Sunday 11.12.2017 New York Times Digest


1. Hunt for a Good Beginning. Then Write It.

“When you’re getting nowhere and ‘you don’t know what to do. Stop everything. Stop looking at the notes. Hunt through your mind for a good beginning. Then write it. Write a lead.’”

2. Lessons From Hurricane Harvey: Houston’s Struggle Is America’s Tale

“Unfortunately, nature always gets the last word. Houston’s growth contributed to the misery Harvey unleashed. The very forces that pushed the city forward are threatening its way of life.”

3. Plugging Into the Gig Economy, From Home With a Headset

“Is there really such a thing as a righteous gig-economy job?”

4. Where Self-Driving Cars Go to Learn

“The federal government is only now poised to create its first law for autonomous vehicles; the law, which echoes Arizona’s stance, would let hundreds of thousands of them be deployed within a few years and would restrict states from putting up hurdles for the industry.”

5. America’s Wildest Place Is Open for Business

“The Trump administration has declared the nation’s public lands and waters open for business, particularly to oil and gas companies.”

6. Why Christians Must Support Gun Control

“Christianity demands action. It insists on the protection of the innocent.”

7. The Power of the Courts Is Messing Up Politics

“Deflating the power of the judiciary might help to normalize our politics and help restore the primacy of considerations like policy and character in the choice of public officials.”

8. Women Cracked Wartime Codes. They Can Fix Tech Today, Too. & The Women Who Helped America Crack Axis Codes

“More than half of the American code-breaking force was female — roughly 10,000 women. Many were college graduates who had been shut out of graduate schools and excluded from fields such as math and engineering, and who now had a place for their talents.”

9. History, Totally Destroyed

“It is now painfully clear that we’ve overestimated intelligence as a world-changing force; it is idiocy that holds sway.”

10. We’re Sick of Racism, Literally

“More than 700 studies on the link between discrimination and health have been published since 2000. This body of work establishes a connection between discrimination and physical and mental well-being. With all of these effects, it is no wonder that more than 100,000 black people die prematurely each year.”

11. How I Learned to Yell

“For women it’s always a lose-lose scenario: Be quiet and spend 10 years in therapy; be delicate and suffer from a chronically stiff neck; be firm and get ostracized; be loud and get punished.”

12. President Trump, Please Read the Constitution

“His most frequent target is the Bill of Rights, which protects Americans against the federal government and, through the 14th Amendment, against the states. The list below is a small sampling of Mr. Trump’s depredations of those foundational amendments — via tweet, speech or interview — over the past two and a half years.”

13. The Swine of Conservatism

“Any social order that vests particular forms of power in men needs to do more, not less, to hold the male of the species accountable.”

14. How I Rolled on the Crescent: New York to New Orleans by Rail

“Train travel presents certain immediate advantages over air travel. It forces you to relax, as you have time on your hands.”

15. Rap Disrupted Music First. Now It’s TV and Film.

“From Empire to Atlanta to The Get Down, hip-hop has been the subject of some of the most inventive television of the last few years. Documentaries have been preserving the music through a historical lens, but it’s also being celebrated — and reimagined — through an artistic one.”

16. No Room for America Left in Those Jeans

“So much for the days when tattooed Brooklyn web designers and rifle-toting Montana ranchers seemingly stood arm in arm, united by their common love of Filson bags, Red Wing boots and White Oak denim.”

17. In Search of Silence

“I’m not recommending people move into a monastery. We’re social beings. But in the silence, you meet yourself.”

18. Memoirs Take the Wheel

“Three recent memoirs celebrate driving in three very different ways.”

19. What the Car Did — and What It Might Do

“For this installment of our annual Tech and Design Issue, we’ve devoted the entire magazine, front to back, to the question of autonomous cars and the future they could usher in. That level of attention seems warranted, given how profoundly this technology could change the way we live, with first- and second- and third-order effects that boggle the mind. We’ve visited with automakers in Detroit and in Silicon Valley to take the measure of their self-driving schemes. But we’ve also indulged in some sci-fi speculation of our own, trying to imagine what would happen if this unprecedented engine of American society — the machine that, more than any other, for better or worse, has given shape to American life for a century — really does undergo this radical transformation. The consequences would touch crime and punishment, work and leisure, exercise and partying and sex. Over the next century, they may well alter the built environment as radically as the manually driven car did over the last century.”

20. Modest Dressing, as a Virtue

“What happens when women start dressing in ways that are less than conventionally flattering? Why are they doing it? And what does it look like when fashion choices that might have been linked to female oppression perform in the service of liberation?”

21. The Feminist Pioneers Making Provocative Art About Sex

“Censored, shunned and banished to obscurity for most of their careers, they’ve been working with remarkable consistency, and it is only now — when these artists are in their 70s, 80s and 90s — that they, and their work, are being embraced as canonical.”

22. Lessons in Stillness From One of the Quietest Places on Earth

“Along with being one of the most diverse ecosystems in the country, the Hoh Rain Forest is also one of the quietest places in the U.S., according to the One Square Inch project, run by the acoustic ecologist Gordon Hempton, who has worked over the years to preserve the Hoh’s quiet (for example, by requesting that airlines remap their flight patterns). Here, the absence of sound is complete.”

