11.29.2009 New York Times Digest

1. “Google’s Earth”

“Have you not glanced at Street View in Google Maps? Have you not relied on the humble aid of the search-box calculator, or checked out Google’s movie showtimes, or marveled at the quick-and-dirtiness of Google Translate? Have you not made interesting recherché 19th-century discoveries in Google Books? Or played with the amazing expando-charts in Google Finance? Have you not designed a strange tall house in Google SketchUp, and did you not make a sudden cry of awed delight the first time you saw the planet begin to turn and loom closer in Google Earth? Are you not signed up for automatic Google News alerts on several topics? I would be very surprised if you are not signed up for a Google alert or two.”

2. “A Reality TV Head Count”

“There may be as many as 1,000 reality participants on television at any given moment.”

3. “A Director Who Gives Business the Business”

“All the airports kind of feel and look the same now. Some are more beautiful, some are less beautiful, but for the most part you’re going to find a Starbucks in every airport. You’re going to get your coffee and the USA Today or New York Times in every airport. All the things that you want are there, so you can land anywhere, and you feel at home. You’re given the sense that you’re everywhere, but you’re nowhere; that you are constantly with your community, yet you have no community. There’s kind of a terrific irony to that.”

4. “Intimate Ella Fitzgerald, Rediscovered”

“There’s nothing rare about a joyous Ella Fitzgerald recording; the woman exuded joy in nearly every note she sang. Yet the level on these sessions soared higher and plumbed deeper.”

5. “Voluptuary Stuck in a Box”

“Between 1930 and 1941 he directed 20 feature films, including the hit spooky-movie classics Frankenstein (1931), The Invisible Man (1933), and Bride of Frankenstein (1935); a lone musical, Show Boat (1936); and the period swashbuckler The Man in the Iron Mask (1939). And then he quit.”

6. “Talent Beloved and Hairdos Admired”

“He’s obsessed with [performing oral sex]. I think that’s really cool and really girl-positive in a way. I think for hip-hop that’s really rad.”

7. “Walking Into the Earth’s Heart: The Grand Canyon”

“When we eventually managed to park, and walked to the rim, the scale of the sight off the edge was so great it was hard to muster a response. It was so vast, and so familiar from innumerable pictures, it might just as well have been a picture.”

8. “Chicago’s Great Culinary Middle Ground”

“The extremes have long been the best places to eat in Chicago: the city is home to some of the world’s finest temples of haute gastronomy as well as its greatest collection of hot dog stands. But the middle ground – the world between the direct pleasure of a salty, snappy dog and the epic degustation menus at the city’s fanciest restaurants – has been a notable absence. No more.”

9. “36 Hours in Austin, Tex.”

“As long as Austinites keep decorating their bodies and cars, we’re going to be fine.”

10. “Please Mr. Postman”

“Mallon heads off — at long last — on an astute, exhilarating tour of the mailbag, one that has only acquired greater flavor while he was off writing novels and checking his e-mail these last 10 years. He quotes a 1928 chronicler: ‘The history of postal service has been the history of civilization,’ a statement that anyone who has lived in a country with three mail deliveries a day (or been starved to death by five a week) knows to be true. And of course whole historical periods and inner lives have been extracted and resurrected from letters.”

11. “A Professionally Funny Family”

“Multigenerational acting families are not unusual (Barrymores, Douglases, Bridgeses), but the comedy gene seems to strike one link at a time. What did the Marx Brothers’ children do? Or Jack Benny’s? Or members of any other prominent comedian’s family?”

12. “Women Who Want to Want”

“More than by any other sexual problem — the elusiveness of orgasm, say, or pain during sex — women feel plagued by low desire.”

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