Sunday 5.13.2018 New York Times Digest

Credit Alexander Glandien

1. Is the United States Too Big to Govern?

“With a population of more than 325 million and an enormously complex society, perhaps this country has passed a point where — no matter whom we elect — it risks becoming permanently dissatisfied with legislative and governmental performance.”

2. The Great #MeToo Awakening

“Large segments of evangelical Christianity have a serious problem related to women. It’s disturbing, in part because this is contrary to the early history of Christianity, which did so much to elevate and dignify the role of women in the ancient world.”

3. How to Be a Prophet of Doom

“Thermonuclear war destroys the possibility of heroism.”

4. Let Mountain Lions Eat Horses

“It isn’t that there are too many horses; it’s that there aren’t enough mountain lions.”

5. How the Online Left Fuels the Right

“People on the right benefit immensely when they can cultivate the mystique of the forbidden.”

6. Does It Matter if You See a Film in a Theater or at Home?

“Studios, distributors and streaming services have to figure out a way to coexist.”

7. Are My Friends Really My Friends?

“The result … can be glut of old acquaintances that are not as easily forgotten online and which therefore stifle the development of newer, in-person friendships.”

8. The Ghostwriter Next Door

“If you have received a digital message of any significance, in other words — whether flirting, fighting or figuring something out — consider that it has likely already been looked over by a third party.”

9. Why ‘Fahrenheit 451’ Is the Book for Our Social Media Age

“In Fahrenheit 451 Bradbury was warning us about the threat of mass media to reading, about the bombardment of digital sensations that could substitute for critical thinking.”

10. What Do We Mean When We Call Art ‘Necessary’?

“If the point of art might once have been found in its pointlessness, this attempt to infuse it with purpose runs the risk of rendering it even more irrelevant.”

 

Sunday 5.6.2018 New York Times Digest

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1. The Russian Comic Writer Who’s an Antidote to Mad Times

“When people say that America’s absurdity has outpaced fiction, I refer them to the works of Nikolai Gogol, the Russian writer and playwright, who understood better than any artist since what ‘perfect nonsense goes on in the world.’”

2. Stop Calling Washington a Swamp. It’s Offensive to Swamps.

“The swamp is also the perfection of paradox. A marsh with trees. Water. Land. Both and neither. The use of ‘swamp’ as a pejorative ignores all of this, while reflecting an ecological ignorance and a general disparagement of the swampier regions of the country, particularly in the South.”

3. The Upside of Envy

“If we are honest with ourselves, envy can help us identify our vision of excellence and where need be, perhaps reshape it.”

4. When Southern Newspapers Justified Lynching

“Newspapers even bragged about the roles they had played in arranging particularly spectacular lynchings. But the real damage was done in terse, workaday stories that justified lynching by casting its victims as ‘fiends,’ ‘brutes,’ ‘born criminals’ or, that catchall favorite, ‘troublesome Negroes.’ The narrative that tied blackness inextricably to criminality — and to the death penalty — survived the lynching era and lives on to this day.”

5. Our Addiction to Trump

“As president, Trump is enormously important, but there’s so much else happening as well.”

6. Did That Just Happen?! Skyscraper Stunts in the Movies

“Since King Kong climbed to the top of the Empire State Building in 1933, the movies have often relied on skyscrapers as a tense setting for action thrills. And the buildings, along with studio ambitions, keep getting higher.”

7. Bans on Plastic Straws Are Growing. But Is the Travel Industry Doing Enough?

“Plastic straws kill marine life and choke reefs and beaches, never decomposing completely, but instead breaking into bits of microplastics, which eventually enter the food chain.”

8. Yes, It’s Bad. Robocalls, and Their Scams, Are Surging. + Robocalls Flooding Your Cellphone? Here’s How to Stop Them

“The most simple and effective remedy is to not answer numbers you don’t know.”

9. How Big Data Is ‘Automating Inequality’

“For the poor, she argues, government data and its abuses have imposed a new regime of surveillance, profiling, punishment, containment and exclusion, which she evocatively calls the ‘digital poorhouse.’”