23. Asian-American Cuisine’s Rise, and Triumph

“As a nation we were once beholden to the Old World traditions of early settlers; we now crave ingredients from farther shores. The briny rush of soy; ginger’s low burn; pickled cabbage with that heady funk so close to rot. Vinegar applied to everything. Fish sauce like the underbelly of the sea. Palm sugar, velvet to cane sugar’s silk. Coconut milk slowing the tongue. Smoky black cardamom with its menthol aftermath. Sichuan peppercorns that paralyze the lips and turn speech to a burr, and Thai bird chilies that immolate everything they touch. Fat rice grains that cling, that you can scoop up with your hands.”

24. Sight and Insight in the California Desert

“Instead of moving earth with giant machines, or leaving hulking, unpeopled abstractions amid the dust, she employs this vast landscape to explore and challenge the quotidian functions of our existence. She was trained as a sculptor and still considers herself one, but her art is really a kind of philosophical quest, one that involves an ongoing and intense examination of what it means to live: What do we really mean when we say we need shelter, community, clothes, tools, light? How elaborate a space — indeed, how much space, down to the millimeter — do we need to survive, to thrive? What structures best facilitate creativity, serenity, unity?”


Sunday 11.5.2017 New York Times Digest


1. When ‘Conservatives’ Turned Into Radicals

“Conservatism has long had two faces — one for its ideological elites and another for its voters.”

2. Smuggled, Beaten and Drugged: The Illicit Global Ape Trade

“Ape trafficking is a little-known corner of the illicit wildlife trade, a global criminal enterprise that hauls in billions of dollars. But unlike the thriving business in elephant ivory, rhino horns, tiger bone wine or pangolin scales, ape smuggling involves live animals — some of the most endangered, intelligent and sensitive animals on Earth.”

3. On YouTube Kids, Startling Videos Slip Past Filters

“While the offending videos are a tiny fraction of YouTube Kids’ universe, they are another example of the potential for abuse on digital media platforms that rely on computer algorithms, rather than humans, to police the content that appears in front of people — in this case, very young people.”

4. Swelling College Endowments Tempt Lawmakers Looking for Tax Dollars

“Universities have been fiercely protective of their endowments, and have ramped up lobbying efforts to keep control over them.”

5. Women’s Whisper Network Raises Its Voice

“With the internet offering a clearinghouse for complaints … whisper networks have been amplified. Through public forums, invitation-only Facebook groups, private Google surveys, locked websites and shielded threads on anonymous apps, women — and some men — are seeking catharsis and validation by sharing their stories.”

6. Everything Is Bad. Blame the Tax Code.

“Everyone wants a ‘fair’ tax system. But like children in the schoolyard, we have definitions of what’s fair that vary widely and are typically transparently self-serving.”

7. The Right to Vote Is Never Safe

“Access matters at least as much as legal right.”

8. Are Christians Supposed to Be Communists?

“The New Testament’s Book of Acts tells us that in Jerusalem the first converts to the proclamation of the risen Christ affirmed their new faith by living in a single dwelling, selling their fixed holdings, redistributing their wealth ‘as each needed’ and owning all possessions communally.”

9. Kids, Would You Please Start Fighting?

“If kids never get exposed to disagreement, we’ll end up limiting their creativity.”

10. Relax, You Don’t Need to ‘Eat Clean’

“Food should be a cause for pleasure, not panic.”

11. Walter Isaacson: By the Book

“Paper turns out to be a superb information-storage technology, still readable after five hundred years, which our own tweets likely (and fortunately) won’t be.”

12. Between the Presidency and Him

“The book provides a master class on the essay form. Structured as a call and response between eight of his most significant articles and briefer, more personal essays arranged by year, Coates gives us something between a mixtape and a Künstlerroman, demonstrating how he came to dominate the nonfiction genre.”

13. Why Arthur Schlesinger’s ‘Disuniting of America’ Lives On

“To the challenges of teaching history in a way that is at once accurate and inclusive, Schlesinger remains an insightful guide.”

14. Six Myths About Choosing a College Major

“Much of the conventional thinking about majors is wrong.”

15. Where the STEM Jobs Are (and Where They Aren’t)

“Much of the public enthusiasm for STEM education rests on the assumption that these fields are rich in job opportunity. Some are, some aren’t.”

16. The Disappearing American Grad Student

“About 64 percent of doctoral candidates and almost 68 percent in master’s programs last year were international students.”

17. Class, Interrupted

“Today’s students bring a multiplicity of personal identities to campus — their sexual orientation, race and ethnicity, religion, political leanings — and they want to see that reflected in course content. The values in readings, lectures and even conversations are open to questioning. All good — that’s what college is supposed to be about — except that now the safety screen around the examination of ideas has been pulled away. Higher education is increasingly partisan, and professors must manage these disconnected ideologies, which are sometimes between themselves and their students.”

18. Greta Gerwig’s Radical Confidence

“In most films, girls exist to be looked at. Sometimes they help a male protagonist come to a realization about himself. Sometimes they die. Gerwig makes Lady Bird the one who looks: at boys but also houses, magazines, books, clothes and at the city of Sacramento.”

19. How Facebook’s Oracular Algorithm Determines the Fates of Start-Ups

“As we delegate more control to artificial intelligence, both businesses as well as users are venturing into uncertain territory. In the meantime, more and more companies — start-ups, mom-and-pop stores, major corporations — are handing their dollars and their data to the social-networking giant. Facebook’s Ads Manager is user-friendly. Sales are plentiful. And if you don’t take advantage of it, your competitors will. How could you not go there?”

