Sunday 2.4.2018 New York Times Digest


1. Force Overtime? Or Go for the Win?

“When facing decisions like this, people are often myopic, focusing too much on the possibility of an immediate loss. They avoid the risk of instant defeat, even when taking that risk offers the best path to victory.”

2. Most Afghans Can’t Read, but Their Book Trade Is Booming

“The publisher’s big sellers are self-help books, particularly in the how-to-get-rich genre. Ivanka Trump’s Women Who Work is also popular in translation, particularly among female readers.”

3. School Shooting Simulation Trains Teachers for the Worst

“In an option reminiscent of first-person shooter video games, they can also play the person with a gun.”

4. Making a Crypto Utopia in Puerto Rico

“Dozens of entrepreneurs, made newly wealthy by blockchain and cryptocurrencies, are heading en masse to Puerto Rico this winter. They are selling their homes and cars in California and establishing residency on the Caribbean island in hopes of avoiding what they see as onerous state and federal taxes on their growing fortunes, some of which now reach into the billions of dollars.”

5. Businesses Look at Washington and Say, ‘Never Mind, We’ll Do It’

“Together, the three men have revolutionized industries, forged empires and navigated all manner of crises. But can they fix health care?”

6. How a Crowdsourced List Set Off Months of #MeToo Debate

“The spreadsheet, which captured the ideals of what would soon grow into the #metoo movement, had almost immediate real-world effects. It caused prominent men to lose their jobs and disrupted the lives of lesser-known journalists. Four months after it was created, it remains a subject of intense debate.”

7. Why Women’s Voices Are Scarce in Economics

“At virtually every level of training and every professional rank within economics, women are a minority.”

8. This Is Why Uma Thurman Is Angry

“Quentin used Harvey as the executive producer of Kill Bill, a movie that symbolizes female empowerment. And all these lambs walked into slaughter because they were convinced nobody rises to such a position who would do something illegal to you, but they do.”

9. The Republican Tax Act Could Turn Texas Blue

“The demographic trends posing an imminent hurdle to Republicans in states like Texas and Georgia are, ironically, partly a consequence of the party’s own light-touch fiscal and regulatory policy.”

10. What It’s Like to Live in a Surveillance State

“A science-fiction dystopia? No. This is life in northwestern China today.”

11. Who’s Able-Bodied Anyway?

“There is no standard for physical or mental ability that makes a person able. Rather, the term has long been a political one. Across centuries of use, it has consistently implied another negative: The able-bodied could work, but are not working (or working hard enough). And, as such, they don’t deserve our aid.”

12. Beyond the Slave Trade, the Cadaver Trade

“There was a robust body-snatching industry in which cadavers — mostly the bodies of black people, many of whom had been enslaved when they were alive — were used at Harvard, the Universities of Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia, and other institutions.”

13. The Women Behind White Power

“What white women teach us is that white-supremacist politics is sustained at a much more grass-roots level by our neighbors, school boards and even friends.”

14. 5 Hours of Glenn Gould Outtakes. Why? Listen and Find Out.

“Over his career, Gould increasingly embraced recording’s potential to foster experimentation. He gave up playing concerts in 1964 and retreated to the studio, where he got involved with the detailed engineering of his releases, sometimes juxtaposing different portions of a piece played with various styles and approaches into a curious final synthesis.”

15. Easier Path To Divorce? Go Online.

“Since couples now meet online, plan weddings online, cheat online and find couples therapists online, it is only logical that they should be able to divorce online.”

16. Hand-Painted Ads for a Digital Age

“Like other novelties of the post-hipster age, the source of the value is not just the finished work, but also the tedious and rarefied conditions of its production.”

17. Enter the Holodeck

“They desperately want it to be good for society. But Bailenson and Lanier cannot have it both ways: insisting that VR is very realistic, and thus affecting and potentially therapeutic, but also that it will be used only for good.”

18. To Respect the Earth’s Limits — or Push Them?

“Mann’s storytelling skills are unmatched — the sprightly tempo with which this book unfolds, each question answered as it comes to mind, makes for pure pleasure reading. But you may find yourself troubled a little along the way by the analytical framework he’s imposed on the material, the division between the technologically minded Wizards and the limits-embracing Prophets.”

19. The Hidden Drama of Speedskating

“The oldest ice skates that anyone has found so far were made in Finland 2,000 years before the birth of Christ, which is to say 800 years before the Trojan War depicted by Homer in the Iliad.”

