Sunday 12.29.2013 New York Times Digest

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1. Learning to Measure Time in Love and Loss

“Be the best prisoner you can be.”

2. Brainlike Computers, Learning From Experience

“Everyone knows there is something big happening, and they’re trying find out what it is.”

3. A Rare Elected Voice for Socialism Pledges to Be Heard in Seattle

“A socialist was elected mayor of Seattle as recently as 1922.”

4. Ready, Set, Hike! A Trial Trek to MetLife Stadium

“Now I remembered a line from Walt Whitman: ‘As I walk, solitary, unattended, around me I hear that éclat of the world.’”

5. The Merchant of Just Be Happy

“I cannot believe people keep paying me to say this.”

6. Reading Your Palm for Security’s Sake

“If someone steals your password, you can change it. But if someone steals your thumbprint, you can’t get a new thumb. The failure modes are very different.”

7. The Meanings of the Selfie

“In this age of too much information at a click of a button, the power to attract viewers amid the sea of things to read and watch is power indeed. It’s what the movie studios want for their products, it’s what professional writers want for their work, it’s what newspapers want — hell, it’s what everyone wants: attention. Attention is power. And if you are someone people are interested in, then the selfie provides something very powerful, from the most privileged perspective possible.”

8. Miley Cyrus on Her Jump to Sexy Twerker

“People got a rise out of me saying that I was a feminist, but I am.”

9. Key & Peele,’ With Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele

“The sketches run from immersive character work to wry jokes about language to blunt race themes, like the season-opening sketch in which Mr. Peele, ogled as he walks through a white neighborhood, pulls his hoodie up — à la Trayvon Martin — but this hoodie has a white face painted on the side. Everyone relaxes.”

10. Mustaches in Vogue on Film Screens

“Good facial hair enhances the wearer’s overall appearance, style and personality.”

11. When Your Life Needs a Do-Over

“Rather than focusing on how to quit the wrong job, the authors encourage readers to invent a job that brings them joy, and to throw out the old career-advice books that instructed entrepreneurs to construct elaborate five-year plans, or urged job seekers to take career evaluation tests to find work that harmonized with their interests or star signs.”

12. Trendsetter of 2013? Goodwill

“For a generation of digital natives accustomed to ransacking the Internet for goods and ideas floating free from a contextual matrix, ‘Thrift Shop’ was more than a chart topper. It was a metaphor.”

13. Re-creating the Golden Age of Rail Travel

“The new route, scheduled to operate on Amtrak, is part of a larger mission to bring back the golden age of train travel with artfully restored vintage cars and attention to detail.”

14. Intoxicating Prose

“A secret, a compulsion, a private tragedy, and then again both a release and an ecstasy — alcohol is a catalyst for something difficult to categorize.”

15. The Art of Taxidermy

“I’m married to an award-­winning fish taxidermist. When I first met him, I thought taxidermy was right next to necrophilia in the book of weirdness. Since then (25-plus years), I’ve come to appreciate his art.”

16. Man Against Nature

“By the age of 22, he’d worked as an oyster pirate, served time in prison, ridden the rails as a tramp, joined a seal-hunting schooner bound for Japan, marched with Coxey’s army of the unemployed and searched for gold in the Klondike rush. In an effort to make a go at writing (the goal of which, ironically, was to help him avoid a life of hard labor), he turned these firsthand experiences into profitable novels and stories, among them the brilliant The Sea-Wolf, The Call of the Wild, Martin Eden and the nonfiction The People of the Abyss. By his mid-30s, he’d established himself as one of the most popular storytellers in a genre he helped create: a particularly violent style of naturalism in which one man battles the cruel, capricious ways of both human nature and Mother Nature, and often loses. By 40, he’d settled at his Beauty Ranch in Glen Ellen, Calif., where he would feast for a time on a two-mallard-a-day diet (a delicacy) before dying of uremia in November 1916.”

17. Man With a Thorn in His Side

“His well-earned reputation as the saddest of sacks too often obscures his considerable wit. Just saying he’s miserable and difficult to handle, as many critics do, is far less clever and crafty than how he puts it, in so many different ways, in songs, interviews and now this memoir.”

18. Abigail Van Buren

“Both women’s voices, which bore their native Midwestern twang and echoes of the direct, irreverent idiom of Jewish vaudeville, helped transform the prim, lovelorn column into a vital interactive conversation on modern mores. Both promoted liberal views — gun control, birth control and an end to the Vietnam War — though Phillips was bolder; she was pro-choice before abortion was legal and insisted it was fine to be gay well before most of her readers (or Ann Landers) could wrap their minds around that possibility.”

19. J.J. Cale

“Gaining fame and fortune was not worth it to Cale if it meant compromising his vision.”

20. Cleve Backster

“In human subjects, a polygraph measures three things: pulse, respiration rate and galvanic skin response, otherwise known as perspiration. If you’re worried about being caught in a lie, your levels will spike or dip. Backster wanted to induce a similar anxiety in the plant, so he decided to set one of its leaves on fire. But before he could even get a match, the polygraph registered an intense reaction on the part of the Dracaena. To Backster, the implication was as indisputable as it was unbelievable. Not only had the plant demonstrated fear — it had also read his mind.”

21. Maria Tallchief

“Paris may have been liberated by French and American forces, but the Paris Opera was liberated by George Balanchine and Maria Tallchief.”

22. Elmore Leonard

“If they have a common denominator, it is protagonists like Bob Valdez, who tries to keep a whole town from shooting an innocent man in Only Good Ones, or Paul Scallen, the unassuming deputy who safely delivers his prisoner in Three-Ten to Yuma: loners, stubborn, quietly and unshowily competent, who tend to be underestimated, misjudged, taken for granted. It’s not hard to see them as a collective portrait of the artist as a young man.”

23. Dr. Joyce Brothers

“She was a natural entertainer — a frequent guest on ‘The Tonight Show’ who loved to spoof herself — but also a mental-health professional who believed foremost in doing no harm.”

24. Shadow Morton

“The song was an instant hit, perhaps not just because it gave rock ‘n’ roll, in the Shangri-Las, its first really tough girls, but also because it punctured the escapist reveries of most pop songs of the day. In later recordings, Morton had the group sing about doomed biker boyfriends (‘Leader of the Pack’), teenage runaways (‘I Can Never Go Home Anymore’) and maybe even rape (‘Past, Present and Future’).”

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