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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.

Stephen Sondheim Talks About His New Book, 'Look, I Made a Hat'
Malcolm Jones, Newsweek | Stephen Sondheim Talks About His New Book, 'Look, I Made a Hat' | November 22, 2011

<!-- /* Style Definitions */ p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal {mso-style-parent:""; margin:0in; margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman";} @page Section1 {size:8.5in 11.0in; margin:1.0in 1.25in 1.0in 1.25in; mso-header-margin:.5in; mso-footer-margin:.5in; mso-paper-source:0;} div.Section1 {page:Section1;} -->Sprawled on a sofa in his Manhattan townhouse, attired in T shirt, gray slacks, and maroon slippers, Sondheim spent an hour last week discussing his work...

All the Single Ladies
Kate Bolick, The Atlantic | All the Single Ladies | November 22, 2011

Recent years have seen an explosion of male joblessness and a steep decline in men’s life prospects that have disrupted the “romantic market” in ways that narrow a marriage-minded woman’s options: increasingly, her choice is between deadbeats (whose numbers are rising) and playboys (whose power is growing). But this strange state of affairs also presents an opportunity: as the economy evolves, it’s time to embrace new ideas about romance and family—and to acknowledge the end of “traditional” marriage as society’s highest ideal...

When Did Liberals Become So Unreasonable?
Jonathan Chait, New York Magazine | When Did Liberals Become So Unreasonable? | November 21, 2011

If we trace liberal disappointment with President Obama to its origins, to try to pinpoint the moment when his crestfallen supporters realized that this was Not Change They Could Believe In, the souring probably began on December 17, 2008, when Obama announced that conservative Evangelical pastor Rick Warren would speak at his inauguration. “Abominable,” fumed John Aravosis on AmericaBlog. “Obama’s ‘inclusiveness’ mantra always seems to head only in one direction—an excuse to scorn progressives and embrace the Right,” seethed Salon’s Glenn Greenwald. On MSNBC, Rachel Maddow rode the story almost nightly: “I think the problem is getting larger for Barack Obama.” Negative 34 days into the start of the Obama presidency, the honeymoon was over.

Since then, the liberal gloom has only deepened...

Bringing Animation Where the News Is
Corey Kilgannon, The New York Times | Bringing Animation Where The News Is | November 21, 2011

Next Media, a Hong Kong-based company with gossipy newspapers in Hong Kong and in Taiwan, has gained an appreciative following for its news cartoons: short animated segments, often humorous and sometimes racy, that provide a visual narrative for major stories.

And nothing is hotter, it seems, than New York City news...

Poet-Bashing Police
Robert Hass, The New York Times Opinion | Poet-Bashing Police | November 20, 2011

Life, I found myself thinking as a line of Alameda County deputy sheriffs in Darth Vader riot gear formed a cordon in front of me on a recent night on the campus of the University of California, Berkeley, is full of strange contingencies.  The deputy sheriffs, all white men, except for one young woman, perhaps Filipino, who was trying to look severe but looked terrified, had black truncheons in their gloved hands that reporters later called batons and that were known, in the movies of my childhood, as billy clubs...

Scientists Invent Lightest Material on Earth. What now?
Deborah Netburn, The Los Angeles Times | Scientists Invent Lightest Material on Earth. What now? | November 18, 2011

Scientists have invented a new material that is so lightweight it can sit atop a fluffy dandelion without crushing the little fuzzy seeds.

It's so lightweight, styrofoam is 100 times heavier...

Teaching Good Sex
Laurie Abraham, The New York Times Magazine | Teaching Good Sex | November 18, 2011

“First base, second base, third base, home run,” Al Vernacchio ticked off the classic baseball terms for sex acts. His goal was to prompt the students in Sexuality and Society — an elective for seniors at the private Friends’ Central School on Philadelphia’s affluent Main Line — to examine the assumptions buried in the venerable metaphor. “Give me some more,” urged the fast-talking 47-year-old, who teaches 9th- and 12th-grade English as well as human sexuality. Arrayed before Vernacchio was a circle of small desks occupied by 22 teenagers, six male and the rest female — a blur of sweatshirts and Ugg boots and form-fitting leggings...

Andrew Sullivan, American by Choice
Mark Warren, Esquire | Andrew Sullivan, American by Choice | November 18, 2011

A Catholic British intellectual becomes a revolutionary American...

Armed Groups Are on Rise in Syria, as Are Civil War Fears
Nada Bakri, The New York Times | Armed Groups Are on Rise in Syria, as Are Civil War Fears | November 18, 2011

For the second day in a row, deserters from the Syrian Army carried out attacks on symbols of the Assad government’s centers of power, targeting the youth offices of the ruling Baath Party on Thursday after firing rocket-propelled grenades on a military intelligence base on Wednesday, activists said...

A Moment of Beauty
Ron Rosenbaum, Slate | A Moment of Beauty | November 18, 2011

Consider this a public service. My gift to you, devoted readers. You will thank me! I’m offering a few precious moments of pure pleasure--one single song—that will take your mind off a world gone wrong. For all those starving for something to feel hopeful about...