20. What Cross-Country Skiing Reveals About the Human Condition

“Cross-country skiers lean right into a bleak truth: We are stranded on a planet that is largely indifferent to us, a world that sets mountains in our path and drops iceballs from 50,000 feet and tortures our skin with hostile air. There is no escaping it; the only noble choice is to strap on a helmet and slog right in. Cross-country skiing expresses something deep about the human condition: the absolute, nonnegotiable necessity of the grind. The purity and sanctity of the goddamn slog.”


Sunday 1.28.2018 New York Times Digest

Screen Shot 2018-01-28 at 5.59.14 PM

1. The Follower Factory

“Devumi sells Twitter followers and retweets to celebrities, businesses and anyone who wants to appear more popular or exert influence online. Drawing on an estimated stock of at least 3.5 million automated accounts, each sold many times over, the company has provided customers with more than 200 million Twitter followers.”

2. Every One of the World’s Big Economies Is Now Growing

“We are investing heavily in Asia and also in Africa because the growth of the population there is stronger.”

3. Africa’s Gains Come With an Alarming Byproduct: Obesity

“Many Africans are eating more junk food, much of it imported. They are also getting much less exercise, as millions of people abandon a more active farming life to crowd into cities, where they tend to be more sedentary. More affordable cars and a wave of motorbike imports also mean that fewer Africans walk to work.”

4. Postcard People

“The world may have largely abandoned postcard writing, but deltiology — or postcard collecting — persists.”

5. What the Sharing Economy Really Delivers: Entitlement

“As people become their own brands, in the nonsense argot of the new economy, as work increasingly happens anywhere and everywhere, disaggregated from institutions and hierarchies and protocols that can offer various protections and clear channels of recourse, the policing of harassment will face new challenges.”

6. The Remote Control, Out of Control

“I’ve got Netflix. I’ve got Amazon. I’ve got cable. I’m done.”

7. Rambling Through Time

“The story of life on earth so far isn’t one of a tidy march of progress, culminating in humanity’s ‘end of history.’ Other alien worlds have claimed this planet for unimaginably longer spans, relinquishing their place only under the duress of mind-bending episodes of chaos, like asteroid hits and large-scale volcanic activity.”

8. How Wobbly Is Our Democracy?

“We should not take democracy for granted. There is nothing intrinsic in American culture that immunizes us against its breakdown.”

9. The Men Who Want to Live Forever

“The people publicly championing life extension are mainly men.”

10. We Need Protests. And Paintings.

“To defend the place of millions of immigrants and their progeny in American society, we need not only protest of political changes but also more art.”

11. Hollywood Uses the Very Women It Exploited to Change the Subject

“Hollywood has nimbly absorbed its critiques and converted them into inspirational messaging and digestible branding exercises, just in time for the unfurling of the red carpets.”

12. SZA Almost Quit Music. Now She’s a Grammys Contender.

“In an industry where the youngest stars radiate the most heat, SZA was a relatively late bloomer. She self-released her first EP at 22 and came to music as a refuge from jobs as a bartender and a sales assistant on the floor at Sephora.”

13. Robert Coover: By the Book

“The conventional novel, only readable if the writing’s stunningly or quirkily great. On the other hand, sci-fi, detective novels, westerns, pornography, spy stories, horror and romance, though very conservative forms, are all more like folk and fairy tales, and so much more alluring to a writer trying to burrow inside the collective psyche.”

14. Letter of Recommendation: Rodney Dangerfield

“By the time he perfected his act, he was nearly 60. But everything about Dangerfield was weird.”

15. Is ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ the Most Radical Show on TV?

“When ‘Drag Race’ first began, it seemed like a fun window into an underground culture, but over the nine years it has aired, the show has evolved to reflect America’s changing relationship to queer rights and acceptance.”



Saw it last night. Liked it a lot. More than I thought I would. Did a little Twitter thread about it.

Sunday 1.21.2018 New York Times Digest


1. When Americans Were Afraid of Being Brainwashed

“Americans have a long history of fearing foreign subversion via mental manipulation.”

2. Faced With Abuse Scandal, U.S.O.C. Does Nothing.

“The leaders of U.S.A. Gymnastics fought to keep the abuse secret.”