20. The First Woman to Translate the ‘Odyssey’ Into English

“Throughout her translation of the Odyssey, Wilson has made small but, it turns out, radical changes to the way many key scenes of the epic are presented — ‘radical’ in that, in 400 years of versions of the poem, no translator has made the kinds of alterations Wilson has, changes that go to truing a text that, as she says, has through translation accumulated distortions that affect the way even scholars who read Greek discuss the original. These changes seem, at each turn, to ask us to appreciate the gravity of the events that are unfolding, the human cost of differences of mind.”


Sunday 10.29.2017 New York Times Digest


1. How We Find Our Way to the Dead

“Today even skeptics live in the presence of the departed, the disembodied and the illusory — internet shadows that are no less influential for not being real.”

2. North Korea Rouses Neighbors to Reconsider Nuclear Weapons

“This brutal calculus over how to respond to North Korea is taking place in a region where several nations have the material, the technology, the expertise and the money to produce nuclear weapons.”

3. Public Shaming and Even Prison for Plastic Bag Use in Rwanda

“In Rwanda, it is illegal to import, produce, use or sell plastic bags and plastic packaging except within specific industries like hospitals and pharmaceuticals. The nation is one of more than 40 around the world that have banned, restricted or taxed the use of plastic bags, including China, France and Italy. But Rwanda’s approach is on another level. Traffickers caught carrying illegal plastic are liable to be fined, jailed or forced to make public confessions.”

4. Will Congress Ever Limit the Forever-Expanding 9/11 War?

“As the 9/11 war enters its 17th year, questions about the scope and limits of presidential war-making powers are taking on new urgency.”

5. Lord & Taylor, WeWork and the Death of Leisure

“Today … shopping is something else entirely, not a diversion but just an extension of our working or ‘productive’ lives. At our desks and laptops we buy our avocados, face creams, bathing suits, boxer shorts, coffee tables, routers, sport coats, ski clothes. We can spend $53 or $8,500. There is nothing to immortalize unless you are a writer or artist moved to render the image of an exhausted-looking middle-aged woman staring at a screen-full of Amazon reviews.”

6. Happiness Is Other People

“In an individualistic culture powered by self-actualization, the idea that happiness should be engineered from the inside out, rather than the outside in, is slowly taking on the status of a default truism.”

7. James Madison’s Lessons in Racism

“Madison is the founding father who can teach Americans the most about our present contradictions on race. Madison insisted that enslaved Africans were entitled to a right to liberty and proposed that Congress purchase all the slaves in the United States and set them free. Yet not only did he hold slaves on his plantation in Virginia and fail to free them upon his death, but he also originated the notorious three-fifths compromise in the Constitution, which counted a slave as three-fifths of a person for purposes of legislative representation.”

8. Let It Go: Making Peace With Princesses

“The Disney princesses we know and love take much of the fun, feminist spark and quirky historical value out of the fairy tale tradition.”

9. My ‘Orphan Disease’ Has Given Me a New Family

“People with disabilities are the unexpected made flesh. The challenges of living in a world not built for us are occasions for resourcefulness and adaptability, especially for those of us who start out disabled early in life. We are innovators, early adopters, expert users and technology hackers as we respond to the adversity that the built and natural environments present us.”

10. The Misery Filter

“In America we have education for success, but no education for suffering.”

11. David Harbour of ‘Stranger Things’ Never Wants to Play the Dad

“One of the things I’ve been interested in my whole career is exploring masculinity and what it means to be a man. The sensitivity of a man, but also the violence and power that goes along with it.”

12. ‘Alias Grace’: 20 Years in the Making, but on TV at the Right Time

The Handmaid’s Tale offers us a window into a possible future when women’s rights are eroded. Alias Grace offers a look at what it was like before women had any rights.”

13. Making Room for Deaf Performers in Hollywood

“Deaf and hearing audiences could delight equally in silent films. What’s more, deaf actors appeared frequently, always as hearing characters; five found regular work onscreen, where facial expression and gestures signified more than moving lips. Charlie Chaplin cast the best known of them, Granville Redmond, in a handful of films. In the decades since, deaf audiences have struggled for equal access.”

14. The Hidden History of Japan’s Folk-Rock Boom

Even a Tree Can Shed Tears: Japanese Folk & Rock 1969–1973, released this month by the eclectic American label Light in the Attic, is a primer on how Japanese musicians absorbed the influence of Mr. Dylan, the Band and Joni Mitchell, as well as a portrait of a postwar generation that explored its own identity through an imported sound.”

15. Art Lurks in an Unlikely Place for Mary Kelly: the Dryer

“She first began making images out of compressed lint in 1999, carefully culling the material from a standard lint screen covered with a vinyl sheet that has been laser cut, in what amounts to an intaglio printing process, to create desired forms. The lint works as pigment and as an ephemeral reminder of daily life or, more specifically, of the never-ending rhythms of women’s domestic labor. Now, it has become such an integral part of her work that she does thousands of extra loads just to create enough lint, in the right colors, for her artwork.”

16. An Artistic Approach to Becoming a U.S. Citizen

“The project is a 32-hour interactive program that uses artifacts, documents and art from the museum’s permanent collection and covers all the questions used in the test.”

