Sunday 12.01.2013 New York Times Digest

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1. Machine Age

“In the last century, America ruled almost every area of industry — steel, aviation, shipbuilding. Now our world is technology.”

2. As Oil Floods Plains Towns, Crime Pours In

“Around the country, a growing number of veterinarians are offering hospice care, and marketing it as a way to give cats and dogs — and their owners — a less anxious, more comfortable passing.”

3. Life on $7.25 an Hour

“The classic image of the high-school student flipping Big Macs after class is sorely out of date. Because of lingering unemployment and a relative abundance of fast-food jobs, older workers are increasingly entering the industry. These days, according to the National Employment Law Project, the average age of fast-food workers is 29. Forty percent are 25 or older; 31 percent have at least attempted college; more than 26 percent are parents raising children.”

4. The Masculine Mystique

“What is the meaning of a man’s suit? Every day men disappear into them, as into uniforms. In wool and creased flannel, the suits tell a story of power and belonging. When Ms. Tutera approached Mr. Friedman, she offered a new twist on that story.”

5. In the Halfpipe With David Wise, the Undude

“He is not a nerd, and he is not an outsider. There is nothing like winning X Games gold the past two years to build respect and credibility. He can hang with the dudes, because he is nice and funny and smart and young. For a long time, he had long hair, too. He played high school football and baseball until skiing commandeered his schedule. He plays on two softball teams in the summer. He rides mountain bikes and a motorcycle. He drives fast — so fast that he was pulled over, a reporter in the front seat, on the way to lunch at his favorite Mexican dive after an hourlong session with a physical therapist to work on his neck, which he hurt last summer while doing flips into water off a rope swing. No. Not a nerd. But Wise is different, surprisingly grounded for someone who makes a living flying through the air. He hunts, less for the thrill of the capture (he brought home a bull elk this year) than for the chance to be alone with his thoughts. He is a voracious reader (his favorite author is C. S. Lewis) and an occasional writer of poetry. During his travels, near and far, he collects heart-shaped rocks for Alexandra and places them amid a collection on the brick windowsill outside their front door. (‘Now I’ve got the curse of spotting them,’ he said.) Like Alexandra, he is a youth pastor. Writing and missionary work are potential future occupations.”

6. That ‘Made in U.S.A.’ Premium

“As textile and apparel companies begin shifting more production to the United States, taking advantage of automation and other cost savings, a hard economic truth is emerging: Production of cheaper goods, for which consumers are looking for low prices, is by and large staying overseas, where manufacturers can find less expensive manufacturing. Even when consumers are confronted with the human costs of cheap production, like the factory collapse in Bangladesh that killed more than 1,000 garment workers, garment makers say, they show little inclination to pay more for clothes.”

7. The Big Ten’s Bigger Footprint

“The conference generated $315 million in revenue in the fiscal year ended in June 2012, the most of any conference, and was expected to reward most of its member schools with a split of $25.7 million each the next year. The primary source of the money has been television — most of it coming from a lucrative contract that Mr. Delany negotiated with ESPN and from the conference’s own cable network, which Mr. Delany was mostly responsible for creating in 2007.”

8. Millennial Searchers

“Chastened by these tough economic times, today’s young adults have been forced to rethink success so that it’s less about material prosperity and more about something else.”

9. Migration Hurts the Homeland

“What’s good for migrants from poor places is not always good for the countries they’re leaving behind.”

10. The Unregulated Sperm Industry

“One of the first uses of donated sperm was reported in 1909 by a doctor recalling his days as a student observing medical practice. A 41-year-old wealthy merchant and his wife had been unable to conceive. An examination revealed that the husband did not produce sperm. The doctor requested a sperm sample from the ‘best-looking member of the class.’ He asked the wife to come in for an examination, administered chloroform, and without her knowledge, inseminated her with the student’s sample. Nine months later, she gave birth to a healthy boy.”

11. One Drug, Two Names, Many Problems

“In the context of what’s at stake in health care, the practice of giving drugs two names, a brand name and a generic name, makes no sense. Is there any other industry in which thousands of component parts are insistently given two dissimilar names, even though people can suffer, be hurt, possibly even die, if a mistake in names is made? Every drug with two names — and that means practically every drug in use — is a medication error waiting to happen.”

12. The Minimum We Can Do

“A 10 percent increase in the minimum wage reduces poverty by around 2 percent.”

13. The Real Humanities Crisis

“We are rightly concerned about the plight of the economic middle class, which finds it harder and harder to find good jobs, as wealth shifts to the upper class. But we have paid scant attention to the cultural middle class, those with strong humanist interests and abilities who can’t reach the very highest levels, which provide almost all the cultural rewards of meaningful work.”

