Sunday 09.15.2013 New York Times Digest


1. No Child Left Untableted

“The tablets, paid for in part by a $30 million grant from the federal Department of Education’s Race to the Top program, were created and sold by a company called Amplify, a New York-based division of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, and they struck me as exemplifying several dubious American habits now ascendant: the overvaluing of technology and the undervaluing of people; the displacement of face-to-face interaction by virtual connection; the recasting of citizenship and inner life as a commodified data profile; the tendency to turn to the market to address social problems.”

2. Going to the Game, to Watch Them All on TV

“In recent years, sports sites have increasingly been outfitted with high-definition video scoreboards, and high-definition televisions in the concourses, the better to essentially create a broadcast of the game that fans are also watching live. But lounges like the one the Jaguars have unveiled take that one step further. They attempt, in essence, to entice fans to watch not just the game that is being played a few hundred feet away from them but every other one going on around the league as well — and to spend money on food and drinks while doing so.”

3. Maître d’ for the Mind

“He worked as a postal clerk and as a substitute English teacher in Mississippi, and did a stint managing a college bookstore. After working at a Borders bookstore in Manhattan, he was inspired — after reading the book Do What You Love, the Money Will Follow — to sell used books on the street.”

4. In Nebraska, a Field of Low-Mileage Dreams

“There’s a 1958 Chevy Cameo pickup with 1.3 miles. A ’64 Impala with 4 miles. A ’77 Vega with 6 miles. A ’78 Corvette — the Indy Pace Car — with 4 miles.”

5. Taste-Testing a Second Career, With a Mentor

“There is value in test-driving your dream job before you do it.”

6. Workspace: Talking to the Animals, and Drawing Them, Too

“I normally come to the office around 8:30 a.m., and aside from taking a long walk or yoga and eating, I will be at work until midnight or 1 a.m.”

7. On Campus, a Faculty Uprising Over Personal Data

“If they don’t fill out the form, $100 a month will be deducted from their pay for noncompliance.”

8. Embrace Your Age, and Conquer the World

“Contrary to popular lore that innovative ideas spring only from fresh, young minds in dorm rooms, a Northwestern University study found that people who are 55 and even 65 have more innovation potential than 25-year-olds.”

9. Living Apart Together

“Many people set up housekeeping together simply to help foot the rent bill. But some couples, both those in longtime relationships and the officially married, follow a less-traveled path. They live in separate homes — on different floors of the same building, down the block from one another, in different neighborhoods, even in different boroughs.”

10. Download: John Rankin Waddell

“I identify with the lone-rider-type characters, who solve problems on their own and are very anti-establishment and anti-authority.”

11. Was Salinger Too Pure for This World?

“Some will argue that you can’t have it both ways: how can a woman say she is fully in charge of her body and her destiny, and then call herself a victim when, having given a man her heart of her own volition, he crushes it? How can a consensual relationship, as Salinger’s unquestionably were, constitute a form of abuse? But we are talking about what happens when people in positions of power — mentors, priests, employers or simply those assigned an elevated status — use their power to lure much younger people into sexual and (in the case of Salinger) emotional relationships. Most typically, those who do this are men. And when they are done with the person they’ve drawn toward them, it can take that person years or decades to recover.”

12. Caught in the Hipster Trap

“As a 30-something skinnyish urban male there’s almost nothing I can wear that won’t make me look like a hipster. Such is the pervasiveness of hipster culture that virtually every aspect of male fashion and grooming has been colonized.”

13. It’s Not ‘Mess.’ It’s Creativity.

“While cleaning up certainly has its benefits, clean spaces might be too conventional to let inspiration flow.”

14. James Gandolfini: Famous for TV, Marvelous in Movies

“Watching him seduce a woman, you also realize how desperately American romantic comedies need more grown-up men.”

15. Fashion’s Latest Muse? Instagram

“Since its inception two years ago, Instagram, with some 150 million monthly users (it was acquired by Facebook last year for $1 billion), has emerged as a kind of visual Twitter. No surprise, then, that it is being exploited by fashion labels at every level of the marketplace as an image bank, a research tool, a showcase for their wares and now, most compellingly, a route into consumers’ heads.”

16. Finding Satisfaction in Second Best

“We took the struggles and the victories of feminism and interpreted them somehow as a pathway to personal perfection. We privatized feminism and focused only on our dreams and our own inevitable frustrations.”

