Sunday 7.27.2014 New York Times Digest

0727BUSY-master495

1. No Time to Think

“You can’t solve or let go of problems if you don’t allow yourself time to think about them.”

2. Race in Toyland: A Nonwhite Doll Crosses Over

“The kids who are of color see her as an African-American girl, and that’s really big for them. And I think a lot of other kids don’t see her color, and that’s wonderful as well.”

3. ‘Rule Followers’ Flock to a Convention Where Fake Violence Reigns

“Nowhere is violence in entertainment more prominently on display than at Comic-Con. And yet, historically, all of the attendees have been strikingly well behaved.”

4. Heads or Tails? Either Way, You Might Beat a Stock Picker

“Over the last five years, actively managed stock mutual funds have performed even worse than would have been predicted if the fund managers were flipping coins instead of picking stocks.”

5. The Typical Household, Now Worth a Third Less

“The inflation-adjusted net worth for the typical household was $87,992 in 2003. Ten years later, it was only $56,335, or a 36 percent decline.”

6. If Marriage Moves Beyond Our Means

“Only the upper tiers of Americans have the money and time to reasonably hope that their offspring will succeed.”

7. Steering His Own Schedule

“There’s a time-honored tradition in Hollywood of people doing all sorts of odd jobs while waiting to be discovered.”

8. Heard on the Street: E-I-E-I-O

“A growing number of New Yorkers who are turning their personal plots into micro farms. In a metropolis where ‘back to the land’ does not usually apply as a descriptor, New Yorkers are raising hens for eggs, rabbits for meat and bees for honey. They have turned tiny slivers of open space into productive vegetable gardens that often also capture rainwater and compost waste.”

9. Repeal Prohibition, Again

“The federal government should repeal the ban on marijuana.”

10. The New Instability

“Since the 1970s, families have become more egalitarian in their internal relationships. But inequality among families has soared. Women have become more secure as their real wages and legal rights have increased. But families have become more insecure as their income and job instability have worsened.”

11. We’re Missing the Story

“Our stories about others tell us more about ourselves.”

12. Failure Is Our Muse

“Three hundred thousand books are published in the United States every year. A few hundred, at most, could be called financial or creative successes. The majority of books by successful writers are failures. The majority of writers are failures. And then there are the would-be writers, those who have failed to be writers in the first place, a category which, if you believe what people tell you at parties, constitutes the bulk of the species.”

13. Why the Beach Is a Bummer

“Sixty-one percent of Americans don’t live anywhere near a beach. We spend a surprising amount of time hearing about this place we will hardly ever see. We watch commercials, TV shows and movies in which nubile young women and their strapping male counterparts frolic on sand, their hair golden and sun-streaked. Long walks on the beach are the supposed holy grail of a romantic evening. The beach becomes a kind of utopia — the place where all our dreams come true.”

14. Where Reason Ends and Faith Begins

“Praying in an ancient language you don’t understand is fine; praying in tongues (not a human language, but thought to be a spiritual one) anathema. A god who has a human son whom he allows to be killed is natural; a god with eight arms and a lusty sexual appetite is weird. You believe in the Holy Spirit, but you draw the line at exorcism. You take for granted that Christ will come again to earth, but riding on a white horse and wearing a robe dipped in blood? That’s obviously a prophet’s besotted fantasy.”

15. Powerful and Coldhearted

“Studies have repeatedly shown that participants who are in high positions of power (or who are temporarily induced to feel powerful) are less able to adopt the visual, cognitive or emotional perspective of other people, compared to participants who are powerless (or are made to feel so).”

16. Goofy Guy Takes a Galactic Leap

“The draft beer he had ordered (though not before saying: ‘I hope you don’t mind? I don’t work tomorrow’) sat before him, untouched. Five weeks earlier, he and a reporter from Entertainment Weekly spent an afternoon together doing shots of Jack Daniel’s. Not so this week. ‘I don’t know why I ordered this,” he said. ‘Turns out I don’t like beer anymore.’ Instead, he did a 180, and asked for camomile tea.”

