7.17.2011 New York Times Digest

1. “Let’s Ban Books, Or at Least Stop Writing Them”

“Writers write them for reasons that usually have a little to do with money and not as much to do with masochism as you might think. There is real satisfaction in a story deeply told, a case richly argued, a puzzle meticulously untangled. (Note the tense. When people say they love writing, they usually mean they love having written.)”

2. “An Alarming New Stimulant, Legal in Many States”

“Some of the recent incidents include a man in Indiana who climbed a roadside flagpole and jumped into traffic, a man in Pennsylvania who broke into a monastery and stabbed a priest, and a woman in West Virginia who scratched herself ‘to pieces’ over several days because she thought there was something under her skin.”

3. “Foreclosure? Many Pets Are Losing Their Homes”

“The animals are the ones losing their families and their homes.”

4. “Leading Man, Miles Beyond the Boy Band”

“Heads had turned when he’d entered, but he picked a table in an empty section, nestled discreetly behind a serving station. Outside, Mr. Timberlake had walked with the briskness of someone long accustomed to sudden, shrieking swarms of fans. But as he worked on his coffee, he grew more relaxed and more animated, one leg tucked beneath the other like an overgrown kid.”

5. “The Songs of Now Sound a Lot Like Then”

“The fading of newness and nowness from pop music is mystifying. But in the last couple of years a concept has emerged that at least identifies the syndrome, even if it doesn’t completely explain it. Coined by the co-founders of cyberpunk fiction William Gibson and Bruce Sterling, ‘atemporality’ is a term for the disconcerting absence of contemporaneity from so much current pop culture. This curious quality can be detected not just in pop music but in everything from fashion to graphic design to vintage chic.”

6. “Download: Oliver Sacks”

“I don’t know what Facebook and Twitter are since I don’t use a computer.”

7. “Drought: A Creeping Disaster”

“City planners worry that unless drastic action is taken, Perth could become the world’s first ‘ghost city’ — a modern metropolis abandoned for lack of water. Similar fates may await America’s booming desert cities: Las Vegas, Phoenix or Los Angeles.”

8. “Books and Other Fetish Objects”

“It’s a mistake to deprecate digital images just because they are suddenly everywhere, reproduced so effortlessly.”

9. “Our Broken Escalator”

“American pre-eminence in mass education has eroded since the 1970s, and now a number of countries have leapfrogged us in high school graduation rates, in student performance, in college attendance. If you look for the classic American faith in the value of broad education to spread opportunity, you can still find it — in Asia.”

10. “The Critique of Pure Horror”

“Why do so many of us enjoy being disgusted and terrified?”

11. “Growing Up, Then Going Home”

“Out of college, money spent, see no future, pay no rent, all the money’s gone, nowhere to go.”

12. “Seeing Promise and Peril in Digital Records”

“At a government-sponsored gathering last month, Dr. David Brick, a pediatric cardiologist in New York, demonstrated how it took eight mouse clicks on a digital record to find the patient information presented comfortably on the single sheet of a paper chart.”

13. “Working Separately, Together”

“Some companies offer telecommuting and sabbaticals to satisfy the wanderlust of the worker bee. But what about the poor lonely freelancer? Enter the concept of ‘co-working,’ in which small and independent operators toil together in one shared office space.”

14. “Is Anyone There?”

“Eager for a second opinion, I sent out interview requests to four Buddhist monks (two directly, and two through their publishers) and to two Buddhist monasteries. Six hours later, one monk wrote back apologetically to say he would not have time to talk by phone because he was leading a 10-day meditation course in Brazil, where the Internet connection is ‘patchy,’ which would prohibit his responding again by e-mail.”

15. “He Sexts, She Sexts More, Report Says”

“Women are more likely to send nude photographs or sexually explicit text messages than men.”

16. “How the Robber Barons Railroaded America”

“Our method of doing business is founded upon lying, cheating and stealing — all bad things.”

17. “Inventing the Interstate”

One must remember what it used to mean to drive in the United States. Before the Interstate knitted together the country, before it became a metaphor for the nation’s collective mobility for intellectuals homegrown and imported … America’s roads were … an ‘anarchic jumble.; Improvements meant grading dirt tracks, way-finding was a fiction, and a State Department report, circa 1916, judged road conditions here ‘far worse than any other major nation except Russia and China.'”

18. “Miranda July Is Totally Not Kidding”

“July has come to personify everything infuriating about the Etsy-shopping, Wes Anderson-quoting, McSweeney’s-reading, coastal-living category of upscale urban bohemia that flourished in the aughts.”

19. “‘Well, Here It Comes! The Biggest Song in the U.S.A.!’”

“The ultimate niche paradise ends up being nothing but an empty room and a mirror.”


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