Sunday 11.24.2013 New York Times Digest

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1. A Stroll Around the World

“Cars keep roaring into my awareness. They are inescapable. They are without a doubt the defining artifacts of our civilization. They have reshaped our minds in ways that we long ago ceased thinking about.”

2. In War for Same-Day Delivery, Racing Madly to Go Last Mile

“There’s a hot new job in tech: delivery guy.”

3. Eli Manning’s Footballs Are Months in Making

“No one is allowed to touch those balls. They’re precious jewels. Too much work has gone into them.”

4. Selling That New-Man Feeling

“In the 1920s and ’30s, surgeons began transplanting monkey and goat testes into men, says Dr. John E. Morley, the director of endocrinology and geriatrics at the Saint Louis University School of Medicine. But that fad ended quickly after one well-known surgeon implanted goat testicles into his patients, where they apparently emitted a noxious odor.”

5. For Chess, a Would-Be White Knight

“Do you realize there are more people in America who play chess than tennis and golf combined?”

6. A Bitcoin Puzzle: Heads, It’s Excitement. Tails, It’s Anxiety.

“Kristoffer Koch, 29, of Oslo, told the BBC last month that he bought $22 worth of the currency while doing technical research on it four years ago. He promptly forgot about it. When he unlocked his long dormant account recently, it was worth $850,000.”

7. McMansions Are Making a Comeback

“In 2010, homes starting growing again. By last year, the size of the median new single-family home hit a record high of 2,306 square feet, surpassing the peak of 2007.”

8. Beyond 3-D Printers’ Magic, Possible Legal Wrangling

“3-D printing ‘will do for physical objects what MP3 files did for music.’”

9. In Defense of a Loaded Word

“A few summers ago one of my best friends invited me up to what he affectionately called his ‘white-trash cabin’ in the Adirondacks. This was not how I described the outing to my family. Two of my Jewish acquaintances once joked that I’d ‘make a good Jew.’ My retort was not, ‘Yeah, I certainly am good with money.’ Gay men sometimes laughingly refer to one another as ‘faggots.’ My wife and her friends sometimes, when having a good time, will refer to one another with the word ‘bitch.’ I am certain that should I decide to join in, I would invite the same hard conversation that would greet me, should I ever call my father Billy.”

10. Right vs. Left in the Midwest

“Which side of the experiment — the new right or modern progressivism — has been most effective in increasing jobs and improving business opportunities, not to mention living conditions?”

11. A Most Expensive Book

“More rare and endangered than old books, lately, are bookstores and public libraries. In the United States, more than a thousand bookstores closed between 2000 and 2007. Borders, which owned more than 1,200 bookstores in 2003, shut the doors to the last of them in 2011. Public libraries in nearly every state have suffered budget cuts. Most have reduced hours and services; others have sold off books. Some libraries have merged; others have privatized. Two years ago, the American Library Association issued a task force report called ‘Keeping Public Libraries Public.’ In an age of library downsizing, a nonprofit in Wisconsin makes Little Free Libraries, wooden boxes not much bigger than a mailbox, to put up in neighborhoods, for book swapping. They’re inspired. But they’re not buildings; they’re boxes.”

12. Bringing Back My Real Self With Hormones

“In my early 30s, for a few months, I altered my body chemistry and hormones so that I was closer to a man in his early 20s. I was blown away by how dramatically my thoughts changed. I was angry almost all the time, thought about sex constantly, and assumed I was the smartest person in the entire world. Over the years I had met guys rather like this.”

13. The Year the Monarch Didn’t Appear

“The agricultural landscape has been sterilized.”

14. How Can We Jump-Start the Struggle for Gender Equality?

“If more men don’t — won’t or can’t — move into female fields, we hit a ceiling on integration, and with it gender equality.”

15. Danger Lurks in That Mickey Mouse Couch

“These chemicals are frequently endocrine disruptors that mimic hormones, and mounting evidence links them to cancer, reproductive problems and other ailments.”

16. Puddleglum and the Savage

“Huxley and Lewis did not share a worldview — one was a seeker drawn to spiritualism, Eastern religion and psychedelics; the other was (and remains) the most famous Christian apologist in the modern English-speaking world. But they shared a critique of contemporary civilization, and offered a similar warning about where its logic might end up taking us.”

17. Art Makes You Smart

“Students who, by lottery, were selected to visit the museum on a field trip demonstrated stronger critical thinking skills, displayed higher levels of social tolerance, exhibited greater historical empathy and developed a taste for art museums and cultural institutions.”

