The Old Man and the Gun

Sunday 6.3.2018 New York Times Digest


1. Letter of Recommendation: Airport Layovers

“Layovers are enforced ellipses in life — temporary tenures in air-conditioned limbo. Once you’ve made it to your gate, there is, for the moment, nothing substantial left to achieve. You are free.”

2. Listen Carefully, Book Lovers: Top Authors Are Skipping Print

“You’re not going to be able to read it, you’re only going to be able to listen to it.”

3. A City as a Basic-Income Test Lab

“As the first American city to test so-called universal basic income, Stockton will watch what happens next. So will governments and social scientists around the world as they explore how to share the bounty of capitalism more broadly at a time of rising economic inequality.”

4. The Housewives of White Supremacy

“Running alongside what could be mistaken for a peculiar style of mommy-vlogging is a virulent strain of white nationalism.”

5. The Mexican Revival of Small-Town America

“Overall, immigrants have helped both wealthy and poorer rural towns cope with an aging, declining population. They’ve rescued abandoned communities, some that had been losing population since the 1920s.”

6. Do You Like Your Name?

“Onomasticians, who are trained in various scholarly subdisciplines, study proper names, and many of their results are fascinating.”

7. What Happens When Abortion Is Banned?

“Abortifacient drugs have become so readily available in places like Chile and El Salvador that it has become impossible to enforce abortion bans. That was also the case in Ireland, where by some accounts, before last month’s legalization vote, at least two Irish women a day were self-administering abortions using pills.”

8. Sex and Gender on the Christian Campus

“White House policies cannot halt the undertow of generational change, and may even accelerate it, because a modest but meaningful resistance to evangelical support for Mr. Trump is brewing on many Christian campuses.”

9. A Memorial to the Lingering Horror of Lynching

“The act of lynching was, by calculation, intensely visual. Its central, recurring image of controlling white bodies surrounding a tortured black one projected a message meant to grind a black population down with fear. As with all terrorism, unpredictability and arbitrariness were tactical tools. Lynching was intended to demonstrate that any black person, male or female, adult or child, could be accused of any offense and be ritually slaughtered. The law was no protection, and guilt was presumed, because being black was the real crime.”

10. 73 Books to Read While the Sun Is Out and the Days Are Long

“Thrillers, romances, cookbooks, the great outdoors: We’ve got them, and more.”

11. A Sprightly History of Advice-Giving

“Few people in the history of written advice have actually been qualified to give it.”

12. The Wondrous Life of ‘The Library’

“To get through times like these, I recommend drinking alcohol and making use of libraries.”

13. Sloshed, Hammered, Blotto — We’ve Been Doing It for Ages

“The good folks at A.A. will be apoplectic over this book, which suggests that heavy drinking is a basic human need, providing us with relief from the burdens of civilized society and even, for many cultures in history, a glimpse of the divine.”

14. How to Pose for a Photograph

“Most people have a more attractive ‘good side,’ which tends to correspond with where they part their hair. To find yours, shoot a series of three selfies: First look straight at the camera, nose at 12 o’clock; turn to the right, nose at 1 o’clock; then to the left, at 11 o’clock.”

15. The Empowerment Cult

“Members believed that Raniere could heal them of emotional traumas, set them free from their fears and attachments, clear patterns of destructive thinking. Some believed he could heal them sexually too.”

16. Malcolm Gladwell Likes Things Better in Canada

“I like ideas that absolve people of blame. That’s the most consistent theme in all of my work. I don’t like blaming people’s nature or behavior for things. I like blaming systems and structures and environments for things.”

Sunday 5.27.2018 New York Times Digest

CreditPhoto illustration by Derek Brahney

1. Boiling Over

“We are not congratulated for doing what we ought, only condemned for doing what we ought not. And by uniting in outrage against those in that second category, we find perverse satisfaction and reward.”

2. The Places in the U.S. Where Disaster Strikes Again and Again

“Only in the United States do relief programs and subsidized insurance make it attractive for people to move toward disaster-prone areas.”

