Sunday 11.16.2014 New York Times Digest

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1. The Death of the Private Eye

“In an age when GPS tracking, oversharing and 8 Signs Your Man Is Cheating listicles make their services unnecessary, the old-school gumshoe feels as irrelevant as Sherlock Holmes and Miss Marple felt a generation before. All P.I. stories are now period pieces.”

2. More Federal Agencies Are Using Undercover Operations

“Undercover work has become common enough that undercover agents sometimes find themselves investigating a supposed criminal who turns out to be someone from a different agency.”

3. No. 1 With a Bullet: ‘Nadeshot’ Becomes a Call of Duty Star

“Three years ago, he was flipping burgers at McDonald’s. Today Mr. Haag, 22, skinny and blindingly pale, makes his living playing Call of Duty, a popular series of war games where players run around trying to shoot one another.”

4. Applications by the Dozen, as Anxious Seniors Hedge College Bets

“10 applications is now commonplace; 20 is taking on a familiar ring; even 30 is not beyond imagining.”

5. How Can Community Colleges Get a Piece of the Billions That Donors Give to Higher Education?

“Educational institutions and services remain the second biggest beneficiaries of philanthropy in the country, after religious organizations, but little of the money flows to community colleges, the mostly public institutions that now enroll 45 percent of the country’s undergraduates, most of them poor or working-class and many of them requiring extensive remedial learning.”

6. Living Out Knicks Dream, Complete With Nightmares

“I think there’s a metaphor between what’s happening with the team and what’s happening in my own life.”

7. Another Widening Gap: The Haves vs. the Have-Mores

“The wealthy now have a wealth gap of their own, as economic gains become more highly concentrated at the very top. As the top one-hundredth of the 1 percent pulls away from the rest of that group, the superrich are leaving the merely very rich behind. That has created two markets in the upper reaches of the economy: one for the haves and one for the have-mores.”

8. Mishandling Rape

“Our strategy for dealing with rape on college campuses has failed abysmally.”

9. When Whites Just Don’t Get It, Part 4

“Centuries of racial subjugation still shape inequity in the 21st century.”

10. The Civil War’s Environmental Impact

“This was an environmental catastrophe of the first magnitude, with effects that endured long after the guns were silenced. It could be argued that they have never ended.”

11. On Smushing Bugs

“It’s impossible even to live and move through this world without killing something.”

12. On Elite Campuses, an Arts Race

“Elite campuses across the country have emerged from the recession riding a multibillion-dollar wave of architecturally ambitious arts facilities, even as community arts programs struggle against public indifference.”

13. Claire Prentice’s ‘Lost Tribe of Coney Island’

“Prentice brings to life a shocking story of exploitation and degradation that should not be forgotten.”

14. ‘Thrown,’ by Kerry Howley

Thrown is compulsively readable, informative, hilarious and partly true. It is also a ferocious dissection of the essence of the spectator.”

15. The Internet and the Mind

“Why do we turn to digital devices to alleviate time pressure and yet blame them for driving it?”

16. What an Uncensored Letter to M.L.K. Reveals

“Today it is almost impossible to imagine the press refusing a juicy story. To a scandal-hungry media, the bedroom practices of our public officials and moral leaders are usually fair game. And a sex scandal is often — though not always — a cheap one-way ticket out of public life. Faced with today’s political environment, perhaps King would have made different decisions in his personal affairs. Perhaps, though, he never would have had the chance to emerge as the public leader he ultimately became.”

17. The Ice-Bucket Racket

“We hate being asked for money, yet we give generously when we are.”

18. Welcome to the Failure Age!

“An age of constant invention naturally begets one of constant failure. The life span of an innovation, in fact, has never been shorter. An African hand ax from 285,000 years ago, for instance, was essentially identical to those made some 250,000 years later. The Sumerians believed that the hoe was invented by a godlike figure named Enlil a few thousand years before Jesus, but a similar tool was being used a thousand years after his death. During the Middle Ages, amid major advances in agriculture, warfare and building technology, the failure loop closed to less than a century. During the Enlightenment and early Industrial Revolution, it was reduced to about a lifetime. By the 20th century, it could be measured in decades. Today, it is best measured in years and, for some products, even less.”

19. Virtual Reality Fails Its Way to Success

“All hail: the Oculus Rift doesn’t make you vomit.”

20. In Defense of Technology

“To believe in progress is not only to believe in the future: It is also to usher in the possibility that the past wasn’t all that. I now feel — and this is a revelation — that my past was an interesting and quite fallow period spent waiting for the Internet. At home, I’ll continue to cause a festival of eye-rolling with my notion that some values were preserved by the low-tech environment, but, more generally speaking, life has just gotten better and better.”

21. Old Books, New Thoughts

“The novel had me lost the entire process. The beginning only revealed itself at the end. Very frustrating to find yourself having to start at the beginning again, but that’s how this writing game is. Rarely anything linear about it. In the end I handed the book to my editor convinced that what I had written was a colossal failure. I spent the next eight months demoralized about the 11 years I had wasted on the book.”

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