7.4.2010 New York Times Digest

1. “America, Illustrated”

“It is true that his work, for the most part, does not acknowledge social hardships or injustice. It does not offer a sustained meditation on heartbreak or death. Yet why should it? Idealization has been a reputable tradition in art at least since the days when the Greeks put up the Parthenon, and Rockwell’s work is no more unrealistic than that of countless art-history legends, like Mondrian, whose geometric compositions exemplify an ideal of harmony and calm, or Watteau, who invented the genre of the fête galante. Rockwell perfected a style of painting that might be called the American Ideal. Instead of taking place in lush European gardens, his playful gatherings are in a diner on Main Street.”

2. “What Big Eyes You Have, Dear, but Are Those Contacts Risky?”

“The lenses give wearers a childlike, doe-eyed appearance. The look is characteristic of Japanese anime and is also popular in Korea. Fame-seekers there called ‘ulzzang girls’ post cute but sexy head shots of themselves online, nearly always wearing circle lenses to accentuate their eyes. (‘Ulzzang’ means ‘best face’ in Korean, but it is also shorthand for ‘pretty.’)”

3. “The Man Behind the Dreamscape”

“‘It’s really, at its core, a big action heist movie.'”

4. “A Lone Figure, Standing Upright Amid the Cyclone”

“Keaton invited neither the audience’s identification, as Lloyd did, nor its sympathy, as Chaplin did. He presented a closed-off, self-sufficient figure, his emotions, if any, hidden behind his famous stone face.”

5. “A Rapper’s Long Battle to Go It Alone”

Sir Lucious Left Foot has been largely finished since 2008, Big Boi said, but Jive never showed much enthusiasm for it. ‘They said, “This is a piece of art, and we don’t know what to do with it,”’ he said.”

6. “They Did Their Homework (800 Years of It)”

“One of Ken Rogoff’s favorite economics jokes — yes, there are economics jokes — is ‘the one about the lamppost’: A drunk on his way home from a bar one night realizes that he has dropped his keys. He gets down on his hands and knees and starts groping around beneath a lamppost. A policeman asks what he’s doing. ‘I lost my keys in the park,’ says the drunk. ‘Then why are you looking for them under the lamppost?’ asks the puzzled cop. ‘Because,’ says the drunk, ‘that’s where the light is.'”

7. “The Great Rupture”

“Two hundred and thirty-four years into an American experiment launched in the name of the common good, it often feels, to me on the road, as if a battle is underway for the nation’s identity, a jockeying over the values that will govern whatever follows the Great Recession.”

8. “Humanity’s Database”

“When a site becomes this big, this powerful, there are ramifications — personal, cultural, economic and political.”

9. “Singing the Poet Electric”

“Whitman — an abstemious man and, for all his geniality, a loner — would not, I think, have recognized himself as the patron of the ’60s. He was no good at ‘communality,’ living all his adult life in boardinghouses or alone. Although Williams calls him ‘compulsively gregarious,’ Whitman could hardly have composed his monumental poems without spending a good deal of his time not being gregarious, but rather sitting, thinking, reading, writing, revising.”

10. “Ben Franklin Is a Big Fat Idiot”

“I was stunned to discover how many of Franklin’s axioms failed the acid test of validity and usefulness.”

11. “The Vuvuzela as Cultural Artifact”

“At an event notable for national grudges with intricate histories, playing out before an expected record worldwide audience, this simple, slightly silly, mass-produced noisemaker/instrument became a highly unlikely symbol of cultural meaning.”

12. “Mariano Rivera, King of the Closers”

“Life evolves toward increasing specialization.”


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