Sunday 8.27.2017 New York Times Digest

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1. Memorize That Poem!

“Since ancient times, humans have memorized and recited poetry. Before the invention of writing, the only way to possess a poem was to memorize it. Long after scrolls and folios supplemented our brains, court poets, priests and wandering bards recited poetry in order to entertain and connect with the divine. For individuals, a poem learned by heart could be a lifeline — to grapple with overwhelming emotion or preserve sanity amid the brutalities of prison and warfare.”

2. Late Wages for Migrant Workers at a Trump Golf Course in Dubai

“Mr. Paindkhel is not familiar with golf. He does not understand the purpose of the lush grass that he and his co-workers have grown in the desert, though he admires its serene beauty. He cannot read the signs identifying the golf resort as a Trump property. He cannot read at all.”

3. The Worst (and Best) Places to Be Gay in America

“There’s no such thing as L.G.B.T. life in America, a country even more divided on this front than on others. There’s L.G.B.T. life in a group of essentially progressive places like New York, Maryland, Oregon and California, which bans government-funded travel to states it deems unduly discriminatory. Then there is L.G.B.T. life on that blacklist, which includes Texas, Kansas, Mississippi and South Dakota.”

4. Networking Is Overrated

“It’s true that networking can help you accomplish great things. But this obscures the opposite truth: Accomplishing great things helps you develop a network.”

5. The Secret to a Good Robot Teacher

“For millenniums, the environs in which we learned best were social ones. It was through other people’s testimony or through interactive discourse and exploration with them that we learned facts about our world and new ways of solving problems. And it’s precisely because of this history that we can expect the mind to be socially tuned, meaning that it should rely on and incorporate social cues to facilitate learning. When it comes to most educational technology, this insight has been ignored.”

6. There Once Was a Great Nation With an Unstable Leader

“As Caligula wreaked havoc, Rome also had values, institutions and mores that inspired resistance. He offended practically everyone, he couldn’t deliver on his promises, his mental stability was increasingly doubted and he showed he simply had no idea how to govern. Within a few years, he had lost all support, and the Praetorian Guard murdered him.”

7. Cure Yourself of Tree Blindness

“Just naming trees might sound a bit like a parlor trick to impress your friends. But it’s also a way to start paying attention. Then you notice more interesting things. Trees put on one of nature’s great sex shows. Each spring they break their winter dormancy with a burst of genitalia, also known as flowers.”

8. In Virginia and on TV, A Supremacist Summer

“To watch the movies or TV — or even to catch the hype for a certain boxing match — is to know that normalized white supremacy has been here all summer. It’s to know that the people who manufacture all sorts of popular culture have also, intentionally or not, tossed some racism onto the assembly line. It’s to know that whatever occurred in Charlottesville and then at that news conference didn’t happen in a vacuum. They were just the gnarliest flare-ups in a season of provocations that seem so business-as-usual that they scarcely feel provoked.”

9. Going Hyperlocal, Filmmakers Explore the Pain of Racism

“Only in America does it take movies to authenticate reality, and not the other way around.”

10. The Invisible Forces That Make Writing Work

“There are things the writer sees that the reader does not; things the reader sees that the writer does not; and things neither of us ever sees.”

11. A Grown-Up’s Travels Down the Rabbit Hole of Children’s Literature

“In pointing out how classic girl books aren’t always as conventionally girlish as you may think, he notes of the Little House on the Prairie series not only that Laura relishes playing, as though it were a balloon, with an inflated pig bladder that belonged to the animal her father has just skinned before her eyes, but also that ‘from the denatured vantage point of 21st-century urban fatherhood, where bantering with the super as he fixes your toilet counts as manly self-sufficiency, Pa cuts an intimidating figure: Not only does he feed and shelter his family using his own two hands … he also makes his own bullets.’”

