Sunday 2.19.2017 New York Times Digest


1. An Elegy for the Library

“Computers are much too costly for many families. Even books remain out of reach. The library’s website lists ‘uninterrupted lighting’ as one of its services — a real draw in a city that suffers from frequent power cutoffs. This is a place of refuge. It offers a respite from the heat, from office life, from noisy households, from all the irritations that crowd in. It also offers the intangible entanglements of a common space. One of my favorite descriptions of the public library comes from the journalist and academic Sophie Mayer, who has called it ‘the ideal model of society, the best possible shared space,’ because there ‘each person is pursuing their own aim (education, entertainment, affect, rest) with respect to others, through the best possible medium of the transmission of ideas, feelings and knowledge — the book.’”

2. Mexico City, Parched and Sinking, Faces a Water Crisis

“Much is being written about climate change and the impact of rising seas on waterfront populations. But coasts are not the only places affected. Mexico City — high in the mountains, in the center of the country — is a glaring example.”

3. The Ultimate Pursuit in Hunting: Sheep

“Non-hunters often presume that the biggest prize in North America is something large and fierce — some kind of bear, perhaps, or an elk, a moose or a mountain lion. But the widespread belief among serious hunters is that rams are the ultimate pursuit. That is for two reasons. One, opportunities to hunt sheep are scarce, and often prohibitively expensive. Two, the hunts are among the most difficult, often lasting weeks in some of the most remote regions on Earth.”

4. A Bee Mogul Confronts the Crisis in His Field

“There would be no almond crop — not to mention avocados, apples, cherries and alfalfa — without honeybees. Of the 100 crops that account for 90 percent of the food eaten around the globe, 71 rely on bee pollination, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.”

5. Are Liberals Helping Trump?

“Protests and righteous indignation on social media and in Hollywood may seem to liberals to be about policy and persuasion. But moderate conservatives say they are having the opposite effect, chipping away at their middle ground and pushing them closer to Mr. Trump.”

6. Name Brand Nostalgia

“While my mother was in charge of packing the paisley, non-rolling suitcases, the toilet articles bag was my father’s domain. Into its navy blue plastic he put all those brands I associate with my childhood — Sea and Ski, Bayer aspirin, Noxzema.”

7. First, Sex Ed. Then Death Ed.

“I am a passionate advocate for educating teenagers to be responsible about their sexuality. And I believe it is past time for us to educate them also about death, an equally important stage of life, and one for which the consequences of poor preparedness are as bad, arguably worse. Ideally this education would come early, well before it’s likely to be needed.”

8. Jordan Peele on a Truly Terrifying Monster: Racism

“Society is the scariest monster.”

9. Apocalypse Now: Wattle Mood of Today’hat’s Behind the Vols American — and European — Voters

“His premise is that broad swaths of the globe are retracing the past, reliving the same traumas and violent dislocations that accompanied Europe’s transition to modernity in the 18th and 19th centuries. A trauma felt most acutely by the ‘young man of promise’ in the countries late arriving to capitalism and Enlightenment, especially Germany and Russia. The prospect of freedom and cultural transformation stirred unachievable expectations, which predictably ended in humiliation and rage.”

10. Which Canonical Work is Frequently and Frustratingly Misread?

“Empires fall, and usually deserve to: This is not a message with much purchase among American politicians, especially those who most ostentatiously flaunt their faith. If they read the Bible, they would find the story, on page after page after page, of the predictable fate of nations that abandon their covenants: ‘Destruction upon destruction is cried; for the whole land is spoiled; suddenly are my tents spoiled, and my curtains in a moment.’”

11. Is the ‘Anthropocene’ Epoch a Condemnation of Human Interference — or a Call for More?

“While humanists have bent the Anthropocene to serve their own purposes, technologists have turned what began as a call for radical austerity into a renewed push for significant technological advances.”

12. Letter of Recommendation: Presidential Biographies

“Presidential biographies don’t tell you that everything is going to be O.K., but rather that nothing was ever really O.K. to begin with. And yet, for hundreds of years, Americans have not only survived heartbreaking, backbreaking periods but also stood tall in them. My advice, for these divisive times, is to find the perspective that history gives us. The next time you feel anxious or incensed, or even if you feel hopeful and gratified, turn off the television. Close your laptop. Silence your phone. Go ahead and put it screen-side down for the rest of the evening.”

