Heaven and Hell are Within You

An old monk on Mount Athos in Greece once told me that people rejoice in the thought of hell to the precise degree that they harbor hell within themselves. By which he meant, I believe, that heaven and hell alike are both within us all, in varying degrees, and that, for some, the idea of hell is the treasury of their most secret, most cherished hopes — the hope of being proved right when so many were wrong, of being admired when so many are despised, of being envied when so many have been scorned.

And as Jesus said (Matthew 6:21), “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

David Bentley Hart, NY Times

Your Favorite Internet Astrologer Wrote a Book

In March of this year, she told me, I will begin my Saturn return, an astrological period in a person’s life that initially occurs between the ages of 27 and 29, when Saturn returns to the planetary position it occupied when you were born, as measured in part through astrological charts.

Saturn returns have a reputation for being chaotic and messy, but they are, more accurately, a time of immense change, however disruptive. Still, every time I drop a glass or miss a bus, I think: this is it, the stars and planets have begun to test me.

My return is concentrated in the fourth house of my chart, Ms. Nicholas said, which is related to parents, home and foundations, and should last until this fall.

Inasmuch as astrology is a chicken-and-egg scenario — will I experience changes in my relationship with my parents and in my home because of Saturn or because I’m 28 and my lease is almost up, who is to say? — Ms. Nicholas’s words still covered me in a sheen of being known.

And being known, or at least, being treated as knowable and worth knowing, is the most comforting thing in the universe.

Jazmine Hughes, NYTIMES

Trolls – NY TIMES from 2008

In the late 1980s, Internet users adopted the word “troll” to denote someone who intentionally disrupts online communities. Early trolling was relatively innocuous, taking place inside of small, single-topic Usenet groups. The trolls employed what the M.I.T. professor Judith Donath calls a “pseudo-naïve” tactic, asking stupid questions and seeing who would rise to the bait. The game was to find out who would see through this stereotypical newbie behavior, and who would fall for it. As one guide to trolldom puts it, “If you don’t fall for the joke, you get to be in on it.”

Today the Internet is much more than esoteric discussion forums. It is a mass medium for defining who we are to ourselves and to others. Teenagers groom their MySpace profiles as intensely as their hair; escapists clock 50-hour weeks in virtual worlds, accumulating gold for their online avatars. Anyone seeking work or love can expect to be Googled. As our emotional investment in the Internet has grown, the stakes for trolling — for provoking strangers online — have risen. Trolling has evolved from ironic solo skit to vicious group hunt.

“Lulz” is how trolls keep score. A corruption of “LOL” or “laugh out loud,” “lulz” means the joy of disrupting another’s emotional equilibrium. “Lulz is watching someone lose their mind at their computer 2,000 miles away while you chat with friends and laugh,” said one ex-troll who, like many people I contacted, refused to disclose his legal identity.

MATTATHIAS SCHWARTZ, NYTIMES

Hardcover fiction best sellers, December 18, 2019

https://www.nytimes.com/books/best-sellers/hardcover-fiction/

WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING
by Delia Owens
In a quiet town on the North Carolina coast in 1969, a young woman who survived alone in the marsh becomes a murder suspect.

THE GUARDIANS
by John Grisham
Cullen Post, a lawyer and Episcopal minister, antagonizes some ruthless killers when he takes on a wrongful conviction case.

CRISS CROSS
by James Patterson
The 27th book in the Alex Cross series. Copycat crimes make the detective question whether an innocent man was executed.

THE INSTITUTE
by Stephen King
Children with special talents are abducted and sequestered in an institution where the sinister staff seeks to extract their gifts through harsh methods.

A MINUTE TO MIDNIGHT
by David Baldacci
When Atlee Pine returns to her hometown to investigate her sister’s kidnapping from 30 years ago, she winds up tracking a potential serial killer.

THE DUTCH HOUSE
by Ann Patchett
A sibling relationship is impacted when the family goes from poverty to wealth and back again over the course of many decades.

BLUE MOON
by Lee Child
Jack Reacher gets caught up in a turf war between Ukrainian and Albanian gangs.

TWISTED TWENTY-SIX
by Janet Evanovich
The 26th book in the Stephanie Plum series. A New Jersey gangster’s associates go after a bounty hunter’s widowed grandmother.

THE TESTAMENTS
by Margaret Atwood
In a sequel to “The Handmaid’s Tale,” old secrets bring three women together as the Republic of Gilead’s theocratic regime shows signs of decay.