18. Spike Lee, Still Gliding to Success

“In a lot of ways, you can use naysayers as fuel. Michael Jordan got cut from his high school basketball team. You slight him, and he doesn’t forget it. Even now. YouTube his Hall of Fame ceremony. He went down the list.”

19. Sacked by the Media Blitz

“For me, most ads on N.F.L. games resemble fun-house mirrors. The marketers think they know the men who are watching — and it is still mostly men — and what their deep-down desires are: tanklike trucks, Arctic-cold beer, smoldering chicks (and the occasional pizza). But I just don’t see myself when I peer at these commercials, and the advertisers, I suspect, don’t see me when they’re plotting strategy to hawk their wares. I’m not some smug lug or some dumb lug. I’m not a hairy-chested bubba or a preening hipster hiding behind nerd shades. I’m just a guy who, y’know, likes pro football.”

20. Anomalous Harmony, Present and Past

“The Everlys’ original is a contender for the most morbid album of the early rock ‘n’ roll era. It arrived soon after their huge 1957 hits, ‘Bye Bye Love’ and ‘Wake Up Little Suzie,’ both of which appeared on their 1958 debut album. Within less than a year, Don and Phil Everly released ‘Songs Our Daddy Taught Us,’ an unamplified album of stark traditional ballads and old country songs. The lyrics tell stories that feature dead and dying parents, lovers united only in death, a dying child, prisoners, cheating lovers and a few murders.”

21. Up in the Aerie, a Ballet Lover’s Perch

“Paradoxical though this sounds, I’d say that from the top of the house, you see dancers less well, their dancing better.”

22. The Long Goodbye

“The ‘Goodbye New York’ essay has become a de rigueur career move for aspiring belle-lettrists.”

23. As the Clothes Come Off, the Magazines Dress Up

“Why the seemingly sudden surge of upscale pornography?”

24. The Return of the Tight Squeeze

“People ask if it’s comfortable, and I try to explain that it’s like wearing a very high heel. There is discipline involved, and of course, the quality of the construction is paramount to comfort.”

25. In Search of Woody Guthrie’s America

“The Pacific Northwest is one of my favorite spots in this world, and I’m one walker that’s stood way up and looked way down acrost aplenty of pretty sights in all their veiled and nakedest seasons. The Pacific Northwest has got mineral mountains. It’s got chemical deserts. It’s got rough run canyons. It’s got sawblade snowcaps. It’s got ridges of nine kinds of brown, hills out of six colors of green, ridges five shades of shadows, and stickers the eight tones of hell.”

26. Clang Went the Trolley

“Nothing intrigues philosophers more than a phenomenon that seems simultaneously self-evident and inexplicable.”

27. Serious Listening

“Clearly, I’m an aural kind of guy. In school, I retained knowledge from lectures more readily than from books, and I can hold a lot in my head. These are probably traits that led to my becoming a reporter: I listen to people for a living. I would have been right at home hearing Homer tell stories by a fire.”

28. In Full Swing

“We were, at the same time, a curiously dysfunctional nation, one where two-thirds of the murders went unsolved, and the average homicide rate was exponentially higher than it is now in much of the country. We were barely able to build a road or a functional airfield, or to efficiently coordinate our extensive rail system. When the Mississippi overflowed in the worst flood in its history — inundating 16.5 million acres, costing over 1,000 lives (‘and perhaps several times that,’ Bryson writes; the human tallies ‘weren’t more scrupulous because, alas, so many of the victims were poor and black’) and resulting in up to $1 billion in losses — Coolidge, anointed earlier this year in a biography by Amity Shlaes as the model of a modern right-wing president, refused to provide even an autographed picture to be auctioned off for flood relief.”

29. Points of Entry

“The first thing to note about the wrangling over accessibility is that it encompasses an array of anxieties, some of them self-contradictory and most of them unimportant. Often it’s just a proxy for a centuries-old squabble between people who like their poems plain-looking and people who like them a little more rococo. Because both styles can be immediately appealing to readers, it’s not clear what access has to do with any of this. Further, arguments over accessibility typically fail to reckon with the fact that almost everyone in the American poetry world works in the university system, which is essentially a multibillion-dollar access-­granting machine. If you spend your life talking about ‘Notes Toward a Supreme Fiction’ in front of bored 19-year-olds, then you are poorly positioned to argue that the experience of poetry is, or should be, beyond the reach of general readers. If poems were cookies, you’d be a Keebler elf.”

30. A Small-Scale Thanksgiving

“Thanksgiving is not always about crowds, family, elbows tight at a table groaning with food. Families are complicated. Someone has to work. Plane tickets are too expensive. Children stay in college, or move to Kenosha. Life happens. Sometimes it’s just the two of you. Sometimes you’re alone. But how marvelous that can be.”

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