17. It’s Always Fishnets Season Somewhere

“Fashion in general is always borrowing from street wear, and it doesn’t get more street wear than hooker.”

18. Virtual Reality Gets Naughty

“Pornography is what rushed along the first printing press, and spurred developments in the internet, online payment systems and other technology. Now it’s time for virtual reality.”

19. Amazon Key Is a Lot Less Scary Than My Post-1-Click Remorse

“Cookie-based ads and targeted emails reminding you of other possibilities reinforce the paradox of choice.”

20. Night of Our Ghastly Longings

“What makes Halloween scary is the nature of the spirits we let out. They are re-embodiments of secret fears and desires, of monstrous hungers and frightful lusts. Ghosts, ghouls, witches, incubi, succubi, werewolves, possessing demons and demonic children are figures of fascination, repulsion and threat. Halloween threatens with what it promises, like a good-looking vampire puckering up for a kiss.”

21. Ron Chernow: By the Book

“It’s a shameful thing to admit for someone who writes such long books, but I read so slowly that I almost subvocalize. I always sympathize with people who complain about the length of my books. It would take me a year to get through one of them.”

22. The Best of Richard Matheson

“To me, his great subject — which I also think is the key question of the horror genre itself — is the problem of belief. He was the master of a particular kind of story in which puzzlement turns gradually to acceptance of an impossible-seeming reality, and ultimately to full-blown panic.”

23. The Man Who Photographed Ghosts

“No sooner had people invented a way of creating photographic images (whether it was a daguerreotype, an ambrotype or a hallotype) than people found ways of altering the images — and, even more relevantly, of lying about their contents and how they were obtained.”

24. Our Villains, Ourselves: A Thriller Roundup

“If our heroes disclose who we wish to be, our villains reveal what we fear we may become.”

25. The Pop-Culture Evolution of Frankenstein’s Monster

“The relentlessly gloomy weather and frequent storms forced the unmarried Mary Godwin, Percy Shelley and Lord Byron to entertain themselves indoors. Gossipy English tourists in the region suspected these radical freethinkers were engaging in every form of bad behavior (one fashionable hotel even furnished a telescope from which guests could spy on the villa). But the reality was more sedate: Lord Byron challenged his friends to write ghost stories, and the rest is literary history. When the 18-year-old Godwin read her effort, she created modern science fiction as a genre.”

26. In These Lying Times, ‘Receipts’ Offer a Glimmer of Justice

“When judicial and legislative avenues seem stalled or faulty, receipts work as currency in the people’s court. And sometimes they command actual consequences.”


Sunday 10.22.2017 New York Times Digest


1. To Complain Is to Truly Be Alive

“Being a person is terrible. And complaining about it is the purest, most soothing form of protest there is.”

2. Why Has the E.P.A. Shifted on Toxic Chemicals? An Industry Insider Helps Call the Shots & The E.P.A.’s Top 10 Toxic Threats, and Industry’s Pushback

“The E.P.A.’s abrupt new direction on legacy chemicals is part of a broad initiative by the Trump administration to change the way the federal government evaluates health and environmental risks associated with hazardous chemicals, making it more aligned with the industry’s wishes.”

3. Australia’s Amazon Book Battle

“This is still a place where many Australians can buy a novel, sausages and shampoo in three different shops, each owned by a neighbor with children at the local school.”

4. Fighting Racism Is Not Just a War of Words

“Ceaseless statement-writing as an act of protest is sucking us dry — of time, rest, energy, creativity and our place in the public square.”

5. Famous Athletes Have Always Led the Way

“At their best, the black blessed have always spoken up for the black beleaguered.”

6. Why We Don’t Vote With Our Wallets

“Withholding our cash from companies that cause harm or behave badly is one of the few avenues of protest we have as consumers. So why are we so bad at boycotting?”

7. Hollywood’s Diversity Problem and Undocumented Immigrants

“Producers have moved away from director-driven passion projects and toward properties with more international potential. Meanwhile, period films about the immigrant experience — like Brooklyn (2015), The Immigrant (2014) and Gangs of New York (2002) — freeze the experience in the first half of the 20th century, as if people aren’t still trying to come to this country to start new lives.”

8. Once So Chic and Swooshy, Freeways Are Falling Out of Favor

“Perhaps the greatest argument that removal advocates have is that so much of this infrastructure is nearing the end of its life span. In this era of tight budgets and political gridlock, it may be cheaper for local and state governments to remove a freeway rather than repair or build a new one.”

9. She’s 26, and Brought Down Uber’s C.E.O. What’s Next?

“One of the things that kept popping up was this idea that if you do whistle-blow about sexual harassment, then that is what will define the rest of your life. And I kind of struggled with this. But then, to me, I realized, you know what? No. Stepping back, just being in my little Stoicism Susan bubble, if what people know you for is bringing light to an issue about bad behavior, about bad stuff going on and laws not being followed and people being treated inappropriately, why wouldn’t I want that? That’s a badge of honor.”

10. Stalin, Hitler and the Temptations of Totalitarianism

“As Bullock shuttles between his two subjects, he continues to refute commentators who have treated Stalinism and Nazism as diametrically opposed ideologies by labeling the first internationalist and the second nationalist. In fact, those terms were, in this pairing, a distinction without a difference. Both regimes were chauvinistic and expansionist, and both were police states with one-man rule and a reliance on terror, concentration camps and the Big Lie.”

