Sunday 04.12.2015 New York Times Digest


1. Unequal, Yet Happy

“There’s no longer any one way to keep up with the Joneses. If the Joneses drive a BMW 3 Series, you can compete by buying a BMW 4 Series. But if the Joneses drive a minivan, you can drive a sport utility vehicle to rebel against their staid domesticity. (This is what happened in the 1990s, when suburbanites embraced the S.U.V. as a symbol of fun and adventure.) And if the Joneses drive an S.U.V., you can drive a Prius, or forgo a car altogether — as a sign that you embrace a green lifestyle.”

2. For Drinking Water in Drought, California Looks Warily to Sea

“The rising interest in desalination is not simply a matter of desperation, though that is certainly a factor in states with growing populations and few obvious sources of new water. Advocates say the technology has improved markedly over the past 20 years. While the water can cost twice as much as conventionally treated water, it is still less than a penny a gallon, and that is starting to look tolerable in parched regions.”

3. House That Wouldn’t Budge (or Float Away) Faces a Last Stand

“We want to help them understand that modernism is not always the best thing, that playing with the iPad is not always the best thing — that there are values to think about.”

4. Her Stinging Critiques Propel Young Adult Best Sellers

“Whenever I get a letter from her, I go through this mourning process. The first day, I rage all day. The second day, the tears set in, and I say she’s right, and I’m a terrible writer. The third day I say I’m not a terrible writer, but I can’t write this book. The fourth day, I get to work.”

5. Married, With Roommates

“If we were in Iowa, it would be weird.”

6. The Moral Bucket List

“It occurred to me that there were two sets of virtues, the résumé virtues and the eulogy virtues. The résumé virtues are the skills you bring to the marketplace. The eulogy virtues are the ones that are talked about at your funeral — whether you were kind, brave, honest or faithful. Were you capable of deep love?”

7. Best, Brightest — and Saddest?

“We are not teenagers. We are lifeless bodies in a system that breeds competition, hatred, and discourages teamwork and genuine learning.”

8. Where Are the Teachers of Color?

“Minority students have become a majority in public schools. Yet the proportion of teachers who are racial minorities has not kept up: More than 80 percent of teachers are white.”

9. My Unveiling Ceremony

“To write about the hijab is to step into a minefield. Even among those who share my cultural and faith background, opinions veer from those who despise it as a symbol of backwardness to those for whom religion begins and ends with that piece of cloth. And while a majority of women in Egypt today are veiled, that hasn’t always been the case: The pendulum swings.”

10. Andy Warhol as a Guide to Trade

“Warhol believed that defeating this cognitive bias led to greater appreciation of beauty. It also leads to better public policy, especially in relieving poverty. For example, while our attention is naturally drawn to the latest fascinating and expensive innovations in tropical public health, many experts insist it is cheap, boring mosquito bed nets that best protect against malaria. Despite their lifesaving utility, these boring nets tend to be chronically underprovided.”

11. The Dangerous Myth of Appomattox

“Southern soldiers continued to fight as insurgents, terrorizing blacks across the region. One congressman estimated that 50,000 African-Americans were murdered by white Southerners in the first quarter-century after emancipation.”

12. Do Assassins Really Change History?

“Since 1950, a national leader was assassinated in almost two out of every three years.”

13. No One to Meet? How About a Tweetup?

“Is everyone really worth meeting? Here’s one way to find out: Next time you are alone in a strange city, post an open invitation on Twitter and see who shows up.”

14. Paul Beatty’s The Sellout

“A member of the father’s group, the Dum Dum Donut Intellectuals, has rewritten a version of Huck Finn in which he has replaced ‘the repugnant “N-word”’ with ‘warrior’ and ‘slave’ with ‘dark-skinned volunteer.’ The retitled book is ‘The ­Pejorative-Free Adventures and ­Intellectual and Spiritual Journeys of African-American Jim and His Young Protégé, White Brother Huckleberry Finn, as They Go in Search of the Lost Black Family Unit.’”

15. Is There Anything One Should Feel Ashamed of Reading?

“Harold Bloom is coming to dinner, so you hide your copy of The Da Vinci Code. That’s no good. That’s hierarchical shame, top-down shame, a reflexive cringe before a perceived superior, and you should reject it absolutely. Bring out your whole beloved Dan Brown collection — Angels and Demons, The Lost Symbol, Inferno — pile it defiantly on the kitchen table, put The Da Vinci Code on top, and if Professor Bloom raises a highbrow eyebrow, if he so much as sniffs, throw him out of the house. Show him the door, and as he blunders off into the outer darkness, stand on your porch reading loudly from one of the great passages: ‘The days of the goddess were over. The pendulum had swung. Mother Earth had become a man’s world, and the gods of destruction and war were taking their toll!’”

