Sunday 10.25.2015 New York Times Digest

Is California…

1. My Dark California Dream

“Confusing one’s own youth with the youth of the world is a common human affliction, but California has been changing so fast for so long that every new generation gets to experience both a fresh version of the California dream and, typically by late middle-age, its painful death.”

2. A Global Chill in Commodity Demand Hits America’s Heartland

“Between 1993 and 2013, China built 200 cities of a million people or more.”

3. Can You Get Smarter?

“Kids who think that their intelligence is malleable perform better and are more motivated to learn than those who believe that their intelligence is fixed and unchangeable.”

4. First, Kill the Witches. Then, Celebrate Them.

“Insofar as we can chart its murky origins, Halloween derives from Samhain, an ancient Celtic harvest festival. Irish and Scottish immigrants carried its otherworldly imagery to America, largely in the mid-19th century. Black cats arrived along with their broomstick-flying consorts in the 1890s. The witches’ origin is unknown; they played no role in the Celtic tradition. The costumes came later, as did the witches’ basic black. Trick-or-treating began in the 1920s. The candy companies saw to the rest.”

5. How Salad Can Make Us Fat

“Drop a bunch of kale into your cart and you’re more likely to head next to the ice cream or beer section.”

6. Next From Christo: Art That Lets You Walk on Water

“I don’t like anything about computers. Young people today on their flat screens, it’s all virtual; nothing is real. All our projects involve real things — real wind, real sun, real wet, real danger, real drama. And this is very invigorating for me.”

7. Dressed to Kill and The Hunger: So Lethal, So Very Fashionable

“Full of logical inconsistencies, Dressed to Kill is best appreciated as a series of intersecting fantasies — those of the homemaker, her shrink, her son and the director, who cast his wife at the time (Nancy Allen) as a savvy call girl variously serving as surrogate mom, big sister and dream girlfriend for Mr. Gordon’s quasi-autobiographical character.”

8. Your Job Title Is … What?

“A search on LinkedIn reveals that over 55,000 people have the word ‘influencer’ in their titles; there are more than 74,000 brand architects and 35,156 professional evangelists. (LinkedIn doesn’t break down how many of those evangelists are associated with an actual religious congregation, but I suspect it is relatively few.)”

9. ‘NPR Voice’ Has Taken Over the Airwaves

“In addition to looser language, the speaker generously employs pauses and, particularly at the end of sentences, emphatic inflection. (This is a separate issue from upspeak, the tendency to conclude statements with question marks?) A result is the suggestion of spontaneous speech and unadulterated emotion. The irony is that such presentations are highly rehearsed, with each caesura calculated and every syllable stressed in advance.”

10. I’ll Never Write My Memoirs, Grace Jones’s Memoirs

“Shaving my head led directly to my first orgasm.”

11. Risky Business

“Self-help is more than just a genre of books. It’s a pile of tea leaves, a crystal ball, a mood ring on the finger of America — pick your divination metaphor, and it’s that. A glance at the self-help titles on each week’s best-seller list provides a diagram of the topics and shortcomings that readers are fretting over at this very moment, from gut health to decluttering to the proliferation of workplace distractions.”

12. Terry Gross and the Art of Opening Up

“Over the years, Gross has done some 13,000 interviews, and the sheer range of people she has spoken to, coupled with her intelligence and empathy, has given her the status of national interviewer. Think of it as a symbolic role, like the poet laureate — someone whose job it is to ask the questions, with a degree of art and honor. Barbara Walters was once our national interviewer, in a flashier style defined by a desire for spectacle. Gross is an interviewer defined by a longing for intimacy. In a culture in which we are all talking about ourselves more than ever, Gross is not only listening intently; she’s asking just the right questions.”

13. The Strange Case of Anna Stubblefield

“What made them so uncomfortable was not that Anna was 41 and D.J. was 30, or that Anna is white and D.J. is black, or even that Anna was married with two children while D.J. had never dated anyone. What made them so upset — what led to all the arguing that followed, and the criminal trial and million-dollar civil suit — was the fact that Anna can speak and D.J. can’t; that she was a tenured professor of ethics at Rutgers University in Newark and D.J. has been declared by the state to have the mental capacity of a toddler.”

14. Does Frequent Sex Prime the Immune System for Pregnancy?

“Sex alters a woman’s immune system in ways that affect her chances of conceiving.”

15. Collecting Art for Love, Not Money

“A connoisseur, in the old sense of the term, was less a shopper than a historian. To collect meant to connect yourself to the myriad of civilizations that preceded your own; accumulating objects was a way of placing yourself in a historical continuum, of assuming temporary ownership of something that once belonged to someone else and, after your death, would belong to someone else still. It was an act of humility: It meant educating yourself about a tradition, while also realizing that your education would never be complete. Assuming the mantle of stewardship. Realizing that, despite your best efforts, you would never know enough. Understanding that the object of your passion — silver or maiolica or tapestries — might never be understood or appreciated by anyone else. (It meant not caring about other people’s opinions.) It meant devotion. It meant obsession.”

16. Frank Sinatra and Billie Holiday: They Did It Their Way

“When Holiday died, Sinatra holed up in his penthouse for two days, weeping, drinking and playing her records.”

17. A Very Revealing Conversation With Rihanna

“Don’t believe the pictures — in between each poolside party photo is an untaken one in which she’s simply working. Almost every night, when you’re asleep, Rihanna is in the studio.”

18. Jonathan Franzen’s Crackling Genius

“He likes women from California, at least that is what he always says, and he is someone I could telephone in consternation, in need of advice, and have done so. But he would not want to hear from me every day, and this has also strengthened a mutual trust, both of us being people who want brief social engagements and then to return to nurturing a productive alienation or joy and either way conduct life with a limited amount of interaction, at least with other writers.”

19. Jeong Kwan, the Philosopher Chef

“Jeong Kwan has no restaurant. She has no customers. She has published no cookbooks. She has never attended culinary school, nor has she worked her way up through the high-pressure hierarchy of a four-star kitchen. Her name does not appear in any of those annual round-ups listing the greatest chefs in the world, although Ripert will assure you that she belongs among them.”

20. The Maddening and Brilliant Karl Lagerfeld

“It’s not everyone who sees thoughts as action, but he does. Let me show you how he trips from one thing to the next. When I asked him about the 19th century, he only said, ‘We are spoiled. We have dry cleaners. They did not.’ Then he talked about the Scottish philosopher David Hume. (‘I just found a book by him in a box of books that came to me from my parents.’) Then quickly we moved to the case of the German novelist Günter Grass.”

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