Sunday 8.24.2014 New York Times Digest


1. Dealing With Digital Cruelty

“Whether you’re a celebrity author or a mom with a décor blog, you’re fair game. Anyone with a Twitter account and a mean streak can try to parachute into your psyche.”

2. Why We’re Not Driving the Friendly Skies

“Where are the flying cars?”

3. Rethinking Eating

“Having radically changed the way we communicate, do research, buy books, listen to music, hire a car and get a date, Silicon Valley now aims to transform the way we eat. Just as text messages have replaced more lengthy discourse and digital vetting has diminished the slow and awkward evolution of intimacy, tech entrepreneurs hope to get us hooked on more efficient, algorithmically derived food.”

4. Large Dams Just Aren’t Worth the Cost

“The actual construction costs of large dams are too high to yield a positive return.”

5. Bug Love

“What might be a pest in one context may not be in another.”

6. On Not Writing

“Not writing can be good for one’s writing; indeed, it can make one a better writer.”

7. Kings of Their Very Own Genres

“However they may differ, Werner Herzog and David Lynch, the principal creator of ‘Twin Peaks,’ are two utterly distinctive filmmakers as well as singular personalities; at once solitary searchers and skilled self-promoters, they are avant-garde visionaries who have, on occasion, enjoyed considerable commercial success and have never lacked for devoted fans. Both men emerged from the counterculture of the late 1960s and early 1970s to create their own myths. Although Mr. Lynch could be characterized as some sort of surrealist, and Mr. Herzog is essentially a maker of documentaries, neither belongs to any particular school or shared tendency.”

8. Of Myself I Sing

“Much self-promotion on social media seems less about utility and effective advertising and more about ego sustenance.”

9. Dollywood: A Little Bit Country, a Little Bit Gay

“And then there was us, a middle-aged lesbian couple in expensive yet practical footwear who traveled from Atlanta to see if we could find the campy gay undercurrent that runs through Dollywood, arguably the most culturally conservative amusement park in the country.”

10. You Like a Hotel, It Likes You Back

“The more followers you have, the more robust your social media presence, the more alluring you are to hospitality brands.”

11. On the Syllabus

“Programming was not always such a manly field, by the way. It was originally a field for women, and not just because it was invented by one, Ada Lovelace, in the 1840s. The human ‘computers’ on the atomic bomb project at Los Alamos were women; so were the ‘Eniac girls’ coding for John von Neumann in the 1940s. Chandra recounts the ‘masculinization’ of the industry through male-oriented aptitude tests that led to an influx of what one analyst called ‘often egocentric, slightly neurotic’ programmers disproportionately equipped with beards and sandals.”

12. The Enclosure of the American Mind

“The elite university, for Deresiewicz, is the little world that forms the great one, the training ground where members of the international ruling class learn two vital lessons: that they are superior to all others, and that even if they break rules or fail, they will never suffer.”

13. Progress Report

“Almost every idea for reforming education over the past 25 years has been tried before — and failed to make a meaningful difference.”

14. Uncram

“Ease up, take a break, get a good night’s sleep and stop the cramming.”

15. Not Giving an Inch

“As France descended into terror and war, the metric system became entangled in a worldwide struggle over its legacy. To its supporters it stood for reason and democracy; to its detractors, godlessness and the guillotine. It was not until the aftermath of World War II, when new global institutions were established and a host of new nations adopted the meter, that its place as the near-­universal measure was secured.”

16. The New School

“This kind of teaching can look like … nothing at all. So can working on just one problem per class, as though the teacher is just watching the clock while students chase a false supposition down a rabbit hole. In fact, those rabbit holes are where we learn; we begin to understand through trial and error, dead ends and towers of reasoning that collapse because of their faulty assumptions. Allowing students to make these errors, then identify and correct them, is one of the best things a teacher can do.”

17. Of Two Minds

“Defying the myth of the lone genius, he makes the case that the chemistry of creative pairs — of people, of groups — forms the primary (albeit frequently hidden) structural basis of innovation.”

18. The Mind

“In 1982, something disturbing began happening to men in northeastern India: Their penises started to shrink.”

