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Tag Archives: August

Digital Devices Deprive Brain of Needed Downtime

At the University of California, San Francisco, scientists have found that when rats have a new experience, like exploring an unfamiliar area, their brains show new patterns of activity. But only when the rats take a break from their exploration do they process those patterns in a way that seems to create a persistent memory of the experience.

Does Your Language Shape How You Think?

If different languages influence our minds in different ways, this is not because of what our language allows us to think but rather because of what it habitually obliges us to think about.

Peace and War

Franzen grasps that the central paradox of modern American liberalism inheres not in its doctrines but in the unstated presumptions that govern its daily habits. Liberals, no less than conservatives — and for that matter revolutionaries and reactionaries; in other words, all of us — believe some modes of existence are superior to others. But only the liberal, committed to a vision of harmonious communal pluralism, is unsettled by this truth.

Steam-Driven Dreams

In an epilogue Rosen gets around to the global downside of the Industrial Revolution: the trouble that all this burning coal has gotten us into with greenhouse gases and climate change. But, he writes, the answer to our modern technology woes is not to turn back the clock. His discussion of the Luddites shows the folly of that. We need more technology, not less, he insists. “There may be no way to put the genie of sustained invention back in the bottle,” he writes, “but we can put the genie to work.”

Live Blogging the Emmy Awards

We’re a short time away from what promises to be a fascinating television showdown: can the Emmy Awards, the annual honors telecast presented by the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, hold its own on a Sunday night at the end of the summer, going head to head against an N.F.L. preseason game, not to mention new episodes of some of the same shows up for top awards on the Emmys broadcast?

Finding Spot in History Without Looking

Rafael Nadal greets questions about tennis history, specifically his standing in it, as if someone spiked his Gatorade with sour milk. This is perhaps his least favorite topic. His eyes narrow. His face contorts. He often appears offended.

Following Workers’ Trails of Tears in China

The film’s unnerving railway station scenes — panoramic views of frustrated crowds surging forward, barely contained by nervous police officers with truncheons — underscore these changes and the growing specter of civil war. “The government does not have a perfect track record of dealing with dissent,” Mr. Fan said carefully. “So civil war would be a terrible thing. While I was making this film, it was difficult to figure out where to point the finger. At the government? The factory owners and corporations? The West? I’m not in a righteous place to answer, but I hope to raise this question for my audience.”

The Billionaires Bankrolling the Tea Party

There’s just one element missing from these snapshots of America’s ostensibly spontaneous and leaderless populist uprising: the sugar daddies who are bankrolling it, and have been doing so since well before the “death panel” warm-up acts of last summer. Three heavy hitters rule. You’ve heard of one of them, Rupert Murdoch. The other two, the brothers David and Charles Koch, are even richer, with a combined wealth exceeded only by that of Bill Gates and Warren Buffett among Americans. But even those carrying the Kochs’ banner may not know who these brothers are.

Waiting for Mr. Obama

Mr. Obama and his economic team had clearly hoped for an economic rebound in time for the midterm elections. They are not going to get it. The economic damage they inherited was too deep, and the economic stimulus they pushed through Congress, for all of the fight, was too small. Standing back is not doing the country or his party any good. We believe Americans are ready for hard truths and big ideas.

Egg Factory

When I was young, I thought I grasped the immensity of the Iowa landscape. The immensity of the soybean and corn fields has only grown because so many smaller farms have vanished as a result of government farm policy, which rewards economic concentration. As I turned off Highway 3 east of town, I saw that there was a newer immensity, the egg factories — an endless row of faceless buildings, as bland as a compound of colossal storage units but with the air of a prison.

Our Loss, Through the Eye of the Storm

Remembering is an exercise: to keep the memory of an event alive, we must rehearse it, recall it over and over for ourselves or in stories we tell others. And yet, in so doing, memory is often transformed, revised a bit each time in the telling — linked always to its conjoined twin, forgetting.

Outside my grandmother’s house, the hydrangea blooms again and again — the blossoms themselves like memories, each one a repetition of another, never quite the same.

Winning, Losing and War

“We won!” he yelled. “It’s over! America, we brought democracy to Iraq!”

Which naturally raises an intriguing and provocative question: Did we win? Seven years later, after all the spilled blood, after all the roadside bombs and sectarian strife, after all the terror and torment, did the United States actually win the war in Iraq?

The Politics of Polite

There are other reasons to dislike the term ma’am — for its whiff of class distinctions, for being dismissive, stiff and drab. “If someone calls me ma’am, it’s superficially a sign of respect, but it’s also creating distance,” Dr. Kroll said. “It’s saying, I’m not going to have a serious conversation with you; I’m not going to engage with you.”

Katha Pollitt, the columnist and poet, said, “It’s part of those routine word packages that are forever flying by.”

Policy Options Dwindle as Economic Fears Grow

This is where the Great Recession has taken the world’s largest economy, to a Great Ambiguity over what lies ahead, and what can be done now. Economists debate the benefits of previous policy prescriptions, but in the political realm a rare consensus has emerged: The future is now so colored in red ink that running up the debt seems politically risky in the months before the Congressional elections, even in the name of creating jobs and generating economic growth. The result is that Democrats and Republicans have foresworn virtually any course that involves spending serious money.

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The best articles from The New York Times. (some great muddlers this week.)