12. How Chester B. Himes Became the Rage in Harlem, and Beyond

“Despite Himes’s literary output, wealth and sustained praise eluded him until the final third of his career. Disappointed by his American book sales and haunted by the fact that literary elites did not hold him in the same esteem as Ellison and James Baldwin, Himes took the advice of the French editor Marcel Duhamel and started writing detective novels.”

13. Don’t Panic, Liberal Arts Majors. The Tech World Wants You.

“According to both Anders and Stross, the ever-expanding tech sector is now producing career opportunities in fields — project management, recruitment, human relations, branding, data analysis, market research, design, fund-raising and sourcing, to name some — that specifically require the skills taught in the humanities. To thrive in these areas, one must be able to communicate effectively, read subtle social and emotional cues, make persuasive arguments, adapt quickly to fluid environments, interpret new forms of information while translating them into a compelling narrative and anticipate obstacles and opportunities before they arise.”

14. In ‘Campus Confidential,’ a Professor Laments That Teaching Is Not the Priority of Teachers

“Prospective students may be drawn to schools because of their esteemed faculty, but once they arrive on campus … they will find that these scholars want nothing to do with them. Instead, their education will likely be guided by part-time teachers and graduate students, who are paid a few thousand dollars a course. As Berlinerblau puts it, ‘While teaching undergraduates is normally a very large part of a professor’s job, success in our field is correlated with a professor’s ability to avoid teaching undergraduates.’”

15. An Educator Makes the Case That Higher Learning Needs to Grow Up

“The existing system dominates and discourages teachers who want to do better.”

16. How Hate Groups Forced Online Platforms to Reveal Their True Nature

“Despite their participatory rhetoric, social platforms are closer to authoritarian spaces than democratic ones. It makes some sense that people with authoritarian tendencies would have an intuitive understanding of how they work and how to take advantage of them.”

17. How to Stand Still

“Recognize what’s happening, but don’t give in.”

18. Wonder Year

“While the world had little doubt Federer was done, Federer himself thought otherwise and plotted his return.”

Sunday 8.20.2017 New York Times Digest

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1. How to Make Fun of Nazis

“Violence directed at white nationalists only fuels their narrative of victimhood — of a hounded, soon-to-be-minority who can’t exercise their rights to free speech without getting pummeled. It also probably helps them recruit.”

2. Women of Sex Tech, Unite

“Dame, along with other new companies like Unbound, House of Plume and Sustain, is part of a tech-savvy and female-led women’s sexuality movement that has made its home in New York instead of, say, Silicon Valley. Women, many of them under 40, are updating sex toys and related products with their own needs in mind, and leading the companies that sell them.”

3. The Moral Voice of Corporate America

“Business leaders looking to the future are accepting that it is unwise to isolate swaths of the population by coming off as racist, sexist or intolerant. Instead, for the sake of the bottom line, it is imperative that they appeal to the widest possible audience.”

4. Trump Says More Jobs Will Help Race Relations. If Only It Were So Simple

“There’s not much evidence in recent history that racial attitudes are shaped by the ups and downs of the overall economy.”

5. Evidence of a Toxic Environment for Women in Economics

“The 30 words most uniquely associated with discussions of women make for uncomfortable reading. In order, that list is: hotter, lesbian, bb (internet speak for ‘baby’), sexism, tits, anal, marrying, feminazi, slut, hot, vagina, boobs, pregnant, pregnancy, cute, marry, levy, gorgeous, horny, crush, beautiful, secretary, dump, shopping, date, nonprofit, intentions, sexy, dated and prostitute.”

6. How to Sell a Frank Lloyd Wright House

“The process is not easy, with many going on and off the market over many years, as owners try to find buyers willing to assume the responsibility while appreciating what they are getting.”

7. With Conrad on the Congo River

“In the midafternoon heat, as I lay on my bunk rereading Heart of Darkness, batting away tsetse flies, I had an uneasy sensation that for all that I’d come to Congo to follow Conrad, he’d never felt farther away. ‘Everything is hateful to me,’ he once told a confidante. ‘Men and things, but especially men.’ Yet I was having precisely the opposite experience: On board Primus I, I was becoming part of a dynamic floating village, where things had become familiar and people were becoming friends.”