14. The Shocking Sex Secrets of Insects

“People sometimes think animals, insects included, follow a kind of 1950s lifestyle, with subservient females and macho males, but the truth is much more unconventional. In some species of crickets and their relatives the katydids, for example, where females have the upper hand, so to speak, males offer females nutritious globs weighing up to 30 percent of their own body weight that they have manufactured from their body fluids. The female eats these during mating, and usually, the larger the nuptial gift, the more of the male’s sperm fertilizes her eggs.”

15. The Ways of Lust

“Being treated as an object isn’t necessarily a bad thing.”

16. On Dying After Your Time

“Even if anti-aging research could give us radically longer lives someday, though, should we even be seeking them?”

17. Roseanne Barr and Mindy Kaling: Funny Women, Serious Talk

“He can look like Frankenstein, but if he’s a good writer….”

18. You’re Cute and Fired

“You have to be beautiful to matter, but beauty can and will be used against you.”

19. Shying From Fame’s Spotlight

“The current incarnation of Fame with a capital F — the white noise of TMZ, endorsement deals for social-media sensations still in high school, and, perhaps, a weariness with celebrity cross-pollinations (who hasn’t Marina Abramovic worked with at this point?) — has arguably become a credibility problem for performers hoping to convey a sense of authenticity and, perhaps more important, sustain some creative longevity.”

20. Tom Perrotta: By the Book

“It’s inspiring to read about a flawed human being who struggled with his or her demons and afflictions, experienced paralyzing episodes of failure or self-doubt, but somehow managed to do the work anyway, and produce something that enriched the world. That’s my version of self-help.”

21. Time Was on Their Side

“At a New York dinner party a couple of years back, a beautiful woman — who else would dare? — teased Mick Jagger: ‘Everybody’s either a Beatles person or a Stones person. Which are you?’ Characteristically inclined to repel even deadly serious questions with an eye roll and a shrug, Jagger took this one straight. ‘I’m a Stones person,’ he replied.”

22. A Giant Among Men

“Although basically a traditionalist, he was in many ways ahead of his time. Thus he was all for the learning and writing of women (who were then forbidden the university); he was active in promoting the cause of Ireland, though he hated it; and he advocated religious tolerance despite his own firm Anglicanism. The contemporary medical stance to the contrary, he was a hearty practitioner of physical exercise, often traveling on foot or horseback rather than by the customary coach or sedan chair. He opposed slavery, which was generally — even by Daniel Defoe — approved of. A churchman, he reached only the status of dean of St. Patrick’s (one of Dublin’s two cathedrals); he became resigned to and even proud of that mostly administrative office. He had become a cleric largely because it paid for his talents for writing and public ­speaking.”

23. Kind Regards

“Garfield’s book is stuffed with marvelous anecdotes, fascinating historical tidbits and excerpts from epistolary masters both ancient (Cicero, Seneca) and modern (Woolf, Hemingway). By the late 19th century, the ‘letter-writing manual’ had itself become a thriving literary genre. Lewis Carroll contributed some prescriptive advice in the booklet ‘Eight or Nine Wise Words About Letter-Writing’: ‘If your correspondent makes a severe remark, either ignore it or soften your response; if your friend is friendly, make your reply ever friendlier.’ It’s wonderful to learn about the iPads of ancient Rome — thin wooden writing tablets sliced from alder, birch and oak — and to stumble on this delightful closing phrase of a letter dating to the third century A.D.: ‘Remember my pigeons.’ Or to encounter an exasperated Erasmus, chiding his brother for not having written back: ‘I believe it would be easier to get blood from a stone than coax a letter out of you!’”

24. Fifty Years Later, Why Does ‘Eichmann in Jerusalem’ Remain Contentious?

“Destroying a few singular monsters is comfortingly more achievable than countering a bottomless amoral mediocrity latent in millions.”

25. The Big Picture Strikes Back

“Like every previous period of decline — which is to say like just about every other moment in the past century — this is an age of wild and restless experimentation. Maybe even a golden age.”

26. Lights, Camera and, for the First Time, Dialogue

“Movies exist, above all, to exalt the human face, and movie stars are people whose faces possess the mysterious power to make us look at them and want to keep looking. This is less a matter of beauty or of sexual magnetism than of individuality, of specialness. We like watching them pretend partly because we think we can see through the disguise. Their particular, paradoxical art is to bring credibility to the artifice. They are always themselves, even as their identities change from one role to the next. Seeing is believing. But so is hearing. Since the beginning of the sound era, the most indelible faces on the screen have often possessed equally memorable voices.”



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