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News 07.26.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

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News 07.26.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
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News 07.26.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
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Stan Smith: The Man Who Became A Shoe

“I guess it is pretty weird seeing my face on a pair of sneakers,” Stan Smith says, reclining in his chair, positioned in the shade of this carefully landscaped garden just off Wimbledon Common. The air is sweet with the smell of hydrangeas and expensively-cut grass. A stream of 747s groan above and then beyond us, their strange song echoing faintly across the Heathrow flight path.

The American tennis legend is wearing an immaculate navy blazer and an expensive-looking pale blue shirt. He is tall, six-foot-four, regal in a mellow, California kind of way, with a Roman nose and still blue eyes the colour of a swimming pool before the day’s first splash. The distant memory of a centre parting frames a kind face, deeply tanned from years spent chasing a ball around a court beneath a baking sun.

At 72, the moustache, a long-standing signature, is grey-flecked-with-brown, as neatly kept as the courts across the road at the All England Club. On his feet are a lightly-worn pair of the trainers that bear his name, in black with three Velcro straps in place of laces, his face peering up from the tongue. At the last count he owns 70 to 80 different pairs. “I wish I’d kept the first ones,” he says, somewhat mournfully. “I’d love to show you the original shoe.” He likes classic white but is also fond of black leather and blue suede.

Read the rest of this article at: Esquire

News 07.26.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 07.26.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Three years ago, when I was studying for a Masters in Philosophy at the University of Cambridge, mindfulness was very much in the air. The Department of Psychiatry had launched a large-scale study on the effects of mindfulness in collaboration with the university’s counselling service. Everyone I knew seemed to be involved in some way: either they were attending regular mindfulness classes and dutifully filling out surveys or, like me, they were part of a control group who didn’t attend classes, but found themselves caught up in the craze even so. We gathered in strangers’ houses to meditate at odd hours, and avidly discussed our meditative experiences. It was a strange time.

Raised as a Buddhist in New Zealand and Sri Lanka, I have a long history with meditation – although, like many ‘cultural Catholics’, my involvement was often superficial. I was crushingly bored whenever my parents dragged me to the temple as a child. At university, however, I turned to psychotherapy to cope with the stress of the academic environment. Unsurprisingly, I found myself drawn to schools or approaches marked by the influence of Buddhist philosophy and meditation, one of which was mindfulness. Over the years, before and during the Cambridge trial, therapists have taught me an arsenal of mindfulness techniques. I have been instructed to observe my breath, to scan my body and note the range of its sensations, and to observe the play of thoughts and emotions in my mind. This last exercise often involves visual imagery, where a person is asked to consider thoughts and feelings in terms of clouds in the sky or leaves drifting in a river. A popular activity (though I’ve never tried it myself) even involves eating a raisin mindfully, where you carefully observe the sensory experience from start to finish, including changes in texture and the different tastes and smells.

At the end of the Cambridge study, I found myself to be calmer, more relaxed and better able to step away from any overwhelming feelings. My experience was mirrored in the research findings, which concluded that regular mindfulness meditation reduces stress levels and builds resilience. Yet I’d also become troubled by a cluster of feelings that I couldn’t quite identify. It was as if I could no longer make sense of my emotions and thoughts. Did I think the essay I’d just written was bad because the argument didn’t quite work, or was I simply anxious about the looming deadline? Why did I feel so inadequate? Was it imposter syndrome, depression or was I just not a good fit for this kind of research? I couldn’t tell whether I had particular thoughts and feelings simply because I was stressed and inclined to give in to melodramatic thoughts, or because there was a good reason to think and feel those things. Something about the mindfulness practice I’d cultivated, and the way it encouraged me to engage with my emotions, made me feel increasingly estranged from myself and my life.

Read the rest of this article at: aeon

Tuscany Tote in Midnight

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Markelle Taylor finished the 2019 Boston Marathon in three hours, three minutes and 52 seconds, a blisteringly fast time for a 46-year-old man who did all of his training on a quarter-mile track of asphalt, gravel and dirt with six 90-degree turns. Weeks before, on 2 March 2019, Taylor was released on parole from San Quentin State Prison in California after serving 17 years and seven months after being found guilty of second-degree murder.

