What I'm Reading, Vol. Thirty-Two

Monday, December 15, 2014

The Secret Life of Passwords (via The New York Times)
Several years ago, I began asking my friends and family to tell me their passwords. I had come to believe that these tiny personalized codes get a bum rap. Yes, I understand why passwords are universally despised: the strains they put on our memory, the endless demand to update them, their sheer number. I hate them, too. But there is more to passwords than their annoyance. In our authorship of them, in the fact that we construct them so we (and only we) will remember them, they take on secret lives. Many of our passwords are suffused with pathos, mischief, sometimes even poetry. Often they have rich back stories. A motivational mantra, a swipe at the boss, a hidden shrine to a lost love, an inside joke with ourselves, a defining emotional scar -- these keepsake passwords, as I cam to call them, are like tchotchkes of our inner lives. They derive from anything: Scripture, horoscopes, nicknames, lyrics, book passages. Like a tattoo on a private part of the body, they tend to be intimate, compact and expressive.

The Walking Cure: Talking to Cheryl Strayed About What Made 'Wild' Work (via Vulture)
I read Wild when it was first published, and I have been watching its ascent with surprise ever since. People love to read about outdoor extremis and debacle, but books about nature in which nothing goes terribly wrong do not normally attract millions of fans. Moreover, there is a kernal of genuine radicalism in Wild  - and radicalism, by definition, does not appeal to the mainstream. Outside of slave narratives and horror fiction, adult American literature contains very few accounts of a woman alone in the woods. Yet Wild is the story of a woman who voluntarily takes leave of society and sustains herself outdoors, without the protection of a man, or, for that matter, of mankind. It is the story of a woman who does something physically demanding day after day, of her own free will, and succeeds at it. It is the story of a working-class woman and her mind - of what Strayed thought about in the three months she spent almost entirely alone. And it is a story that ends happily in the near-total absence of that conventional prerequisite for happy endings, romantic love.

For Millennials, the End of the TV Viewing Party (via The New York Times)
The television has always been more than just an appliance. For decades, going back to the days when a single family on a block might have a color TV that the neighbors were invited in to watch, it has been a portal to a dreamscape, a status symbol, a trusted late-night companion. A decade ago, a home -- even, in many cases, a dorm room -- without a television would have seemed virtually unthinkable, like a house without a telephone. And, that, in a sense, is the point. Just as the landline went from household staple to quaint anachronism seemingly overnight during the last decade (acquiring a profoundly uncool air along the way), the television set has started to look at best like a luxury, if not an irrelevance, in the eyes of many members of the wired generation, who have moved past the "cord-cutter" stage, in which they get rid of cable, to getting rid of their TV sets entirely.

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