10. What Happens When People and Companies Are Both Just ‘Brands’?

“The brand, in fact, is such a ubiquitous organizing principle for so many things — companies, products, people — that it has been forced to spawn an expansive glossary of subcategories and varieties.”

11. Corrupt Leaders Are Falling Around the World. Will It Boost Economies?

“Corruption is being exposed, denounced and prosecuted more vigorously, and at higher levels, than ever.”

12. Letter of Recommendation: Crying at Movies

“I started going to movies alone. At first the theater was just an escape from the city, which had begun to make me feel like a penny in an immense jar of loose change. Then I started writing about movies professionally, giving me full license to indulge in the strangely taboo practice of solo moviegoing — a habit that can be remarkably meditative and fortifying, almost like prayer. I don’t remember exactly which movie it was that did it, but eventually something revelatory happened: I remembered how to cry.”

13. The Man Who Cracked the Lottery

“The prosecution knew Tipton had bought the winning ticket. The video, specifically the distinct voice that colleagues had recognized, made that pretty clear. So did cellphone records, which showed Tipton was in town that day, not out of town for the holidays as he claimed, and that he had been on the phone for 71 minutes with Robert Rhodes, the man who briefly had possession of the ticket. Investigators believed he’d fixed the lottery. But how?”

 

Sunday 4.29.2018 New York Times Digest

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1. Facebook and the ‘Dead Body’ Problem

“We ought to worry … much less about the Thought Police and much more about how our informational profiles harden into the invisible architecture of our everyday lives. It’s not that we might be observed or killed in our sleep, but rather that the availability of loans or jobs or romantic partners or upscale hotel rooms are already being silently and automatically withdrawn from ‘people like us’ — people with our politics, people of our skin color, people with certain friends or predispositions, people without the wealth and power of Mark Zuckerberg.”

2. Playwright of Poverty Rejects Elite’s Push for Hard Luck Stories

“I now understand that part of my own desperation to get admitted to college came from not understanding that there is more than one path to success. Part of the scarcity model I grew up with taught me to believe I only got one shot. There are many ways to educate yourself.”

3. Women at Nike Revolt, Forcing Change at Last

“While the #MeToo movement has led to the downfall of individual men, the kind of sweeping overhaul that is occurring at Nike is rare in the corporate world, and illustrates how internal pressure from employees is forcing even huge companies to quickly address workplace problems.”

4. Doris Burke Has Game

“Doris Burke, the longtime ESPN basketball personality, who, 27 years into her career, last September became the first woman to land a regular job as an N.B.A. analyst on national television — cracking what many consider one of the highest, hardest glass ceilings in broadcasting.”

5. Bob Dylan’s Latest Gig: Making Whiskey

“Dylan has always resisted any attempt to fence him in. As soon as people start calling him king of the folkies, or patron saint of the counterculture, or beloved anticommercial leftist icon — he almost always does something to thwart that.”

6. Delivering Packages Safely for 55 Years

“Everyone is in such a hurry. There isn’t courtesy among drivers anymore. It seems to be a lost art. Some drivers are so bad, they don’t even put turn signals on. Where did those people learn how to drive? How did they even get out of driving school?”

7. Is My Not-So-Smart House Watching Me?

“Even as we are in the midst of a collective freakout about the data that Facebook has been gathering and sharing without our permission, many of us are busily installing equipment that potentially bugs our homes and tracks our movements, conversations and routines.”

8. What Do We Do With These Men?

“If we want the #MeToo movement to be about more than just which celebrity will be the next to fall, or whose comeback must be stopped — if we want it to lead to real, lasting and widespread cultural change — we need to talk. About what we do with the bad men.”

9. Dear Abby, #MeToo

“The most concrete goal of the ‘Me Too’ movement has been to reform workplace culture. But the movement has also accomplished something broader, and more nebulous: It has given women the ability to talk about some of the hardest moments of their lives with less shame, stigma or fear of repercussions. It has, in other words, created room for the sort of discussions that once were restricted to, essentially, just one type of public space: advice columns. For decades, the columns were where women with creepy bosses or abusive husbands went to air their grievances.”

