Sunday 03.01.2015 New York Times Digest


1. How We Learned to Kill

“The madness of war is that while this system is in place to kill people, it may actually be necessary for the greater good. We live in a dangerous world where killing and torture exist and where the persecution of the weak by the powerful is closer to the norm than the civil society where we get our Starbucks. Ensuring our own safety and the defense of a peaceful world may require training boys and girls to kill, creating technology that allows us to destroy anyone on the planet instantly, dehumanizing large segments of the global population and then claiming there is a moral sanctity in killing. To fathom this system and accept its use for the greater good is to understand that we still live in a state of nature.”

2. Every Second Counts in Bid to Keep Sports Fans

“In a world where attention spans are under duress and where big-screen and small-screen entertainment options are proliferating by the hour, sports are increasingly focused on not only making their formats more compact but on making the most of literally every second.”

3. Out of Trouble, but Criminal Records Keep Men Out of Work

“The share of American men with criminal records — particularly black men — grew rapidly in recent decades as the government pursued aggressive law enforcement strategies, especially against drug crimes. In the aftermath of the Great Recession, those men are having particular trouble finding work.”

4. At Aetna, a C.E.O.’s Management by Mantra

“Aetna is at the vanguard of a movement that is quietly spreading through the business world. Companies like Google offer emotional intelligence courses for employees. General Mills has a meditation room in every building on its corporate campus. And even buttoned-up Wall Street firms like Goldman Sachs and BlackRock are teaching meditation on the job.”

5. The Next Great Migration

“A couple of years ago, leaving a restaurant near the Louvre, I held the door for a black man in a camel overcoat. Only as he passed did I realize it was the rapper Kanye West. Whatever one thinks of him, Mr. West has become the most prominent black American man to pursue his interests outside of America — a valuable model of blackness untethered to geography. What struck me most that night was precisely how much his demeanor resembled that of a college student on study abroad — still thrilled by the heady mix of anonymity and authority over his own identity that James Baldwin once called ‘the sanction, if one can accept it, to become oneself.’”

6. Medicating Women’s Feelings

“Women’s emotionality is a sign of health, not disease; it is a source of power. But we are under constant pressure to restrain our emotional lives. We have been taught to apologize for our tears, to suppress our anger and to fear being called hysterical. The pharmaceutical industry plays on that fear, targeting women in a barrage of advertising on daytime talk shows and in magazines.”

7. Make School a Democracy

“In a report last year, the American Institutes for Research concluded that students who attended so-called deeper learning high schools — which emphasize understanding, not just memorizing, academic content; applying that understanding to novel problems and situations; and developing interpersonal skills and self-control — recorded higher test scores, were more likely to enroll in college and were more adept at collaboration than their peers in conventional schools.”

8. Unexpected Lessons From Fifty Shades of Grey

“When Jacob peeled off his T-shirt after Bella cut her head falling off the motorcycle, the theater shook with shrieks and giggles, registering both the hotness of the scene and its unapologetic silliness. And there was something infectious about the response. It wasn’t that the movie was made for 13-year-old girls, but that it had the power to turn anyone watching it, a middle-aged man very much included, into a 13-year-old girl. This is less a matter of sublime cinematic achievement than of raw communal feeling. And that’s one of the reasons we go to the movies: to lose ourselves. Which is where criticism begins. It’s the reassertion of control over that experience, the disciplining of an intense and frequently chaotic set of responses and emotions.”

9. Johnson’s Barn, a North Dakota Institution, Plans Its Last Dance

“The ’80s were dry. The ’90s were wet. You never know. The dances, though, are stable. And a whole lot of fun.”

10. When Your Punctuation Says It All (!)

“Digital punctuation can carry more weight than traditional writing because it ends up conveying tone, rhythm and attitude rather than grammatical structure.”

11. Not the Usual College Party (This One’s Sober)

“It shouldn’t be that a young person has to choose to either be sober or go to college.”

12. When Did ‘You’re Welcome’ Become a Gloat?

“Why is it that ‘you’re welcome,’ a phrase that is meant to be gracious, is often tinged with gloat? It wasn’t always so double-edged.”

13. The Death and Life of Great American GeoCities

“Animated Text is part of a retro aesthetic renaissance sweeping the Web, one that pays homage to old-school computing systems and software like Windows 95 and Microsoft Paint. Nostalgia certainly plays a part, in the same way it does with collectors of vinyl or old typewriters, and for good reason: This revival is, in many respects, a reaction to the manicured lawns of Facebook and Twitter and a celebration of the earlier, less sterile (and surveilled) environments that people once inhabited and created online.”

14. In Greenbacks We Trust

“Global confidence in the dollar is the greatest example of collective faith in an abstract symbol in human history.”

15. Letter of Recommendation: Turner Classic Movies

“Movies are quick corrections for the fact that we exist in only one place at only one time. (Of course there are circumstances in which being only in one place only at one time is a definition of bliss.) I switch on TCM and find swift transit beyond the confines of my position. Alongside my reality there appears another reality — the world out there and not in here. One objective of melancholy is to block the evidence of a more variegated existence, but a film quickly removes the blockage. It sneaks past the feelings that act as walls.”

16. My Saga, Part 1

“One of my favorite books about the U.S. is Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita, which among many other things is also a kind of road novel. It describes a journey through the small-town world of post-World War II America, where the protagonist, Humbert Humbert, is constantly on the lookout for distractions for his child mistress, and therefore stops at an endless series of attractions, which every single little town seemed to be in possession of. The world’s largest stalagmite, obelisks commemorating battles, a reconstruction of the log cabin where Lincoln was born, the world’s longest cave, the homemade sculptures of a local woman. Humbert’s gaze is European, deeply sophisticated, cultivated and ancient, but also perverted and sick, while the things he observes on the journey across America are superficial, childishly un-self-conscious, ignorant of history, but also innocent and possessed of the freshness of the new. Lolita came out in the U.S. in 1958, one year after another road novel, Jack Kerouac’s On the Road. Oddly enough, the journeys that these two books describe also begin at the same time: Both Humbert and Lolita, and Sal and Dean, hit the American country road in 1947. It would be hard to imagine two more dissimilar fictional landscapes. This is because Kerouac describes it from the inside, with no distance, this is the America he grew up in, and he is so much an integrated part of it that he seems to embody its very soul. It is a young, restless, hungry, open soul. There are no points of contact with that America in Nabokov’s novel, and if you read the two books simultaneously, the reason becomes obvious: In Lolita, all is dissembling, there are only signs, everything stands for something else, and the one and perhaps only thing that is authentic, the child’s reality, is desired from an impossible distance, the breaching of which destroys it completely. In On the Road, nothing stands in the way of the authentic, except the rules of formal life; when they have been overcome, the glittering night opens to anyone who desires to enter it. The naïveté of this is astounding, but so is the power.”

17. Building the First Slavery Museum in America

“A nation builds museums to understand its own history and to have its history understood by others, to create a common space and language to address collectively what is too difficult to process individually. Forty-eight years after World War II, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum opened in Washington. A museum dedicated to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks opened its doors in Lower Manhattan less than 13 years after they occurred. One hundred and fifty years after the end of the Civil War, however, no federally funded museum dedicated to slavery exists, no monument honoring America’s slaves.”

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