Sunday 12.4.2016 New York Times Digest


1. The End of the Anglo-American Order

“Brexit Britain and Trump’s America are linked in their desire to pull down the pillars of Pax Americana and European unification.”

2. Extremists Turn to a Leader to Protect Western Values: Vladimir Putin

“Throughout the collection of white ethnocentrists, nationalists, populists and neo-Nazis that has taken root on both sides of the Atlantic, Mr. Putin is widely revered as a kind of white knight: a symbol of strength, racial purity and traditional Christian values in a world under threat from Islam, immigrants and rootless cosmopolitan elites.”

3. Modern World Tugs at an Indonesian Tribe Clinging to Its Ancient Ways

“The Mentawai tribe, which today numbers around 60,000, is a rare Indonesian culture that was not influenced by Hindu, Buddhist or Muslim currents over the last two millenniums. Instead, their traditions and beliefs strongly resemble those of the original Austronesian settlers who came to this vast archipelago from Taiwan around 4,000 years ago. If the tribe’s culture disappears, one of the last links to Indonesia’s early human inhabitants will go with it.”

4. The Array of Conflicts of Interest Facing the Trump Presidency

“Donald J. Trump’s global business empire will create an unprecedented number of conflicts of interest for a United States president, experts in legal ethics say.”

5. At Liberty University, All Sins Are Forgiven on the Altar of Football

“Athletic leaders (that would be McCaw) and football coaches learned of accusations of gang and date rape and decided not to report that violence; they met with the alleged victims, and their parents, and still did nothing.”

6. Inner Peace in the Palm of Your Hand, for a Price

“What Headspace is selling is deceptively simple. By instructing people to focus on their breathing and let go of thoughts and emotions, Mr. Puddicombe gently coaxes users back to fuller engagement with the present moment. In modern parlance, it is mindfulness — a quick, secularized adaptation of Buddhist teachings that have been distilled for a modern, Western audience. A 10-day course on the app is free. Annual subscriptions cost about $100.”

7. What the Alt-Right Really Means

“But most of all there is sex. The alt-right has a lot of young men in it, young men whose ideology can be assumed to confront them with obstacles to meeting people and dating. Sex-cynicism and race-pessimism, of course, often travel in tandem.”

8. Mother Nature Is Brought to You By…

“The spread of advertising to natural settings is just a taste of what’s coming. Over the next decade, prepare for a new wave of efforts to reach some of the last remaining bastions of peace, quiet and individual focus — like schools, libraries, churches and even our homes.”

9. Can I Go to Great Books Camp?

“A small but growing number of young conservatives see themselves not only as engaged citizens, but as guardians of an ancient intellectual tradition.”

10. States’ Rights for the Left

“Since the 1930s, progressives have unapologetically embraced Hamiltonian big government. But in rediscovering the virtues of Jeffersonian small government, Democrats and liberals are returning to a tradition of ‘progressive federalism’ that they favored before the New Deal and the Great Society.”

11. Why Blue States Are the Real ‘Tea Party’

“The urban states are subsidizing the rural states, and yet somehow in return, the rural states get more power at the voting booth.”

12. Cashing In on Climate Change

“For many, the perceived gap between socially responsible investing and good business has narrowed almost to the point of convergence.”

13. I Am a Dangerous Professor

“The list is not simply designed to get others to spy on us, to out us, but to install forms of psychological self-policing to eliminate thoughts, pedagogical approaches and theoretical orientations that it defines as subversive.”

14. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Talks Beauty, Femininity and Feminism

“But I do remember that when I moved to the U.S. — and I think maybe there are different standards for people who are supposed to be particularly intellectual or particularly creative — I very quickly realized that if you want to seem as a serious writer, you can’t possibly look like a person who looks in the mirror.”

15. David Foster Wallace’s Peaceful Prairie

“The meditative spaces and down-to-earth people of the Midwest were central to Wallace’s writing, as he pushed back the ironic for the heartfelt. And he didn’t produce brilliant work in spite of the more conventional folks surrounding him in Illinois; as his essays and books like The Pale King reveal, he was inspired by the Midwest’s sincerity to go beyond America’s cultural snark for truth about its contemporary life, which he found rushed, overstimulated and lonely. At home in Illinois, this tormented genius, wild maximalist and yet somehow earnest moralist of a writer said he felt ‘unalone and unstressed.’”

