Sunday 9.20.2015 New York Times Digest


1. Watching the Planet Burn

“Having exhumed fossil organics from the depths of the Earth and burned them off into the atmosphere in world-altering quantities, we now inhabit the space between their origin and their destination — the surface of a planet on fire.”

2. Adrian Frutiger Dies at 87; His Type Designs Show You the Way

“A font is how the sounds of language meet the eye, and each character has its own anatomy, temperament and needs: You cannot simply toss 26 letters and 10 numbers into a caldron, give them a stir and have a font emerge. A type designer is obliged to reconcile the often competing imperatives of form and function, for a font that is especially beautiful may not be especially legible, and vice versa. Postmodernity — in which words are read not only on paper but also on fleetingly glimpsed road signs and electronic screens — has only amplified the problem.”

3. Donald Trump and the Art of the Public Sector Deal

The Art of the Deal is not a free-market book.”

4. A Toxic Work World

“The problem is with the workplace, or more precisely, with a workplace designed for the Mad Men era, for Leave It to Beaver families in which one partner does all the work of earning an income and the other partner does all the work of turning that income into care — the care that is indispensable for our children, our sick and disabled, our elderly. Our families and our responsibilities don’t look like that anymore, but our workplaces do not fit the realities of our lives.”

5. Googling for God

“What is the most common word to complete the following question: Why did God make me _? No. 1, by far, is ‘ugly.’ The other sad answers in the top three are ‘gay’ and ‘black.’”

6. Welcome to the Age of the Unfunny Joke

“Comedy is becoming an occasion to abandon humor for the exposure of unsoftened truth.”

7. The Power of Grace Jones

“As if to burnish her over-the-top reputation, the book even contains a copy of her tour rider, which requires that her green room be furnished with two dozen oysters on ice, unopened because ‘Grace does her own shucking.’”

8. Cheap Chic, Manifesto of a Fashion Revolution, Is Back

“The book was about knowledge and access — to not just the right flea market or Army Navy store, but also the souk in Marrakesh where a djellaba cost $10.”

9. The Social Sex: A History of Female Friendship’

“Friendship is a bond that is uniquely defined by the people who exist within it. Unlike relationships such as marriage or parenthood, which have clear timelines and boundaries, friendships have no ceremonial beginning or end, no biological definition. They are not sanctioned by any church, nor recognized officially by any state. This is perhaps why women, historically diminished by the government and burdened by the family, find such fulfillment and power among friends.”

10. Dead Forests and Living Memories

“We use trees to measure our own lives, to anchor our notions of time. To most of us, trees represent constancy and continuity, living giants that persist through many human generations. We want them to achieve maturity; we want them to tower above us.”

11. Barbie Wants to Get to Know Your Child

“For adults, this new wave of everyday A.I. is nowhere near sophisticated enough to fool us into seeing machines as fully alive. That is, they do not come close to passing the ‘Turing test,’ the threshold proposed in 1950 by the British computer scientist Alan Turing, who pointed out that imitating human intelligence well enough to fool a human interlocutor was as good a definition of ‘intelligence’ as any. But things are different with children, because children are different. Especially with the very young, ‘it is very hard for them to distinguish what is real from what is not real,’ says Doris Bergen, a professor of educational psychology at Miami University in Ohio who studies play. The penchant to anthropomorphize — to believe that inanimate objects are to some degree humanlike and alive — is in no way restricted to the young, but children, who often favor magical thinking over the mundane rules of reality, have an especially rich capacity to believe in the unreal.”

12. What the World Got Wrong About Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

“In the mid-1970s, the writer Gay Talese, while doing research for his book Thy Neighbor’s Wife, ran into Abdul-Jabbar at the Playboy Mansion. Abdul-Jabbar told Talese that when he retired, he wanted to become a sportswriter. ‘It seemed like such a strange thing to admit,’ Talese told me. ‘It almost felt like he wanted to be anyone else. He was caught in this huge body, but his aspiration was to be diminished in terms of ambition: He wanted to be the man in the press box. You don’t expect a person with stardom in every muscle to want to become a writer.’”

13. Life on the Papal Beat

“Benedict, with his careful shuffle of a walk, his tremulous voice, his insistence on intellectual rigor in Catholic practice, seemed to suggest that the church might just have lost the culture wars. Francis, whose folksy joviality deflects attention from his sharp political instincts, presents the church as fully engaged in a battle that there may still be a chance of winning — for souls, yes, but also for the planet.”

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