Sunday 2.16.2020 New York Times Digest

1. To Tame Coronavirus, Mao-Style Social Control Blankets China

“Residential lockdowns of varying strictness — from checkpoints at building entrances to hard limits on going outdoors — now cover at least 760 million people in China, or more than half the country’s population.”

2. Bloomberg’s Billions: How the Candidate Built an Empire of Influence

“His political rise has become a test of the impact one man’s wealth can have when he applies it to the political system with driving sophistication.”

3. Michael Bloomberg’s Campaign Suddenly Drops Memes Everywhere

“‘It’s the most successful ad that I’ve ever posted.’”

4. The End of Australia as We Know It

“Housing, holiday travel, work, leisure, food and water are all being reconsidered.”

5. Every Problem In America Is a Housing Problem

“Nearly all of the biggest challenges in America are, at some level, a housing problem. Rising home costs are a major driver of segregation, inequality, and racial and generational wealth gaps. You can’t talk about education or the shrinking middle class without talking about how much it costs to live near good schools and high-paying jobs. Transportation accounts for about a third of the nation’s carbon dioxide emissions, so there’s no serious plan for climate change that doesn’t begin with a conversation about how to alter the urban landscape so that people can live closer to work.”

6. Don’t Want Alexa to Listen? Wear This.

“Knocking on someone’s door or chatting in someone’s kitchen now involves the distinct possibility of being recorded.”

7. Never Mind the Internet. This Is Killing Malls.

“Internet shopping still represents only 11 percent of the entire retail sales total.”

8. There Have Been 10 Black Senators Since Emancipation

“As nearly everyone knows, in the nation’s more than two centuries of existence Barack Obama is our only black president. Less familiar is the fact that of the nearly 2,000 men and women who have served in the Senate only 10 have been black.”

9. How to Make Your Marriage Gayer

“Studies in 2006 found that the happiest and most sexually satisfied couples are now those who divide housework and child care the most equally. Couples where the wife does the bulk of routine chores, such as dishwashing, report the highest levels of discord.”

10. Bring Back the Tomboys

“It was an understandable counter to the somewhat limiting message of the earlier tomboy era, which implied that while masculinity was good for boys and girls, femininity was bad for both. But it also edged out a certain kind of acceptable masculinity in young girls, and came with its own confinements — namely the idea that girls could be strong, so long as they were also pretty.”

11. Who’s Profiting From Your Outrageous Medical Bills?

“Your hospital and doctor and insurer — all claiming to coordinate care for your health — are often in a three-way competition for your money.”

12. The Meaning of a Giant Roast Pig

“What seems like such a simple decision, to stop eating meat, has a way of alienating us from our histories and our traditions and the people around us.”

13. What Happens When You Get Famous Off One Song?

“Teen creators now live knowing that any given thing they post might just change their life.”

14. The Original Renegade

“To be robbed of credit on TikTok is to be robbed of real opportunities.”

15. You Can Pay People to Style Your Houseplants

“In the age of the gig economy, where freelancers and consultants exist to fulfill every life need, and hiring out a task can be preferable to learning how to do it yourself.”

16. The Black Women Who Travel for Love

“There’s a growing group of tour providers, blogs, Instagram accounts and Facebook groups that encourage black women to travel to Italy to find love.”

17. By the Book: Cheryl Strayed

“I don’t believe in should when it comes to reading, except to say that reading should be driven by curiosity and pleasure, rather than obligation or obedience.”

18. Charm Offensive

“It turns out that we were just as conflicted about seduction centuries ago as we are now. Depending on whom you ask and when, the seducer is either a manipulative villain exploiting innocents or a heroic figure of sexual liberation.”

19. See You on Sunday

“Social scientists have a term of art to capture a person’s overall happiness and sense of well-being. They call it ‘life satisfaction’ and find it strongly correlates with time spent with those who care about you and about whom you care. A regular dinner with family and friends is a marvelous way to create that time. Which is not to say that life satisfaction will arise from your very first meal, or even your fifth. I think it accrues only over months and years, as you cook food and share it. Regularity matters. Standing dinner dates, at their best, are simply special occasions that are not at all extraordinary. They become that way over time.”

