Sunday 01.19.2014 New York Times Digest

19MELVILLE-master675

1. Obama, Melville and the Tea Party

“Published in late 1855, as the United States moved toward the Civil War, ‘Benito Cereno’ is one of the most despairing stories in American literature. Amasa Delano represents a new kind of racism, based not on theological or philosophical doctrine but rather on the emotional need to measure one’s absolute freedom in inverse relation to another’s absolute slavishness. This was a racism that was born in chattel slavery but didn’t die with chattel slavery, instead evolving into today’s cult of individual supremacy, which, try as it might, can’t seem to shake off its white supremacist roots.”

2. Patients’ Costs Skyrocket; Specialists’ Incomes Soar

“Each patient is like an ATM machine.”

3. It’s Here: A Library With Nary a Book

“Not a printed page in the form of a book can be found.”

4. Rivalry Between Seattle and San Francisco Heats Up the West Coast

“Last week, a Twitter spat developed between San Francisco’s Bay Bridge and Seattle’s 520 Bridge, neither one its city’s finest.”

5. Craft Beer, the (Very) Limited Edition

“Mr. Hill plans to cap production at 150,000 gallons a year — forever.”

6. For the Love of Money

“At 25, I could go to any restaurant in Manhattan — Per Se, Le Bernardin — just by picking up the phone and calling one of my brokers, who ingratiate themselves to traders by entertaining with unlimited expense accounts. I could be second row at the Knicks-Lakers game just by hinting to a broker I might be interested in going. The satisfaction wasn’t just about the money. It was about the power. Because of how smart and successful I was, it was someone else’s job to make me happy.”

7. Playing the Odds on Saving

“A high percentage of low-income players view a lottery as a form of financial planning.”

8. Russians: Still the Go-To Bad Guys

“Nearly 25 years after the Berlin Wall fell and marked the end of the Cold War, Hollywood’s go-to villains remain Russians. The last few years alone have seen a sadistic ex-K.G.B. agent (The Avengers), crooked Russian officials (A Good Day to Die Hard), Russian hit men (The Tourist), a Russian spy (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy), a Russian-American loan shark (Limitless) and so many Russian gangsters they have displaced Italians as film’s favored thugs (Jack Reacher, Safe, A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas, among others).”

9. Madison’s Privacy Blind Spot

“Now that Google and AT&T can track us more closely than any N.S.A. agent, it appears that the Madisonian Constitution may be inadequate to defend our privacy and dignity in the 21st century.”

10. Google, Tell Me. Is My Son a Genius?

“Parents Google ‘Is my daughter overweight?’ roughly twice as frequently as they Google ‘Is my son overweight?’”

11. Sex and the Single Senior

“Retirement communities and assisted living facilities are becoming like college campuses.”

12. How I Stopped Procrastinating

“I had a vague idea for a play that I had tried to begin many times at 3 in the afternoon. Each time my efforts were thwarted by the tyrannical voices in my head, which grew louder as the hour grew later, berating me for not taking care of bills, cleaning, shopping, grooming, pet care, more bills, more grooming. And if I got caught up on those things, the voices would quickly remind me that I was too ill informed to begin writing even a personal anecdote without undertaking years of painstaking research. A constant feeding of this negativity cyclone would put me in such a state of anxiety that I’d start reflexively checking Internet headlines in search of an environmental catastrophe or a massacre of some kind to help me refocus my anguish.”

13. If You See Something, Say Something

“It is not an uncommon view among scientists that we potentially compromise our objectivity if we choose to wade into policy matters or the societal implications of our work. And it would be problematic if our views on policy somehow influenced the way we went about doing our science. But there is nothing inappropriate at all about drawing on our scientific knowledge to speak out about the very real implications of our research.”

14. You Can Tell Everybody This Is Your Song

“When all of our information — images, art, news, modes of communication — is mediated through the same screen, the notion of value, of what is important and unimportant, even in a subjective, personal sense, becomes murky. Births, deaths, celebrity mug shots, piano-playing kittens, children we don’t know engaging in wackiness, war, poverty, photos of salt shakers and table sets, tales of the mundane, puns: This is all funneled and flattened, much to our delight and convenience, of course. Everything is a headline, everything is front page.”

15. Stop Trusting Yourself

“Future-you, like anyone else, cannot always be trusted.”

16. What Happens When the Poor Receive a Stipend?

“A little extra money may confer long-lasting benefits on poor children.”

17. James Baldwin’s Paris

“Baldwin was only 24 when he arrived in Paris, with just $40 in his pocket. Virtually unpublished, he had left New York to escape American racism — an escape that he believed literally saved his life and made it possible for him to write.”

18. E. L. Doctorow: By the Book

“Sometimes I put books down that are good but that I see too well what the author is up to. As you practice your craft, you lose your innocence as a reader. That’s the one sad thing about this work.”

19. Remapping the Territory

“His book navigates five centuries of painful documents, atrocious statements and dubious literature to argue that the United States was, from its beginning, as much a Spanish colonial southern enterprise as an unending march westward.”

20. Austin City Limits

“Then again, what is book criticism but another con game, using literary evidence and textual references to give the reader the illusion of authority?”

21. James Earl Jones on Darth Vader, Mufasa and, natch, Totes McGotes

“I did that once when I was traveling cross-country. I used Darth as my handle on the CB radio. The truck drivers would really freak out — for them, it was Darth Vader. I had to stop doing that.”

22. Breathing In vs. Spacing Out

“The most recent studies of mindfulness — the simple, nonjudgmental observation of a person’s breath, body or just about anything else — are taking the practice in directions that might have shocked the Buddha. In addition to military fitness, scientists are now testing brief stints of mindfulness training as a means to improve scores on standardized tests and lay down new connections between brain cells.”

23. The Online Avengers

“Ash seemed reasonable and sensitive, and yet it was hard to reconcile that young man with the one whose merciless anger I sometimes saw flare online. Soon after my trip to London, Ash got into a fight on Twitter with a 29-year-old British feminist, Caroline Criado-Perez, who had started a campaign that helped persuade the Bank of England to put Jane Austen on the £10 note. After she became the target of a stream of online threats, Criado-Perez went to the police, who arrested and charged two people. At one point, she threatened to report a friend of Ash’s who tweeted that she ‘could do with getting layed.’ In response, Ash joined the Twitter attack on her and used a harsh misogynist epithet. To Ash, Criado-Perez wasn’t a woman who was being bullied for her views; she was a publicity hound baiting men to go after her and who ‘enjoyed being in the role of victim.’ He refused to give her credit for trying to control her own narrative, and he didn’t see how berating her might be at odds with his stated desire to help victimized girls. ‘I don’t care about her feelings,’ he said. ‘It doesn’t reflect my morals regarding what I do with children.’ In the river of victimhood on Ash’s Twitter feed, a few stories moved him to ride to the rescue, but others earned only his scorn.”

24. Technology Is Not Driving Us Apart After All

“It turns out that people like hanging out in public more than they used to, and those who most like hanging out are people using their phones.”

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