Sunday 11.03.2013 New York Times Digest

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1. The Repurposed Ph.D.

“Fewer than half of Ph.D.’s are expected to land tenure-track jobs. And many voluntarily choose another path because they want higher pay or more direct engagement with the world than monographs and tenure committees seem to allow.”

2. No Morsel Too Minuscule for All-Consuming N.S.A.

“The focus on counterterrorism is a misleadingly narrow sales pitch for an agency with an almost unlimited agenda. Its scale and aggressiveness are breathtaking.”

4. The Cellblocks’ Amazon.com

“As far as business models go, Sendapackage’s is more or less recession-proof, and as Mr. Barrett noted, its target demographic is extremely loyal.”

5. Riding the Hashtag in Social Media Marketing

“If reducing virtually all human interaction to purely transactional terms isn’t your style, you probably should avoid Gary Vaynerchuk.”

6. In the N.B.A., ZIP Code Matters

“Growing up in a wealthier neighborhood is a major, positive predictor of reaching the N.B.A. for both black and white men.”

7. In Praise of Art Forgeries

“If a fake is good enough to fool experts, then it’s good enough to give the rest of us pleasure, even insight.”

8. Poverty in America Is Mainstream

“Poverty is a mainstream event experienced by a majority of Americans. For most of us, the question is not whether we will experience poverty, but when.”

9. Tales of Danger for You to Survive

“Well, it’s really not so surprising. It’s sort of in the ether, isn’t it? I think everybody feels that the future is going to be difficult. There’s an interesting debate going on in this country right now over whether our children’s expectations are going to be less. After the dramatic fears of 9/11, I think we now have a more mordant anxiety about things like job insecurity and financial collapse. The culture sometimes reflects and refracts things, and I think all these stories are speaking to a sense of a future that is less assured.”

10. A Prankster and His Films Mature

“Though he is said to be quite open with friends and colleagues, Mr. Jonze is notoriously loath to talk about his private life or personal motivations. He has done interviews in costume and as various personae, and once taped a DVD extra feature, in which he pretended to vomit midway through a staged interview. He does not speak publicly about his high-profile relationships with Sofia Coppola, from whom he’s divorced, Karen O or Michelle Williams. On the negative impact of technology on his own life, he will only mention that he has lost infuriating hours to the smartphone app Candy Crush. And he declines to comment on why his most self-created projects have been shot through with such aching loneliness.”

11. Mindfulness: Getting Its Share of Attention

“The hunger to get centered is especially fervent in the cradle of the digital revolution.”

12. Dick Cavett and Alec Baldwin Start the Conversation

“Depression is epidemic because it’s still so undiagnosed. And even my analyst made the mistake of saying to me — after I’d told him I wished he knew for a minute what my depression felt like — he said, ‘Oh, that’s all right, I was pretty low when my dad died.’ I sat up and said, ‘You think grief is even close to this?’ He apologized.”

13. Page by Page, Men Are Stepping Into the ‘Lean In’ Circle

“Despite its subtitle, ‘Women, Work, and the Will to Lead,’ and its being cataloged in Amazon’s ‘Women & Business’ category, the book, which has been perched on the best-seller list since it was published in March, is finding a significant number of male champions, some in high places.”

14. Whose Feet Are Those? Negotiating Air-Travel Etiquette

“People are trying to come up with strategies to make themselves feel comfortable in a world of tremendous mobility.”

15. Is Tech Lit an Oxymoron?

“Aldous Huxley once maintained that the ‘most profoundly important sociological factor of modern times’ was ‘the growth of technology and what may be called the technicization of every aspect of human life.’ And Huxley, of course, didn’t live long enough to book a hotel room with his iPhone.”

16. Ring of Power

“The time is somewhere in the not-too-distant future — the Three Wise Men who own and rule the Circle are recognizable as individuals living today. The company demands transparency in all things; two of its many slogans are SECRETS ARE LIES and PRIVACY IS THEFT. Anonymity is banished; everyone’s past is revealed; every­one’s present may be broadcast live in video and sound. Nothing recorded will ever be erased. The Circle’s goal is to have all aspects of human existence — from voting to love affairs — flow through its portal, the sole such portal in the world.”

17. Brain Gain

“He comes across as a sensible utopian, tending toward the belief that our digital devices and social networks are, on balance, enhancing our lives and improving the world in the same mixed-blessing sort of way that writing, paper, the printing press and the telephone did.”

18. Writing Bytes

“I think fiction is uniquely positioned to interrogate how humans interact with technology, how it changes identity, language and consciousness. My strategy often requires dislocating from the slippery urgency of the present and turning to the near past, to outdated technologies that were once ubiquitous and are now unloved. I’m interested in how an actual phone call has become a grotesquely intimate thing, almost jarring. We want immediacy with an end run around certain kinds of intimacy.”

19. Engineered Performances

“What seems to bother Marwick most about social media culture is that it’s not social but individualistic. It rewards, or purports to reward, lonely, solitary effort, promising self-advancement through connection. This narcissistic ideology is cast as profoundly Californian, combining the West Coast countercultural romance of self-expression and transcendence with Silicon Valley’s Darwinian fixation on entrepreneurial hustle. The ambitious pseudo-hippies who flock to the annual Burning Man gathering are held out as exemplars of this mind-set, which Marwick describes as having a deep male bias. She’s not unconvincing on this point. Most of the stars of the great social-media success stories are men, no doubt about it. What’s more, they seem distinctly adolescent in their obsession with programming prowess, cool gadgetry and frat-like hanging out. Does this amount to an injustice, though, or are these traditionally male propensities simply well suited to the sort of labor involved in building and sustaining modern technological enterprises?”