11. Why Is ‘Politicization’ So Partisan?

“Change, of course, is inherently destabilizing. It upsets an existing state of affairs that might be unbearable to some but suits others just fine. Which is why accusations of ‘politicizing’ might seem like so much mudslinging but often reflect deeper assumptions and arguments about what is objective, what is natural — what is the truth, in other words, free from the distortions of political interference. For those who benefit from the way things are, a raised consciousness is a threat.”

12. North Korea Is No Longer the Hermit Kingdom

“Despite the tightening of international sanctions meant to brake the country’s development of nuclear weapons, North Korea generates about a billion dollars in invisible income every year by selling everything from arms and coal to seafood and textiles — and the labor of exported workers.”

13. When the Revolution Came for Amy Cuddy

“Cuddy … has emerged from this upheaval as a unique object of social psychology’s new, enthusiastic spirit of self-flagellation — as if only in punishing one of its most public stars could it fully break from its past. At conferences, in classrooms and on social media, fellow academics (or commenters on their sites) have savaged not just Cuddy’s work but also her career, her income, her ambition, even her intelligence, sometimes with evident malice. Last spring, she quietly left her tenure-track job at Harvard.”

14. How the Appetite for Emojis Complicates the Effort to Standardize the World’s Alphabets

“The issue isn’t space — Unicode has about 800,000 unused numerical identifiers — but about whose expertise and worldview shapes the standard and prioritizes its projects.”

15. Why Frankenstein’s Monster Haunts Queer Art

“When you’re gay and grow up feeling like a hideous misfit, fully conscious that some believe your desires to be wicked and want to kill you for them, identifying with the Monster is hardly a stretch: A misunderstood beast finds solace in the solitude of the woods, but seems to endlessly face the wrath of the torch-bearing, small-minded inhabitants in the world beyond.”

16. The Novel Taste of Old Food

“Sometimes an ingredient can be too young, callow — as yet uncommitted in flavor. Age brings depth and contours. It pushes past the obvious. If fresh food affirms the splendor of the natural world, aged food speaks to human ingenuity. What is more human than refusing to accept things as they are, than believing we can make them better?”

17. What Does It Mean When an Artist Retires?

“Why call attention to a retreat? Why not just stop?”

18. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, a Humanist On and Off the Page

“Adichie looks with a gimlet eye at American liberal doctrine, preferring open and frank debate to the narrow constraints of approved messaging. Though she is considered a global icon of feminism, she has, on occasion, displeased progressive sects when she’s expressed her beliefs about gender with candor and without using the latest terminology.”

19. The Versatile and Resilient Amy Adams

“Part of Adams’s greatness as an actor is that she gives herself over to her roles so completely. She doesn’t showboat, calling attention to her technique with histrionics and self-flattering moments, but instead surrenders herself to her characters. She builds histories for them, working on details and finding triggers instead of opening a vein like some performers do.”

20. Park Chan-wook, the Man Who Put Korean Cinema on the Map

“The reason these images resonate, in this age when so much violence has dehumanized us, is that his films return more feeling to the viewer than they take away, born as they are from his love for the underdog — the person driven to the edge of despair and then beyond it.”


Sunday 10.15.2017 New York Times Digest


1. Is Globalization Drawing Us Together or Tearing Us Apart?

“How can we hang on to decency in a world where old patterns, good and bad, have been disrupted?

2. Becoming a Steelworker Liberated Her. Then Her Job Moved to Mexico.

“For months, Shannon kept working as the factory shut down around her. She struggled with straightforward questions: Should she train workers from Mexico for extra pay or refuse? Should she go back to school or find a new job, no matter what it paid? And she was forced to confront a more sweeping question that nags at many of the 67 percent of adults in this country who do not have a four-year college degree: What does my future look like in the new American economy?”

3. How a Seed Bank, Almost Lost in Syria’s War, Could Help Feed a Warming Planet

“Mr. Shehadeh is a plant conservationist from Syria. He hunts for the genes contained in the seeds we plant today and what he calls their ‘wild relatives’ from long ago. His goal is to safeguard those seeds that may be hardy enough to feed us in the future, when many more parts of the world could become as hot, arid and inhospitable as it is here.”

4. ‘Allah’ Is Found on Viking Funeral Clothes

“The evidence, she added, supported the theory that the Viking settlements in the Malar Valley of Sweden were, in fact, a western outpost of the Silk Road that stretched through Russia to silk-producing centers east of the Caspian Sea. It is well known that the Vikings traded with the Arab world, and archaeologists have found plenty of Arab coins in Viking settlements. The trade lasted 150 years, beginning in the first half of the ninth century. But Dr. Larsson said that the silk and other artifacts found in the Viking graves suggested not just trade or plundering — but a deeper cultural exchange and shared ideas.”

5. Black Lawmakers Hold a Particular Grievance With Facebook: Racial Exploitation

“As black activists tried last year to focus attention on police brutality, unfair treatment before the law, inequality and white supremacy, social media giants like Facebook were being commandeered by Russian intelligence agents to turn white voters against them.”

6. An Alternate Universe of Shopping, in Ohio

“Stores are trying out all manner of gimmickry — anything, really — to win back shoppers. And when brands want to try out new concepts, they often come to Columbus.”

7. Why Surge Prices Make Us So Mad

“Technology is making ‘variable’ or ‘dynamic’ pricing — the same strategies that ensure a seat on an airplane, a hotel room or an Uber car are almost always available if you’re willing to pay the price — more plausible in areas with huge social consequences.”

