Sunday 11.1.2015 New York Times Digest

Silicon Valley

1. Silicon Valley’s New Philanthropy

“A similar paradox seeps into philanthropy. Tech entrepreneurs believe their charitable giving is bolder, bigger and more data-driven than anywhere else — and in many ways it is. But despite their flair for disruption, these philanthropists are no more interested in radical change than their more conservative predecessors. They don’t lobby for the redistribution of wealth; instead, they see poverty and inequality as an engineering problem, and the solution is their own brain power, not a tithe.”

2. Arbitration Everywhere, Stacking the Deck of Justice

“By inserting individual arbitration clauses into a soaring number of consumer and employment contracts, companies like American Express devised a way to circumvent the courts and bar people from joining together in class-action lawsuits, realistically the only tool citizens have to fight illegal or deceitful business practices.”

3. The Mets, the Royals and Charlie Parker, Linked by Autumn in New York

“Today, few ballplayers listen to jazz. But jazz, baseball, Kansas City and New York are closely intertwined in American culture.”

4. The Light-Beam Rider

“He was able to imagine it by conjuring up thought experiments. That ability to visualize the unseen has always been the key to creative genius.”

5. New Online Openness Lets Museums Share Works With the World

“Today more than 50 cultural institutions have opened their collections for unrestricted use. The number is steadily increasing as administrators come to recognize the value of circulating work to a wider audience online and inviting the public to study and use it at will.”

6. Women Crime Writers: Eight Suspense Novels of the 1940s and 1950s’

“Their work didn’t fit any neat categories. Not whodunits. Not police procedurals. Not hard-boiled gumshoes. Instead these were stories imbued with a kind of shimmering suspense that became almost unbearable as they unfolded. They were all written by women, and they evoked images familiar from old black-and-white movies — lipstick on a cigarette butt, tailored dresses, immaculately confected coiffures, sideways glances and lives gone inexorably askew.”

7. The Witches: Salem, 1692, by Stacy Schiff

“The essential paradox of Salem — the very thing that makes it worth returning to — is that it took place so late, in the twilight of the long golden age of European witch-hunting, among sophisticated and ambitious people, who were in most ways radical and in some respects downright avant-garde. How could such a thing happen then, and there, among them? How do good people, reasonable people, do great evil?”

8. The Other Paris, by Luc Sante

“The underlying and implicit thesis of his work, that the best of life has been paved over by money and modernity, and that the marginal and unofficial are inherently superior to bourgeois culture, may be arguable, but the pleasures to be had from the fruits of his research are considerable.”

9. Creating the Followers of Tomorrow

“The idea comes from the world of guide dogs. One of the things guide dogs are taught to do is called a counterpull. If the leader is about to step off a train platform, for example, they pull in the opposite direction. Now think of human organizations, whether companies, schools or police forces. The best followers — and they can be very senior — know when to pull the leader back from an edge.”

10. A Global Community’s College

“As globalization has made the world smaller, two-year colleges have, in a sense, gotten bigger. Often regarded as the minor leagues of higher education and as bastions of locally drawn students, community colleges now aggressively recruit students overseas, send their own to study abroad, and have even established satellite campuses in foreign countries.”

11. How the Motorcycle Jacket Lost Its Cool and Found It Again

“It is a costume for the movie in which you imagine yourself to star.”

12. Letter of Recommendation: Vicks Nasal Spray

“There is something miraculous, and highly psychologically suggestive, about the way in which a nasal-decongestant spray goes about its work, broadening the straits of respiration. To feel that soft popping sensation in the si­nuses, that gradual but inexorable opening of the airways, is to feel the re-establishment of diplomatic relations between yourself and the world, an opening of the borders between the body and the air.”

13. Edna Lewis and the Black Roots of American Cooking

“The book is, in one sense, a country manual, with instructions on picking wild mushrooms and the best way to turn dandelions into wine. (It tastes like Drambuie, Lewis offers helpfully.) It’s also a cookbook, because there are teaspoons and tablespoons and ‘cook uncovered for 10 minutes.’ But perhaps the truest way to describe the book is as a memoir told in recipes, where every menu, dish and ingredient speaks to her childhood in rural Virginia and how her community made a life from the land, taking pleasure in the doing of many things. It stands as an exemplar of American food writing, a complex, multilayered, artistic and even subtly subversive document.”

14. Betty Crocker’s Absurd, Gorgeous Atomic-Age Creations

“It was the age of technocratic make-believe and the early days of the anthropocene. Gastronomically, it was an age that today — from a perspective admiring of the natural and authentic — looks shockingly artificial.”

15. The Archive of Eating

“Cookbooks show us at our most defenseless because they expose things we believe we lack: meringues that don’t fall; soup that will fill us up without making us fat; dinners that cook in no time at all. They allow us to imagine ourselves as bountiful hosts or artisanal pastry makers. It isn’t all fantasy, though. Cookbooks also speak to, and soothe, something real: the hunger that started when we were babies, when food and security were one and the same.”

16. Bread Is Broken

“Before the advent of industrial agriculture, Americans enjoyed a wide range of regional flours milled from equally diverse wheats, which in turn could be used to make breads that were astonish­ingly flavorful and nutritious. For nearly a century, however, America has grown wheat tailored to an industrial system designed to produce nutrient-poor flour and insipid, spongy breads soaked in preservatives. For the sake of profit and expediency, we forfeited pleasure and health.”

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