Sunday 10.30.2016 New York Times Digest


1. Long Before Twitter, Martin Luther Was a Media Pioneer

“Americans may know the basics of how Martin Luther was said to have nailed his 95 theses to a church door in Wittenberg, Germany, in 1517, condemning the Roman Catholic Church’s sale of indulgences, but they probably don’t realize how Luther strategically used the media of his time: books, paintings, prints and music.”

2. Doubts About the Promised Bounty of Genetically Modified Crops

“Genetic modification in the United States and Canada has not accelerated increases in crop yields or led to an overall reduction in the use of chemical pesticides.”

3. Small Factories Emerge as a Weapon in the Fight Against Poverty

“Smaller craft-type producers hold out hope for cities.”

4. A Conveyor Belt of Dropouts and Debt at For-Profit Colleges

“As college attendance has risen and investment in public institutions has flagged, the United States has relied increasingly on for-profit colleges, with disastrous consequences for many students.”

5. Nudges That Help Struggling Students Succeed

“Students who come to see themselves as the masters of their own destiny can take advantage of opportunities to learn, but only if those opportunities exist.”

6. How to Make Sense of College Rankings

“It’s crucial to look at precisely what’s being measured — which is easy to do, if you read the fine print.”

7. 3 TVs and No Food: Growing Up Poor in America

“What many Americans don’t understand about poverty is that it’s perhaps less about a lack of money than about not seeing any path out. More than 80 percent of American households living below the poverty line have air-conditioning, so in material terms they’re incomparably better off than poor families in India or Congo. In other ways their lives can be worse.”

8. Richer but Not Better Off

“Income isn’t the only way to measure prosperity; by many other metrics, Americans’ well-being remains pretty low. Whether it is life expectancy or infant mortality, incarceration or educational attainment, countless statistics offer a fairly dark picture of the American experience. It is a picture of prosperity that consistently leaves large numbers of Americans behind.”

9. In Defense of Politics, Now More Than Ever

“Politics is less than perfect because we are less than perfect. We therefore need to approach it with some modesty.”

10. Patton Oswalt: ‘I’ll Never Be at 100 Percent Again’

“‘If Bruce Wayne watched his parents murdered at 9, he wouldn’t become this cut hero,’ he said, referring to the Batman origin story. ‘He would become Gotham’s most annoying slam poet. How about someone dies, and they just get fat and angry and confused? But no, immediately, they’re at the gym.'”

11. Yoko Ono’s Vintage Sonic Blasts Still Sound Like the Future

“A lot of Yoko’s past albums are like Kraftwerk’s. They always sound contemporary; they still sound like the future.”

12. Married to Their Smartphones (Oh, and to Each Other, Too)

“At what point are we choosing to spend more time with our smartphones than with our spouses?”

13. Why Are Americans So Anxious?

“The problem with our quest for happiness is that, apparently, it’s making us miserable.”

14. Haunted Houses Are About More Than Just Ghosts

“Dickey concludes that ghost stories attached to particular places often contain social anxieties and unsettled issues from the past. Although these ghost stories recall difficult realities — like the wrongful execution of minorities in the case of the Salem ‘witches,’ the physical and emotional abuses of slavery, resistance to women’s independence, and tensions between the rich and the poor — they fail to achieve a public reckoning with historical injustice. Ghosts, Dickey asserts, are a ‘convenient metaphor for a whole host of problems not connected to the supernatural,’ and talking about them ‘becomes a means to process or make sense of experiences that can otherwise seem overwhelming or mystifying.'”

15. In Time for Halloween, a Taxonomy of Monsters

“Special attention is placed upon the Lisbon earthquake of 1755. The horrific loss of life and the apparent cruelty — or inattention — of fate seemed like proof, if not of the nonexistence of God, then of his withdrawal. The first European efforts at literary horror, the sort we call Gothic, occurred within a few decades of this geological and spiritual cataclysm. Simultaneous with and in response to the rise of rationalism (and nationalism), the surging of terror into the streams of story can remind us, all too chillingly, of how fear can rise and rise again.”

16. Creep or Craftsman? Alfred Hitchcock Was Both

“What thrummed beneath their surface was not a matter he cared to dwell on. He affected English pragmatism when pressed on the meaning or message of his films, sometimes saying, ‘I don’t give a damn what the film is about.’ His granddaughter, who had enrolled in a film class, once asked him about a movie: ‘Did you mean this in this scene? Because that’s what we were taught.’ He tried to help her write an essay on Shadow of a Doubt, but when she only got a C, all he could do was shrug. ‘Well, I’m sorry,’ he said. ‘That’s the best I can do.'”