8. Harvey Weinstein, Hollywood’s Oldest Horror Story

“How many times do we have to go through this before things really change?”

9. White Nationalism Is Destroying the West

“The greatest threat to liberal democracies does not come from immigrants and refugees but from the backlash against them by those on the inside who are exploiting fear of outsiders to chip away at the values and institutions that make our societies liberal.”

10. Why Are Millennials Wary of Freedom?

“Only about 30 percent of Americans born after 1980 believe it is absolutely essential to live in a democratic country.”

11. Would You Buy a Self-Driving Future From These Guys?

“People have good reason to doubt grand promises about world-changing technology.”

12. The New Bedtime Story Is a Podcast

“As podcast makers look to expand their audience — just under a quarter of Americans have listened to a podcast in the past month — they’re turning to a previously untapped demographic: children.”

13. Should Your Spouse Be Your Best Friend?

“Is considering your spouse your closest friend a sign of hard-earned intimacy, attachment and trust, or is it a sign you’ve become so enmeshed in the day-to-day logistics of managing your lives that you’ve given up sexual attraction, passion and erotic play? Has marriage become little more than benefits with friendship?”

14. Tired of Twee Edison Bulbs? Bring On the Neon

“Whatever you could do with light bulbs, you could do in bigger, better, clearer ways with neon tubes.”

15. As the 747 Begins Its Final Approach, a Pilot Takes a Flight Down Memory Lane

“For those who grew up under 747-crossed skies, it can be hard to appreciate how revolutionary the jet’s dimensions were when it first (and improbably, to some observers) got airborne in 1969. The inaugural model, the 747-100, was the world’s first wide-bodied airliner. The jet weighed hundreds of thousands of pounds more than its predecessors (the Boeing 707, for example), and carried more than twice as many passengers. Born in a factory so large that clouds once formed within it, the 747-100 was nearly twice as long as the Wright brothers’ entire first flight.”

16. Along the Mississippi

“Sometimes traveling is filled with annoyances – missing the turn off a highway or negotiating between three children and only two pretzel sticks. But other moments are so unexpectedly profound that they make the entire trip worthwhile.”

17. President Clinton Looks Back at President Grant

“As Americans continue the struggle to defend justice and equality in our tumultuous and divisive era, we need to know what Grant did when our country’s very existence hung in the balance. If we still believe in forming a more perfect union, his steady and courageous example is more valuable than ever.”

18. The Ghost That Haunts Grant’s Memoirs

“Grant’s style is strikingly modern in its economy. It stood out in that age of clambering, winding prose, with shameless sentences like lines of thieves in a marketplace, grabbing everything in reach and stuffing it all into their sacks.”

19. Tom Hanks: By the Book

“I stack up the books, three columns six or eight books at a time, and just wear that pile down.”

20. Exploring the Necessity and Virtue of Sleep

“Sleep is the single most effective thing we can do to reset our brain and body health each day — Mother Nature’s best effort yet at contra-death.”

21. How to Pawn Valuables

“You don’t need good credit, income or a bank account.”

22. In Northern Minnesota, Two Economies Square Off: Mining vs. Wilderness

“Central to the debate between the two camps is a philosophical question: What is the right kind of economy for a place like the Boundary Waters?”

23. Why Are More American Teenagers Than Ever Suffering From Severe Anxiety?

“Over the last decade, anxiety has overtaken depression as the most common reason college students seek counseling services. In its annual survey of students, the American College Health Association found a significant increase — to 62 percent in 2016 from 50 percent in 2011 — of undergraduates reporting ‘overwhelming anxiety’ in the previous year.”

24. The Prophet of Germany’s New Right

“Despite the unique cultural taboos arising from the historical memory of Nazism, Germany has joined a long list of European countries — Austria, France, Greece, Hungary, Italy and Slovakia among them — where far-right, sometimes explicitly racist political parties command significant minorities in national elections. This ethno-nationalist renaissance presents an odd paradox. European nationalists who at one time might have gone to war with one another now promote a kind of New Right rainbow coalition, in which sovereign states steadfastly maintain their ethnic and cultural identities in service of some larger ‘Western’ ideal. This ‘ethno-pluralism,’ as New Right activists call it, is not based on Western liberal notions of equality or the primacy of individual rights but in opposition to other cultures, usually nonwhite, that they say are threatening to overtake Europe and, indeed, the entire Western world by means of immigration. The threat to the West is also often cast in vague cultural terms as a kind of internal decay.”


Sunday 10.8.2017 New York Times Digest


1. The Golden Age of ‘Existential’ Dread

“Calling something ‘a matter of life and death’ sounds hysterical and alarmist; ‘existential threat’ feels more solemn, gravely analytical, as if you’ve been poring over classified reports with world-weary experts. It is the verbal equivalent of a B-movie scientist somberly removing his glasses. We say it with abandon now, in every context.”

2. As Overdose Deaths Pile Up, a Medical Examiner Quits the Morgue

“After laboring here as the chief forensic pathologist for two decades, exploring the mysteries of the dead, he retired last month to explore the mysteries of the soul. In a sharp career turn, he is entering a seminary program to pursue a divinity degree, and ultimately plans to minister to young people to stay away from drugs.”