The Music-Copyright Enforcers

During her five years with BMI — on trips to Texas, Ohio, Florida, Washington — Baker has learned a lot: managers of adult clubs tend to be polite. People who run coffee shops tend to be difficult. Skating rinks are a pain – they have the longest outgoing messages in the world. Casinos owned by Indian tribes are tough. Every decision goes to the tribal council, and it can take forever. Arts and crafts festivals, forget it; creative types never have any money. (“You’d think they’d get it,” Baker said, “But … .” She waved her hand.) The most important rule of the road, however, is never — Baker looked me in the eye — eat in the venue, even if they invite you. Because God only knows what they might put in your food.

The Medium: Amazon’s Prime Suspect

I came away thinking that there was no reason to quit Amazon Prime — yet. But there may be good reason to check my self-satisfaction over it. On the Web, often when we think we’re at our most savvy — conducting research, comparison shopping, deal getting — we’re engaged not in strategic critical thinking but in an infotainment ritual akin to watching commercial TV. At best, trying to beat the Web may make us spend a little more; at worst, it may deepen our involvement with a game that’s rigged against us.

When the Screen Goes Blank

The guy who constantly mentions he doesn’t own a television is an Onion joke. If you really believe that TV is a wasteland, you’re either a crank, a pedant or unfortunate enough to have missed that one episode of “Battlestar Galactica” in which we find out about the Cylons.

Or you’re Clay Shirky, a celebrated scholar of Internet culture who teaches at New York University’s Interactive Telecommunications Program. Shirky isn’t concerned with what’s on TV. What galls him is how much we watch, regardless of what’s on. Television, he writes in “Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age,” has “absorbed the lion’s share of the free time available to citizens of the developed world.”

E-Book Wars: The Specialist vs. the Multitasker

It’s not surprising that a “purpose-built device” does a better job at its one task. The question is whether some years down the road — say, in the 2020 holiday season — customers will still be willing to buy single-purpose devices in addition to irresistible multipurpose ones. Mr. Grandinetti points to running shoes for the answer. “If I’m going on a 10-mile run,” he says, “I want a really well-designed pair of running shoes instead of Converse high-tops.”

But Will It Make You Happy?

And it’s been a truism for eons that extra cash always makes life a little easier. Studies over the last few decades have shown that money, up to a certain point, makes people happier because it lets them meet basic needs. The latest round of research is, for lack of a better term, all about emotional efficiency: how to reap the most happiness for your dollar.

India Swoons Over Its Chess Champ, and Even the Game

Mr. Anand is no Bollywood heartthrob or pop singer. The idol the girls were swooning over was an unassuming, bespectacled, 40-year-old world chess champion.

Let Us Now Praise the Great Men of Junk Food

Soft drinks, ready-to-eat hamburgers, salty snacks, ice cream and candy all fall under his definitions of junk and fast food — products that have little or no nutritional value or are high in calories and fat, or both. Putting health questions aside, here, then, are a few great moments in junk-food history:

The First Church of Robotics

What bothers me most about this trend, however, is that by allowing artificial intelligence to reshape our concept of personhood, we are leaving ourselves open to the flipside: we think of people more and more as computers, just as we think of computers as people.

Cult Director Courts the Mass, Keeps the Crazy

As Quentin Tarantino, who befriended Mr. Wright after seeing “Shaun of the Dead,” described the mix of sincere young angst and cartoonish mortal combat in “Scott Pilgrim,” “It’s like ‘Say Anything’ meets ‘Five Deadly Venoms.’ ”

Should We Manipulate Our Dreams?

Recently, psychologists at the P.T.S.D. Sleep Clinic at the Maimonides Sleep Arts and Sciences center have developed a method called scripting or dream mastery to treat nightmares. Patients with severe sleeping problems can learn to control their dreams and replace unwelcome or terrifying images with ones that are pleasant or harmless.

But should we rush to replace our nightmares? Do nightmares have psychological meaning? Should we think of them as a problem or a resource?

Resistance Forms Against Hollywood’s 3-D Push

“If you can’t make it good, make it 3-D.”

Wringing Art Out of the Rubble in Detroit

Detroit hardly needs encouragement to do-it-yourself; it has a lineage of makers.

Scott Hocking, an artist who creates works out of materials salvaged from the many abandoned buildings here, said that the D.I.Y. culture is “in our DNA.”

Mosque Near Ground Zero Clears Key Hurdle

The issue had divided family members of those killed on Sept. 11. Some argued it was insensitive to the memory of those who died in the attacks. Others saw it as a symbol of tolerance to counter the religious extremism that prevailed on that day.

The debate over the center has become a heated political issue, drawing opposition from former Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska and members of the Tea Party.

Is Environmentalism a Luxury Good?

“Finally, in California, we find that an increase in a county’s unemployment rate is associated with a significant decrease in county residents choosing the environment as the most important policy issue.”

Green: Eat Lead?

But the petition raises the possibility that subsistence hunters, their families or even food-bank clients in rural states could ingest toxic levels of lead by swallowing some of a bullet’s leavings.

Mind: A Snapshot of a Generation May Come Out Blurry

In another critique, researchers at the University of Illinois reported data suggesting that narcissism peaks in young adulthood, “not because of cultural changes but because of age-related developmental trends.”