Sunday 3.27.2016 New York Times Digest


1. Holdouts of the Social Media Age

“As hoi polloi shamelessly promote themselves, bestow disingenuous praise upon colleagues in hopes of receiving it in return and peck out snarkily hashtagged jokes during awards shows, the person who remains offline accrues mystique and is viewed as nobly intentioned, an elusive object of fascination rather than an accessible subject of self-glorification. Who knows how they’re spending their time? Likely working hard for some transcendent and paradigm-shifting purpose, their online absence suggests.”

2. How the Novelist Douglas Kennedy Spends His Sundays

“What is wonderful about spending an hour in a church, even if you are not a believer, is the sense that you are trying to deal with larger mysteries, for which there are no answers. But you’re also, on another level, just shutting yourself off from the world at large for an hour.”

3. God Is a Question, Not an Answer

“Nathaniel Hawthorne said of Herman Melville, ‘He can neither believe, nor be comfortable in his unbelief; and he is too honest and courageous not to try to do one or the other.’ Dwelling in a state of doubt, uncertainty and openness about the existence of God marks an honest approach to the question.”

4. In Hindsight, an American Psycho Looks a Lot Like Us

“The culture has shifted to make room for Bateman. We’ve developed a taste for barbaric libertines with twinkling eyes and some zing in their tortured souls. Tony Soprano, Walter White from ‘Breaking Bad,’ Hannibal Lecter (who predates American Psycho) — here are the most significant pop culture characters of the past 30 years.”

5. Why I Don’t Make Financial Decisions on My Smartphone

“Taken together, these studies suggest that we should be careful about making important decisions on mobile devices. Because smartphones can encourage us to tap and swipe quickly, we might neglect the long-term consequences of our behavior.”

6. Sext and the Single Girl

“Why — at a time when women graduate from college at higher rates than men and are closing the wage gap – aren’t young women more satisfied with their most intimate relationships?”

7. American Girls, by Nancy Jo Sales

“Social media has ratcheted up the pressure girls have long faced to appear both desirable and chaste.”

8. Cleanse Creep

“It’s no longer enough to decontaminate the lower digestive system. Today we’re urged to purify closet, kitchen, desktop, checkbook, behavior and spirit. We are living in an age of ‘cleanse creep.’”

9. We’re More Honest With Our Phones Than With Our Doctors

“Most of us are willing to be much more honest with our phones than with professionals, or even with our spouses and partners.”

10. Bill Walton’s Long, Strange Tale of N.B.A. Survival

“Walton’s working thesis seemed to be that all sublime things — Mozart, the Grand Canyon, Cézanne — exist in the same dimension, and that basketball belongs there, too.”

11. Shuffle Along’ and the Lost History of Black Performance in America

“At a moment when the conversation about blacks and how they’re represented in American entertainment is as fraught as it has been since The Birth of a Nation, this bunch had undertaken to put one of the sacred relics of black theater back in front of the public. There was an inescapable sense that they’d be letting down more than themselves if they failed. An unfair pressure to put on anybody. Also an exciting one, for the people involved. I kept thinking of one of those movies where they’re trying to lift something out of the desert, some buried archaeological monument, and everyone’s wondering if the ropes will hold. Maybe it will fall and shatter. ‘Shuffle Along’ is often called the first successful all-black musical. It wasn’t that — there was a prehistory, 20 or so years earlier — but in between the two pulses had come the Great Migration and the Great War. The list of names alone, of those whose careers ‘Shuffle’ hatched in the original show and later productions, is enough to establish its influence on American theater and song as they played out over the rest of the 20th century: Paul Robeson, Josephine Baker, Nat King Cole, Florence Mills (one of the greatest who ever lived, said those who heard her sing). Langston Hughes said more than once that ‘Shuffle Along’ was the beginning of the Harlem Renaissance. In order to deal with the crush of patrons, the city had to alter the traffic pattern around the theater, turning a stretch of 63rd into a one-way street. It was a supernova.”

12. How Aerial Surveillance Has Changed Policing — and Crime — in Los Angeles

“Los Angeles is a fundamentally different kind of place from New York or Chicago, he explained, with their skyscrapers and deep, canyonlike streets. Those dense clusters of high-rises and towers make thorough aerial patrols nearly impossible, not to mention potentially dangerous. In L.A., by contrast, you simply cannot see the whole city if you rely solely on ground patrols. Limiting yourself to roads is not going to work. The aerial perspective is crucial: You have to think in a distinctly volumetric way about how neighborhoods are actually linked and what the most efficient routes might be between them. After all, this is how criminals think, Burdette said, and this is how they pioneer new ways to escape from you.”

13. Should Parents of Children With Severe Disabilities Be Allowed to Stop Their Growth?

“Parents who object to curbing growth prioritize their child’s pleasure and comfort but never at the cost of higher-order concerns like bodily integrity and self-determination. They equate ‘growing’ with ‘thriving.’ No amount of cognitive impairment justifies nonessential medical treatment; growth attenuation is always inappropriate. Conversely, parents who back growth attenuation tend to believe that maximizing pleasurable experiences and minimizing unpleasant ones is the best way to serve a child with extreme disabilities. If this can be achieved by caring for that child as if he or she were a young infant, then that is entirely appropriate.”

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