Sunday 12.29.2019 New York Times Digest

1. The 2010s Were the End of Normal

“Apocalypse is not yet upon our world as the 2010s draw to an end, but there are portents of disorder.”

2. The Rikers Coffee Academy

“The barista program (it’s unpaid at Rikers) and a handful of others like it nationwide give inmates a new set of professional skills and a way to pass the time, but they also reflect a growing theory in the criminal justice system that the $88 billion coffee industry can soften the blow of incarceration and provide a critical link to employment.”

3. Twitter Made Us Better

“Many people who lacked public platforms 10 years ago — the young and members of marginalized groups in particular — are speaking up, insisting on being heard.”

4. The Cultural Canon Is Better Than Ever

“It’s not so much that canons have been completely obliterated, as Mr. Bloom and others feared — in any given collection, the old guard and their descendants have remained. But canons have continued to evolve, and new ones have sprung up alongside them.”

5. We Learned to Write the Way We Talk

“As writing has been expanding online into the informal conversational domains where speech used to be primary, the generations who spent their formative years online started expanding writing’s muted emotional range.”

6. Look Up

“At any given moment, thousands of them are so focused on their little screens that they fail to look up. Truly, they don’t know what they’re missing.”

7. The Decade of Disillusionment

“The sense of crisis, alienation and betrayal emerged more from backward glances than new disasters, reflecting newly-awakened — or awokened, if you prefer — readings of our recent history, our entire post-Cold War arc.”

8. Ralph Ellison’s Letters Reveal a Complex Philosopher of Black Expression

“He was a philosopher of black expressive form and an astute cultural analyst.”

9. The Lives They Lived … Remembering Some of the Artists, Innovators and Thinkers We Lost in the Past Year

  • Luke Perry
    • “Learn as much as you can and be as nice to everyone as you can be.”
  • Karl Lagerfeld
    • “Lagerfeld’s greatest invention may have been himself. He was ostentatious without being silly. He dieted madly, but allowed himself 10 to 20 Coca-Colas a day. He seemed genderless before such a thing existed, and yet not at all P.C. (‘The problem with political correctness is that it rapidly becomes very boring,’ he said.) Though he was a voracious reader, he liked to appear superficial. I didn’t know Lagerfeld, but I shared a plane ride with him in 2014, from Paris to Dubai, while writing about a male model in his entourage. ‘Chic plane, chic plane,’ Lagerfeld said upon boarding, and then proceeded to sketch a caricature of Angela Merkel, seemingly for his own amusement. Over a few days, I watched him consume carefully sliced pears and mangoes, each meal overseen by his butler, Frédéric, whom I would catch in the hotel elevator with trays of Lagerfeld’s protein powders. ‘I’m a very improvised person,’ Lagerfeld told me, even as every part of his existence appeared to be choreographed.”
  • Robert Frank
    • “Artists generally would come to regard him as the picture of how to live a creative life in America, trusting yourself, resisting norms, never repeating what made you successful.”
  • Toni Morrison
    • “Once, Toni got it in her mind that she wanted to go to these casinos to play bingo. She rented a limousine, and we went to Connecticut. I don’t remember if she won or not, but she had a wonderful time, because on the way we got to stop at McDonald’s, which she loved. I was never in a car with Toni where, if we passed a McDonald’s, we did not stop.”
  • Doris Day
    • “Always comfortable, in life, with sex in and out of marriage, and claiming never to have loved a man ‘with intensity,’ she allowed herself to become, in her later movies, the embodiment of the battling virgin, staking out an ‘all for love and marriage’ position that first captured a younger audience and then, once that audience came of age, caused them to treat her as a joke.”
  • Harold Bloom
    • “It can be hard to disentangle Bloom’s reality from his own self-mythology, but even his detractors — and he would accumulate a great many — had to acknowledge the raw power of that brain, a combination of bandwidth and storage capacity that was, by any measure, exceptional.”