OLIVE, AGAIN
by Elizabeth Strout
In a follow-up to the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel “Olive Kitteridge,” new relationships, including a second marriage, are encountered in a seaside town in Maine.

The 10 Most Influential Films of the Decade (and 20 Other Favorites) – The New York Times

‘The Avengers’ (2012)

Sequels weren’t new and neither were long, crowded, noisy superhero spectacles when this juggernaut landed. But “The Avengers,” released after Disney’s acquisition of Marvel Studios, was nonetheless a big industry bang: It heralded the dominance of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, where we all now live whether we like it or not.

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/24/movies/best-movies-2010s-decade.html

Interview with Pete Townshend – NY Times

I have spent 55 years working in rock. I remain in familiar territory. I’ve always regarded the rock-star phenomenon with immense disdain. I’ve had my moments, which have been gloriously recorded and exalted — but brief — when I’ve felt: I’m going to try and do this job. I’m going to try to be a proper rock star. Then I would do it, and it wouldn’t work. I was counterfeit. There are very few people truly authentic to the cause: David Byrne. Mick Jagger. Neil Young. Joni Mitchell. Deborah Harry.

NYTIMES

Your Consumer Rating and History

As consumers, we all have “secret scores”: hidden ratings that determine how long each of us waits on hold when calling a business, whether we can return items at a store, and what type of service we receive. A low score sends you to the back of the queue; high scores get you elite treatment.

Every so often, journalists lament these systems’ inaccessibility. They’re “largely invisible to the public,” The New York Times wrote in 2012. “Most people have no inkling they even exist,” The Wall Street Journal said in 2018. Most recently, in April, The Journal’s Christopher Mims looked at a company called Sift, whose proprietary scoring system tracks 16,000 factors for companies like Airbnb and OkCupid. “Sift judges whether or not you can be trusted,” he wrote, “yet there’s no file with your name that it can produce upon request.”

As of this summer, though, Sift does have a file on you, which it can produce upon request. I got mine, and I found it shocking: More than 400 pages long, it contained all the messages I’d ever sent to hosts on Airbnb; years of Yelp delivery orders; a log of every time I’d opened the Coinbase app on my iPhone. Many entries included detailed information about the device I used to do these things, including my IP address at the time.

Sift knew, for example, that I’d used my iPhone to order chicken tikka masala, vegetable samosas and garlic naan on a Saturday night in April three years ago. It knew I used my Apple laptop to sign into Coinbase in January 2017 to change my password. Sift knew about a nightmare Thanksgiving I had in California’s wine country, as captured in my messages to the Airbnb host of a rental called “Cloud 9.” 

I Got Access to My Secret Consumer Score. Now You Can Get Yours, Too.
Kashmir Hill
NY Times

How a Tuxedoed Sommelier Wound Up Homeless in California – The New York Times

California, the country’s wealthiest and most populous state, also has the most homeless, an unremitting crisis that has confounded the state’s political leaders for decades and exposed one of the most extreme manifestations of economic inequality gripping the country.

Tent encampments — Oakland city officials count 90 of them — are now as much a part of the landscape as the bars and restaurants that cater to the city’s rising affluence. Many Americans are one medical emergency, one layoff, one family disaster away from bankruptcy or losing the roofs over their heads.

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/28/us/homeless-san-francisco.html

I was driving around Downtown Denver earlier today and drove past three people sleeping on the street, a few blocks from the ballpark. They didn’t have much baggage – no tents or sleeping bags, and one of them was in a large electric wheelchair. You see a lot of homeless people in Denver so I might not have registered these three, but that I had read this article earlier in the day, and I can’t see how someone survives being homeless in an electric wheelchair.

McNamara’s War

“Beyond loyalty, McNamara persuaded himself — as did other internal skeptics such as Undersecretary of State George Ball — that he could better influence policy by staying put. Moreover, he wasn’t absolutely sure in his bleak diagnosis. Maybe, just maybe, things would turn out well after all, or at least stabilize sufficiently to be handed off to the next administration, preserving not only Johnson’s historical credibility but also his own. As Leslie H. Gelb, himself a veteran of McNamara’s Pentagon (and later a member of The Times editorial board), has written, “It is almost superhuman to expect one responsible for waging war” to fundamentally rethink its merits and then to act on the basis of that rethinking. “And so doubts simply float in the air without being translated into policy.””

From the NY Times.