Sunday 2.18.2018 New York Times Digest

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1. A Message From the Club No One Wants to Join

“Not only has my loved one died, I have died as well. My former life, the life I would have lived with that now-dead loved one, exists no more. All the years we’ll spend grieving for our loved ones, we’ll also be grieving for our own lives — our old lives. Because we don’t know we’re grieving for ourselves as well as our loved ones, we can’t get to the source of our grief, and it comes to seem bottomless, as if the world were made of grief.”

2. The Tyranny of Convenience

“Though understood and promoted as an instrument of liberation, convenience has a dark side. With its promise of smooth, effortless efficiency, it threatens to erase the sort of struggles and challenges that help give meaning to life. Created to free us, it can become a constraint on what we are willing to do, and thus in a subtle way it can enslave us.”

3. The WeWork Manifesto: First, Office Space. Next, the World.

“It will be the kind of place you never have to leave until you need to go to sleep — and if Mr. Neumann has his way, you’ll sleep at one of the apartments he is renting nearby.”

4. The Feminist Pursuit of Good Sex

“At bottom, #MeToo is not about hashtags or individual firings. It’s a chance to reset the table of sexual politics — not by infantilizing women or declaring a war on flirting or administering litmus tests, but by continuing a decades-long push for true equality in the bedroom, for a world in which women are not intimidated or coerced into sex but are also not stuffed into the role of gatekeepers.”

5. Russia Isn’t the Only One Meddling in Elections. We Do It, Too.

“His findings underscore how routine election meddling by the United States — sometimes covert and sometimes quite open — has been.”

6. A University of, by and for the People

“It is one of the government-supported land-grant colleges established by the Morrill Act, which Abraham Lincoln signed into law in 1862 to educate the children of farm and factory workers, ‘the sons of toil.’”

7. The Currency of a Relaxing Tingle

“Every few months, usually in a rented or borrowed apartment, audience members show up and pay $90 to $120 to experience scenes presented by a semiregular cast of performers and designed to elicit autonomous sensory meridian response, more commonly known as A.S.M.R., the suddenly popular phenomenon in which gentle sounds or touch make some people feel relaxing tingles at the back of the skull.”

8. Why Did Christianity Prevail?

“Ehrman rejects the idea that Constantine’s conversion made much difference; the empire, he writes, would most likely have turned Christian in time without him. So how did Christianity triumph? To put it plainly, Christianity was something new on this earth. It wasn’t closed to women. It was so concerned with questions of social welfare (healing the sick, caring for the poor) that it embedded them into its doctrines. And while there were plenty of henotheist pagans (that is, people who worshiped one god while not denying the validity of others), Christianity went far beyond henotheism’s hesitant claim upon ultimate truth. It was an exclusivist faith that foreclosed — was designed to foreclose — devotion to all other deities. Yet it was different from Judaism, which was just as exclusivist but crucially lacked a missionary impulse.”

9. How We Got From Twinkies to Tofu

“Hippie food resulted from the convergence, around 1970, of three different strains of food ideology: health food faddism; ethical vegetarianism; and a post-Silent Spring critique of industrialized food and farming.”

10. How to Forgive

“Forgiveness means abandoning anger, and that can be long, hard work — possibly a lifetime’s worth.”

11. Black Panther and the Revenge of the Black Nerds

“You can be a hip-hop head, a sneaker fiend, a theater expert, a modern dance aficionado or an unapologetic comic book nerd. The democratizing power of social media has elevated the voices of those who were previously marginalized, helping undermine white culture’s habit of limiting black people to a handful of stereotypes.”

12. Why Black Panther Is a Defining Moment for Black America

Black Panther is a Hollywood movie, and Wakanda is a fictional nation. But coming when they do, from a director like Coogler, they must also function as a place for multiple generations of black Americans to store some of our most deeply held aspirations.”

13. ‘I’m Just More Afraid of Climate Change Than I Am of Prison’

“The Valve Turners are, for the most part, quiet people. They wear sensible shoes, and several attend church regularly. Most are parents, and one is a grandparent. All are white, all are college-educated and none are truly poor. While all are deeply concerned about climate change, none are immediately threatened by its worst effects: no one’s home has flooded, and no one’s health has been seriously damaged by heat waves or failed harvests or northward-creeping tropical diseases. All say that it is this relative safety — and the relative advantages of age, race, education and wealth — that makes them feel they have a particular responsibility, as climate activists, to push the boundaries of civil disobedience.”

