5.24.2009 New York Times Digest

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1. “The Case for Working With Your Hands”

“After finishing a Ph.D. in political philosophy at the University of Chicago in 2000, I managed to stay on with a one-year postdoctoral fellowship at the university’s Committee on Social Thought. The academic job market was utterly bleak. In a state of professional panic, I retreated to a makeshift workshop I set up in the basement of a Hyde Park apartment building, where I spent the winter tearing down an old Honda motorcycle and rebuilding it. The physicality of it, and the clear specificity of what the project required of me, was a balm.”

2. “Billups Reaches Heights in Return to Colorado”

“Unlike Iverson, he elevated the play of those around him. His maturity was contagious, demonstrated in everything from Anthony’s on-court effort to the team’s off-court makeover. Suits are the norm, not baggy pants and untucked shirts. Camaraderie, not individualism, is the cherished trait. Billups won the N.B.A.’s sportsmanship award this season. No more Thuggets.”

3. “Griffey’s Return to Mariners Has Re-Energized Suzuki”

“Elementary school children hissed when Suzuki, the face of Seattle’s franchise, had a coach speak for him during a 15-minute talk on life values. Suzuki sat motionless, quiet, detached. He was the only one of a contingent of Mariners not in team gear. He left by a side door with a wave, his back to the room.”

4. “For This Guru, No Question Is Too Big”

“He’s looking for four intangibles: smart, curious, willing to death-march (‘there has to be something in their background that indicates that they just will die before they would fail to complete something to perfection’) and some spark of irreverence (‘because it’s in that fertile conversation of disagreement where the best ideas come, or at least the best ideas get tested’).”

5. “New Puzzles That Tell Humans From Machines”

“‘Machines’ abilities are slowly improving,’ he said, ‘but I think there is still a huge gap between human inborn perceptual abilities and machine skills.'”

6. “Do Studios Need Help Finding Audiences?”

“Every few years, a market research firm — usually a star in its primary field — sashays into the movie capital with big promises about building a better mousetrap and little understanding of the industry’s culture and process. Cut to fangs from filmmakers.”

7. “The Coming Superbrain”

“The science fiction author Ken MacLeod described the idea of the singularity as ‘the Rapture of the nerds.'”

8. “Back by Popular Demand”

“‘We are now in an age of nice,’ said Eric G. Wilson, an English professor at Wake Forest University, who, as the author of Against Happiness: In Praise of Melancholy, qualifies as a professional curmudgeon.”

9. “Get Clean, Come Back: Eminem’s Return”

“‘I talked to my son about it,’ said Dr. Dre, ‘and he was like: “The kids want to hear him act the fool. We want to hear him be crazy, we want to hear him be Slim Shady and nothing else.”’”

10. “Faking It”

“In one respect, Kirn lucked out: his college years coincided with the ascendancy of ‘theory’ in American academia. Since hardly anybody understood the deconstructionists to begin with, it was that much easier for Kirn to bluff his way through, powered by bravado alone. Better yet, theory was intent on proving the illegitimacy of all those great books he’d never read. ‘We skipped straight from ignorance to revisionism,’ he writes of his cohort, ‘deconstructing a body of literary knowledge that we’d never constructed in the first place.'”

11. “The Wordsmith”

“I’m not a policy person. I’m a language person.”

12. “A Prom Divided”

“All students are welcome at the black prom, though generally few if any white students show up. The white prom, students say, remains governed by a largely unspoken set of rules about who may come.”

13. “Heeeere’s . . . Conan!!!”

“‘In entertainment, you have to stake out what you think is right, you have to put out that signal, make sure it’s pure and then do it and do it and do it and know that they will come. And if they don’t, you have to pack up your bags and say: “I enjoyed my time here. Sorry it didn’t work out.” But the biggest mistake would be to alter my signal to make sure that I reach all these different people. Because then you’re lost.'”

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