3. America’s Sports Stadiums Are Moving Downtown

“City populations grew faster from 2010 to 2016 than those in the suburbs, reversing a 60-year trend that started in 1950.”

4. Online Courses Are Harming the Students Who Need the Most Help

“Taking a class without a teacher requires high levels of self-motivation, self-regulation and organization. Yet in high schools across the country, students who are struggling in traditional classrooms are increasingly steered into online courses.”

5. There’s Community and Consensus, but No Commune.

“The heart of each community is the common house, or a space, where group meals are offered once or twice a week, together with activities and events. Houses are connected by pathways. Instead of a lawn mower in every garage, there often are no attached garages. Cars are exiled to peripheral parking areas, while a single, shared lawn mower suits the needs of everyone.”

6. My Kid’s First Lesson in Realpolitik

“The president’s trolling is so effective, in part, because many of us have not learned how to deal with interpersonal conflict, starting with the playground. We must learn to defend ourselves so that when Donald Trump or any other bully taunts us, we can rise to the occasion.”

7. Donald Trump’s Radical Honesty

“Trump’s truths are actually in his lies.”

8. They Were Bad. He May Be Worse.

“Mr. Trump’s first year portends a very unhappy ending.”

9. The Political Mythbuster in Chief

“The president has forced us to finally look in the mirror. Perhaps he has done us a favor.”

10. Trump So Far Is More Farce Than Tragedy

“Trump is a dictator on Twitter, a Dear Leader in his own mind, but in the real world there is no Trumpocracy because Trump cannot even rule himself.”

11. We Need Bodice-Ripper Sex Ed

“Those books, for all their soft-core covers and happily-ever-afters, were quietly and not-so-quietly subversive. They taught readers that sexual pleasure was something women could not just hope for but insist upon. They shaped my interactions with boys and men. They helped make me a feminist.”

12. Are They Really Horror Movies? Afraid So.

“For many, ‘horror’ is shorthand for cheap, unreal, bad. The genre has garnered more critical respect today, but the tradition of dismissing it remains alive.”

13. Of Guidebooks to the American Dream.

“Mr. Adams, 47, who is African-American, is the first major visual artist to use the Green Books as a creative point of departure. For him, they are not only a Civil Rights artifact and instrument of social change, but also a fascinating record of black leisure time and the built environment — subjects that are continuously percolating in his work.”

14. Here’s How to Deal With Men (Thwack!)

“The point is not her leather riding crop. Her mission is to teach women how to employ a dominatrix’s rhetorical tools in any scenario when there’s a power imbalance with a man, whether or not it’s about sex. The scenarios happen everywhere.”

15. No Longer Writing, Philip Roth Still Has Plenty to Say

“I’ve stepped not just inside the male head but into the reality of those urges whose obstinate pressure by its persistence can menace one’s rationality, urges sometimes so intense they may even be experienced as a form of lunacy. Consequently, none of the more extreme conduct I have been reading about in the newspapers lately has astonished me.”

16. Gifted and Talented and Complicated

“Most prodigies grow up to be thoroughly unremarkable on paper. They do not, by and large, sustain their genius into adulthood.”

17. Behind Every Villain Stands Someone ‘Complicit’

“Complicity can be synonymous with collusion, but where collusion describes an action, complicity describes a state of being. It is buttery and passive, a path of least resistance. Complicity often calls for pretending not to know what you know, not to see what you see: playing dumb for the sake of getting along, preserving the comforts of the status quo. As a moral (non) stance, it clears the way for everything from bad manners to genocide.”

18. Joel Meyerowitz’s Career Is a Minihistory of Photography

“Meyerowitz began to work as a street photographer in the early 1960s and quickly became a virtuoso of the craft. He was inspired by the example of Robert Frank, whose work was full of poetic melancholy, though what first struck Meyerowitz was the balletic grace with which Frank moved while photographing. Later, he went out roaming with Garry Winogrand, who was frenetic and indefatigable. A great street photographer needs two distinct talents: the patience to lie in wait for unanticipated moments and the skill to catch them with the click of a shutter. Meyerowitz had both, whether he was shooting in black and white or in color. The color work is what he’s better known for, photographs that, to begin with, were brash and often jubilant, a world away from Frank’s gloom.”