10. Our Bodies, Ourselves, Our Anger

Our Bodies, Ourselves is celebrated for making information about their own bodies accessible to millions of women. Such praise is deserved, its reputation earned — yet that ought not be the limit of its legacy. Its boldness and its value came not just from the information it contained, but the connections it made between our bodies and the world we inhabit.”

11. Nine Rights Every Patient Should Demand

“Today patients’ worries are financial as much as medical.”

12. I Want to Be Rich and I’m Not Sorry

“Success, for me, is synonymous with making money. I want to write books, but I really want to sell books.”

13. Shorebirds, the World’s Greatest Travelers, Face Extinction

“A worldwide catastrophe is underway among an extraordinary group of birds — the marathon migrants we know as shorebirds. Numbers of some species are falling so quickly that many biologists fear an imminent planet-wide wave of extinctions.”

14. Why Trump Supporters Don’t Mind His Lies

“The problem wasn’t that people confused fact and fiction; virtually everyone recognized the claims as false. But when a falsehood resonated with people’s politics, asking them to imagine counterfactual situations in which it could have been true softened their moral judgments.”

15. Gaming: The System

“Saving some money on vitamin supplements is nice, but that’s not really what brought me to the drugstore. I was there for the buzz, the shots of happy I got when the cash register spit out a receipt the length of a 4-year-old. It’s all in the game.”

16. Excavating My ’90s-Era Childhood Bedroom

“In the end I threw almost all of it away, but decided to photograph it first, because I couldn’t quite say goodbye forever.”

17. Two Audacious Auteurs of Noir

Underworld U.S.A. initiated the luridly stylized, expertly crafted B-movies — blunt and punchy as a tabloid front page — that make up Fuller’s trilogy of despair. (The other two, Shock Corridor, from 1963, depicting America as a madhouse, and The Naked Kiss, from 1964, in which seemingly wholesome small-town America proves too corrupt for a retired prostitute, are available from Criterion.)”

18. Tiny Tots, Heavy Weights

“For the past seven months, Etta has been fully engaged in the sport of powerlifting and has just set 12 new American records. She is 11 years old and weighs 65 pounds.”

19. The Right Stuff

“The greatest technological advances come when a symbiosis is reached that combines the resources of a visionary government and the scrappiness of risk-taking entrepreneurs, each spurring the other onward and upward.”

20. Ten Women Whose Tongues and Pens Were as ‘Sharp’ as Knives

“It is, of course, a compliment with an edge. Call a man ‘sharp’ and he’s stylish, incisive, smart. Apply it to a woman, Dean writes, and there’s a ‘sense of terror underlying it. Sharpness, after all, cuts.’ A virtue of her book is that it shows how each woman, by wielding a pen as if it were a scalpel or a scimitar, confounded the gender norm of niceness and placed her analytical prowess front and center. Among 20th-century intellectuals, ‘men might have outnumbered women, demographically,’ Dean writes, but ‘in the arguably more crucial matter of producing work worth remembering, the work that defined the terms of their scene, the women were right up to par — and often beyond it.’”

21. How Does Empathy Work? A Writer Explores the Science and Its Applications

“This is a radical book because it challenges the conventional wisdom that self-defense and punitive systems are the only way to keep ourselves physically and emotionally safe, and, maybe more important, because it asserts that it’s possible to work for the betterment of society without the accompanying side effect of feeling like a chump.”

22. Chain Reaction

“We can’t all be fighting the prevailing orthodoxy, can we?”

23. Think Biking or Walking to Work Would Take Too Long? Think Again

“A new study published in a journal called Transportmetrica A: Transport Science shows that people often overestimate the time required to commute actively, a miscalculation especially common when someone has secured a parking permit near the office.”