Tenet

“See the trailer in theaters for maximum effect”

Sunday 12.22.2019 New York Times Digest

1. Beautiful. Violent. American. The N.F.L. at 100.

“The game taps into deep and abiding strains of dominant American culture. The N.F.L. appeals, paradoxically, both to the American veneration of toughness and to the American love of organization and management.”

2. The Decade Tech Lost Its Way

“When the decade began, tech meant promise — cars that could drive themselves, social networks that could take down dictators. It connected us in ways we could barely imagine. But somewhere along the way, the flaws of technology became abundantly clear. What happened?”

3. Short-Term Thinking Is Poisoning American Business

“The ethos of move fast and break things, which has defined a generation of start-ups, is not the mantra of long-term investors. It is the clarion call of speculators, who fully expect to get out before any of their own things can get broken.”

4. Men Are in Trouble and Hollywood Wants to Help

“Hollywood has long had its own ideas on the subject, telling us that men want power, success, money, women, camaraderie, a good smoke, a fast car, a hero’s journey, a valiant return. This year, movie after movie … has also told us that men want, or rather desperately need, better life goals, greater self-awareness and deeper, more authentic relationships.”

5. Kumail Nanjiani and the Twilight of the Schlubs

“Even everymen are now supermen.”

6. Design That’s Got Users in Mind

“Successful products often give people what they’ve wanted all along without realizing it, rather than what they say they want.”

7. Letter of Recommendation: Cheap Sushi

“Connoisseurs complain that mediocre sushi is ubiquitous. Well, so is nirvana.”

8. Is Screen Time Really Bad for Kids?

“‘Screen time’ today can range from texting friends to using social media to passively watching videos to memorizing notes for class — all very different experiences with potentially very different effects.”

9. The Movement to Bring Death Closer

“Don’t cover the dead body immediately, and resist leaving the room. Slow down. Pay attention. Look.”

Sunday 12.15.2019 New York Times Digest

1. The Power of a $5 Folded Piece of Paper

“Exchanging letters is a practice that crisscrosses centuries. But its continued relevance in our digitized daily lives is somewhat of a marvel.”

2. The Incredible Shrinking Wallet

“In recent years, the physical wallet’s central role in our lives has been greatly reduced, as have the size of wallets themselves.”

3. What Would Jesus Do About Inequality?

“The evangelical faith and work movement used to be merely another trumpet for this peculiarly American political gospel. But in recent years the movement has become much more ideologically diverse — and far more interesting. Participants are moving beyond the idolatry of the free market to a conversation about economic justice that doesn’t align so neatly with culture war clichés or party platforms.”

4. How the Superrich Took Over the Museum World

“Today’s museum world is steeply hierarchical, mirroring the inequality in society at large.”

5. What Makes an American Hero? (Or a Canadian One?)

“The Hero Fund’s task is not to assign blame, nor to explain why something happened. It is to identify those mere mortals who attempted individually, and bodily, to disrupt the relentless course of fate. And to send them a check for $5,500 and a hand-struck medal on behalf of humankind.”

6. By the Book: Deborah Levy

“Love is riskier than hate because there is more to lose.”

7. The Elder and the Younger

“How do you compete with someone so intrepid that he dies while trying to inspect an active volcano?”

8. The 10 Best Actors of the Year

“These are the 10 actors whose work in movies we found most captivating, challenging, shocking and inspiring in 2019.”

Sunday 12.8.2019 New York Times Digest

1. Video Games and Online Chats Are ‘Hunting Grounds’ for Sexual Predators

“Sexual predators and other bad actors have found an easy access point into the lives of young people: They are meeting them online through multiplayer video games and chat apps, making virtual connections right in their victims’ homes.”

2. Can Biology Class Reduce Racism?

“And among some biology teachers, there has been a growing sense that avoiding any direct mention of race in their genetics curriculum may be backfiring.”

3. The Price of Recycling Old Laptops

“The notion of recycling these gadgets sounds virtuous: an infinite loop of technological utility. But it is dirty and dangerous work to extract the tiny quantities of precious metals — like gold, silver and copper — from castoff phones, computers and televisions.”

