Sunday 1.27.2019 New York Times Digest

1. The Real Wall Isn’t at the Border

“Not long from now, it won’t make sense to think of the border as a line, a wall or even any kind of imposing vertical structure. Tearing down, or refusing to fund, border walls won’t get anyone very far in the broader pursuit of global justice. The borders of the future won’t be as easy to spot, build or demolish as the wall that Mr. Trump is proposing. That’s because they aren’t just going up around countries — they’re going up around us. And they’re taking away our freedom.”

2. Washington State Weighs New Option After Death

“A bill before the Washington State Legislature would make this state the first in the nation — and probably the world, legal experts said — to explicitly allow human remains to be disposed of and reduced to soil through composting, or what the bill calls recomposition.”

3. Speaking Black Dialect in Courtrooms Can Have Striking Consequences

“Researchers played audio recordings of a series of sentences spoken in African-American English and asked 27 stenographers who work in courthouses in Philadelphia to transcribe them. On average, the reporters made errors in two out of every five sentences, according to the study.”

4. Why Are Young People Pretending to Love Work?

“In the new work culture, enduring or even merely liking one’s job is not enough. Workers should love what they do, and then promote that love on social media, thus fusing their identities to that of their employers.”

5. Dark-Sky Tourism

“Ninety-nine percent of the U.S. population lives under light-polluted skies.”

6. A Frat Boy and a Gentleman

“It’s wrong to assume that every all-male group is toxic. I found many fraternities offering a comforting family away from home, a safe space for guys who worried that it would be hard to be themselves or find friends in college.”

7. You’re Using Your iPhone Wrong

“To be a minimalist smartphone user means that you deploy this device for a small number of features that do things you value (and that the phone does particularly well), and then outside of these activities, put it away. This approach dethrones this gadget from a position of constant companion down to a luxury object, like a fancy bike or a high-end blender, that gives you great pleasure when you use it but doesn’t dominate your entire day.”

8. Why Do the Oscars Keep Falling for Racial Reconciliation Fantasies?

“They symbolize a style of American storytelling in which the wheels of interracial friendship are greased by employment, in which prolonged exposure to the black half of the duo enhances the humanity of his white, frequently racist counterpart. All the optimism of racial progress — from desegregation to integration to equality to something like true companionship — is stipulated by terms of service.”

9. Car Wash, a Raunchy 1970s Comedy Brimming With Meta and Mayhem

“The contradictions between their labor and our leisure are manifest in the irresistible title song. Punctuated by the exhortation ‘work and work and work,’ the song by the soul group Rose Royce explains that while the Dee-Luxe is ‘no place to be if you plan on being a star’ (never mind that at least in the final credits just about everyone gets to be one), it’s ‘better than digging a ditch’ (what isn’t?) and ‘the boss don’t mind if you act the fool’ (of course not). Heard over the radio, the tune sets the Dee-Luxe employees bopping while they work in a speeded-up version of the Funky Robot dance. Has a $3-an-hour job ever been more fun?”

10. What Adam Conover Can’t Travel Without

“We dispel that image by sharing what flying really looked like back then. In the ’60s planes flew a little lower than they do now. In the ’30s and the ’40s, they flew much lower to the ground. It was a horrible experience. There was a lot more turbulence and it was a lot more dangerous. People were much more likely to die in a plane crash. But the cabins were also full of the smell of cigarette smoke and fuel fumes because they weren’t as good at separating the fuel fumes. The main reason that barf bags are on planes today is because the cabins were constantly full of the smell of jet fuel and cigarette smoke, and there was so much more turbulence, so people were just constantly throwing up.”

11. A New History of Native Americans

“White Americans have long defined the past through narratives of frontier freedoms. Recently, however, historians have moved away from such self-justifying accounts, and a growing field has made the experiences of indigenous displacement, survival and resurgence a new pathway for understanding the nation’s history. Celebratory accounts of European settlement and expansion have increasingly passed into an antiquarian realm, succeeded by studies of settler colonialism that approach the past more comparatively as well as more cautiously.”

12. Need a New Self-Help Guru? Try Aristotle

“An Aristotelian life is not solely about bearing the inevitable, but about identifying the particular talents or natural proclivities that each of us has, and then pursuing a path, consistently and deliberately, over the course of a life.”

13. Mama Was a Numbers Runner

“Especially exhilarating is her history of lotteries. All 13 original colonies ran them and used the proceeds to fund capital improvements. But by 1860, most states had become suspicious of lotteries and had outlawed them precisely because of the egalitarian nature of luck — a poor black person could win one. Denmark Vesey, Davis tells us, was one such example. He used his winnings from a 1799 lottery to buy his freedom; later he founded the African Methodist Church in Charleston and led a famous rebellion against slaveholders in 1822. Lotteries, then, had the potential to upend the systems the states ran on — no wonder they were outlawed for so long. (States did not begin to reintroduce legal lotteries until 1964.)”

14. Is Being a ‘Minority’ Really Just a Matter of Numbers?

“In the United States, you’re either straight and white (and so on), or you’re in the minority. In fact, you are a minority. And that can be awkward.”

15. How to Become Less Angry

“Beware the myth of catharsis: Smashing things won’t help. Despite the popularity of so-called rage rooms, where customers pay to bash televisions with a bat or shatter dishware, research shows that such expressions of anger tend to increase anger. Nor can you rely on pharmacology; in fact, anger is not in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, and Tafrate knows of no clinical drug trials for treating anger akin to diagnosable problems like anxiety and depression.”

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