14. The New Face of Portrait Painting

“Why paint someone’s picture in the age of the selfie? Most painters responded by getting weirder, more abstract, more experimental; representational figurative art was anachronistic, inert, crusty — a form of vanity exclusive to the rich. And yet portraiture — in the classic, realist sense — has become increasingly essential (and visible) in the last few years.”

15. The Enduring Appeal of: Baskets

“Baskets are among the most ancient and geographically pervasive objects humankind has ever fashioned from nature — and the only craft that has proved insusceptible to mechanization. (Every basket you see is the product of human handiwork.)”

16. The Golden Age of Crudités

“What they offer is that most elusive of qualities: honesty. Their beauty comes entirely from within; it can’t be enhanced or faked. That’s both a comfort and a rarity in a world dominated by the ersatz and the airbrushed, of novelty food trends like rainbow-dyed bagels and super-size soup dumplings, or sci-fi kitchen experiments involving mortadella foam and edible balloons.”

17. The Power of Wearing Flowers

“It’s a shocking reminder of how tenuous our hold is on earth. Against the age of the universe, our lives are not much longer than a blossom’s. So we seize what we can from our pillaged landscape and, like our ancestors before us, take beauty, however fleeting, where we find it.”

 

Sunday 2.11.2018 New York Times Digest

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1. For a Better Marriage, Act Like a Single Person

“People who are successful as singles are especially likely to end up in happy marriages, in large part because of the personal and social resources they developed before marrying.”

2. His 2020 Campaign Message: The Robots Are Coming

“Mr. Yang, a former tech executive who started the nonprofit organization Venture for America, believes that automation and advanced artificial intelligence will soon make millions of jobs obsolete — yours, mine, those of our accountants and radiologists and grocery store cashiers. He says America needs to take radical steps to prevent Great Depression-level unemployment and a total societal meltdown, including handing out trillions of dollars in cash.”

3. How Silicon Valley Came to Be a Land of ‘Bros’

“The secret sex parties are just a symptom of a much deeper problem that Silicon Valley’s tech industry has with its treatment of women.”

4. Black With (Some) White Privilege

“What does it mean that many prominent self-identified black people in America today were born to a white parent?”

5. This Is Peak Olympics

“As far as human performance itself, this may be as good as it gets.”

6. Corporations Will Inherit the Earth

“We Americans are living a paradox. We’re keenly suspicious of big corporations — just look at how many voters thrilled to Bernie Sanders’s jeremiads about a corrupt oligarchy, or at polls that show a growing antipathy to capitalism — and yet we’re ever more reliant on them. They’re in turn bolder, egged on by the ineptness and inertia of Washington.”

7. The ‘Manly’ Jobs Problem

“What if the problem isn’t simply how their male co-workers behave? What if the problem is the very way society has come to see the jobs themselves? Some jobs are ‘male’ — not just men’s work, but also a core definition of masculinity itself. Threatening that status quo is not just uppity — it can be dangerous.”

8. Single Mothers Are Not the Problem

“Single motherhood is not the reason we have unusually high poverty in the United States, compared with other rich democracies.”

9. The Student Loan Serenity Prayer

“All I knew was what I was told: College was the ticket to social mobility, and good students deserved to go to schools that matched our talent and ambition. Folks like me, who come from working-class backgrounds, are told to chase down a bachelor’s degree by any means necessary. But no one mentions just how expensive and soul-crushing the debt will be.”

10. The Songs That Bind

“The most important period for men in forming their adult tastes were the ages 13 to 16. What about women? On average, their favorite songs came out when they were 13. The most important period for women were the ages 11 to 14.”

11. Jimmy Buffett Does Not Live the Jimmy Buffett Lifestyle

“The Jimmy Buffett lifestyle shakes its fist at the Man even while, Jimmy Buffett, with his 5,000 employees, is basically now the Man.”