4. Lovers in Auschwitz, Reunited 72 Years Later.

“For a few months, they managed to be each other’s escape, but they knew these visits wouldn’t last. Around them, death was everywhere. Still, the lovers planned a life together, a future outside of Auschwitz. They knew they would be separated, but they had a plan, after the fighting was done, to reunite. It took them 72 years.”

5. The Chinese Roots of Italy’s Far-Right Rage

“Italy has proved especially vulnerable to competition from China, given that many of its artisanal trades — textiles, leather, shoemaking — have long been dominated by small, family-run operations lacking the scale to compete with factories in a nation of 1.4 billion people. Four Italian regions — Tuscany, Umbria, Marche and Emilia-Romagna — that were as late as the 1980s electing Communists, and then reliably supporting center-left candidates, have in recent years swung sharply toward the extreme right.”

6. Biased Algorithms Are Easier to Fix

“Changing algorithms is easier than changing people: software on computers can be updated; the ‘wetware’ in our brains has so far proven much less pliable.”

7. Christian Doomsayers Have Lost It

“Many Christians have become invested in a dark narrative.”

8. Finland Is a Capitalist Paradise

“Finland’s capitalist growth and dynamism have been helped, not hurt, by the nation’s commitment to providing generous and universal public services that support basic human well-being. These services have buffered and absorbed the risks and dislocations caused by capitalist innovation.”

9. Hypnosis Changed My Life

“But after hitting rock bottom with my depression, anxiety, insomnia and obsessive-compulsive disorder after a layoff from my media job, I was willing to try anything.”

10. Exhausted With the Experts

The experts had their chance; let the moralists and radicals have theirs.

11. The Topanga Tea Ceremony

“Having a ceremony under an oak tree in Topanga Canyon alongside a handful of women who were once professionally beautiful is a pleasant way to spend an afternoon, but it’s not required for the practice.”

12. These Cocktails Are Garbage. Yum!

“They believe the average bar could save $550 a night simply by reusing 50 percent of its ingredients”

13. My Week of ‘Noble Silence’

“The week had given me a sort of spalike experience for my mind, protected from the distractions and stressors of daily life.”

14. Eurovision

“The railways enabled people across Europe to see themselves as ‘Europeans’ in ways that they had not done before.”

15. Faith Journey

“Egan is so well informed, he starts to seem like the world’s greatest tour guide. You follow along as much to hear him talk as to see the sights. It feels as if there’s nothing he hasn’t digested for the reader, and his extraordinary reliability is reminiscent of that of the monks he describes so evocatively throughout the book.”

16. Why Movie Musicals Work

“Although she includes a few examples from the international arena — a passing glance at the films of Jacques Demy, a terse footnote for the wildly popular musicals of Bollywood — Basinger makes it clear that Hollywood occupies center stage for her when it comes to the movie musical. She conceives of it, at its core, as ‘an original American art form.’”

17. How Watching ‘Jeopardy!’ Together Helped Me Say Goodbye to My Father

“The show implied a whole world: a hushed, calm, serious space in which knowledge was celebrated and rewarded. Its format (Jeopardy, Double Jeopardy, Final Jeopardy) was so orderly and ritualistic that watching felt almost religious, like running rosary beads through your fingers.”

18. How Chinese Sci-Fi Conquered America

“As an emissary for some of China’s most provocative and boundary-breaking writers, Liu has become much more than a scout and a translator. He’s now a fixer, an editor and a curator — a savvy interpreter who has done more than anyone to bridge the imagination gap between the world’s current, fading superpower and its ascendant one.”

19. I Worked for Alex Jones. I Regret It.

“When he came hours later, after eating a few handfuls of jalapeño chips, he picked up an AR-15 and accidentally fired it in my direction.”

20. Why Does Rage Define ‘Parasite’ and Other Popular East Asian Movies?

“These movies both reinforce certain Confucian values and simultaneously combat stereotypes about Asians: that they are obedient, dutiful, loyal, timid and fearful. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth.”

