The New York Times 100 Notable Books of 2015 The year’s notable fiction, poetry and nonfiction, selected by the editors of The New York Times Book Review.
Writing for Agence France-Presse, Rob Lever details the struggles of major news organizations and online content aggregators to keep comment sections from devolving into ‘pie fights’ at best to hateful and abusive at worst. Some sites have simply eliminated comments rather than deal with the negativity. In 2014, The New York Times and The Washington Post announced that they would form a partnership, the Coral Project, aimed at creating a commenting system that, “might diminish the ‘incentive to be the loudest voice’ and would foster communities of commenters[.]” [more inside]
Friends call Constable Collins Rain Man or Yoda or simply The Oracle. But to Scotland Yard, London’s metropolitan police force, he is known as a “super recognizer.” He has a special gift of facial recall powers that enables him to match even low-quality and partial imagery to a face he has seen before, on the street or in a database and possibly years earlier.[slNYT]
Today's NYT sports section trolls Cubs fans with a 1908-inspired front page. The cover. More, from Talking New Media.
What do we really know about Osama bin Laden's death?
I saw this as more of a media story, a case study in how constructed narratives become accepted truth. This felt like a cop-out to [Seymour Hersh], as he explained in a long email the next day. He said that I was sidestepping the real issue, that I was ‘‘turning this into a ‘he-said, she-said’ dilemma,’’ instead of coming to my own conclusion about whose version was right. It was then that he introduced an even more disturbing notion: What if no one’s version could be trusted?
Amazon has posted (on Medium, natch) an aggressive response to the “everyone at Amazon is miserable but also paid well but also crying all the time” story in the New York Times [Previously]. This story and its aftermath represent a bit of a trap, particularly in discussions on Twitter: If you think the original story contained both valuable information and flaws, your default position is to go to bat for the Times; if you read this story as a portrait of a tough workplace written to cast it in the worst possible light, but acknowledge that it contained some worrying anecdotes, then your tendency will be to defend Amazon.
But these too reveal themselves as proxy positions. It’s not story versus story, or publication versus tech company. It’s media versus tech. [more inside]
But these too reveal themselves as proxy positions. It’s not story versus story, or publication versus tech company. It’s media versus tech. [more inside]
"There are two kinds of women: those who knit and those who unravel. I am a great unraveler. I can undo years of careful stitching in fifteen gluttonous minutes. It isn't even a decision, really. Once I see the loose thread, I am undone. It's over before I have even asked myself the question: Do I actually want to destroy this?" [more inside]
The Passion of Nicki Minaj: "To put down a woman for something that men do, as if they're children and I'm responsible, has nothing to do with you asking stupid questions, because you know that's not just a stupid question. That's a premeditated thing you just did." [SLNYT]
The Pernicious Rise of Poptimisim, by Saul Austerlitz.
A Dying Young Woman’s Hope in Cryonics and a Future - (SLNYT) Kim Suozzi knew she was dying, but believed that cryonic preservation had a “1 or 2 percent chance” of offering her another shot at life. And for that, it was worth trying.
new research has revealed that when we learn our mother tongue, we do after all acquire certain habits of thought that shape our experience in significant and often surprising ways.
‘Moment’ Is Having a Moment [New York Times]
“What, exactly, is a cultural moment? How long does it last? Who participates in it? Who on earth gets to decide? Can you marshal literally anything that has happened in the last 10 years, or 10 months? What are the parameters? Is there a minimum Q rating? Who has to experience a thing, be aware of it, find satisfaction (or prestige) in discussing it? And how do we distinguish kairos from chronos — a moment from an ordinary shred of time? How do we distinguish a meaningful, fateful, crucial moment from all the other moments that fall all over the place like bread crumbs out of an overturned toaster?”
Skrillex, Diplo, and Justin Bieber collaborate on a song and talk about the process in this NYT mini-doc.
Merl Reagle, the imaginative and irrepressibly amusing verbal virtuoso who created the crossword puzzles published each week in The Washington Post Magazine and in many newspapers, died Aug. 22 in a hospital in Tampa. He was 65. (Washington Post obituary) [more inside]
"What you want to avoid is panic. What you want to teach yourself is that you deserve better than lying alone in a dark room, imagining yourself buried." || Diana Spechler for NYT's Opinionator: 10 Things I'd Tell My Former (Medicated) Self, the final installment in Going Off, a series of essays recounting the challenges Spechler has faced in gradually discontinuing her regimen of psychiatric medications.
Japan’s new geostationary satellite Himawari-8 captures an image of Earth every 10 minutes. The New York Times combined some of them into a spectacular view of a single day over the Pacific Ocean.