12. ‘Black Panther’ Brings Hope, Hype and Pride

Black Panther is as much an alternative to our contemporary racial discourse as it is a throwback, not only a desire for what could have been but also a nostalgia for what we once had.”

13. Engulfed in the Artificial Audioscape

“Bombastic, attention-grabbing inorganic noises are becoming the norm, disruptive sonic alerts trigger Pavlovian feedback, and simulated sounds are supplanting analog ones.”

14. The Sex Toy Shops That Switched On a Feminist Revolution

“The quest for sexual self-knowledge, as two new books on the history and politics of sex toys reveal, would become a driver of feminist social change, striking a blow against men’s overweening insecurity and the attempt (still with us today) to control women’s bodies.”

15. Danielle Steel: ‘I Know an Idea Is Right for Me When It Just Clicks’

“After all these years, Steel continues to use the same 1946 Olympia typewriter she bought used when working on her first book. ‘I am utterly, totally and faithfully in love with my typewriter,’ she says. ‘I think I paid $20 for it. Excellent investment! And by now, we’re old friends.’ She adds, ‘I work for 20 hours at a stretch, glued to my desk, sometimes 24 hours straight. Thirty-six hours once, when I just couldn’t leave the story.’”

16. What I Learned from Watching My iPad’s Slow Death

“My old iPad has revealed itself as a cursed object of a modern sort. It wears out without wearing. It breaks down without breaking. And it will be left for dead before it dies.”

17. How to Hoot Like an Owl

“Try hooting around dusk; owls tend to be nocturnal.”

18. When You’re a ‘Digital Nomad,’ the World Is Your Office

“In the competitive freelance economy, geographic mobility has become a superficial sign of both success and creative freedom: the ability to do anything, anywhere, at any time.”

19. The Towers Came Down, and With Them the Promise of Public Housing

“Virtually no new public housing has been built in the country in decades. There’s still a stock of over a million units nationwide, down from a peak of 1.4 million. Much of it is at risk. A HUD-commissioned study in 2010 found a $26 billion backlog in repair and maintenance needs, a figure estimated to have ballooned since then to more than $50 billion. Each year, some 10,000 to 15,000 units are lost solely because of neglect.”

20. The Rise of China and the Fall of the ‘Free Trade’ Myth

“Economic history reveals that great economic powers have always become great because of activist states. Regardless of the mystical properties claimed for it, the invisible hand of self-interest depends on the visible and often heavy hand of government.”

Mission: Impossible – Fallout

Hard to believe the first one of these came out in 1996. All of my current students, for instance, were born after that.

Glad they brought back Rebecca Ferguson, a highlight for me of the previous film, 2015’s Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation. Stunts, cinematography, locations, Cruise intensity — all look top notch.

Opens July 27, 2018.

Sunday 2.4.2018 New York Times Digest

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1. Force Overtime? Or Go for the Win?

“When facing decisions like this, people are often myopic, focusing too much on the possibility of an immediate loss. They avoid the risk of instant defeat, even when taking that risk offers the best path to victory.”

2. Most Afghans Can’t Read, but Their Book Trade Is Booming

“The publisher’s big sellers are self-help books, particularly in the how-to-get-rich genre. Ivanka Trump’s Women Who Work is also popular in translation, particularly among female readers.”

3. School Shooting Simulation Trains Teachers for the Worst

“In an option reminiscent of first-person shooter video games, they can also play the person with a gun.”

4. Making a Crypto Utopia in Puerto Rico

“Dozens of entrepreneurs, made newly wealthy by blockchain and cryptocurrencies, are heading en masse to Puerto Rico this winter. They are selling their homes and cars in California and establishing residency on the Caribbean island in hopes of avoiding what they see as onerous state and federal taxes on their growing fortunes, some of which now reach into the billions of dollars.”

5. Businesses Look at Washington and Say, ‘Never Mind, We’ll Do It’

“Together, the three men have revolutionized industries, forged empires and navigated all manner of crises. But can they fix health care?”

6. How a Crowdsourced List Set Off Months of #MeToo Debate

“The spreadsheet, which captured the ideals of what would soon grow into the #metoo movement, had almost immediate real-world effects. It caused prominent men to lose their jobs and disrupted the lives of lesser-known journalists. Four months after it was created, it remains a subject of intense debate.”