24. How Janelle Monáe Found Her Voice

“Monáe has spent a lifetime perfecting the art of being a pop star who isn’t a sexual object. Discretion is a survival strategy, a coping mechanism especially useful for black women living in the public eye. But she has now made an explicit album about sexual expression and identity that is somehow still shrouded in ambiguity.”

 

Sunday 4.22.2018 New York Times Digest

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1. What Hospitals Can Teach the Police

“How can police officers be better trained to remain calm and defuse tense situations? An unexpected model comes from the field of health care, a profession that has found ways to address the incidence of violence in encounters with those it aims to serve. Hospital workers often come into contact with volatile people: agitated drug users, panic-stricken accident victims, the hysterical parents of sick or injured children and so on.”

2. Where Countries Are Tinderboxes and Facebook Is a Match

“Time and again, communal hatreds overrun the newsfeed — the primary portal for news and information for many users — unchecked as local media are displaced by Facebook and governments find themselves with little leverage over the company. Some users, energized by hate speech and misinformation, plot real-world attacks.”

3. Candidates Are Embracing the ‘S’ Word.

“Supporters, many of them millennials, say they are drawn by D.S.A.’s promise to combat income inequality, which they believe is tainting every facet of American life, from the criminal justice system to medical care to politics. They argue that capitalism has let them down, saddling them with student debt, high rent and uncertain job prospects. And they have been frustrated by the Democratic Party, which they say has lost touch with working people.”

4. America Before Earth Day: Smog and Disasters Spurred the Laws Trump Wants to Undo

“A huge oil spill. A river catching fire. Lakes so polluted they were too dangerous for fishing or swimming. Air so thick with smog it was impossible to see the horizon.”

5. States Are Doing What Scott Pruitt Won’t.

“Up to this point, we have treated these mystery chemicals with a bizarre optimism: that despite the similarities, somehow they won’t cause the same problems that their close relatives do. Combined with our longstanding federal policy of requiring definitive proof of environmental dangers before taking action, this way of thinking has led to lots of regrettable substitutions.”

6. In the N.B.A., a Game of Clothes Horse

“For players at the top of the professional basketball food chain, just showing up has become an opportunity to preen. No matter that the corridors may be lined with trash cans. The walk from the team bus to the locker room is a runway, with attendant paparazzi.”

7. How the Loss of Union Power Has Hurt American Manufacturing

“In 1983, union membership was 17.7 million — representing 20 percent of all wage and salary workers. Last year, it was 14.8 million, representing just 10.7 percent of those workers.”

8. The Real Cost of Cheap Shirts

“Bangladesh, which is the largest exporter of clothing after China, is able to save on manufacturers’ costs by paying one of the lowest minimum wages in the world and by often turning a blind eye to the laws, agreements and standards that would protect workers and the environment but raise prices.”

9. An American Woman Quits Smiling

“Does America’s emphasis on smiling say something about a desire for happy endings, for appeasement and artifice?”

10. Despairing on Earth Day? Read This

“He singled out the trend toward urbanization as the biggest driver of environmental progress, bigger perhaps than all the conservation efforts undertaken by governments and environmental groups alike.”

11. An Opioid Crisis Foretold

“Today’s opioid crisis is already the deadliest drug epidemic in American history. Opioid overdoses killed more than 45,000 people in the 12 months that ended in September, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The epidemic is now responsible for nearly as many American deaths per year as AIDS was at the peak of that crisis.”

12. A Problem Starbucks Can’t Train Away

“There are two classes of American citizens: Members of one can carry machine guns in front of the police in open-carry states without recrimination, drink alcohol in public without reproach and wait for friends in Starbucks without worry. Members of the other — people like me — worry about leaving our hands in our pockets after jaywalking on a cold night.”

13. The Soul-Crushing Student Essay

“Somewhere along the way, these young people were told by teachers that who they are in their writing ought to be divorced from who they are on their phones, or as the writer Grace Paley may have said, with their families and on their streets.”

14. Lighting The Way For Others To Shine.

“What a lot of people don’t know is: When you pass the baton, you keep running behind the other runner, you don’t just stop.”

