Sunday 1.15.2017 New York Times Digest


1. Rich Chinese, Inspired by ‘Downton,’ Fuel Demand for Butlers

“What they would like to say to their friends is, ‘Look, I have a butler, an English-style butler in my home,’ to show how wealthy they are.”

2. Ride-Hailing Drivers Are Slaves to the Surge

“There is a downside to being your own boss: To turn a profit, drivers must plan their schedules around early-morning and late-night surges and invest as much as half of their earnings into insurance and car maintenance.”

3. A Big Test for Big Batteries

“The challenge of storing electricity has vexed engineers, researchers, policy makers and entrepreneurs for centuries.”

4. The ‘Impossible’ Veggie Burger: A Tech Industry Answer to the Big Mac

“The Impossible Burger wants to be the tech industry’s answer to the Big Mac. Concocted by a team of food scientists in Silicon Valley, it is made from wheat, coconut oil and potatoes, yet it aims to be more than just another veggie patty. Thanks to the addition of heme, an iron-rich molecule contained in blood (which the company produces in bulk using fermented yeast), it is designed to look, smell, sizzle and taste like a beef burger.”

5. Making America Great Again Isn’t Just About Money and Power

“Political leaders and scholars have been thinking about national greatness for a very long time, and the answer clearly goes beyond achieving high levels of wealth.”

6. In Choosing a Job, Focus on the Fun

“Unless you find small pleasures in your daily routine, you will not stick to it.”

7. Big Sugar’s Secret Ally? Nutritionists

“The consensus among nutrition and obesity authorities has been completely aligned with sugar industry interests.”

8. Obama Hoped to Transform the World. It Transformed Him.

“The arc of recent history has not bent toward Mr. Obama’s cosmopolitan vision of an interdependent world.”

9. The Real Problem With Hypocrisy

“We contend that the reason people dislike hypocrites is that their outspoken moralizing falsely signals their own virtue. People object, in other words, to the misleading implication — not to a failure of will or a weakness of character.”

10. How Movies and TV Address Rape and Revenge

“Stories in which women seek revenge have become newly fashionable. The plots, with victims transforming into heroines, now scan as easily feminist.”

11. What August Wilson Means Now

“There’s always this assumption that black people should sing and dance in the theater. And the country’s racial history has kept a perfectly reasonable mode of artistic expression — the musical — warped with self-consciousness. Wilson wrote plays (sometimes about music and that warping), and lots of people saw them, gave them prizes, Tonys even. Gradually, it let producers and money people know that black nonmusical theater is viable, that there could be drama and ideas, and you could have artists as different as Suzan-Lori Parks and Lynn Nottage and Katori Hall and Anna Deavere Smith.”

12. What Michelle Obama Wore and Why it Mattered

“Just because something appears trivial does not mean it is any less powerful as a means of persuasion and outreach. In some ways its very triviality — the fact that everyone could talk about it, dissect it, imitate it — makes fashion the most potentially viral item in the subliminal political toolbox.”

13. Paul Auster: By the Book

“Baldwin’s prose is what I would call ‘classical American,’ in the same sense that Thoreau is classical, and at his best I believe Baldwin is fully equal to Thoreau at his best.”

14. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on Two Books About Muslim Identity

“In 1776, Thomas Jefferson’s friend Senator Richard Henry Lee expressed both of their opinions when he asserted in Congress, referring to Muslims and Hindus, that ‘true freedom embraces the Mahometan and the Gentoo as well as the Christian religion.’ In 1777, the Muslim kingdom of Morocco became the first country in the world to formally accept the United States as a sovereign nation. In 1786, when the United States needed protection from North African pirates who were stealing ships and enslaving crews, it signed the Treaty of Tripoli, which stated that ‘the government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion, as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquillity of Musselmen.’ In 1785, George Washington declared that he would welcome Muslim workers at Mount Vernon. In 1786, Jefferson triumphed in his Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom in Virginia, by persuading the Legislature to overwhelmingly reject attempts to include Jesus Christ as the religious authority in the bill.”

15. Thoreau the Weird: A New Interpretation of His Philosophy

“For better and for worse, Dann takes the road less traveled, leading a reader into out-of-the-way places, through hidden passages in Thoreau’s personal life. The book, arranged chronologically, consists in a careful (bordering on obsessive) reading of Thoreau’s journals and letters, revealing a boy interested in the occult, ghost stories and magic, a teenager who pored over Arthurian legend and Greek mythology, and a man who interpreted the workings of nature through astrology and Native American shamanism.”

16. How to Be Civil in an Uncivil World

“One man’s civility is another man’s repression.”

17. Neanderthals Were People, Too

“Neanderthals are people, too — a separate, shorn-off branch of our family tree. We last shared an ancestor at some point between 500,000 and 750,000 years ago. Then our evolutionary trajectory split. We evolved in Africa, while the Neanderthals would live in Europe and Asia for 300,000 years. Or as little as 60,000 years. It depends whom you ask. It always does: The study of human origins, I found, is riddled with vehement disagreements and scientists who readily dismantle the premises of even the most straightforward-seeming questions.”

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