Some prisons are trying to reduce recidivism by offering organized sports programs. These programs go beyond one or two hours of daily recreation by introducing volunteer coaches from outside the prisons, as well as rules to remain in the program. Through sports such as baseball, running and rugby, inmates are finding structure, learning social skills and building self-esteem. Taylor found his speed and inner strength while training with the San Quentin 1,000 Mile Running Club.

Read the rest of this article at: The Guardian

News 07.26.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 07.26.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

When Xi Jinping took power in 2012, he extolled the importance of the state economy at every turn, while all around him watched as China’s high-speed economy was driven by private entrepreneurs. Since then, Xi has engineered an unmistakable shift in policy. At the time he took office, private firms were responsible for about 50% of all investment in China and about 75% of economic output. But as Nicholas Lardy, a US economist who has long studied the Chinese economy, concluded in a recent study, “Since 2012, private, market-driven growth has given way to a resurgence of the role of the state.”

From the Mao era onwards, Chinese state firms have always had a predominant role in the economy, and the Communist party has always maintained direct control over state firms. For more than a decade, the party has also tried to ensure it played a role inside private businesses. But in his first term in office, Xi has overseen a sea change in how the party approaches the economy, dramatically strengthening the party’s role in both government and private businesses.

International governments have noted Xi’s interventionist instincts with alarm. When US officials were pressed in early 2019 to provide evidence that Huawei, the Chinese telecommunications giant, had facilitated spying on the US and its allies, they pointed out that Beijing had already made their case for them: first with the party’s systematic infiltration of private companies, and second with the introduction of a new national intelligence law in 2017. The law states that “any organisation and citizen” shall “support and cooperate in national intelligence work”. The director of the US National Counterintelligence and Security Center, when asked about China’s entrepreneurs, cited these two policies in asserting that “Chinese company relationships with the Chinese government aren’t like private sector company relationships with governments in the west”.

Read the rest of this article at: The Guardian

Mort Felix liked to say that his name, when read as two Latin words, meant “happy death.” When he was sick with the flu, he used to jokingly remind his wife, Susan, that he wanted Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” played at his deathbed. But when his life’s end arrived at the age of 77, he lay in his study in his Berkeley, California, home, his body besieged by cancer and his consciousness cradled in morphine, uninterested in music and refusing food as he dwindled away over three weeks in 2012. “Enough,” he told Susan. “Thank you, and I love you, and enough.” When she came downstairs the next morning, she found Felix dead.

During those three weeks, Felix had talked. He was a clinical psychologist who had also spent a lifetime writing poetry, and though his end-of-life speech often didn’t make sense, it seemed to draw from his attention to language. “There’s so much so in sorrow,” he said at one point. “Let me down from here,” he said at another. “I’ve lost my modality.” To the surprise of his family members, the lifelong atheist also began hallucinating angels and complaining about the crowded room—even though no one was there.

Felix’s 53-year-old daughter, Lisa Smartt, kept track of his utterances, writing them down as she sat at his bedside in those final days. Smartt majored in linguistics at UC Berkeley in the 1980s and built a career teaching adults to read and write. Transcribing Felix’s ramblings was a sort of coping mechanism for her, she says. Something of a poet herself (as a child, she sold poems, three for a penny, like other children sold lemonade), she appreciated his unmoored syntax and surreal imagery. Smartt also wondered whether her notes had any scientific value, and eventually she wrote a book, Words on the Threshold, published in early 2017, about the linguistic patterns in 2,000 utterances from 181 dying people, including her father.

Despite the limitations of this book, it’s unique—it’s the only published work I could find when I tried to satisfy my curiosity about how people really talk when they die. I knew about collections of “last words,” eloquent and enunciated, but these can’t literally show the linguistic abilities of the dying. It turns out that vanishingly few have ever examined these actual linguistic patterns, and to find any sort of rigor, one has to go back to 1921, to the work of the American anthropologist Arthur MacDonald.

To assess people’s “mental condition just before death,” MacDonald mined last-word anthologies, the only linguistic corpus then available, dividing people into 10 occupational categories (statesmen, philosophers, poets, etc.) and coding their last words as sarcastic, jocose, contented, and so forth. MacDonald found that military men had the “relatively highest number of requests, directions, or admonitions,” while philosophers (who included mathematicians and educators) had the most “questions, answers, and exclamations.” The religious and royalty used the most words to express contentment or discontentment, while the artists and scientists used the fewest.

Read the rest of this article at: The Atlantic

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