What To Read in the Times Today

A great Sunday morning of NYT reading. Don’t miss:

1. David Brooks’ Column – Even though I would opt for happier years due to great health than a few more years of obsesity-induced depression, this is a funny take on the latest nutrition study that says people slightly overweight may live longer than skinny people.

Mostly, I’m happy on an existential level. I like to be reminded that the universe is basically crooked. This is what the zero-tolerance brigades and all the better living gurus never quite get. They’re busy trying to mold everybody into lifelong valedictorians, who spend their adulthood as carb counters and responsible flossers – the sort of organized folk who actually read legal documents before they sign them…In reality, life is perverse and human beings don’t get what they deserve. The people with the worst grades start the most successful businesses. The shallowest people end up blissfully happy and they are so vapid they don’t even realize how vapid they are because vapidity is the only trait that comes with its own impermeable obliviousness system. The people regarded as lightweights, like F.D.R., J.F.K. and Ronald Reagan, make the best presidents, while you – so much more thoughtful and better read – would be a complete disaster. Life isn’t fair, logic is of limited value and, as Woody Allen observed years ago, everything your parents once thought was good for you turns out to be bad for you: sun, milk, red meat and college.

2. Aural History – In the “Reading File,” an excerpt from an article in Smithsonian about a project to preserve distinctive sounds.

Much of the richness of life is absorbed through the ear. And much of the clash and chaos, too. From a mother’s lullaby to the drumroll of thunder from an approaching storm to the cacophony of car horns in a traffic jam, the sounds of our lives help define our lives…But unlike spotted owls and snail darters, endangered sounds have few advocates.

3. Watching TV Makes You SmarterSteven Johnson’s article adapted from his new book Everything Bad Is Good for You: How Today’s Popular Culture Is Actually Making Us Smarter.

4. Book Review: End of Poverty – Reviewed by Chicago prof and blogger Daniel Drezner. I will be reading the book soon.

5. Book Review (Education Life): Art of Teaching – Being a good teacher inside or outside of a classroom is a marvelous skill. This is a brief review of a Middlebury prof’s new book The Art of Teaching.

6. Education Life: The Unpopular Major – I’ve always found people who majored in something wacky – say, religious studies or philosophy – far more interesting than your yet-another Poli Sci major.

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