21. When the Whole-Animal Ethos Includes the Dinner Plates

“Together, the chef and potter conceived the purest distillation of the farm’s whole-animal philosophy: china made from the bones of its own cows.”

22. How Spices Have Made, and Unmade, Empires

“Spices are luxuries, ornamental to our lives. They provide little nutritional value and, beyond a few medicinal applications, are entirely unnecessary to survival. What they offer is an escape from tedium — a reason to take joy in food beyond the baseline requirements of existence.”

Sunday 12.1.2019 New York Times Digest

1. Want to Get Into the Christmas Spirit? Face the Darkness

“Joy is trivialized if we do not first intentionally acknowledge the pain and wreckage of the world.”

2. How Amazon Wove Itself Into the Life of an American City

“The New York Times has explored the company’s impact in one American community: greater Baltimore.”

3. Latin Dictionary’s Journey: A to Zythum in 125 Years (and Counting)

“When German researchers began working on a new Latin dictionary in the 1890s, they thought they might finish in 15 or 20 years. In the 125 years since, the Thesaurus Linguae Latinae (T.L.L.) has seen the fall of an empire, two world wars and the division and reunification of Germany. In the meantime, they are up to the letter R.”

4. For Deaf Fans, Bucks News Is Now Loud and Clear

“Closed captioning is not always an effective form of communication, especially as captions do not capture emotion, inflection or tone. Interpreters, though, can convey all the nuance that captions miss.”

5. Meet the Leftish Economist With a New Story About Capitalism

“She says the state has been an underappreciated driver of growth and innovation.”

6. A Better Social Media World Is Waiting for Us

“Facebook and Twitter are slowly imploding. And before they’re finally dead, we need to think about what the future will be like after social media so we can prepare for what comes next.”

7. Why Progressive Candidates Should Invoke Conservative Values

“The most effective candidate in a national election would combine the most popular feature of the Democratic Party, progressive economic policies, with the most popular feature of the Republican Party: the invocation of conservative ideology and values like patriotism, family and the ‘American dream.’”

8. City Malaise, Cured by a Cloud Forest?

“Now I recommend a trip into nature — or even just a hobby requiring fresh air and a bit of discovery — to everyone I know. It has done something different for me than yoga, experimenting with psychedelics or talk therapy, which while helpful, never allowed me to ‘break clear away, once in a while,’ as John Muir put it, to ‘wash your spirit clean.’”

9. Don’t Blame Tech Bros for the Housing Crisis

“We look to Big Tech to solve the housing crisis, when the solution involves things only government — and voters — can do, like changing land use rules and tax laws. And tech’s billions will mean little if homeowners continue to oppose new development.”

10. Here’s What’s Happening in the American Teenage Bedroom

“On the internet, clout is a social currency that can be used to obtain just about anything. Rack up enough while you’re young, and doors everywhere begin to open. College recruiters notice you. Job opportunities and internships come your way. Your social status among peers rises, money flows in.”

11. Giving Suburban Wildlife a Lift

“While humans are pushing into wildlife territory more and more, some of them are also becoming more aware of, and attuned to, the wildlife in their backyards.”

12. The Streaming Era Has Finally Arrived. Everything Is About to Change.

“There are 271 online video services available in the United States.”

13. The Great Streaming Space-Time Warp Is Coming

“So many of the ways that we’re used to experiencing TV are artifacts of technology and business. September became TV’s New Year because that was when the new car models came out. TV episodes developed their multi-act structure to make room for commercials. Weekly schedules were set because you had to broadcast shows to everyone at once (a practice we may someday look back upon as a medieval ritual, like baking your bread in the village communal oven).”

14. What Is the Meaning of Sacred Texts?

“Armstrong argues in her magisterial new book, The Lost Art of Scripture, that Scripture shouldn’t be interpreted literally or rigidly from a pulpit or in a library. She argues that Scripture is flexible, evolving, contextual and more like performance art than a book.”

