Sunday 01.26.2014 New York Times Digest


1. The Big Uneasy

“Stossel also traces the idea, appearing often and across disciplines, that anxiety is essentially a consequence of modern life. We’re not made for this sort of thing, the thinking goes. And because our animal nature can’t find comfort in today’s demands, we’re constantly on edge — which makes bodies like Stossel’s protest all the more.”

2. Accidents Surge as Oil Industry Takes the Train

“As domestic oil production has increased rapidly in recent years, more and more of it is being transported by rail because of the lack of pipeline capacity. The trains often travel through populated areas, leading to concerns among residents over the hazards they can pose, including spills and fires.”

3. Seahawks’ Richard Sherman Is Much More Than Just Talk

“He studied cocksure athletes like Deion Sanders and Michael Irvin and Muhammad Ali, some of the sporting world’s best entertainers. He noticed their mannerisms, how they oozed confidence and charisma and passion, and resolved to create a similar persona for himself. He did. He became the avatar of the modern showboating athlete.”

4. Seahawks Mania Bigger Than U.S. Can Contain

“The Canadian following of the Seahawks and the N.F.L. is becoming quite large.”

5. In Housing, Big Is Back (Not Counting the Extras)

“When it comes to new homes, bigger is again better. The median size of new homes built for sale peaked in 2007 at 2,295 square feet, then fell to 2,159 two years later, after the housing crisis hit. But the appetite for ever-larger homes has returned: In 2012, new homes reached a new peak of 2,384 square feet.”

6. What Drives Success?

“It turns out that for all their diversity, the strikingly successful groups in America today share three traits that, together, propel success. The first is a superiority complex — a deep-seated belief in their exceptionality. The second appears to be the opposite — insecurity, a feeling that you or what you’ve done is not good enough. The third is impulse control.”

7. Humor, Locked and Loaded

“Its giddy presentation of these repugnant men has been a subject of controversy, and while the movie may seem to invite you to take their side, its jokes also introduce a self-awareness that questions such identification.”

8. The Sexual Healer

“Instead of offering more explicitness, she writes and talks about the aspects of sexuality that can’t be captured on a screen, the hidden, psychological states that do or do not set the mechanics in motion.”

9. Let’s Change the World. Cheers!

“Although the forum still has lofty aims — this year’s theme is ‘Reshaping the World’ — it has become over the years something of a parody of itself. Here, talk about ‘sustainability,’ ‘transparency’ and, this year, ‘mindfulness’ coexists with speeches by leaders from some of the most repressive regimes in the world. (One by President Hassan Rouhani of Iran, seeking greater engagement, overlapped with a panel on the power of meditation, in which the actress Goldie Hawn was a speaker.)”

10. Deep Reader

“Nicholson Baker’s quirkily inspired book-length essay, U and I, charts his youthful obsession with the sensuous, poised prose and public career of John Updike, yielding a curious double portrait that manages to be both self-effacing and arrogant. Geoff Dyer’s Out of Sheer Rage: Wrestling With D. H. Lawrence is a very funny if despairing account of the writer’s failure to produce the ‘sober, academic study’ of Lawrence’s work he has hoped to achieve, before becoming overcome by distractions and inertia and creating a ‘wild book’ in its place. Christopher Beha’s The Whole Five Feet: What the Great Books Taught Me About Life, Death, and Pretty Much Everything Else is a warmly personal account of a young man’s intensive reading of the Harvard Classics (51 volumes) amid a season of familial crisis and loss. Phyllis Rose’s ironically titled The Year of Reading Proust: A Memoir in Real Time subordinates the magisterial Remembrance of Things Past to the busy, often trivial minutiae of the memoirist’s daily life, while, as its ebullient title suggests, David Denby’s Great Books: My Adventures With Homer, Rousseau, Woolf and Other Indestructible Writers of the Western World is a zestful anecdotal account of an adult returning to the education he’d failed to appreciate as a Columbia undergraduate. And there is Rick Gekoski’s chatty Outside of a Dog: A Bibliomemoir, which traces the influence of 25 books on the English bookseller-author’s life.

11. Under the Covers

“The slight, the facile and the merely self-glorifying tend to drop away over the centuries, and what we are left with is the bedrock: Homer and Milton, the Greek tragedians and Shakespeare, Chaucer and Cervantes and Swift, Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy and James and Conrad. Time does not make their voices fainter. On the contrary, it reinforces our sense of their truth-telling capacity.”

12. Your Next Job Application Could Involve a Video Game

“H.R. firms are increasingly administering newfangled tests to existing employees to track which traits or habits correlate with whatever the firm considers to be evidence of success. Then they try to identify those characteristics in potential hires through cold, hard observational data, rather than through hiring managers’ far mushier gut reactions and candidates’ self-reported declarations of ‘greatest strengths and weaknesses.’”

13. Lonnie Holley, the Insider’s Outsider

“All music is improvised, just at different speeds.”

14. Photographs of the Old Penn Station

“The razing of New York’s Penn Station in 1963 still ranks as one of the city’s great architectural disasters.”

15. Is It Immoral to Watch the Super Bowl?

“I still love football. I love the grace and the poise of the athletes. I love the tension between the ornate structure of the game and its improvisatory chaos, and I love the way great players find opportunity, even a mystical kind of order, in the midst of that chaos. The problem is that I can no longer indulge these pleasures without feeling complicit.”


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