6.19.2011 New York Times Digest

1. “In Praise of Not Knowing”

“Kurt Cobain once said in an interview that long before he’d heard any actual punk rock music, he studied magazine photos of punk musicians and imagined what the music sounded like.”

2. “Are You Smarter Than a 12th Grader?”

“Which statement about the War of 1812 is accurate? 1) The United States enjoyed military superiority for most of the war. 2) In some regions many people did not support the war. 3) The peace treaty that ended the war doubled the size of the United States. 4) Almost all of the land and sea battles were fought at great distances from the United States territory.”

3. “Sometimes a Vegetable Is Just a Vegetable”

“Our job as critics — our mission as freethinking, curious, pleasure-seeking human beings — should be to smash these categories, which are at bottom self-reinforcing artifacts of the tyranny of marketing. Duke Ellington said there are only two kinds of music, good and bad. William Blake said: ‘To generalize is to be an idiot. Particularization is the alone distinction of merit.’ Figuring out how to respect the particulars is difficult enough without falling into the traps of groupthink and pop sociology.”

4. “Ambition + Desire = Trouble”

“There’s a correlation between testosterone and risk-taking.”

5. “California Houses as Celebrities in Themselves”

“Perhaps the most clichéd Los Angeles tourist activity is the curbside ogling of celebrity homes. But take away the famous residents, and Los Angeles is still the ultimate showplace of American dream houses.”

6. “David Mamet’s Right-Wing Conversion”

“This is an extraordinarily irritating book, written by one of those people who smugly believe that, having lost their faith, they must ipso facto have found their reason.”

7. “Malcolm X: Criminal, Minister, Humanist, Martyr”

“He points to an incident in Los Angeles in 1962, when police officers burst into a mosque and shot seven Nation members, killing one and paralyzing another. Malcolm moved to create a squad that would assassinate members of the Los Angeles Police Department, and when Muhammad vetoed that idea, Malcolm lost faith in him, wondering if he really cared about his people’s lives.”

8. “Grumpus Maximus”

“The best comedian I’ve ever seen live is Bill Cosby, and this was only about a year and a half ago.”

9. “America’s Favorite Talking Hothead”

“I don’t burn bridges, I burn rivers.”

10. “‘Underneath Every Hoarder Is a Normal Person Waiting to Be Dug Out’”

“Hoarders see things in things that other people don’t. They find value, comfort, solace, a buffer against loss, accumulated history in their stuff. Things become externalized parts of themselves — their memory, their plans, their feelings. To discard objects intended for future use (a project, a plan, a projection) feels like dashing hopes, losing opportunities, squandering potential. They can’t let go of anything. They are at a literal impasse. We judge them, but we’re like them too.”

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