3. Millions at Top, A Pittance Below.

“A Walmart employee earning the company’s median salary of $19,177 would have to work for more than a thousand years to earn the $22.2 million that Doug McMillon, the company’s chief executive, was awarded in 2017.”

4. Locked Out by Student Debt.

“Homeownership among Americans in their 20s and 30s is hovering near a three-decade low. Just 35 percent of households headed by someone younger than 35 owned a home in 2017, down from 41 percent in 1982, according to census data. Now, they are much more likely to be living at home with their parents or elders. At the same time, the nation’s student loan bill has soared to $1.4 trillion, surpassing credit cards to become the largest source of personal debt outside mortgages.”

5. Antibiotics in Meat Could Be Damaging Our Guts

“Are pig, cattle and poultry farmers misusing antibiotics, allowing too much of the drug to get into our food?”

6. Aristotle’s Wrongful Death.

“The idea of college as instantaneously responsive to employers’ evolving needs is a bit of a fantasy.”

7. Free Speech Will Not Save Us.

“The idea of free speech is part of a superstructure that can easily be pulled apart from below by contending factions, or crumble when its cultural foundation disappears.”

8. Seeing a City the Old-Fashioned Way: One Step at a Time

“The walking tour is an industry classic, predating smartphones, selfie sticks and status updates. Yet it’s a tour style that appears to be enjoying a bit of a boom, attracting ever more travelers interested in seeing a city in a slow fashion: on foot.”

9. Locked In.

“America has never quite known what to do with the mentally ill, and Roth argues that the latest solution — lock them up! — is the worst option of all: morally wrong, medically wrong and economically wrong.”

10. The Mystery Buffs in the White House

“It’s escapism for the control freak.”

11. Letter of Recommendation: Drinking at Lunch

“Microdosing LSD in order to increase workplace productivity is, in some precincts, more professionally acceptable than having a glass of wine.”

12. How Boots Riley Infiltrated Hollywood

“Among the questions the movie raises is whether black success within capitalism is something to reflexively celebrate or whether the success of individuals who belong to an exploited class serves to ratify and consolidate — rather than thwart or ameliorate — the system doing the exploiting.”


On Not Fitting In

“I used to try to fit in. I remember doing a thing on stock car racing. I went down to North Wilkesboro, N.C., … and I wore a green tweed suit and a blue button down shirt and a black neck tie and some brown suede shoes and a brown Borsalino hat. I figured that was really casual. After about five days, Junior Johnson, whom I was writing about, came to me and he says, ‘I don’t mean to be rude or anything … but people I’ve known all my life down here … they keep asking me, “Junior, who is that little green man following you around?”’ It was then that it dawned on me that … nobody for 50 miles in any direction was wearing a suit of any color, or a tie for that matter, or a hat, and the less said about brown suede shoes the better. … I was also depriving myself of the ability to ask some very obvious questions … if you’re pretending to fit in, you can’t ask these obvious questions.

Tom Wolfe

Sunday 5.20.2018 New York Times Digest


1. This Is School in America Now

“You send your kids to school, and one of the things they learn is how not to die.”

2. Scouring Hate Off Facebook In Germany

“They are the agents of Facebook. And they have the power to decide what is free speech and what is hate speech. This is a deletion center, one of Facebook’s largest, with more than 1,200 content moderators. They are cleaning up content — from terrorist propaganda to Nazi symbols to child abuse — that violates the law or the company’s community standards.”

3. Some Ex-Cons Make a Living Out in the Yard.

“The guiding principle: kale, not jail.”

4. Me and My Numb Thumb: A Tale of Tech, Texts and Tendons

“Eventually, my right thumb just stopped working. It could not muster the strength to press down on my phone.”

5. How to Accept a Compliment

“The compliment is a coded invitation to chitchat, and simply saying, ‘Thank you’ linguistically slams the door in the complimenter’s face.”

