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The best articles from the New York Times.

The Born Identity

Designer diapers are a useful tool for sending that message. And perhaps more to the point, they are also an extension of the well-established tendency among contemporary parents to treat their children as identity props. And it’s plausible that this version of that behavior says something about this specific cultural moment.

A Tank’s-Eye View of an Unpopular War

“There is a metamorphosis, first physical, when you lose your sense of taste, you don’t need to eat, you suddenly hear and see everything sharp and clear,” Mr. Maoz said in a telephone interview from his home in Tel Aviv, where he was born and now lives with his longtime partner and their daughter. “When you fall into such an extreme situation, when the basic rules of life are not there, you can’t continue thinking with the logic of normal life. If you do, you’ll probably end up dead.

“At the end you don’t fight for your country or your kids, you’re fighting for your life,” he continued. “And if you survive — and most who died, died in the first day — after the second day you become a soldier of the war. That’s why the focus is very narrow. It’s not good for the war if you can see the whole picture.”

Catch of the Day

I was newly installed as the restaurant critic of The New York Times and had spent the previous few months on a surreptitious tour of some of the city’s best restaurants. I had been eating stupendously well. But nothing I had eaten that summer and fall prepared me for the taste of this tuna that late afternoon, for the intense blast of flavor and rich, creamy fattiness delivered by a cut of truly fresh otoro — supreme tuna belly, in the parlance of the sushi bar — not yet four hours old.

Nothing I had ever eaten could have. The bluefin tuna you get at restaurants, even the best ones, has been flash-frozen and thawed, is days — or weeks — old, has traveled thousands and thousands of miles. In a bite of that absolutely fresh tuna from New Jersey, I experienced a taste of truly wild food, a majestic flavor, something incredibly rare.

Not a Day Over Infinity

As de Grey sees it, there are seven types of cellular junk, the gerontological equivalent of the seven deadly sins. They include “cross links” that gum up the machinery and glue cells to one another and mitochondria that fail with age. Then there is junk within cells and junk in the spaces between cells, along with cells that no longer work but hang around and cells that die and poison cells around them. And then there are old cells that acquire dangerous mutations and give rise to cancer. Weiner’s strength as a writer is his ability to flesh out these complex theories without losing the reader. De Grey’s dream of conquering death may seem far-fetched and unreal, but Big Pharma is already at work on some of these ideas — the first cream that overcomes cross-links, which cause our skin to stiffen and wrinkle, will be a blockbuster.

Drink What You Know

When you think about it, rules for drinking are not so different from rules for writing. Many of these are so familiar they’ve become truisms: Write what you know. Write every day. Never use a strange, fancy word when a simple one will do. Always finish the day’s writing when you could still do more. With a little adaptation these rules apply just as well for drinking. Drink what you know, drink regularly rather than in binges, avoid needlessly exotic booze, and leave the table while you can still stand.

You could also substitute “drink” for “write” in these well-known examples of writerly wisdom. “An author ought to write for the youth of his generation” (Fitzgerald). “Write, damn you! What else are you good for?” (Joyce). “Writing is finally a series of permissions you give yourself to be expressive in certain ways. To leap. To fly. To fail” (Sontag).

$200 Textbook vs. Free. You Do the Math.

Publishers have started de-emphasizing the textbook in favor of selling a package of supporting materials like teaching aids and training. And companies like Houghton Mifflin have created internal start-ups to embrace technology and capture for themselves some of the emerging online business.

They are responding in much the same way traditional software makers did when open-source arrived, by trying to bundle subscription services around a core product that has been undercut.

Beyond Indie

The band is well aware of the possibilities opened up by the Internet. “Hope that something pure can last,” Mr. Butler sings on the band’s new album, “The Suburbs” (Merge). “A lot of things like that end up being memos to myself,” Mr. Butler said. “I keep trying to remember the good things that get lost along the way and trying to apply those lessons to the way the world actually is.”

The Arcade Fire’s songs, credited to the whole band but largely written by Mr. Butler and his wife, Régine Chassagne, mingle the punky and the symphonic, the cryptic and the heart-on-sleeve, the self-doubting and the anthemic, often with surging crescendos that make the tunes optimistic despite themselves. It’s both a stomping rock band and a mini-orchestra, complete with string section, accordion or medieval hurdy-gurdy as needed.

Strange Cargo at Kennedy Airport

These images are from a set of 1,075 photographs — shot over five days last year for the book and exhibition, ‘‘Contraband’’ — of items detained or seized from passengers or express mail entering the United States from abroad at the New York airport. The miscellany of prohibited objects — from the everyday to the illegal to the just plain odd — attests to a growing worldwide traffic in counterfeit goods and natural exotica and offers a snapshot of the United States as seen through its illicit material needs and desires.

Unnatural Science

Clearly I’ve been out of some loop for too long, but does everyone take for granted now that science sites are where graduate students, researchers, doctors and the “skeptical community” go not to interpret data or review experiments but to chip off one-liners, promote their books and jeer at smokers, fat people and churchgoers? And can anyone who still enjoys this class-inflected bloodsport tell me why it has to happen under the banner of science?

I Tweet, Therefore I Am

Each Twitter post seemed a tacit referendum on who I am, or at least who I believe myself to be. The grocery-store episode telegraphed that I was tuned in to the Seinfeldian absurdities of life; my concern about women’s victimization, however sincere, signaled that I also have a soul. Together they suggest someone who is at once cynical and compassionate, petty yet deep. Which, in the end, I’d say, is pretty accurate.

