Sunday 7.12.2015 New York Times Digest

1. Addicted to Your Phone? There’s Help for That

“New companies see a business opportunity in helping people cut back.”

2. China Fences In Its Nomads, and an Ancient Life Withers

“In the two years since the Chinese government forced him to sell his livestock and move into a squat concrete house here on the windswept Tibetan plateau, Gere and his family have acquired a washing machine, a refrigerator and a color television that beams Mandarin-language historical dramas into their whitewashed living room. But Gere, who like many Tibetans uses a single name, is filled with regret.”

3. Modern Doctors’ House Calls: Skype Chat and Fast Diagnosis

“The same forces that have made instant messaging and video calls part of daily life for many Americans are now shaking up basic medical care. Health systems and insurers are rushing to offer video consultations for routine ailments, convinced they will save money and relieve pressure on overextended primary care systems in cities and rural areas alike. And more people … fluent in Skype and FaceTime and eager for cheaper, more convenient medical care, are trying them out.”

4. In Fiery Speeches, Francis Excoriates Global Capitalism

“Pope Francis does not just criticize the excesses of global capitalism. He compares them to the ‘dung of the devil.’ He does not simply argue that systemic ‘greed for money’ is a bad thing. He calls it a ‘subtle dictatorship’ that ‘condemns and enslaves men and women.’”

5. Why Are Our Parks So White?

“The national parks attracted a record 292.8 million visitors in 2014, but a vast majority were white and aging.”

6. D.I.Y. Education Before YouTube

“For the striving youths of 19th-century America, learning was often a self-driven, year-round process. Devouring books by candlelight and debating issues by bonfire, the young men and women of the so-called ‘go-ahead generation’ worked to educate themselves into a better life.”

7. What Type of Nostalgic ’90s TV Fan Are You? (The Wrong Kind)

“I don’t want to mistake fondness for excellence. It’s like looking at a photo of an old childhood crush and realizing that everything you loved about him was probably stuff you’d made up in your head.”

8. The Sneaky Power of Amy Schumer, in ‘Trainwreck’ and Elsewhere

“By giving selfies and boy bands the same political and comic weight as rape and reproductive rights, Ms. Schumer, 34, has emerged as a feminist hero, able to transform from the butt of her own jokes to a savvy debunker of double standards. Equal parts naughty cheerleader, self-deprecating Everywoman and fearless truth-teller, Ms. Schumer connects with women and men alike, all while she lampoons them and the media’s lopsided portrayals.”

9. Vince Staples and J. Cole, Outsiders in the Middle of Hip-Hop

“Mainstream hip-hop, as understood mainly through the radio, fiercely protects its dominant narrative by suppressing the stories of its most socially provocative artists.”

10. A Eulogy for the Long, Intimate Email

“I can’t remember the last time I wrote or read an email of more than four or five meaty, intimate paragraphs.”

11. Last Stop on the L Train: Detroit

“It is now well-documented that some of Brooklyn’s much-written-about creative class is being driven out of the borough by high prices and low housing stock. Some are going to Los Angeles (or even Queens), but others are migrating to the Midwest, where Detroit’s empty industrial spaces, community-based projects, experimental art scene and innovative design opportunities beckon, despite the city’s continuing challenges.”

12. Middle Passage at 25

“Johnson spent six years immersed in books about the sea: ‘all of Melville (mainly for props, language and costuming); Jack London’s The Sea Wolf; Dana’s marvelous Two Years Before the Mast; Apollonius of Rhodes’s The Voyage of Argo; the Sinbad stories; nautical dictionaries; an academic study of cockney slang (for the voices of the sailors).’”

13. Unstarched Shirt

“The turndown collar is essential to the polo’s presentability. If you doubt the importance of a collar to establishing the overall effect of an outfit, you would be well advised to talk with your tailor. Or your priest. This flap of fabric, so often superfluous to function, frames the face and caps the body, proving essential to tone. Thus is the polo shirt a staple of uniforms everywhere, from parochial schools to fast-food chains. Thus does the tourist in the aqua blue polo cling to his dignity in much the same way that the shirt clings to the fullness of his belly.”

14. The Mixed-Up Brothers of Bogotá

“Arguably the most intriguing branch of twins research involves a small and unusual class of research subjects: identical twins who were reared apart. Thomas Bouchard Jr., a psychologist at the University of Minnesota, began studying them in 1979, when he first learned of Jim and Jim, two Ohio men reunited that year at age 39. They not only looked remarkably similar, but had also vacationed on the same Florida beach, married women with the same first name, divorced those women and married second wives who also shared the same name, smoked the same brand of cigarette and built miniature furniture for fun. Similar in personality as well as in vocal intonation, they seemed to have been wholly formed from conception, impervious to the effects of parenting, siblings or geography. Bouchard went on to research more than 80 identical-­twin pairs reared apart, comparing them with identical twins reared together, fraternal twins reared together and fraternal twins reared apart. He found that in almost every instance, the identical twins, whether reared together or reared apart, were more similar to each other than their fraternal counterparts were for traits like personality and, more controversial, intelligence. One unexpected finding in his research suggested that the effect of a pair’s shared environment — say, their parents — had little bearing on personality. Genes and unique experiences — a semester abroad, an important friend — were more influential.”

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