20. The Auction Block

“The sales took place all over the growing nation — in taverns, town squares and train stations, on riverbanks and by the side of the road. Before being sold, the enslaved were often kept in pens or private jails, sometimes for days or weeks. Then they were sold directly from the pens or marched to a nearby auction. Thousands of sales took place each year, right in the hearts of American cities and towns, on the steps of courthouses and city halls. As the historian Steven Deyle puts it, slave auctions were ‘a regular part of everyday life.’”

Sunday 2.9.2020 New York Times Digest

Man Lying Down Glued to Smartphone

1. The Age of Decadence

“Following in the footsteps of the great cultural critic Jacques Barzun, we can say that decadence refers to economic stagnation, institutional decay and cultural and intellectual exhaustion at a high level of material prosperity and technological development.”

2. Reports of Online Videos of Child Sexual Abuse Climb by Millions

“The number of reported photos, videos and other materials related to online child sexual abuse grew by more than 50 percent last year, an indication that many of the world’s biggest technology platforms remain infested with the illegal content.”

3. Who Really Killed Malcolm X?

“55 years after that bloody afternoon in February 1965, the Manhattan district attorney’s office is reviewing whether to reinvestigate the murder.”

4. Kobe Bryant’s Last Flight

“A low-pressure system moved in from the ocean overnight, drawing cool, moist air over much of Los Angeles. A thick marine layer formed a little higher than 1,000 feet above sea level. In most places, there was no fog, just clouds.”

5. An Algorithm That Grants Freedom, or Takes It Away

“How do you win against a computer that is built to stop you?”

6. Maybe Information Actually Doesn’t Want to Be Free

“You can’t give away what you expect the reader to find valuable.”

7. I Don’t Want to Be The Strong Female Lead

“I don’t believe the feminine is sublime and the masculine is horrifying. I believe both are valuable, essential, powerful. But we have maligned one, venerated the other, and fallen into exaggerated performances of both that cause harm to all. How do we restore balance?”

8. My Childhood Was Gloriously Wild

“As we face the threat of the climate crisis and the slow destruction of habitats around the world, we must give children the opportunity to interact with nature in a ‘wild’ way, so that they learn to preserve the natural world around us.”

9. Why America’s Political Divisions Will Only Get Worse

“There is a logic to our polarization. It has become a kind of loop. As the public has polarized, in part because of the behavior of political actors and institutions (including media), the actors and institutions respond by behaving in more polarized ways — which further polarizes the public, and so on and so on.”

10. Hudson Yards Is Coming for Your Soul

“What we are watching is the promised endpoint of consumerism: a fantasy of quasi-religious transcendence, complete with moral virtue (‘allyship’) and galaxy-brain wisdom and strength and drama and violence.”

11. Talk: Henry Louis Gates Jr.

“I want the audience to be with me. That’s what you see in my evolution.”

12. Letter of Recommendation: Framing

“Some of us are born a little mournful, and we spend our lives discovering new traditions for housing those ghosts we’ve long considered companions.”

13. How to Write Fiction When the Planet Is Falling Apart

“Can you still just tend your own garden once you know about the fire outside its walls?”

Sunday 2.2.2020 New York Times Digest

1. Bot Net

“Once a machine-learning system has been running for a while, its decisions can become mysterious even to its creators.”

2. How Private Equity Buried Payless

“Why hasn’t the finance-driven capitalism of the last few decades created faster growth? What if the masters of financial efficiency are making choices that don’t actually create the more dynamic, productive economy they promise?”

3. The Robots Are Coming. Prepare for Trouble.

“As the gig economy grows, so does the need to modernize labor laws.”