8. What White Nationalism Gets Right About American History

“It is essential that we recognize that the white nationalist history embedded in American culture lends itself to white nationalist rallies like the one in Charlottesville. If you want to preserve Confederate memorials, but you don’t work to build monuments to historical black leaders, you share the same cause as the marchers.”

9. Is Your Sunscreen Poisoning the Ocean?

“Even in minute doses, the researchers found, oxybenzone rapidly bleaches coral and slows new growth: A single drop in 4.3 million gallons of water — about six and a half Olympic-size swimming pools — is enough to be deadly.”

10. Save Your Sanity. Downgrade Your Life.

“Over the past few years, as my work life has accelerated at boggling speed, my personal life has begun creeping backward toward the 20th century. Like carbon offsets, each decision to remove a technology at home makes the corresponding upgrade at work feel more acceptable.”

11. The New Authority in Great Books to Read: Who You Follow on Instagram

“Increasingly, book publicists are working to get new hardcovers into celebrities’ hands — not in hopes of a film option but a simple tweet, Instagram photo or Facebook post.”

12. Karl Ove Knausgaard: By the Book

“I’m convinced everything can be useful for my writing, so I buy a lot of books randomly, about subjects I think one day can make it into a novel. For instance a book about Chinese science from 1500 to 1900. I still haven’t read it, though. If I do, I’m afraid my dream of writing a wonderful Chinese novel will vanish.”

13. How the Radical Right Played the Long Game and Won

“He knew that the majority would never agree to being constrained. He therefore helped lead a push to undermine their trust in public institutions. The idea was to get voters to direct their ire at these institutions and divert their attention away from increasing income and wealth inequality.”

14. America Is Struggling to Sort Out Where ‘Violence’ Begins and Ends

“There is a rising idea that violence is embedded in everything from our social structures to our speech — that speech itself can be a form of violence, one every bit as meaningful as the physical kind.”

15. How to Survive a Bear Encounter

“If a bear is eating you, don’t play dead.”

16. Down the Breitbart Hole

“To the extent that there is a coherent ideology behind Breitbart, we’ve also done a crummy job of figuring out what it is.”

17. How Rebecca Solnit Became the Voice of the Resistance

“I am interested in almost everything, and it can sometimes seem like a burden.”

18. The Rooms Where Writers Work

“That’s my favorite thing about L.A., the constant golden light, which is a little bit unreal.”

19. The Familiar Promise of Health and Happiness in a Bottle

“As the world speeds up and its institutions crumble, we revert to rustic wizardry and the simple beauty and comfort found in nature’s bounty.”

Disgrace

“How does it become a man to behave toward this American government to-day? I answer that he cannot without disgrace be associated with it.”

—Henry David Thoreau, “Resistance to Civil Government” (1849)

Sunday 8.13.2017 New York Times Digest

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1. You’ll Never Be as Radical as This 18th-Century Quaker Dwarf

“Lay, a hunchback as well as a dwarf, was the world’s first revolutionary abolitionist. Against the common sense of the day, when slavery seemed to most people as immutable as the stars in the heavens, Lay imagined a new world in which people would live simply, make their own food and clothes, and respect nature. He lived in a cave in Abington, Pa., ate only fruits and vegetables — ‘the innocent fruits of the earth’ — and championed animal rights. He refused to consume any commodity produced by slave labor and was known to walk abruptly out of a dinner in protest when he found out that his host owned slaves.”

2. Stay, Hide or Leave? Hard Choices for Immigrants in the Heartland

“In small agricultural towns that supported President Trump by 20-point margins, residents are now seeing an immigration crackdown ripple through the families that have helped revive their downtown squares and transform their economies.”