17. Pynchonopolis

“In Pynchon’s view, modernity’s systems of liberation and enlightenment — railway and post, the Internet, etc. — perpetually collapse into capitalism’s Black Iron Prison of enclosure, monopoly and surveillance. The rolling frontier (or bleeding edge) of this collapse is where we persistently and helplessly live. His characters take sustenance on what scraps of freedom fall from the conveyor belt of this ruthless conversion machine, like the house cat at home in the butcher’s shop. In Joyce’s formulation, history is a nightmare from which we are trying to awake. For Pynchon, history is a nightmare within which we must become lucid dreamers.”

18. Richard Dawkins: By the Book

“The King James Version, of course, and not so much on my shelves as continually off my shelves, because I open it so often: sometimes to quote it, sometimes for sheer literary pleasure — especially Ecclesiastes and the Song of Songs.”

19. Atomic Gaffes

“The human race was smart enough to build these bombs. So far we appear to lack the intelligence needed either to get rid of them or to store them safely.”

20. Salinger’s Big Appeal: The Life or the Work?

“What troubles me is the suspicion that behind the desire to dig up dirt is the wish to discover that the dirt not only explains the work but is the work. Everything is autobiographical! How much easier it will be to connect the life and the fiction, how much more challenging to give the writer’s imagination and craft the credit they deserve.”

21. Earl Sweatshirt: ‘Canadians Are Weirdos’

“One day I hope to not have a Twitter, to be sick enough that I don’t have to use the Internet. But since we came up online, I have to be online. Twitter is a real addiction, like the color of it, the process of it.”

22. Who Made That Built-In Eraser?

“In 1915 … the Rev. Silas Delmar Conger … praised the built-in eraser as a symbol of American resilience and pluck. ‘To keep our past failures ever before us would cause us to continue to fail,” he said. So ‘take out your pencil, rub out the mark and start over again.’”

23. How to Get a Job With a Philosophy Degree

“Can liberal-arts schools encourage students to question the status quo while simultaneously reminding them from their first days on campus to keep their employability in mind?”

24. Can Emotional Intelligence Be Taught?

“So-called noncognitive skills — attributes like self-restraint, persistence and self-awareness — might actually be better predictors of a person’s life trajectory than standard academic measures.”

25. The Fear That Dare Not Speak Its Name

“This is true of so many women I know. We can intuit Jasmine’s fate because ending up a bag lady is our darkest and clammiest fear. The possibility of falling into bag-ladydom is a terror so deep, so longstanding, so embarrassing to admit yet so matter of fact that we accept it as simply a part of being a woman.”

26. Let Us Now Praise Infamous Men

“The male icon’s decline might not matter much. It’s never a bad idea to forge your own original power rather than ape the appeal of others. Still, we should recognize the void left behind.”

27. Monastic Order

“In this age of excess, with its emphasis on status and consumerism, there remains a school of the simple. A group of designers are seeking inspiration from the spare, pondering the infinite in plain space, spurring the mind to soar heavenward untrammeled by the weight of embellishment.”

28. David Karp Is Tumblr’s Reluctant Technologist

“Nothing in his home looks particularly futuristic, or technological, at least as we’ve usually understood those terms.”

29. Ode to the Undergarment

“(I secretly hope someone from Fruit of the Loom will read this article and figure out a way to knock them off for a third of the price.)”

30. Peter Ackroyd’s London Calling

“Ackroyd writes nearly all day, nearly every day. Each morning he takes a taxi from his London home, in tony Knightsbridge, to the office he maintains in Bloomsbury, where he typically divides his workday between three books. He begins by writing and doing research for a history book, turns to a biography sometime in the afternoon and finishes the day reclining on a bed in a room adjacent to his book-lined office, writing a novel, in longhand.”

31. A Studio Visit With Blaine Halvorson

“Part of the attraction is seeing a truly incomparable vision realized, and part of it is meeting Halvorson, who, with his artfully worn-in clothing, elaborate tattoos and beard from a bygone era, is like a living art project himself.”

32. The Enduring, Multigenerational Appeal of Justin Timberlake

“What has let him bridge over multiple iterations and now three generations of fans has been a certain kind of generationally specific decorum: gracious, polite, patient, deferential. He may have you naked by the end of this song, but he will do so using Antioch rules.”


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