Sunday 02.15.2015 New York Times Digest


1. The Epidemic of Facelessness

“Everyone in the digital space is, at one point or another, exposed to online monstrosity, one of the consequences of the uniquely contemporary condition of facelessness.”

2. Museum Rules: Talk Softly, and Carry No Selfie Stick

“One by one, museums across the United States have been imposing bans on using selfie sticks for photographs inside galleries (adding them to existing rules on umbrellas, backpacks, tripods and monopods), yet another example of how controlling overcrowding has become part of the museum mission.”

3. On Tinder, Taking a Swipe at Love, or Sex, or Something, in New York

“There are now about one million Tinder users in New York.”

4. Monopoly’s Inventor: The Progressive Who Didn’t Pass ‘Go’

“Magie filed a legal claim for her Landlord’s Game in 1903, more than three decades before Parker Brothers began manufacturing Monopoly. She actually designed the game as a protest against the big monopolists of her time — people like Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller. She created two sets of rules for her game: an anti-monopolist set in which all were rewarded when wealth was created, and a monopolist set in which the goal was to create monopolies and crush opponents. Her dualistic approach was a teaching tool meant to demonstrate that the first set of rules was morally superior. And yet it was the monopolist version of the game that caught on, with Darrow claiming a version of it as his own and selling it to Parker Brothers.”

5. Let It Snow. There’s Work to Be Done.

“When bad weather hits, workers get more productive.”

6. The Tyranny of the Forced Smile

“Our Protestant work ethic has blended with contemporary notions of self-actualization to create a situation in which we are all expected to whistle like Disney dwarfs.”

7. Leaving Only Footsteps? Think Again

“More and more studies over the last 15 years have found that when we visit the great outdoors, we have much more of an effect than we realize. Even seemingly low-impact activities like hiking, cross-country skiing and bird-watching often affect wildlife, from bighorn sheep to wolves, birds, amphibians and tiny invertebrates, and in subtle ways.”

8. Great! Another Thing to Hate About Ourselves

“Each year brings a new term for an unruly bit of body that women are expected to subdue through diet and exercise.”

9. The First Victims of the First Crusade

“Religious violence seldom limits itself to one target and expands to reach the maximum number of available victims.”

10. Vitamins Hide the Low Quality of Our Food

“Most of the vitamins in our diets are synthetic additions.”

11. A Curious Case of Writer’s Block

“Paul was an old man now. He must have begun working on his dissertation well over a half-century ago. I had heard of professional students before, but this was bizarre.”

12. The Ants, the Honeybees and Me

“The biomass of humans is roughly equal to the biomass of ants on our planet.”

13. The Caligulan Thrill

“The essential dream of our age isn’t conflict; it’s a synthesis, in which the aristocratic thrills of libertinism are somehow preserved but their most exploitative elements are rendered egalitarian and safe.”

14. Why Movie ‘Facts’ Prevail

“Studies show that if you watch a film — even one concerning historical events about which you are informed — your beliefs may be reshaped by ‘facts’ that are not factual.”

15. In Praise of the Cute Animal Video

“Whether compiled on BuzzFeed Animals, Reddit or the Animal Planet site, I self-medicate by looking at everything from a cat toying with a dolphin, a seal climbing onto a sailboat, a porcupine playing with a gloved zookeeper by spinning around like a Cuisinart blade, a baby panda sneezing or a herd of cows drawn from a distant hillside to a man sitting in a lawn chair playing a trombone.”

16. Love in the Time of Binge-Watching

“In modern-day romance, resisting the impulse to binge so that you may watch with a lover is the new equivalent of meeting the parents or sharing a sober kiss.”

17. The Whites, by Richard Price Writing as Harry Brandt

“Many years ago, in a magazine interview, Richard Price (now the author of nine novels, including Clockers and Lush Life) was asked why he devoted so much of his considerable literary talent to crime fiction and film scripts featuring criminals. He responded by saying that when you circle around a murder long enough you get to know a city. I cut that line out of the magazine and taped it above my computer screen. For several years, it presided over what I wrote in my own novels. With that answer, I believed that Price had crystallized what many writers knew and attempted to practice. That is, he considered the crime novel something more than a puzzle and an entertainment; he saw it as societal reflection, documentation and investigation.”

18. What Our Paranoia About Drones Says About Us

“Drones exist in the unlit parking lot of our imaginations, not only because of their history as agents of civilian deaths abroad but also because of something much closer to home. We increasingly glance at one another through a veil of suspicion, doubt and fear.”

19. It’s Buggy Out There

“Pure water does not automatically freeze at 0 degrees Celsius; it will remain liquid to about minus 40 degrees. To freeze at higher temperatures, water needs a seed, or ice nucleus, a tiny particle that acts as a geometric template, aligning water molecules into a highly organized solid crystal.”

20. How One Stupid Tweet Blew Up Justine Sacco’s Life

“In those early days, the collective fury felt righteous, powerful and effective. It felt as if hierarchies were being dismantled, as if justice were being democratized. As time passed, though, I watched these shame campaigns multiply, to the point that they targeted not just powerful institutions and public figures but really anyone perceived to have done something offensive. I also began to marvel at the disconnect between the severity of the crime and the gleeful savagery of the punishment. It almost felt as if shamings were now happening for their own sake, as if they were following a script.”

21. The Stanford Undergraduate and the Mentor

“After sightseeing in Rome, Lonsdale and Clougherty were together in the hotel room they were sharing when she started dressing for evening Mass. Lonsdale came up behind her and kissed her, touching her neck and hair and telling her she was beautiful. She had told him she was a virgin. Both agree they had sex. But what actually went on between them that night, and throughout their yearlong relationship, would become highly contested. After the relationship ended, Clougherty accused Lonsdale of sexual assault. Stanford investigated whether he broke the university’s rule against ‘consensual sexual and romantic relationships’ between students and their mentors and, later, whether he raped her. The findings from the investigations have sparked a war of allegations and interpretations, culminating last month with dueling lawsuits, filled with damaging accusations. This case, which has been picked up by the media, does not fit neatly into the narratives that have fueled an ongoing national conversation about sexual assault of students on campus. But it exposes the risks of Stanford’s open door to Silicon Valley and the pressure that universities are under to do more for students who say they’ve been raped. It also reveals the complexity of trying to determine the truth in a high-stakes case like this one.”

22. The Post-Trend Universe

“The ability to find styles that actually suit one’s body and personality is cause for celebration, offering women so many more forms of self-expression. In the past, trends allowed every part of the fashion business to get a piece of the action. Department stores could sell their beloved ‘hot items,’ magazines could assert their authority over readers and manufacturers could produce endless knock-offs. This might have been great for business, but less so for the consumer. Now, though, every brand, and every media outlet, is focused on creating its own universe, ostensibly for the people who want its products or to buy into a point of view. As popular as fashion is today, running on a mixture of media platforms, the information is usually too diffuse. That’s why branding is so dominant; it helps establish corporate identities — boundaries, really — but branding also functions as a filter for many consumers.”

23. Permanent Midnight

“Nine years ago, after the skin on her face reacted to her computer screen, to fluorescent lights and then to the sun, Lyndsey was diagnosed with photosensitive seborrhoeic dermatitis, in its usual form a well-recognized skin complaint. This later developed into a chronic and severe reaction over her entire body. When her skin meets light, even through protective clothing, it burns. Not a ripped-off wax-strip burn but a blowtorch burn (her metaphor). The extremity of the reaction means she barely leaves her small house in Hampshire…. She spends her days in a blacked-out room, building up pockets of resistance which allow her out for a brief walk, before dawn or after sunset.”

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