13. These ’80s Artists Are More Important Than Ever

“Our present bedazzlement-by-pixels was anticipated by a loosely affiliated group of artists who emerged in New York in the mid-1970s and early ’80s — before iPhones, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram. ‘The Pictures Generation’ has become a ubiquitous, awkward catchall term, probably abrasive to the artists themselves, for something that was less an organized movement than a heterogeneous expression of a zeitgeist. Their art was connected by an interest in examining power and identity in a media-saturated, politically uncertain age.”

Sunday 2.12.2017 New York Times Digest


1. It’s Not Really on Your Side

“Time is not only something we live immersed in, like fish in water, but also an element of our lives with which we constantly struggle, which drives us crazy, opens up possibilities, lulls us and loses us.”

2. More Women in Their 60s and 70s Are Having ‘Way Too Much Fun’ to Retire

“Women have become significantly more likely to work into their 60s and even 70s, often full time, according to the analyses. And many of these women report that they do it because they enjoy it.”

3. Japan Limited Immigration; Now It’s Short of Workers

“Its tough stance on immigration — legal and illegal — is causing problems. Many Japanese industries are suffering from severe labor shortages, which has helped put a brake on economic growth.”

4. Why Falling Home Prices Could Be a Good Thing

“Instead of looking at homes as investments, what if we regarded them like a TV or a car or any other consumer good? People might expect home prices to go down instead of up.”

5. Feeling ‘Pressure All the Time’ on Europe’s Treadmill of Temporary Work

“Meet the new generation of permatemps in Europe.”

6. What We’re Fighting For

“From our founding we have made these kinds of moral demands of our soldiers. It starts with the oath they swear to support and defend the Constitution, an oath made not to a flag, or to a piece of ground, or to an ethnically distinct people, but to a set of principles established in our founding documents. An oath that demands a commitment to democracy, to liberty, to the rule of law and to the self-evident equality of all men. The Marines I knew fought, and some of them died, for these principles.”

7. Caitlyn Jenner’s Mission

“As I listened, I wondered whether L.G.B.T. rights really ought not to be the most conservative of causes. Above all else we want to be left alone, without interference, to live our lives with truth and grace. What could be more conservative than that?”

8. Microbes, a Love Story

“The microbes we carry, the same ones that make us attractive to potential mates, also directly influence our reproductive success. So when mammals choose mates based on the glow of health, they’re choosing not just an attractive set of genes, but also perhaps a microbial community that might facilitate reproduction.”

9. How to Do Social Science Without Data

Modernity and the Holocaust was a work of theory and synthesis. He collected no data and had no methodology to speak of. That didn’t make it any less of a powerful contribution.”

10. Since When Is Being a Woman a Liberal Cause?

“Who gets to define what it means to be pro-women?”

11. Finally, a Screenplay by James Baldwin

“The film covers the five years in which those leaders were assassinated, but it also retells the history of the long 20th century and now 21st century through the lens of American race relations. Mr. Peck achieves this by using rare footage of Baldwin giving interviews and speeches in the 1960s, and even more impressive, by revealing how intimately tied the technologies of American film have always been to our country’s practices and policies of racial inequality.”

12. Blaxploitation Movies Are Ready to Stream, Nostalgia Included

“The more mainstream services such as Netflix and Amazon don’t offer a whole lot of black filmmaking outside of the parameters established by Tyler Perry and David E. Talbert — relatively conventional melodramas and comedies with varying amounts of social consciousness.”

13. ‘The Ring’ Told Us in 2002 That the Medium Is the Monster

“You would think that a 15-year-old horror movie that makes a VCR complicit in a series of murders would come across today as a laughable concept. But it is the idea of ‘death by watching’ that resonates the most now, especially given the way the latest sequel upgrades the technology, threading the idea of a soul’s journey into our iPhones and QuickTime files.”

14. ‘Planet Earth II’: A Lizard’s Great Escape

“The most memorable screen performance of 2016 won’t be recognized at the Oscars in a couple weeks. For one thing, it appeared on television. For another, it was given by an iguana.”

15. Move Over, Wikipedia. Dictionaries Are Hot Again.

“Right now there are a lot of questions about what is true. We want clear statements about what things are, and dictionaries provide that.”

16. The Major Blind Spots in Macroeconomics

“Economists literally think they have nothing to learn from anyone else.”

17. How a Fractious Women’s Movement Came to Lead the Left

“The women’s movement has not always been a site for unity. It has been marked just as deeply by its fractures, failures and tensions. But more than a century of internal turmoil has also forced the movement to reckon with its divisions. Now, the question is whether it can bring even more Americans into the fold.”

Sunday 2.5.2017 New York Times Digest


1. The Image of Time

“When you make one photograph and, some time later, make another of the same thing, what is inside the frame changes. With the passage of time, you no longer have ‘the same thing.’”

