Sunday 12.07.2014 New York Times Digest

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1. Detroit by Air

“You can learn a lot about a place by seeing it from the air.”

2. How Wall Street Bent Steel

“The chain of events that’s put everyone in Canton, Ohio, on edge, from steelworkers and machine tool makers to the school superintendent and, above all, the scion who runs this small city’s biggest company, started with a few keystrokes 2,400 miles away in a bland suburban office building in San Diego.”

3. Looking for the Effects of the Black Friday Boycott

“The question certainly seems worth asking.”

4. How Technology Could Help Fight Income Inequality

“Perhaps the sharing economy can make it easier to live in much smaller spaces and rent needed items, rather than store them in a house or apartment. That would enable lower-income people to live closer to higher-paying urban jobs and at lower cost.”

5. Cleaning Up With Falcons

“I work with falcons to rid areas of gulls and other birds that pose a danger or environmental threat at places like airports and landfills.”

6. Los Angeles, City of Water

“The city now consumes less water than it did in 1970, while its population has grown by more than a third, to 3.9 million people from 2.8 million.”

7. When Talking About Bias Backfires

“The assumption is that when people realize that biases are widespread, they will be more likely to overcome them. But new research suggests that if we’re not careful, making people aware of bias can backfire, leading them to discriminate more rather than less.”

8. Why Save a Language?

“Experiments do show that a language can have a fascinating effect on how its speakers think. Russian speakers are on average 124 milliseconds faster than English speakers at identifying when dark blue shades into light blue. A French person is a tad more likely than an Anglophone to imagine a table as having a high voice if it were a cartoon character, because the word is marked as feminine in his language.”

9. Viscerally Facing Up to Ferguson

“In a year when racial issues roiled the country and popular music largely kept its eyes averted, these were brutal, vital, meaningful moments, unvarnished snatches of raw feeling.”

10. In Los Angeles, a Nimby Battle Pits Millionaires vs. Billionaires

“Why are people building houses the size of shopping malls? Because they can.”

11. The Lives of Millennial Career Jugglers

“Unlike the legions of Americans who work several jobs out of necessity, these young people elect to stretch themselves thin. While one job usually pays the bills, another gig provides a more creative outlet. More than hobbyists, these career jugglers consider their cocktail of roles essential to their well-being and dismiss the notion that they ought to focus on one thing for the rest of their adult lives as boring and antiquated.”

12. The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere

“A lifelong traveler who’s been ‘crossing continents alone since the age of 9,’ a man who has always found ‘delight in movement,’ Iyer pauses to consider the prospect that going nowhere is ‘the grand adventure that makes sense of everywhere else.’ He is traveler enough to know that ‘every time I take a trip, the experience acquires meaning and grows deeper only after I get back home and, sitting still, begin to convert the sights I’ve seen into lasting insights.’”

13. ‘The Image of the Black in Western Art’

“This latest and perhaps last volume — subdivided into two parts, ‘The Impact of Africa’ and ‘The Rise of Black Artists’ — redirects the underlying colonialist, Eurocentric framing of the previous four volumes. The co-editors, David Bindman and Henry Louis Gates Jr., bring focus to black artists globally as makers of their own art and imagery, rather than solely the subjects of others’ fantasies and fascination.”

14. Fragrant, by Mandy Aftel

“Ephemeral and most often invisible, scent is difficult to articulate, and yet it’s inextricably part of our sensory vocabulary. In writing about it, Aftel chooses to be selective rather than all-encompassing. She divides her book into five distinct profiles that represent what she sees as key narratives in the universe of scent: cinnamon, mint, frankincense, ambergris and jasmine.”

15. Wilde in America, by David M. Friedman

“Without Wilde’s aptitude for self-promotion, there might have been no Andy Warhol, no Paris Hilton, no Kim Kardashian. In his new biography of the Irish playwright, novelist and provocateur, Wilde in America, the journalist and cultural historian David M. Friedman argues that Wilde was among the very first to realize that celebrity could come before accomplishment.”

16. Hunting for the Origins of Symbolic Thought

“Like so much that makes us human, symbolism appears to have emerged early on in Africa and spread from there.”

17. A Survey Course in Campus Ethics

“Adult students attending school in a foreign country must assume (and accept) that they will face certain challenges. But if your school recruited these students and assured them that such complications would be addressed — and particularly if they were told the language barrier would not limit their academic pursuits — then it’s consciously doing something damaging: It’s taking money from people who will get almost nothing in return, it’s fabricating an illusion of diversity and it’s potentially wrecking the lives of naïve students who will spend an academic year alienated and confused.”

18. Cyrus Vance Jr.’s ‘Moneyball’ Approach to Crime

“The tool is data; the benefit, public safety and justice — whom are we going to put in jail? If you have 10 guys dealing drugs, which one do you focus on? The assistant district attorneys know the rap sheets, they have the police statements like before, but now they know if you lift the left sleeve you’ll find a gang tattoo and if you look you’ll see a scar where the defendant was once shot in the ankle. Some of the defendants are often surprised we know so much about them.”

19. The Real-Life Addams Family

“The dark side of humanity is so dark that nobody can really confront it. That’s why Dante came up with nine circles of hell.”

20. Creature Comforts: The Vermont Country Store Catalog

“Henry James identified ‘two kinds of taste in the appreciation of imaginative literature: the taste for emotions of surprise and the taste for emotions of recognition.’ To trip through the Vermont Country Store catalog or to stroll through its website is to indulge in both. Though many of the Vermont Country Store’s goods are anachronistic (Postum coffee alternative, Princess phones), they aren’t sentimentalized. The company functions like a general store, a place that traffics in Yankee pragmatism, familiarity and the occasional novelty, not performative schmaltz or stylized bathos.”

21. The Knowledge, London’s Legendary Taxi-Driver Test, Puts Up a Fight in the Age of GPS

“It has been called the hardest test, of any kind, in the world. Its rigors have been likened to those required to earn a degree in law or medicine. It is without question a unique intellectual, psychological and physical ordeal, demanding unnumbered thousands of hours of immersive study, as would-be cabbies undertake the task of committing to memory the entirety of London, and demonstrating that mastery through a progressively more difficult sequence of oral examinations — a process which, on average, takes four years to complete, and for some, much longer than that.”

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