Sunday 10.19.2014 New York Times Digest

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1. Real Men Flee Avalanches

“While vacationing in Colombia, a friend of his was shopping with his girlfriend when a gunman burst into a store. Mr. Ostlund’s friend deserted his companion to throw himself behind a counter, a reaction that she kept rehashing long after they returned home. When she asked why he didn’t stay with her, he replied that he was no action hero. ‘The thing was, they really had a hard time getting over it,’ Mr. Ostlund said. ‘We are living in an honor culture. We say we don’t have expectations of a man’s role, but it’s obvious what was expected of him.’”

2. Ballet Dancer Has a Day Off, but She Still Moves

“It’s so weird for a ballet dancer to get this much attention. I try to remind everyone that my career comes first. I try to take it one day at a time. We are never given a voice as dancers. We accept our art form in a very quiet way. My goal was to highlight the ballet world; we use so much more than just our bodies. It’s physical, like sports, but also intellectual. You need an understanding of music and choreography but also you need to know how to perform the character.”

3. Trying to Live in the Moment (and Not on the Phone)

“The first step in understanding our relationship to technology is to become aware of it.”

4. Why Doctors Need Stories

“Beyond its roles as illustration, affirmation, hypothesis-builder and low-level guidance for practice, storytelling can act as a modest counterbalance to a straitened understanding of evidence.”

5. A Paradox of Integration

“How can it be that minority students seem unhappier when they have a larger presence within institutions that once excluded them?”

6. When Uber and Airbnb Meet the Real World

“The law protects online speech, not actions people take in the offline world. Yet its ethos has permeated Silicon Valley so deeply that people invoke it even for things that happen offline.”

7. The Boys in the Clubhouse

“On the playing field, every single mistake a player makes is pointed out and criticized until corrected. By design, on the field of real life, the athlete rarely faces similar accountability. Issues that most of us deal with every day, whether it’s making a living or worrying about Ebola, have no place in the athletic realm, except when a public-relations staffer thinks it would be a good idea for a player to speak out about it. If it doesn’t have to do with the sport the athlete plays, then it does not matter.”

8. Are Women Better Decision Makers?

“Neuroscientists have uncovered evidence suggesting that, when the pressure is on, women bring unique strengths to decision making.”

9. Does Everything Happen for a Reason?

“This tendency to see meaning in life events seems to reflect a more general aspect of human nature: our powerful drive to reason in psychological terms, to make sense of events and situations by appealing to goals, desires and intentions. This drive serves us well when we think about the actions of other people, who actually possess these psychological states, because it helps us figure out why people behave as they do and to respond appropriately. But it can lead us into error when we overextend it, causing us to infer psychological states even when none exist. This fosters the illusion that the world itself is full of purpose and design.”

10. To Siri, With Love

“For most of us, Siri is merely a momentary diversion. But for some, it’s more.”

11. Flirting With the Dark Side

“Bereavement and its handmaiden, melancholy, seem to be sharing a moment of late, taking center stage or hovering in the wings of several current museum exhibitions, on television shows and in films, and in fine art and music, lending a whiff of glamour to a topic most people would prefer to ignore.”

12. Prized Souvenirs, Found for Free

“Sprigs of lavender, maps, matchbooks: They’re ordinary. Yet acquiring them in faraway places seems to infuse them with mystery. Suddenly that 2-cent coin was some cosmic affirmation that I was on the right path. Even if I wasn’t, plucking a coin from a sidewalk in heels necessitates slowing down — which is precisely what one must do to savor a spring night in Paris that’s fleeting even as it unfolds.”

13. Steven Pinker’s ‘The Sense of Style’

“The cause of most bad writing, Pinker thinks, is not laziness or sloppiness or overexposure to the Internet and video games, but what he calls the curse of knowledge: the writer’s inability to put himself in the reader’s shoes or to imagine that the reader might not know all that the writer knows — the jargon, the shorthand, the slang, the received wisdom.”

