Sunday 05.10.2015 New York Times Digest


1. Tell-Tale Signs of the Modern-Day Yuppie

“Three decades ago, the yuppie was viewed as a self-interested alien invader in an America that had experienced a solid 20 years of radical activism and meaningful progress in civil rights and women’s liberation. A generation and a half later, we have so deeply internalized the values of the yuppie that we have ceased to notice when one is in our midst — or when we have become one ourselves.”

2. The Price of Nice Nails

“Nail salons are governed by their own rituals and mores, a hidden world behind the glass exteriors and cute corner shops. In it, a rigid racial and ethnic caste system reigns in modern-day New York City, dictating not only pay but also how workers are treated.”

3. Mom: The Designated Worrier

“Sociologists sometimes call the management of familial duties ‘worry work,’ and the person who does it the ‘designated worrier,’ because you need large reserves of emotional energy to stay on top of it all.”

4. Invite Some Germs to Dinner

“Some experts wonder if we’ve reached a point of diminishing returns in food safety — whether our food could perhaps be too clean.”

5. When Humans Declared War on Fish

“World War II brought a leap in human ingenuity, power and technical ability that led to an unprecedented assault on our oceans. Not only did ships themselves become larger, faster and more numerous, but the war-derived technologies they carried exponentially increased their fishing power.”

6. See Death as a Triumph, Not a Failure

“What I came to realize was that the Victorians cared about the mortal body; its very mortality mattered profoundly to them. Today we try to deny the body’s movement toward death, its inevitable decay. The Victorians, instead of fearing the process of dying and the corpse, felt reverence. These were stages in the life of a beloved body and should be treasured.”

7. The Real Problem With America’s Inner Cities

“The real problem we now face: on one hand, a vicious tangle of concentrated poverty, disconnected youth and a culture of violence among a small but destructive minority in the inner cities; and, on the other hand, of out-of-control law-enforcement practices abetted by a police culture that prioritizes racial profiling and violent constraint.”

8. The Plagiarism Jitters

“My fear is not that I will knowingly borrow narrative and get caught — my fear is that a sticky sentence or apt aphorism will be caught up in my least attentive literary browsing, and I will find it all too readily as I search to complete my own thoughts.”

9. Frida Kahlo Is Having a Moment

“There is little doubt Kahlo continues to exist as a potent figure of myth.”

10. The Wright Brothers, by David McCullough

“There is no fortuity in the Wright brothers’ saga as related by McCullough, no unexpected events that changed their course. Except for Orville’s startling emergence from a horrible wreck during one of his flights, there’s not even any luck. Neither brother attended college, nor had been trained in physics or engineering, yet each step they took was not only correct but in many cases brilliant, and in nearly all cases original. That every one of those steps was also achieved through excruciating patience and obsessive attention to detail does not diminish the only word that can express what Wilbur, particularly, possessed: genius.”

11. Freedom of Speech, by David K. Shipler

“Parents are rumbling with teachers and administrators over which novels get assigned in class; federal prosecutors are muzzling whistle-blowers and journalists; a theater faces defunding for its edgy political work; on the Internet, bigots are testing our free speech principles; and across the nation, activists fear that the Citizens United decision will allow the moneyed to smother free speech with television commercials.”

12. What Hollywood Can Teach Us About the Future of Work

“This approach to business is sometimes called the ‘Hollywood model.’ A project is identified; a team is assembled; it works together for precisely as long as is needed to complete the task; then the team disbands. This short-­term, project-­based business structure is an alternative to the corporate model, in which capital is spent up front to build a business, which then hires workers for long-­term, open-­ended jobs that can last for years, even a lifetime. It’s also distinct from the Uber-­style ‘gig economy,’ which is designed to take care of extremely short-­term tasks, manageable by one person, typically in less than a day.”

13. Letter of Recommendation: ‘X Minus One’

“At its worst, ‘X Minus One’ is dated drama told well, but its better episodes have matured into half-hour exercises in a peculiar and intoxicating form of temporal eavesdropping. They let us watch, with great ease and clarity, people who are straining much harder to see us. Usually they’re looking just slightly off to the side. Sometimes they’re looking the wrong way entirely. But occasionally, in the show’s most thrillingly prescient moments, it’s as if they were staring straight at us.”

14. Where Would the Kardashians Be Without Kris Jenner?

“There are still people who dismiss Kris Jenner, 59, and her family — Kourtney, Kim and Khloé Kardashian, all in their 30s; her son, Rob Kardashian, 28; and Kendall and Kylie Jenner, 19 and 17 — as ‘famous for being famous,’ a silly reality-show family creating a contrived spectacle. But we have reached the point at which the Jenners and the Kardashians are not famous for being famous: They are famous for the industry that they’ve created, the Kardashian/Jenner megacomplex, which has not just invaded the culture but metastasized into it, with the family members emerging as legitimate businesspeople and Kris the mother-leader of them all.”

15. ‘Our Demand Is Simple: Stop Killing Us’

“Their innovation has been to marry the strengths of social media — the swift, morally blunt consensus that can be created by hashtags; the personal connection that a charismatic online persona can make with followers; the broad networks that allow for the easy distribution of documentary photos and videos — with an effort to quickly mobilize protests in each new city where a police shooting occurs.”

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