3.20.2011 New York Times Digest

1. “Our Imperfect Search for Perfection”

“If you can theoretically become perfect, then it follows that you should at least try. This idea (that man is perfectible and so should strive for perfection) has been around for 2,000 years, but it has lately been streamlined and turbo-charged: in its contemporary incarnation, it regards any unfulfilled human potentialities as a particularly sad and sclerotic form of entropy.”

2. “Quinoa’s Global Success Creates Quandary at Home”

“Fewer Bolivians can now afford it, hastening their embrace of cheaper, processed foods and raising fears of malnutrition in a country that has long struggled with it.”

3. “Ultimate Box of Jazz? Not Exactly”

“I’ve never heard good jazz from a 47-member band.”

4. “‘Mildred Pierce’: A Mother’s House of Love and Hurt”

“Stories about women in houses are the real stories of our lives.”

5. “Lessons From Chernobyl for Japan”

“It is a problem that does not exist on a human time frame.”

6. “How Do I Love Thee? Count 140 Characters”

“I don’t view the constraints of the format as in any way necessarily precluding literary quality. It’s just a different form.”

7. “Where Steaming Fried Noodles Spell Relief”

“From its beginnings in Japan, and despite misgivings about its nutritional merits, instant ramen has found devotees worldwide among the poor and those too tired or ill-equipped to cook. It is the belly-filling standby of travelers and cabdrivers and office workers too busy to leave their desks. In American dorm rooms, ramen sustains the starving student.”

8. “Teaching to the Text Message”

“We need to set our sights not lower, but shorter.”

9. “Symbolism Jumps the Years to Duke and Michigan”

“My view about the Fab Five, then and now, was that these young men had chosen the right pew but had gone to the wrong church.”

10. “Look Who’s Meditating Now”

“‘I was not into meditation one bit,’ Mr. Lynch said, in his laconic Missoula, Mont., drawl that years of living in Los Angeles has failed to dilute. ‘I thought it was a fad. I thought you had to eat nuts and raisins, and I didn’t want any part of it.'”

11. “Don’t Call Me, I Won’t Call You”

“Phone calls are rude. Intrusive. Awkward.”

12. “Virtual Visitation Rights”

“Culture has put us in this place where we need things like Facebook and video chat. There’s a contradiction to wrestle with there.”

13. “On the Web, Every Day Is Casual Friday”

“It seems that if you dress up too much, you run the risk of not being taken seriously.”

14. “James Gleick’s History of Information”

“Its key moment can be pinpointed to 1948, when Claude Shannon, a young mathematician with a background in cryptography and telephony, published a paper called ‘A Mathematical Theory of Communication’ in a Bell Labs technical journal. For Shannon, communication was purely a matter of sending a message over a noisy channel so that someone else could recover it. Whether the message was meaningful, he said, was ‘irrelevant to the engineering problem.'”

15. “I Took the Turing Test”

“If machines win the imitation game as often as they do, it’s not because they’re getting better at acting human; it’s because we’re getting worse.”

16. “Why Last Chapters Disappoint”

“Lippmann’s experience will be familiar to almost anyone who has written a book aspiring to analyze a social or political problem. Practically every example of that genre, no matter how shrewd or rich its survey of the question at hand, finishes with an obligatory prescription that is utopian, banal, unhelpful or out of tune with the rest of the book. When it comes to social criticism, no one, it seems, has an exit strategy.”

17. “Mike Tyson Moves to the Suburbs”

“An autodidact, he likes to discuss characters he’s read about, ranging from Alexander the Great to Constantine to Tom Sawyer, and he harbors a special fondness for Machiavelli. He knows the history of boxing inside out, watches films of Muhammad Ali and other boxers (including himself) most every evening, returning again and again to Raging Bull. He’s also something of a homegrown philosopher, peppering our conversation with hard-knock truths: ‘The biggest tough guy wants to be likable,’ he observed.”

18. “Hollywood’s Leading Geek”

“He meticulously storyboards all his movies, scene by scene, line by line, sitting with the script at the long wooden table in the kitchen, with pencils and markers in various shades, drawing each shot in big black sketchbooks, four shots to a page. This is how he gets inside a story, makes it his own, even when the task at hand involves making a movie that lives up to the movie that a million people have been shooting in their dreams for years. He sits in his kitchen with his dogs, far from Hall H and everybody’s expectations, drawing pictures of superheroes.”



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