8.31.2008 New York Times Digest

1. “Love and Dance: Two Obsessions, One Classic Film”

“Melodrama! Kitsch! Ham! Entirely undistinguished choreography! Add that its ‘Red Shoes’ ballet could never be danced onstage. (Its dissolving scene changes are sheer cinema, and the ballerina role is too nonstop for any dancer’s stamina.) Even so, The Red Shoes remains a classic.”

2. “Some Kind of Refined Monster”

“In his first meeting with Metallica two years ago Mr. Rubin gave the band a writing assignment. ‘I asked them to imagine themselves not as Metallica,’ he said. ‘I said to them, let’s say there was a battle of the bands coming up and nobody knew who they were, and they can’t rely on any of their hits to get them over. What would that sound like?’”

3. “Revisiting Coen Country for Odd Men”

“For more than two decades they have made popular movies — some loved by critics, some loathed — by following a simple formula: Typically, a slightly down-on-his luck protagonist driven by a single motivating belief (‘The Dude abides,’ ‘I’m a writer’) gets involved in a low-level criminal plot involving kidnapping or extortion, setting off a chain reaction of complications and reversals. And more often than not, somebody gets shot in the face.”

4. “You’ve Come a Longish Way, Baby”

“Raciest line (Hayes Code strict-censorship era): ‘When anything I wear doesn’t please Stephen, I take it off.’”

5. “When Teenage Angst Had Its Own ZIP Code”

“What event defines the 1990s for you? Was it the day the Dow Jones industrial average crossed the 10,000-point mark? Bill Clinton’s admission of an inappropriate relationship with a White House intern? Or was it that fateful prom night when Brenda Walsh lost her virginity to Dylan McKay?”

6. “Is History Siding With Obama’s Economic Plan?”

“Data for the whole period from 1948 to 2007, during which Republicans occupied the White House for 34 years and Democrats for 26, show average annual growth of real gross national product of 1.64 percent per capita under Republican presidents versus 2.78 percent under Democrats.”

7. “Another Spin for Vinyl”

“With music so abundant on the Internet, record label executives said they needed to make physical copies of albums stand out as desirable objects in order to get people to buy them. Vinyl albums are up to the task: they are exotic because of their novelty and retro allure, and more physically imposing than CDs. (And the 12.5-inch album sleeve is an ideal canvas for cover art.)”

8. “The First Lady”

“Is there a distinctly American experience? The American, by Henry James; An American Tragedy, by Theodore Dreiser; The Quiet American, by Graham Greene; The Ugly American, by William Lederer and Eugene Burdick; Philip Roth’s American Pastoral and Bret Easton Ellis’s American Psycho — each suggests, in its very title, a mythic dimension in which fictitious characters are intended to represent national types or predilections. Our greatest 19th-century prose writers from Washington Irving, Nathaniel Hawthorne and Herman Melville through Henry James and Mark Twain took it for granted that ‘American’ is an identity fraught with ambiguity, as in those allegorical parables by Hawthorne in which ‘good’ and ‘evil’ are mysteriously conjoined; to be an ‘American’ is to be a kind of pilgrim, an archetypal seeker after truth. Though destined to be thwarted, even defeated, the pilgrim is our deepest and purest American self.”

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