11.2.2008 New York Times Digest

1. “Pump Up the Volume”

“Unlike the other devices that clatter in my shoulder bag, the Kindle isn’t a big greedy magnet for the world’s signals. It doesn’t pulse with clocks, blaze with video or squall with incoming bulletins and demands. It’s almost dead, actually. Lifeless. Just a lump in my hands or my bag, exiled from the crisscrossing of infinite cybernetworks. It’s almost like a book.”

2. “A Surge on One Channel, a Tight Race on Another”

“It is a political division of news that harks back to the way American journalism was through the first half of the 20th century, when newspapers had more open political affiliations. But it has never been so apparent in such a clear-cut way on television, a result of market forces and partisan sensibilities that are further chipping away at the post-Watergate pre-eminence of a more dispassionate approach.”

3. “Papa’s Gift to the Fire-in-the-Belly Crowd”

“Robert Jordan is the hero of Ernest Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls, an American fighting Franco’s Fascists in the Spanish Civil War. And despite his radical roots, he’s a literary sensation during this election season. Senator Barack Obama told Rolling Stone that Hemingway’s novel, published in 1940, is one of the three books that most inspired him. As for Senator John McCain, few men, real or fictional, have influenced him as much as Jordan.”

4. “The Sociology of Success”

“Although the individuals that Mr. Gladwell cites are exceptional, their success, he argues, does not flow from their natural gifts but from their unusual cultural legacies, the uncanny opportunities that come their way, and their really, really hard work.”

5. “Stripping the Spy Down to His Manners”

“But there he was in normal jeans, his arm in a sling from recent shoulder surgery. He was wearing a thick cardigan that, truth be told, walked a sensitive line between doofusy and stylish. He was, of course, unfairly attractive anyway, in his craggy, lived-in, blue-eyed way, but not so much as to render anyone speechless or unable to operate a notebook.”

6. “A Curious Life, From Old Age to Cradle”

“Suddenly and unaccountably, here is The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, a big-budget studio film, set to open Christmas Day, whose central theme is human mortality, a theme the film explores using the same special effects technology, now extended into the digital realm, that American movies have used for so long to keep us trapped in perpetual childhood.”

7. “The Cold War Sci-Fi Parable That Fell to Earth”

“According to Lou Cannon, one of Ronald Reagan’s biographers, Reagan was so stirred by the notion that extraterrestrial invasion would trump national differences that he floated the scenario upon meeting Mikhail Gorbachev at Geneva in 1985. This departure from script flummoxed Reagan’s staff — not to mention the Soviet general secretary. Mr. Cannon writes that, well acquainted with what he called the president’s interest in ‘little green men,’ Colin L. Powell, at the time the national security adviser, was convinced that the proposal had been inspired by The Day the Earth Stood Still. Reagan revisited the idea two years later in a speech at the United Nations: ‘I occasionally think how quickly our differences worldwide would vanish if we were facing an alien threat from outside this world.’”

8. “How to Read Like a President”

“McCain and Obama are so different in so many ways, but they do share one thing: a kind of tragic sensibility. Judging from the books they cite as most important, they embrace hope but recognize the reality that life is unlikely to conform to our wishes.”

9. “Just Leave Them Behind”

“Even if we grant his hypothesis — that only a relatively few children are capable of high academic achievement — can we identify for a certainty which ones they are, especially among the underprivileged and those who are academically disadvantaged before they set foot in school? And do we want to live in an Aldous Huxley world where our place in the pecking order is more or less predetermined?”

10. “Happiness Is a Warm Football Coach”

“The leading coaches tend toward paranoia, closing their practices lest any spies catch a glimpse of their secret plays. They wall off their players and themselves to avoid distraction and concentrate on the grim task at hand. Carroll, by method and temperament, is an oddball. He builds into each week’s game preparation a certain amount of hilarity — what he calls ‘giddiness.’ He embraces distraction and makes it his ally.”

11. “The Affluencer”

“Terrible if you’re living it, great if you’re watching it — that is one of the basic formulas for reality TV, a genre that has been wildly popular for years, if never exactly hip. Zalaznick’s innovation has been to take this form of mass entertainment and make it boutique and chic, aiming for a small but young and affluent audience, the kind that advertisers covet.”

One response to “11.2.2008 New York Times Digest

  1. I enjoy all your quotes from the Sunday Times. In reading the article about Zalanick (sp?) I was struck by her hypocrisy–it’s only a job to her, yet she has the arrogance to believe that she is influencing “culture” by knowing answers to trivia questions about movies, when what she is really doing is amplifying a synthetic culture and persuading others to believe that an industry-generated culture is the real thing.

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