1.25.2009 New York Times Digest

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1. “Confessions of a TED Addict”

“I started with the 10 most popular. If you do that, you could form the impression that TED talkers are nutcase bullies like the self-help entrepreneur Tony Robbins, who gave a menacing, abrasive performance in ‘Why We Do What We Do, and How We Can Do It Better.’ Boasting about his renegade ways, he gunned through a series of piggish sophistries, only to fault fellow TEDster Al Gore — who was sitting in the front row, no less — for not making an emotional connection with the American electorate.”

2. “Green-Light Specials, Now at Wal-Mart”

“For decades, many consumers felt that going green was a luxury, too, reserved primarily for those with enough money — and time on their hands — to buy groceries at natural food stores and organic clothing from specialty retailers. Today, the roughly 200 million customers who pass through Wal-Mart’s doors each year buy fluorescent light bulbs that use up to 75 percent less electricity than incandescent bulbs, concentrated laundry detergent that uses 50 percent less water and prescription drugs that contain 50 percent less packaging.”

3. “Microsoft Songsmith Is Easy (if Painful to Hear)”

“‘Notes on “Camp”,’ the 1964 essay by Susan Sontag, identifies a category of art that isn’t campy, just ‘bad to the point of being laughable, but not bad to the point of being enjoyable.’ The Songsmith video is exactly that.”

4. “Outlaws at the Art Museum (and Not for a Heist)”

“It is not Mr. Fairey’s maiden voyage into the museum world…. But the portrait gallery’s decision is arguably the establishment’s most public embrace of a quintessentially anti-establishment brand of art.”

5. “Is That You, Sherlock?”

“Sure, he will still be smarter than everyone within a three-planet radius, and he will retain his uncanny ability to intuit whole life stories from the tiniest speck of dust on a shoe. But he will do those things while being a man of action, a chaser, shooter and pummeler of criminals — ‘like James Bond in 1891,’ Joel Silver, one of the film’s producers, said last fall.”

6. “Cinema’s Sisterhood of Spookiness”

“Every teenager’s mind is a haunted house.”

7. “The Image Is Erotic. But Is It Art?”

“Unlike the women in Roy Lichtenstein’s paintings, Mr. Ramos’s sirens were not just enlarged, slightly modified copies of comic-book images. His innovation was to model their bodies on those of real women — movie stars like Jane Russell and Marilyn Monroe or anonymous magazine models. So despite their nonrealistic comic style, Mr. Ramos’s women had an erotic presence that comic-book women of the day never had.”

8. “Sad Men”

The ‘constant fear of being exposed, cut out or outsourced,’ he argues, ‘is the principal pathos of the era.’”

9. “Long Time Passing”

“Presenting ‘narratives about white people who either envision themselves or are envisioned by others as being or becoming black,’ and drawing on examples ranging from Twain’s Pudd’nhead Wilson to the sophomoric genre film Soul Man, she argues that the appropriation of black identity by whites — both literally and metaphorically — has been a potent strain in American culture for centuries.”

10. “Breath of Thought”

“The Age of Categories is dead. Strangely, it never went by that name, or any name. Also curious is the fact that its boundaries are unclear: it overlapped the Age of Enlightenment, the Age of Reason and some others, but succumbed to the atomizing atmosphere of the Information Age. Knowledge, it held, went hand in hand with nomenclature and delineation. As science developed, branches formed. Elemental to the college and university were academic departments, each of which came surrounded by high walls. A datum was deemed to fit within the confines of chemistry or sociology or the history of spoons or whatever, and that was more or less that. Now we perceive the limitations of those old categories and scoff; we value multidisciplinarianism and genre-bending. The life of the mind is more chaotic, but also more exhilarating.”

11. “See the Web Site, Buy the Book”

“In recent years, as publishing houses have encouraged writers to create a robust online presence, a new team of experts has emerged.”

12. “What Do Women Want?”

“Earlier, she showed me, as a joke, a photograph of two control panels, one representing the workings of male desire, the second, female, the first with only a simple on-off switch, the second with countless knobs. ‘Women want to be thrown up against a wall but not truly endangered. Women want a caveman and caring. If I had to pick an actor who embodies all the qualities, all the contradictions, it would be Denzel Washington. He communicates that kind of power and that he is a good man.’”

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