19. Delivery Start-Ups Are Back Like It’s 1999

“The question comes down to how much people are willing to pay to be lazy. To economists, laziness isn’t necessarily a bad thing. To the sympathetic onlooker, these companies could be a step on the path to the world prophesied by John Maynard Keynes (and even ‘The Jetsons’), in which technology advances to the point that chores are replaced by leisure time. But even this suggests a gloomy outcome: On-demand delivery could create a two-tier economy — the people who can afford to hire others to do their errands and the people who do them. That is, unless Amazon succeeds in automating grunt work out of existence. (It already has robots that pick items off shelves and pack them in boxes; it wants to have a fleet of delivery drones.)”

20. Is Breakfast Overrated?

“If you like breakfast, fine; but if not, don’t sweat it.”

21. Who Made Those Bluejeans?

“Regardless of brand, jeans have reflected the mood of the country since the moment they were introduced. ‘You went from cuffed jeans in the ’50s to faded and bell-bottoms in the ’60s and early ’70s, to the designer jeans of the disco era, the saggy jeans of the hip-hop era and on to the exclusive $300 jeans we now call premium,’ Sullivan says. And like all truly revolutionary products, jeans have inspired adoration, outrage and everything in between. As Yves Saint Laurent said more than once, ‘I wish I had invented bluejeans.’”

22. A Recipe for Happiness

“It’s not just health (and skinniness) we’re after from our diets — it’s happiness. The gluten-free converts talk of being clear-minded, and any juice bar offers a host of emotional and psychological claims along with its cups of pulverized shrubbery. So if a goji berry stirs the libido and clams reduce anger, can it all be mixed into a recipe that can feed the soul while also tasting delicious?”

23. The Invasion of the Flats

“In Hollywood, Audrey Hepburn taught the world that flat could be feminine. Her embrace of the Ferragamo ballet slipper in 1957 (a year after Brigitte Bardot wore the Cinderella slipper by Repetto) made the shoes a necessary gamine accessory, providing a demure counterpoint to conventional midcentury notions of sex appeal. Meanwhile, the continental sexpots of the New Wave — from Anna Karina to Jean Seberg — were frequently pictured in ballet flats or the mod Roger Vivier varietal. Like everything we fetishize about the mythical French woman, the flat — along with the striped shirt and the scarf, other essentials for the cartoon dame — denoted practicality and childlike grace. Susan Sontag was a devotee of the tennis shoe. Joan Didion wore flats (and presumably still does). The fashion editor Diana Vreeland, dismissive of ‘hideous strappy high heels’ and the mincing walk they imparted, had her flats custom-made by obliging cobblers.”

24. A Beautiful Mind

“Getting in touch with Federico Forquet requires perseverance. The 83-year-old Neapolitan, who took the haute couture world by storm in the 1960s before turning his passions to gardening and interior design, does not own a cellphone. A fax machine, he says, is too unsightly. And he refuses to open an email account. Friends know that to get in touch they must send an email to his friend Alessandra Di Castro, the Roman antiques dealer. She will print out the message and have it delivered by hand to his flat in Rome or his country retreat near Cetona, Tuscany, where ‘Federico the Great’ — as Women’s Wear Daily dubbed him in 1966 — spends much of his time.”

25. Welcome to the Integratron

“To spend even an hour at the Integratron is to find your mind opening to esoteric possibilities — to feel your doubts melting away beneath the desert sun, skepticism bending toward curiosity. You may not go as far as the thousands who traveled here decades ago, when Van Tassel hosted the annual Giant Rock Spacecraft Convention, a gathering of U.F.O. enthusiasts and alien ‘contactees.’ You may not subscribe to Van Tassel’s belief that ancient Egyptians were capable of levitating ‘anything, including themselves,’ that there are spaceship bases on the moon, that the Integratron is capable of rejuvenating your cells and reversing the aging process. But an Integratron sound bath will startle your ears, and, perhaps, awaken your imagination.”

26. Flipping the Script

“No longer content just to be making movies, a new generation of critically heralded female directors is rivaling the male establishment at the box office — and redefining what it means to be a woman in Hollywood.”


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