14. Why Are Americans So Fascinated With Extreme Fitness?

“CrossFitters represent just one wave of a fitness sea change, in which well-to-do Americans abandon easy, convenient forms of exercise in favor of workouts grueling enough to resemble a kind of physical atonement. For the most privileged among us, freedom seems to feel oppressive, and oppression feels like freedom.”

15. Why Tell Koko About Robin Williams’s Death?

“The moral question might not be ‘Is it wrong to tell Koko about a human’s suicide if that information will make her sad?’ The moral question might be ‘If we tell Koko about a human’s suicide and her sadness is rational and authentic, what else are we obligated to tell her?’”

16. Streaming Music Has Left Me Adrift

“The digital age has given everyone in America a better music collection than the one I put together over the last 20 years, and in so doing it has leveled us.”

17. When Women Become Men at Wellesley

“Like every other matriculating student at Wellesley, which is just west of Boston, Timothy was raised a girl and checked ‘female’ when he applied. Though he had told his high-school friends that he was transgender, he did not reveal that on his application, in part because his mother helped him with it, and he didn’t want her to know. Besides, he told me, ‘it seemed awkward to write an application essay for a women’s college on why you were not a woman.’ Like many trans students, he chose a women’s college because it seemed safer physically and psychologically.”

18. Nakedness in a Digital Age

“What we call Silicon Valley is a collection of suburbs connected by El Camino Real, the old Spanish highway of the California Mission era. The logic and the allure of the Valley’s digital ‘superhighway’ belong to the postwar American suburban impulse, against the congestion and contest of the city. The loneliness social media aspires to repair is the loneliness of empty streets, Dairy Queens, the loneliness of high school, the loneliness of Mexican gardeners, the loneliness of lawns. The advantage of shopping online, Silicon Valley encourages us to believe, is that one need not contend with bodies, with business hours, with complete sentences. The loneliness social media aspires to repair becomes the loneliness social media creates and exports to the world as ‘connection.’”

19. The Year 2004

Things that didn’t exist:

  • Smartphones
  • Gmail
  • Ben Affleck, film director
  • Locavorism
  • The countries of Serbia, Montenegro, Kosovo and South Sudan
  • YouTube
  • The cloud
  • Honey Boo Boo

20. A Dual Review of What’s New, Starring André 3000 and Fran Lebowitz

“I was vastly entertained that the Internet, which is killing newspapers, now gives you something where you can print out a little newspaper. It’s like a hunting rifle that makes little deer.”

21. Berluti, the Shoemaker’s Shoes

“His job has turned him into a student of masculine insecurity. He has given a boost to short guys who want to be taller, and a little extra toe for tall guys who think their feet look comparatively puny. He knows the lining fetishists: the Japanese clients who want a little flash when they de-shoe at a restaurant in Ginza, the Arabs who need their wingtips to stand out from the pile at the mosque. He has studied the foot bones — metatarsals, phalanges, etc. — and can tell if you play soccer or tennis, if you spend most of your days standing or sitting, if you’re a frequent long-haul flier and will need to account for swelling.”

22. Sisters of the Moon: Stevie Nicks and Haim

“In Stevie Nicks: Visions, Dreams and Rumors, one of two biographies to be released in the United States next year, the author Zoë Howe recounts a conversation between Nicks and Prince in which he tried to get her to write more directly about sex in her lyrics. She retorts, ‘You have to write about sex, so you must not be intrinsically sexy. I don’t have to write about sex because I am intrinsically sexy.’”

23. The Meaning of Life

“Over the last decade, without much fanfare, the core tenets of Buddhism have migrated from the spiritual fringe to become widely accepted techniques for dealing with the challenges of daily life. Feeling overwhelmed? ‘Watch your breath,’ ‘stay present’ and focus on ‘mindful action.’ Grappling with difficult emotions? ‘Seek awareness’ and ‘acceptance.’ Dissatisfied with life? Surely you’ve heard the idea that dissatisfaction is endemic to the human condition. While not always labeled as such, these are, in fact, the key principles of Buddhist teachings. And they couldn’t have come at a better time, when so many Americans are overscheduled, overstimulated and generally in need of anything that might cultivate a sense of internal calm.”

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