Sunday 12.6.2015 New York Times Digest


1. Born to Be Conned

“It’s not about honesty or greed; we are all suckers for belief.”

2. 95,000 Words, Many of Them Ominous, From Donald Trump’s Tongue

“The dark power of words has become the defining feature of Mr. Trump’s bid for the White House to a degree rarely seen in modern politics, as he forgoes the usual campaign trappings — policy, endorsements, commercials, donations — and instead relies on potent language to connect with, and often stoke, the fears and grievances of Americans.”

3. Meal Plan Costs Tick Upward as Students Pay for More Than Food

“The University of Tennessee imposed a $300-per-semester dining fee on Mr. Miceli and about 12,000 other undergraduates, including commuters, who do not purchase other meal plans. The extra money will help finance a $177 million student union with limestone cornices, clay-tiled roofing and copper gutters, part of a campus reconstruction plan aimed at elevating the University of Tennessee to a ‘Top 25’ public university.”

4. Can’t Put Down Your Device? That’s by Design

“There’s Facebook beckoning with its bottomless news feed. There’s Netflix autoplaying the next episode in a TV series 10 seconds after the previous one ends. There’s Tinder encouraging us to keep swiping in search of the next potential paramour. And then there are the constant notices and reminders — a friend liked your photo or tweet; a colleague wants to connect with you on LinkedIn; an Evite awaits your response — which automatically induce feelings of social obligation. You damn yourself to distraction if you respond, and to fear of missing out if you don’t.”

5. The Modern Meeting: Call In, Turn Off, Tune Out

“A knowledge worker — one whose job focuses on handling information — in the United States spends an average of 104 minutes each month in conference calls. Such calls have become an orgy of multitasking, serving as a backdrop for a free-for-all of household chores, personal hygiene, online shopping and last-minute income tax filing.”

6. Our (Bare) Shelves, Our Selves

“Aside from the disappearance of record crates and CD towers, the loss of print books and periodicals can have significant repercussions on children’s intellectual development.”

7. Map: Exploring the World, The Curious Map Book and More

“Maps anchor us, give coherence to our environment, help make visual sense of otherwise intangible realities. The most skillfully done maps, moreover, can be thrilling to look at, elevating cartography into art. Renaissance mapmakers filled the borders of their works with beautifully rendered dragons and wind-puffing gods; the modernist painter Jasper Johns playfully reimagined the standard road-atlas depiction of the continental United States in his 1961 work Map. Maps can solidify national identity, expose societal problems, illuminate trends and whip up jingoistic emotions in wartime.”

8. Of Beards and Men and True Style

“To single out facial hair for sustained, scholarly investigation is to invite charges of triviality. Such accusations are necessarily allayed by the beard-first myopia that allows Jesus Christ to be summarily described as ‘the most recognizable bearded man in Western civilization’ or the sack of Rome in 1527 ‘another turning point in beard history.’ It is probably an overstatement to suggest that, where Hitler and Stalin were concerned, ‘an analysis of mustaches might have alerted the Western allies to the real possibility of German-Soviet agreement.’”

9. What the Eye Hears and America Dancing

“Tap-dancing — like so much of American popular culture — owes its very essence to black people. Like the jazz it evolved alongside, tap blends the European and the African to a near-indissoluble degree, with origins only dimly reconstructable.”

10. Sinatra: The Chairman and Sinatra’s Century

“The man who could sing with such feeling and sensitivity, who was so often so (anonymously) generous to friends and strangers in need, could become with little provocation a cruel and vulgar bully, pulling telephones out of walls, upending dining tables, and ghosting friends, lovers and employees when they had offended him, or merely lost their usefulness. In short, an irresistible subject for writers, and writers have not resisted.”

11. Resistance Is Futile

“When we’re happy, we idle and play. When we’re not, we buy books that promise a fix. And when those books fail to deliver, we feel wronged. The market has responded accordingly, with a crop of new books seemingly aimed at people who have grown cynical about self-help.”

12. White Debt

“Refusing to collude in injustice is, I’ve found, easier said than done. Collusion is written onto our way of life, and nearly every interaction among white people is an invitation to collusion. Being white is easy, in that nobody is expected to think about being white, but this is exactly what makes me uneasy about it. Without thinking, I would say that believing I am white doesn’t cost me anything, that it’s pure profit, but I suspect that isn’t true. I suspect whiteness is costing me, as Baldwin would say, my moral life.”

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