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Daily Briefing

Deep buzz for the content-deprived

Every weekday, while you get showered and dressed, we pluck these dewy- fresh, breaking stories from the info-clogged byways of the datasphere. Pour yourself a cup of coffee and stoke up on everything you need to know, or at least enough to fake it.

"Why Write Novels at All?"
Garth Risk Hallberg, The New York Times Magazine | "Why Write Novels at All?" | January 17, 2012

Last year, I found myself mildly obsessed with a cache of YouTube clips, featuring the novelists Jeffrey Eugenides, Jonathan Franzen, Zadie Smith, David Foster Wallace and Nathan Englander at a 2006 literary conference in Italy called Le Conversazioni. Part of what interested me, in a gate-crashing kind of way, was the backdrop: midsummer on the Isle of Capri, with flora aflame and a sky the color of Chablis. Another part, inevitably, was watching Wallace with the knowledge that he would kill himself two years later. Mostly what I kept coming back to, though, was how lighthearted, how loose — how young — these writers seemed here...

The "What Do You Know About MLK" Quiz
Matthew Green | The "What Do You Know About MLK" Quiz | January 17, 2012

1: In the landmark Brown vs. Board of Education decision, the Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional to...

Posthumous Posting App Gets Facebook Users Talking

Want to leave a Facebook post after your time is up? There's an app for that...

Ron Paul Is My Homeboy
Libby Copeland, Slate | Ron Paul Is My Homeboy | January 15, 2012

Since Ron Paul swept the youth vote in Iowa and New Hampshire, it’s become popular for press accounts to contrast the age of his supporters with the wizened appearance of the 76-year-old country doctor. The stories go like this: a “great-grandfather” with a “crotchety streak” possesses a “youthful magic” that spellbinds a “surprisingly young support base,” and not just because he wants to “legalize drugs.” Often enough, the stories take Paul at face value, concluding that college students have been pining for a presidential candidate who talks about the Constitution, ending the Fed, and Ludwig von Mises.

But this doesn’t explain the passion Paul inspires...

 

Why Tim Tebow Is the Sarah Palin of Football
Allison Yarrow, The Daily Beast | Why Tim Tebow Is the Sarah Palin of Football | January 15, 2012

The harder the Broncos quarterback and the Alaskan governor fall, the more convinced their supporters become that they are modern messiahs...

Indian Computer Tablet Could Herald an Internet Revolution
Jason Burke, The Guardian | Indian Computer Tablet Could Herald an Internet Revolution | January 13, 2012

In a laboratory on a leafy campus in the Indian desert city of Jodhpur, Professor Prem Kalra believes he is overseeing a revolution. It takes the form of a computer "tablet" – a basic form of device similar to the Apple iPad – which can be made and sold for under £35.

Already 100,000 of the devices, called Aakash, which means "sky" or "ether" in the local Hindi language, are to be manufactured for testing.

Within weeks a new version, which will allow hundreds of millions of Indians in remote rural areas to connect to the internet via local mobile phone networks, will be launched...

Inside the Fed in 2006: A Coming Crisis, and Banter
Binyamin Appelbaum, The New York Times | Inside the Fed in 2006: A Coming Crisis, and Banter | January 13, 2012

As the housing bubble entered its waning hours in 2006, top Federal Reserve officials marveled at the desperate antics of home builders seeking to lure buyers.

The officials laughed about the cars that builders were offering as signing bonuses, and about efforts to make empty homes look occupied. They joked about one builder who said that inventory was “rising through the roof.”

But the officials, meeting every six weeks to discuss the health of the nation’s economy, gave little credence to the possibility that the faltering housing market would weigh on the broader economy, according to transcripts that the Fed released Thursday...

Present at the Counterculture's Creation
Ben Ratliff, The New York Times | Present at the Counterculture's Creation | January 13, 2012

Testifying at the Chicago Seven trial in 1970, Ed Sanders identified himself to Judge Julius Hoffman as a “poet, songwriter, leader of a rock-and-roll band, publisher, editor, recording artist, peace-creep.” He lived in the East Village, which, as he writes in his great-souled memoir of the 1960s, was a “Do-It-Now zone.” The book portrays him doing many things.  Which was the most interesting?...

Adventures with an Extreme Polyglot: Excerpt from 'Babel No More'
Michael Erard, Bookbeast | Adventures with an Extreme Polyglot: Excerpt from 'Babel No More' | January 12, 2012

On a quest to find the person we could say spoke the most languages in the world, I stumbled on the online personae of a language learning guru and hyperpolyglot, Alexander Arguelles, who invited me to Berkeley, California, where he was living at the time. It was my first introduction to the life of the contemporary hyperpolyglot. On many mornings, once Alexander has greeted the sun doing extensive writing exercises in Chinese, Arabic, Latin, Russian, Persian, German, and other languages, he goes for a long run in the arid hills of the park above his neighborhood, while listening to a German audiobook tape on his Walkman. (So far, he eschews the MP3.) Marathon lengths are easy for him—once, he says, he got lost in the woods and ended up running more than thirty miles, though he felt faint. Later someone told him that long-distance runners have to eat every two hours, which came as a revelation; he finds the carbohydrate goo disgusting. He eschews that, too...

Meatless in the Midwest: A Tale of Survival
A.G. Sulzberger, The New York Times | Meatless in the Midwest: A Tale of Survival | January 12, 2012

In an ideal world, vegetarians would be built like camels. Not humpbacked, of course, but able to sustain themselves through long stretches by tapping stored energy reserves, like previously consumed soy products.

But after the first three dinners in my new hometown, where I moved from New York to cover the Midwest for this newspaper, even this veteran vegetarian was flagging...