15. The Mass-Shooting Survivor Network

“More and more, those who have lived through mass shootings — which were defined by the Obama administration in 2013 as a shooting with three or more deaths — are connecting with new survivors to create support groups between communities.”

16. The Doomed Dreamer

“One of the first great lessons of my adulthood was this: I change. As I grow, my dreams change, as do my ideas about who I can be and what I want during the short time I am alive. Gatsby has not learned this. It is a lesson he has closed himself to.”

17. A Brand-New Version of Our Origin Story

“Humans have been on the move not just since Columbus’s voyage of 1492, but throughout our long history. The ancestors of modern Japanese, Indians and Native Americans didn’t become fixed in their modern locations in ancient times and simply stop moving. If you want to understand our origins over the course of the last 100,000 years, this book will be the best up-to-date account for you.”

18. When to Wage War, and How to Win: A Guide

“Gaddis believes the best way to hone strategic thinking is not just by mastering the advice of Machiavelli or Clausewitz (who both figure prominently in the class), much less contemporary high-tech wizardry, but also by understanding the interplay of history, literature and philosophy over 2,500 years of Western civilization — with occasional insights from Sun Tzu and other non-Western thinkers.”

19. Group Think

“Now everyone who buys or uses or even just cares about a product or service has been collectively upgraded to something more ephemeral, almost spiritual, a loose association of souls brought together in one churchlike congregation: a ‘community.’”

20. How to Control Bleeding

“If you see blood spurting, pooling or rapidly soaking through clothing, consider the situation life-threatening.”

21. Can Dirt Save the Earth?

“Carbon, the building block of life, was constantly flowing from atmosphere to plants into animals and then back into the atmosphere. And it hinted at something that Wick and Rathmann had yet to consider: Plants could be deliberately used to pull carbon out of the sky.”

22. The Man Behind the President’s Tweets

“Fifty percent of the time, Trump is ripping these out himself, and 50 percent is going to Scavino.”

23. The Baby Mogul

“Karp insists that this explains why during the first months of life, babies can be lulled back into a womblike “trance” through the use of certain cues that Karp calls the 5 S’s: a combination of swaddling, shushing, placing the baby on her side or stomach, swinging her and letting her suck. He noticed that for each baby the ‘symphony of sensations’ was slightly different — some babies needed extra movement, others a light jiggle — though all the infants responded well to swaddling, even if they seemed resistant at first.”

24. How Liberty University Built a Billion-Dollar Empire Online

“The real driver of growth at Liberty, it turns out, is not the students who attend classes in Lynchburg but the far greater number of students who are paying for credentials and classes that are delivered remotely, as many as 95,000 in a given year. By 2015, Liberty had quietly become the second-largest provider of online education in the United States, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education, its student population surpassed only by that of University of Phoenix, as it tapped into the same hunger for self-advancement that Trump had with his own pricey Trump University seminars. Yet there was a crucial distinction: Trump’s university was a for-profit venture. (This month, a judge finalized a $25 million settlement for fraud claims against the defunct operation.) Liberty, in contrast, is classified as a nonprofit, which means it faces less regulatory scrutiny even as it enjoys greater access to various federal handouts.”

25. 1981-1983 New York

“Decades are like people. Some take up more oxygen than others.”

 

Good Advice

Kanye West recently returned to Twitter and tweeted this:
Kanye West Tweet

Michael Sacasas made a similar suggestion in 2013:

Don’t wake up with the Internet. Have breakfast, walk the dog, read a book, whatever … do something before getting online. Think of it as a way of preparing – physically, mentally, emotional, morally, etc. – for all that follows.

This is advice I must keep in mind.

Kanye, in his own way, like many artists, is a moral theologist and philosopher of technology.

The Searcher

Sunday 4.15.2018 New York Times Digest

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1. The Warrior at the Mall

“If I have authority to speak about our military policy it’s because I’m a citizen responsible for participating in self-governance, not because I belonged to a warrior caste. If what I say deserves to be taken seriously, it’s because I’ve taken the time out of my worthless sponge life as a concerned American civilian to form a worthy opinion.”