3. In the Land of Internet Subcultures, Try Not to Look Like a Tourist

“One user’s home platform is another’s foreign land. A point made by a subculture at home on Facebook might look funny to another on Twitter, which can read as evidence of a conspiracy to yet another on YouTube, which might be seen as offensive on Tumblr, which could be a joke on Reddit.”

4. Chile’s Energy Transformation Is Powered by Wind, Sun and Volcanoes

“Chile, Mexico and Brazil are now among the top 10 renewable energy markets in the world.”

5. A New Kind of Classroom: No Grades, No Failing, No Hurry

“Students are encouraged to focus instead on mastering a set of grade-level skills, like writing a scientific hypothesis or identifying themes in a story, moving to the next set of skills when they have demonstrated that they are ready. In these schools, there is no such thing as a C or a D for a lazily written term paper. There is no failing. The only goal is to learn the material, sooner or later.”

6. The Incredible Shrinking Sears

“At the turn of the 20th century, as Americans established roots across the nation, they turned to Sears. Through its robust mail-order business — some catalogs were more than 500 pages — Sears shipped groceries, rifles, corsets, cream separators, davenports, stoves and entire prefab houses to some of the most remote regions of the country.”

7. Tech’s Damaging Myth of the Loner Genius Nerd

“The myth that programming is done by loner men who think only rationally and communicate only with their computers harms the tech industry in ways that cut straight to the bottom line.”

8. Google Doesn’t Want What’s Best for Us

“We have an obligation to care about the values of the people who run Google, because we’ve given Google enormous control over our lives and the lives of our children.”

9. Donald Trump Is Giving North Korea Exactly What It Wants

“If President Trump thinks that his threats last week of ‘fire and fury’ and weapons ‘locked and loaded’ have North Koreans quaking in their boots, he should think again. If anything, the Mao-suit-clad cadres in Pyongyang are probably gleeful that the president of the United States has played straight into their propaganda.”

10. Why Are Police Officers More Dangerous Than Airplanes?

“You are far more likely to die at the hands of a cop than to perish in an plane crash.”

11. Making Affirmative Action White Again

“The most important pieces of American social policy — the minimum wage, union rights, Social Security and even the G.I. Bill — created during and just after the Great Depression, conferred enormous benefits on whites while excluding most Southern blacks.”

12. Trump Isn’t a Threat to Our Democracy. Hysteria Is.

“A dysfunctional economy, not lurking tyranny, is what needs attention if recent electoral choices are to be explained — and voting patterns are to be changed in the future.”

13. Fleeing to the Mountains

“Flee to the mountains, deserts and babbling brooks to get in touch with wild spaces, to find perspective and humility. The wilderness nourishes our souls, if we let it.”

14. Why Women Had Better Sex Under Socialism

“A comparative sociological study of East and West Germans conducted after reunification in 1990 found that Eastern women had twice as many orgasms as Western women.”

15. ‘Virtue Signaling’ Isn’t the Problem. Not Believing One Another Is.

“The real problem, of course, isn’t the signaling part: Everyone is signaling all the time, whether it’s about social justice or their commitment to Second Amendment rights or their concerns about immigration law. Those who accuse others of virtue signaling seem angry about the supposed virtues themselves — angry that someone, anyone, appears to care about something they do not.”

16. Letter of Recommendation: Gum

“I always chew gum while I’m writing and while I’m driving — not just one or two of the little pellets, but several sticks at a time.”

Sunday 8.6.2017 New York Times Digest

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1. The Transformation of the ‘American Dream’

“In the 1930s and ’40s, the term appeared occasionally in advertisements for intellectual products: plays, books and church sermons, book reviews and high-minded articles. During these years, it rarely, if ever, referred to business success or homeownership.”

2. The Secret Life of the City Banana

“You don’t want to stress the bananas.”

3. The Policies of White Resentment

“White resentment needs the boogeyman of job-taking, maiden-ravaging, tax-evading, criminally inclined others to justify the policies that thwart the upward mobility and success of people of color.”

