2.21.2010 New York Times Digest

1. “When There Were Arts Olympians”

“Who knew that Walter Winans, a Russian-born aristocrat who maintained United States citizenship despite living mostly abroad, was the only Olympian to win medals in both sporting and cultural competition in the same Olympiad?”

2. “The Surreal World of Chatroulette”

“Entering Chatroulette is akin to speed-dating tens of thousands of perfect strangers — some clothed, some not.”

3. “Our Low-Tech Tax Code”

“Section 1706 is an example of how Congress enacted a discriminatory law that hurt thousands of technology consultants, their staffing firms and customers. And despite strong bipartisan efforts and unbiased studies supporting that law’s repeal, it remains on the books.”

4. “The Birth of Cheap Communication (and Junk Mail)”

“Home delivery routes would go by every house 12 times a day — yes, 12. In 1889, for example, the first delivery began about 7:30 a.m. and the last one at about 7:30 p.m. In major cities like Birmingham by the end of the century, home routes were run six times a day.”

5. “A Midstream Switch to Teaching”

“I love teaching, but I was surprised at the amount of planning it takes to keep lessons fresh. I also didn’t realize that you’re performing in the classroom, giving 45-minute presentations, almost all day. Then you do it again, day after day.”

6. “That Unmistakable Streepness”

“Sandwiched between the endlessly mythologized Golden Age of ’70s New Hollywood and the now almost equally sentimentalized decade of the American Indies, the ’80s are comparatively bereft of nostalgic movie-fan affection or revisionist critical love. And yet the respectable films of that era may represent the last gasp of a noble middlebrow ideal. They were ambitious, unapologetically commercial projects intended for the entertainment and edification of grown-up audiences, neither self-consciously provocative nor timidly inoffensive.”

7. “Sound Logic”

“It’s intriguing that both Avatar and The Hurt Locker have built otherworldly environments in which humans are intoxicated — in part by being deprived of oxygen. You can hear this danger much better than you can see it, and it falls to sound editors to exploit its dimensions. What a great challenge in moviemaking: the various sounds of breath — gasping, sighing, speaking, expiring — may be film’s first and most consequential sound effect.”

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