08.05.2012 New York Times Digest

1. “The Misfit

“Nobody is one thing all the time. Yet Marilyn is steeped in paradoxes so profound that, even under the microscope, they stir and shift without ever settling into a singular picture.”

2. “Face of Marlboro Prefers to Be Alone

“People come over and ask to sit down, but I’ve always been a loner. There are very few real men left in the world.”

3. “Gable, Lombard and a ‘35 Duesenberg

“Gable and Lombard married in 1939. In 1941, they set off in the Duesenberg on an epic vacation that took them from Encino, Calif., to Vancouver, British Columbia, a trip of about 1,300 miles. In Vancouver, the couple saw the Duesenberg for the last time. They stored it there, planning to return the next year to drive it back to California. They took the train home. In 1942, Lombard was killed in a plane crash near Las Vegas. Gable, devastated, instructed an agent to sell the Duesenberg.”

4. “Luck vs. Skill: Seeking the Secret of Your Success

“Recent experiments suggest that chance events may influence market outcomes far more heavily than previously thought.”

5. “Auto Crrect Ths!

“One by one we are outsourcing our mental functions to the global prosthetic brain.”

6. “The Love Goddess Who Keeps Right on Seducing

“She wasn’t particularly a great beauty, that is to say, Hedy Lamarr or Ava Gardner would knock the hell out of her in a contest, but she was almost superhumanly sexual.”

7. “Still Puritan After All These Years

“I think I can see the whole destiny of America contained in the first Puritan who landed on those shores.”

8. “Is It Hot Enough for Ya?

“The Midwest is becoming a Dust Bowl, the Southwest and Rocky Mountains a tinder box. Lakes and rivers across the South are drying up. And a series of brutal heat waves, severe storms and prolonged power failures has punished residents of the Northeast, generating widespread concern that the region’s infrastructure is woefully unprepared for the strange weather that’s become our new norm.”

9. “Internet Pirates Will Always Win

“Whacking one big mole created hundreds of smaller ones.”

10. “Don’t Fear the Cybermind

“How did this happen? How did we become so dependent on these gadgets? Some commentators on the growth of technology see this step as the beginning of a chilling new world in which we have uploaded everything we know quite out of our own heads, becoming fools in the bargain. Like those who feared the iron horse or the electric toothbrush, though, people with this neo-Luddite view of technology are quite likely to be left behind as the rest of us rush to keep plugged in. The more forward-looking view is to accept the role of the Web as a mind-expander and wonder not at the bad but at the good it can do us.”

11. “The Power of Negative Thinking

“Though much of this research is new, the essential insight isn’t. Ancient philosophers and spiritual teachers understood the need to balance the positive with the negative, optimism with pessimism, a striving for success and security with an openness to failure and uncertainty. The Stoics recommended ‘the premeditation of evils,’ or deliberately visualizing the worst-case scenario. This tends to reduce anxiety about the future: when you soberly picture how badly things could go in reality, you usually conclude that you could cope. Besides, they noted, imagining that you might lose the relationships and possessions you currently enjoy increases your gratitude for having them now. Positive thinking, by contrast, always leans into the future, ignoring present pleasures.”

12. “The British Gift to American Letters

“Hitchens and Cockburn were unmistakable products of that decadent culture. With their faults, they were above all utterly readable, by way of their sarcastic irreverence; with all their great merits, too many American journalists and their journals are suffocatingly respectable, stifled by the desperate requirement to avoid any appearance of bias, or even hint of personality.”

13. “Living, Thinking Houses

“Picture most of our houses and apartment buildings today – full of sharp angles, lighted by bulbs and colors one doesn’t find in nature, built from plywood, linoleum, iron, cement and glass. Despite their style, efficiency and maybe good location, they don’t always offer us a sense of sanctuary, rest or well-being. Because we can’t escape our ancient hunger to live close to nature, we encircle the house with lawns and gardens, install picture windows, adopt pets and Boston ferns, and scent everything that touches our lives.”

14. “Busy Chris Rock Is Just Itching for Dirty Work

“I remember bumping into Sofia Coppola, and I said: ‘Dude, Lost in Translation is, like, the blackest movie. Bill Murray, that’s exactly what it feels like to be black and rich.’ It’s not horrible. It’s a little off.”

15. “Techies Break a Fashion Taboo

“Silicon Valley has long been known for semiconductors and social networks, not stilettos and socialites. But in a place where the most highly prized style is to appear to ignore style altogether and the hottest accessory is the newest phone, a growing group of women is bucking convention not only by being women in a male-dominated industry, but also by unabashedly embracing fashion.”

16. “The Basic Question

“The first question which we have a right to ask will be, ‘Why is there something rather than nothing?’”

17. “Reefer Madness

“He has written a well-researched book that uses the clever tactic of making the moral case for ending marijuana prohibition by burying it inside the economic case.”

18. “Science Chronicle

“The very act of concentrating on something leads us to exaggerate its importance and its potential to make us happy.”

19. “The Moral of the Story

“There are several surprises about stories. The first is that we spend a great deal of time in fictional worlds, whether in daydreams, novels, confabulations or life narratives. When all is tallied up, the decades we spend in the realm of fantasy outstrip the time we spend in the real world. As Gottschall puts it, ‘Neverland is our evolutionary niche, our special habitat.’ A second surprise: The dominant themes of story aren’t what we might assume them to be. Consider the plotlines found in children’s playtime, daydreams and novels. The narratives can’t be explained away as escapism to a more blissful reality. If that were their purpose, they would contain more pleasure. Instead, they’re horrorscapes. They bubble with conflict and struggle. The plots are missing all the real-life boring bits, and what remains is an unrealistically dense collection of trouble. Trouble, Gottschall argues, is the universal grammar of stories.”

20. “Separate and Unequal

“It is not uncontrollable technological and social change that has produced a two-tier society, Stiglitz argues, but the exercise of political power by moneyed interests over legislative and regulatory processes.”

21. “Electric Flight Orchestra

“You can put yourself through whatever to attain what you want to attain.”

22. “Who Made Those Aviator Sunglasses?

“Sunglasses are about projecting coolness. When you can’t see someone’s eyes, they seem cooler.”

23. “99 Ways to Be Naughty in Kazakhstan

“If all the Cosmo readers from around the world came together, this group would form the 16th-largest country in the world.”

24. “Oakland, the Last Refuge of Radical America

“A million years ago, the cave man, without tools, with small brain, and with nothing but the strength of his body, managed to feed his wife and children, so that through him the race survived. You on the other hand, armed with all the modern means of production, multiplying the productive capacity of the cave man a million times – you are incompetents and muddlers, you are unable to secure to millions even the paltry amount of bread that would sustain their physical life. You have mismanaged the world, and it shall be taken from you.”

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