17. Is It Harder to Write Humorously Than It Is to Write Seriously?

“If you are embarking on a relationship with an editor and it becomes clear that said editor does not get your jokes — quit. Flee. Shake the dust from your feet, because it will never work between you.”

18. Obama Brought Silicon Valley to Washington

“In many ways, Obama is America’s first truly digital president. His 2008 campaign relied heavily on social media to lift him out of obscurity. Those efforts were in part led by a founder of Facebook, Chris Hughes, who believed in the Illinois senator’s campaign so much that he left the start-up to join Obama’s strategy team. After he was elected, he created a trifecta of executive positions in his administration modeled on corporate best practices: chief technology officer, chief data scientist, chief performance officer. He sat for question-and-answer sessions on Reddit, released playlists of his favorite songs on Spotify and used Twitter frequently, even once making dad jokes with Bill Clinton. He stoked deep and meaningful connections with scores of entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley: Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg.”

19. Letter of Recommendation: Buicks

“When my father went inside to help Mom with dinner, he let me stay in the driver’s seat with the keys in the ignition so I could listen to the Delco stereo. After a while, he came back out with a yellow cassette tape, the words ‘Johann Strauss’ embossed on its plastic casing. He shoved it into the player and lit a cigarette.”

20. Kesha, Interrupted

“Kesha is no longer the artist we met in the late aughts: blazing dollar sign in her name in place of the S, gold Trans Am that she said she wanted to have continuous sex in, 24-7 party girl, dredged in oil and breaded like a schnitzel in glitter. Now she is someone in suspended animation, unable to release new music pending contract litigation, touring small clubs to make some money to help fund her lawsuit and to make sure her fans don’t forget her; now she is someone who wants to work and make music, just without the man she says raped her; now Kesha is a cause.”

21. Why Pop Culture Just Can’t Deal With Black Male Sexuality

“The white dick means nothing, while, whether out of revulsion or lust, the black dick means too much.”

22. Adam Curtis and the Secret History of Everything

“You mustn’t try and force the reality in front of you into a predictable story. What you should do is notice what is happening in front of your eyes, and what instinctively your reaction is.”

Sunday 10.23.2016 New York Times Digest


1. Go Midwest, Young Hipster

“If you really want Democrats to win in Iowa, move there.”

2. Think Your Retirement Plan Is Bad? Talk to a Teacher

“The people who do the most good in the world, spending their careers helping others in exchange for modest paychecks, often get the worst retirement plans.”

3. Corner Office: Deborah Lee James

“Be prepared to zigzag, because life does not always turn out like you think it’s going to turn out, and that’s true on the personal side, too. When life throws you a curveball, it’s O.K. to grieve. But don’t take too long, because you’ve got to get back up on your feet and then maybe focus on Plan B.”

4. I Paid $2,500 for a ‘Hamilton’ Ticket. I’m Happy About It.

“High prices are a natural reflection of great demand and scant supply. In a free market, in which private individuals can engage in mutually advantageous gains from trade, they are inevitable until demand subsides or supply expands.”

5. The Fake Laugh

“Laughter at its purest and most spontaneous is affiliative and bonding. To our forebears it meant, ‘We’re not going to kill each other! What a relief!’ But as we’ve developed as humans so has our repertoire of laughter, unleashed to achieve ends quite apart from its original function of telling friend from foe.”

6. Pardon the American Taliban

“Hillary Clinton called Mr. Lindh a traitor on national television. I think that far from being traitorous, the idealism of Mr. Lindh is deep in the American grain.”

7. Men Need Help. Is Hillary Clinton the Answer?

“Succeeding in the new economy and culture may well require rethinking conventional ideas about masculinity.”

8. On the Trail of Interdependence

“Truly endarkic people crave solitude and, perhaps less consciously, cataclysm, if only for the opportunity to prove their self-reliance.”

9. Christopher Guest: No Eccentric Obsession Left Behind

“There is a document that has the back histories of every single character, where they went to school, their upbringing, everything about them. What’s not written is any dialogue. And there’s no rehearsal. But the actors know what happens in every single scene. This is more rigid than you can imagine. It takes longer to lay this out than to write a conventional screenplay.”