6. Good Refugees, Bad Refugees

“What some of us also forget is that at nearly every stage of our country’s history, the people who were already established as American citizens found convenient targets to designate as unable to assimilate: the indigenous peoples; conquered Mexicans; slaves; or the newest immigrants, who were usually classified as nonwhite.”

7. America’s 150-Year Opioid Epidemic

“The late-19th-century opiate epidemic was nearly identical to the one now spreading across the United States. Back then, doctors began to prescribe a profitable and effective drug — morphine, taken via hypodermic needle — too liberally.”

8. Dystopia, Apocalypse, Culture War: 2018 or 1968?

“We are still looking at dystopian and apocalyptic fantasies, still running from zombies, still watching cities erupt, still fighting over basic human rights. The movies have been conscripts in this continuing culture war and to look back at 1968 is to understand what has and hasn’t changed.”

9. Beautiful People in European Villas: a Film Genre of Its Own

“Many of us prefer to observe good-looking people in beautiful places if there’s a degree of misery involved.”

10. 45 Stories of Sex and Consent on Campus

“Many sexual encounters seem to take place in a so-called gray zone of miscommunication, denial, rationalization and, sometimes, regret. We wanted to explore that complexity when we asked college students for their stories of navigating this gray zone: what they anticipated, how they negotiated consent and processed the aftermath, and what advice they would give their younger selves. These are their stories.”

11. Jordan Peterson, Custodian of the Patriarchy

“He does not smile.”

12. Fashion’s Woman Problem

“Fashion, an industry dominated by women’s wear and buoyed by female dollars, with an image sold by women to women, is still largely run by men.”

13. Is a Dumber Phone a Better Phone?

“While the most influential tech companies are trying to figure out what products they can make to use alongside smartphones — on your wrist, in your head, over your eye — some more marginal companies are charting less obvious trajectories. Their respective approaches differ, but they make at least one common assumption: The best option, at this point, isn’t to make phones better. It’s to make them worse.”

14. Letter of Recommendation: Drew Barrymore’s ‘Little Girl Lost’

“Chapter 9, Sentence 1: ‘I loved cocaine. Period.’”

15. How to Float

“Underwater, you hear as a whale does: Sound waves bypass your eardrum and vibrate the bones of your skull, allowing you to hear frequencies as much as 10 times as high as you’d hear on land.”

16. How Tech Can Turn Doctors Into Clerical Workers

“Our $3.4 trillion health care system is responsible for more than a quarter of a million deaths per year because of medical error, the rough equivalent of, say, a jumbo jet’s crashing every day. Much of that is a result of poorly coordinated care, poor communication, patients falling through the cracks, knowledge not being transferred and so on, but some part of it is surely from failing to listen to the story and diminishing skill in reading the body as a text.”


Sunday 5.13.2018 New York Times Digest

Credit Alexander Glandien

1. Is the United States Too Big to Govern?

“With a population of more than 325 million and an enormously complex society, perhaps this country has passed a point where — no matter whom we elect — it risks becoming permanently dissatisfied with legislative and governmental performance.”

2. The Great #MeToo Awakening

“Large segments of evangelical Christianity have a serious problem related to women. It’s disturbing, in part because this is contrary to the early history of Christianity, which did so much to elevate and dignify the role of women in the ancient world.”

3. How to Be a Prophet of Doom

“Thermonuclear war destroys the possibility of heroism.”

4. Let Mountain Lions Eat Horses

“It isn’t that there are too many horses; it’s that there aren’t enough mountain lions.”

5. How the Online Left Fuels the Right

“People on the right benefit immensely when they can cultivate the mystique of the forbidden.”

6. Does It Matter if You See a Film in a Theater or at Home?

“Studios, distributors and streaming services have to figure out a way to coexist.”

7. Are My Friends Really My Friends?

“The result … can be glut of old acquaintances that are not as easily forgotten online and which therefore stifle the development of newer, in-person friendships.”

8. The Ghostwriter Next Door

“If you have received a digital message of any significance, in other words — whether flirting, fighting or figuring something out — consider that it has likely already been looked over by a third party.”