7. Why Women’s Voices Are Scarce in Economics

“At virtually every level of training and every professional rank within economics, women are a minority.”

8. This Is Why Uma Thurman Is Angry

“Quentin used Harvey as the executive producer of Kill Bill, a movie that symbolizes female empowerment. And all these lambs walked into slaughter because they were convinced nobody rises to such a position who would do something illegal to you, but they do.”

9. The Republican Tax Act Could Turn Texas Blue

“The demographic trends posing an imminent hurdle to Republicans in states like Texas and Georgia are, ironically, partly a consequence of the party’s own light-touch fiscal and regulatory policy.”

10. What It’s Like to Live in a Surveillance State

“A science-fiction dystopia? No. This is life in northwestern China today.”

11. Who’s Able-Bodied Anyway?

“There is no standard for physical or mental ability that makes a person able. Rather, the term has long been a political one. Across centuries of use, it has consistently implied another negative: The able-bodied could work, but are not working (or working hard enough). And, as such, they don’t deserve our aid.”

12. Beyond the Slave Trade, the Cadaver Trade

“There was a robust body-snatching industry in which cadavers — mostly the bodies of black people, many of whom had been enslaved when they were alive — were used at Harvard, the Universities of Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia, and other institutions.”

13. The Women Behind White Power

“What white women teach us is that white-supremacist politics is sustained at a much more grass-roots level by our neighbors, school boards and even friends.”

14. 5 Hours of Glenn Gould Outtakes. Why? Listen and Find Out.

“Over his career, Gould increasingly embraced recording’s potential to foster experimentation. He gave up playing concerts in 1964 and retreated to the studio, where he got involved with the detailed engineering of his releases, sometimes juxtaposing different portions of a piece played with various styles and approaches into a curious final synthesis.”

15. Easier Path To Divorce? Go Online.

“Since couples now meet online, plan weddings online, cheat online and find couples therapists online, it is only logical that they should be able to divorce online.”

16. Hand-Painted Ads for a Digital Age

“Like other novelties of the post-hipster age, the source of the value is not just the finished work, but also the tedious and rarefied conditions of its production.”

17. Enter the Holodeck

“They desperately want it to be good for society. But Bailenson and Lanier cannot have it both ways: insisting that VR is very realistic, and thus affecting and potentially therapeutic, but also that it will be used only for good.”

18. To Respect the Earth’s Limits — or Push Them?

“Mann’s storytelling skills are unmatched — the sprightly tempo with which this book unfolds, each question answered as it comes to mind, makes for pure pleasure reading. But you may find yourself troubled a little along the way by the analytical framework he’s imposed on the material, the division between the technologically minded Wizards and the limits-embracing Prophets.”

19. The Hidden Drama of Speedskating

“The oldest ice skates that anyone has found so far were made in Finland 2,000 years before the birth of Christ, which is to say 800 years before the Trojan War depicted by Homer in the Iliad.”

20. What Cross-Country Skiing Reveals About the Human Condition

“Cross-country skiers lean right into a bleak truth: We are stranded on a planet that is largely indifferent to us, a world that sets mountains in our path and drops iceballs from 50,000 feet and tortures our skin with hostile air. There is no escaping it; the only noble choice is to strap on a helmet and slog right in. Cross-country skiing expresses something deep about the human condition: the absolute, nonnegotiable necessity of the grind. The purity and sanctity of the goddamn slog.”

 

Sunday 1.28.2018 New York Times Digest

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1. The Follower Factory

“Devumi sells Twitter followers and retweets to celebrities, businesses and anyone who wants to appear more popular or exert influence online. Drawing on an estimated stock of at least 3.5 million automated accounts, each sold many times over, the company has provided customers with more than 200 million Twitter followers.”

2. Every One of the World’s Big Economies Is Now Growing

“We are investing heavily in Asia and also in Africa because the growth of the population there is stronger.”

3. Africa’s Gains Come With an Alarming Byproduct: Obesity

“Many Africans are eating more junk food, much of it imported. They are also getting much less exercise, as millions of people abandon a more active farming life to crowd into cities, where they tend to be more sedentary. More affordable cars and a wave of motorbike imports also mean that fewer Africans walk to work.”

