03.17.2013 New York Times Digest

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1. Building a Movie Language in Layers

“It’s about people building their own narratives when they don’t have anything to hold on to.”

2. Better Colleges Failing to Lure Talented Poor

“Most low-income students who have top test scores and grades do not even apply to the nation’s best colleges.”

3. New Pope Puts Spotlight on Jesuits, an Influential Yet Self-Effacing Order

“They work with the poor in shantytowns and AIDS clinics. They publish magazines, paint, write music and stage plays.”

4. Coffee’s Economics, Rewritten by Farmers

“Suddenly, he had to support himself as a coffee farmer. Very quickly, he realized how difficult that was going to be.”

5. Is the Seller to Blame?

“GNC appears to look like a kind of pharmacy, but in reality it’s more of a flea market.”

6. A Profession With an Egalitarian Core

“Economics evolved as a more moral and more egalitarian approach to policy than prevailed in its surrounding milieu. Let’s cherish and extend that heritage. The real contributions of economics to human welfare might turn out to be very different from what most people — even most economists — expect.”

7. Does Affirmative Action Do What It Should?

“Scholars began referring to this theory as ‘mismatch.’ It’s the idea that affirmative action can harm those it’s supposed to help by placing them at schools in which they fall below the median level of ability and therefore have a tough time. As a consequence, the argument goes, these students suffer learningwise and, later, careerwise.”

8. Download: Bishop Daniel Flores

“I spend more time looking at my aquarium than I do looking at television. It’s fairly large, 200 gallons, with mostly freshwater tropical fish. Part of the challenge is growing live plants and making them thrive underwater. There’s great joy in looking at something that’s alive and beautiful. You kind of feel responsible for keeping the natural balance so life has a chance. I guess it is like the church. You feel responsible. You want human life to thrive. It’s something that requires cultivation.”

9. Reading, Writing and Video Games

“Alarmists warn that schoolchildren won’t excel in the i-economy if they aren’t steeped in technology. Many schools boast of their iPad-to-kindergartner ratio on the theory that children should learn early on how to use a touch pad. Really? Any parent with an iPhone can tell you how long it takes a small child to master the swipe.”

10. Moving Beyond the Big Tent

“Hundreds of American universities offer degrees in theater and dance; not one allows a student to graduate in circus.”

11. Smart Drones

“While Americans are debating the president’s power to order assassination by drone, powerful momentum — scientific, military and commercial — is propelling us toward the day when we cede the same lethal authority to software.”

12. The Gender Gap in Pain

“Pain conditions are a particularly good example of the interplay between sex (our biological and chromosomal differences) and gender (the cultural roles and expectations attributed to a person).”

13. Open and Closed

“Openness is today a powerful cult, a religion with its own dogmas.”

14. Mother of All Comedy Topics

“Hollywood comedies still color inside the lines of conventionality. Once a woman in her 30s gets her man, or can’t find him, then she has to want a baby — or cope with a baby she didn’t plan on. That’s become so inviolate a rule of comedy than anything else seems abhorrent: a steadfastly single, aging woman who is not grappling with infertility or hidden mommy yearnings is branded a psycho.”

15. Some New Songs for a Side Career

“While it was Mr. Timberlake’s success in music that allowed him the chance to succeed in film, or TV, or fashion, or baking (who knows?), now the opposite is true: His sustained fame as a polymathic celebrity means there’s still an appetite for his music, even if he’s out of step with most current trends.”

16. Hollywood’s New Role Model (Beard Optional)

“The new Hollywood man, intellectually faux or not — the Thunk Hunk — is a significant departure from the old industry version of cool.”

17. Sheryl Sandberg: By the Book

“I probably shouldn’t admit this since I work in the tech industry, but I still prefer reading paper books. (In Lean In, I also admit that I carry a notebook and pen around to keep track of my to-do list, which, at Facebook, is like carrying around a stone tablet and chisel.) I travel with an iPad, but at home I like holding a book open and being able to leaf through it, highlight with a real yellow pen and dog-ear important pages. After I finish a book, I’ll often look to see how many page corners are turned down as one gauge of how much I liked it. I also still read newspapers and magazines the old-fashioned way; I tried the Kindle app for the iPad on the elliptical, but when you get sweaty, you can’t turn the pages.”

18. How Sweet It Is

“Virtually everything you can buy in a supermarket that’s not an outer-aisle pure food like milk or kohlrabi has been fiddled with to make you shiver with bliss — which will in turn make you buy the product again and again. The term “bliss point,” in fact, is used in the soft-drink business to denote the optimal level of sugar at which the beverage is most pleasing to the consumer. As a manufacturer, you don’t want to surpass or come up short of the bliss point because you’ll lose sales. By the same token, you want to locate the lower end of the bliss-point spectrum (and it is a spectrum, rather than a fixed point), because otherwise you’re just wasting money on unneeded sugar.”

19. Lost Letters

“In The Missing Ink, he argues that handwriting fills a human need: ‘It involves us in a relationship with the written word which is sensuous, immediate and individual. It opens our personality out to the world, and gives us a means of reading other people.'”

20. My Cheating Friend

“Part of being a good person is being open to people who are not so good, and part of being a friend is making flawed acquaintances feel as if they can tell you about their flaws (without fear of abandonment or persecution). In fact, if you’re the type of person who wants to associate exclusively with those who perfectly mirror your own ethical worldview, you’re reducing significantly the scope of your potential life experience.”

21. Who Made That Cellphone?

“‘I have a mantra that people are naturally, fundamentally and inherently mobile,’ Cooper says. While working on car phones, he imagined a world in which people would carry the devices on their bodies — and he liked to joke that ‘when you were born, you would be assigned a phone number.'”

22. The Inscrutable Brilliance of Anne Carson

“Our e-mail correspondence had gone reasonably well, so Carson agreed to meet me in person on a brief trip to New York. We met at a gallery in Chelsea, where we watched a video of a naked Icelandic man playing his guitar in a bathtub. Then we headed to a nearby restaurant for coffee and tea. This is where I brought up the randomizer.”

3 responses to “03.17.2013 New York Times Digest

  1. Ha! I wondered…and also went to the Circus Now event in SF this past week to support some of my friends…..also…..I just read article #22 today ~~ I must attempt a read of Anne Carson’s work! She seems like an alien genius and don’t you know I’m so pleased there is another one like me (wa-wa….)

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