8.28.2011 New York Times Digest

1. “What We Do to Books”

“The book should be in near-mint condition when I start reading it, but I am not obsessive about keeping it that way. On the contrary, I like the way it gradually and subtly shows signs of wear and tear, of having been lived in (by me), like a pair of favorite jeans.”

2. “Gilded Traces of the Lives Qaddafis Led”

“At one farm, horses wandered by marble statues of lions, tigers and bears, and on a sun-baked day, reindeer grazed by the deck of an empty pool. At the home of one son, Saadi, there were signs of a life mundane in its seeming frustration. A man who drifted through stints as an athlete, soldier and Hollywood producer, Saadi kept the English-language self-help book Success Intelligence in his master bedroom.”

3. “The Changing Face of the Burning Man Festival”

“In 1986, a handful of passers-by gathered to watch a landscape gardener named Larry Harvey burn an 8-foot stick figure on San Francisco’s Baker Beach. The event became a summer ritual. In 1990 it outgrew the beach; the following year it moved to the desert. After a freewheeling and anarchic period in the mid-’90s, Burning Man changed direction: It started selling tickets, giving rise to a small company to manage it all. Mr. Harvey, 63, is now the executive director of that company, Black Rock City L.L.C.”

4. “Reaping the Rewards 0f Risk-Taking”

“What other nations typically lack, Mr. Kao adds, is a social environment that encourages diversity, experimentation, risk-taking, and combining skills from many fields into products that he calls ‘recombinant mash-ups,’ like the iPhone, which redefined the smartphone category. ‘The culture of other countries doesn’t support the kind of innovation that Steve Jobs exemplifies, as America does,’ Mr. Kao says.”

5. “Animated or Real, Both Are Believable”

“We have the illusion we are looking at chimpanzees. They are remarkably convincing.”

6. “After Class, Skimpy Equality”

“Why has the pendulum swung back to a feeling that sexualization of women is fun and funny rather than insulting and uncomfortable? Why are so many women O.K. with that?”

7. “Oh, to Be Warm in Summer’s Heat”

“Why are airports, shops, offices and homes in the United States and elsewhere chilled to sweater-weather temperatures in summer when the temperature outside rises?”

8. “Ugly? You May Have a Case”

“Why not offer legal protections to the ugly, as we do with racial, ethnic and religious minorities, women and handicapped individuals?”

9. “College Doesn’t Create Success”

“Before long, spending four years in a lecture hall with a hangover will be revealed as an antiquated debt-fueled luxury good.”

10. “Summer Cinema Worth Debating”

“This summer, by my count, three movies have been especially divisive, provoking strong and interesting schisms among critics and also among people who actually buy tickets — or so I surmise, having spent the past few months trawling Internet comment threads, sipping cocktails in civilian company and eavesdropping on the subway while pretending to play Angry Birds on my phone.”

11. “Their Soft and Not-So-Rowdy Ways”

“This shift in headgear is a stand-in for the continuing war for country’s masculine center, and for the intra-genre class politics that have been complicating country music for years but rarely more intensely than now, as the genre almost inexorably slides into soft rock.”

12. “A Virus Movie Determined to Get Real”

“In a weird way, the less you trump it up, the more unsettling it becomes.”

13. “The French Dylan. Also Beatty, Stern, Johnny Rotten…”

“He is best remembered in the United States, if at all, for Je T’Aime … Moi Non Plus, recorded in 1969 with his girlfriend, the British actress Jane Birkin. But in France he is a towering culture hero whose American equivalent is impossible to conjure: a chain-smoking, alcohol-fueled singer-songwriter with the musical importance of Bob Dylan, the literary reach of Leonard Cohen, a chain of romantic conquests to rival Warren Beatty’s and the smutty, provocative persona of Howard Stern.”

14. “Scrapbooking Big-Screen Memories”

“A movie theater can be a magical place, a portal; in the cold, quiet blackness anything is possible. That becomes clear as you pore through the Cinema Treasures site, cinematreasures.org, a riveting compendium of theaters, open or closed, from around the world that can be searched by name, city or ZIP code.”

15. “Casting Reality TV? It’s Now Difficult To Find Real People”

“The job of discovering charismatic but sincere subjects who can make for compelling television has grown much more complicated.”


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