4. Postcard People

“The world may have largely abandoned postcard writing, but deltiology — or postcard collecting — persists.”

5. What the Sharing Economy Really Delivers: Entitlement

“As people become their own brands, in the nonsense argot of the new economy, as work increasingly happens anywhere and everywhere, disaggregated from institutions and hierarchies and protocols that can offer various protections and clear channels of recourse, the policing of harassment will face new challenges.”

6. The Remote Control, Out of Control

“I’ve got Netflix. I’ve got Amazon. I’ve got cable. I’m done.”

7. Rambling Through Time

“The story of life on earth so far isn’t one of a tidy march of progress, culminating in humanity’s ‘end of history.’ Other alien worlds have claimed this planet for unimaginably longer spans, relinquishing their place only under the duress of mind-bending episodes of chaos, like asteroid hits and large-scale volcanic activity.”

8. How Wobbly Is Our Democracy?

“We should not take democracy for granted. There is nothing intrinsic in American culture that immunizes us against its breakdown.”

9. The Men Who Want to Live Forever

“The people publicly championing life extension are mainly men.”

10. We Need Protests. And Paintings.

“To defend the place of millions of immigrants and their progeny in American society, we need not only protest of political changes but also more art.”

11. Hollywood Uses the Very Women It Exploited to Change the Subject

“Hollywood has nimbly absorbed its critiques and converted them into inspirational messaging and digestible branding exercises, just in time for the unfurling of the red carpets.”

12. SZA Almost Quit Music. Now She’s a Grammys Contender.

“In an industry where the youngest stars radiate the most heat, SZA was a relatively late bloomer. She self-released her first EP at 22 and came to music as a refuge from jobs as a bartender and a sales assistant on the floor at Sephora.”

13. Robert Coover: By the Book

“The conventional novel, only readable if the writing’s stunningly or quirkily great. On the other hand, sci-fi, detective novels, westerns, pornography, spy stories, horror and romance, though very conservative forms, are all more like folk and fairy tales, and so much more alluring to a writer trying to burrow inside the collective psyche.”

14. Letter of Recommendation: Rodney Dangerfield

“By the time he perfected his act, he was nearly 60. But everything about Dangerfield was weird.”

15. Is ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ the Most Radical Show on TV?

“When ‘Drag Race’ first began, it seemed like a fun window into an underground culture, but over the nine years it has aired, the show has evolved to reflect America’s changing relationship to queer rights and acceptance.”

 

Hostiles

Saw it last night. Liked it a lot. More than I thought I would. Did a little Twitter thread about it.

Sunday 1.21.2018 New York Times Digest

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1. When Americans Were Afraid of Being Brainwashed

“Americans have a long history of fearing foreign subversion via mental manipulation.”

2. Faced With Abuse Scandal, U.S.O.C. Does Nothing.

“The leaders of U.S.A. Gymnastics fought to keep the abuse secret.”

3. America’s Sports Stadiums Are Moving Downtown

“City populations grew faster from 2010 to 2016 than those in the suburbs, reversing a 60-year trend that started in 1950.”

4. Online Courses Are Harming the Students Who Need the Most Help

“Taking a class without a teacher requires high levels of self-motivation, self-regulation and organization. Yet in high schools across the country, students who are struggling in traditional classrooms are increasingly steered into online courses.”

5. There’s Community and Consensus, but No Commune.

“The heart of each community is the common house, or a space, where group meals are offered once or twice a week, together with activities and events. Houses are connected by pathways. Instead of a lawn mower in every garage, there often are no attached garages. Cars are exiled to peripheral parking areas, while a single, shared lawn mower suits the needs of everyone.”

6. My Kid’s First Lesson in Realpolitik

“The president’s trolling is so effective, in part, because many of us have not learned how to deal with interpersonal conflict, starting with the playground. We must learn to defend ourselves so that when Donald Trump or any other bully taunts us, we can rise to the occasion.”

7. Donald Trump’s Radical Honesty

“Trump’s truths are actually in his lies.”

8. They Were Bad. He May Be Worse.

“Mr. Trump’s first year portends a very unhappy ending.”

