Sunday 4.23.2017 New York Times Digest

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1. America’s New ‘Anxiety’ Disorder

“Few Americans, at the moment, would assess our national emotional state as anything better than ‘not great.’ We are not in the midst of real disaster, of course: no Civil War, no Great Depression, not even that grim bit of the 1970s that featured near-constant bombings and hijackings, a presidential resignation and two different women trying to kill Gerald Ford in a single month. But when the new president referred to the country as a scene of ‘carnage’ in his inaugural address, the objections were relatively muted. There’s a bleakness in the atmosphere, and a consensus on what to call it: ‘anxiety.’”

2. Syria Changed the World

“Now in its seventh year, this war allowed to rage for so long, killing 400,000 Syrians and plunging millions more into misery, has sent shock waves around the world.”

3. Go East, Young American

“Maybe the solution is emigration from America.”

4. Is It Time to Break Up Google?

“Could it be that these companies — and Google in particular — have become natural monopolies by supplying an entire market’s demand for a service, at a price lower than what would be offered by two competing firms? And if so, is it time to regulate them like public utilities?”

5. Our Costly Addiction to Health Care Jobs

“For every doctor, there are 16 other health care workers. And half of those 16 are in administrative and other nonclinical roles.”

6. The Planet Can’t Stand This Presidency

“Trump is in charge at a critical moment for keeping climate change in check. We may never recover.”

7. Crime and Different Punishments

“It is not clear that this method of dealing with crime succeeds at avoiding cruel and unusual punishment so much as it avoids making anyone outside the prison system see it. Nor is it clear that a different system, with a sometimes more old-fashioned set of penalties, would necessarily be more inhumane.”

8. ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’: A Newly Resonant Dystopia Comes to TV

“We were hoping to be relevant, but we weren’t hoping it would be this relevant.”

9. Trump Proposed a Wall. They Imagined How It Would Work.

“President Trump’s pronouncements have inspired a boom in border projects of a very different sort: documentaries, shorts, cartoons and art installations about the contested area, where barriers and fences already exist along some stretches.”

10. How Six Degrees Became a Forever Meme

“‘The president of the United States. A gondolier in Venice,’ she says. ‘It’s not just the big names,’ she continues. ‘It’s anyone.’”

11. Cash Is King No More

“At the dawn of what would become our modern economy, in the 17th century, the Dutch philosopher Baruch Spinoza wrote that ‘money has presented us with the abstract of everything.’ What he meant was that money had become the consummate medium for the human desire to possess. Now, 400 years later, everything has become the abstract of money.”

12. Spin Class

“Carry a small notebook everywhere (‘Don’t lose it. Please don’t lose it’); read your work aloud; and study the masters (for dialogue, he recommends Louise Erdrich, Roddy Doyle, Marlon James and Elmore Leonard). And, perhaps less familiarly: Go to the gym? ‘Very few people talk about it, but writers have to have the stamina of world-class athletes,’ McCann writes. ‘The exhaustion of sitting in the one place. … The dropping of the bucket down into the near-empty well over and over again.’”

13. John Waters: By the Book

“Grade school ruined reading for me by demanding book reports for such snore-a-thons as Benjamin Franklin’s biography written for children. I wanted to read Hot Rod and Street Rod, by Henry Gregor Felsen, but my teachers hadn’t heard of them. It wasn’t until I was a teenager and Grove Press came along and introduced me to Burroughs, Marguerite Duras and the Marquis de Sade that I became a real bookworm.”

14. People Have Limited Knowledge. What’s the Remedy? Nobody Knows

“Humans rarely think for themselves. Rather, we think in groups. Just as it takes a tribe to raise a child, it also takes a tribe to invent a tool, solve a conflict or cure a disease. No individual knows everything it takes to build a cathedral, an atom bomb or an aircraft. What gave Homo sapiens an edge over all other animals and turned us into the masters of the planet was not our individual rationality, but our unparalleled ability to think together in large groups.”

15. The Hermit-Burglar and the Optimistic Journalist

“He didn’t choose to become a hermit — he was born one, and the woods gave him exactly what he sought.”

16. Our Climate Future Is Actually Our Climate Present

“The future we’ve been warned about is beginning to saturate the present. We tend to imagine climate change as a destroyer. But it also traffics in disruption, disarray: increasingly frequent and more powerful storms and droughts; heightened flooding; expanded ranges of pests turning forests into fuel for wildfires; stretches of inhospitable heat. So many facets of our existence — agriculture, transportation, cities and the architecture they spawned — were designed to suit specific environments. Now they are being slowly transplanted into different, more volatile ones, without ever actually moving.”

17. Is It O.K. to Tinker With the Environment to Fight Climate Change?

“Once we start putting sulfate particles in the atmosphere, he mused, would we really be able to stop?”

18. When Rising Seas Transform Risk Into Certainty

“Calamity can come for us all, but by bundling enough separate peril together we manage to form a general stability, a collective hedge against helplessness. As climate insecurity mounts, though, that math will get harder.”

19. Why Are We So Obsessed With the End of the World?

“We’ve been imagining the end of the world since we inherited it, and in most of our mythologies the world ceases to exist before it can begin.”

20. 25 Years Later, David Lynch Returns to ‘Twin Peaks’

“You concentrate on your work, try to do the best you can, and when it comes time, you release control, realizing it’s in the hands of fate.”

21. Dave Chappelle Is an American Folk Hero

“That Chappelle is an African-American raised by college professor parents, a Muslim with a Filipino wife, three biracial children and a white stepbrother, speaks to his singular ability to remix cultural boundaries in ways many cannot, or wish they could. He also happens to feel most comfortable in Middle America, on the acres of land he bought in Yellow Springs, Ohio, in the 2000s. So, yes, he is sprawling urban graffiti, with his casual usage of the N-word, his elastic black English and his fusillade of curse words, but he’s also small-town folk with a hard-won vulnerability.”

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