4.17.2011 New York Times Digest

1. “David Foster Wallace: The Last Audit”

“Machines will never feel, of course; nor do they allow for human agency and its offshoots (free will, ethics, compassion, love) to unfold and blossom in their arid data fields.”

2. “Sweet Valley Twins Are Back, and, Like Readers, Fully Adult”

“I’ve had people who have questioned Elizabeth having orgasms. And I say to them, if they’re listening, would you deny a 27-year-old woman the right to have an orgasm?”

3. “Ukulele Crazy”

“Not long ago it was an endangered species, usually encountered as cheap exotica or a comic prop. Now it permeates the culture to an extent that it hasn’t in more than half a century, turning up in Top 10 pop songs and fashionable indie-rock bands, in television commercials by the hundred and YouTube videos by the thousand.”

4. “Urban Realist With a Humanist Streak”

“It is only a small exaggeration to say that the six movies I’ve named constitute an epic of decline, a sprawling, Zolaesque series of narratives whose common theme — discernible only in retrospect — is the crisis of American civic liberalism.”

5. “The Psychology of Cheating”

“It’s often an obsession with fairness that leads people to begin cutting corners in the first place.”

6. “Tiger Beat: Still Squeaky Clean After All These Years”

“It allows for playacting at desire, before the real, parent-scaring thing comes into play.”

7. “Keep Your Thumbs Still When I’m Talking to You”

“At the conference, I saw people who waited 90 minutes to get into a party with a very tough door, peering into their phones the whole while, only to breach the door finally and resume staring into the same screen and only occasionally glancing up.”

8. “The Sex Drive, Idling in Neutral”

“No is like being in graduate school; you’re allowed to think for a while, and not be in the world.”

9. “Capturing a Self-Image”

“Recent studies indicate that most people view themselves as ‘slightly more attractive’ than the average photograph of themselves.”

10. “Distilling the Wisdom of C.E.O.’s”

“These qualities are developed through attitude, habit and discipline — factors that are within your control. They will make you stand out. They will make you a better employee, manager and leader. They will lift the trajectory of your career and speed your progress.”

11. “Workplace Fiction That’s True to Life”

“Walking up and down airplane aisles, I usually notice that most businesspeople are reading work materials, nonfiction or some kind of self-help book. Rarely do I spy anyone reading business-themed fiction.”

12. “David Foster Wallace and the Literary Tax Accountant”

“In 1997, a year after the publication of his mammoth novel Infinite Jest, Wallace enrolled in accounting classes at Illinois State University and began plowing through shelves of technical literature, transcribing notes on tax scams, criteria for audit and the problem of ‘agent terrorism’ into a series of notebooks.”

13. “Big Blog on Campus”

“Online, professors are often highly political, deeply personal and, per the format’s wont, downright snarky in ways they are not in the classroom. Some academic blogs are pure polemic; some are substantive and scholarly, bringing to the national conversation a bit of policy perspective grounded in actual research and expertise. Some speak to their students; most aim for the widest of audiences.”

14. “Do Cellphones Cause Brain Cancer?”

“How do we know that anything causes cancer?”

15. “Is Sitting a Lethal Activity?”

“Excessive sitting is a lethal activity.”

16. “How Little Sleep Can You Get Away With?”

“We are not nearly as sharp as we think we are.”

17. “What’s the Single Best Exercise?”

“Sprinting up stairs is a power workout and interval session simultaneously.”

18. “Is Sugar Toxic?”

“It very well may be true that sugar and high-fructose corn syrup, because of the unique way in which we metabolize fructose and at the levels we now consume it, cause fat to accumulate in our livers followed by insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome, and so trigger the process that leads to heart disease, diabetes and obesity.”

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