Sunday 4.24.2016 New York Times Digest


1. This Is Our Country. Let’s Walk It.

“Might we be better off if we could, like a Scot or a Swede, legally amble over our rolling fields and through our shady woods, rather than have to walk alongside unscenic, noisy and dangerous roads?”

2. In an Age of Privilege, Not Everyone Is in the Same Boat

“With disparities in wealth greater than at any time since the Gilded Age, the gap is widening between the highly affluent — who find themselves behind the velvet ropes of today’s economy — and everyone else.”

3. Jimmy Buffett’s ‘Margaritaville’ Is a State of Mind, and an Empire

“‘People are always shocked when they find out how big we’ve gotten,’ Mr. Buffett said recently over lunch, grinning and splashing Tabasco on a modified Cobb salad. ‘We just kept quietly doing our thing. Not saying much. And now — bam! — here we are.’”

4. Rich People Are Living Longer. That’s Tilting Social Security in Their Favor.

“A large body of research shows that the rich live longer — and that the life span gap between rich and poor is growing. And that means that the progressive ideal built into the design of Social Security is, gradually, being thwarted. In some circumstances, the program can actually be regressive, offering richer benefits to those who are already affluent.”

5. Race and the Standardized Testing Wars

“More minority educators, parents and students are criticizing the tests, opening a rift with civil rights groups and black and Hispanic educators who support testing.”

6. Lessons From Underwater Miami

“The Eemian would have struck us as an odd world. In Alaska, boreal forests pushed north and west, crowding out tundra. Giant tortoises moseyed all the way up to central Illinois. Marine life that today lives off Virginia inhabited Nantucket waters. In Europe, large sea snails now found as far south as Angola marched to Sicily. Hippopotamuses and water buffalo splashed in the Rhine Valley.”

7. Global Warming Feels Quite Pleasant

“For a vast majority of Americans, the weather is simply becoming more pleasant.”

8. What Drug Ads Don’t Say

“The goal of drug companies is not to educate, but to sell products.”

9. What Happens When Baseball-Stats Nerds Run a Pro Team?

“Looking back with a year’s distance, we can pinpoint our first mistake. We should never have introduced ourselves with the words ‘expert,’ ‘statistical’ or ‘analysis’ — nor invoked ‘data,’ ‘numbers’ or ‘Sabermetrics.’ We should have come up with a better story.”

10. Prince’s Holy Lust

“The Judeo-Christian ethic seems to demand that sexuality and spirituality be walled off from each other, but in Prince’s personal cosmology, they were one. Sex to him was part of a spiritual life. The God he worshiped wants us to have passionate and meaningful sex.”

11. The Reactionary Mind

“From Eliot and Waugh and Kipling to Michel Houellebecq, there’s a reactionary canon waiting to be celebrated as such, rather than just read through a lens of grudging aesthetic respect but ideological disapproval.”

12. Prince Is Mourned by Fashion World, Which Counted Him as One of Its Own

“In time there were comparisons to another great superstar of his time: Michael Jackson. But Prince was different. Adept not just as a singer, guitarist, keyboard player and dancer, he was also virtually unmatched in his ability to destabilize people both privately and publicly.”

13. Prince’s Heels Elevated Him as a Style Icon

“Prince refused to adhere to genres in clothing, just as he refused to adhere to genres in music, which meant he tended to ooze into the designer imagination, instead of immediately leaping to mind. But in the way he assumed the tropes of kitsch femininity — lace, ruffles, sequins, peekaboo and high heels — and transformed them into the vehicles of an in-your-face masculine sex appeal, Prince had enormous influence.”

14. Door to Door, by Edward Humes

“Annual highway fatalities in the United States outnumber annual combat deaths throughout the Vietnam War (as well as the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Korea). Cars currently kill 3,000 people every month. Humes compares the carnage to that of four airliners crashing every week — rarely making headlines or prompting investigations or fines or legal reforms.”

15. The Whole Harmonium: The Life of Wallace Stevens, by Paul Mariani

“Stevens’s poetry — written at night, circulated in the literary journals and published by Knopf — was recognized as exemplary modernism as early as Harmonium (1923). Middle-aged already, he settled into eminence as it rose around him. He walked to work, read and signed contracts, wrote poems, ordered rare books, dandled his grandson, collected honorary degrees and died.”

16. Earning the ‘Woke’ Badge

“These days, it has become almost fashionable for people to telegraph just how aware they have become. And this uneasy performance has increasingly been advertised with one word: ‘woke.’ Think of ‘woke’ as the inverse of ‘politically correct.’ If ‘P.C.’ is a taunt from the right, a way of calling out hypersensitivity in political discourse, then ‘woke’ is a back-pat from the left, a way of affirming the sensitive. It means wanting to be considered correct, and wanting everyone to know just how correct you are.”

17. What Chatbots Reveal About Our Own Shortcomings

“A bot, like any other piece of software, is only as good as its makers’ imagination. Technologies embody the values — and the biases and prejudices — of the society that incubates them, and if we can’t imagine the future we want, then neither can our creations.”

18. How to Interrogate Someone

“Disarm your interlocutor by being friendly, even collegial.”

19. How Hillary Clinton Became a Hawk

“As Hillary Clinton makes another run for president, it can be tempting to view her hard-edged rhetoric about the world less as deeply felt core principle than as calculated political maneuver. But Clinton’s foreign-policy instincts are bred in the bone — grounded in cold realism about human nature and what one aide calls ‘a textbook view of American exceptionalism.’ It set her apart from her rival-turned-boss, Barack Obama, who avoided military entanglements and tried to reconcile Americans to a world in which the United States was no longer the undisputed hegemon. And it will likely set her apart from the Republican candidate she meets in the general election. For all their bluster about bombing the Islamic State into oblivion, neither Donald J. Trump nor Senator Ted Cruz of Texas have demonstrated anywhere near the appetite for military engagement abroad that Clinton has.”

20. Iceland’s Water Cure

“These public pools, or sundlaugs, serve as the communal heart of Iceland, sacred places whose affordability and ubiquity are viewed as a kind of civil right. Families and teenagers and older people lounge and chat in sundlaugs every day, summer or winter. Despite Iceland’s cruel climate, its remoteness and its winters of 19 hours of darkness per day, the people there are among the most contented in the world. The more local swimming pools I visited, the more convinced I became that Icelanders’ remarkable satisfaction is tied inextricably to the experience of escaping the fierce, freezing air and sinking into warm water among their countrymen. The pools are more than a humble municipal investment, more than just a civic perquisite that emerged from an accident of Iceland’s volcanic geology. They seem to be, in fact, a key to Icelandic well-being.”


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