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.

What Gamers Can Teach Us
Jane McGonigal, The Huffington Post | What Gamers Can Teach Us | September 8, 2013

I'm going to tell you a secret. The TEDTalk you're about to watch seems like a pretty ordinary TEDTalk, maybe even a pretty good one, given the standing ov ation at the end.

But here's the truth that almost no one in the world knows: This talk, my talk, went down in TED history as the single biggest disasgter to ever happen at TED...

May The Books Flourish
Larry McMurtry, BookBeast | May The Books Flourish | September 8, 2013

For writer Larry McMurtry, auctioning off part of his vast book collection was bittersweet, bu they are off on a new adventure in the hands of new readers. He writes to urge readers to support a film on Kickstarter documenting this remarkable sale.

...At its peak, my book town harbored between 500,000 and 600,000 volumes, not counting my own 28,000-volume personal library. I love my books, all of them. Holding them in my hands, leafing through the pages, is a comfort to me. But this is a lot of books: my son and grandson might not be so inclined as to simply sit and appreciate their presence...

A Peek Inside My Son's Head
David Mitchell, Slate | A Peek Inside My Son's Head | September 6, 2013

The author of Cloud Atlas on why he translated a book by a 13-year-old Japanese boy with autism.

The 13-year-old author of The Reason I Jump invites you, his reader, to imagine a daily life in which your faculty of speech is taken away. Explaining that you’re hungry, or tired, or in pain, is now as beyond your powers as a chat with a friend. I’d like to push the thought-experiment a little further. Now imagine that after you lose your ability to communicate, the editor-in-residence who orders your thoughts walks out without notice. The chances are that you never knew this mind-editor existed, but now that he or she has gone, you realize too late how the editor allowed your mind to function for all these years. A dam-burst of ideas, memories, impulses, and thoughts is cascading over you, unstoppably. Your editor controlled this flow, diverting the vast majority away, and recommending just a tiny number for your conscious consideration. But now you’re on your own...

Syria Video Turns The Debate On U.S. Intervention
Lloyd Grove, The Daily Beast | Syria Video Turns The Debate On U.S. Intervention | September 6, 2013

The raw video was so grisly, and so barbaric, that the New York Times staffers who watched and edited it for online publication were made “physically ill,” according to the newspaper’s spokeswoman.

Shortly after the Times posted it in the wee hours Thursday morning, the video went viral, leading the influential Drudge Report, proliferating on Twitter, Tumblr, and other social-media sites, and dominating cable news and broadcast outlets. It also became a tricky problem for the Obama White House...

Former Syrian Soldier Describes Life In the Army At The Start Of War
Andrew Slater, The Daily Beast | Former Syrian Soldier Describes Life In the Army At The Start Of War | September 5, 2013

In the coming days the United States and other countries will make a decision on the use of military force against Syria. The consequences of this decision will affect not only the Assad regime loyalists but also the foot soldiers manning bunkers, barracks, and installations across the country. For the vast majority of Syria’s conscripted soldiers, military service amounts to a brutal prison sentence of unknown length now that the war has extended service periods indefinitely. Though the Syrian army does contain true believers who believe that it’s their duty to defeat the rebels and any means justifies this end, many are draftees with no ideological sympathy for the regime and are merely following orders to survive...

A Syrian Soldier On Being Arrested For Refusing To Shoot Civilians
Andrew Slater, The Daily Beast | A Syrian Soldier On Being Arrested For Refusing To Shoot Civilians | September 5, 2013

The following is the second part of an interview conducted with a former Syrian army sergeant, “Heen,” whose name and identifying details have been altered to protect his identity. The interview, which has been edited for length and to preserve the voice of Heen, is a testimony to the evolution of events in Syria. In this final part, Heen describes his arrest and imprisonment for disobeying orders to shoot at civilians and his eventual flight to Iraq, where he settled in a refugee camp...

Oh Those "Crazy" One Direction Fans
Mikki Halpin, The Awl | Oh Those "Crazy" One Direction Fans | September 4, 2013

"The girls aren't crazy—they're just excited." Early on in the One Direction documentary This Is Us, a neuroscientist details the dopamine rush a fan feels when she thinks about the band, and provides confirmation for what Harry Styles, Louis Tomlinson, Zayn Malik, Niall Horan, and Liam Payne have always insisted: Directioners are not crazy—and they're not to be ignored. In interview after interview over the past three years, usually surrounded by thousands of screaming young women, the band has politely corrected reporters who characterize their followers as "insane" or "deranged." "We prefer 'passionate,'" they'll demur. "Or 'dedicated.'"

There’s more to this than semantics. Possibly you don’t realize how radical it is to see five guys treat young women with respect, and to demand that others do so as well, but it is...

As Wolves Return To French Alps, A Way Of Life Is Threatened
Scott Sayare, The New York Times | As Wolves Return To French Alps, A Way Of Life Is Threatened | September 4, 2013

High in the thick grass meadows of the southern French Alps, a modern parable of man and nature, sheep and wolf, is being written in a great quantity of blood.

With official encouragement, herders and farmers had hunted the gray wolf to extinction in France by the 1930s. Within a half-century, though, the animal had been made a protected species throughout Europe; the first wolves re-entered French territory from Italy in 1992, a small and delicate population at the outset. Much to the thrill of conservationists and European officials, they have thrived.

But to the exasperation of this region’s shepherds, who for generations have scaled these hills with the seasons, the species’ success has been due in no small part to the ample, easy pickings. Wolves have been slaughtering vast numbers of sheep here — at least 20,000 in just the past five years...


I Didn't Know What 'LOL' Meant
Adam Gopnik, The Daily Beast | I Didn't Know What 'LOL' Meant | September 3, 2013

The story I want to tell you is a simple story about myself and my son Luke. Some of you may have read about him over the years. I write about him often enough. And the truth is we’ve always been pretty good friends. Father and son, of course, but we’ve always shared a lot in common. We lived through Paris together, and we love football. I’ve taught him to love hockey; we even love the same hockey team, the Montreal Canadiens.

But recently he turned 12, and in New York City, because everything is a little accelerated, 12 is really thirteen. And when thirteen happens to kids, as you all know, something profound changes. They begin to become adolescents; they approach being teenagers. And the bond, no matter how strong it is, between a father and son, or a mother and son or daughter, begins to change. It begins to alter. And suddenly they become more distant from you...

Young Students Against Bad Science
Douglas Quenqua, The New York Times | Young Students Against Bad Science | September 3, 2013

Your parents may have had to walk uphill, both ways, to get to school. But as ideological warfare threatens the teaching of climate science and evolution in many schools, it is clear that today’s students face their own obstacles on the road to a respectable science education — and some are speaking out...