4. Brad Pitt and the Beauty Trap

“Like Newman and Redford, Pitt has always seemed born to the screen, a natural. He has a palpable physical ease about him that seems inseparable from his looks, that silkiness that seems, at least in part, to come from waking up every day and going through life as a beautiful person. This isn’t to say that good-looking people don’t have the same issues, the neuroses and awkwardness that plague us mortals. But Pitt has always moved with the absolute surety you see in some beautiful people (and dancers), the casualness of movement that expresses more than mere confidence, but a sublime lack of self-consciousness and self-doubt about taking up space, something not everyone shares. This isn’t swagger; this is flow.”

5. For the Rich, Helicopters Are Just Like Cars

“The cities with the greatest volume of helicopter traffic have two things in common: a concentration of wealthy residents and horribly congested roads.”

6. Tears for the Magnificent and Shrinking Everglades, a ‘River of Grass’

“Two centuries ago, the great naturalist and explorer Alexander von Humboldt was the first to comprehend the interconnectedness of nature, and how human activity affected it. Humboldt never visited the Everglades, but it is surely one of the best places on earth to observe nature’s complex harmony up close.”

7. A Former F.B.I. Negotiator and His Tips for Travel

“Never be mean to someone who can hurt you by doing nothing.”

8. What We Lose by Hiring Someone to Pick Up Our Avocados for Us

“The incursion of technology into every aspect of consumption has meant that only the indolent or pathologically tolerant wait for things.”

9. I Quit Yale

“The academic profession is so closely tied in with your sense of your moral self. It’s not just a career, but a comment on who you are as a human being. Helping young people to think critically and love literature is noble; trading stocks is not. Everyone who studies humanities in graduate school is there because it feels like a calling. For me, this zeal made it hard to have the kind of healthy distance I think you need from your work.”

10. I Quit My Smartphone

“I hadn’t deliberately chosen to worship my smartphone, but when you repeatedly bow your head to something, stroking it thousands of times a day, it begins to shine like an idol.”

11. By the Book: Laurie Anderson

“I read as a survival strategy. I wake up every morning full of dread and disbelief. Then I start reading.”

Sunday 1.26.2020 New York Times Digest

1. The Darkness Where the Future Should Be

“The right and the left share a sense of creeping doom, though for different reasons. For people on the right, it’s sparked by horror at changing demographics and gender roles. For those on the left, a primary source of foreboding is climate change, which makes speculation about what the world will look like decades hence so terrifying that it’s often easier not to think about it at all.”

2. Williamson Returns, and Everyone Worries About His Knee

“It may seem logical that the best way to get better at basketball is to play it more often. But specialization and intense training of repetitive movements from a young age, researchers say, can leave muscles overstressed and prone to imbalance, subjecting players to the possibility of injury and, eventually, shortened N.B.A. careers.”

3. They Changed the Way You Buy Your Basics

“Between 2013 and 2017, some $17 billion in sales shifted from big consumer brands to small brands — and that was before many of the latest start-ups began getting traction.”

4. Afternoon of a Pawnbroker

“Many banks won’t lend money unless you have collateral. Most of our customers live paycheck to paycheck. They can’t get money from the bank, so they use us like their bank.”

5. You Are Now Remotely Controlled

“Surveillance capitalists exploit the widening inequity of knowledge for the sake of profits. They manipulate the economy, our society and even our lives with impunity, endangering not just individual privacy but democracy itself. Distracted by our delusions, we failed to notice this bloodless coup from above.”

6. One Nation, Tracked

“Every minute of every day, everywhere on the planet, dozens of companies — largely unregulated, little scrutinized — are logging the movements of tens of millions of people with mobile phones and storing the information in gigantic data files.”

7. ‘Before Sunrise’: The Making of an Indie Classic

“To this day, they don’t really get the credit as actors because everybody thinks they’re improvising.”

8. When White Supremacists Overthrew an Elected Government

“A town that once boasted the largest percentage of black residents of any large Southern city found itself in the midst of a systematic purge. Successful black men were targeted for banishment from the city, while black workers left all their possessions behind as they rushed to the swamps for safety. Over 60 people died. No one seemed to care. The governor of North Carolina cowered in the face of the violent rebellion, worried about his own life. President William McKinley turned a blind eye to the bloodshed. And Waddell was selected as mayor as the white supremacists forced the duly elected officials to resign.”

