Sunday 8.9.2015 New York Times Digest

North Dakota
1. In North Dakota, Boom, Bust and Oil

“People have been drawn to North Dakota for strange reasons at least since Lewis and Clark’s time.”

2. Twisting Words to Make ‘Sharing’ Apps Seem Selfless

“What I find problematic is the terminology itself and how it frames technology-enabled transactions as if they were altruistic or community endeavors.”

3. At Sea With Joseph Conrad

“He recognized that technological progress, for all its much-heralded benefits, comes with social and ethical costs. To operate a sailing ship was to master a ‘craft.’ You had to observe and interpret nature, adapt and react to fast-changing conditions, obey without question, decide without doubt, toil without pause. The craft connotes more than a clutch of skills; it is a code for how to live. It turns a sailing ship into a ‘fellowship,’ a community forged by shared values.”

4. A Prudent College Path

“More and more public schools are starting, expanding, refining and successfully promoting honors programs, and particularly honors colleges, that give students some of the virtues and perks of private schools without some of the drawbacks, such as exorbitant tuition and an enclave of extreme privilege.”

5. Jon Stewart, Patron Saint of Liberal Smugness

“Liberals turn out to be just as prone to their own forms of intolerance, ignorance and bias. But the beliefs are comforting to many. They give their bearers a sense of intellectual and even moral superiority. And they affect behavior. They inform the condescension and self-righteousness with which liberals often treat conservatives.”

6. What Selfie Sticks Really Tell Us About Ourselves

“The basic need to be acknowledged, or even adored, is perhaps why so many have become their own Hollywood directors, attaching cameras to sticks and sometimes drones to enhance the production value of their lives. The recent selfie-stick bans have been interpreted by some who study the selfie phenomenon as more a cultural movement in favor of authenticity and self-possession than the elimination of an annoyance or possible safety threat.”

7. Capitalists, Arise: We Need to Deal With Income Inequality

“We are creating a caste system from which it’s almost impossible to escape, except for the few with exceptional brains, athletic skills or luck. That’s why I’m scared. We risk losing the capitalist engine that brought us great economic success and our way of life.”

8. The Great Victorian Weather Wars

“Religious men doubted whether anyone could pretend to know the mind of God, while scientists attacked the admiral’s lack of theory and penny-pinching members of Parliament complained about the cost of telegraphy. He struggled with the diplomatic challenge of securing data from rival powers like France, and with the inevitable, sometimes costly failures of his weather forecasting. The burden became too much. Depressed and ailing, on April 30, 1865, he locked himself in his dressing room and cut his throat with a razor.”

9. An N.W.A. Biopic Heads Straight Into Mainstream

“If hip-hop was still primarily an underdog story, this would be understandable, but the genre is at the center of pop culture, both commercially and aesthetically. It’s minted several generations of stars. Film is maybe the last place it’s infantilized.”

10. Do You Have Change for a Bowie? The Advent of Artisanal Cash

“As Bitcoin, PayPal and other electronic forms of payment grow in popularity in the global economy, cash in a growing number of places — not only Bristol and Brixton, but also Amsterdam; Ithaca, N.Y.; and elsewhere — is becoming quite literally an artisanal object.”

11. A Master’s Degree in … Masculinity?

“You’ve heard of women’s studies, right? Well, this is men’s studies: the academic pursuit of what it means to be male in today’s world. Dr. Kimmel is the founder and director of the Center for the Study of Men and Masculinities at Stony Brook University, part of the State University of New York system, which will soon start the first master’s degree program in ‘masculinities studies.’”

12. I’m Too Old for This

“One day recently I emptied out an old trunk. It had been locked for years; I had lost the key and forgotten what was in there. But, curiosity getting the best of me on a rainy afternoon, I managed to pry it open with a screwdriver. It was full of photographs. There I was, ages 4 to 40. And I saw for the first time that even when I was in the depths of despair about my looks, I had been beautiful.”

13. What It’s Really Like to Be an Airline Pilot

“Air is the medium and we’re dealing with it in so many technical ways. So where there are breaks in that cocoon-ness, like where the jetway bridge meets the plane, we often get this blast of heat, as we did today getting off the 747, or Chicago cold. To me, it’s kind of this nice reminder of what it is we’re actually moving through. Often, you get a smell of the city. In Boston, you can really smell the harbor sometimes. Even before you land sometimes you can get a little bit of a smell of salt in the air.”

14. Can a Virtuous Character Be Interesting?

“Being good is to feel far more at odds with the world than being bad does.”

15. The Tough Love of ‘Austerity’

“‘Austerity’ has become the catchall word for the cost-cutting a government enacts in order to balance its books: Cut pensions, cut the public payroll, cut social services — cut whatever and wherever. Shrink spending, shrink debt, shrink deficits. The idea is to inspire confidence and make the place more attractive to investors, who prefer a government that’s tough and lean to one that’s marbled and tender.”

16. He’s Got Legs

“The most rigorous rebuttals of the anti-shorts view emanate from the archives of the Men’s Dress Reform Party, a flock of odd ducks active in Britain between 1929 and 1937. Following the example of feminists like Amelia ­Bloomer, whose name graced the trousers that freed suffragists from corsetry and heavy skirts, the group sought to rescue men’s clothing from the ‘rut of ugliness and unhealthiness’ into which they felt it had sunk. The party preferred open-necked shirts to stiff collars, sandals to shoes and anything to a frock coat. Skeptical of long trousers, it promoted shorts (and kilts) as instruments of physical and moral hygiene.”

17. How to Project Power

“Don’t bother overexplaining yourself. Speak succinctly. Take ownership of the space around you, whether it’s a boardroom or a cubicle. ‘Say to yourself: “This is my room. This is my table. This is my audience,”’ Gruenfeld says. Most people, women especially, tend to underestimate their standing and worry about being pushy and bossy long before others perceive that to be the case.”

18. Out of the Woods

“In 1979, a gay rights activist, communist and Angeleno named Harry Hay — a founder of a neo-­pagan countercultural movement called the Radical Faeries — urged gay men to ‘throw off the ugly green frog skin of hetero-imitation.’ Instead of fighting for the rights that straights had, like marriage and adoption, the faeries believed that to be gay was to possess a unique nature and a special destiny apart from straight people, and that this destiny would reach its full flowering in the wilds of rural America. So it was perhaps fitting that the faeries began to refer to their secluded outposts as sanctuaries. There are more than a dozen loosely affiliated sanctuaries across three continents today, but in the same year that Hay made his pronouncement, the mother ship of the faeries landed on Short Mountain, one of the tallest points in Middle Tennessee. It remains home to what is almost certainly the largest, oldest, best known and most visited planned community for lesbian, gay and transgender people in the country, a place that one local described to me as a veritable Gayberry, U.S.A.”

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