6.28.2009 New York Times Digest

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1. “A Sequined Glove That Mesmerized the World”

“It was impossible to look away from him — not when he was a dimpled child singer crowned with a pillowy Afro, not when he became a pop demigod uniformed in rhinestones and epaulets to command what were always referred to as his armies of fans, and not when his surgical transformations mirrored back to the culture the blurring of boundaries demarcating adulthood, sex and even race.”

2. “Political Shifts on Gay Rights Lag Behind Culture”

“‘America is changing more quickly than the government,’ said Linda Ketner, a gay Democrat from South Carolina who came within four percentage points of winning a Congressional seat in November. ‘They are lagging behind the crowd. But if I remember my poli sci from college, isn’t that the way it always works?'”

3. “‘Moveable Feast’ Is Recast by Hemingway Grandson”

“Scholars are clear that this new edition should not be regarded as definitive any more than the 1964 version. ‘This book can’t become a sacred text,’ said Ann Douglas, a professor of literature at Columbia University, adding that ‘there can be no final text because there is not one.'”

4. “Revenge by Being Louder”

“Of all the daily discourtesies we endure, none to me is more irksome than headphone leak. You know, that treble-drenched drone emanating from iPods halfway down the subway car. What puzzles me is why people do not complain more often, why we don’t rise up in numbers and insist these people turn their music down, or else. Where is Howard Beale when we need him?”

5. “Sound of Silence: The Culture Wars Take a Break”

“Today, the term culture war is a catchall for disputed matters of religion and conscience, lifestyle and social norms. The key issues are abortion, same-sex marriage, stem-cell research. Conservatives like Ms. Palin are in many instances populist evangelicals at odds with elites, whether on campuses or within the media. But Mr. Bennett and Mrs. Cheney were themselves intellectuals engaged in a different culture war, centered on universities and colleges.”

6. “After Jackson, Fame May Never Be the Same”

“When will another pop culture figure mean so much to so many that people are moved to assemble, hug and dance?”

7. “I Love You, Man (as a Friend)”

“The kinship between gay men and straight women is familiar to the point of cliché (see: Sex and the City, Will and Grace, Kathy Griffin’s audience, etc.), but friendships between gay and straight men have barely registered on the pop culture radar, perhaps because they resist easy classification.”

8. “The Adult Store Goes Mainstream”

“Vibrators are now sold at Wal-Mart, 7-Eleven and CVS; new Internet sites for sex products feature middle-aged models and aim at mainstream couples. Several companies market sex toys to women as young as sorority sisters and as old as postmenopausal golden girls through Tupperware-style home parties.”

9. “Dillinger Captured by Dogged Filmmaker!”

“Like Mr. Burrough and Mr. Mann, Mr. Misher was an aficionado of the era. ‘The cars are cool, the guns are cool, the girls are beautiful, the guys are dressed’ in sharp suits, he said. ‘It has much more cool factor than just a quaint sepia-toned history.'”

10. “After a Pause, Maxwell’s Music Is Set to Play”

“Defying advice about career momentum, ignoring pressure from his record company and either refusing or feeling unable to treat his music like an assembly-line commodity, he broke the rhythm of his recording and touring schedule and tamped down his celebrity. ‘I needed a break,’ he said, ‘I was like half of a human being in some ways.'”

11. “Toil and Trouble”

“If de Botton were genuinely concerned that work today lacks meaning, surely here was an opportunity to ask questions. But is he worried that work today lacks meaning? Or just that some work means more to other people than he thinks it should?”

12. “Practice, Practice, Practice”

“Masters was married at the time, and Johnson was dating a judge. But so what? Their near-nightly sex was part of their work ethic.”

13. “Reading to Live”

“A product of Manhattan private schools and Princeton, Beha seems an unlikely candidate for such earnest self-­improvement. But like the working masses who were Eliot’s intended audience, he was desperately seeking a retreat from the mundane. At 27 he was the picture of aimless youth: a struggling writer, marginally employed and grievously in debt. Searching for salvation, or at least something to do, he pledged on a lonely New Year’s Eve to spend the next 12 months reading the Harvard Classics, which had long been gathering dust in his parents’ library.”

14. “The Overextended Family”

“To Skype or not to Skype, that is the question. But answering it invokes a larger conundrum: how to perform triage on the communication technologies that seem to multiply like Tribbles — instant messaging, texting, cellphones, softphones, iChat, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter; how to distinguish among those that will truly enhance intimacy, those that result in T.M.I. and those that, though pitching greater connectedness, in fact further disconnect us from the people we love.”

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