10.19.2008 New York Times Digest

1. “The Mommy Track”

“Since winning her Oscar almost 10 years ago Ms. Jolie has carved out a distinctive identity; unlike most other actresses of her age she is interchangeable with no one. Growing up, she said, she found her on-screen role models weren’t actresses but rather ‘Al Pacino in Dog Day Afternoon, Brando in Streetcar, Nicholson — I just always liked the men.’ That may be part of the reason she has become virtually the only current A-list actress to achieve her status while completely bypassing romantic comedies. Nobody is ever likely to call her ‘America’s Sweetheart.’”

2. “Among Fans of Palin, Dudes Rule”

“Yes, some men come to ogle the candidate, too. ‘She’s beautiful,’ said a man wearing a John Deere T-shirt in Weirs Beach. ‘I came here to look at her,’ he said, and his admiration for Ms. Palin’s appearance became more and more animated. Sheepish over his ogling, he declined to give his real name (‘Just call me “John Deere”’).”

3. “How Do We Show Our Love for New York? We Say It With Monsters”

“From the earliest urban legends to the latest computer games, Americans have embraced fantasies of the city’s destruction as ‘a reaffirmation of New York’s greatness,’ said Max Page, a professor of history and architecture and the author of a new book called The City’s End: Two Centuries of Fantasies, Fears and Premonitions of New York’s Destruction.

4. “Why This Storm May Stay Away From Apple”

“In the teeth of what may be a once-in-50-years storm, Steven P. Jobs calmly keeps the company on the same course it has been following since the skies were clear.”

5. “The Universe According to Kaufman”

“Mr. Kaufman, 50, plays for keeps in part because at the age of 30 he was staring down a prosaic, somewhat doomed life. After making several short films at New York University he relocated to Minneapolis and was working in the basement office of the circulation department at The Star Tribune. ‘The people that I worked for were nice, but I had to be there first thing in the morning to answer calls from people whose newspaper arrived wet or didn’t arrive at all. It was cold, I had to take the bus, and I was getting to an age where it looked like it might be what I was going to settle for.’”

6. “A Spy Trapped in a Nightmare of Psychedelia”

The premise seemed simple enough. An unnamed man (Patrick McGoohan) resigns from some sort of top-secret intelligence job, whereupon he is kidnapped to a sprawling, secretive complex known only as the Village. There he is surrounded by other captured spy types, and his ever-present captors try to trick, drug and otherwise manipulate him into revealing why he quit. The man, rechristened No. 6 by his captors, spends 17 episodes resisting their efforts and plotting his getaway.

7. “Free to Be His Own Buckley”

“He arrived for an interview dressed in standard Washington attire, the blue blazer, over a royal blue-and-white checked shirt that looked as if it had come from some London haberdashery. He insisted it had not.

“‘J. C. Penney, I think,’ Mr. Buckley said wryly, tugging at the collar. ‘Do you want to see the tag?’ He was being facetious — ‘O.K., Lord & Taylor, I’ll cop to Lord & Taylor,’ he said — but the implication was clear: William F. Buckley Jr. would never have worn J. C. Penney.”

8. “How Does Society Change in a Bad Economy?”

“Almost anything can be an economic indicator.”

9. “In the Conservative Commentariat, Unease”

“It seems fair to ask whether — in an election in which many millions will vote — the assertions of the opinion and chattering class really matter. One answer is that for more than half a century the conservative movement has insisted that ‘ideas have consequences,’ which implies that writers and thinkers have played a major part in shaping the fortunes of the right.”

10. “Race and the Safe Hollywood Bet”

“Only 4 out of 10 movies turn a profit, according to the Association of Motion Picture and Television Producers. But because pictures with nearly all-black casts come along more infrequently, they tend to stand out more when they fail.”

11. “Unsafe at Any Read”

“If great literature is so great, why is it that if you act on anything great literature tells you about life, you’re in big trouble? I mean, big trouble.”

12. “True Colors”

“There’s an excerpt from George Eliot’s Middlemarch currently posted on ads in some subway cars in New York; it perfectly expresses my squeamishness about perceiving the world too closely. ‘If we had a keen vision and feeling of all ordinary human life,’ Eliot wrote, ‘it would be like hearing the grass grow and the squirrel’s heart beat, and we should die of that roar which lies on the other side of silence.’”

13. “A Pundit in the Country”

Procrastination technique: Cleaning. Writing makes me want to blow my head off. If I have a writing project due, I will clean everything around me as a way of avoiding putting pen to paper.”

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