9. Why ‘Fahrenheit 451’ Is the Book for Our Social Media Age

“In Fahrenheit 451 Bradbury was warning us about the threat of mass media to reading, about the bombardment of digital sensations that could substitute for critical thinking.”

10. What Do We Mean When We Call Art ‘Necessary’?

“If the point of art might once have been found in its pointlessness, this attempt to infuse it with purpose runs the risk of rendering it even more irrelevant.”


Sunday 5.6.2018 New York Times Digest


1. The Russian Comic Writer Who’s an Antidote to Mad Times

“When people say that America’s absurdity has outpaced fiction, I refer them to the works of Nikolai Gogol, the Russian writer and playwright, who understood better than any artist since what ‘perfect nonsense goes on in the world.’”

2. Stop Calling Washington a Swamp. It’s Offensive to Swamps.

“The swamp is also the perfection of paradox. A marsh with trees. Water. Land. Both and neither. The use of ‘swamp’ as a pejorative ignores all of this, while reflecting an ecological ignorance and a general disparagement of the swampier regions of the country, particularly in the South.”

3. The Upside of Envy

“If we are honest with ourselves, envy can help us identify our vision of excellence and where need be, perhaps reshape it.”

4. When Southern Newspapers Justified Lynching

“Newspapers even bragged about the roles they had played in arranging particularly spectacular lynchings. But the real damage was done in terse, workaday stories that justified lynching by casting its victims as ‘fiends,’ ‘brutes,’ ‘born criminals’ or, that catchall favorite, ‘troublesome Negroes.’ The narrative that tied blackness inextricably to criminality — and to the death penalty — survived the lynching era and lives on to this day.”

5. Our Addiction to Trump

“As president, Trump is enormously important, but there’s so much else happening as well.”

6. Did That Just Happen?! Skyscraper Stunts in the Movies

“Since King Kong climbed to the top of the Empire State Building in 1933, the movies have often relied on skyscrapers as a tense setting for action thrills. And the buildings, along with studio ambitions, keep getting higher.”

7. Bans on Plastic Straws Are Growing. But Is the Travel Industry Doing Enough?

“Plastic straws kill marine life and choke reefs and beaches, never decomposing completely, but instead breaking into bits of microplastics, which eventually enter the food chain.”

8. Yes, It’s Bad. Robocalls, and Their Scams, Are Surging. + Robocalls Flooding Your Cellphone? Here’s How to Stop Them

“The most simple and effective remedy is to not answer numbers you don’t know.”

9. How Big Data Is ‘Automating Inequality’

“For the poor, she argues, government data and its abuses have imposed a new regime of surveillance, profiling, punishment, containment and exclusion, which she evocatively calls the ‘digital poorhouse.’”

10. What Happens When People and Companies Are Both Just ‘Brands’?

“The brand, in fact, is such a ubiquitous organizing principle for so many things — companies, products, people — that it has been forced to spawn an expansive glossary of subcategories and varieties.”

11. Corrupt Leaders Are Falling Around the World. Will It Boost Economies?

“Corruption is being exposed, denounced and prosecuted more vigorously, and at higher levels, than ever.”

12. Letter of Recommendation: Crying at Movies

“I started going to movies alone. At first the theater was just an escape from the city, which had begun to make me feel like a penny in an immense jar of loose change. Then I started writing about movies professionally, giving me full license to indulge in the strangely taboo practice of solo moviegoing — a habit that can be remarkably meditative and fortifying, almost like prayer. I don’t remember exactly which movie it was that did it, but eventually something revelatory happened: I remembered how to cry.”

13. The Man Who Cracked the Lottery

“The prosecution knew Tipton had bought the winning ticket. The video, specifically the distinct voice that colleagues had recognized, made that pretty clear. So did cellphone records, which showed Tipton was in town that day, not out of town for the holidays as he claimed, and that he had been on the phone for 71 minutes with Robert Rhodes, the man who briefly had possession of the ticket. Investigators believed he’d fixed the lottery. But how?”