9.27.2009 New York Times Digest

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1. “The College Calculation”

“How much does a college education – the actual teaching and learning that happens on campus – really matter?”

2. “Share the Moment and Spread the Wealth”

“In the last century, traditional media organizations hustled to get their product in front of the chatty elites; news magazines, for example, hand-delivered copies over the weekend to politicians and to other media. In the age of Twitter and Facebook, anyone can become a chatty elite, the social director of his or her own private admiration society. The hand-delivered copy has morphed into a Web article’s ‘share to Facebook’ button.”

3. “Jim Carroll’s Long Way Home”

“‘My self-sabotaging tendencies in all aspects of my life, along with the validation needs you referenced, go without saying.'”

4. “Bike-Seat Philosopher”

“The book … is partly about cycling but also about whatever Byrne happens to have on his mind at the time, and fortunately a lot of it is quite interesting.”

5. “Side by Side”

Dancing in the Dark is old-school cultural history, with a whiff of Matthew Arnold and the best that has been thought and said. Well before he gets to Woody Guthrie, Dickstein signals with his title a keen interest in popular song (he’s a big fan of Bing Crosby’s recording of Howard Dietz and Arthur Schwartz’s ballad). He also looks at photographs and design and mentions dance and painting. But his principal focus is on books and movies, and his bias is in favor of high art. ‘I made no effort to cover everything,’ he writes in his preface; he chose instead to concentrate on ‘unusually complex, enduring works.'”

6. “When Writers Speak”

“When the German naturalist Alexander von Humboldt told a friend, a Parisian doctor, that he wanted to meet a certifiable lunatic, he was invited to the doctor’s home for supper. A few days later, Humboldt found himself placed at the dinner table between two men. One was polite, somewhat reserved, and didn’t go in for small talk. The other, dressed in ill-matched clothes, chattered away on every subject under the sun, gesticulating wildly, while making horrible faces. When the meal was over, Humboldt turned to his host. ‘I like your lunatic,’ he whispered, indicating the talkative man. The host frowned. ‘But it’s the other one who’s the lunatic. The man you’re pointing to is Monsieur Honoré de Balzac.'”

7. “Big Man on Campus”

“The stories of my compensation are greatly exaggerated.”

8. “Texas Two-Step”

“Austin has always been brainy, lazy, eccentric, ornery and both liberal and libertarian. Can we keep from becoming either money-mad or, worse yet, merely bohemian? Can we steer a course between Dallas and Williamsburg, Brooklyn?”

9. “Custom of the Country”

“‘There is a common sense to beautiful things.'”

10. “Justin Theroux: Star Trekker”

“So where does he want to go next? ‘North Korea – it feels like the weirdest place to go.'”

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