we’ve invented to improve our lives are just that, tools, to be picked up and put down. We wield them.”

18. What Data Has Done to Capitalism

“In the market, the dominant mechanism for coordination and communication has long been price. It’s simple to understand, often too simple. It is one-dimensional. That’s why firms have long provided a more efficient way for people to coordinate, because they could better synthesize a rich stream of information and then act on it. Today, however, the explosion of computing power has enabled many more people to gather information and analyze it quickly, which has allowed the lingua franca of the market to become more sophisticated.”

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Anthony Bourdain (1956–2018)

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The Old Man and the Gun

Sunday 6.3.2018 New York Times Digest

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1. Letter of Recommendation: Airport Layovers

“Layovers are enforced ellipses in life — temporary tenures in air-conditioned limbo. Once you’ve made it to your gate, there is, for the moment, nothing substantial left to achieve. You are free.”

2. Listen Carefully, Book Lovers: Top Authors Are Skipping Print

“You’re not going to be able to read it, you’re only going to be able to listen to it.”

3. A City as a Basic-Income Test Lab

“As the first American city to test so-called universal basic income, Stockton will watch what happens next. So will governments and social scientists around the world as they explore how to share the bounty of capitalism more broadly at a time of rising economic inequality.”

4. The Housewives of White Supremacy

“Running alongside what could be mistaken for a peculiar style of mommy-vlogging is a virulent strain of white nationalism.”

5. The Mexican Revival of Small-Town America

“Overall, immigrants have helped both wealthy and poorer rural towns cope with an aging, declining population. They’ve rescued abandoned communities, some that had been losing population since the 1920s.”

6. Do You Like Your Name?

“Onomasticians, who are trained in various scholarly subdisciplines, study proper names, and many of their results are fascinating.”

7. What Happens When Abortion Is Banned?

“Abortifacient drugs have become so readily available in places like Chile and El Salvador that it has become impossible to enforce abortion bans. That was also the case in Ireland, where by some accounts, before last month’s legalization vote, at least two Irish women a day were self-administering abortions using pills.”

8. Sex and Gender on the Christian Campus

“White House policies cannot halt the undertow of generational change, and may even accelerate it, because a modest but meaningful resistance to evangelical support for Mr. Trump is brewing on many Christian campuses.”

9. A Memorial to the Lingering Horror of Lynching

“The act of lynching was, by calculation, intensely visual. Its central, recurring image of controlling white bodies surrounding a tortured black one projected a message meant to grind a black population down with fear. As with all terrorism, unpredictability and arbitrariness were tactical tools. Lynching was intended to demonstrate that any black person, male or female, adult or child, could be accused of any offense and be ritually slaughtered. The law was no protection, and guilt was presumed, because being black was the real crime.”

10. 73 Books to Read While the Sun Is Out and the Days Are Long

“Thrillers, romances, cookbooks, the great outdoors: We’ve got them, and more.”

11. A Sprightly History of Advice-Giving

“Few people in the history of written advice have actually been qualified to give it.”

12. The Wondrous Life of ‘The Library’

“To get through times like these, I recommend drinking alcohol and making use of libraries.”

13. Sloshed, Hammered, Blotto — We’ve Been Doing It for Ages

“The good folks at A.A. will be apoplectic over this book, which suggests that heavy drinking is a basic human need, providing us with relief from the burdens of civilized society and even, for many cultures in history, a glimpse of the divine.”

14. How to Pose for a Photograph

“Most people have a more attractive ‘good side,’ which tends to correspond with where they part their hair. To find yours, shoot a series of three selfies: First look straight at the camera, nose at 12 o’clock; turn to the right, nose at 1 o’clock; then to the left, at 11 o’clock.”

15. The Empowerment Cult

“Members believed that Raniere could heal them of emotional traumas, set them free from their fears and attachments, clear patterns of destructive thinking. Some believed he could heal them sexually too.”

16. Malcolm Gladwell Likes Things Better in Canada

“I like ideas that absolve people of blame. That’s the most consistent theme in all of my work. I don’t like blaming people’s nature or behavior for things. I like blaming systems and structures and environments for things.”

Sunday 5.27.2018 New York Times Digest

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1. Boiling Over

“We are not congratulated for doing what we ought, only condemned for doing what we ought not. And by uniting in outrage against those in that second category, we find perverse satisfaction and reward.”

2. The Places in the U.S. Where Disaster Strikes Again and Again

“Only in the United States do relief programs and subsidized insurance make it attractive for people to move toward disaster-prone areas.”

3. Millions at Top, A Pittance Below.

“A Walmart employee earning the company’s median salary of $19,177 would have to work for more than a thousand years to earn the $22.2 million that Doug McMillon, the company’s chief executive, was awarded in 2017.”

4. Locked Out by Student Debt.

“Homeownership among Americans in their 20s and 30s is hovering near a three-decade low. Just 35 percent of households headed by someone younger than 35 owned a home in 2017, down from 41 percent in 1982, according to census data. Now, they are much more likely to be living at home with their parents or elders. At the same time, the nation’s student loan bill has soared to $1.4 trillion, surpassing credit cards to become the largest source of personal debt outside mortgages.”

5. Antibiotics in Meat Could Be Damaging Our Guts

“Are pig, cattle and poultry farmers misusing antibiotics, allowing too much of the drug to get into our food?”

6. Aristotle’s Wrongful Death.

“The idea of college as instantaneously responsive to employers’ evolving needs is a bit of a fantasy.”

7. Free Speech Will Not Save Us.

“The idea of free speech is part of a superstructure that can easily be pulled apart from below by contending factions, or crumble when its cultural foundation disappears.”

8. Seeing a City the Old-Fashioned Way: One Step at a Time

“The walking tour is an industry classic, predating smartphones, selfie sticks and status updates. Yet it’s a tour style that appears to be enjoying a bit of a boom, attracting ever more travelers interested in seeing a city in a slow fashion: on foot.”

9. Locked In.

“America has never quite known what to do with the mentally ill, and Roth argues that the latest solution — lock them up! — is the worst option of all: morally wrong, medically wrong and economically wrong.”

10. The Mystery Buffs in the White House

“It’s escapism for the control freak.”

11. Letter of Recommendation: Drinking at Lunch

“Microdosing LSD in order to increase workplace productivity is, in some precincts, more professionally acceptable than having a glass of wine.”

12. How Boots Riley Infiltrated Hollywood

“Among the questions the movie raises is whether black success within capitalism is something to reflexively celebrate or whether the success of individuals who belong to an exploited class serves to ratify and consolidate — rather than thwart or ameliorate — the system doing the exploiting.”

 

On Not Fitting In

“I used to try to fit in. I remember doing a thing on stock car racing. I went down to North Wilkesboro, N.C., … and I wore a green tweed suit and a blue button down shirt and a black neck tie and some brown suede shoes and a brown Borsalino hat. I figured that was really casual. After about five days, Junior Johnson, whom I was writing about, came to me and he says, ‘I don’t mean to be rude or anything … but people I’ve known all my life down here … they keep asking me, “Junior, who is that little green man following you around?”’ It was then that it dawned on me that … nobody for 50 miles in any direction was wearing a suit of any color, or a tie for that matter, or a hat, and the less said about brown suede shoes the better. … I was also depriving myself of the ability to ask some very obvious questions … if you’re pretending to fit in, you can’t ask these obvious questions.

Tom Wolfe