10. David Letterman (and His Beard) Shop at Target These Days

“‘I don’t miss late-night television,’ he said. ‘And I’m a little embarrassed that, for 33 years, it was the laser focus of my life.… It took a lot of energy, and it probably would have been better expended elsewhere. Now it just seems like, really, that’s what you did?’”

11. The Mission to Save Vanishing Internet Art

“In the early days of the web, art was frequently a cause and the internet was an alternate universe in which to pursue it. Two decades later, preserving this work has become a mission. As web browsers and computer operating systems stopped supporting the software tools they were built with, many works have fallen victim to digital obsolescence.”

12. Talking to Your Therapist About Election Anxiety

“The American Psychological Association says that 52 percent of American adults are coping with high levels of stress brought on by the election.”

13. On the Water, and Into the Wild

“From the air it looks like a green carpet, gouged southwest to northeast by glaciers. From the water it looks like another time — when nature was not a thing that grew at the edge of civilization, but a world unto itself in which humans were guests.”

14. Ulysses S. Grant: New Biography of ‘A Nobody From Nowhere’

“This moral courage equated with ruthlessness, a steely ability to send men to die. Yet he often erupted in rage when he saw animals mistreated. For a biographer, such contradictions present an opportunity to depict a round character, in E.M. Forster’s sense, one who can surprise the reader convincingly. But Grant made it hard to find organic unity in his disunity.”

15. Collected Works of a Poet Who Took Her Time

“Most of Marie Ponsot’s career has been belated. Her first book was published in the City Lights Pocket Poets series in 1956, when she was already 35 — late, but not as late as Frost or Stevens. Her next, not until she was 60. Now 95, she has continued to publish a book every decade or so, as if she had all the time in the world. Collected Poems is the model for every poet who worships procrastination.”

16. Saving Nature, for the Joy of It

“McCarthy reports that Britain has lost half its biodiversity in only 50 years, and the reason for much of this destruction is farming. Unlike in the United States, where agriculture and wilderness have long been separated, in Britain wildlife coexisted for centuries with farmland — hedgerows, meadows and ponds, for example, provided habitats. Then after the Second World War came new technology, modern farming techniques and chemicals — combined with the knowledge that Germany had almost cut off Britain’s food supplies during the war. Never again, the British thought, and farmers were given price guarantees to encourage home production. Suddenly even the most marginal land was considered arable, and chemicals were dumped on the fields. Birds, insects, otters, wildflowers — all gone.”

17. A New Biography Focuses on Karl Instead of Marxism

“Marx the man was rather more improvisatory in his thinking than the official ideologies that later borrowed his name.”

18. What’s Up With Those Voices in Your Head?

“Tune into yours right now: What are you hearing? Who’s speaking, and when did the conversation begin? This is ambiguous territory. Measuring one’s own private soundtrack is hard enough. Now add in the confounding element of other people’s, too.”

19. Should Novels Aim for the Heart or the Head?

“Art is constantly in the business of manipulating our emotions, as if this were an end in itself. This, after all, was Plato’s objection to the arts and every kind of artistic effect — that it was manipulative and potentially mendacious. Or simply a waste: ‘How often,’ Montaigne asks, ‘do we encumber our spirits with yellow bile or sadness by means of such shadows?’”

20. Should We See Everything a Cop Sees?

“Many people think of body cameras as a tool for police accountability, but the primary subject of their surveillance isn’t the police — it’s the public.”

21. The Anti-Helicopter Parent’s Plea: Let Kids Play!

“Mike is a deep believer in the idea that ‘kids have to find their own balance of power.’ He wants his boys to create their own society governed by its own rules. He consciously transformed his family’s house into a kid hangout, spreading the word that local children were welcome to play in the yard anytime, even when the family wasn’t home. Discontented with the expensive, highly structured summer camps typical of the area, Mike started one of his own: Camp Yale, named after his street, where the kids make their own games and get to roam the neighborhood.”

22. A Six-Day Walk Through the Alps, Inspired by Simone de Beauvoir

“Beauvoir is remembered as a philosopher, feminist and novelist, not as an outdoorswoman, and yet pages of her memoirs are taken up with descriptions of the hikes she took in her 20s and 30s: in the Maritime Alps, the Haute-Loire, in Brittany, in the Jura, in Auvergne, in the Midi. Since the publication of Cheryl Strayed’s Wild or even Robyn Davidson’s Tracks, it has become commonplace to see the solo excursion in the wilderness as a possible experience of feminine catharsis. Beauvoir abhorred sentimentalism in her writing and seemed constitutionally incapable of contriving a sudden epiphany after cresting a peak, but it turns out that in addition to all of her philosophical contributions she is a forgotten pioneer of this genre of memoir.”

