08.21.2011 New York Times Digest

1. “Seeds, Germs and Slaves”

“The lesson of history, Mann argues, is that ‘from the outset globalization brought both enormous economic gains and ecological and social tumult that threatened to offset those gains.'”

2. “College Football’s Ugly Season, Facing Scandals of Every Stripe”

“It becomes a complicated issue, because so many of the decisions being made are about money. Yet the theme of the whole concept is not about money. It’s sort of a two-sided issue where you’re talking out of two sides of your mouth. You’re trying to make it about money, but you’re trying to make it not about money.”

3. “A Hollywood Anachronism, Serving Stars but Never Gossip”

“Hollywood people are remarkably susceptible to fantasy. The same people that make fantasy want it and need it.”

4. “Just Give Me the Right to Be Forgotten”

“As I looked into the matter, I discovered that I, as an American, did not actually have an automatic right to demand that a company erase personal information about me.”

5. “High-Tech Product, Low-Tech Pitch”

“Information technology products, like e-mail archivers and Web site security software, are increasingly being promoted on the radio.”

6. “Relationship Status: In a ‘Stayover’”

“It seems that emerging adults age 18 to 29 often spend three or four nights a week at the home of their partners on a long-term basis rather than move in together.”

7. “An Empty Regard”

“In the Second World War, everybody fought. Soldiers were not remote figures to most of us; they were us. Now, instead of sharing the burden, we sentimentalize it. It’s a lot easier to idealize the people who are fighting than it is to send your kid to join them. This is also a form of service, I suppose: lip service.”

8. “Think You’re Smarter Than Animals? Maybe Not”

“A few recent research papers describe animal competence at social and cognitive tasks that humans often struggle with.”

9. “A Gift From the Musical Gods”

“It is a pure, mystifying gift. It cannot be taught, though silly how-to blog posts proliferate (‘Eight Keys to Instant Charisma’). Someone who has it will exude it, whether performing ‘Mary Had a Little Lamb’ or Scarlatti, Mimi or Marguerite. Charisma is not earned with age; an artist is charismatic at 16 or 60. Rigorous training enhances and focuses it, but it cannot create it.”

10. “Steve Brill’s Report Card on School Reform”

“Teacher quality may be the most important variable within schools, but mountains of data, going back decades, demonstrates that most of the variation in student performance is explained by nonschool factors: not just poverty, but also parental literacy (and whether parents read to their children), student health, frequent relocations, crime-­related stress and the like.”

11. “‘Nasty School’ and Other Poems”

The Yesees said yes to anything
That anyone suggested.
The Noees said no to everything
Unless it was proven and tested.
So the Yesees all died of much too much
And the Noees all died of fright,
But somehow I think the Thinkforyourselfees
All came out all right.

12. “Are All of Our Leaders Mad?”

“‘Psychological moderation’ is not the prescription for greatness.”

13. “The Dollar-Store Economy”

“Perhaps this is all merely our grandparents’ Woolworth’s five-and-dime updated by inflation to a dollar and adapted, like any good weed, to distressed areas of the landscape. But a new and eroding reality in American life underwrites this growing market.”

14. “Do You Suffer From Decision Fatigue?”

“No matter how rational and high-minded you try to be, you can’t make decision after decision without paying a biological price. It’s different from ordinary physical fatigue — you’re not consciously aware of being tired — but you’re low on mental energy. The more choices you make throughout the day, the harder each one becomes for your brain, and eventually it looks for shortcuts, usually in either of two very different ways. One shortcut is to become reckless: to act impulsively instead of expending the energy to first think through the consequences. (Sure, tweet that photo! What could go wrong?) The other shortcut is the ultimate energy saver: do nothing. Instead of agonizing over decisions, avoid any choice. Ducking a decision often creates bigger problems in the long run, but for the moment, it eases the mental strain.”

15. “Another Thing to Sort of Pin on David Foster Wallace”

“Qualifications are necessary sometimes. Anticipating and defusing opposing arguments has been a vital rhetorical strategy since at least the days of Aristotle. Satire and ridicule, when done well, are high art. But the idea is to provoke and persuade, not to soothe. And the best way to make an argument is to make it, straightforwardly, honestly, passionately, without regard to whether people will like you afterward.”

16. “Drill, Bébé, Drill”

“I can look in someone’s mouth and know their life.”

17. “Sister Act”

“The very first inkling I ever had of this project came from watching a United Way commercial. And in the commercial there was a young African-American girl, probably 9 or 10 years old. She was running through a stereotypical litter-strewn urban ghetto. And there was a voice-over saying something like, ‘Every day, Kianna has to run past drug dealers on her way to school. We salute girls like Kianna. Run, Kianna, run.’ And my first thought was, Excuse me! Can we clean up Kianna’s neighborhood?”

One response to “08.21.2011 New York Times Digest

  1. #14 sounds like some of our conversations about “the email Inbox” :)


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