2. China’s Intelligent Weaponry Gets Smarter

“Well into the 1960s, the United States held a military advantage based on technological leadership in nuclear weapons. In the 1970s, that perceived lead shifted to smart weapons, based on brand-new Silicon Valley technologies like computer chips. Now, the nation’s leaders plan on retaining that military advantage with a significant commitment to artificial intelligence and robotic weapons. But the global technology balance of power is shifting.”

3. Is the U.S. Economy Too Dynamic, or Not Dynamic Enough?

“Maybe the economy really isn’t working for many Americans because globalization, automation and changing labor practices have thrown them to the wolves. But maybe there are also deep-seated structural shifts preventing communities and individuals from tapping the great opportunities the modern economy offers.”

4. An Ancient Practice That’s Music to Their Ears, and More

“The ringers at St. Mark’s and about 6,000 other churches of various denominations around the world create their joyful symphony with a small number of bells — typically six or eight. The notes remain the same, but the bells are played in a perpetually changing sequence and emphasis, requiring close teamwork, a keen memory and years of practice.”

5. The History the Slaveholders Wanted Us to Forget

“African history is replete with riveting stories that refute centuries of stereotypes about black people and that show our shared humanity.”

6. How to Pick a Preschool in Less Than an Hour

“When you walk in the door of a prekindergarten, check out the walls — they should be festooned with children’s projects, and not, as is too often the case, plastered with posters that are calculated to please adults and mounted too high for 4-year-olds to see. Look around. There should be lots of different things for children to do.”

7. Who Are We?

“So far we haven’t found a way to correct the story while honoring its full sweep — including all the white-male-Protestant-European protagonists to whom, for all their sins, we owe so much of our inheritance.”

8. The ‘Esquire Man’ Is Dead. Long Live the ‘Esquire Man.’

“As we move into the era of transgender bathrooms and L.G.B.T.Q.I.A. studies, when millennials are more likely to take their cultural cues from Justin Bieber’s Instagram feed than 6,000-word profiles of Sean Penn, Mr. Fielden is charged not just with bringing back Esquire’s glory days, but with also figuring out exactly what the Esquire man — that is, the American man — is in 2017.”

9. Viet Thanh Nguyen: By the Book

“I love that Berger gave half his Booker Prize money in 1972 to the Black Panthers, and used the other half to fund the research for his next book on migrant laborers. Berger was the kind of writer we need more of — politically committed, aesthetically serious, always curious.”

10. Will You Graduate? Ask Big Data

“Georgia State is one of a growing number of colleges and universities using what is known as predictive analytics to spot students in danger of dropping out. Crunching hundreds of thousands and sometimes millions of student academic and personal records, past and present, they are coming up with courses that signal a need for intervention.”

11. Wanted: Factory Workers, Degree Required

“Rarely discussed in the political debate over lost jobs are the academic skills needed for today’s factory-floor positions, and the pathways through education that lead to them.”

12. Colleges Discover the Rural Student

“To college administrators, rural students, many of them the first in their families to attend college, have become the new underrepresented minority. In their aim to shape leaders and provide access to the disadvantaged, higher education experts have been recognizing that these students bring valuable experiences and viewpoints to campuses that don’t typically attract agriculture majors.”

13. In Hillsdale College, a ‘Shining City on a Hill’ for Conservatives

“Hillsdale, a private college of 1,400 students in southern Michigan that describes itself as ‘nonsectarian Christian’ and dedicated to ‘civil and religious liberty,’ is scarcely known in many circles. But among erudite conservatives — think progeny of William F. Buckley Jr. — it is considered a hidden gem.”

14. Creating a Safe Space for California Dreamers and Campuses Wary of Offering ‘Sanctuary’ to Undocumented Students

“Collectively, the freshmen in Tenaya Hall are the beacons of a better life. They are the sons and daughters of housekeepers, dishwashers, fast-food cooks, farm laborers, landscapers, garment workers who stitch labels onto clothing and contractors who build swimming pools for affluent homeowners along the coast.”

15. The Youth Group That Launched a Movement at Standing Rock

“As Donald Trump pushes forward with the Keystone XL and Dakota Access, he will face a movement emboldened by a victory on Dec. 4, 2016, when the Department of the Army denied an easement for the Dakota Access Pipeline and directed the Army Corps to consider an alternate route. It was a rare triumph for both the environmental and land rights movements, as well as for the American left in an otherwise dark moment. But little remarked upon at the time was the unlikely seed from which the movement had grown: an anti-suicide campaign among a tight-knit group of youths, most younger than 25, impelled by tragedy and guided by prophecy.”