20. Don’t Be a Jerk

“Randi Zuckerberg, of the first family of Facebook, has written two books urging people to disconnect their devices (occasionally) and engage in real life.”

21. Attention Must Be Paid

“Our modern search-engine culture celebrates information gathering and problem solving — ways of thinking associated with orienting and selective focus — but has little patience for the mind’s reveries. Letting one’s thoughts wander seems frivolous, a waste of practical brainpower. Worse, our infatuation with social media is making it harder to hear the mind’s whispers. Solitude has fallen out of fashion. Even when we’re by ourselves, we’re rarely alone with our thoughts.”

22. Spyware vs. Spyware

“It’s as if everything that was once promised by the computer age — certainty, precision, safety, power — has been little more than a lie.”

23. Pushing Their Buttons

“Because so much of what these companies do and did is so well known, technology writers, it would seem, have a special responsibility to offer criticism and analysis of the movements and battles they document. Yet Vogelstein traffics in platitudes and personality conflicts.”

24. Four Characters

“Noah Glass grew up first on a commune and then with his grandparents. When a horse kicked Noah’s brother in the knee, a relative, ‘a tough mountain man who took on the role of father figure,’ beat the horse to death with a pipe. ‘That’s how you stand up for yourself,’ the man told him.”

25. Word Travels Fast

“What if new media aren’t as new as we assume — and old media not really old at all?”

26. How Has Twitter Changed the Role of the Literary Critic?

“I mean, I get it: writers and thinkers accustomed to responding to works born of thousands of hours of intellectual labor are understandably suspicious of a form that demands thoughts to be parceled out in short bursts. But what grumpy, get-off-my-lawn Luddites or neo-Luddites like Franzen don’t grasp is that although carefully considered criticism exists in a certain tension with Twitter, it is not necessarily at odds with it.”

27. Looking for Intimacy in the Age of Facebook

“A small but growing body of evidence suggests that excessive social media use can lead to an unhealthy fixation on how one is perceived and an obsessive competitiveness. Perhaps not surprisingly, this angsting can also lead to an unhealthy quest for perfection, a social perfection, which breeds an aperture-narrowing conformity.”

28. Bulletproof Whiteboards

“The University of Maryland Eastern Shore will introduce a security upgrade later this year: 200 bulletproof whiteboards for professors to hang in their classrooms and, if need be, hide behind.”

29. Catching Up on the Bennett Hypothesis

“In 1970, the bottom quartile economically constituted 12 percent of the student population. In 2010, the bottom quartile constituted 7.3 percent.”

30. Disability Studies: A New Normal

“Like black studies, women’s studies and other liberation-movement disciplines, disability studies teaches that it is an unaccepting society that needs normalizing, not the minority group.”

31. Innovation Imperative: Change Everything

“Like steam, online education is a disruptive innovation — one that introduces more convenient and affordable products or services that over time transform sectors. Yet many bricks-and-mortar colleges are making the same mistake as the once-dominant tall ships: they offer online courses but are not changing the existing model. They are not saving students time and money, the essential steps to disruption. And though their approach makes sense in the short term, it leaves them vulnerable as students gravitate toward less expensive colleges.”

32. The Strange Science of Creating the Perfect Bar

“A real bar has no carpet, a plain floor, every bar chair creaks, the mirror needs a little cleaning, the wooden bar curves, and the bartender wears a white apron folded in half — always a white shirt, no tie. All the featured singers on the jukebox are dead or retired. Salty snacks are scattered in plastic wicker baskets with napkins, the bathrooms are downstairs and there are no pinball machines — only one television, overhead, and the bartender determines what channel it is set to.”

33. Broccoli’s Extreme Makeover

“How would you get people to want to buy and eat broccoli? What would your campaign look like? What would the message be? What would you do that all the well-intentioned government-funded campaigns have failed to do for generations?”

34. The President Wants You to Get Rich on Obamacare

“It’s not a government takeover of medicine. It’s the privatization of health care.”

35. The Luxury of Simplicity

“The greatest triumph seems to be a life lived with clarity, purpose and simplicity — in the sense that one is not bothered with pointless worries, soul-depleting obligations or the frivolous opinions of others. Sticking to what we must do and want to do for ourselves and others, and editing out much of the unnecessary dreck, is a form of simplicity. I gravitate toward stories about older women because they are more often the ones who have their lives figured out in a way younger women, while more obviously photogenic and of-the-moment, often don’t. Style that lasts is the style that counts.”

36. The Demise of the Fashion Eccentric

“People like this are like beautiful storytellers, breaking rules you didn’t even know were there, just so you can see better and maybe be better. Life is so full of rules and so full of predictable routines that one can almost forget that art and life depend on spontaneity. Enter the eccentric. No, not you, Little Miss Where’s-the-Camera! And not you, Mr. I-Bought-My-Oddball-Persona-Off-the-Rack. I’m talking about someone like the performance artist, club kid and, latterly, the Lucian Freud model Leigh Bowery, walking around London in the 1980s dressed like a giant exclamation mark, or Penelope Betjeman, the upper-class animal lover, traveler and wit, wishing she could give birth to horses rather than to children.”

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