Sunday 7.21.2019 New York Times Digest

1. The Sublime Grandeur of Apollo 11

“What Apollo represents is not goodness but greatness, not moral progress but magnificence, a sublime example of human daring that our civilization hasn’t matched since. So to mark the anniversary by passing moral judgment on the past is a way of burying the appropriate response — which should be awe at what past Americans achieved, and regret that we have not matched such greatness since.”

2. Ed Dwight Was Set to Be the First Black Astronaut. Here’s Why That Never Happened.

“Two grand stories that America tells itself about the 1960s are the civil rights movement and the space race. They are mostly rendered as separate narratives, happening at the same time but on different courses. In the 5-foot-4 figure of Ed Dwight, they came together for a transitory moment.”

3. Using Race for Gain

“Over decades in business, entertainment and now politics, Mr. Trump has approached America’s racial, ethnic and religious divisions opportunistically, not as the nation’s wounds to be healed but as openings to achieve his goals, whether they be ratings, fame, money or power, without regard for adverse consequences.”

4. Safe Deposit Boxes Aren’t Safe

“There are an estimated 25 million safe deposit boxes in America, and they operate in a legal gray zone within the highly regulated banking industry. There are no federal laws governing the boxes; no rules require banks to compensate customers if their property is stolen or destroyed.”

5. When Corporate Lobbies Started to Look Like Museum Galleries

“Big business loves to flash cultural credentials.”

6. Tuition-Free College Could Cost Less Than You Think

“The long-term payoff of these policies could be enormous. Considerable research shows that public and private benefits greatly exceed the costs when students are nudged toward obtaining a college degree. Yet at the moment, only 37 percent of Americans between the ages of 25 and 29 have a four-year college degree, and completion rates are lower for poorer students.”

7. Science Fiction Sent Man to the Moon

“Works of fiction aren’t particularly known for having influenced historical events. Yet some foundational early rocket science, embedded deep within the developmental history of the Saturn 5 — the towering, five-stage rocket that took Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins to the moon 50 years ago this week — was paid for by the budget of the first science fiction film to envision just such a voyage in realistic terms.”

8. The Joy of Hatred

“There’s simply no way to understand the energy of the event — its hatred and its pleasures — without looking to our history of communal racial violence and the ways in which Americans have used racial others, whether native-born or new arrivals, as scapegoats for their lost power, low status or nonexistent prosperity.”

9. The Ridiculous Fantasy of a ‘No Drama’ Relationship

“When heterosexual men say they’re looking for something ‘drama-free,’ I suspect they want something that doesn’t exist: a problem-free partnership with someone who has no life experience. Are they looking for a woman who never gets angry or afraid or sad, who never worries about her family or struggles in her job? Who would want to be with such a person?”

10. FaceApp and the Savage Shock of Aging

“FaceApp proves that we cannot resist the temptation to peek at our decline.”

11. The Lessons of a Hideous Forest

“Organic material goes quickly: cardboard in three months, wood in up to three years, a pair of wool socks in up to five. A plastic shopping bag may take 20 years; a plastic cup, 50. Major industrial materials will be there for much longer: An aluminum can is with us for 200 years, a glass bottle for 500, a plastic bottle for 700, and a Styrofoam container for a millennium. The forest does not know this. It does not think. It just acts.”

12. State and Local Taxes Are Worsening Inequality

“The poor pay taxes at higher rates in 45 of the 50 states.”

13. The App That Tucks Me In at Night

“Internet culture is often described as hyper-visual, but it has also cracked open new relationships to sound.”

14. The Rise of the Spice Girls Generation

“The Spice Girls were adult performers producing adult music that both appealed and was marketed primarily to children.”

15. Does This Red Cap Make Me Look MAGA?

“Some sports fans … have become reluctant to wear their favorite teams’ red headwear, or have even stopped wearing it altogether, because they don’t want people to think they’re wearing one of the MAGA hats, which are also red.”

16. Acts of Kindness, and the Underlying Rot

“Individual acts of kindness don’t solve systemic problems — in fact, they can do harm by glossing over deeper issues.”

17. Teddy Roosevelt and the Rough Riders

“After Spain gave Cuba its independence and also turned over Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippines to its enemy, the United States was never ignored again. The danger for Roosevelt was that the war might conceivably have had the opposite effect on his own trajectory.”

18. California and Water

“When the inevitable multiyear droughts set in, farmers must rely on excessive groundwater pumping to irrigate those endlessly expanding acres of fruit and nut trees, endangering the vast underground aquifer that is arguably the state’s most valuable natural resource.”

19. Beware the Writer as Houseguest

“When Hans Christian Andersen stayed with Charles Dickens three weeks longer than originally planned, their friendship never recovered.”

20. The Making of ‘1984’

“Socialists, libertarians, liberals and conservatives alike have vied to remake him in their own image and claim his authority. Orwell’s contested legacy may be rooted partly in his self-divisions. He was a socialist intellectual who hated socialists and intellectuals; an alienated soul who ‘lionized the common man,’ as Lynskey puts it. Still, the filial (and often proprietary) attachment that Orwell’s work tends to evoke in his admirers points to something else: the morally urgent yet highly companionable nature of his writing, which can leave one with the feeling of having been directly addressed by a mind worthy of emulation.”

21. How America Got to ‘Zero Tolerance’ on Immigration: The Inside Story

“His presidency has provided a remarkable opportunity for more junior, or less distinguished, bureaucracy climbers to ascend to heights of government that they might not otherwise have reached anytime soon, if ever. But doing so has required them to acquiesce to, and often execute, policies that both Democratic and Republican administrations previously considered beyond the pale.”

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