23. William Eggleston, the Pioneer of Color Photography

“Eggleston’s images can trick you if you’re not careful. You have to look at them, then you have to look again and then keep looking until the reason he took the picture kind of clicks in your chest.”

24. The Pieces of Zadie Smith

“Novelists are like fur trappers. They disappear into the north woods for months or years at a time, sometimes never to reemerge, giving in to despair out there, or going native (taking a real job, in other words), or catching their legs in their own traps and bleeding out, silently, into the snow. The lucky ones return, laden with pelts.”

25. Kerry James Marshall Is Shifting the Color of Art History

“From the historical sense that, throughout the American experiment, very little has been possible for black people; to a generational sense that, despite a great deal of change in American society through time, a great deal still isn’t possible; to Marshall’s personal sense that, nonetheless, everything is possible: That’s the short version of the story that his work has been telling — mostly in paint but also in sculpture, photography and installations — since he became the first member of his family to go to college, graduating from Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles in 1978.”

Sunday 10.16.2016 New York Times Digest


1. How to Help an Injured Bird

“Keep the bird warm. The average body temperature of many migratory birds in flight is 105 degrees, but they can end up concussed on a cold cement sidewalk where the temperature can be 70 or 60 degrees.”

2. How Did Walmart Get Cleaner Stores and Higher Sales? It Paid Its People More

“What if paying workers more, training them better and offering better opportunities for advancement can actually make a company more profitable, rather than less?”

3. Corner Office: Jeff Goodby

“When I interview people, I look at their work ahead of time, but I don’t talk about their work. I try to find out who they are as people in the world. Do they do anything besides advertising? Do they have a life? Do they read? Do they have children? I’m listening for depth in terms of understanding of culture. Do they go to the movies and read books, or are they just reading trades and magazines and staying inside the echo chamber of advertising? Because the way you make yourself better is to get outside that echo chamber.”

4. What’s Behind a Rise in Ethnic Nationalism? Maybe the Economy

“Global economic weakness and a rise in inequality appear to be causing a disturbing growth in ethnic nationalism.”

5. Your Phone’s on Lockdown. Enjoy the Show.

“The pouch allows phone signals to get through, so someone can feel a phone vibrate when a message arrives. Anyone who needs access during a show may leave the room, have the device unlocked and use the phone in the lobby or outside — similar to the way smokers light up outside a nonsmoking theater.”

6. ‘The Wall Is a Fantasy’

“The closer you get to the border, the fewer people think that it might work — even among Trump supporters and law enforcement officials.

7. Is It Time to Desegregate the Sexes?

“In defining sex so expansively, the agencies may have walked themselves into a legal contradiction. Title IX has also been interpreted as saying that schools must not tolerate a ‘hostile environment’ that makes girls feel threatened and could impede their education. If the cisgender girl claims that the transgender girl is invading her privacy in a discomfiting way, that could also constitute a Title IX violation.”

8. What Do the Scary Clowns Want?

“Creepy clown sightings aren’t new. They date from at least May 1981, when the cryptozoologist Loren Coleman coined the term ‘phantom clowns’ to describe them. At the time, children in Brookline, Mass., were reporting clowns in vans who beckoned them with promises of candy. The police issued an all-points bulletin, established checkpoints and conducted searches, but no clowns were captured.”

9. How Cats Evolved to Win the Internet

“In many ways, their online dominance is an extension of their earthly conquests.”

10. Foreign Spouse, Happy Life

“Anyone who risks a life with someone outside of his in-group — not only across lines of nationality, but also those of religion, race and class — becomes a participant, whether he knows it or not, in a global experiment in developing empathy. The awareness and negotiation of small differences add up to a larger understanding about the complexities of the world.”

11. ‘Only White People,’ Said the Little Girl

“Why do I always have to make white people feel comfortable at the expense of who I am and my mood and my music and my thoughts?”

12. Why You Should Bet Against Your Candidate

“Despite the unease you might feel about betting against your own company, candidate or team, you ought to consider hedging — it can have significant benefits down the road.”