16. The Misunderstood Genius of Russell Westbrook

“This is the lesson of Russell Westbrook. In a deeply imperfect world — a world where a shooting touch will suddenly abandon you at the worst possible moment, where your teammates might not be good enough to make a win possible, where an economy might suddenly collapse for no apparent reason, where the decency of strangers cannot be presumed — in a world like that, Westbrook’s approach to life might actually be the most rational one. You control the things you can control (family, daily routines, the occasional big choice) and outside that you fling yourself with wild abandon, every day, at every object that seems worthy of pursuit. In the absence of guarantees, in the absence of certainty, in the new American volatility, we can bank on only one thing: total presence, total sincerity, total effort, all the time. That is the sound of one hand clapping.”

17. The Parachute Generation

“Even as U.S.-China relations have slipped toward mutual antagonism, the flood of Chinese students coming to the United States has continued to rise. Roughly 370,000 students from the mainland are enrolled in American high schools and universities, six times more than a decade ago. Their financial impact — $11.4 billion was contributed to the American economy in 2015, according to the Department of Commerce — has turned education into one of America’s top ‘exports’ to China.”

Sunday 1.29.2017 New York Times Digest


1. Why Succeeding Against the Odds Can Make You Sick

“Decades of research show that when resilient people work hard within a system that has not afforded them the same opportunities as others, their physical health deteriorates.”

2. Immigration Ban Is Unlikely to Reduce Terrorist Threat, Experts Say

“The president’s directive is unlikely to significantly reduce the terrorist threat in the United States…. Many experts believe the order’s unintended consequences will make the threat worse.”

3. Troops Who Cleaned Up Radioactive Islands Can’t Get Medical Care

“Roughly 4,000 troops helped clean up the atoll between 1977 and 1980. Like Mr. Snider, most did not even wear shirts, let alone respirators. Hundreds say they are now plagued by health problems, including brittle bones, cancer and birth defects in their children. Many are already dead.”

4. How the Poet Ron Padgett Spends His Sundays

“We both grew up in Tulsa, and the custom in those days was to have dinner at 6 o’clock. It’s a custom we’ve never gotten over. So we sit down and eat almost exactly at 6 o’clock every night. It’s challenging in New York. When I first came to the city, people would say, ‘Will you come for dinner at 7:30 or 8?’ And I’d think, God, I’ll be dying of hunger by then.”

5. In America’s Heartland, Discussing Climate Change Without Saying ‘Climate Change’

“People are all talking about it, without talking about it.”

6. Play It Again, Lois and Judy and George.

“Ms. Lay is part of a growing number of retirees who are returning to the instruments they played during childhood and then put aside, or who are taking up the piano, flute or horn for the first time.”

7. Instead of Leaving a Job, Why Not Take a Pause?

“Leaves should be available for parents and nonparents, and for the purpose of clarifying your career goals. The academic world — and some corporations — have embraced the concept of sabbaticals, and I hope more companies recognize how important they are in helping their workers thrive.”

8. The Normalization Trap

“When people think about what is normal, they combine their sense of what is typical with their sense of what is ideal. Normal, in other words, turns out to be a blend of statistical and moral notions.”

9. Roxane Gay: By the Book

“I love when I read something that feels like the writer has taken a blade to my chest and cut my heart out. Basically, I love reading things that make me feel the same way I feel when listening to Beyoncé — slayed.”

10. Geography Made America Great. Has Globalization Undone Its Influence?

“For all the turbulent change swirling about us now, America was and remains the product of an exceptional geography. North America has more miles of navigable inland waterways than much of the rest of the world combined. Better still, its rivers run diagonally rather than (as in Russia) north and south, forming an ideal network for internal communication and trade. Moreover, America’s continental span and rich resource base shield it from external threat and dependency. Thus the United States is uniquely blessed by geography to form and sustain a cohesive continental union. Union is not the same as unity, but it’s a good start.”

Sunday 1.22.2017 New York Times Digest


1. How Marches in Washington Have Shaped America

“From the suffrage processions of the early 20th century to the Tea Party rallies of 2009, marches have drawn attention to crucial issues, occasionally resulted in violence and often prompted opposing gatherings.”

2. San Francisco Asks: Where Have All the Children Gone?

“It’s starting to feel like a no-kids type of city.”

3. At Student Loan Giant Navient, Troubled Past Was Prologue

“In a lengthy complaint, the bureau said Navient, which oversees $300 billion in student loans for 12.5 million borrowers, failed customers ‘at every stage of repayment.’”

