Sunday 8.30.2015 New York Times Digest

summer to fall
1. The Summer That Never Was

“This end-of-summer melancholy is a common experience, even a cliché. Part of it of course is just my dread and hatred of back-to-school time, unchanged since childhood. The whole world of work and productivity still seems to me like an unconscionable waste of time; the only parts of life that really matter are the summers, the in-between times — the idle goofing off.”

2. U.S. Is Seen as Laggard as Russia Asserts Itself in Warming Arctic

“What kind of frontier the Arctic will be — an ecological preserve or an economic engine, an area of international cooperation or confrontation — is now the question at the center of the unfolding geopolitical competition.”

3. Prison Vendors See Continued Signs of a Captive Market

“The United States currently imprisons about 2.2 million people, making it the world’s largest jailer. Those in charge of this immense population need stuff: food, gas masks, restraints, riot gear, handcuffs, clothing, suicide prevention vests, health care systems, pharmacy systems, commissary services — the list goes on. These outlays are a small fraction of the roughly $80 billion spent annually on incarceration, though precise sales figures are hard to come by because most companies in this niche market are private.”

4. Rethinking Work

“People should be adequately compensated for their work. Recent efforts across the country to achieve a significant increase in the minimum wage represent real social progress. But in securing such victories for working people, we should not lose sight of the aspiration to make work the kind of activity people embrace, rather than the kind of activity they shun.”

5. Can a Novelist Be Too Productive?

“No one in his or her right mind would argue that quantity guarantees quality, but to suggest that quantity never produces quality strikes me as snobbish, inane and demonstrably untrue.”

6. Diet Advice That Ignores Hunger

“More troubling were the psychological effects. The men became depressed, lethargic and irritable. They threw tantrums. They lost their libido. They thought obsessively about food, day and night. The Minnesota researchers called this ‘semi-starvation neurosis.’ Four developed ‘character neurosis.’ Two had breakdowns, one with ‘weeping, talk of suicide and threats of violence.’ He was committed to the psychiatric ward. The ‘personality deterioration’ of the other ‘culminated in two attempts at self-mutilation.’ He nearly detached the tip of one finger and later chopped off three with an ax.”

7. Exploring Hamilton and Hip-Hop Steeped in Heritage

“The idea of drawing on hip-hop to tell the story of Hamilton — his personal struggles, his idealism, his relationship with our contentious founding fathers — was thrillingly inspired. On a basic level, the American Revolution was driven by words: fiery statements of principle; charges of imperialist oppression; accusations of betrayal; fine points of governance; even wordy obfuscations to gloss over disagreements that could have sabotaged the country at its start. What better musical genre to tell this tale?”

8. A Tour of Lake Michigan, My Inland Sea

“It’s water. And water and water and water. You strain to see the other side but never will. It’s 75 miles across from Chicago to Michigan, and close to a thousand miles around.”

9. Murder by Candlelight, by Michael Knox Beran

“Why are we fascinated by murders and murderers, by acts of evil and those who perpetrate them?”

10. ‘Moment’ Is Having a Moment

“In cultural criticism, it is often no longer enough to simply analyze a book or a film or a song. We have to justify our interest by declaring that the product in question is having a moment. Benedict Cumberbatch, Marseille, American Sniper, Sweden, Amy Schumer, Compton — these are just a few of the entities that have recently, apparently, had moments. Then the critic must go one step further: to explain an even larger phenomenon, the ‘cultural moment.’”

11. Larry King Is Preparing for the Final Cancellation

“King really wanted me to know how busy he was. He is now the host of three shows, on various outlets, including one about baseball (‘Larry King at Bat’) on the Los Angeles Dodgers’ cable network. He does a lot of paid speaking gigs (‘white-collar crime’). He endorsed a line of suspenders.”

12. The Lessons of Anwar al-Awlaki

“Among the books Awlaki devoured was Stephen R. Covey’s 1989 best seller, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.”

13. Bill Bryson Fears Humans More Than Bears

“I’ve always thought that the Midwest is the most sane and sensible part of the country. And the closer you get to Iowa, the more it becomes that way. I really do sincerely feel that there’s a bedrock decency there. It’s the state’s finest quality.”

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