15. Two Authors Explore the Persistence of Religious Feeling

“How have we, in contemporary culture, come to separate religion from what we think of as ordinary, secular life? How was that artificial separation made for the first time?”

16. The Evil Repercussions of the American Revolution

“For the vast majority of Earth’s inhabitants, who did not give a damn about a civil war in British North America or the ideas and ideals that inspired it, the American Revolution was a disaster.”

17. Architecture’s Most Irredeemable Cad

“Let’s get one thing straight. Wright was a cad.”

18. What Tweets and Emojis Did to the Novel

“The scroll and the ideogram died out because of their simplicity, only to have been revived for that reason. The scroll is a frictionless waterfall on the screen. And while an entire alphabet of ideograms would be unusably bulky, a handful of key ones, scattered into our language, condense thousands of complicated reactions into a few dozen universal symbols.”

19. ‘I Think This Guy Is, Like, Passed Out in His Tesla’

“These videos are magnetic not just because of the eerie images they contain, but also because, watching them, we can’t actually be sure what we’re seeing. Is this danger or safety or both at once?”

20. Talk: Pete Townshend

“What we were hoping to do was to create a system by which we gathered in order to hear music that in some way served the spiritual needs of the audience. It didn’t work out that way. We abandoned our parents’ church, and we haven’t replaced it with anything solid and substantial. But I do still believe in it.”

21. Letter of Recommendation: ‘Penn & Teller: Fool Us’

“‘Fool Us’ is … an island of civility and generosity in our cruel, contentious and otherwise debased times.”

22. Truth Hurts

“In its piercing tone and operatic overstatement, Jagged Little Pill remains a wonderfully transparent document of a young woman’s emotions, of her passion, of her capacity for catharsis. If her tone was singular then, it isn’t anymore. We live in a moment when women are fed up, openly, much of the time. Morissette’s register no longer sounds histrionic — it’s descriptive of a mood many of us recognize.”

23. Adam Sandler’s Everlasting Shtick

“Sandler makes movies for people to watch when they’re tired from work, or stoned, or 13. And over the years, as he has garnered control, the most recessive traits of his filmmaking style have begun to combine in more flagrant disorder.”

24. Does Who You Are at 7 Determine Who You Are at 63?

“To spend time with a child is to dwell under the terms of an uneasy truce between the possibility of the present and the inevitability of the future. Our deepest hope for the children we love is that they will enjoy the liberties of an open-ended destiny, that their desires will be given the free play they deserve, that the circumstances of their birth and upbringing will be felt as opportunities rather than encumbrances; our greatest fear is that they will feel thwarted by forces beyond their control. At the same time, we can’t help poring over their faces and gestures for any signals of eventuality — the trace hints and betrayals of what will emerge in time as their character, their plot, their fate. And what we project forward for the children in our midst can rarely be disentangled from what we project backward for ourselves.”

Sunday 11.24.2019 New York Times Digest

1. Why Gratitude Is Wasted on Thanksgiving

“We’re supposed to gather, support one another and relax on that fourth Thursday of November. Yet on the other 364 days of the year — the ones when you might feel lonely, stressed at work, tempted to dishonesty or stinginess — pausing to cultivate a sense of gratitude can make a big difference.”

2. How Juul Hooked a Generation on Nicotine

“The company began hiring consultants to identify social media influencers with large followings on Instagram and Twitter to promote Juul. It pushed hashtags like #juul and #vaporized that the influencers used while showing images of themselves or other young people doing tricks with the device.”

3. Combating School Intolerance

“Given the rise in school shootings tied to far-right extremism, teachers — like law enforcement officials and parents — now face the difficult task of trying to identify which students risk being radicalized.”

4. Veterans Join Airlines in Pushback Against Conduct Unbecoming a Support Dog

“Some veterans and service dog organizations say the overuse of untrained dogs, pigs, rodents and amphibians — and, at least once, a small sloth — as emotional support companions has made it difficult for veterans to get acceptance for their properly trained service animals on airplanes and beyond.”