9. Becoming a Man

“We are all contradictions. We are all doubling as ourselves.”

10. The Saudi Connection: Inside the 9/11 Case That Divided the F.B.I.

“The full story of the F.B.I.’s investigation into Saudi links to the 9/11 attacks has remained largely untold.”

Sunday 1.19.2020 New York Times Digest

1. The Secretive Company That Might End Privacy as We Know It

“Mr. Ton-That demonstrated the app on himself. He took a selfie and uploaded it. The app pulled up 23 photos of him. In one, he is shirtless and lighting a cigarette while covered in what looks like blood. Mr. Ton-That then took my photo with the app. The ‘software bug’ had been fixed, and now my photo returned numerous results, dating back a decade, including photos of myself that I had never seen before.”

2. This Is the Guy Who’s Taking Away the Likes

“What happens when a technology puts the idea of cool in the palm of our hand, tantalizing and taunting us at all hours?”

3. Why Mothers’ Choices About Work and Family Often Feel Like No Choice at All

“‘Choice’ has become the favorite term in family policy. Yet many parents — particularly women — feel their decisions about work and family are made within such constraints that they have little choice at all.”

4. Injustice on Repeat

“In my experience, those who argue that the systems of mass incarceration and mass deportation simply reflect sincere (but misguided) efforts to address the real harms caused by crime, or the real challenges created by surges in immigration, tend to underestimate the corrupting influence of white supremacy whenever black and brown people are perceived to be the problem.”

5. What Americans Don’t Understand About China’s Power

“While China takes more steps forward than backward, the United States is moving slowly in reverse.”

6. How Did Americans Lose Faith in Everything?

“What stands out about our era in particular is a distinct kind of institutional dereliction — a failure even to attempt to form trustworthy people, and a tendency to think of institutions not as molds of character and behavior but as platforms for performance and prominence.”

7. How the ‘Sharing’ Economy Erodes Both Privacy and Trust

“The proliferation of digital surveillance software is making the elimination of unmonitored, unaccountable moments an expected part of a business’s service. Without private spaces, where life occurs beyond our vision or knowledge, there is no need for trust. In an open-plan world, trustworthiness isn’t so much a moral quality as a condition of not having to be trusted at all.”

8. The Bearable Whiteness of Little Women

“There is a fine line between a piece of art that acknowledges it is about the worldview of a very specific person — in the case of Little Women, that of a white girl in Massachusetts, raised in an abolitionist family during the Civil War — and a piece of art that declares that this worldview is the only one that matters and is fatally incurious about all others.”

9. What It’s Like to Use Facebook When You’re Blind

“Every site on the internet should use facial recognition. This would allow blind and low-vision users full entry to everything that the web has to offer.”

10. Ed Ruscha Up and Went Home

“Recent history has rendered certain aspects of Mr. Ruscha’s career into dark portents, cataclysmic visions of a decadent culture that can’t help but devour itself.”

11. Who’s Watching Your Porch?

“In Ring, Amazon has something like a self-marketing machine: Amazon customers using Amazon cameras to watch Amazon contractors deliver Amazon packages.”

12. Dog the Bounty Hunter Is Hunting Alone

“When Dog’s mother died in 1995, he spent a year smoking crack, he said. Then he sobered up and started dating Ms. Chapman. They had met in 1986 when he posted her bond after she shoplifted a lemon. They finally married in 2006 — we saw it in Season 3 of ‘Dog the Bounty Hunter.’”

13. The New Generation of Self-Created Utopias

“The United States has been a laboratory for experiments in alternative living since its founding. The English Puritans and Pilgrims who, wishing to escape the oppression and persecution of the Church of England, fled to America in the early 17th century to create smaller societies where they could live according to their faith were followed, notably, by the Transcendentalists in 1830s New England, who sought to distance themselves from the ruthlessness of the Industrial Revolution and instead lead a life driven by Romantic ideals.”

