Sunday 3.24.19 New York Times Digest

1. Human Contact Is Now a Luxury Good

“Life for anyone but the very rich — the physical experience of learning, living and dying — is increasingly mediated by screens. Not only are screens themselves cheap to make, but they also make things cheaper. Any place that can fit a screen in (classrooms, hospitals, airports, restaurants) can cut costs. And any activity that can happen on a screen becomes cheaper. The texture of life, the tactile experience, is becoming smooth glass.”

2. The Daily Miracle: Finding Magic Inside The Times’s Printing Plant

“Consider the newspaper, the physical object, printed on processed wood pulp, shot upward on rollers at high speed as ink is applied, gathered and folded and bundled, dropped off at newsstands and bodegas or delivered to doorsteps. Nowadays it is a minority choice, as a majority of consumers around the globe opt to get the latest word from their screens as they zoom from one place to the next. But that minority of readers is substantial, and fierce. They savor the thrill of the first hit of newsprint in the morning, with its slightly acrid odor and its ironclad association with the first cup of coffee.”

3. The Great American Cardboard Comeback

“Over the past five years, e-commerce has fueled demand for billions more square feet of cardboard.”

4. An Immovable Type Who Won’t Abandon His Movable Type

“People are fascinated by how much time goes into this. But everything in life isn’t fast. It’s supposed to be difficult. It’s supposed to be time-consuming.”

5. This Friendship Has Been Digitized

“The kind of presence required for deep friendship does not seem cultivated in many online interactions.”

6. Forget Self-Driving Cars. Bring Back the Stick Shift.

“A car with a stick shift and clutch pedal requires the use of all four limbs, making it difficult to use a cellphone or eat while driving. Lapses in attention are therefore rare, especially in city driving where a driver might shift gears a hundred times during a trip to the grocery store.”

7. It’s Delightful, It’s Delicious, It’s DeVito

“He says the best way to thrive in Hollywood is to not focus on all the jerks and talentless hacks and insecurities. ‘It’s like going through the jungle,’ he says. ‘You hear all the sounds. Somebody’s being eaten on the other side of a plant. But you got to just stay on your path.’”

8. Psychic Mediums Are the New Wellness Coaches

“While psychics have traditionally profited from claiming to predict the future or communicating with deceased relatives, many are now working in the general field of wellness, calling themselves ‘intuitives’ or ‘intuitive healers,’ who channel ‘energy’ that helps people discover what they want out of life.”

9. He’s Looking for Europe, but Not Wi-Fi

“I like trains because I like the idea of feeling the distance. Plane abolishes distance. It destroys the physical sense of covering the distance, or devouring the distance. The train like the car helps you to have the physical feeling in your body of the materiality of the space. That is the most honest and exhilarating way to travel.”

10. For Sale: This Massive, Obsessive and (Probably) Obsolete VHS Boxing Archive

“There’s a small apartment on 137th Street in Hamilton Heights that contains one of the most peculiar videotape collections in New York. The dusty VHS archive fills a vast library that contains the analog history of a sport: 8,000 cassettes with recordings of over 55,000 boxing matches that span 40 years. It was the life’s work of Bela Szilagyi, a classical pianist and passionate fight enthusiast, who started the collection in 1979 when he taped a featherweight title match on a Quasar videocassette recorder.”

11. Laila Lalami: By the Book

“Paper only. Books give me an intimacy that e-readers can’t deliver. I love the heft of a good novel in my hands, the smell of new pages, the fact that I can underline a beautiful sentence or mark an unusual detail. I interact with a paper book in many different ways; I’ve been known to throw a book across the room when it frustrates or angers me, for example. And books hold so many memories of the times and places in which I’ve read them. The other day, I opened a novel, and a bookmark that my daughter made me when she was 4 years old fell out. No e-reader can do that.”

12. The Moral Clarity of Slaughterhouse-Five at 50

“It has few if any equals in creating the kind of distance that can offer insight into the mass insanity of modern warfare.”

13. The Complex Literary Friendship Between Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston

“In July 1927, Hurston and Hughes embarked on a tour of the Deep South — part business, part pleasure — which began with a chance meeting in downtown Mobile, Ala., where the two ran into each other outside the train station. Hurston was there to interview Cudjo Lewis, the last living former slave born in Africa; Hughes was giving readings and performing his own research. Hughes, a Northerner, was out of his element, while the Alabama-born and Florida-bred Hurston was firmly in hers, traveling with a gun in her shoulder holster.”

14. Drug Epidemics, Past and Present

“Human beings have been cultivating opium for more than 10,000 years — ‘before towns,’ Hager writes, ‘before agriculture, before science, before history.’ And opioids do kill pain, no question. The problem is, they’re frighteningly addictive, and chemists since the 1800s have had no luck creating new opioids that dull pain without creating dependency.”

15. How to Use Emojis

“When people communicate in short bits of text, they lose the physical signals that suggest warmth and connection. Emojis can help fill that void.”

16. Rick Steves Wants to Set You Free

“If you have never had a passport, if you are afraid of the world, if your family would prefer to vacation exclusively at Walt Disney World, if you worry that foreigners are rude and predatory and prone to violence or at least that their food will give you diarrhea, then Steves wants you — especially you — to go to Europe. Then he wants you to go beyond. (For a majority of his audience, Steves says, ‘Europe is the wading pool for world exploration.’) Perhaps, like him, you will need large headphones and half a tab of Ambien to properly relax on the flight, but Steves wants you to know that it will be worth it. He wants you to stand and make little moaning sounds on a cobblestone street the first time you taste authentic Italian gelato — flavors so pure they seem like the primordial essence of peach or melon or pistachio or rice distilled into molecules and stirred directly into your own molecules. He wants you to hike on a dirt path along a cliff over the almost-too-blue Mediterranean, with villages and vineyards spilling down the rugged mountains above you. He wants you to arrive at the Parthenon at dusk, just before it closes, when all the tour groups are loading back onto their cruise ships, so that you have the whole place to yourself and can stand there feeling like a private witness to the birth, and then the ruination, of Western civilization.”

17. We’re All In This Together

“Scale on a rail trip is what’s most arresting. We live so much of our lives close-up — scrolling through phones, watching our type appear on computer screens, scrutinizing papers, preparing meals, cleaning our homes room by room. Very few elements of our day-to-day tasks remain out of arms’ reach. An extended train ride affords a chance not just to see a horizon but also to soak it up. To luxuriate in the far-off for uninterrupted hours. To exist, briefly, in the uncharted sections of the cellphone-coverage map.”

18. Why Baltimore Persists as a Cultural Beacon

“A deep variant of the strange runs through the water in Baltimore, and the fact that such an eclectic group of artists has committed its life and work to an otherwise relatively inconsequential midsize city is rare in today’s cultural landscape.”

19. Why Do Artists Destroy Their Own Work?

“Artists have been destroying their work for at least as long as people have been buying it. Audiences like the idea of a fully formed genius at least as much as the artists themselves. But the artist who seems to have simply arrived one day intact is often a disguise.”

20. What Can Ferns Teach Us About Surviving Turbulent Times?

“Increasingly florists are returning to ferns, this time not as status symbols or coddled exotics but as envoys from deep time that have steadfastly weathered it all, reminding us that this, too, shall pass.”

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