Sunday 11.26.2017 New York Times Digest

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1. An Algorithm Isn’t Always the Answer

“The best things in life are unquantifiable.”

2. The Bad News on ‘Good’ Girls

“Girls today receive two conflicting messages: Be mighty and be good.”

3. The Unexamined Brutality of the Male Libido

“The masculine libido and its accompanying forces and pathologies drive so much of culture and politics and the economy, while remaining more or less unexamined, both in intellectual circles and in private life.”

4. How to Get Your Mind to Read

“Current education practices show that reading comprehension is misunderstood. It’s treated like a general skill that can be applied with equal success to all texts. Rather, comprehension is intimately intertwined with knowledge.”

5. 500 Years Later, the Reformation Is Still Creating Music

“Luther established his own musical currency in the form of chorales, those hymns in the vernacular. He surrounded himself with excellent composers, most notably Johann Walter, who became his chief collaborator in the creation of a Lutheran liturgy. And he continued to draw the attention of slightly later German masters, most now known only dimly to nonspecialists: the likes of Michael Praetorius, Samuel Scheidt, Johann Hermann Schein and Ludwig Senfl. Then came Bach, a long, multifaceted story in himself. His many surviving works written for Leipzig’s Lutheran churches make up an incomparably rich repertory and set a near-impossible standard for subsequent centuries.”

6. Hooray for Fiona the Hippo, Our Bundle of Social-Media Joy

“She has become America’s Large Adult Daughter, its triumphant baby queen, its reigning diva with the skin texture of a wet avocado.”

7. Anthony Bourdain: By the Book

“I’m a hunter of footnotes. If I’m heavily interested in a particular historical subject, I will often track down everything I can find on it. I can disappear down a rathole of books on, say, the history of the Congo or special operations in Southeast Asia for years. The Kennedy assassination, for instance, took me on a decade-long journey through the history of organized crime, the C.I.A., French intelligence, the French Algerian conflict, the Vietnam War, Castro’s Cuba and the history of the K.G.B. I’m like that.”

8. Plain Sight

“Exposure is about truth, sure, but it’s mostly about power — about the relationship of truth to power. When a powerful man exposes himself by forcing his nakedness on others, he’s commanding their attention in a violent way, making them see what they don’t want to see. In the moment of exposure, he’s not the one who feels vulnerable; they are. Conversely, when that man is exposed as a monster, he is shown in a different light. The perspective is forced, and he is revealed to be something else.”

9. Activity Trackers Don’t Always Work the Way We Want Them To

“A large percentage of the adolescents reported feeling less motivated to be active now than before getting the monitor.”

10. The Culture Caught Up With Spike Lee — Now What?

“In 31 years, Lee has achieved a rate of productivity that is rivaled in America only by Woody Allen. His body of work is prodigious: 22 feature movies, of which at least three are absolutely first-rate; a half-dozen more are flawed classics, and all of them are at least sporadically brilliant, artistically daring and always intellectually ambitious. There are also many documentaries, which cover a wide range of black American topics, including two on Michael Jackson and one on Kobe Bryant. Of these, 4 Little Girls (1997), about the Birmingham church bombing, and When the Levees Broke (2006), about Hurricane Katrina, are two of the best documentaries ever made about black life — or perhaps just life — in the South.”

11. Can A.I. Be Taught to Explain Itself?

“It has become commonplace to hear that machines, armed with machine learning, can outperform humans at decidedly human tasks, from playing Go to playing ‘Jeopardy!’ We assume that is because computers simply have more data-crunching power than our soggy three-pound brains. Kosinski’s results suggested something stranger: that artificial intelligences often excel by developing whole new ways of seeing, or even thinking, that are inscrutable to us.”

 

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