10.10.2010 New York Times Digest

1. “If Walls Could Talk”

“If you have any interest in furniture, food, fashion, architecture, energy or world history, chances are you’ve stumbled across some (or all) of the information Bryson has on offer. Countless books have been written on every subject covered in At Home; many are credited in the ample bibliography. But while Bryson may not have done much original research, it takes a very particular kind of thoughtfulness, as well as a bold temperament, to stuff all this research into a mattress that’s supportive enough to loll about on while pondering the real subject of this book — the development of the modern world.”

2. “Google Cars Drive Themselves, in Traffic”

“If you look at the vehicle code, there are dozens of laws pertaining to the driver of a vehicle, and they all presume to have a human being operating the vehicle.”

3. “Grown-Up, but Still Irresponsible”

“It turns out that ‘friends with benefits’ — a sexual partner who is ‘just a friend,’ and neither a soulmate nor a romantic interest — isn’t just for teenagers and college students anymore.”

4. “Outflanked on Right, Coulter Seeks New Image”

“Except for me, they are the most politically incorrect people you will ever meet.”

5. “Keeping Our Distance, the Facebook Way”

“Technology has a grand tradition of distancing people from one another for the sake of efficiency.”

6. “The Essential Bugs Bunny Collection

“I saw how these cartoons made my father laugh; they had it all. Charlie Chaplin’s balletic grace and command of his physical environment. Groucho Marx’s insinuating crouch and free-associative put-downs. A steadfast defiance of traditional narrative and a gleeful rejection of the basic laws of gravity. (As Mr. Bunny once explained, ‘I never studied law.’) Those many distinctive voices channeled by Mel Blanc. And most of all, the rabbit’s counterintuitive calm whenever confronted by a double-barreled shotgun; he would nibble his carrot, as one might savor a cigar, then simply tie the gun’s two barrels into a knot.”

7. “The Beat Generation and the Tea Party”

“Like the Beats, the Tea Partiers are driven by that maddeningly contradictory principle, subject to countless interpretations, at the heart of all American protest movements: individual freedom.”

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