4. Wind Power Tests the Waters

“The appeal of offshore winds as an energy source goes beyond their potential role in efforts to slow global warming. As people flock to coastal cities, where land is scarce and expensive, and conventional power plants are moving toward retirement, states have looked to add new forms of power production. Moving it out to sea has become more attractive, proponents say.”

5. Seniors Welcome New, Battery-Powered Friends

“Their new pal has a screen for a head and scuttles around on wheels. The lure was being able to connect more easily with their families via video calls. The couple were immediately smitten. They have named the robot Jimmy.”

6. How to Listen to Donald Trump Every Day for Years

“The truth is that President Trump’s choppy, rambling self-expression is not so exotic. A great many thoroughly intelligent people talk more like Donald Trump than they might know. What’s new is that someone who talks like this in public has become the president of the United States.”

7. America’s Great Working-Class Colleges

“Working-class colleges have become vastly larger engines of social mobility. The new data shows, for example, that the City University of New York system propelled almost six times as many low-income students into the middle class and beyond as all eight Ivy League campuses, plus Duke, M.I.T., Stanford and Chicago, combined.”

8. The Conversation Placebo

“The simple conversation between doctor and patient can be as potent an analgesic as many treatments we prescribe.”

9. Racial Progress Is Real. But So Is Racist Progress.

“Mr. Obama sees in America’s messiness and complexity a single historical force taking steps forward and backward on race. But what if there have been two historical forces at work: a dual and dueling history of racial progress and the simultaneous progression of racism? What if President Trump does not represent a step back, but a step forward?”

10. The Internet of Things Is Coming for Us

“The modern world is full of such opportunities for chaos, often created by humans and the increasing sophistication and technology-centeredness of modern life. A solar flare has the potential to disrupt electrical networks. A tsunami can flood a nuclear reactor. The digitalization of stock markets leads to flash crashes. Russian hackers stealing Democratic Party emails seek to influence an American presidential election. Order gives way to chaos. The internet of things turns on its makers.”

11. The America We Lost When Trump Won

“Yet when I say that I have lost the America I knew, I’m not talking about policy, or even fundamental rights, disorienting as their loss would be. I mean a greater, almost spiritual faith that I had in my fellow citizens and their better instincts, something that served as my north star in all I wrote and all I did.”

12. Does Breast Milk Have a Sex Bias?

“In recent years, evidence has emerged suggesting that in various mammalian species, breast milk — which is, of course, a resource that can be given to children — is tailored for the sex of each offspring. For example, macaque monkey mothers produce richer milk (with higher gross energy and fat content) for sons than for daughters, but also provide greater quantities of milk and higher concentrations of calcium for daughters than for sons.”

13. In Beijing, and Washington, a Breath of Foul Air

“What Mr. Trump denounced during a campaign speech to West Virginia coal miners as ‘these ridiculous rules and regulations that make it impossible for you to compete’ actually kept Americans alive and made the country more competitive.”

14. The Tempting of the Media

“Trump comes to power as a destroyer of norms, a flouter of conventions, and everyone will be tempted to join the carnival — to escalate when he escalates, to radicalize whenever he turns authoritarian.”

15. Burgers, Fries and a Couple of Wiseguys

“I see how the McDonald brothers transformed, for good or for ill, how America eats — and frankly how the world eats. It was in some ways more transforming to our bodies than the Model A. I think that’s both a triumph and a bit chilling. That transforms American capitalism from personal success based on hard work and quality of work, to inventive, dominant business models. When the McDonald brothers were developing the way to get you your sandwich in 30 seconds and not 30 minutes, they didn’t foresee that it would take the place of the family dinner every day. It has ramifications around my own midsection that I didn’t see coming.”

16. The Smothers Brothers and the Birth of TV Buzz

“Some of the material that made it onto the air was pointed enough to raise eyebrows even today. A series of sketches in a December 1967 episode, for instance, mocked the American obsession with guns mercilessly. In one bit, a game-show contestant was to take shots at three hidden figures in hopes of killing either a stranger, a celebrity or his own wife.”

17. The Protest Playlist, From the Hip-Hop Duo Run the Jewels

“The Times offered the group a chance to make a playlist of protest songs, given the current wave of discontent on both sides of American politics.”

18. Melania Trump’s ‘America First’ Inaugural Wardrobe

“The politics of clothing may be subtle, and may strike some as frivolous, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t a requisite part of the pageantry that surrounds the presidency — especially on a day with more photo opportunities than speeches. They paint a picture of the family that now represents the country, of their ambitions, goals and values, at a moment when the world is watching. This time, the brush strokes swirled: not with accessibility, but with aspiration, and nationalism.”

