Sunday 10.30.2016 New York Times Digest

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1. Long Before Twitter, Martin Luther Was a Media Pioneer

“Americans may know the basics of how Martin Luther was said to have nailed his 95 theses to a church door in Wittenberg, Germany, in 1517, condemning the Roman Catholic Church’s sale of indulgences, but they probably don’t realize how Luther strategically used the media of his time: books, paintings, prints and music.”

2. Doubts About the Promised Bounty of Genetically Modified Crops

“Genetic modification in the United States and Canada has not accelerated increases in crop yields or led to an overall reduction in the use of chemical pesticides.”

3. Small Factories Emerge as a Weapon in the Fight Against Poverty

“Smaller craft-type producers hold out hope for cities.”

4. A Conveyor Belt of Dropouts and Debt at For-Profit Colleges

“As college attendance has risen and investment in public institutions has flagged, the United States has relied increasingly on for-profit colleges, with disastrous consequences for many students.”

5. Nudges That Help Struggling Students Succeed

“Students who come to see themselves as the masters of their own destiny can take advantage of opportunities to learn, but only if those opportunities exist.”

6. How to Make Sense of College Rankings

“It’s crucial to look at precisely what’s being measured — which is easy to do, if you read the fine print.”

7. 3 TVs and No Food: Growing Up Poor in America

“What many Americans don’t understand about poverty is that it’s perhaps less about a lack of money than about not seeing any path out. More than 80 percent of American households living below the poverty line have air-conditioning, so in material terms they’re incomparably better off than poor families in India or Congo. In other ways their lives can be worse.”

8. Richer but Not Better Off

“Income isn’t the only way to measure prosperity; by many other metrics, Americans’ well-being remains pretty low. Whether it is life expectancy or infant mortality, incarceration or educational attainment, countless statistics offer a fairly dark picture of the American experience. It is a picture of prosperity that consistently leaves large numbers of Americans behind.”

9. In Defense of Politics, Now More Than Ever

“Politics is less than perfect because we are less than perfect. We therefore need to approach it with some modesty.”

10. Patton Oswalt: ‘I’ll Never Be at 100 Percent Again’

“‘If Bruce Wayne watched his parents murdered at 9, he wouldn’t become this cut hero,’ he said, referring to the Batman origin story. ‘He would become Gotham’s most annoying slam poet. How about someone dies, and they just get fat and angry and confused? But no, immediately, they’re at the gym.'”

11. Yoko Ono’s Vintage Sonic Blasts Still Sound Like the Future

“A lot of Yoko’s past albums are like Kraftwerk’s. They always sound contemporary; they still sound like the future.”

12. Married to Their Smartphones (Oh, and to Each Other, Too)

“At what point are we choosing to spend more time with our smartphones than with our spouses?”

13. Why Are Americans So Anxious?

“The problem with our quest for happiness is that, apparently, it’s making us miserable.”

14. Haunted Houses Are About More Than Just Ghosts

“Dickey concludes that ghost stories attached to particular places often contain social anxieties and unsettled issues from the past. Although these ghost stories recall difficult realities — like the wrongful execution of minorities in the case of the Salem ‘witches,’ the physical and emotional abuses of slavery, resistance to women’s independence, and tensions between the rich and the poor — they fail to achieve a public reckoning with historical injustice. Ghosts, Dickey asserts, are a ‘convenient metaphor for a whole host of problems not connected to the supernatural,’ and talking about them ‘becomes a means to process or make sense of experiences that can otherwise seem overwhelming or mystifying.'”

15. In Time for Halloween, a Taxonomy of Monsters

“Special attention is placed upon the Lisbon earthquake of 1755. The horrific loss of life and the apparent cruelty — or inattention — of fate seemed like proof, if not of the nonexistence of God, then of his withdrawal. The first European efforts at literary horror, the sort we call Gothic, occurred within a few decades of this geological and spiritual cataclysm. Simultaneous with and in response to the rise of rationalism (and nationalism), the surging of terror into the streams of story can remind us, all too chillingly, of how fear can rise and rise again.”

16. Creep or Craftsman? Alfred Hitchcock Was Both

“What thrummed beneath their surface was not a matter he cared to dwell on. He affected English pragmatism when pressed on the meaning or message of his films, sometimes saying, ‘I don’t give a damn what the film is about.’ His granddaughter, who had enrolled in a film class, once asked him about a movie: ‘Did you mean this in this scene? Because that’s what we were taught.’ He tried to help her write an essay on Shadow of a Doubt, but when she only got a C, all he could do was shrug. ‘Well, I’m sorry,’ he said. ‘That’s the best I can do.'”

17. Is It Harder to Write Humorously Than It Is to Write Seriously?

“If you are embarking on a relationship with an editor and it becomes clear that said editor does not get your jokes — quit. Flee. Shake the dust from your feet, because it will never work between you.”

18. Obama Brought Silicon Valley to Washington

“In many ways, Obama is America’s first truly digital president. His 2008 campaign relied heavily on social media to lift him out of obscurity. Those efforts were in part led by a founder of Facebook, Chris Hughes, who believed in the Illinois senator’s campaign so much that he left the start-up to join Obama’s strategy team. After he was elected, he created a trifecta of executive positions in his administration modeled on corporate best practices: chief technology officer, chief data scientist, chief performance officer. He sat for question-and-answer sessions on Reddit, released playlists of his favorite songs on Spotify and used Twitter frequently, even once making dad jokes with Bill Clinton. He stoked deep and meaningful connections with scores of entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley: Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg.”

19. Letter of Recommendation: Buicks

“When my father went inside to help Mom with dinner, he let me stay in the driver’s seat with the keys in the ignition so I could listen to the Delco stereo. After a while, he came back out with a yellow cassette tape, the words ‘Johann Strauss’ embossed on its plastic casing. He shoved it into the player and lit a cigarette.”

20. Kesha, Interrupted

“Kesha is no longer the artist we met in the late aughts: blazing dollar sign in her name in place of the S, gold Trans Am that she said she wanted to have continuous sex in, 24-7 party girl, dredged in oil and breaded like a schnitzel in glitter. Now she is someone in suspended animation, unable to release new music pending contract litigation, touring small clubs to make some money to help fund her lawsuit and to make sure her fans don’t forget her; now she is someone who wants to work and make music, just without the man she says raped her; now Kesha is a cause.”

21. Why Pop Culture Just Can’t Deal With Black Male Sexuality

“The white dick means nothing, while, whether out of revulsion or lust, the black dick means too much.”

22. Adam Curtis and the Secret History of Everything

“You mustn’t try and force the reality in front of you into a predictable story. What you should do is notice what is happening in front of your eyes, and what instinctively your reaction is.”

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