7.24.2011 New York Times Digest


1. “Why Writers Belong Behind Bars”

“In New York literary circles, anyone who doesn’t have a Twitter account qualifies as a radical Luddite. But some have made gestures toward enforced self-denial. The novelist Jonathan Lethem has said he owns two computers, one of which he had Internet-disabled to use for his fiction writing. Dave Eggers, Nora Ephron and others have extolled the computer program Freedom, which cuts off your computer’s Internet access for up to eight hours. Jonathan Franzen wrote The Corrections in a dark room wearing earplugs, earmuffs and a blindfold, and confessed to blocking his Ethernet port with Super Glue while working on Freedom (not named, apparently, for the software program).”

2. “Scientific Advances on Contraceptive for Men”

“Male contraceptives are attracting growing interest from scientists, who believe they hold promise for being safe, effective and, also important, reversible.”

3. “After Floods, Debate Over Missouri River Rolls On”

“What precisely is this river for?”

4. “Bad Food? Tax It, and Subsidize Vegetables”

“Their mission is not public health but profit, so they’ll continue to sell the health-damaging food that’s most profitable, until the market or another force skews things otherwise. That ‘other force’ should be the federal government, fulfilling its role as an agent of the public good and establishing a bold national fix.”

5. “Addictive Personality? You Might be a Leader”

“What we seek in leaders is often the same kind of personality type that is found in addicts, whether they are dependent on gambling, alcohol, sex or drugs.”

6. “Slowing Down to Savor the Data”

“The effort to sort, select and summarize data for others is not new. It’s an ancient, pragmatic response to feeling beleaguered by information, says Ann Blair, a history professor at Harvard and the author of Too Much to Know: Managing Scholarly Information Before the Modern Age. In earlier ages, however, the sense of being inundated with information was felt mainly by scholars. After the printing press was invented, Professor Blair says, they felt even more overwhelmed by the sheer number of books available. Now the public is facing a digital data tsunami. ‘What strikes me as unique about our age isn’t so much that, as individuals, we feel overloaded and panicked about all the information we should know,’ she says, ‘but the fact that everyone, whatever your walk of life, everyone now experiences overload.'”

7. “The Auteur vs. the Committee”

“The quality of any collaborative creative endeavor tends to approach the level of taste of whoever is in charge.”

8. “The Personal Energy Crisis”

“Demand has finally begun to exceed our capacity. We’re facing an energy crisis, and this one is personal.”

9. “Look Past the Beauty, if You Can”

“She’s one of those people who casually peppers a conversation with sentences like ‘I was in Brazil, learning how to free-dive from some spear fisherman.'”

10. “The Joke Is on the Ph.D.”

“‘Piled High and Deeper — Life (or the Lack Thereof),’ more commonly known as ‘Ph.D. Comics,’ is dedicated to the plight of doctoral candidates: their sleep-deprived stupor, fleeting social lives and the tragic realization that advisers don’t really care.”

11. “The Essential T.A.”

“To have to scramble for money while trying to do research is burdensome.”

12. “The Master’s as the New Bachelor’s”

“Will the Ph.D. become the new master’s?”

13. “R.O.I.”

“As a strictly financial calculation, does the investment pay off?”

14. “The Left-Leaning Tower”

“The most effective way to keep out a whole class of people who are unwelcome isn’t to bar entry, but to make sure that very few in that class will want to enter.”

15. “Sigmund Freud’s Cocaine Years”

“Halsted was a consummately brilliant and flashy surgeon who had captained the Yale football team and then gone on to medical training in New York, where he soon established a reputation not only for his operative skills and speed but for the outgoing personality that distinguished him as a bon vivant and hail-fellow-well-met. In 1884, while working mainly at Bellevue Hospital, he and a small group of rising young doctors began to self-experiment with cocaine, in order to develop techniques that would permit surgery on the extremities and other areas whose nerve supply could be blocked by direct injection of the drug. Unaware of its dangerously addictive qualities, each of the young men gradually fell under its diabolical spell.”

16. “An Academic Author’s Unintentional Masterpiece”

“It could be argued that this is essentially an academic habit, and that Fried is faithfully observing the expected conventions — so faithfully that he has become an unconscious apostate. If academia elevates scholarly and impersonal inquiry above the kind of nutty, fictional, navel-gazing monologues of Nicholson Baker, then Fried is at once its high camp apotheosis and its disintegration into mere manner.”

17. “Ladies, We Have a Problem”

“While the mission of SlutWalks is crucial, the package is confusing and leaves young feminists open to the very kinds of attacks they are battling.”

18. “Cornel West Flunks the President”

“You’ve got to be a thermostat rather than a thermometer.”

19. “Around the World in One Day”

“If the knock against the Internet in general, and YouTube in particular, is that it stokes our collective narcissism, this film, in its best moments, proves the opposite: not a global craving for exposure but a surprising universal willingness to allow ourselves to be exposed.”

20. “Where Do Dwarf-Eating Carp Come From?”

“I asked Tarn when he thought he and Zach would reach version 1.0. ‘Twenty years from now,’ he replied.”

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