Sunday 1.25.2015 New York Times Digest

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1. Instagram’s Graveyard Shift

“This is the ghost world of #graveyardshift (#nightshift’s sister hashtag), whose workers file into Instagram every evening. These pictures may be clever or maudlin, silly or harrowing or sad. ‘Desperate’ is a word that comes to mind, but so does ‘resigned.’ And even ‘resistance.’ Sometimes it’s in the form of a gag, a ridiculous pose; sometimes it’s in the form of a gaze so steady that it seems to warm the fluorescent panels framing so many of these pictures. The hashtag itself is a form of solidarity.”

2. A Quiet Revolution in Helping Lift the Burden of Student Debt

“A couple of little-noticed legislative tweaks to a small, obscure loan repayment program — revisions made under two very different presidents — appear to have created the conditions for far-reaching changes in how a college education is bought and paid for.”

3. Your College May Be Banking on Your Facebook Likes

“EverTrue enables educational institutions to parse the social media activities of their graduates.”

4. Searching for Sex

“Men make more searches asking how to make their penises bigger than how to tune a guitar, make an omelet or change a tire.”

5. The Secrets of Street Names and Home Values

“Street names tell stories. They tell us if a neighborhood is expensive or affordable, brand-new or decades old. With street names alone, we can uncover all kinds of insights.”

6. How Auschwitz Is Misunderstood

“In Rwanda in 1994, the Hutu perpetrators killed 800,000 Tutsi at a more intensive daily rate than the Germans did the Jews, using only the most primitive technological means, mainly machetes, knives and clubs.”

7. This Is Your Grandmother

“I’d begun to save each of her messages on my cellphone until I got the next, having realized that any message could be the last. She was in the early stages of dementia, and when I answered or called her back, she was often too tired to talk, so these messages became our conversation.”

8. What’s Worse Than Sad

“We trivialize what we wish to make truly important.”

9. Is Your Data Safe at Healthcare.gov?

“The health insurance site has been sharing user data — possibly including characteristics like users’ age and income, as well as whether they’re pregnant — with companies like Google, Twitter and Facebook.”

10. The League, a Dating App for Would-Be Power Couples

“Users are shown only five potential matches a day. If they don’t connect with any, they have to wait until tomorrow’s batch is served. If Tinder is a superstore for mate-shopping, the League, with its tiny pool and selective criteria for entry, is a boutique.”

11. Reeling Through Life and Silver Screen Fiend

“Returning from the ‘briny darkness’ of the New Beverly each night, he logs every film dutifully in one of five reference books, before haring across town to do stand-up at the Largo, waking up bleary-eyed the next morning to scratch out gags fitfully for ‘MADtv.’ ‘I look back … and I’m amazed I didn’t kill anyone,’ he writes. ‘Does anyone act more like an overserious senior citizen with time running out on their chance for immortality than someone in their 20s?’”

12. Once Upon a Time, by Marina Warner

“The Grimm brothers’ collection is the most translated book after the Bible and the Quran, clocking in at 160 languages.”

13. Somebody’s Watching Us

“For nearly 30 years, the legend goes, he wrote the best books for the best publisher, won the best prizes and taught in the best city.”

14. Which Literary Figure Is Overdue for a Biography?

“Here is a crash course in Murray: He was the author of a memoir, four novels, several books about the blues that are at once scholarly and down-homey, and a few volumes of cultural criticism. Ah, yes, and a collection of poetry that includes a poem about William Faulkner I’d dare anyone to top. Ralph Ellison was a dear friend of his. The painter Romare Bearden was a friend, too. Murray and Bearden entered into an artistic collaboration that yielded Bearden’s series The Block, inspired by the view from Murray’s balcony in Harlem. Murray hung out with James Baldwin in Paris in the 1950s. He was the co-writer of Count Basie’s autobiography. The National Book Critics Circle gave him a lifetime achievement award in 1997. Duke Ellington called him ‘the unsquarest man I know.’ During his college days, he spent a night at Ma Rainey’s house; in his memoir, South to a Very Old Place, he describes sleeping in her ‘red-velvet-draped, tenderloin-gothic, incense-sultry sickroom.’”

15. The Case for Legalized Gambling on Sports

“Gamblers are always looking for an edge and, at any level of play, basketball is a relatively easy game to corrupt. Each team has only five players on the court, and teams score dozens of times a game. It takes just one deliberate underperformer to tilt the contest in a way that isn’t possible in most other team sports. (Scoring in baseball and football, by contrast, is much more contingent on how the team performs as a whole.)”

16. The Orthodox Sex Guru

“How widespread sexual aversion is among ultra-Orthodox women is impossible to say, and the question is made especially difficult because there is a host of movements and sects with varying statutes and customs. But there is an erotic ideal that all these cultures share. After a young woman marries — often, like the Satmar wife Marcus told me about, to a man she has met and spoken with only once before the wedding — she’s supposed to feel that sex is a blessing, a union full of Shekinah, of God’s light, not just a painful or repellent reproductive chore. Quietly, rabbis refer struggling wives to Marcus’s care. Her task is to instill desire in them.”

17. The Megyn Kelly Moment

“For those unfamiliar with the phenomenon, a Megyn moment, as I have taken to calling it, is when you, a Fox guest — maybe a regular guest or even an official contributor — are pursuing a line of argument that seems perfectly congruent with the Fox worldview, only to have Kelly seize on some part of it and call it out as nonsense, maybe even turn it back on you. You don’t always know when, how or even if the Megyn moment will happen; Kelly’s political sensibility and choice of subjects are generally in keeping with that of the network at large. But you always have to be ready for it, no matter who you are.”

18. Why Is India So Crazy for World Records?

“Har Parkash, a 72-year-old man from New Delhi, covered his body in 366 flag tattoos, chugged a bottle of ketchup in under 40 seconds, adopted his 61-year-old brother-in-law and set several other records and then, for good measure, changed his name to Guinness Rishi, his life and identity swallowed up by his obsession.”

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