16. Film School, for Profit or Not

“The rapidly shifting film school landscape has led to what a business professor might refer to as marketplace confusion. Never have the film school options been so many, and never has there been greater bewilderment about where to go — or whether to go at all. ‘You practically need a degree just to sort through it,’ said Reed Martin, author of The Reel Truth, a guide for aspiring filmmakers.”

17. The Hackathon Fast Track, From Campus to Silicon Valley

“Hackathons have become commonplace among professional developers, especially in booming tech centers like San Francisco and New York, and have emerged as prime places for networking, job recruiting, entrepreneurial pitching and, in many cases, winning cash. (One sponsored by the tech company Salesforce famously offered a $1 million prize to the most innovative project.) Now weekend hackathons organized by and for students are surging in size, scale and frequency.”

18. M.B.A. Programs That Get You Where You Want to Go

“The smartest move might be to choose your business school by focusing on a very specific outcome and, assuming a good fit personally, going to the one with an impressive record of helping students achieve the same.”

19. Can You Learn to Lead?

“For much of the 20th century, the paragons of business education promised to create not leaders but managers, those economic actors whose emergence came about at the dawn of the mega-corporations, and whose power increased alongside them. The manager was the noble steward of the American economy, and would be so until the 1970s, when the nation turned on its management elite in the midst of a recession and accused it of negligence. Caught flat-footed selling a title, ‘manager,’ that had lost its social cachet, the ivory towers of business scrambled to find a new pitch. And they found it in leadership.”

20. First-Generation Students Unite

“What happens when students from undereducated families matriculate at the biggest brand names in higher education?”

21. Why Writers Love to Hate the M.F.A.

“With so many highly tutored creative writers already out there, is success possible without the instruction and literary connections that are cultivated in M.F.A. programs and that a volatile publishing industry — now evolved around program graduates and sensibilities — has come to look for and expect?”

22. Letter of Recommendation: The Gnostic Scriptures

“The Gnostic scriptures, an amorphous set of beautifully and transgressively alternative Christianities — left out of, or never considered part of, the biblical canon, and composed primarily between the second and fourth centuries — tell these parables as most have never heard them. In fact, they rearrange their every element. Jesus is a particularly mercurial character here. He may take the form of Eden’s serpent or embody the tree of knowledge. Sometimes he is a man without also being God; at other times he is a divinity impervious to the physical and psychic agonies of crucifixion, laughing at the ignorance of his would-be murderers. In some versions, he fools the Romans into tormenting someone else. In one beautiful Coptic hymn, he digs out a river channel in the stars, so that variously cargoed souls may come sailing like boats toward judgment. In another, he rescues his ‘beautiful daughter’ from a lion’s pit.”

23. How to Beat a Polygraph Test

“The first step is not to be intimidated.”

24. The Radical Vision of Toni Morrison

“She marveled at the ways of being that people have let go of, that mystify her. When she found out that I had never slept on ironed sheets, her mouth hit the floor. ‘Do you make your bed every morning?’ Rarely, I said. ‘Well, how do you get in it?’ she asked. ‘I don’t know, I just straighten the duvet and get sort of comfortable in the tangle and climb in.’ She groaned. I told her that my mother said there was nothing in the world like ironed sheets. ‘Your mother is right,’ she said. ‘There is nothing in the world like ironed sheets.’ She remembered a trip down South, when her host put her sheets out to dry on the jasmine bush — or was it a frangipani tree — and then ironed them. ‘Oh,’ she said, inhaling deeply as if the sheets were still in her hands, ‘it was a sleep like no other. I’ve never had anything like it since.’”

25. Iris Apfel Doesn’t Do Normcore

“Style has nothing to do with how much you spend on your clothes. The most stylish people I’ve seen in my life were in Naples right after the Second World War. They were all practically in tatters. But the way they threw themselves together and carried themselves, they really looked like a squillion dollars.”

26. The Agony and the Ecstasy of Kanye West

“‘I have this table in my new house,’ West said, offering a parable. ‘They put this table in without asking. It was some weird nouveau riche marble table, and I hated it. But it was literally so heavy that it took a crane to move it. We would try to set up different things around it, but it never really worked. I realized that table was my ego. No matter what you put around it, under it, no matter who photographed it, the douchebaggery would always come through.’”

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