Sunday 1.31.2016 New York Times Digest


1. Green-Eyed Verbs

“Sometimes, when I open a magazine and find yet another intelligently researched piece of journalism or brilliant social analysis in the form of a book review, I think: ‘What beauty!’ And then, almost immediately afterward, I think, ‘Could I offer the world something so useful and beautiful?’”

2. Why Sports Fans Risk Life and Limb for a Rolled-Up T-shirt

“It’s become a sports-event ritual as sacrosanct as the seventh-inning stretch or the singing of the national anthem. After making the obligatory I-can’t-heeeeear-you hand gestures, the Pinstripe Police and their cognates start catapulting rolled-up shirts in the general direction of fans. Often the squads are equipped with air cannons. Others go old-school and use slingshots made of surgical tubing. The Phillie Phanatic, never one to be outdone, shoots off free hot dogs using a four-foot pneumatic gun.”

3. Fake Online Locksmiths May Be Out to Pick Your Pocket, Too

“It is a classic bait-and-switch. And it has quietly become an epidemic in America.”

4. Everybody’s a Critic. And That’s How It Should Be.

“The days of the all-powerful critic are over. But that figure — high priest or petty dictator, destroying and consecrating reputations with the stroke of a pen — was always a bit of a myth, an allegorical monster conjured up by timid artists and their insecure admirers. Criticism has always been a fundamentally democratic undertaking. It is an endless conversation, rather than a series of pronouncements. It is the debate that begins when you walk out of the theater or the museum, either with your friends or in the private chat room of your own head. It’s not me telling you what to think; it’s you and me talking. That was true before the Internet, but the rise of social media has had the thrilling, confusing effect of making the conversation literal.”

5. Welcome to the Age of the Commando

“The mythos of Special Operations has seized our nation’s popular imagination, and has proved to be the one prism through which the public will engage with America’s wars. From the box office to bookstores, the Special Ops commando — quiet and professional, stoic and square-jawed — thrives. That he works in the shadows, where missions are classified and enemy combatants come in silhouettes of night-vision green, is all for the better — details only complicate.”

6. How to Raise a Creative Child. Step One: Back Off

“Child prodigies rarely become adult geniuses who change the world.”

7. Sam Shepard Takes Stock of ‘Buried Child’ and the Writer’s Life

“I remember as a kid, going into other people’s houses. Everything was different. The smells in the kitchen were different; the clothing was different. That bothered me. There’s something very mysterious about other families and the way they function.”

8. She? Ze? They? What’s In a Gender Pronoun

“Facebook now offers 50 different gender identity options for new users, including gender fluid (with a gender identity that is shifting), bigender (a person who identifies as having two distinct genders) and agender (a person without an identifying gender). There are day cares that proudly tout their gender-neutral pronoun policies — so kids don’t feel boxed in — and college professors who are skewered on the Internet for messing them up.”

9. How to Experience David Bowie’s New York

“Walking in general (the earlier in the day the better) was a preferred way for Mr. Bowie to experience city life.”

10. The Rise and Fall of American Growth by Robert J. Gordon

“Robert J. Gordon, a distinguished macro­economist and economic historian at Northwestern, has been arguing for a long time against the techno-optimism that saturates our culture, with its constant assertion that we’re in the midst of revolutionary change. Starting at the height of the dot-com frenzy, he has repeatedly called for perspective: Developments in information and communication technology, he has insisted, just don’t measure up to past achievements. Specifically, he has argued that the I.T. revolution is less important than any one of the five Great Inventions that powered economic growth from 1870 to 1970: electricity, urban sanitation, chemicals and pharmaceuticals, the internal combustion engine and modern communication.”

11. Don’t Distract Me

“We must get better at managing our entanglements with technology.”

12. Buffalo in the City

“Buffalo plaid, once the uncomplicated icon of woodsy masculinity, is now a bit of a camp classic. Its redefinition as something universal and unisex has the flavor of an accidental subversion.”

13. What Does a Parrot Know About PTSD?

“It’s one of those unlikely natural outcomes of the so-called anthropocene, the first epoch to be named after us: the prolonged confinement of intelligent and social creatures, compelling them to speak the language of their keepers. And now, in yet another unlikely occurrence, parrots, among the oldest victims of human acquisitiveness and vainglory, have become some of the most empathic readers of our troubled minds. Their deep need to connect is drawing the most severely wounded and isolated PTSD sufferers out of themselves. In an extraordinary example of symbiosis, two entirely different outcasts of human aggression — war and entrapment — are somehow helping each other to find their way again.”


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