5. Imagine Being on Trial With Exonerating Evidence Trapped on Your Phone

“Law enforcement agencies get a new investigative technique — fingerprinting, DNA analysis, breathalyzer tests — and those representing the accused struggle to play catch-up. Developing the new technical expertise necessary to adequately defend their clients is a challenge. Not only do public defenders tend to be underfunded, law enforcement can monopolize the experts in the field and forbid them from working for the defense.”

6. Go Ahead, Eat Your Feelings

“Eating emotionally, which conventional wisdom says is dysfunctional and even pathological, is actually just a normal part of being human. We don’t turn to food in response to negative feelings because we’re broken or out of control, or because food is addictive. We do it because it’s one of many ways in which we (even the most balanced eaters) cope, and in the grand scheme of things, it’s a pretty harmless one.”

7. Our National Parks Are in Trouble

“Our parks were intended as havens from the stresses of the modern world and places where the nation’s natural and historic legacies would be preserved. But the world continues to close in on them.”

8. Social Media and the Populist Moment

“What’s wrong with conservatism has as much to do with old-media forces like talk radio and cable news, plus real-world isolation and disconnection, as it does with QAnon.”

9. The Life and Death of the Local Hardware Store

“Here we can see how an ideology of convenience is reshaping the economy. Ordering things like tape or bolts online is rarely cheaper or faster than popping down to the local hardware store — not to mention the wasteful packaging — but many of us do it anyhow. Clicking on a product from the comfort of your couch seems more convenient — and that impression of ease can have more influence on our behavior than better service, quicker acquisition and lower prices.”

10. The Real Cost of Tweeting About My Kids

“We wanted one kind of control, and didn’t reckon with the fact that we’d have to pay for it with another kind. We wanted to be able to interact with other people entirely in our own time, with people who make no demands on us. We wanted entry and exit to be painless. We understood from the start that this form of socializing — like an affair without physical contact — was shallower than the other, more demanding kind. We were prepared to accept that trade-off, but failed to grasp that we were trading away more than depth. We were also trading away a kind of control.”

11. Is There Anything We Can All Agree On? Yes: Dolly Parton

“A generation that’s grown up with Snapchat-filtered selfies and pop feminism seems to have an innate understanding that artifice doesn’t negate authenticity, or that a penchant for towering wigs and acrylic nails doesn’t prevent someone from being a songwriting genius.”

12. Inside the War for California’s Cannabis Churches

“Lawyers for cannabis churches are arguing that marijuana is a sacrament that must be dispensed by religious institutions to ensure that the sourcing and the blessing of the product meets their standards.”

13. The Men’s Cardigan Makes a Comeback

“The cardigan is as every bit as bad as you make it.”

14. How to Rebrand a Country

“Conflict and strife have receded, with infrastructure rebuilt and economies recovering. And through a combination of marketing, social media and development — and with the fading associations of discord that come with the passage of time — these three countries are now booming tourist destinations, topping travel rankings, bucket lists and flooding Instagram feeds.”

15. By the Book: Phoebe Waller-Bridge

“I wish more people would write from the point of view of tiny, witty animals.”

16. The Moms of TikTok Are Deeply Corny — and Gloriously Free

“Extreme ideologies tend to come full circle to adjoin their opposites, which is perhaps how we find ourselves in this era of relaxed, high-rise jeans and a surprising number of moms trending on TikTok.”

17. ‘Queen & Slim’ Could Be One of the Great Love Stories of All Time — if You Let It

“Lately I have come to the conclusion, and you may disagree, that pretty much every experience we have moves us either toward life or away from it. There are some things that suck the life out of you, that make you feel smaller and less human, that alienate you from yourself; they calcify your fear and carve a monument out of your emptiness. Then there are those that bring you closer to life, that grow in you the desire to create, to nurture, to see beautiful things and become them. This is the love that increases your attachment to people and animals, makes you smile at children or go outside to see the moon. Every experience is either life-affirming or life-denying.”

18. The Mister Rogers No One Saw

“If you make him out to be a saint, people might not know how hard he worked.”