13. How The Birth of a Nation Silences Black Women

“In all these narratives, the rapes of women, black or white, are the prime motivation for Turner’s rebellion, while the women themselves are doubly marginalized. First, they are silenced by the violations against their bodies and then again when their victimization is cast as secondary to Turner’s heroism, their voices sidelined to the plot of Turner’s realization of his own manhood in the horror of slavery.”

14. In ‘Black Mirror,’ Sci-Fi That Feels Close to Home

“Its stories are grounded close to home, in the very near future. The result is a human drama (and sometimes, satire) that feels considerably more visceral, immediate and human than your old-fashioned dystopian nightmare.”

15. The Art of Making (and Not Making) Plans

“If technology has made bailing on commitments too easy, how about a radically different approach? Make fewer to begin with.”

16. A New Biography of Hitler Separates the Man From the Myths

“When Adolf Hitler turned 30, in 1919, his life was more than half over, yet he had made not the slightest mark on the world. He had no close friends and was probably still a virgin. As a young man, he had dreamed of being a painter or an architect, but he was rejected twice from Vienna’s Academy of Fine Arts. He had never held a job; during his years in the Austrian capital before World War I, he survived by peddling his paintings and postcards, and was sometimes homeless. When war broke out in 1914, he entered the German Army as a private, and when the war ended four years later, he was still a private. He was never promoted, the regimental adjutant explained, because he ‘lacked leadership qualities.'”

17. Messy Proposes a Flexible Approach to Life

“It’s not that disruption is inherently good, or that we should strive actually to be messy — unconstrained by desks or real work spaces, free to roam and think, surrounded by playful towers of stuff in stubborn defiance of Kondo-ization. It’s that rigid rules are bad, whether they err on the side of too much mess or too little. Rigidity disempowers people. In telling us to be messy, Harford urges us to recapture our autonomy.”

18. The Quiet Menace of Kelly Reichardt’s Feminist Westerns

“Whether set on a cooperative farm (Night Moves, a 2013 eco-terrorism thriller) or in a desolate parking lot (Wendy and Lucy, a recession-era character study), her films are all, in their own strange way, westerns. The shots are rife with the genre’s archetypal motifs — horses, trains, buttes — and the quiet stories she tells, of lonesome, seminomadic searchers struggling to maintain dignity in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds, fill the screen as forcefully as any film that John Wayne was ever in. Reichardt’s protagonists tend not to be men, however, but emotionally inarticulate women, whose problems the supposedly civilizing force of frontier justice never proves strong enough to fix.”

19. The Professor Wore a Hijab in Solidarity — Then Lost Her Job

“True solidarity, Hawkins was coming to believe, involves physical risk and sustained labor. It also involves recognizing that structural inequality is a kind of violence, with physical effects on its victims. She referred to a passage in the book of Luke in which Jesus’ followers fail to recognize him after his resurrection.”

20. Generation Adderall

“We know very little about what Adderall does over years of use, in and out of college, throughout all the experiences that constitute early adulthood. To date, there is almost no research on the long-term effects on humans of using Adderall. In a sense, then, we are the walking experiment, those of us around my age who first got involved with this drug in high school or college when it was suddenly everywhere and then did not manage to get off it for years afterward — if we got off it at all. We are living out what it might mean, both psychologically and neurologically, to take a powerful drug we do not need over long stretches of time. Sometimes I think of us as Generation Adderall.”

An Entire Weekend

“I don’t read the paper every day. I read the [New York] Times only on Saturday and Sunday, and it takes me the entire weekend to read it. I don’t know how people read it every day, and I’m not a slow reader.”

Fran Lebowitz

Some People Are Cohens, Some People Are Dylans

One of the many amazing tidbits from David Remnick’s New Yorker profile of Leonard Cohen:

In the early eighties, Cohen went to see Dylan perform in Paris, and the next morning in a café they talked about their latest work. Dylan was especially interested in “Hallelujah.” Even before three hundred other performers made “Hallelujah” famous with their cover versions, long before the song was included on the soundtrack for “Shrek” and as a staple on “American Idol,” Dylan recognized the beauty of its marriage of the sacred and the profane. He asked Cohen how long it took him to write.

“Two years,” Cohen lied.

Actually, “Hallelujah” had taken him five years. He drafted dozens of verses and then it was years more before he settled on a final version. In several writing sessions, he found himself in his underwear, banging his head against a hotel-room floor.

