5.8.2011 New York Times Digest

1. “Bin Laden’s Secret Life in a Diminished World”

“Videos seized showed him wrapped in an old blanket watching himself on TV, like an aging actor imagining a comeback.”

2. “Pitzer College in California Adds Major in Secularism”

“Starting this fall, Pitzer College, a small liberal arts institution in Southern California, will inaugurate a department of secular studies. Professors from other departments, including history, philosophy, religion, science and sociology, will teach courses like ‘God, Darwin and Design in America,’ ‘Anxiety in the Age of Reason’ and ‘Bible as Literature.'”

3. “Joanna Russ, Who Drew Women to Sci-Fi, Dies at 74”

“Some critics found her too polemical, but many praised her liquid prose style, intellectual ferocity and cheerfully unorthodox approach to constructing her fiction, which could include discursions into history and philosophy and sections of quasitheatrical dialogue. (She was originally trained as a dramatist.)”

4. “Video Game to Play in Vintage Gumshoes”

“Is it even a game?”

5. “That Kovacs Touch: Comedy’s Lunatic Fringe”

“He gave news bulletins from ancient Rome, kibitzed on the air with staffers off screen, sent a car crashing through the floor, deployed oscilloscopes and kaleidoscopes and matting effects, staged elaborate visual symphonies, parodied other shows from Superman’s to Edward R. Murrow’s, and even laced the credit roll with jokes. And then there was that master class in comic timing, the Nairobi Trio: three expressionless gorillas in long coats playing Robert Maxwell’s ‘Solfeggio,’ an insipid tune that, to slow-burn frustration, invariably involved drumstick-to-cranium percussion.”

6. “There’s No Data Sheriff on the Wild Web”

“Technology also has a way of advancing far ahead of the law.”

7. “The Untamable Mississippi River”

“There have been floods before.”

8. “When We Hated Mom”

“Feminism did not represent the beginning of the decline of the stay-at-home mother, but a turning point that led to much stronger legal rights and ‘working conditions’ for her.”

9. “How to Beat High Airfares”

“It’s called ‘hidden-city ticketing,’ but before I explain how to execute the maneuver, you’re going to need some background.”

10. “The Reluctant Transgender Role Model”

“I’ve learned that the differences between men and women are so biological. I think if people realized that, it would be easier. I would be a great relationship counselor. I know the difference that hormones really make.”

11. “A Star Turn for a Lady-in-Waiting”

“Every magazine in the Western world now wants her on the cover.”

12. “Friedrich A. Hayek, Big-Government Skeptic”

“Hayek’s skepticism about the effects of ‘big government’ are rooted in an epistemological observation summarized in a 1945 article called ‘The Uses of Knowledge in Society.’ There he argued that most of the knowledge in a modern economy was local in nature, and hence unavailable to central planners. The brilliance of a market economy was that it allocated resources through the decentralized decisions of a myriad of buyers and sellers who interacted on the basis of their own particular knowledge. The market was a form of ‘spontaneous order,’ which was far superior to planned societies based on the hubris of Cartesian rationalism.”

13. “Paul Allen: Microsoft and Me”

“‘One of the greatest creative minds in the world of technology,’ writes Pete Carroll, the coach of the Seahawks and therefore an Allen employee, in a blurb gracing the book’s back cover. Tellingly, no one remotely connected to the technology world echoes that sentiment.”

14. “Selling Books by Day, Writing Them by Night”

“It’s safe to say that the staff of the average independent bookstore contains at least a few aspiring writers.”

15. “On (Digital) Photography: Sontag, 34 Years Later”

“Cultural prophecies are sometimes most interesting when they turn out to be wrong, and while On Photography can look, from one angle, like the expression of an obsolescent worldview, it also turns out to be jarringly prescient, one of a small handful of works of 20th-century criticism that speak, with uncanny directness, to the state of 21st-century culture.”


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