Colorado’s Effort Against Teenage Pregnancies Is a Startling Success, by Sabrina Tavernese, New York Times [more inside]
The Mixed-Up Brothers of Bogotá:
After a hospital error, two pairs of Colombian identical twins were raised as two pairs of fraternal twins. This is the story of how they found one another — and of what happened next.A fascinating and improbable tale of coincidence, family, class, and genetics. [SLNYT]
Grilling with Lava [New York Times]
This July Fourth, we offer an intense, but minimalist way to grill steak. It requires 800 pounds of Wisconsin basaltic gravel heated to 2,000 degrees. New York Times food writers have advocated cooking directly on hot coals this Fourth of July, but the truly adventurous may want to consider another approach: lava-grilled steak. The Syracuse University professors Bob Wysocki and Jeff Karson, the leaders of this minimalist technique, say the key is to start with thin-cut steaks, the more marbled the better. You then find the nearest retrofitted bronze furnace. (Very likely, that is the one the professors have built for themselves in Syracuse as part of the university’s Lava Project. When not cooking dinner with it, Mr. Wysocki, an artist, and Mr. Karson, a geologist, create lava for scientific research and sculptures.)[more inside]
A short game sheds light on government policy, corporate America and why no one likes to be wrong. [SLNYT]
A case against "glamping". Unless you are for glamping (especially during music festival season). [more inside]
The Agency is every online community member's worst fears come to life: a real honest-to-goodness troll/noise factory where dozens of employees using hundreds of accounts post thousands of highly targeted and coordinated attacks as awful comments on Twitter, Facebook, and forums in order to sway public opinion about geopolitics. From a nondescript office building in St. Petersburg, Russia, an army of well-paid “trolls” has tried to wreak havoc all around the Internet — and in real-life American communities...
The New York Times has been around long enough to report on more or less everything, and its First Glimpses feature occasionally dives into the archives to see when some notable thing was mentioned for the very first time. This week, it's cheeseburgers. [more inside]
MeFi's own John Scalzi, author of numerous popular books and a blog almost as popular as said books, has done okay.
"At most restaurants, you are served what you ask for so routinely that your eyes glaze over with boredom. Javelina does not fall into the trap of dull predictability. One night after I left, I realized the guacamole I’d ordered had never arrived; it’s not every restaurant that gives you something to think about on your way home. Meanwhile, people at the next table were presented with a dish they insisted they hadn’t asked for. “You didn’t order brisket?” the server asked, keeping up the playful spirit." Move over, Flavortown: NYT's Pete Wells reviews Javelina
“We host one of the most renowned faculty in the world,” boasts a woman introduced in one promotional video as the head of a law school. “Come be a part of Newford University to soar the sky of excellence.”
Yet on closer examination, this picture shimmers like a mirage. The news reports are fabricated. The professors are paid actors. The university campuses exist only as stock photos on computer servers. The degrees have no true accreditation.
In fact, very little in this virtual academic realm, appearing to span at least 370 websites, is real — except for the tens of millions of dollars in estimated revenue it gleans each year from many thousands of people around the world, all paid to a secretive Pakistani software company.Declan Walsh for The New York Times
The Last Day of Her Life. When Cornell psychology professor Sandy Bem found out she had Alzheimer’s, she resolved that before the disease stole her mind, she would kill herself. The question was, when? [more inside]
The Men of Condé Nast Photographed in Their Natural Habitat (New York Times)
Sally Mann's Exposure An essay by Sally Mann about the publication, and subsequent reaction to, her second book of photographs, Immediate Family. [Many of the photographs featured naked images of her young children.]
The Machines Are Coming by Zeynep Tufekci
Machines are getting better than humans at figuring out who to hire, who’s in a mood to pay a little more for that sweater, and who needs a coupon to nudge them toward a sale. In applications around the world, software is being used to predict whether people are lying, how they feel and whom they’ll vote for. To crack these cognitive and emotional puzzles, computers needed not only sophisticated, efficient algorithms, but also vast amounts of human-generated data, which can now be easily harvested from our digitized world. The results are dazzling. Most of what we think of as expertise, knowledge and intuition is being deconstructed and recreated as an algorithmic competency, fueled by big data. But computers do not just replace humans in the workplace. They shift the balance of power even more in favor of employers. Our normal response to technological innovation that threatens jobs is to encourage workers to acquire more skills, or to trust that the nuances of the human mind or human attention will always be superior in crucial ways. But when machines of this capacity enter the equation, employers have even more leverage, and our standard response is not sufficient for the looming crisis.[more inside]
A Field Guide to the American Sandwich, with introduction. Both by Sam Sifton. Possibly related to yesterday's ode to the BEC and last week's roast beef tutorial (all NYT).
Fit to Print documents the ways in which the New York Times writes around expletives even as it is often drawn to the very words it deems unprintable.