16. What Explains Our Obsession With Ancient Egypt?

“Largely self-nourishing, Egyptomania was often detached from its original sources, and the stream of dime novels and films about mummies and their curses have, according to scholars, more to do with Western guilt over imperialism than with the supernatural. Even the artifacts exhumed from Tutankhamen’s tomb with great fanfare beginning in 1922 did not, in fact, add much to our knowledge of ancient Egypt.”

17. Examining the Artists of the Revolutionary Era

“The visual record of the Revolution commemorates eminent founders, not ordinary participants, and the signing of documents rather than the quarrels that accompanied their composition. It is, however, the only visual record we have.”

18. Is Rashomon Kurosawa’s Best Film?

“Kurosawa was only 13 when the earthquake occurred, but his older brother, Heigo, insisted they walk through the ruins and view the corpses, ostensibly to overcome fear by staring reality in the face. That older brother exerted a major influence on Kurosawa: A movie buff, he took Akira along to silent film classics, mostly foreign, and even became a benshi: ‘The benshi were there to explain the plot but also to impersonate the characters. Such a narrator, standing at the podium to the left of the stage, made faintly visible by the lectern light, would declaim from the start to the finish of a feature film.’ Heigo was a celebrated benshi, but when sound came in, his profession evaporated. Depressed, he committed double suicide with a waitress.”

19. Why the Legend of Al Capone Still Fascinates

“At the heart of the legend stands the big personality. Al dressed in beautifully tailored lemon-, lime- and lavender-colored suits. He dispensed wads of cash to anyone who caught his fancy. During the Depression, he opened a soup kitchen that served up to 3,000 people a day. For one of Capone’s birthday binges, his men kidnapped the jazz great Fats Waller at gunpoint and made him play for three anxious days before stuffing his pockets with thousand-dollar bills and driving him home.”

20. 45 Pop Music Hits, in the Words of Their Creators

“I once asked the Bon Jovi guitarist Richie Sambora if, after hundreds, perhaps thousands of performances, he ever got tired of playing the band’s much-loved hit ‘Livin’ on a Prayer.’ ‘You ever get tired of getting laid?’ he replied.”

21. The Rise of Glam Rock

“For the four years that Reynolds identifies as glam’s peak, there was a renewed focus on issues of performance, gender fluidity and irony that is still found in countless nooks of pop culture. The genre’s provocateurs won.”

22. Rock Lives: This Season’s Pop Music Biographies and Memoirs

“The book takes its title from a line in the Rolling Stones’ 1971 No. 1 hit ‘Brown Sugar,’ a song about a white slave trader’s sexual fetishization of black women that Hamilton writes is either ‘the most racially offensive composition in the catalog of one of the most racially troublesome bands in rock and roll’ or ‘the most unflinching exploration of racial and musical imagination ever put on record by a white rock and roll band.’ Clearly, this is not a book looking for easy solutions.”

23. Is ‘Empathy’ Really What the Nation Needs?

“What social networks like Facebook really offer is empathy in the aggregate — an illusion of having captured the mood of entire families and friend networks from a safe, neutral distance. Then they turn around and offer advertisers a read on more than a billion users at once.”

24. Letter of Recommendation: ‘Primitive Technology’

“Taken as a whole, the project seems mystifying, impossible. Seeing all the component steps only makes it exponentially more miraculous.”

25. The Pleasure (and Popularity) of Really Short Books

“This short-book renaissance comes at the height of our Age of the Essay. Everyone is reading them, and even more people are writing them. The books’ modesty of scale appears like a rebellion against importance, but they are insistent, even a little pedantic — self-conscious intellectual sallies that bring a dignified brevity to nonfiction. They take themselves seriously, much like a very short man.”

26. Reflections on True Friendship

“Social media is a vehicle of self-promotion, a means of fixing an idea of yourself in the social sphere, without people actually knowing you at all. And that’s a change: The thing about friendship used to be that the ideal was shared entirely by the pair of you, or sometimes by a group, yet it remained local, and that was part of its power.”

27. The Man Who Brought Paris to Dallas

“The store represented something utterly new: an alternate reality at the intersection of commerce and culture, where ordinary women and men learned not what to wear but how to live, a place were they could become, if only for a moment, their best selves.”

28. Can a Corset Be Feminist?

“Is a woman who wears a corset today, whether following the trends of fashion or the further down-market effects of the Kardashians’ ‘waist trainers,’ restricted, or freed? Conforming to a masculine ideal of femininity, or experimenting with her own perception of self and sexuality?”

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