1/27/08 New York Times Digest

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1. “Instant Nostalgia? Let’s Go to the Videotape”

“The generation that came of age in the ’80s, as the VCR was becoming a staple, is especially prone to VHS nostalgia, a manifestation of the broader retro culture that has accounted for untold hours of programming on VH1. The first movie to be subjected to a VHS makeover in Be Kind Rewind is the Reagan-era hit Ghostbusters.In the British coming-of-age comedy Son of Rambow (set to open here in May), a couple of preteenagers discover a bootleg copy of the Rambo film First Blood and decide to shoot their own amateur-video version. (Be Kind Rewind and Son of Rambow are both descendants of the ultimate fan remake, Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Adaptation, a shot-for-shot redux of the Spielberg blockbuster created by three teenage boys over a seven-year period in the ’80s. The story of their obsessive backyard adventure is being turned into a film by the producer Scott Rudin and the writer Daniel Clowes.)”

2. “For Strikers, the Agony of Spare Time”

“‘Of course I have time to talk to you,’ Kevin Bleyer, a writer for “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart,” said at the beginning of a recent interview. ‘Let me just put down this copy of ‘War and Peace’ that I now have time to read.’”

3. “Devalued Sonics Seek New Arena or a New City to Call Home”

“When Bennett bought the Sonics, he pledged a good-faith effort to keep them in Seattle. In November 2006, voters approved an initiative restricting tax subsidies for professional sports teams. Last April, the state Legislature rejected a proposal to build a $500 million arena in Renton. Last August, Aubrey McClendon, a part owner, told an Oklahoma newspaper that the ownership group never intended to keep the Sonics in Seattle. The N.B.A. fined him $250,000 for the remark.”

4. “Freed From the Page, but a Book Nonetheless”

“The object we are accustomed to calling a book is undergoing a profound modification as it is stripped of its physical shell. Kindle’s long-term success is still unknown, but Amazon should be credited with imaginatively redefining its original product line, replacing the book business with the reading business.”

5. “Moviegoers in Seoul Will Love This Film”

“In particular, she has been annoyed by I Am Legend, the Warner Brothers hit that stars Will Smith in a post-apocalyptic Manhattan, and Cloverfield, the Paramount film about a monster that implodes the Empire State Building, tears down the Brooklyn Bridge and generally reduces the city to a smoking pile of rubble and despair.

“‘Can’t they destroy another city for once?’ Ms. Bern said in an interview at a local movie theater. ‘It’s despicable that the studios are using the destruction of New York to sell movies to me.’

“Hollywood uses the stunt to sell movies all right — but not primarily to Ms. Bern or anyone else in the United States, for that matter. If Americans go to see the Statue of Liberty’s head ripped off, as they have in droves for Cloverfield, all the better. But the fans the studios are really trying to attract with such imagery are in Eastern Europe, South Korea and Latin America.”

6. “Built for the Earth and the Pocketbook”

“The geothermal system is predicated on the fact that, below the frost layer (about six feet underground), the earth’s temperature remains relatively constant. Water passing through pipes laid deep underground picks up heat or deposits it before heading back to a heating or cooling device in the house. The system greatly decreases the cost and energy of heating or cooling.”

7. “Dr. Dippy, Meet Dr. Evil”

“It is also, as it happens, the latest instance of Hollywood’s century-old fascination with Freud and his descendants. Movies and television have both had a long and intimate relationship with a profession that has been alternately fetishized, sent up and rendered a cartoon. And that’s when it wasn’t being seen ‘through the distorting lenses of fear, defensive ridicule and the yearning for an ideal parent,’ said Dr. Irving Schneider, a psychiatrist in Chevy Chase, Md., who has written extensively on depictions of psychotherapists in film.”

8. “The Quarterbacks’ Sideline Play”

“‘I was talking to a friend of mine,’ said Buzz Bissinger, the author of Friday Night Lights, the classic about small-town adoration of high school football players, ‘and we both said if we could come back as anyone, it would be Tom Brady. He seems like a nice guy and he’s talented and he can get any girl in the world.’”

9. “When Icons Die Young”

“Successive generations have felt that impulse — the need to make sense of untimely death, and even justify it, by celebrating the dead young person in an outsize way, or, every so often, to attend the funeral of someone they don’t know.”

10. “A President Like My Father”

“Over the years, I’ve been deeply moved by the people who’ve told me they wished they could feel inspired and hopeful about America the way people did when my father was president. This sense is even more profound today. That is why I am supporting a presidential candidate in the Democratic primaries, Barack Obama.”

11. “Alfred Kazin: A Biography”

“Whenever anyone writes about the ‘New York intellectuals’ — the group of male Jewish writers who came to prominence in the years after the Second World War — Kazin’s name is near the top of the list. And yet he wasn’t a typical member of the tribe.”

12. “In the Heart of the Heart of Conspiracy”

“How else could one explain the Soviet takeover of Eastern Europe or the fall of Chiang Kai-shek to the army of Mao Zedong? ‘Who lost China?’ propelled McCarthy to the national stage. Along the way, he described General George C. Marshall, the nation’s most respected military commander, as a Communist dupe; urged Secretary of State Dean Acheson to seek asylum in the Soviet Union; purposely confused the names of the convicted perjurer and likely Soviet spy Alger Hiss and the 1952 Democratic presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson (‘Alger — I mean Adlai’); and called Harry Truman a ‘son of a bitch’ who made his key decisions in the midnight darkness while drunk on bourbon.”

13. “Old-School Economics”

“The ‘jobs of the future’ that were promised 20 years ago are here. Choreographers, blackjack dealers and security guards have replaced factory workers as the economy’s backbone, if not yet its symbol.”

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