Sunday 9.16.2012 New York Times Digest

1. Shock Me if You Can

“Today shock can seem indistinguishable from scandal, less a side effect of artistic innovation than a ploy ginned up by self-promoting artists and public scolds. But many artists say that generating shock remains the duty of anyone who aims to reflect the real world back at itself. Audiences may be more sophisticated, and jaded, but it is still possible to show them something they may not want to see.”

2. A First: Organs Tailor-Made With Body’s Own Cells

“The work of these new body builders is far different from the efforts that produced artificial hearts decades ago. Those devices, which are still used temporarily by some patients awaiting transplants, are sophisticated machines, but in the end they are only that: machines. Tissue engineers aim to produce something that is more human. They want to make organs with the cells, blood vessels and nerves to become a living, functioning part of the body.”

3. Forgoing College to Pursue Dreams

“At a time when the value of a college degree is being called into question, and when job prospects for many new graduates are grimmer than they’ve been in years, perhaps it’s no surprise to see a not-back-to-school movement spring up. What is surprising is where it’s springing up, and who’s behind it.”

4. When the Privacy Button Is Already Pressed

“The specter of people opting out of tracking en masse presents a serious risk for marketers.”

5. Don’t Show Me the Money!

“In a society in which money is the measure of all things, it becomes hard to assess your achievements in other terms.”

6. An Adverb That Defies Certainty

“In butcher’s language, it tenderizes certainty. It is anti-certainty, anti-conviction and, by definition therefore, anti-omniscience.”

7. The Computer as Music Critic

“Thanks to advances in computing power, we can analyze music in radically new and different ways. Computers are still far from grasping some of the deep and often unexpected nuances that release our most intimate emotions. However, by processing vast amounts of raw data and performing unprecedented large-scale analyses beyond the reach of teams of human experts, they can provide valuable insight into some of the most basic aspects of musical discourse, including the evolution of popular music over the years.”

8. Testing Horror’s Threshold for Pain

“Part of my soul did die in making this film.”

9. The Cavemen Embrace Aprons and Whisks

“Mailer used to drink with some other guy and after downing a few, they’d stop and stare at each other. One would say, ‘You want to?’ And the other would say, ‘Yeah,’ and they’d proceed to butt heads until either Mailer or his pal fell unconscious to the floor.”

10. A Label That Has Regained Its Luster

“The ‘Made in the U.S.A.’ label has become chic in the eyes of well-heeled consumers not just in the United States, but also in Asia, said Paulette Garafalo, the president for international, wholesale and manufacturing at Brooks Brothers, which has increased production of shirts, suits and neckwear at its three American factories to meet growing demand. ‘People want the credibility of an American brand,’ she said.”

11. He Struck Gold in Cast Iron

“He has decorated houses for maniacally finicky people like Marc Jacobs, James Truman, Aileen Getty and, most recently, the fashion and art worlds’ zillion-dollar It girl, Dasha Zhukova. So it came as a surprise that when Mr. Fortune was asked about a favorite object, he chose an ordinary cast-iron skillet.”

12. A Woman’s Place

“Do we really want an alpha-girl model, even if she does succeed in the new world economy, whatever that is?”

13. Upstairs, Downstairs

“Wolf opens herself to ridicule on virtually every page.”

14. Nicholson Baker: By the Book

“All writers are underrated. They’re all trying to do their best. It’s hard to finish a book.”

15. Unnatural Women

“Sir Astley Cooper’s ‘On the Anatomy of the Breast,’ published in 1840, prompts an entertaining digression on grave-robbing.”

16. The Third Musketeer

“Shortly after his release from prison, Dumas wrote a bitter account of his captivity that would later inspire his son’s tale of the ordeal of Edmond Dantès in The Count of Monte Cristo.”

17. Melissa Leo Is a Fighter

“Invariably there will be some on-set gaffer who will have caught my eye. To my very best friends, I refer to him as my boyfriend. I never touch the guy. Never talk to him even. He has no idea he’s my boyfriend. This is much easier than actually having to deal with somebody.”

18. The Machines Are Taking Over

“Heffernan, along with several researchers at W.P.I. and other institutions, is working on an emotion-sensitive tutor: a computer program that can recognize and respond to students’ moods.”

19. Anatomy of a Campus Coup

“Higher education is one of the last sectors of the economy to undergo this kind of systemic restructuring.”

20. Not So Hot for Teacher

“Look closely, and you’ll find they all, to some extent, use the teaching profession as a shorthand for a character’s dysfunction or even cosmic disenfranchisement. It’s no coincidence that anyone teaching on television these days tends to be broke … or sick … or both. No one, these shows imply, would teach because she wants to, because she likes it or is good at it. Despite the lip service regularly and dutifully paid to the profession, within the lexicon of contemporary visual culture, it seems clear that it remains a career of last resort.”

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