19. I Used to Insist I Didn’t Get Angry. Not Anymore.

“If an angry woman makes people uneasy, then her more palatable counterpart, the sad woman, summons sympathy more readily. She often looks beautiful in her suffering: ennobled, transfigured, elegant. Angry women are messier. Their pain threatens to cause more collateral damage. It’s as if the prospect of a woman’s anger harming other people threatens to rob her of the social capital she has gained by being wronged. We are most comfortable with female anger when it promises to regulate itself, to refrain from recklessness, to stay civilized.”

20. Beyond the Bitcoin Bubble

“The potential power of this would-be revolution is being actively undercut by the crowd it is attracting, a veritable goon squad of charlatans, false prophets and mercenaries. Not for the first time, technologists pursuing a vision of an open and decentralized network have found themselves surrounded by a wave of opportunists looking to make an overnight fortune. The question is whether, after the bubble has burst, the very real promise of the blockchain can endure.”

21. Fear of the Federal Government in the Ranchlands of Oregon

“In many ways, it seemed, the people were constructing their ideas of the land upon a fantasy of the past.”

22. Kevin O’Leary Is Unmoved by Your Tears

“Business is so binary: Either you make money or you lose it.”


Sunday 1.14.2018 New York Times Digest


1. Inside One of America’s Last Pencil Factories

“In an era of infinite screens, the humble pencil feels revolutionarily direct: It does exactly what it does, when it does it, right in front of you. Pencils eschew digital jujitsu. They are pure analog, absolute presence. They help to rescue us from oblivion. Think of how many of our finest motions disappear, untracked — how many eye blinks and toe twitches and secret glances vanish into nothing. And yet when you hold a pencil, your quietest little hand-dances are mapped exactly, from the loops and slashes to the final dot at the very end of a sentence.”

2. In Some Countries, Facebook’s Fiddling Has Magnified Fake News

“As Facebook updates and tweaks its service in order to keep users glued to their screens, countries like Bolivia are ideal testing grounds thanks to their growing, internet-savvy populations. But these changes can have significant consequences, like limiting the audience for nongovernmental news sources and — surprisingly — amplifying the impact of fabricated and sensational stories.”

3. As Labor Pool Shrinks, Prison Time Is Less of a Hiring Hurdle

“In Dane County, Wis., where the unemployment rate was just 2 percent in November, demand for workers has grown so intense that manufacturers are taking their recruiting a step further: hiring inmates at full wages to work in factories even while they serve their prison sentences.”

4. Mr. Amazon Steps Out

“You’re going to get a lot of scrutiny if you’re disrupting other people’s livelihoods.”

5. Is the Answer to Phone Addiction a Worse Phone?

“I’ve been gray for a couple days, and it’s remarkable how well it has eased my twitchy phone checking, suggesting that one way to break phone attachment may be to, essentially, make my phone a little worse. We’re simple animals, excited by bright colors, it turns out.”

6. Guess Who’s Coming to ‘Peanuts’

“Dr. King’s assassination, on April 4, 1968, played a direct role in Franklin’s creation.”

7. The Women the Abortion War Leaves Out

“If anti-abortion campaigners truly want to decrease the numbers of abortions, rather than passing laws designed to drive up the costs of abortion, they would do far better to invest in the kinds of economic supports that make becoming a parent a realistic possibility for struggling women.”

8. Keep Our Mountains Free. And Dangerous.

“Where, and when, can we take life-threatening risk?”

9. The Secret to a Happy Marriage Is Knowing How to Fight

“We’ve made love and marriage into such an ideal that people are afraid to consider, at the outset, just how stressful it can get.”

10. The Delicate Politics of Chasing Owls

“While birders prize owls, the ethical ones also abet the species’ secretive natures with their own code of silence, an owl ‘omertà.’ Many people will not share the specifics of an owl’s location or will do so only in whispers.”

11. Can Your Hip Replacement Kill You?

“Medical interventions are now the third-leading cause of death in the United States, and devices play an increasing role in that statistic.”

12. Tonya Harding Would Like Her Apology Now

“If it had worked out, we would say she was the manifestation of the American dream. Now instead we just say she’s very American.”

13. Everyone Is Getting Hilariously Rich and You’re Not

“He drew a chart to explain the crypto community: 20 percent for ideology, 60 percent for the tech and 100 percent for the money, he said, drawing a circle around it all.”

14. Outing Death

“That message is chilling, for sure. But for me, at the outset at least, it was bracing, an invitation more compelling than any raft of resolutions to seize the moment and run with it.”

