Sunday 03.09.2014 New York Times Digest

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1. Don’t Quote Me on This

“Decontextualized knowledge — snippets that stream past as links, tweets, posts, memes — dominates.”

2. The ‘Boys’ in the Bunkhouse

“The days bled into years. Hang. Rehang. Pull guts.”

3. A Body of Work R. A. Dickey Prefers as His Legacy

“People are really lonely, especially people who have had to endure things. They’re very lonely, so they’re just wanting to hear from someone who has shared a similar experience.”

4. The Youngest Technorati

“Since middle school we wanted to make an app.”

5. On Instagram, a Bazaar Where You Least Expect It

“Instagram isn’t designed to be an e-commerce site, and that’s part of its appeal to me. Internet giants like Amazon.com have finely calibrated algorithms that suggest items and services before I even think of them, and they are very useful. But there is something undeniably charming about flicking through photographs that are carefully curated and personally posted by some Instagram sellers, who regularly offer one-of-a-kind treasures.”

6. Home Tweet Home

“Now, both supergeeks and mere mortals are using the Internet and high-tech solutions to deal with the challenges of home life, from finding a landlord to prevailing in a battle with one, as well as receiving reassurance from afar that, yes, you remembered to close the garage door.”

7. The Fat Drug

“In 1955, a crowd gathered in a hotel ballroom to watch as feed salesmen climbed onto a scale; the men were competing to see who could gain the most weight in four months, in imitation of the cattle and hogs that ate their antibiotic-laced food. Pfizer sponsored the competition.”

8. Can We Learn About Privacy From Porn Stars?

“Whether you portray yourself as a professional sex symbol or a morally upstanding member of the PTA, we all do this kind of self-branding now.”

9. Stop Glorifying Hackers

“The cult of the hacker is the tech-age update of America’s long romance with the outlaw.”

10. Inheriting Stress

“Can you biologically inherit the effects of your parents’ stress?”

11. Rising Rents Leave New York Artists Out in the Cold

“I just can’t take it anymore.”

12. No, His Name Is Not Ted

“Mr. Bratton called TED ‘a recipe for civilizational disaster,’ pointing to the tent-revival nature of the talks, the unquestioning faith in technology and what Mr. Bratton called a ‘dumbing-down’ of complex science and scholarship. Spreading ideas via short orations adds up to little more than ‘middlebrow megachurch infotainment.’”

13. Celebrities Behaving Well

“Our cultural image of the writer has historically been of a thrice-divorced, whiskey-swilling chain smoker who brawls with his rival over a nasty review in a dimly lit Manhattan speakeasy. Now it’s a married yogi in a BabyBjörn who tweets exclamatory encomia from the kale section at the Park Slope Food Co-op.”

14. Teju Cole: By the Book

“There are many films to see, many friends to visit, many walks to take, many playlists to assemble and many favorite books to reread. Life’s too short for anxious score-keeping. Also, my grandmother is illiterate, and she’s one of the best people I know. Reading is a deep personal consolation for me, but other things console, too.”

15. The Journalist and the Masquerader

“In this smart, real-life psychological thriller, the fake Rockefeller is a zombie Gatsby and Kirn the post-apocalyptic Fitzgerald, chronicling upper-crust America in free fall.”

16. The Deconstructionist Deconstructed

“We get a story of the professor not just as a young collaborator, but as a scheming careerist, an embezzler and forger who fled Belgium in order to avoid prison, a bigamist who abandoned his first three children, a deadbeat who left many rents and hotel bills unpaid, a liar who wormed his way into Harvard by falsifying records, a cynic who used people shamelessly. Some of these accusations have been made before (and documented), but Barish develops them and adds new ones. Her conclusion is somber: She places de Man not among the charming scoundrels but among the false ‘new messiahs’ of history.”

17. Dreaming in Code

“For Kaku, the brain is a computer made of meat, and understanding the mind is just a really, really hard engineering problem. The fundamental laws are already known, and Kaku tells us we’ll soon be manipulating the stuff of consciousness with the same acuity we push electrons around in our digital devices.”

18. Why High-Impact Exercise Is Good for Your Bones

“Bones should be jarred, for their own good.”

19. Who Made That Progress Bar?

“Is a progress bar a tool to make us more efficient or a sop that helps us pass the time?”

20. Reaching My Autistic Son Through Disney

“He looks intently at us, one, then the other. ‘Walter doesn’t want to grow up,’ he says evenly, ‘like Mowgli or Peter Pan.’ We nod, dumbly, looking down at him. He nods back and then vanishes into some private reverie. It’s as if a thunderbolt just passed through the kitchen. A full sentence, and not just an ‘I want this’ or ‘Give me that.’ No, a complex sentence, the likes of which he’d not uttered in four years. Actually, ever.”

21. The Story Behind the SAT Overhaul

“Starting in spring 2016, students will take a new SAT — a three-hour exam scored on the old 1,600-point system, with an optional essay scored separately. Evidence-based reading and writing, he said, will replace the current sections on reading and writing. It will use as its source materials pieces of writing — from science articles to historical documents to literature excerpts — which research suggests are important for educated Americans to know and understand deeply. ‘The Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and the Federalist Papers,’ Coleman said, ‘have managed to inspire an enduring great conversation about freedom, justice, human dignity in this country and the world’ — therefore every SAT will contain a passage from either a founding document or from a text (like Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address) that is part of the ‘great global conversation’ the founding documents inspired.”

22. To Have and to Hold

“The exact details of the personal effects and professional necessities a man daily organizes in his bag don’t matter. What’s meaningful is the male bag itself, which, ever evolving, has developed into a fascinating index of masculinity.”

23. Big (Bad) Data

“Social media and Big Data, the term du jour for the collection of vast troves of information that can instantaneously be synthesized, are supposed to help us make smarter, faster decisions. It seems as if just about every C.E.O. of a global company these days is talking about how Big Data is going to transform their business. But with increasing frequency, it may be leading to flawed, panic-induced conclusions, often by ascribing too much value to a certain data point or by rushing to make a decision because the feedback is available so quickly. This digital river of information is turning normally level-headed decision-makers into hypersensitive, reactive neurotics.”

24. A Dual Review of What’s New, Starring Ceelo Green and Gary Shteyngart

“I know it sounds peculiar, but a lot of real men wear the same socks at least two, three days at a time.”

25. J.P. Donleavy is Still Standing

“J. P. Donleavy’s status as, arguably, the funniest living American writer relies on his not-quite-Americanness. The sting of his social comedy, the pang of his characters’ homesickness, the keenness of his ear for dialogue — these all are surely functions of his status as a permanent outsider, an odd fish swimming the mid-Atlantic apart from all the usual schools of thought.”

26. Venus in Furs

“The images are cropped so tightly that they resemble female pubic hair.”

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