1.10.2010 New York Times Digest

1. “The Perils of ‘Contact Me'”

“In Annie Hall, Alvy Singer produced the real live Marshall McLuhan to support a point about McLuhan’s work. Some years earlier, Holden Caulfield memorably observed, ‘What really knocks me out is a book that, when you’re all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it.’ At this moment in time, when it’s easier to find a writer without a MacBook than one without a Web page (complete with a ‘Contact Me’ tab), Alvy’s and Holden’s fantasies have come true. And this is, of course, as a result of e-mail.”

2. “A Fox Chief at the Pinnacle of Media and Politics”

“This outsize success has placed Mr. Ailes, an aggressive former Republican political strategist, at the pinnacle of power in three corridors of American life: business, media and politics.”

3. “Recession Spurs Interest in Graduate, Law Schools”

“When job creation slows, there’s an increase in the number of people who pursue a graduate degree.”

4. “The New Age Cavemen and the City”

“Most of the cavemen at Mr. Durant’s gatherings are lean and well-muscled, and have glowing skin. A few wear trim beards. Some claim that they no longer get sick. Several identify themselves as libertarians.”

5. “Multicultural Critical Theory. At B-School?”

“Learning how to think critically — how to imaginatively frame questions and consider multiple perspectives — has historically been associated with a liberal arts education, not a business school curriculum, so this change represents something of a tectonic shift for business school leaders.”

6. “Failing Like a Buggy Whip Maker? Better Check Your Simile”

“Buggy whips, used to prod the horses harnessed to wagons and carriages, started to become obsolete when automobiles appeared in the late 19th century. Today, any line of business facing the life-or-death challenge of a digital age will be described, sooner or later, as a contemporary buggy whip maker.”

7. “The Children of Cyberspace: Old Fogies by Their 20s”

“The ever-accelerating pace of technological change may be minting a series of mini-generation gaps, with each group of children uniquely influenced by the tech tools available in their formative stages of development.”

8. “The Work of War, at a Fever Pitch”

“Like Peckinpah, Ms. Bigelow is brilliant at both delivering and dissecting male violence, which is why The Hurt Locker is at once so pleasurable and disturbing. You thrill to the violence even as you understand its horror, and your horror is doubled because you are thrilled.”

9. “Boy and Beasts, Human and Not”

“Children’s entertainment these days tends to swerve between treacly sentiment and sugar-rush rambunctiousness, but few movies embrace the aggression and passion of childhood as ardently or accurately as Wild Things.”

10. “Being Clooney: Not as Easy as It Looks”

“Movie-star performing is a peculiar, poorly understood subset of the art of acting: it relies on a certain constancy of personality, on the ability to seem at all times as if you were simply playing yourself and to give the audience the illusion that they, somehow, know you — you the person, not just you the character.”

11. “3-D’s Quest to Move Beyond Gimmicks”

“If 3-D takes hold, it won’t be the exclusive doing of Avatar, but the result of a long series of small technological steps and tiny adjustments in audience expectations.”

12. “No More Que Será Será: Give Day Her Due”

“She made the annual exhibitors’ poll of Top 10 box office stars eight years in a row, and in four of those she held the No. 1 position. She excelled in frothy light comedies that people in the awards business don’t pay much attention to, though these kinds of pictures are often at the heart of why so many people go to the movies. She is Doris Day, and there is no one more deserving of a special Oscar.”

13. “More Perfect”

“Mississippi did not ratify the 13th Amendment, the one that abolished slavery, until 1995.”

14. “Houston, We Have a Problem”

“In Biddle’s view, von Braun escaped from the sphere of moral judgment with the help of the American authorities, who wanted to employ him in the missile and space programs. Biddle’s aim is to make him answerable, if only posthumously, for what he did. And he has a more general point to make, too: scientists and engineers, by claiming to be ‘apolitical,’ often escape being held to account for what they help to produce. In other words, von Braun is an egregious example of a more general phenomenon.”

15. “Home Tool”

“For a century and a half, Mary Wollstonecraft types have tried to empower women to leave the home to work, shop, teach, learn, lead. Instead, without even marking the moment, we superempowered the home.”

16. “The Americanization of Mental Illness”

“For more than a generation now, we in the West have aggressively spread our modern knowledge of mental illness around the world. We have done this in the name of science, believing that our approaches reveal the biological basis of psychic suffering and dispel prescientific myths and harmful stigma. There is now good evidence to suggest that in the process of teaching the rest of the world to think like us, we’ve been exporting our Western ‘symptom repertoire’ as well. That is, we’ve been changing not only the treatments but also the expression of mental illness in other cultures. Indeed, a handful of mental-health disorders — depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and anorexia among them — now appear to be spreading across cultures with the speed of contagious diseases. These symptom clusters are becoming the lingua franca of human suffering, replacing indigenous forms of mental illness.”

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