4. America Is Running Out of Bomb-Sniffing Dogs

“Despite decades of trying, researchers have yet to develop a machine as exquisitely sensitive and discerning as a dog’s nose.”

5. On a Date While Venezuela Burns

“What do you talk about on a date when your country is collapsing?”

6. Racial Violence on the Screen

“White America is connected, whether it wishes to be or not, to a history that has shot and lynched black folk into silence. When visual evidence of police brutality circulates widely, it is a warning to black folk to keep in place.”

7. The Pianist Jeremy Denk on the Joys of Chopin, Our Most Catlike Composer

“He frequently writes the act of listening into the music, aware that somehow composing a good phrase is only half the job, and the beauty of moments must be given space to sink in.”

8. An Encore for the Native Americans Who Shook Up Rock ‘n’ Roll

“The film reveals how Native American rhythms and stylings became a part of the larger tapestry of American music.”

9. What’s So Hard About Casting Indian Actors in Indian Roles?

“When vetting is a challenge even for tribes, which can become embroiled in controversies over identity, how can casting directors do it? Physical appearance can be deceiving, and requiring tribal membership may exclude those who are not enrolled.”

10. Who Owns a Tweet?

“If someone uses another’s work for commercial purposes … it becomes much easier for the owner of the content to file a cease-and-desist order or to argue that compensation is necessary.”

11. Why Kids Can’t Write

“Students continue to arrive on college campuses needing remediation in basic writing skills.”

12. How to Conquer the Admissions Essay

“Don’t brag about your achievements. Instead, look at times you’ve struggled or, even better, failed. Failure is essayistic gold. Figure out what you’ve learned. Write about that. Be honest and say the hardest things you can. And remember those exhausted admissions officers sitting around a table in the winter. Jolt them out of their sugar coma and give them something to be excited about.”

13. In the Era of Digital Composition, What Should a Writer Keep?

“Some writers keep every draft; others keep just one. But there are many points on the line between those two extremes.”

14. If SoundCloud Disappears, What Happens to Its Music Culture?

“The death of SoundCloud … would mean more than the sunsetting of a service: It could mean the erasure of a decade of internet sound culture.”

15. Letter of Recommendation: Ghosting

“Ghosting … provides a line of flight. Freed from the ties that hurt us, or bore us, or make us feel uneasy, finally we can turn our attention inward.”

16. The Loyal Engineers Steering NASA’s Voyager Probes Across the Universe

“They also may be the last people left on the planet who can operate the spacecraft’s onboard computers, which have 235,000 times less memory and 175,000 times less speed than a 16-gigabyte smartphone.”

17. Losing It in the Anti-Dieting Age

“If you had been watching closely, you could see that the change had come slowly. ‘Dieting; was now considered tacky. It was anti-feminist. It was arcane. In the new millennium, all bodies should be accepted, and any inclination to change a body was proof of a lack of acceptance of it.”

Sunday 7.30.2017 New York Times Digest

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1. When Life on Earth Was Nearly Extinguished

“The planet’s most profound catastrophe struck 252 million years ago, at the end of the Permian period, killing 90 percent of life in the ocean and 75 percent on land.”

2. How to Repair the Health Law (It’s Tricky but Not Impossible)

“The politics are exceedingly tricky in a divided and dysfunctional Washington, but economists, insurers, doctors and health policy experts across the political spectrum agree that immediately addressing three or four basic shortcomings in the existing system would go a long way toward making the law more effective and financially stable.”

3. Why Health Care Policy Is So Hard

“The magic of the free market sometimes fails us when it comes to health care.”

4. Finland Has a Sports Screw Loose

“We have some weird hobbies.”

5. White Economic Privilege Is Alive and Well

“The income gap between black and white working-class Americans, like the gap between black and white Americans at every income level, remains every bit as extreme as it was five decades ago. (This is also true of the income gap between Hispanic and white Americans.)”

