4.19.2009 New York Times Digest

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“1. Let Them Eat Tweets”

“Only the poor — defined broadly as those without better options — are obsessed with their connections. Anyone with a strong soul or a fat wallet turns his ringer off for good and cultivates private gardens that keep the hectic Web far away. The man of leisure, Sterling suggested, savors solitude, or intimacy with friends, presumably surrounded by books and film and paintings and wine and vinyl — original things that stay where they are and cannot be copied and corrupted and shot around the globe with a few clicks of a keyboard.”

2. “Make Room, Cynics; MTV Wants to Do Some Good”

“After years of celebrating wealth, celebrity and the vapid excesses of youth, MTV is trying to gloss its escapist entertainment with a veneer of positive social messages.”

3. “Recklessly Seeking Sex on Craigslist”

“Like bathhouses and sex clubs, the Casual Encounters section caters to the erotic underbelly of society, where courtship gives way to expediency and anonymity is a virtue (or at least a turn-on).”

4. “To Be Young, Rapping and White”

“He’s nimble and witty and self-effacing. And while his slightly nasal, clipped intonation is similar to Eminem’s, it’s hard to mistake the two. Eminem is a hyper, frenzied rapper, tension woven deep into his violent fantasies. By contrast, even when Mr. Roth is rapping aggressively, he still sounds calm and untroubled. Listen more closely, and there are deeper differences at play: the working class versus the middle class, the abandoned versus the nurtured, the outsider versus the assimilated.”

5. “The Artful Codger”

“Mr. Said’s last book, unfinished and published posthumously, was a collection of essays, On Late Style: Music and Literature Against the Grain, that examined the later works of writers and composers to see what they can tell us about the creative process as an artist begins to see the shadows lengthen. His conclusion, surprisingly, is that late style, far from being the serene product of accumulated wisdom and insight, is sometimes cranky and petulant and frequently displays ‘intransigence, difficulty and unresolved contradiction,” even an impatience with “coherent sense.’”

6. “Crowd Forms Against an Algorithm”

“It wasn’t the first time that a technological failure or an addled algorithm has spurred accusations of political or social bias. Nor is it likely to be the last. Cataloging by its very nature is an act involving human judgment, and as such has been a source of controversy at least since the Dewey Decimal System of the 19th century. Today, the Internet is built on complex algorithms that categorize things and that are inevitably imperfect.”

7. “Lit Critics Who Peer Under the Covers”

“Scholars and students in all sorts of disciplines have incorporated its ideas, using the theory as just another analytical tool in their kit. At the same time, it remains a symbol of wacky, out-of-touch academics.”

8. “I Will Survive”

“If all the skills Strauss touches on were spelled out in a duplicable way, you might actually want to shove the book into your BOB (that’s survivalist for ‘bug-out bag’) just before the eotwawki (End of the World as We Know It). Instead, Strauss uses the manual conceit as a way to explore survivalist culture and track his own transformation from skill-less writer into Capable Real Man.”

9. “Deconstructing Princeton”

“I was a confused young opportunist trying to turn his confusion to his advantage by sucking up to scholars of confusion. The literary works they prized — the ones best suited to their project of refining and hallowing confusion — were, quite naturally, knotty and oblique.”

10. “A Classic Reborn”

“In the excess-happy 1980s, Munari’s suggestions — that expensive utensils be tossed in favor of chopsticks or that a lamp should actually look like a lamp — seemed curmudgeonly. Now his preoccupations look a lot like our own: furniture must be constructed so that ‘out of a flat box comes a three-dimensional object’ (the flatpack); a designer should study ‘the structures of nature, observing the evolution of forms’ (biomimicry); the designer should always be prepared to ‘step down from his pedestal’ and ‘make a sign for a butcher’s shop’ (recession).”

11. “Singing the Brews”

“Other tourists brought home leather goods and illegal mortadella, but I packed two Bialettis, the stovetop icon of Italy and the key to making the same excellent espresso pulled by baristas on the Via Tuscolana.”

12. “Pulp Friction”

“In the midst of a crippling recession, who has the time and energy to care about the package their orange juice comes in?”

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