4.20.2008 New York Times Digest

1. “Struggling to Evade the E-Mail Tsunami”

“In his correspondence, Mencken adhered to the most basic of social principles: reciprocity. If someone wrote to him, he believed writing back was, in his words, ‘only decent politeness.’ He reasoned that if it were he who had initiated correspondence, he would expect the same courtesy. ‘If I write to a man on any proper business and he fails to answer me at once, I set him down as a boor and an ass.’”

2. “A Novelist With a Story Attached”

“Her editor at the time made two suggestions: Don’t take forever to write another, and for God’s sake, don’t write a novel. So much for that good advice. And to make things worse, her novel is about a 46-year-old Oxford-educated American, a writer, who is married to a glamorous Briton.”

3. “On the Internet, It’s All About ‘My’”

“The rise of sites with the ‘my’ prefix is an outgrowth of an increasingly customized world of technology, such as the iPod and TiVo…. But they illustrate how corporations are striving to show that they can be as intimately connected to their customers as in-vogue social networking sites. They’re not just impersonal businesses; they are your close, intimate friends.”

4. “Been Up, Been Down. Now? Super.”

“There were rehabs that did not work, followed by jails that did not impress, ending in hard time, twice, including a one-year stint in a state lockup where he had to fight to find a place to stand.

“A winking nod to that tumultuous history is baked into the banter in Iron Man. The movie opens with Mr. Downey’s mitt wrapped around a tumbler of whiskey, rumbling along in a Humvee, AC/DC’s ‘Back in Black’ blasting on the soundtrack and Mr. Downey acting all lusty and incorrigible. And when Gwyneth Paltrow’s character, the dewy-eyed, ever-loyal assistant he sees with new eyes by the end of the film, learns about his alter ego, Mr. Downey’s Tony Stark goes deadpan.

“‘Let’s face it,’ he says. ‘This is not the worst thing you’ve caught me doing.’

“That running dialogue — between audience and actor, between Mr. Downey’s past and present — gives the film a symbolic power not usually found in comic book movies.”

5. “Stirring Things Up, Regionally Speaking”

“In his latest show, at Joe’s Pub every Monday night through May 11, Mr. Daisey makes a series of provocative arguments about how regional theaters, in pursuit of growth, have lost sight of their original mission: They have put more money into expensive new buildings than grooming and rewarding actors; despite lip service about promoting diversity and community, artistic directors want to keep theater as a luxury item for the wealthy; the importing of actors, mainly from New York, has divorced theaters from their communities.”

6. “Mining Post-9/11 America for Laughs”

“The signal achievement of both Harold and Kumar films is that they make race incidental without taking racism lightly; they presuppose an enlightened audience. ‘When we start to write, we’re under the assumption that everyone knows racism is bad,’ Mr. Schlossberg said. ‘If you don’t know that, you’re a moron. Harold and Kumar’s attitude toward racism is more frustration at having to deal with idiocy than moral outrage. We try to create a world where racism is stupid.’”

7. “Domains | Bill Nye: Greener Pastures”

“My house is attached to L.A.’s main power grid, but I make more power than I use. So, I send my excess energy back to the grid and my bill is just $7 a month, which is a connection charge.”

8. “Broadcast Spoofs”

The Simpsons is past its prime. The Daily Show is admired but partisan. And each incarnation of Saturday Night Live bugs its audience in a new way. The Onion, though, is like overwork or pizza. It’s your patriotic duty to not not like it.”

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