1.2.2011 New York Times Digest

1. “Why Criticism Matters”

“We live in the age of opinion — offered instantly, effusively and in increasingly strident tones … But where does it leave the serious critic? … Where does it leave the critic interested in larger implications — aesthetic, cultural, moral?”

2. “Masters of the Form”

“To the critic the work of art is simply a suggestion for a new work of his own, that need not necessarily bear any obvious resemblance to the thing it criticizes.”

3. “Computers That See You and Keep Watch Over You”

“High-resolution, low-cost cameras are proliferating, found in products like smartphones and laptop computers. The cost of storing images is dropping, and new software algorithms for mining, matching and scrutinizing the flood of visual data are progressing swiftly.”

4. “Europe’s Young Grow Agitated Over Future Prospects”

“A deep malaise has set in among young people. Some take to the streets in protest; others emigrate to Northern Europe or beyond in an epic brain drain of college graduates. But many more suffer in silence, living in their childhood bedrooms well into adulthood because they cannot afford to move out.”

5. “The New Speed of Money, Reshaping Markets”

“For better or for worse, part of your wealth, your livelihood, is throbbing through these wires.”

6. “In Investing, It’s When You Start And When You Finish”

“Market returns are more volatile than most people realize.”

7. “Chop, Fry, Boil: Eating for One, or 6 Billion”

“One could set off a heated argument with a question like, ‘What are the three best basic recipes?’ but I stand behind these: a stir-fry, a chopped salad, and the basic combination of rice and lentils, all of which are easy enough to learn in one lesson.”

8. “Getting Over Our Two-Year Itch”

“The electronics industry itself is built upon frequent renewal. The iPhone, iPod or iPad you buy today will be obsolete within a year. Every pocket camera model on sale today will no longer be sold six months from now. And Android phones — forget it. They seem to come out every Friday afternoon.”

9. “Why a Budget Is Like a Diet — Ineffective”

“We need to exploit automaticity.”

10. “Want a Hit? Keep It Simple”

“The pressures on musicians to keep things simple are obvious. What have become all-too-familiar 21st-century refrains — too much information, too little time and the diminished attention spans that result from trying to cope — have only grown more insistent through the decade. The recording technology of loops and samples encourages unimaginative producers to repeat something merely adequate for the length of a song rather than developing or enriching it. Playback from MP3s through cheap earbuds rewards the brittle and tinny, not the lush and subtle. And as sales of recorded music dwindle, the incentives only increase to write songs around nuggets and generic sentiments that can be repurposed as ad jingles, ring tones and soundtrack backgrounds.”

11. “Natalie Portman Embraces Monster and Victim”

“The white swan and the black represent, above all, the Apollonian and Dionysian poles of art, one restrained and rational, the other unruly, passionate and dangerous.”

12. “Excerpt: The Social Network

“I guess I just meant I liked the idea of it. You know, the way a girl likes cowboys.”

13. “My Cart, My Self”

“The only thing worse than being misperceived by a machine is being expertly perceived by one.”

14. “The Caste Buster”

“Misal told me his favorite book was Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People, with its tale of the writer’s poor childhood in Missouri, his contemplation of suicide and then his discovery of a talent for public speaking. ‘I have read that 28 times so far,’ he said. ‘Whenever I feel nervous or depressed, I open that book.’”

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