Sunday 6.18.2017 New York Times Digest

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1. Admit It. Summer’s Terrible.

“The antiseptic qualities of heat and light are much lauded, I know. Bad things fester and mushroom in the dark, I get it. It’s just that the cold suits me. Put me in a caped woolen coat, see how my gray-blue eyes narrow instinctively against the drizzle, witness my wintry magnificence! Now, wedged into a sundress, I am humiliated.”

2. Whole Foods Deal Shows Amazon’s Prodigious Tolerance for Risk

“While other companies dread making colossal mistakes, Mr. Bezos seems just not to care.”

3. The United States Is Squatting in Paradise

“The initial lease for Guantánamo was set at $2,000 per year, paid in gold coins. The deal can be rescinded only by mutual consent.”

4. The Anti-Uber

“Mrs. Lopez works as a ‘raitera’ — driving people to the doctor’s office, the courthouse and other places found only in Fresno, 52 miles away. She ferries asthmatic children and women who have overdosed on prescription pills to the hospital, and students who have missed the bus to the high school in another town. She once delivered a baby in her car, which has covered 194,000 miles and counting.”

5. The Upside of Bad Genes

“Genetically diverse populations tend to be more resilient, precisely because they have more genetic resources to draw on when unforeseen challenges arise.”

6. Does Trump Embarrass You?

“Embarrassment is the fear that others are judging us incompetent performers of our social roles.”

7. The Children of 1984: Dystopia Down the Decades

“The novel, published in 1949, sold well, but it took the ‘telescreen,’ as Orwell might have put it, to inject its nightmare vision into the cultural bloodstream.”

8. How to Host a Relaxed Dinner Party Like an Italian

“At the root of Western philosophy, there is a dinner party. Whether fictional or real, the Ancient Athenian supper that Plato recounts in his Symposium has all the familiar outlines of our own modern gatherings: drunkenness, attempts at moderation, cures for hiccups, a ‘no shoes’ policy, surprise drop-in guests, flirtations — not to mention some gentle ribbing, one-upmanship and a long, heated discussion of love.”

9. The Hidden Treasures in Italian Libraries

“Why go to the library in Italy when all around you there is fantastic art, exalted architecture, deep history and intense passionate people? Because, as I discovered in the course of a rushed but illuminating week dashing from Venice to Rome, Florence and Milan, the country’s historic libraries contain all of those without the crowds.”

10. How to Ease Travel Anxiety in an Era of Terror: Travel More

“The more I travel, the more I feel at ease about traveling.”

11. Machiavelli: Good Guy or Bad? This Biography Argues for the Former

“Hidden by legend and counterlegend, he is hard to get into view. Like the moralist Nietzsche, who also spun off disconcerting and misquotable epigrams, Machiavelli is at once overfamiliar and obscure.”

12. How Washington Planned for a Cold-War Apocalypse

“The goal of ‘continuity of government’ — an official euphemism for keeping the American state alive even if almost every American citizen ends up dead — has raised enormous ethical, bureaucratic and engineering challenges for generations of planners. Who would be saved? (Many federal officials, but generally not their families — a decision that has frequently been met with dismay.) From what branches of government? (Planning has often prioritized the executive branch over Congress and the courts.) And where would they go? (Underground, mostly.)”

13. Personality Is Everything

“There is something almost clownishly omni-competent about Goethe. He was a great beginner who ultimately finished most of the things he began. (Faust, which he had on the go for about 60 years, was completed in the last year of his life; Rilke’s Duino Elegies look by comparison like something finished the following morning.) He was interested in geology and anatomy, he developed a theory of color, he made watercolors and sketches himself, 3,000 of them. He went looking for something called the Urpflanze — the basic, or original, or prototypical, plant. He acted in his own plays. He wrote poems in many modes effortlessly. They entered the language (German, that is). When he finally grew frustrated with his married friend Charlotte von Stein, he eloped with Italy for a couple of years. He buried his wife; he buried his one surviving son. He buried his best friend, who died at 45. Near the end of his life, he gave perhaps the best description of himself, as ‘a collective singular consisting of several persons with the same name.’”

14. How to Live With Critics

“In politics, as in art, the right to criticize is really the right to make an independent judgment of reality. Democracy relies on a citizenry informed and active enough to make such judgments; in a democracy, we are all critics. This pluralism is always frustrating to politicians, just as it is to artists, because both tend to believe so implicitly in their own sincerity and good will that they come to perceive opposition as mere obstinacy.”

15. How ‘Snowflake’ Became America’s Inescapable Tough-Guy
Taunt

“It is simultaneously emasculating and infantilizing, suggesting fragility but also an inflated sense of a person’s own specialness and a naïve embrace of difference. It evokes the grade-school art classes in which children scissor up folded pieces of construction paper and learn that every snowflake is unique, and every person is, too.”

16. Getting Others Right

“Capturing how things look fools us into thinking that we’ve captured their truth.”

17. Losing Fat, Gaining Brain Power, on the Playground

“The more visceral fat a child shed during the nine months of play, the better he or she performed on the test.”

18. A Whimsical Wordsmith Charts a Course Beyond Twitter

“As Sun sees it, social-media platforms are like urban landscapes, in which popular accounts function almost like landmarks. They are spaces where people go to interact and encounter one another; people imbue them with meaning and, over time, a shared history.”

19. The Man Behind Trump’s Voter-Fraud Obsession

“Kobach’s plans represent a radical reordering of American priorities. They would help preserve Republican majorities. But they could also reduce the size and influence of the country’s nonwhite population. For years, Republicans have used racially coded appeals to white voters as a means to win elections. Kobach has inverted the priorities, using elections, and advocating voting restrictions that make it easier for Republicans to win them, as the vehicle for implementing policies that protect the interests and aims of a shrinking white majority. This has made him one of the leading intellectual architects of a new nativist movement that is rapidly gaining influence not just in the United States but across the globe.”

20. The Long, Lonely Road of Chelsea Manning

“She told me that she believed then, and believes now, that ‘there are plenty of things that should be kept secret.’ ‘Let’s protect sensitive sources. Let’s protect troop movements. Let’s protect nuclear information. Let’s not hide missteps. Let’s not hide misguided policies. Let’s not hide history. Let’s not hide who we are and what we are doing.’”

21. Naomi Klein Is Sick of Benevolent Billionaires

“Trump’s pitch to voters was: ‘I’m rich. Sure, I have absolutely no experience in government, but the fact of my wealth is all the evidence you need that you can trust me to fix everything.’ It’s an absurd pitch, but I don’t know how far away it is from why Americans have trusted Bill Gates to remake the American school system or Africa’s agriculture system. I don’t think there could’ve been a pitch as crass as Trump’s ‘I can fix America because I’m rich’ without that groundwork laid by Davos and the Clinton Global Initiative.”

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