Cohen told Dylan, “I really like ‘I and I,’ ” a song that appeared on Dylan’s album “Infidels.” “How long did it take you to write that?”

“About fifteen minutes,” Dylan said.

This resonates with me because I too am a slow worker, often, like Cohen, laboring on and fussing with little things for years, though nothing quite at the level of “Hallelujah,” it’s true. It’s more like some people are Cohens, some people are Dylans. Speed-wise, I wanted to be more like Dylan for years, but now I’m more okay with my Cohen-like process, though the Dylan style has its advantages.

Here’s another great tidbit from the piece:

Cohen lived in a tiny cabin that he outfitted with a coffeemaker, a menorah, a keyboard, and a laptop. Like the other adepts, he cleaned toilets. He had the honor of cooking for Roshi and eventually lived in a cabin that was linked to his teacher’s by a covered walkway. For many hours a day, he sat in half lotus, meditating. If he, or anyone else, nodded off during meditation or lost the proper position, one of the monks would come by and rap him smartly on the shoulder with a wooden stick.

And here’s Cohen’s latest single:

May we all be as cool at 82.

UPDATE: There’s an episode of Malcolm Gladwell’s podcast that covers fast vs. slow creativity and Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” Whatever you think of Malcolm Gladwell or podcasts, I think it’s worth listening to.

(Hat tip: @GenerationMeh.)

Sunday 10.9.2016 New York Times Digest


1. The Lost Cultures of Whales

“We are not just losing specific whales that we have come to know as individuals; we are losing a way of life, a culture — the accumulated wisdom of generations on how to survive in the deep waters of the Caribbean Sea. They may have lived here for longer than we have walked upright.”

2. How U.S. Torture Left a Legacy of Damaged Minds

“After enduring agonizing treatment in secret C.I.A. prisons around the world or coercive practices at the military detention camp at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, dozens of detainees developed persistent mental health problems, according to previously undisclosed medical records, government documents and interviews with former prisoners and military and civilian doctors. Some emerged with the same symptoms as American prisoners of war who were brutalized decades earlier by some of the world’s cruelest regimes.”

3. When the Next Hurricane Hits Texas

“Climate change is hard to think about not only because it’s complex and politically contentious, not only because it’s cognitively almost impossible to keep in mind the intricate relationships that tie together an oil well in Venezuela, Siberian permafrost, Saudi F-15s bombing a Yemeni wedding, subsidence along the Jersey Shore, albedo effect near Kangerlussuaq, the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, the polar vortex, shampoo, California cattle, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, leukemia, plastic, paper, the Sixth Extinction, Zika, and the basic decisions we make every day, are forced to make every day, in a world we didn’t choose but were thrown into. No, it’s not just because it’s mind-bendingly difficult to connect the dots. Climate change is hard to think about because it’s depressing and scary.”

4. Shakespeare Explains the 2016 Election

“As the play conceives it, Richard’s villainy was readily apparent to everyone. There was no secret about his fathomless cynicism, cruelty and treacherousness, no glimpse of anything redeemable in him and no reason to believe that he could govern the country effectively.”

5. Among the Post-Liberals

“The liberal consensus seemed impressively resilient, even in the midst of elite misgovernment. 9/11 did not shake it meaningfully, nor did the Iraq war, and it seemed at first to weather the financial crisis as well. Now, though, there is suddenly resistance.”

6. Pets on Pot: The Newest Customer Base for Medical Marijuana

“Other animal lovers who have turned to cannabis-based products to alleviate a host of pet maladies, including seizures, inflammation, anxiety and pain, are reporting similar results. Although they have not been approved by regulators, marijuana-based treatments are being used not only for cats and dogs, but for pigs, horses and domesticated wild animals.”

7. Founder of Overheard LA, Which Pokes Fun at the City’s Pretensions, Is Unmasked

“A lot of the trends start here — hot Pilates, aura photography — and a lot of culture gets exported from here. Or anti-culture. People all over the world see the Kardashians in Calabasas, ‘The Price Is Right’ from the CBS studios on Beverly Boulevard. At the end of the day, they care about Los Angeles because it represents an ideal reality. It’s where the myths have been made for the last hundred years.”

8. Art Deco Los Angeles

“Some cities have a single architectural identity but Los Angeles is known for many. It was an incubator of the American Craftsman style, and it embraced Beaux-Arts, as well as Spanish Colonial Revival and Mayan Revival, which found a powerful advocate in Frank Lloyd Wright. But then Art Deco arrived and proliferated during the decades when movie studios became the cornerstone of an economy that had previously relied primarily on oil. It left a stunning cache of public buildings in its wake.”