15. Some Assembly Required

“‘Craeft’ is nearly untranslatable, ‘a form of knowledge, not just a knowledge of making but a knowledge of being.’ It combines in some ineffable way skill, intelligence and virtue.”

16. The Genius Is a Madman

“The genius is a madman; the savior is a betrayer; the populist is an aristocrat; the intellectual and artistic hero is a coward and a faker; the innovator is a reactionary; the artist is a politician; the legislator is an inmate. The contradictions multiply until they seem to describe something larger than any one man.”

17. The Poet of Light

“A poet who feeds on pathologies eventually becomes their food. But the issue is larger than that. A culture, too, is a work of imagination, or a failure of it. We are meant to be in a golden age of the television drama, and perhaps we are. But just consider how thoroughly so many of these shows equate misery with authenticity, and how many rely on violence and degradation (usually toward women) to establish character and intensity. And now consider the broader culture we have found ourselves in for the past year or so. Does it not seem as if reality has begun to take on whims and powers of its own?”

18. Learning to Fool Our Algorithmic Spies

“Maybe knowing that we’re being monitored by judgmental algorithms could affect our behavior, too. If this is the case — if awareness of mechanical all-seeing eyes changes how we see and comport ourselves — then, well, how?”

19. Why Are Our Most Important Teachers Paid the Least?

“The earliest years are a period of intense and rapid neural development — M.R.I. studies suggest that 80 percent of all neural connections form by age 3 — and that a child’s ability to capitalize on these years is directly related to her environment.”


Sunday 1.7.2018 New York Times Digest


1. How U.S. Intelligence Agencies Underestimated North Korea

“The C.I.A. and other American intelligence services had predicted this moment would come, eventually. For decades, they accurately projected the broad trajectory of North Korea’s nuclear program. Yet their inability to foresee the North’s rapid strides over the past several months now ranks among America’s most significant intelligence failures.”

2. As Low-Power Local Radio Rises, Tiny Voices Become a Collective Shout

“You want weird? Just turn the dial.”

3. The Struggling Artist at 86

“Every day without fail, he continues to put pencil to paper with such single-minded focus that he doesn’t see his own career arc, or plan for the future.”

4. The Alt-Right’s Asian Fetish

“‘Exclusively’ dating Asian women is practically a ‘white-nationalist rite of passage.’”

5. Is Your Child Lying to You? That’s Good

“Lying is not only normal; it’s also a sign of intelligence.”

6. We Are What We Read

“Storytelling is as human as breathing.”

7. Daniel Mendelsohn: By the Book

“Immaculate syntax is the best delivery vehicle for devastating irony.”

8. This Cat Sensed Death. What if Computers Could, Too?.

“What if an algorithm could predict death?”

9. Can an Algorithm Tell When Kids Are in Danger?

“Ostensibly, the algorithms are designed to avoid the faults of human judgment. But what if the data they work with are already fundamentally biased?”

10. The Case for the Subway

“Before the subway, it was by no means a foregone conclusion that New York would become the greatest city on earth. Hundreds of thousands of immigrants fleeing poverty and persecution were arriving on its doorstep every year, but most of them were effectively marooned, herded into dark, squalid tenements in disease-ridden slums. The five boroughs had recently been joined as one city, but the farms and villages of Brooklyn, the Bronx and Queens might as well have been on the other side of the planet from Manhattan’s teeming streets. Bound up in the fate of the city were even larger questions: Would America be able to manage the transition from the individualism and insularity that defined its 19th-century frontiers to the creative collaboration and competition of its fast-growing urban centers? Could it adapt and excel in this rapidly changing world? Were cities the past or the future of civilization? And then came the subway: hundreds of miles of track shooting out in every direction, carrying millions of immigrants out of the ghettos and into newly built homes, tying together the modern city and enabling it to become a place where anything was possible.”

11. Where Pot Entrepreneurs Go When the Banks Just Say No

“In most of the 22 states that, along with Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico, have legal marijuana markets, cash is not simply king; it is all-consuming.”

12. Masha Gessen Is Worried About Outrage Fatigue

“A people robbed of the tools of self-understanding find themselves at a dead end.”


Creative Idleness

Brunello Cucinelli, billionaire sweater maker/philosopher, on the importance of creative idleness in the December 2017/January 2018 issue of Esquire.

Brunello Cucinelli