9. The Political Mythbuster in Chief

“The president has forced us to finally look in the mirror. Perhaps he has done us a favor.”

10. Trump So Far Is More Farce Than Tragedy

“Trump is a dictator on Twitter, a Dear Leader in his own mind, but in the real world there is no Trumpocracy because Trump cannot even rule himself.”

11. We Need Bodice-Ripper Sex Ed

“Those books, for all their soft-core covers and happily-ever-afters, were quietly and not-so-quietly subversive. They taught readers that sexual pleasure was something women could not just hope for but insist upon. They shaped my interactions with boys and men. They helped make me a feminist.”

12. Are They Really Horror Movies? Afraid So.

“For many, ‘horror’ is shorthand for cheap, unreal, bad. The genre has garnered more critical respect today, but the tradition of dismissing it remains alive.”

13. Of Guidebooks to the American Dream.

“Mr. Adams, 47, who is African-American, is the first major visual artist to use the Green Books as a creative point of departure. For him, they are not only a Civil Rights artifact and instrument of social change, but also a fascinating record of black leisure time and the built environment — subjects that are continuously percolating in his work.”

14. Here’s How to Deal With Men (Thwack!)

“The point is not her leather riding crop. Her mission is to teach women how to employ a dominatrix’s rhetorical tools in any scenario when there’s a power imbalance with a man, whether or not it’s about sex. The scenarios happen everywhere.”

15. No Longer Writing, Philip Roth Still Has Plenty to Say

“I’ve stepped not just inside the male head but into the reality of those urges whose obstinate pressure by its persistence can menace one’s rationality, urges sometimes so intense they may even be experienced as a form of lunacy. Consequently, none of the more extreme conduct I have been reading about in the newspapers lately has astonished me.”

16. Gifted and Talented and Complicated

“Most prodigies grow up to be thoroughly unremarkable on paper. They do not, by and large, sustain their genius into adulthood.”

17. Behind Every Villain Stands Someone ‘Complicit’

“Complicity can be synonymous with collusion, but where collusion describes an action, complicity describes a state of being. It is buttery and passive, a path of least resistance. Complicity often calls for pretending not to know what you know, not to see what you see: playing dumb for the sake of getting along, preserving the comforts of the status quo. As a moral (non) stance, it clears the way for everything from bad manners to genocide.”

18. Joel Meyerowitz’s Career Is a Minihistory of Photography

“Meyerowitz began to work as a street photographer in the early 1960s and quickly became a virtuoso of the craft. He was inspired by the example of Robert Frank, whose work was full of poetic melancholy, though what first struck Meyerowitz was the balletic grace with which Frank moved while photographing. Later, he went out roaming with Garry Winogrand, who was frenetic and indefatigable. A great street photographer needs two distinct talents: the patience to lie in wait for unanticipated moments and the skill to catch them with the click of a shutter. Meyerowitz had both, whether he was shooting in black and white or in color. The color work is what he’s better known for, photographs that, to begin with, were brash and often jubilant, a world away from Frank’s gloom.”

19. I Used to Insist I Didn’t Get Angry. Not Anymore.

“If an angry woman makes people uneasy, then her more palatable counterpart, the sad woman, summons sympathy more readily. She often looks beautiful in her suffering: ennobled, transfigured, elegant. Angry women are messier. Their pain threatens to cause more collateral damage. It’s as if the prospect of a woman’s anger harming other people threatens to rob her of the social capital she has gained by being wronged. We are most comfortable with female anger when it promises to regulate itself, to refrain from recklessness, to stay civilized.”

20. Beyond the Bitcoin Bubble

“The potential power of this would-be revolution is being actively undercut by the crowd it is attracting, a veritable goon squad of charlatans, false prophets and mercenaries. Not for the first time, technologists pursuing a vision of an open and decentralized network have found themselves surrounded by a wave of opportunists looking to make an overnight fortune. The question is whether, after the bubble has burst, the very real promise of the blockchain can endure.”

21. Fear of the Federal Government in the Ranchlands of Oregon

“In many ways, it seemed, the people were constructing their ideas of the land upon a fantasy of the past.”

22. Kevin O’Leary Is Unmoved by Your Tears

“Business is so binary: Either you make money or you lose it.”