4.25.2010 New York Times Digest

1. “The National Agenda”

“The air smelled of unchanged flannel shirts and uneasy expectations.”

2. “In Luxury Watches, Beauty Is More Than Skin Deep”

“Men wear these costly watches to gain prestige. You are signaling ‘we are alike’ to other people of similar status who can recognize the value of the watch.”

3. “A Yoga Manifesto”

“The irony is that yoga, and spiritual ideals for which it stands, have become the ultimate commodity.”

4. “A Little Too Ready for Her Close-Up?”

“In small but significant numbers, filmmakers and casting executives are beginning to re-examine Hollywood’s attitude toward breast implants, Botox, collagen-injected lips and all manner of plastic surgery.”

5. “You Can Judge a Book by Its Movie”

“It has recently become axiomatic that film criticism is in crisis. The truth is that outside of the mainstream media world, where reviewers are increasingly disposable, film criticism is doing fine. Academic programs continue to churn out professors who continue to assign books by Bordwell and Thompson that open eyes, ears and minds, and sometimes rock worlds.”

6. “Faking West, Going East”

“The rest of the world regarded Americans as a mob of barbarians who happened to live on top of a mother lode of precious minerals, fertile land, inexhaustible woodlands and waterways galore … but were as uncouth as they were rich … and spoke in barbaric yawps. This improbable yobbo, Mark Twain, had risen up from the buried life of the mines and the boiler rooms and done an amazing thing. He had turned the local yokel’s yawping yodels into … literature!”

7. “Muriel Spark: Playing God”

“Spark, a late bloomer, didn’t publish her first novel, The Comforters, until 1957, when she was 39. It was based in part on a nervous breakdown she had suffered a few years earlier, brought on, apparently, by eating poorly, reading the complete works of Cardinal Newman and popping Dexedrine until she began to believe that T.S. Eliot was sending her threatening messages.”

8. “Hitting Rewind on the Cassette Tape”

“The medium, crummy as it was, gave listeners a modicum of control. Some of that control had to do with portability – you could obsessively listen to your favorite artists without being yoked to a record player. The PopMatters essay noted that the Walkman let music fans escape into a mobile and private listening world; I would say the boombox and the car cassette deck were just as important in creating mobile and social ones. But using these tools to hear a custom-built musical sequence meant even more.”

9. “Mind Over Meds”

“In the first half of the 20th century, American psychiatry was virtually ‘brainless.’ In the second half of the 20th century, psychiatry became virtually ‘mindless.'”

10. “Objects of Accumulation”

“My parents bought the house in 1960 and started filling it with furniture, art, books, LPs, photos, china, silver, crystal, keepsakes and, yes, black rotary phones as heavy as anvils. Memories attached to all of it. And all of it had to go somewhere.”

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