9. H. W. Brands: By the Book

“Some years back it ran a piece in praise of short words, entirely in words of one syllable. The guiding principle of its style — simplify, then exaggerate — suits writers of polemics, operas and much else.”

10. They Deleted Their Kids: Stories Orbit Tech-Obsessed Lives

“The most disturbing stories about the future may be less about what could happen, given unforeseen circumstances, and more about what should happen given the way things are right now.”

11. The Populist Explosion Dissects the History of the Anti-Elite Worldview

“The difference is that right-wing populists accuse the elite of coddling an ever-shifting third group — immigrants, blacks, terrorists, welfare recipients or all of the above. This demagoguing of the scapegoat du jour is what gives right-wing populism its current potency, especially in Europe, which is facing more severe economic, immigration and terrorism problems than the United States.”

12. The Provocative Life of Judge Richard Posner

“In the past half-century there has been no figure more dominant or more controversial in American law than Posner. He has written more than 50 books, over 500 articles and nearly 3,000 majority opinions for his court. Not even Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. — to whom he is often compared — matches his productivity and range.”

13. In Exile With Don Quixote

“The defining experience of Cervantes’s life was the harrowing five years starting in 1575 that he spent in the dungeons of Algiers as a prisoner of the Barbary pirates. It was there, on the border of Islam and the West, that Cervantes came to appreciate the value of tolerance toward those who are radically different, and it was there he discovered that of all the goods men can aspire to, freedom is by far the greatest. While awaiting a ransom that his family could not pay, confronted with execution each time he attempted to escape, watching his fellow slaves tormented and impaled, he longed for a life without manacles. But once he returned to Spain, a crippled war veteran neglected by those who had sent him into conflict, he came to the conclusion that if we cannot heal the misfortunes that assail our bodies, we can, however, hold sway over how our soul responds to those sorrows.”

14. People and Technology

“All of this is wonderful, if you like your connections eclectic and your narrative discursive.”

15. Why Are Politicians So Obsessed With Manufacturing?

“This myopic focus on factory jobs distracts from another, simpler way to help working Americans: Improve the conditions of the work they actually do.”

16. Letter of Recommendation: The Life of Marshall Hodgson

“Born in 1922, he spent World War II as a conscientious objector in the Civilian Public Service before he made his way to academia. Legends circulated: He couldn’t eat a bun in a German cafe because there were hungry people outside; for a time, he subsisted on raw potatoes. He held tutorials while jogging briskly around the track. He wrote treatises, cranky or inspired, on grading policies, university housing, world federalism, civil rights. He read War and Peace to his wife, Phyllis, while she washed dishes. (‘Marshall didn’t think a university professor ought to wash dishes,’ she told me wryly — one grave mark against him.) Hodgson read and wrote furiously but published little. The Venture is the main offering, and even it was unfinished by his standards at the time of his death.”

17. Big Food Strikes Back

“In ways small and large, Obama left the distinct impression during the campaign that he grasped the food movement’s critique of the food system and shared its aspirations for reforming it. But aspirations are cheap — and naïveté can be expensive.”

18. Close to the Bone

“When picking among shrink-wrapped packages in the meat aisle of your local grocery, it’s remarkable how little information you’re provided about the steak, pork chop or chicken breast inside. The label tells you the particular cut, its weight and the price per pound, but store brands almost never give even basic information about how that animal was raised.”

19. Pie in the Sky

“Can frozen pizza really be expected to improve the health of the American public? And will anyone want to eat it if it does?”

Two Villages


“Show me two villages, one embowered in trees and blazing with all the glories of October, the other a merely trivial and treeless waste, or with only a single tree or two for suicides, and I shall be sure that in the latter will be found the most starved and bigoted religionists and the most desperate drinkers. Every wash-tub and milk-can and gravestone will be exposed. The inhabitants will disappear abruptly behind their hams and houses, like desert Arabs amid their rocks, and I shall look to see spears in their hands. They will be ready to accept the most barren and forlorn doctrine,—as that the world is speedily coming to an end, or has already got to it, or that they themselves are turned wrong side outward. They will perchance crack their dry joints at one another and call it a spiritual communication.”

—Henry David Thoreau, “Autumnal Tints,” The Atlantic, 1862

(Photo by James Besser.)