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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.

The Autumn of Joan Didion
Caitlin Flanagan, The Atlantic | The Autumn of Joan Didion | January 11, 2012

Women who encountered Joan Didion when they were young received from her a way of being female and being writers that no one else could give them. She was our Hunter Thompson, and Slouching Towards Bethlehem was our Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. He gave the boys twisted pig-fuckers and quarts of tequila; she gave us quiet days in Malibu and flowers in our hair. “We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold,” Thompson wrote. “All I ever did to that apartment was hang fifty yards of yellow theatrical silk across the bedroom windows, because I had some idea that the gold light would make me feel better,” Didion wrote. To not understand the way that those two statements would reverberate in the minds of, respectively, young men and young women is to not know very much at all about those types of creatures...

Ron Paul on the 2012 Campaign Trail: 1,000 Points of Darkness
James Hohmann and Charles Mahtesian, Politico | Ron Paul on the 2012 Campaign Trail: 1,000 Points of Darkness | January 10, 2012

It’s a nation that permits the assassination of private citizens, a place where the military can arrest you at will. The unemployment rate is higher than officials let on. The economy is careening toward crisis. Violent street demonstrations are on the horizon. The government edges toward tyranny and dictatorship.

Welcome to Ron Paul’s America...

Psychic Spider Monkey Picks Gingrich To Win New Hampshire
Huffington Post / Barry Paddock, NY Daily News | Psychic Spider Monkey Picks Gingrich to Win New Hampshire | January 10, 2012

At least he's got that one vote.

Grandpa, a spider monkey known for his prognostic abilities, has picked Newt Gingrich to win today's hotly contested New Hampshire primary. While the primate's pick seems to go against all other predictions, polling and common sense, his record of picking US Open and Super Bowl winners might give the other candidates pause...

Leaping Lizards! Tiny Reptiles Advancing Robot Design
Suzanne Bohan, Contra Consta Times | Leaping Lizards! Tiny Reptiles Advancing Robot Design | January 10, 2012

The brilliant acrobatics of leaping lizards could inspire the creation of an army of nimble robots able to swarm through collapsed buildings or mines to find survivors, UC Berkeley researchers say.

By scrutinizing slow-motion video of a redheaded African lizard, the Berkeley team saw how the creature gyrated its tail to right itself after stumbling off a slippery surface. Despite the faltering start, it nailed a four-footed landing on a wall.

The Bain Bomb
Rid J. Epstein and Jim Vandehei, Politico | The Bain Bomb | January 9, 2012

Forget his specific rivals. The biggest threat to Mitt Romney is hitting now and set to fully detonate in South Carolina: it’s the Bain bomb.

While conservatives look unlikely to unite around one alternative to Romney, the campaigns themselves are uniting around this one theme, that the former head of Bain looted companies, tossed people out of jobs and is now exaggerating his success at the venture capital firm...

The Rise of the American Oligarchy
Michael Kinsley, New York Times Book Review | The Rise of the American Oligarchy | January 9, 2012

Thomas Frank is the thinking person’s Michael Moore. If Moore, the left-wing filmmaker, had Frank’s Ph.D. (in history from the University of Chicago), he might produce books like this one and Frank’s previous best seller, “What’s the Matter With Kansas?” As you can tell from its ham-fisted title, “Pity the Billionaire” is not the world’s most subtle political critique. But subtlety isn’t everything. Frank’s best moments come when his contempt boils over and his inner grouch is released...

How Sex, Bombs and Burgers Shaped Our World
Thomas Rogers, Salon | How Sex, Bombs and Burgers Shaped Our World | January 9, 2012

Our lives today are more defined by technology than ever before. Thanks to Skype and Google, we can video chat with our family from across the planet. We have robots to clean our floors and satellite TV that allows us to watch anything we want, whenever we want it. We can reheat food at the touch of a button. But without our basest instincts — our most violent and libidinous tendencies — none of this would be possible. Indeed, if Canadian tech journalist Peter Nowak is to be believed, the key drivers of 20th-century progress were bloodlust, gluttony and our desire to get laid...

How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body
William J. Broad, The New York Times Magazine | How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body | January 8, 2012

On a cold Saturday in early 2009, Glenn Black, a yoga teacher of nearly four decades, whose devoted clientele includes a number of celebrities and prominent gurus, was giving a master class at Sankalpah Yoga in Manhattan. Black is, in many ways, a classic yogi: he studied in Pune, India, at the institute founded by the legendary B. K. S. Iyengar, and spent years in solitude and meditation. He now lives in Rhinebeck, N.Y., and often teaches at the nearby Omega Institute, a New Age emporium spread over nearly 200 acres of woods and gardens. He is known for his rigor and his down-to-earth style. But this was not why I sought him out: Black, I’d been told, was the person to speak with if you wanted to know not about the virtues of yoga but rather about the damage it could do...

Debate Wrap-Up
Burns & Haberman | Debate Wrap-Up | January 8, 2012

A mere handful of questions on the economy and an hour and forty-five minutes later, the ABC News debate is over...

John Brockman: The Man Who Runs the World's Smartest Website
John Naughton, The Observer | John Brockman: The Man Who Runs The World's Smartest Website | January 8, 2012

Since the mid-1960s John Brockman has been at the cutting edge of ideas. He is a passionate advocate of both science and the arts, and his website Edge is a salon for the world's finest minds...