14. Idle Hands

“In the past, humans programmed robots to mimic human behavior, and so robots could most easily do routine, repeatable tasks that were easily explained. That’s meant automation has mostly impacted middle-skill jobs, while unpredictable ones, like building houses or diagnosing diseases, have been relatively unaffected. But now, Susskind argues, people working at the frontiers of artificial intelligence are teaching machines to draw on vast amounts of processing power and data to solve problems in ways humans couldn’t.”

15. How to Scale a Chain-Link Fence

“Give yourself six months to develop upper-body musculature by doing regular push-ups, situps, biceps curls and triceps dips using a chair. Next, find a fence to practice on.”

16. The Sex Choreographer

“The form’s technical aspects are most similar to those of fight choreography, which also revolves around deconstructing movement and engineering a look of passion and spontaneity between two bodies.”

Sunday 1.12.2020 New York Times Digest

1. ‘Techlash’ Hits College Campuses

“There is a growing sentiment that Silicon Valley’s most lucrative positions aren’t worth the ethical quandaries.”

2. Why Home Field Advantage Is Not What It Used to Be

“Across sports, securing home-field advantage for the biggest games might not be as meaningful as it once was.”

3. Will We Ever Figure Out How to Talk to Boys About Sex?

“Despite a new imperative to be scrupulous about affirmative consent, young men are still subject to incessant messages that sexual conquest — being always down for sex, racking up their ‘body count,’ regardless of how they or their partner may feel about it — remains the measure of a ‘real’ man, and a reliable path to social status.”

4. Who Killed the Knapp Family?

“Suicides are at their highest rate since World War II; one child in seven is living with a parent suffering from substance abuse; a baby is born every 15 minutes after prenatal exposure to opioids; America is slipping as a great power.”

5. Hard Times

“America’s true exceptionalism is our lack of concern for one another. To rectify such a crisis, the authors argue, we cannot rely on charity; only robust public policy will suffice. They suggest that such policies should prioritize early childhood programs, high school graduation, universal health coverage, access to contraceptives, housing, jobs and government-issued savings bonds and monthly allowances for all children.”

6. The Gig Economy Is Coming for Your Job

“It’s a business model that reduces everything to a series of app-enabled transactions, and calls it work, leaving what’s left of the welfare state to fill in the rest.”

7. How to Stop Freaking Out and Tackle Climate Change

“The climate crisis is not going to be solved by personal sacrifice. It will be solved by electing the right people, passing the right laws, drafting the right regulations, signing the right treaties — and respecting those treaties already signed, particularly with indigenous nations. It will be solved by holding the companies and people who have made billions off our shared atmosphere to account.”

8. The Academic Apocalypse

“The path to recovery begins … with a renewed faith not only in humanism’s methods and approaches, but in the very thing itself.”

9. Talk Less. Listen More. Here’s How.

“It is only by listening that we engage, understand, empathize, cooperate and develop as human beings. It is fundamental to any successful relationship — personal, professional and political.”

10. Elizabeth Wurtzel and a Vanishing Dream

“Like everyone else she had to hustle.”

11. Gen X Women: More Opportunities, Less Satisfaction?

“Compared with earlier generations, those of us born between 1965 and 1980 earn less, are in greater debt, are more likely to have children with intellectual disabilities or developmental delays and are expected to be constantly available to both our kids and our jobs. If we’re single, heterosexual and well educated, we face a ‘man deficit’; if we’re married, we’re more frustrated by our spouses. As if all that’s not enough, there’s social media to really make us feel physically and existentially inadequate.”

12. By the Book: William Gibson

“After a certain point in one’s career, the worry that they’ll finally notice your true absence of talent morphs into worrying that they’ll finally notice that you’ve Lost It.”

13. Rebel, Rebel

“The real history of music is not respectable.”

14. Is the Viral Non-Ad Ad the Future of Advertising?

“The history of advertising is often cast as an arms race between ever-craftier pitchmen on one side and ever-savvier audiences on the other, who invariably get wise to old techniques of manipulation, necessitating the development of new techniques that are savvier still.”

