5.22.2011 New York Times Digest


1. “The Twitter Trap”

“My inner worrywart wonders whether the new technologies overtaking us may be eroding characteristics that are essentially human: our ability to reflect, our pursuit of meaning, genuine empathy, a sense of community connected by something deeper than snark or political affinity.”

2. “The Gossip Machine, Churning Out Cash”

“This is how it works in the new world of round-the-clock gossip, where even a B-list celebrity’s tangle with the law can be spun into easy money, feeding the public’s seemingly bottomless appetite for dirt about the famous.”

3. “Need Therapy? A Good Man Is Hard to Find”

“Many men grow up in a world of hostile body language and real physical violence that is almost entirely invisible to women. A bar fight that sounds traumatic to a female therapist may be no more than a good night out for a man. Likewise, a stare-down in the sandbox that looks vanishingly trivial from a distance may lie like a poisoned well in the stream of the unconscious.”

4. “Even Offstage, Lady Gaga’s Ready for the Stage”

“I live halfway between reality and fantasy all the time.”

5. “Notes of a Screenwriter, Mad as Hell”

“Working in an era of paper, pencils and typewriters, Chayefsky seemingly committed to print every observation and self-criticism that he thought of. His “Network” archives provide a road map of the paths taken and not taken in its narrative, but they also reveal a visceral rawness that is scarce in today’s age of digital files and screenwriting by committee. They tell the story of an author’s struggles to determine what he wanted to say about a medium that would do anything for an audience’s attention.”

6. “Recycled Films and Bitsy Screens”

“So here’s what you can do: go see Terrence Malick’s Tree of Life when it opens Friday. You may not like it or ‘get’ it, but it is in every way the opposite of the stale, tedious, market-tested drivel you so rightly complain about.”

7. “Pursuing Imperfection in Malick’s Eden”

“Actually, he’s an imperfectionist.”

8. “I Sing the Gadget Electronic”

“Cory is one of the first in a young generation of digital hackers to really enter the art world.”

9. “Comedy With a Side of Disgust”

“I had the feeling that if I held up one of Ms. Handler’s books, like Norma Rae, the entire plane would burst into applause, or flames.”

10. “Whose Failing Grade Is It?”

“Any kind of problem in an academic setting, and people blame the teachers. But no one looks at the parents.”

11. “I’m Not Real, but Neither Are You”

“Users build fantasy profiles by selecting a photo from a bevy of attractive people and creating a fictitious biography and name. A series of simplistic either-or questions (Books or Movies?) shapes a personality and matches it with other fantasy profiles. If the match agrees to ‘date,’ they can start sending messages to each other. From there, the relationship can remain a fantasy; or, if the users decide to reveal their true selves, it can progress or die.”

12. “Stuck at the Border Between the Sexes”

“For about two years, I’ve lived a cerebral and celibate existence. As a pathological Morrissey fan, I find it suits me. Still, living in your childhood bedroom just isn’t a sexy situation.”

13. “Our Irrational Fear of Forgetting”

“The mind is capacious. Much mental and emotional ability can survive mere memory loss, as do other qualities that make us human.”

14. “Religion and Sex Quiz”

“We forget that early commentators were very concerned about sex with angels.”

15. “A Sexist Pig Myth”

“Arrogance generally precedes power, not the other way around. For all their professed suspicion of autocrats, people tend to cede authority precisely to those individuals who want it most. Studies of group behavior suggest that the overconfident, outspoken individuals are the ones who tend to become the leaders. And the experience of being at the top only reinforces the person’s sense of control and self-centeredness.”

16. “Harold Bloom: An Uncommon Reader”

“He is, by any reckoning, one of the most stimulating literary presences of the last half-century — and one of the most protean, a singular breed of scholar-teacher-critic-prose-poet-­pamphleteer, as deeply versed in the baroque aestheticism of Pater and Wilde as in the categorized intricacies of the kabbalah and Freud, and thoroughly steeped in several centuries’ worth of English and American poetry, acres of it committed to memory.”

17. “Can Social Networking Cure Social Ills?”

“Our market relations are dominated by the quest for profit and consumer satisfaction; our political relations are dominated by the competition for power; and our peer relations are dominated by the search for status, identity and acceptance by others. Rosenberg argues that the third kind of relationship, the search for status and peer approval, is the most powerful motivator of our personal behavior and that it can be employed to remedy social ills.”

18. “The Muslim Art of Science”

“At the head of the author’s list of geniuses are Abu Ali al-Hassan ibn al-Haytham, Abu Rayhan Muhammad al-Biruni and Abu Ali al-Hussein ibn Sina, better known in the West as Avicenna. He ranks Ibn al-Haytham the greatest physicist between Archimedes and Newton, and Ibn Sina the ‘colossus of philosophy between Aristotle and Descartes.’ Ibn Sina also wrote extensively on Greek, Persian and Indian medicine, conducted his own research on contagious diseases and anatomy, and was well ahead of his time with the insight that light is composed of particles, which Newton later described and Einstein proved. Al-Biruni contributed significant advances in calculus and trigonometry and boldly criticized Aristotle for relying on pure thought and reasoning, which often led to mistakes, instead of careful observation and experimentation, an early appreciation of the modern scientific method.”

19. “Consciousness: The Great Illusion?”

“There is a story that Samuel Beckett was walking through the park with a friend, and exclaiming at the beauty of the day. ‘Yes,’ said the friend, ‘it’s the sort of day that makes you feel good to be alive.’ ‘Ah, now,’ Beckett replied, ‘I wouldn’t go that far.'”

20. “We Are All Teenage Werewolves”

“It’s almost as if the makers of Teen Wolf did not expect the philosophical subtext of their movie to be scrutinized this carefully.”

21. “‘An Unspeakable Word Is the Word That Has to Be Spoken’”

“An unspeakable word is the word that has to be spoken if language is to be honored.”

22. “Operation Seduction”

“A grand séducteur is not necessarily a man who easily seduces others into making love. The term might refer to someone who never fails to persuade others to his point of view. He might be gifted at caressing with words, at drawing people close with a look, at forging alliances with flawless logic. The target of a seduction — male or female — may experience the process as a shower of charm or a magnetic pull or even a form of entertainment that ends as soon as the dinner party is over. What is constant is the intent: to attract or influence, to win over, even if just in fun.”

23. “The Wellfleet Ten”

“The cottages, with their clean right angles, wide windows, transoms and louvers for cross-ventilation, screened porches, decks and fences with vertical slats for an almost Japanese effect, have scarcely changed over the decades. Inside, the airy, spare theme continues with Herman Miller, Eames and Knoll furniture. Paired single beds (they can be pushed together) are made up as couches during the day. Sisal rugs lie on the painted cement floors. Bookshelves are stacked with issues of Foreign Affairs and Granta, and the kitchens are stocked with eggbeaters, kettles and Le Creuset enamel pots and pans.”

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