Sunday 05.19.2013 New York Times Digest

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1. Why Basketball Won’t Leave Phil Jackson Alone

“He has based his entire career on the notion of basketball as a spiritual enterprise, and as such he considers the NBA to be something like the Catholic Church: a powerful but flawed institution charged with administering that spirituality to the masses.”

2. The Health Toll of Immigration

“Becoming an American can be bad for your health.”

3. There’s a Method to My Desk’s Madness

“The average office worker spends nearly six hours a day sitting at a desk.”

4. Coffee Rites, and the Stories They Tell

“Caffeine tugs us into this kind of behavior because it is a drug – almost never an addictive drug, though, but a potentially habit-forming one.”

5. Sunday Dialogue: An Economy in Transition

“In decades gone by, it was assumed that mechanization would liberate the masses from the drudgery of work. Instead, mechanization and globalization have ‘liberated’ them from the ability to make a living.”

6. Download: Wesley Schultz

“We traveled in a minivan the first couple of years touring. So we had a lot of window time. Radiolab was our greatest escape. It uses sounds to tell stories and illustrate emotions or feelings. After you start listening to it, television seems so much duller. It’s sort of like in movies when they don’t show you what the villain looks like and your imagination runs a lot wilder and more frightening than what they could ever put on the screen.”

7. How to Be a ‘Woman Programmer’

“The prejudice will follow you. What will save you is tacking into the love of the work, into the desire that brought you there in the first place.”

8. Get a Life? No Thanks. Just Pass the Remote.

“It feels illicit, unhealthy, even faintly criminal.”

9. All the Lonely People

“The problem is that as it’s grown easier to be remarkable and unusual, it’s arguably grown harder to be ordinary. To be the kind of person who doesn’t want to write his own life script, or invent her own idiosyncratic career path. To enjoy the stability and comfort of inherited obligations and expectations, rather than constantly having to strike out on your own.”

10. Beware Social Nostalgia

“Doctors diagnosed 5,000 clinical cases of nostalgia in Union soldiers and determined that 74 men had died from the affliction.”

11. Le Grand Jerry Lewis

“To understand the genius of Mr. Lewis in the eyes of the French, one needs to go back to the infancy of cinema, before World War I. The French were big producers of silent films, most of them comedies. What the French love in Jerry Lewis, the actor, writer and director, is his multifaceted moi, the meta-narrative and his extreme velocity, as exemplified in French silent films. He took them back to their cinema history.”

12. Daft Punk Gets Human With a New Album

“Computers were never designed in the first place to become musical instruments. Within a computer, everything is sterile – there’s no sound, there’s no air. It’s totally code. Like with computer-generated effects in movies, you can create wonders. But it’s really hard to create emotion.”

13. Gatsby, and Other Luxury Consumers

“This is how we live: greedily, enviously, superficially, in a state of endless, self-justifying desire. This is the pursuit of happiness, mirrored in the pleasure these movies provide. But go ahead and cry.”

14. For Gay Men, a Fear That Feels Familiar

“Most of the men have checked their shirts at the door. Some have checked their pants. Conditions for injection could hardly be better. Before Lady Gaga can stutter out ‘Pa-pa-pa-poker face, pa-pa-poker face,’ Dr. Daskalakis stabs them in the arm with a needle, applies a Band-Aid and sends them on their way. All over Paddles, men are happily sucking on the lollipops he is handing out as a reward.”

15. A Case for Getting Far, Far Away

“We need this kind of remoteness more than ever. Today we brush elbows on a crowded planet. We fight traffic. We hunker in offices. We marinate in what the late David Foster Wallace called Total Noise. Maybe for you, too, this modern life overwhelms. If you’re like me, only getting far away from all that allows you to shake off the dross. Out there, the world shrinks until all that remains are ‘the rock-bottom facts of ax and wood and fire and frying pans,’ as John Graves wrote in Goodbye to a River, his classic 1960 account of a solo three-week paddle down the Brazos River in Texas. But don’t think yourself an ascetic for savoring such simple things, Graves added. ‘In a way you’re more of a sensualist than a fat man washing down sauerbraten and dumplings with heavy beer while a German band plays and a plump blonde kneads his thigh. … You’ve shucked off the gross delights, and those you have left are few, sharp, and strong.'”

16. Hilary Mantel: By the Book

“The moment, at about the three-quarter point, where you see your way right through to the end: as if lights had flooded an unlit road. But the pleasure is double-edged, because from this point you’re going to work inhuman hours, not caring about your health or your human relationships; you’re just going to head down that road like a charging bull.”

17. Big Data Is Watching You

“The argument is forceful and passionate, but its polemical tone is wearying. Morozov seems not to trust the judgment of his audience. He is right, but relentlessly right, as if none but fools could possibly disagree with him.”

18. Man of His Words

“America has odd ways of making one feel one’s self a failure.”

19. Economic Recovery, Made in Bangladesh?

“Nearly every rich country has gone through a ‘T-shirt phase’ – an economic period in which there are a significant number of poor farmers who, rather than toil on unproductive land, accept harsh work conditions and low wages in textile and apparel factories. Britain started its T-shirt phase in the late 18th century; the United States had two – New England in the 19th century, then the South in the 20th. During the last 80 or so years, many Asian countries – first Japan, then Korea, Taiwan and China – progressed from the T-shirt phase into broader economic development. Cambodia, Vietnam, parts of India and Sri Lanka are passing through this now. But Bangladesh, where an eight-story apparel factory tragically collapsed last month, killing hundreds of workers and devastating the country, is in the midst of a particularly confusing T-shirt phase. The question is whether it will emerge into a more developed economy, like its many predecessors, or remain stuck, like Haiti.”

20. Julie Delpy Dreams of Being Joe Pesc

“I’m a pervert, but in a romantic way.”

21. Some of My Best Friends Are Germs

“It turns out that we are only 10 percent human: for every human cell that is intrinsic to our body, there are about 10 resident microbes – including commensals (generally harmless freeloaders) and mutualists (favor traders) and, in only a tiny number of cases, pathogens. To the extent that we are bearers of genetic information, more than 99 percent of it is microbial. And it appears increasingly likely that this ‘second genome,’ as it is sometimes called, exerts an influence on our health as great and possibly even greater than the genes we inherit from our parents. But while your inherited genes are more or less fixed, it may be possible to reshape, even cultivate, your second genome.”

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