Distilling my personality provided surprising focus, making me feel stripped to my essence. It forced me, for instance, to pinpoint the dominant feeling as I sat outside with my daughter listening to E.B. White. Was it my joy at being a mother? Nostalgia for my own childhood summers? The pleasures of listening to the author’s quirky, underinflected voice? Each put a different spin on the occasion, of who I was within it. Yet the final decision (“Listening to E.B. White’s ‘Trumpet of the Swan’ with Daisy. Slow and sweet.”) was not really about my own impressions: it was about how I imagined — and wanted — others to react to them. That gave me pause. How much, I began to wonder, was I shaping my Twitter feed, and how much was Twitter shaping me?

The Age of Laura Linney

But the magnitude of her delight was informed by something else too. These days her thoughts turn frequently to how lucky she is — how lucky anyone is — simply to experience the pleasure of being alive. It’s a cliché, yes, but isn’t it true? And isn’t it often forgotten? Linney’s next big role, in a project as risky as any she has done, asks questions no less essential than these.


Japanese is no Navajo or even Basque, but it’s still pretty damn hard. There are plenty of “harder” languages, but this one has been particularly difficult for me. I feel like I’m still at intermediate, and have been for the last 3 years. I’ll be going to third year college level Japanese next semester at IU, and I have to say, I’m a bit worried. I’m out of practice. With that bad news (for my personal academic life), there comes good news. The internet has improved, and offers a lot of help for students like me now—a lot of which, I wish I had when I was first starting. Here is a collection of my findings in three sections:

  1. Personal experience and foresight. “I wish I knew what I knew Now…When I was younger.”
    • Alright. Flat out, and this is sort of paradoxical. Don’t have any goals or expectations, er…well. This is hard to explain, but basically, Japanese will take you ages, you’ll get sick of it, don’t give up because you expected something to happen that didn’t. If you ask me this is sort of a metaphor for a lot of things, but particularly for lifelong learning processes like secondary languages.
    • Here’s a testimonial. This is pretty good information just to brace yourself for the learning process. Don’t be too disillusioned. I particularly like number 17, in that regard, because it exemplifies that, though not everyday and every moment, the experience should be fun.
    • Getting into the culture is the understatement of the year. But, if you ask me, it’s not too hard to find a way to fall in love with Japan. Watch  movies, read books, check out blogs, photographers, artists, history, politics, whatever. There are plenty of tools that can help which brings me to:
  2. The Internet
    • I really don’t think you can learn Japanese through just one method. Just listening to a Podcast, or just watching anime, or just reading books, will not do it. Podcasts, however, can fill in the gap between semesters if you want to keep your ear tuned in (and like me, don’t have proper connections with native speakers). I find that podcasts aren’t that rewarding, I find reading and writing a lot more rewarding (while talking out loud). Regardless, here’s a compliation of web resources I use:
    • JapanesePod 101. You’ll notice that they really want you to sign up, and to charge you. It didn’t used to be this way with this resource. That said, you can still get them easily on iTunes without login information (I’m pretty sure). They are pretty funny, incredibly quirky, and at entertaining at the very least. I’ve tried a couple other ones, but this one’s pretty much the best.
    • I would highly suggest installing the English to Japanese keyboard input converter on your personal computer. It makes things a lot easier. Once you’ve installed this, and turned on the Japanese input methods, you can type romaji and it will automatically convert it the the proper hiragana. Then, when you’ve typed hiragana that make up a kanji character you can press space and a small list of kanji possibilities show up to choose from to replace the hiragana. It’s crucial. I use this off and on to ‘journal’, which basically means to try creative ways to use my resources and new knowledge.
    • Alright, so now what to read on the internet? Well, anything, blogs, whatever. There hasn’t been precident for this sort of thing before. There weren’t everyday blogs to read by random Japanese people 10 years ago like there are today. I think it’s valuable and quite rewarding. There’s newspapers, too, of course, which are fantastic resources.
    • But, whoa, that’s way overwhelming, right? Right. So, here’s what you do. First: Get Firefox. Trust me. It’s the best. Got it? Good.
      • Now get this extension: Rikaichan, once you’ve installed it, make sure you’ve got the dictionaries installed too (same page). If you are unsure of what any character means, just turn this on via right-clicking in the window, and then whenever you hover over a character, or set of characters, it will reveal the reading and possible definitions of the word.
      • If you need even less help than that, you can also install this: Furigana Injector. When installed it will place the reading above the kanji when displayed on any webpage. It’ll help a lot, and you’ll speed through articles a little quicker hopefully.
    • Then, there’s always helpful “learning” websites. I don’t usually trust these things. Ideally, I could just be in school, or have a proper book. But, right now I’m depending on these. All my books are at home, with my notes, and I don’t want to buy anything to take back when I have to come home from England, so the Internet is my only resource. This one is nice for grammar patterns, and simple sentences and lessons. I’ve never used this one, but it’s the first thing that showed up on Google when I typed in “Japanese Grammar.” You get the idea.
    • Other online dictionaries. Sometimes I use WWWJDIC, or I’ll cheat and look up english words to convert here.
  3. Classes, Books and Other Resources
    • It’s not uncommon that you don’t have the internet. But you still want to study Japanese. So, get books. I’m not really sure what the best. But I can tell you what I’ve used in class are the Genki textbooks. I found them really great for the classroom setting. Other than that, I don’t know.
    • Once, in class, my teacher recommended some software. I can’t remember exactly which one it was, but the idea still remains: you can get a dictionary for your computer to use offline for free. Try here.

Anyway, it’s fun to try and figure out ways to learn for yourself too. Finding a way to make it a fun habit is very rewarding. But, if you get a chance, take a class, it’ll probably be easier that way.