Sunday 8.23.2015 New York Times Digest

Luc Sante's Desk
1. The Writer’s Room

“Under the canopy of a tree, near a closet full of sweets, with the ghost of a famous painter, six authors on the spaces where they work.”

2. To Gain a Student, Eliminate a Form

“The widely despised form known as the Fafsa (which stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is unnecessary.”

3. Dinner and Deception

“You experience a special rush when your job is to project an aura of warmth and hospitality while maintaining an almost clinical emotional distance. It’s the thrill of the con.”

4. Living in the Ring of Fire

“The larger question, from Seattle to Sagamore Hill, is how we fit disaster into our daily lives — a pact with the known unknown. There is no such thing as a safe place on this earth. More than 90 percent of Americans live in an area with at least a moderate risk of tornadoes, or wildfires, or hurricanes, or floods, or earthquakes. Not to mention the larger threat of climate change, exacerbating most of the above.”

5. The Antiheroes Wear Stetsons and Ride Tall on a Rebellion Frontier

“From the advent of the Cold War to the fall of Saigon, no American movie genre was more relevant than the western, with its allegorical echoes of race, crime, conquest and American exceptionalism.”

6. The Shape of the New, by Scott L. Montgomery and Daniel Chirot

“Montgomery and Chirot make the case for the importance of four powerful ideas, rooted in the European Enlightenment, that have created the world as we know it. ‘Invading armies can be resisted,’ they quote Victor Hugo. ‘Invading ideas cannot be.’”

7. The Road Not Taken, by David Orr

“The poem is neither an ode nor a dark joke but somehow both at once. It doesn’t accept or reject its myth of choice but sets us up to feel the tensions involved in having to choose, as if each reader were the traveler. His decision might have been arbitrary, it might have been meaningful. It might have changed him deeply, it might not have. The options ‘blur and merge,’ Orr writes; they are ‘like overlapping ghosts.’”

8. Kevyn Aucoin’s Making Faces

Making Faces transformed Aucoin, at 35, into an instant expert on the art of being beautiful. He published three such coffee-­table treatises in all, but Faces is his masterpiece, the purest distillation of his view that makeup is performance, an opportunity for women (and drag queens, of course) to gleefully metamorphose with just a few sweeps of a brush. When Making Faces came out, we had no Sephora, no YouTube tutorial to lay bare the intricacies of the smoky eye. What Aucoin did, first with The Art of Makeup in 1996 and then with Making Faces, was give us a codex, a working syllabus, a kind of Joy of Cooking with kohl.”

9. Candy Brain

“It turns out that even mild stress may immediately alter the workings of our brains in ways that undermine willpower.”

10. The Creative Apocalypse That Wasn’t

“How is today’s creative class faring compared with its predecessor a decade and a half ago? The answer isn’t simple, and the data provides ammunition for conflicting points of view. It turns out that Ulrich was incontrovertibly correct on one point: Napster did pose a grave threat to the economic value that consumers placed on recorded music. And yet the creative apocalypse he warned of has failed to arrive. Writers, performers, directors and even musicians report their economic fortunes to be similar to those of their counterparts 15 years ago, and in many cases they have improved. Against all odds, the voices of the artists seem to be louder than ever.”

11. Female BFFs: The New Power Couples

“Lately, we’ve been inundated with images of real-life best friends, triumphantly displayed. It’s difficult to get through a day on the Internet without looking at photos of women flaunting the depth of their intimacy by posing over dinner or watching television together in matching pajamas. We now flick through images not of celebrity couples but of celebrity friends: Beyoncé and Nicki Minaj eating hamburgers in matching varsity jackets; Taylor Swift with Karlie Kloss, Lorde, Selena Gomez, Ellie Goulding, Lena Dunham, her cat Olivia, the entire runway lineup of a Victoria’s Secret show; the U.S. women’s soccer team.”

12. In Praise of Sensible Panties

“The price reflects the craftsmanship; this is sensible underwear that defies American notions of buying in bulk. One would own, I supposed, seven pairs, wash them every Sunday in a finely calibrated Miele or Bosch machine and dry them on a mountaintop.”

13. In Japan, History Has No Place

“Modernity is always fashionable in Japan, but nothing looks more out of date than yesterday’s version of tomorrow.”


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