19. For Taste of Farm Life, There’s No Place Like a Homestead

“The rise of so-called slow living has inspired many to migrate from cities to rural hamlets. For all its idiosyncrasies — walls lined with tin cans and glass bottles, rainwater collection systems, the attached greenhouse — the Earthship in Freeville, N.Y., is now one of several hundred listings appearing on short-term rental websites like Airbnb, VRBO and Hipcamp that promote a relaxed, environmentally friendly approach to travel and a 21st-century take on homesteading.”

20. What Do They Want? Graeme Wood Speaks With Supporters of ISIS

“The most novel aspect of Wood’s book is that he shows, convincingly, that the stifling and abhorrent practices of the Islamic State are rooted in Islam itself — not mainstream Islam, but in scriptures and practices that have persisted for centuries. There’s no use denying it. ‘For years now, the Islamic State and its supporters have been producing essays, fatwas, … films and tweets at an industrial pace,’ Wood writes. ‘In studying them we see a coherent view of the world rooted in a minority interpretation of Islamic scripture that has existed, in various forms, for almost as long as the religion itself.’ That goes for the most barbarous practices as well: ‘Slavery has been practiced by Muslims for most of Islamic history, and it was practiced without apology by Muhammad and his companions, who owned slaves and had sex with them.’”

21. We’ve Been Here Before: Jon Meecham on the Literature of Our Discontent

“The 45th president of the United States comes to office at a calmer time than the 32nd did, but Donald Trump’s demagogic populism and his movement’s willingness to traffic in ethnic and racial stereotypes have put many Americans in the mind of the chaos of the 1930s. From Long to Charles Coughlin, we have been here before. Some fiction from the period … repay attention as we seek our bearings now.”

22. Reading the Classic Novel That Predicted Trump

It Can’t Happen Here is a work of dystopian fantasy, one man’s effort in the 1930s to imagine what it might look like if fascism came to America. At the time, the obvious specter was Adolf Hitler, whose rise to power in Germany provoked fears that men like the Louisiana senator Huey Long or the radio priest Charles Coughlin might accomplish a similar feat in the United States. Today, Lewis’s novel is making a comeback as an analogy for the Age of Trump.”

23. How Did Rumi Become One of Our Best-Selling Poets?

“Few religious figures in the history of civilization have as successfully crossed borders of faith, language and geography as nimbly as Jalal al-Din Mohammad Rumi, the great 13th-century theologian and mystic poet.”

24. For Better Vision, Let the Sunshine In

“A lack of direct sunlight may reshape the human eye and impair vision.”

25. Letter of Recommendation: Hot-Water Bottles

“I feel about hot-water bottles the way Sylvia Plath felt about baths: There must be quite a few things they won’t cure, but I don’t know many of them.”

26. When the National Bird Is a Burden

“Harris is an idealist, the kind of all-natural farmer whose cows finish on grass, whose birds run free, whose goats and sheep transform overgrown land. His faith in biodiverse, sustainable methods has only been affirmed by his multimillion-dollar annual revenues. And not that he would, but shooting a bald eagle is punishable by a $100,000 fine and a year in prison. Whatever was to be done about the eagles, Harris’s farm would work with nature, not fight against it. But as he would discover, that’s not as easy as it sounds.”

27. To Obama With Love, and Hate, and Desperation

“At the beginning of his first term, President Obama said he wanted to read his mail. He said he would like to see 10 letters a day. After that, the 10LADs, as they came to be called, were put in a purple folder and added to the back of the briefing book he took with him to the residence on the second floor of the White House each night.”

28. Who Decides Who Counts as Native American?

“Outside the lands legally known as ‘Indian Country,’ ‘membership’ and ‘enrollment’ are such blandly bureaucratic words that it’s easy to lose sight of how much they matter there. To the 566 federally recognized tribal nations, the ability to determine who is and isn’t part of a tribe is an essential element of what makes tribes sovereign entities. To individuals, membership means citizenship and all the emotional ties and treaty rights that come with it. To be disenrolled is to lose that citizenship: to become stateless. It can also mean the loss of a broader identity, because recognition by a tribe is the most accepted way to prove you are Indian — not just Nooksack but Native American at all.”

Sunday 1.15.2017 New York Times Digest


1. Rich Chinese, Inspired by ‘Downton,’ Fuel Demand for Butlers

“What they would like to say to their friends is, ‘Look, I have a butler, an English-style butler in my home,’ to show how wealthy they are.”

