1.17.2010 New York Times Digest

1. “The Coast of Dystopia”

“California has always been as much a state of mind as a state of the Union. Other places have sunshine. Other places have beaches. Other places even have decent organic produce, or so they say. But California promises something more: transformation. The state is the repository of America’s frontier spirit, the notion that a better life is possible for anyone who wants it, regardless of the circumstances of her birth. You can leave your past at the border and reinvent yourself here — whether as a film director, a high-tech entrepreneur, a Pilates instructor or simply a person who deserves a second chance (though, admittedly, the same mentality has been responsible for an overabundance of cults, serial killers and idiosyncratic drivers).”

2. “Officials Strain to Distribute Aid to Haiti as Violence Rises”

“Countries around the world were responding to Haiti’s call for help as never before. And they are flooding the country with supplies and relief workers that its collapsed infrastructure and nonfunctioning government are in no position to handle.”

3. “NBC’s Slide to Troubled Nightly Punch Line”

“When David Sarnoff, the founder of NBC, then a part of the Radio Corporation of America, stood at the New York World’s Fair in 1939 in Flushing Meadows to introduce television to the world, he said: ‘It is with a feeling of humbleness that I come to this moment of announcing the birth in this country of a new art so important in its implications that it is bound to affect all society. It is an art which shines like a torch of hope in a troubled world. It is a creative force which we must learn to utilize for the benefit of all mankind.'”

4. “Forget Gum. Walking and Using Phone Is Risky.”

“Distracted driving has gained much attention lately because of the inflated crash risk posed by drivers using cellphones to talk and text. But there is another growing problem caused by lower-stakes multitasking — distracted walking — which combines a pedestrian, an electronic device and an unseen crack in the sidewalk, the pole of a stop sign, a toy left on the living room floor or a parked (or sometimes moving) car.”

5. “A Good Decade to Have a Drink”

“Building upon the work of Dale DeGroff, the former Rainbow Room bartender, young bartenders, casting aside process mixers, were gleaning inspiration from their counterparts in restaurant kitchens and perusing antique cocktail books like scholars combing the Dead Sea scrolls.”

6. “On Vacation and Looking for Wi-Fi”

“Now, we keep up on vacation, we keep up on weekends (my incoming work e-mail suggests we also keep up past midnight on weekdays). And on Monday morning, we hit the ground running. These days, rarely do I receive one of those automated e-mail responses saying, ‘Sorry I’m on vacation, I’ll answer when I return.’ We expect ourselves to be available.”

7. “Declaration of Indies: Just Sell It Yourself!”

“By sharing information and building on one another’s ideas, they are in effect creating a virtual infrastructure. This infrastructure doesn’t compete with Hollywood; this isn’t about vying with products released by multinational corporations. It is instead about the creation and sustenance of a viable, artist-based alternative — one that, at this stage, looks markedly different from what has often been passed off as independent cinema over the past 20 years.”

8. “The Reader”

“Academic writers are often inhibited when it comes to speaking directly, possibly because they were all little goody-goodies in junior high school, and they’re being massed together in university departments, and when you put all the smartest kids in the class together, there’s a tremendous anxiety about whether one can live up to the seriousness of the enterprise.”

9. “Movie Misquotations”

“Over the last century or so, movie quotations, like pop-music lyrics, have come to replace Biblical verses and Shakespearean couplets as our cultural lingua franca, our common store of wit and wisdom. Yet many of the most frequently cited motion-picture lines turn out to be misquotations.”

10. “Making Art Out of an Encounter”

“His overcoat long ago parted company with its lining. In the six months since we first met, I have usually seen him in the same black jeans, black one-button pullover and white sneakers. My initial impression was that this was a man who was completely careless about his appearance, but I eventually concluded that the scrupulous inattention to wardrobe and grooming was of a piece with his refusal to fly on airplanes (visiting America from his home in Berlin, he travels by ship) or to carry a cellphone. More to the point, this conspicuous avoidance of unnecessary consumption conforms to the credo that underlies his work. Sehgal makes art that does not require the transformation of any materials. He refuses to add objects to a society that he says is overly encumbered with them.”

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