The concept first bubbled up out of the pop-cultural ether when competitive reality shows hit upon their formula, in the form of “Survivor” and “The Amazing Race.” TV enthusiasts — part fan, part Roland Barthes with a TiVo — congregated on online message boards like Television Without Pity, creating a new slang with which to dis and deconstruct their favorites. Fifteen years later, the critical language used to carve up the phonies, saints and sad-sack wannabes of reality shows has migrated, and the loser edit has become a limber metaphor for exploring our own real-world failures. Colson Whitehead: The ‘Loser Edit’ That Awaits Us All
The most optimistic people often struggle the hardest. They can’t quite square what’s going on in the world with their beliefs, and the disparity is alarming. [slnyt]
According to a British linguist's research on Twitter users in the U.S. (direct link to 55-page PDF), what do young Southern black women and young Northern and Western white men have in common? They're "lexical innovators" whose slang creation skills are on fleek. [more inside]
A.O. Scott and Manohla Dargis talk about what the Oscars mean today and how they paradoxically reach more people than the movies they celebrate. [SLNYT]
I started to wonder about the recipients of our shamings, the real humans who were the virtual targets of these campaigns. So for the past two years, I’ve been interviewing individuals like Justine Sacco: everyday people pilloried brutally, most often for posting some poorly considered joke on social media. Whenever possible, I have met them in person, to truly grasp the emotional toll at the other end of our screens. The people I met were mostly unemployed, fired for their transgressions, and they seemed broken somehow — deeply confused and traumatized.
This happened where I work and live, it's a devastating read about ignorance, healing and forgiveness Well balanced NYT article about Sasha Fleischman, an agender teen who fell asleep on a city bus and was set on fire by a 16 year old named Richard Thomas.
The NYT Social Media team pulls the curtain back on how Twitter works for them with detailed examples of how changing text and descriptions and focus in their short messages resonated with readers, and which fell flat. Really interesting bit of transparency on their process, and results.
When we are taking about racism, and anti-black racism in the United States, we have to remember that under slavery black lives were considered only a fraction of a human life, so the prevailing way of valuing lives assumed that some lives mattered more, were more human, more worthy, more deserving of life and freedom, where freedom meant minimally the freedom to move and thrive without being subjected to coercive force. But when and where did black lives ever really get free of coercive force? One reason the chant "Black Lives Matter" is so important is that it states the obvious but the obvious has not yet been historically realized. So it is a statement of outrage and a demand for equality, for the right to live free of constraint, but also a chant that links the history of slavery, of debt peonage, segregation, and a prison system geared toward the containment, neutralization and degradation of black lives, but also a police system that more and more easily and often can take away a black life in a flash all because some officer perceives a threat.George Yancy interviews Judith Butler for NYT: What's Wrong With 'All Lives Matter'? [more inside]
New York Times n'est pas Charlie? In which Michael Kupperman (previously here) relates his own "freedom of speech" experience when he and David Rees (previously here) were hired to create editorial comics for the Week in Review section of The New York Times.
Robert Stone, Novelist of the Vietnam Era and Beyond, Dies at 77 [New York Times]
"Robert Stone, who wrote ambitious, award-winning novels about errant Americans in dangerous circumstances or on existential quests — or both — as commentary on an unruly, wayward nation in the Vietnam era and beyond, died on Saturday at his home in Key West, Fla. He was 77.[more inside]
De-cluttering your house with love: "Marie Kondo has built a huge following in her native Japan with her “KonMari” method of organizing and de-cluttering. Clients perform a sort of tidying-up festival: time set aside specifically to go through belongings. Each object is picked up and held, and the client needs to decide if it inspires joy. If it doesn’t, it needs to go." [more inside]
"We know that people may be genetically pre-disposed to depression and anxiety disorders. We also know that specific life events may trigger depressive episodes in those who have previously been the picture of mental health. But so far we've been unable to identify one single, definitive catalyst. However, new research suggests that, for some people, depression may be caused by something as simple as an allergic reaction – a reaction to inflammation; a product of the body, not the mind." [more inside]
There are no grown-ups. We suspect this when we are younger, but can confirm it only once we are the ones writing books and attending parent-teacher conferences. Everyone is winging it, some just do it more confidently.
Ever wondered what a days worth of calories looks like in fast food form? Well wonder no more!
Here, we show you what roughly 2,000 calories looks like at some large chains. (Depending on age and gender, most adults should eat between 1,600 and 2,400 calories a day.) Researchers have long understood that people are more likely to finish what’s on their plate than to stop eating because they’ve consumed a given amount of food. It’s “the completion compulsion,” a phrase coined in the 1950s by the psychologist Paul S. Siegel.[more inside]