15. Letter of Recommendation: Ginger Gum

“In the same way that a ribbon of pickled ginger can cleanse the senses of the fishy oils in a bite of mackerel, or a gingersnap after dinner can soften the lingering taste of raw garlic in your mouth, the gum has a clarifying quality, overpowering whatever sights, smells and tastes are haunting you.”

16. Old Musicians Never Die. They Just Become Holograms.

“Using technology to blur the line between the quick and the dead tends to be a recipe for dystopian science fiction, but in this case, it could also mean a lucrative new income stream for a music industry in flux, at a time when beloved entertainers can no longer count on CD or download revenues to support their loved ones after they’ve died.”

17. We Can Alter Entire Species, but Should We?

“Could a gene drive stop one virus only to open the way for another, more virulent one? Could it jump from one species to a related one? What would be the environmental effects, if any, of altering the genes of entire species? How about eliminating a species entirely?”

Sunday 1.5.2020 New York Times Digest

1. Right-Wing Views for Generation Z, Five Minutes at a Time

“To the founders and funders of PragerU, YouTube is a way to circumvent brick-and-mortar classrooms — and parents — and appeal to Generation Z, those born in the mid-1990s and early 2000s.”

2. The Unbearable Lightness of Being Russell Wilson

“There are ways in which Wilson, in his eighth season in the N.F.L., is still a question mark, still an enigma to those outside his immediate sphere.”

3. What’s Eating Jimmy Iovine?

“Make quality the priority, not speed.”

4. Scorsese Knows How It Ends

“Scorsese has other aspirations but they have nothing to do with moviemaking. ‘I would love to just take a year and read,’ he said. ‘Listen to music when it’s needed. Be with some friends. Because we’re all going. Friends are dying. Family’s going.’”

5. Y2K @ 20

“There was a problem with the computers. Or was there?”

6. Hype House and the Los Angeles TikTok Mansion Gold Rush

“So-called collab houses, also known as content houses, are an established tradition in the influencer world. Over the last five years they have formed a network of hubs across Los Angeles.”

7. U.S. Military Branches Block Access to TikTok App Amid Pentagon Warning

“In a Dec. 16 message to the various military branches, the Pentagon said there was a ‘potential risk associated with using the TikTok app,’ and it advised employees to take several precautions to safeguard their personal information. It said the easiest solution to prevent ‘unwanted actors’ from getting access to that information was to remove the app.”

8. Everyone’s Resolution Is to Drink More Water in 2020

“Hydration is now marketed as a cure for nearly all of life’s woes.”

9. A Tech Insider Stylishly Chronicles Her Industry’s ‘Uncanny Valley’

“Far from seeking to disabuse civic-minded techno-skeptics of our views, she is here to fill out our worst-case scenarios with shrewd insight and literary detail. It isn’t that those of us with skill sets as soft as our hearts don’t need to know what’s going on in ‘the ecosystem,’ as those ‘high on the fumes of world-historical potential’ call Silicon Valley. It’s more that everything over there is as absurdly wrong as we imagine.”

10. Death by a Thousand Cuts

“We may not be as far from such poetic conceits of the body as we like to believe. The feminist theorist Donna Haraway, for example, has pointed out the insufficiency of scientific language for depicting the world. When a biologist describes a cell process, Haraway argues, she is as much creating the phenomena under discussion as describing a fact. Because language mediates our communication, the ways we think and express ourselves shape the knowledge we put into words.”

11. Why the Most Ridiculous Part of The Irishman Actually Works

The Irishman is best watched as a film about old men, and the lifetimes they have spent wrapped up entirely in one another, moving through an era that has vanished from beneath their feet.”

12. Letter of Recommendation: Dumbvacs

“Shopping for a new toaster, new speakers, a new car, a microwave or even light bulbs entails not just comparing specifications and price tags but evaluating whether the convenience or enjoyment offered by the gadget will outweigh the chance that it’s going to spy on you.”

13. What I Learned in Avalanche School

“Ninety percent of human-avalanche encounters … are triggered by humans, making humans the primary avalanche problem. Nature doesn’t kill people with avalanches. People kill people with avalanches.”