Tag New York Times

Eliza’s (long)reads of 2011

“I’ve always found reading, writing, and thinking to be so tightly interwoven that, when done correctly, they become indistinguishable from one another… In that way, longform is like the most intense of friendships, where the time dedication and the active choice to show up far eclipse the noncommittal acquaintanceship of soundbite culture.” — Maria Popova

I shortened 1,053 bit.ly links and archived 136 Instapaper articles in 2011 (with a week to spare). Here were my favorites:

1. How a book is born: The making of The Art of Fielding
Graydon Carter and Keith Gesses
Vanity Fair
September 5, 2011

An e-book (or really long article you’ll have to purchase from Amazon) illuminates the world of book publishing and inspired me to go read Harbach’s genius novel (that everyone’s now putting on their “Best of 2011″ reading lists.) In my opinion, it’s more fun to read about the struggling novelist in Brooklyn and the changing world of books before you crack open his novel. Totally worth $1.99.

2. How Doctors Die
Ken Murray
Zocalo Public Square

“It’s not like the rest of us, but it should be.” Fascinating take on the medical industry and its relationship with death.

3. David Carr
Aaron Sorkin
June 2011

If you aren’t persuaded by the two names listed above, know that Sorkin interviews Carr on writing, the New York Times, and their shared past addiction to cocaine. The interview piqued my interest in Carr as a writer and encouraged me to go read his excellent memoir, The Night of the Gun.

4. Skagway’s borderline mythical egg toss
Mark Abadi
I’m in Alaska, Trick
July 9, 2011

All I can say is that this blog post by friend and fellow writer Mark Abadi on an Fourth of July egg toss in Alaska made me squeal with such glee upon reading it that fellow bus passengers thought I was in distress. Abadi’s prose is a joy. The only tragedy is that his blog ended when he left Alaska.

5. The Spam factory’s dirty secret
Ted Genoways
Mother Jones
June 27, 2011

I have never eaten spam. I never will. Imagery from this article sticks clear in my memory six months after reading it. A dynamic, engaging, (and incredibly gross), piece on American food policy and worker safety. 

6. A Woman’s Place
Ken Auletta
The New Yorker
July 11, 2011

Sheryl Sandberg makes me excited to be a woman, if only because it means I could aspire to be as awesome as she is. Auletta explores what it means to be female in Silicon Valley and how Sandberg has risen to the top. (Follow up by reading her address to the Barnard graduating class of 2011.)

7. Crush Point
John Seabrook
The New Yorker
February 7, 2011

The psychology of crowds. Or, An Example of Why I Subscribe to The New Yorker.

8. Where We All Will Be Recieved
Nell Boeschenstein
This Recording
April 8, 2011

The author writes about his love for Paul Simon’s landmark album, Graceland, and how it changed the music landscape as we know it. I grew up listening to Graceland and consider it my favorite album, but I never fully appreciated the historical context behind Simon’s work.

9. My Dog Days Are Over
Doree Shafrir
The New York Times
March 23, 2011

My family put two dogs to sleep and purchased a puppy this year, so I read a lot of dog literature, and this was my favorite (after Emmett and Me, but that was published in 2009.) It definitely made me cry, but you might be a stronger person than I am.

10. Leap of Faith: The making of a Republican frontrunner
Ryan Lizza
The New Yorker
August 15, 2011

Nothing anyone writes will ever explore all that is Michelle Bachmann. But Lizza comes close. Interesting look at Bachmann’s rise through politics. 

Why would you want to call me?

The New York Times wrote an interesting trend story a few weeks back on the death of phones calls that rang true (hah). The story looked at degree to which our generation has become averse to talking on the phone, an idea blogger Dave Pell has explored thoroughly.

So why do we keep the phone around? Blogger Matt Haughey wrote a post with phone tips for people who hate phones: Don’t enable voicemail. Let your landline batteries run dead. Improve your ability to ignore calls.

As a phone-averse person, Haughey’s tips sound sensible, in that they encourage talkers to get to the point more quickly. And the articles together raise an important question: what is the real purpose of a phone? Do we use it to communicate information? To hear the sound of a friend’s voice? To give a feeling of security?

My sense is that while there’s a generational divide on this issue (and adults will always place stock in personal calls), we’ll increasingly use phones to transmit only direct news and information, and seek alternative ways to waste time and connect with people. Now, I’m going to go investigate disabling my voicemail.

On curating

NY Times examines the meaning behind and recent fascination with curating.

But now, among designers, disc jockeys, club promoters, bloggers and thrift-store owners, curate is code for “I have a discerning eye and great taste.”

Or more to the point, “I belong.”

Slaves to the Fear Of Missing Out?

Caterina Fake, co-founder of Flicker, was recently quoted in a New York Times article that examined the social stress caused by Twitter for those reading updates from events they’re missing. On her blog, Fake writes that it is the Fear Of Missing Out, or FOMO, the motivates human behavior in social media and makes us slaves to our technology:

…social software both creates and cures FOMO. If you didn’t know that party was going on, you’d be home contentedly reading your latest New Yorker. But since you do, you hungrily watch each new tweet.

The value of newspaper topic pages

In an interview with Nieman Journalism Lab, New York Times Topic Page Editor John O’Neil  argues that the greatest product the Times has to offer in the age of search engines is human curation of content. He writes that even with the rise of Wikipedia, it’s worth it for newspapers to develop reference pages that provide readers with institutional knowledge on a topic from a trusted source.

Does Instapaper make weekend editions irrelevant?

While I relish the idea of an updated New York Times Week in Review, I do wonder if the rise of Instapaper and similar services will make the weekend news section less relevent. When you can save a week’s worth of longform journalism to your Kindle or iPad for enjoyment at the Sunday breakfast table, why pay $6 to have a chunky weekend edition dropped on your doorstep?

How $3.7 trillion is spent

The New York Times has a very clickable infographic on Obama’s $3.7 trillion budget proposal. Some of the thin rectangles are hard to see, but otherwise it’s easy to explore.

Via Daring Fireball

J. C. Penney aims to beat Google

A fascinating investigative piece by the New York Times looks at J.C. Penney’s efforts to manipulate their ranking in Google searches. The company inserted links to their website on unrelated pages to increase hits, a technique known as “black hat optimization.” The practice is highly frowned on by Google. In light of the Times investigation, the search engine lashed out, with disastrous results for the retailer.

The company draws a pretty thick line between techniques it considers deceptive and “white hat” approaches, which are offered by hundreds of consulting firms and are legitimate ways to increase a site’s visibility. Penney’s results were derived from methods on the wrong side of that line, says Mr. Pierce. He described the optimization as the most ambitious attempt to game Google’s search results that he has ever seen.