2. Ride-Hailing Drivers Are Slaves to the Surge

“There is a downside to being your own boss: To turn a profit, drivers must plan their schedules around early-morning and late-night surges and invest as much as half of their earnings into insurance and car maintenance.”

3. A Big Test for Big Batteries

“The challenge of storing electricity has vexed engineers, researchers, policy makers and entrepreneurs for centuries.”

4. The ‘Impossible’ Veggie Burger: A Tech Industry Answer to the Big Mac

“The Impossible Burger wants to be the tech industry’s answer to the Big Mac. Concocted by a team of food scientists in Silicon Valley, it is made from wheat, coconut oil and potatoes, yet it aims to be more than just another veggie patty. Thanks to the addition of heme, an iron-rich molecule contained in blood (which the company produces in bulk using fermented yeast), it is designed to look, smell, sizzle and taste like a beef burger.”

5. Making America Great Again Isn’t Just About Money and Power

“Political leaders and scholars have been thinking about national greatness for a very long time, and the answer clearly goes beyond achieving high levels of wealth.”

6. In Choosing a Job, Focus on the Fun

“Unless you find small pleasures in your daily routine, you will not stick to it.”

7. Big Sugar’s Secret Ally? Nutritionists

“The consensus among nutrition and obesity authorities has been completely aligned with sugar industry interests.”

8. Obama Hoped to Transform the World. It Transformed Him.

“The arc of recent history has not bent toward Mr. Obama’s cosmopolitan vision of an interdependent world.”

9. The Real Problem With Hypocrisy

“We contend that the reason people dislike hypocrites is that their outspoken moralizing falsely signals their own virtue. People object, in other words, to the misleading implication — not to a failure of will or a weakness of character.”

10. How Movies and TV Address Rape and Revenge

“Stories in which women seek revenge have become newly fashionable. The plots, with victims transforming into heroines, now scan as easily feminist.”

11. What August Wilson Means Now

“There’s always this assumption that black people should sing and dance in the theater. And the country’s racial history has kept a perfectly reasonable mode of artistic expression — the musical — warped with self-consciousness. Wilson wrote plays (sometimes about music and that warping), and lots of people saw them, gave them prizes, Tonys even. Gradually, it let producers and money people know that black nonmusical theater is viable, that there could be drama and ideas, and you could have artists as different as Suzan-Lori Parks and Lynn Nottage and Katori Hall and Anna Deavere Smith.”

12. What Michelle Obama Wore and Why it Mattered

“Just because something appears trivial does not mean it is any less powerful as a means of persuasion and outreach. In some ways its very triviality — the fact that everyone could talk about it, dissect it, imitate it — makes fashion the most potentially viral item in the subliminal political toolbox.”

13. Paul Auster: By the Book

“Baldwin’s prose is what I would call ‘classical American,’ in the same sense that Thoreau is classical, and at his best I believe Baldwin is fully equal to Thoreau at his best.”

14. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on Two Books About Muslim Identity

“In 1776, Thomas Jefferson’s friend Senator Richard Henry Lee expressed both of their opinions when he asserted in Congress, referring to Muslims and Hindus, that ‘true freedom embraces the Mahometan and the Gentoo as well as the Christian religion.’ In 1777, the Muslim kingdom of Morocco became the first country in the world to formally accept the United States as a sovereign nation. In 1786, when the United States needed protection from North African pirates who were stealing ships and enslaving crews, it signed the Treaty of Tripoli, which stated that ‘the government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion, as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquillity of Musselmen.’ In 1785, George Washington declared that he would welcome Muslim workers at Mount Vernon. In 1786, Jefferson triumphed in his Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom in Virginia, by persuading the Legislature to overwhelmingly reject attempts to include Jesus Christ as the religious authority in the bill.”

15. Thoreau the Weird: A New Interpretation of His Philosophy

“For better and for worse, Dann takes the road less traveled, leading a reader into out-of-the-way places, through hidden passages in Thoreau’s personal life. The book, arranged chronologically, consists in a careful (bordering on obsessive) reading of Thoreau’s journals and letters, revealing a boy interested in the occult, ghost stories and magic, a teenager who pored over Arthurian legend and Greek mythology, and a man who interpreted the workings of nature through astrology and Native American shamanism.”

16. How to Be Civil in an Uncivil World

“One man’s civility is another man’s repression.”