3. Global Economy’s Stubborn Reality: Plenty of Work, Not Enough Pay

“In many major countries, including the United States, Britain and Japan, labor markets are exceedingly tight, with jobless rates a fraction of what they were during the crisis of recent years. Yet workers are still waiting for a benefit that traditionally accompanies lower unemployment: fatter paychecks.”

4. Don’t Get Too Comfortable at That Desk

“New office designs are coming to a workplace near you, with layouts meant to cater to the variety of tasks required of modern white-collar workers.”

5. A Robot Makes a Mean Caesar Salad, but Will It Cost Jobs?

“Walking a couple of minutes within a building to a salad-tossing robot instead of venturing outside for lunch would mean shorter work breaks and increased productivity, he said.”

6. Pinpointing Racial Discrimination by Government Officials

“Emails with black-sounding names were 13 percent more likely to go unanswered than those with white-sounding names.”

7. Inside North Korea, and Feeling the Drums of War + While the U.S. Talks of
War, South Korea Shudders

“High school students march in the streets in military uniform every day to denounce America. Posters and billboards along the public roads show missiles destroying the U.S. Capitol and shredding the American flag.”

8. Confessions of a Sensible Gun Owner

“A great many hunters and gun owners are like me. We are not ‘gun nuts,’ stockpiling weapons in the name of some future apocalypse. We exercise our Second Amendment rights in a way that is palatable to most people who otherwise oppose guns — we’re the bridge that connects the two sides of the chasm in the national debate.”

9. N.R.A. and G.O.P., Together Forever

“The N.R.A. has successfully taken the issue of rational gun regulation out of the policy realm and made it a central feature of the culture wars. The issue is no longer simply about bump stock, or assault weapons, or specific regulations, or public safety; the debate over guns has become a subset of the larger cultural clash that pits us against them — liberals versus ‘normal’ Americans.”

10. No, That Robot Will Not Steal Your Job

“In the natural world, matter is neither created nor destroyed, but things are transformed. The same is true in the economic world. When new technology destroys, it leaves behind a layer of ash in which new jobs grow.”

11. Co-Parenting With Alexa

“Today, we’re no longer trusting machines just to do something, but to decide what to do and when to do it. The next generation will grow up in an age where it’s normal to be surrounded by autonomous agents, with or without cute names. The Alexas of the world will make a raft of decisions for my kids and others like them as they proceed through life — everything from whether to have mac and cheese or a green bowl for dinner to the perfect gift for a friend’s birthday to what to do to improve their mood or energy and even advice on whom they should date. In time, the question for them won’t be, ‘Should we trust robots?’ but ‘Do we trust them too much?’”

12. How Computers Turned Gerrymandering Into a Science

“Gerrymandering used to be an art, but advanced computation has made it a science.”

13. Who Invented ‘Zero’?

“The void is as old as time, but it was a human innovation to harness it with a symbol.”

14. Our Changing Climate Mind-Set

“When we viewed photographs and film of the annihilated cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, we sensed that the world could be ended by nuclear weapons. Now these hurricanes have conveyed a similar feeling of world-ending, having left whole islands, once alive in their beauty and commerce, in ruin.”

15. Whatever Happened to Just Being Type A?

“One trend we see is people putting their personality types in their profiles as a shortcut to describing themselves.”

16. Blade Runner, Serving Sexy Replicant Looks for Fall

“Film professors put it on their syllabuses. Fashion designers turn to it as frequently as Breakfast at Tiffany’s. And music video directors ape it shot for shot.”

17. A Trust Buster for the New ‘Knowledge Monopoly’

“We, the consuming public, have failed to properly understand the new tech superpowers, he suggests, leaving little hope for stodgy and reluctant American regulators. The scope of their influence is obscured by the sheer number of things they do and sell, or problems they purport to be solving, and by our outdated sense of what constitutes a monopoly.”

18. What if Platforms Like Facebook Are Too Big to Regulate?

“What can a government realistically do about a problem like Facebook?”

19. After the Hurricane Winds Die Down, Larry McMurtry’s Houston Trilogy Lives On

“Some claim the three essential books in Texas history are the Bible, the Warren Commission report and Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove, his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel about 19th-century cattle drives.”

20. How to Fight and Fix Your Car Like a Woman

“The book’s explanations of how to ‘fight like a woman’ are eye-opening, but of course there’s no substitute for physical practice. The biggest takeaway is counterintuitive: At all costs, resist. Many women are taught from an early age that the best chance of survival in an attack is to obey. Not true, says Kardian …. Get in the car, follow him to the deserted apartment, do what he wants — and you’re toast.”

21. Should Women Make Their Own Pop Music Canon?

“We take female musicians just seriously enough not to notice that we don’t actually take them seriously enough. They matter in the present. But posterity is another matter.”

22. Letters of Recommendation

“Six writers on their favorite cultural experiences of 2017.”

23. Frances McDormand’s Difficult Women

“I’m not an actor because I want my picture taken. I’m an actor because I want to be part of the human exchange.”


Sunday 10.1.2017 New York Times Digest


1. Preparing Your Home for a Disaster

“There is no time like the present to think about all the things that could go wrong.”

2. In a Warming World, Keeping the Planes Running

“Low-lying airports may become increasingly vulnerable to storm surges. Hotter temperatures may cause tarmac to melt, restrict takeoff weights or require heavier aircraft to take off later in the day.”