17. His Own Godfather

Brown, who died on Christmas Day 2006, began his career in the ’50s under the spell of Little Richard and ended it as a major influence on current singer-dancers like Usher and Chris Brown. Michael Jackson and Prince, of course, were acolytes. Reared on gospel, blues and jazz, Brown was a dominant force in the soul ’60s, created funk, inspired disco and laid hip-hop’s foundation with his beats.

18. Passing of a Video Store and a Downtown Aesthetic

“For a time, you could go treasure hunting at the Strand for books, the vintage hot spot Antique Boutique for clothes, and Kim’s for videos.”

19. To Pop Legends, He Was a Guitar Hero

“Maybe they don’t look like rock stars, or their voices aren’t accessible enough, or they just don’t have the merciless drive and ambition it takes to top the charts. Instead, these musicians contribute to a kind of shadow history of rock, adding not only songs that become best known through cover versions, but also passing along some particular, unique approach to playing or arranging that reverberates to the world through their peers.”

20. The Emoji Have Won the Battle of Words

“An emoji-only version of Moby Dick, called Emoji Dick, was recently accepted into the Library of Congress.”

21. Devilish Audacity

“Several traits make a worthy biographer. (1) Affection for his subject, but not blind adulation. (2) An interesting personality with a winning style. (3) Neither excessive brevity nor tiresome long-windedness. (4) A judicious sense of what ­matters and what doesn’t. (5) Awareness that a portrait requires a suitable frame, i.e., attention to context and background. (6) A far-ranging erudition. (7) Maybe most important: a sense of humor.”

22. The Wealth of Ideas

“Fawcett aims to make liberalism comprehensible to contemporary readers. To do so, he takes a commendably liberal approach, bringing as many within the tent as possible. Liberals, he insists, do not argue from a doctrinal checklist so much as they understand that conflict is unavoidable, distrust unjust authority, hold faith in progress and respect all, or at least most, people.”

23. Radical Inquiry

“There’s a striking difference between those pages and the penetrative depth of Willis’s thinking — the result of a painstakingly slow writing process and scrupulous self-questioning that gave her work moral and intellectual authority. That disparity may lead one to wonder if such thinking is even possible at a time when discourse is shaped by the Internet, which demands self-congratulatory clique-building and fresh outrage every hour on the hour.”

24. Much Ado About Everything

Stuff Matters is about hidden wonders, the astonishing properties of materials we think boring, banal and unworthy of attention — paper, concrete, glass, plastic. They are given what the sociologist Erving Goffman called ‘civil inattention,’ lumped together under the ample but unilluminating category of “stuff,” even though some varieties of that stuff have been so important, historically, that eras have been named after them: Stone, Bronze, Iron.”

25. When It Comes to Fiction About National Tragedy, How Soon Is Too Soon?

“Although many people have strong feelings about historical tragedies, few have the ability to process them in a way that makes them intellectually or artistically meaningful.”

26. Why Do Americans Stink at Math?

“The trouble always starts when teachers are told to put innovative ideas into practice without much guidance on how to do it. In the hands of unprepared teachers, the reforms turn to nonsense, perplexing students more than helping them.”

27. What Do Chinese Dumplings Have to Do With Global Warming?

“Cooling is already responsible for 15 percent of all electricity consumption worldwide, and leaks of chemical refrigerants are a major source of greenhouse-gas pollution. Of all the shifts in lifestyle that threaten the planet right now, perhaps not one is as important as the changing way that Chinese people eat.”

28. Manhattan’s Secret Pools and Gardens

“You wouldn’t know it, but they’re up there — those turquoise oases, invisible to those of us who cope each day with sour summer smells, sweltering subway platforms and scorching sidewalks. More than any other city, New York converts the graph of its income inequality into a vertical urban plan, with most people spread out at street level — conniving to linger for just one extra second before an air-conditioned storefront when its door swings open — and the lucky few in their secret aeries and tiny triangle bikinis, lolling poolside.”

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