17. Neanderthals Were People, Too

“Neanderthals are people, too — a separate, shorn-off branch of our family tree. We last shared an ancestor at some point between 500,000 and 750,000 years ago. Then our evolutionary trajectory split. We evolved in Africa, while the Neanderthals would live in Europe and Asia for 300,000 years. Or as little as 60,000 years. It depends whom you ask. It always does: The study of human origins, I found, is riddled with vehement disagreements and scientists who readily dismantle the premises of even the most straightforward-seeming questions.”

Sunday 1.8.2017 New York Times Digest


1. Why Trump Can’t Disengage America From the World

“The United States required the resources of an entire continent to defeat German and Japanese fascism, and later Soviet Communism. Without Manifest Destiny, there could have been no victory in World War II. But because settling that continent involved slavery and genocide against the indigenous inhabitants, American history is morally unresolvable. Thus, the only way to ultimately overcome our sins is to do good in the world. But doing good must be tempered by always thinking about what can go wrong in the process. These are all, deep down, the lessons of the interaction between Americans and their landscape.”

2. Inside a Killer Drug Epidemic: A Look at America’s Opioid Crisis

“Public health officials have called the current opioid epidemic the worst drug crisis in American history, killing more than 33,000 people in 2015. Overdose deaths were nearly equal to the number of deaths from car crashes. In 2015, for the first time, deaths from heroin alone surpassed gun homicides. And there’s no sign it’s letting up.”

3. Napping in Public? In Japan, That’s a Sign of Diligence

“In Japan, napping in the office is common and culturally accepted. And in fact, it is often seen as a subtle sign of diligence: You must be working yourself to exhaustion.”

4. Yes, It’s Your Parents’ Fault

“People who have insecure attachment models tend to be drawn to those who fit their expectations, even if they are treated badly. They may subconsciously act in ways that elicit insensitive, unreliable or abusive behavior, whatever is most familiar. Or they may flee secure attachments because they feel unfamiliar.”

5. What the Muck of Walden Pond Tells Us About Our Planet

“We are not separate from nature or immune to its laws. We are nature.”

6. Kanye West’s Year of Breaking Bad

“Mr. West’s unlikely shift suggests the maneuvers of someone who no longer believes in the systems that have previously nourished, sustained and inspired him — someone whose sense of safety has been revoked.”

7. What TV Says About Race and Money

“On shows like Donald Glover’s ‘Atlanta’ on FX and Issa Rae’s ‘Insecure’ on HBO, both about a group of late-20-somethings professionally striving and financially struggling (and both, along with ‘black-ish,’ nominated for Golden Globes), the theme of black downward mobility is put into high relief.”

8. Watching While White: How Movies Tackled Race and Class in 2016

“It’s easy enough to say that Moonlight and The Birth of a Nation and Barbershop: The Next Cut are movies about race. What would happen if we said the same about Manchester by the Sea, La La Land and Sully?”

9. The Making of Virtually Real Art With Google’s Tilt Brush

“Google has been calling on dozens of artists, animators and illustrators with a high-tech update of Mili’s concept — a virtual reality setup that enables people to paint with light that actually stays where you put it, at least for viewers wearing a VR headset.”

10. What Not to Eat: ‘The Case Against Sugar’

“The stuff kills.”

11. The War to Stay Out of the War Against War

“Most of all, it is a timely reminder of how easily the will of the majority can be thwarted in even the mightiest of democracies.”

12. Rake’s Progress: A Look at the Well-Traveled Casanova

“Casanova moved with ease in all strata of society. As well as hordes of nobility, he met Benjamin Franklin, Bonnie Prince Charlie, Frederick the Great, Catherine the Great, Pope Clement XIII, Rousseau, Voltaire and Mozart. He mixed with financiers, ambassadors, Freemasons, magicians and government ministers, in addition to an awful lot of gamblers, rakes, actors, dancers, courtesans and common prostitutes.”

13. How ‘Elites’ Became One of the Nastiest Epithets in American Politics

“United States history might be seen as a repeating cycle of anti-elite revolt.”

14. Letter of Recommendation: Instagram Explore

“A smartphone becomes the modern substitute for having an imagination.”

15. Cyberwar for Sale

“The ubiquity and utility of email has turned it into a fine-grained record of our day-to-day lives, rich with mundane and potentially embarrassing details, stored in a perpetual archive, accessible from anywhere on earth and protected, in some cases, by nothing more than a single password.”

16. One Man’s Quest to Change the Way We Die

“Don’t we all treat suffering as a disruption to existence, instead of an inevitable part of it? He wondered what would happen if you could ‘reincorporate your version of reality, of normalcy, to accommodate suffering.’”