2. How Do Athletes’ Brains Control Their Movements?

“In the amount of time it takes the pitch the reach the plate, the physical limitations imposed just on our bodies — the time it takes for nervous signals to travel from the brain to the correct locations in the body — have already sliced our available response time in half. The resulting time we have to actually gauge the pitch is almost twice as fast as an eye blink. It is slightly slower than the duration of one rotation of a helicopter rotor blade. But in the time it takes to read this word, the ball will have sailed past. It should not seem a wonder, then, that it has been more than 75 years since an M.L.B. player batted .400. It should seem a wonder that our brains enable us to ever hit the ball at all.”

3. Signing Off on Signing Credit-Card Receipts

“The signature has had a good run. It’s not dead, but it is dying.”

4. The Historians Versus the Genealogists

“Obviously, history can’t depend on genealogy. But history shouldn’t scorn it, either. History can make use of the genealogical perspective and its transporting empathic power.”

5. Blacks Still Face a Red Line on Housing

“A study by the National Fair Housing Alliance of a dozen metropolitan areas […] showed that real estate discrimination was pervasive.”

6. Scrap Your To-Do List

“The essential American word isn’t happiness. It’s pursuit.”

7. Some Said They’d Flee Trump’s America. These People Actually Did.

“Like many of the new expats, she is home-schooling (‘worldschooling’ is the more popular term). Her daughters are learning Spanish at a Medellin day camp and spend their spare time playing Minecraft and Roblox, video games they sometimes play online with other traveling children. She hopes eventually they’ll start their own YouTube channel, if someone will teach them.”

8. Souvenirs Mean More Than Just ‘I’ve Been There’

“Whether purchased or found, procuring a souvenir may also ‘be a way of slowing down a real-time experience that is by definition ephemeral.’”

9. Facebook, Generator of Envy and Dread

“Facebook, in my experience, primarily energizes profound feelings of dread, perhaps especially for those in middle age, because it serves to remind us over and over how many ways life can go horribly and dramatically wrong.”

10. Into The Woods

“Trees do most of the things you do, just more slowly. They compete for their livelihoods and take care of their families, sometimes making huge sacrifices for their children. They breathe, eat and have sex. They give gifts, communicate, learn, remember and record the important events of their lives. With relatives and non-kin alike they cooperate, forming neighborhood watch committees — to name one example — with rapid response networks to alert others to a threatening intruder. They manage their resources in bank accounts, using past market trends to predict future needs. They mine and farm the land, and sometimes move their families across great distances for better opportunities. Some of this might take centuries, but for a creature with a life span of hundreds or thousands of years, time must surely have a different feel about it.”

11. The Philosopher in Dark Times

“I believe it is very likely that men, if they ever should lose their ability to wonder and thus cease to ask unanswerable questions, also will lose the faculty of asking the answerable questions upon which every civilization is founded.”

12. Are iPhones Bad for Kids?

“Prioritize other activities, and allow screens only afterward.”

13. Cambridge Analytica and the Coming Data Bust

“It was self-evidently absurd to grant a virtual-farming game access to your religious views, but that’s just how the platform worked at the time, and so we got used to it, much in the same way we got used to conducting our private lives on any other corporate platform.”

14. How to Carry Someone Who Is Unconscious

“Transporting a slack, full-size human will tax every muscle in your body.”

15. The Post-Campaign Campaign of Donald Trump

“I have never interviewed Trump, but people I know who have often remark on an uncanny element of the experience: the absence of any indication of an off-limits private self distinct from his public image. The phenomenon feels radically postmodern: a complete communion of the thing with its representation, officiated by an audience of millions over the course of nearly four decades.”

16. Why America’s Black Mothers and Babies Are in a Life-or-Death Crisis

“Black infants in America are now more than twice as likely to die as white infants — 11.3 per 1,000 black babies, compared with 4.9 per 1,000 white babies, according to the most recent government data — a racial disparity that is actually wider than in 1850, 15 years before the end of slavery, when most black women were considered chattel.”