6. How We Make Black Girls Grow Up Too Fast

“All women in our culture are subject to this kind of symbolic violence, when people judge their bodies to decide if they deserve abuse. But for black women and girls that treatment is refracted through history and today’s context.”

7. Artificial Intelligence Is Stuck. Here’s How to Move It Forward.

“A.I. systems tend to be passive vessels, dredging through data in search of statistical correlations; humans are active engines for discovering how things work.”

8. Young Digital Artists, Anxious About … Technology

“The young artists in the show … tend to share, despite their immersion in digital technology, a profound ambivalence about where it is taking us. They also seem to share the ‘Black Mirror’ sensibility…: The perception, endemic to the satirical British TV series, that technology has led us into a digital fun house where nothing is as it seems and everything is as we fear it might be.”

9. A Doctor Gives Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop a Pelvic Exam

“Dr. Gunter has emerged as the most ardent critic of Ms. Paltrow’s website, routinely responding with snark and medical data to its pronouncements on diet and female genital health.”

10. Keeping Up, on Camera, Is No Longer Just for the Kardashians

“Mr. Henry is one of a small but growing number of entrepreneurs who have turned their lives into do-it-yourself reality shows. They pay videographers, editors and producers thousands of dollars a month to shadow them and create content for their social media platforms. They ‘star’ as part motivational speaker, part life coach, as they dispense advice and speak enthusiastically about the hustle. They are earnest to a fault; you’ll find no melodrama here (or even much drama).”

11. A Lot Like Prayer: Remembering Denis Johnson

“He never assumed a tough-guy persona. His stories, fiction and nonfiction alike, exalt the innate dignity inherent in cowardice and failure, in loserdom, in life at the bottom of the barrel. He seems to ask whether at some level, cowardice might not be the same as love of life.”

12. Is It O.K. to Protest Trump by Withholding Taxes?

“Today nearly two-thirds of the federal budget covers so-called mandatory spending: Medicare and other health expenditures, Social Security payments, unemployment benefits, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. If secretly reducing your tax payments prevented you from being complicit with expenditures you dislike, it would also make you complicit in trying to reduce expenditures you do like.”

13. Letter of Recommendation: Duolingo

“Any online time-waster offers an escape from the world, often by preying on your worst instincts: envy, pettiness, poor impulse control. But Duolingo offered an escape that made me feel connected to the better parts of the world, and of myself.”

14. How to Be Selected for a Jury

“We are wary of people who are trying to get on a jury.”

15. How to Make a Movie Out of Anything — Even a Mindless Phone Game

“There are no protagonists or antagonists in Fruit Ninja. There’s no mythology. No moral. The game play involves staring at a wall as pineapples, watermelons, kiwis, apples and oranges fly up into view. The only thing you do is swipe at the fruit with your finger, cutting them in half. Sometimes there are bombs, and you’re not supposed to swipe at those. ‘There’s a fun game to play, but that’s it,’ Vinson says. ‘The challenge was: What the [expletive] am I going to do with Fruit Ninja?’”

16. The Majestic Marble Quarries of Northern Italy

“There is no avoiding the tyranny of weight.”

How Iggy Pop Breaks in His Jeans in the Summer

How to break in a pair of jeans, courtesy of Iggy Pop, as told by Anthony Bozza in the documentary Blue Gold: American Jeans, currently streaming on Netflix:

He said that the best thing about summer, something that he always does is he buys a pair of Levi’s jeans at the beginning of the summer and wears them every single day until the end of the summer and never washes them. And sometime about July he said they start to stink a little but it doesn’t matter because that’s when they start getting good. That’s when they start fitting. And he said by August, they are sticking to your ass so perfectly that he doesn’t care if no one is going to come near him, it doesn’t matter. He finally has the perfect pair of jeans.

Whether you’d do such a thing or not, the whole doc is worth checking out if you’re a denim head or simply interested in cultural history.

Previously: Repair Your Own Jeans.