3. The Latin Mass, Thriving in Southeastern Nigeria

“Catholic traditionalists see the ancient language of the Latin Mass as a sign of their faith’s stability and unity, an indication that Christ is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. They would like to see it return worldwide, but for now, some of its strongest adherents have been in places like Nigeria, where historical tumult and ethnic strife have given traditionalists special reason to value this aspect of their faith.”

4. We Are All Jew-ish Now

“It’s not necessarily an identity. Better to call it a sensibility: the sensibility of whoever feels a bit unsure of who they are — a bit peculiar or out of place, a bit funny.”

5. Brevity Is the Soul of Twit

“The medium forces one to stick to the point.”

6. Speaking Ill of Hugh Hefner

“The things that were distinctively Hefnerian, that made him influential and important, were all rotten, and to the extent they were part of stories that people tend to celebrate, they showed the rot in larger things as well.”

7. Hugh Hefner, the Pajama Man

“In his endless dream, forever partying in his custom black lodge, nothing changed around him. Even his Christmas cards featured him in pajamas.”

8. Professors Behaving Badly

“Is there something about adjunct faculty members that makes them prone to outrageous political outbursts?”

9. Production of a Lifetime: Whitney Houston and Clive Davis

“There was a psychological cost to being a black superstar whose image was created with the express purpose of maximum crossover.”

10. A Muslim American’s Homecoming: Cowboys, Country Music, Chapatis

“As a Muslim American immigrant, am I just a few 140-character proclamations away from having my citizenship revoked? But fear also sparked curiosity. To me, ‘Wyoming’ sounds foreign and peculiar, spilling lazily off the tongue like a yawn and evoking in my mind the wild terrain someone else might associate with a Zimbabwe or Mozambique. What’s exotic to me isn’t food gilded with turmeric and six-day weddings — it’s grits and rodeos. How much time did I have left to experience them?”

11. Jennifer Egan: By the Book

“Nineteenth-century novels. I’m amazed by their capaciousness and flexibility — all the gutsy things that happen routinely in those books and today would be called experimental. Their authors were essentially rock stars, and you can feel the swagger in their prose.”

12. Karl Ove Knausgaard’s Visions for His Daughter

“Knausgaard’s art can still seem a kind of magic. How does he take the plainest things, in the plainest language, and make them feel so alive?”

13. Tracking the Hyper-Gentrification of New York, One Lost Knish Place at a Time

“The essential pain is not in the disappearance of wherever it was that used to serve the best 3 a.m. souvlaki … but in the transformation of the city into a place that no longer accommodates failure, a place that disavows mediocrity in the human form — defined now as the person without the big job, brilliant kid, sweeping view, outsize network — while all too willingly embracing any aesthetic expression of the average (this chain store, that grotesquely bland glass high-rise).”

14. Is Free Speech an Absolute Right, or Does Context Matter?

“Liberalism is founded on the belief that we should tolerate one another’s error, not because we approve of it, but to avoid the violence that would result if we each sought to silence the other. The liberal believes that life is more important than truth — that it is better to live in a peaceful society full of error than in a pure society full of persecution. The price of this toleration is that we must constantly put up with hearing speech that we consider wrong; we must smother our moral instincts.”

15. What I Care About Is Important. What You Care About Is a ‘Distraction.’

“The magic of waving away a ‘distraction’ is that it lets you minimize and dismiss something without having to explain why. The whole discussion is tabled, by fiat. It’s to trump everything, instantly. By calling something a distraction, you declare yourself — and the things you value — squarely in the white-hot center of the universe, far away from all tangential concerns, without pausing to justify that placement at all.”

16. Letter of Recommendation: ‘Shark Tank’

“You start to feel as if you could write your own business plan after watching a few episodes.”

17. How to Eat Spicy Food

“Relax and let the plant compounds expand your ability to experience food in a new way.”

18. Have Your Date and Your Garlic Too

“There are two proper ways to use garlic: pounding and blooming.”

19. The Mind of John McPhee

“McPhee gathers every single scrap of reporting on a given project — every interview, description, stray thought and research tidbit — and types all of it into his computer. He studies that data and comes up with organizing categories: themes, set pieces, characters and so on. Each category is assigned a code. To find the structure of a piece, McPhee makes an index card for each of his codes, sets them on a large table and arranges and rearranges the cards until the sequence seems right. Then he works back through his mass of assembled data, labeling each piece with the relevant code. On the computer, a program called ‘Structur’ arranges these scraps into organized batches, and McPhee then works sequentially, batch by batch, converting all of it into prose. (In the old days, McPhee would manually type out his notes, photocopy them, cut up everything with scissors, and sort it all into coded envelopes. His first computer, he says, was ‘a five-thousand-dollar pair of scissors.’)”

20. When ‘Not Guilty’ Is a Life Sentence

“More than 10,000 mentally ill Americans who haven’t been convicted of a crime — people who have been found not guilty by reason of insanity or who have been arrested but found incompetent to stand trial — are involuntarily confined to psychiatric hospitals.”

21. How Fake News Turned a Small Town Upside Down

“I started to ask why anyone should be allowed to publish false information for the express purpose of angering their audience and pushing them further away from those with whom they disagree, but Stranahan cut me off. ‘Hey, I’m walking into the White House right now,’ he said. He had just arrived for a press briefing with the president’s spokesman. ‘Let me call you back.’”