10.23.2011 New York Times Digest

1. “Measurement and Its Discontents”

“As the modern world has perfected its ontic measures, our ability to measure ourselves ontologically seems to have diminished.”

2. “A Silicon Valley School That Doesn’t Compute”

“Schools nationwide have rushed to supply their classrooms with computers, and many policy makers say it is foolish to do otherwise. But the contrarian point of view can be found at the epicenter of the tech economy, where some parents and educators have a message: computers and schools don’t mix.”

3. “A Grizzled Troubadour Dusts Off His Bowler”

“They say I have no hits and I’m difficult to work with, and they say that like it’s a bad thing.”

4. “Rescued by Design”

“The objects here tend to look rugged and sometimes embarrassingly simple, as in ‘Why hadn’t anyone come up with that idea before?’ Their beauty lies elsewhere: in providing economical, smart solutions to address the problems of millions of the world’s poorest people.”

5. “Raised on the Web, but Liking a Little Ink”

“Lately, it seems, the zine is enjoying something of a comeback among the Web-savvy, partly in reaction to the ubiquity of the Internet. Their creators say zines offer a respite from the endless onslaught of tweets, blog posts, I.M.’s, e-mail and other products of digital media.”

6. “The Paradox of the New Elite”

“One dispossessed group after another — blacks, women, Hispanics and gays — has been gradually accepted in the United States, granted equal rights and brought into the mainstream. At the same time, in economic terms, the United States has gone from being a comparatively egalitarian society to one of the most unequal democracies in the world.”

7. “Will Dropouts Save America?”

“American academia is good at producing writers, literary critics and historians. It is also good at producing professionals with degrees. But we don’t have a shortage of lawyers and professors. America has a shortage of job creators. And the people who create jobs aren’t traditional professionals, but start-up entrepreneurs.”

8. “Happy Birthday iPod!”

“Lots of people use music for emotional regulation. It’s similar to the way people use drugs such as caffeine and alcohol: they play a certain kind of music to help get them going in the morning, another kind to unwind after work. Brain surgeons perform their most concentration-intensive procedures while music plays in the background.”

9. “A Man, a Bike and 4,100 Miles”

“This was an American journey by a New Yorker who became more American as he went along. By virtue of absorbing almost 4,000 miles of thrilling landscape, inch by inch, I learned more about topography and how it figures in the identities of thousands of localities and millions of Americans than I had ever understood.”

10. “A Little Imperfection For That Smile?”

“In Japan, a new fashion has women paying to have their straight teeth purposefully disarranged.”

11. “Staying Up Late at Museums”

“Ms. Howard, 45, had paid $55 to sleep on a gallery floor alongside 80 others who had brought their own pillows, blankets and toothbrushes for what the Rubin had advertised as a ‘Dream-Over.’ The Rubin even had ‘dream interpreters’ — psychologists and psychiatrists led by Edward Nersessian, a professor from Weill Cornell Medical College — to wake them in the morning and take notes on their dreams. Or, at least, what they could remember of them.”

12. “Extreme Museum: The Rigors of Contemplation”

“And among other unexpected consequences of restless exhibition attendance, how can I omit what I once thought of as Museum Mind? By Museum Mind, I did not mean some exalted state of consciousness in which Beauty and Truth coalesce. Museum Mind is what I had when I couldn’t really pay attention to da Vinci at the Louvre or Rembrandt at the Rijksmuseum. It is what inspired me to rush past dinosaur remains at the American Museum of Natural History or feel my eyes glaze over while gazing at Civil War battlefields. Museum Mind, once it hit, was difficult to dislodge.”

13. “The Design of Symbols”

“We see them in airports, hospitals and government buildings, in waiting rooms and bathrooms, on exits and entrances: schematic silhouettes of men, women and children. The graphic icons are characterized by a no-frills, geometric style that is immediately recognizable and decipherable wherever they’re found. But while the symbols are ubiquitous, few people know where they had their origins.”

14. “How to Read Moby-Dick”

“Melville challenged the form of the novel decades before James Joyce and a century before Thomas Pynchon or David Foster Wallace. Calling for tools befitting the ambition of his task — ‘Give me a condor’s quill! Give me Vesuvius’s crater for an ink stand!’ — Melville substituted dialogue and stage direction for a chapter’s worth of prose. He halted the action to include a parody of the scientific classification of whales, a treatise on the whale as represented in art, a meditation on the complexity of rope, whatever snagged his attention. Reporting the exact day and time of his writing in a parenthetical aside, he ‘pulled back the fictive curtain and inserted a seemingly irrelevant glimpse of himself in the act of composition,’ the moment Philbrick identifies as his favorite in the novel. Melville may not have called this playfulness metafiction, but he defied strictures that shaped the work of his contemporaries, including that of Nathaniel Hawthorne, to whom he dedicated Moby-Dick, calling it a “token of my admiration for his genius.”

15. “Dwight Macdonald’s War on Mediocrity”

“He liked the smell of napalm in the morning, and wore it like after-shave.”

16. “The Thrill of Defeat for Sports Fans”

“Sports are absurd.”

17. “Don’t Blink! The Hazards of Confidence”

“We are prone to think that the world is more regular and predictable than it really is, because our memory automatically and continuously maintains a story about what is going on, and because the rules of memory tend to make that story as coherent as possible and to suppress alternatives.”

18. “The Fierce Imagination of Haruki Murakami”

“For 30 years now, he has lived a monkishly regimented life, each facet of which has been precisely engineered to help him produce his work. He runs or swims long distances almost every day, eats a healthful diet, goes to bed around 9 p.m. and wakes up, without an alarm, around 4 a.m. — at which point he goes straight to his desk for five to six hours of concentrated writing. (Sometimes he wakes up as early as 2.) He thinks of his office, he told me, as a place of confinement — ‘but voluntary confinement, happy confinement.'”

19. “Bad Times on Wall Street, Boom Times for Kevin Spacey”

“Spacey has always seemed uncannily in tune with the fluctuations of modern money culture. His crisp diction and creased, handsome-but-not-too-handsome face; his way of splitting the difference between smart and smug, sarcastic and sincere; and his unmistakably businesslike demeanor have made him an exemplary figure for a period that doesn’t quite know what to make of its relationship to greed.”

2 responses to “10.23.2011 New York Times Digest

  1. So who do you identify more with, Haruki Murakami or Kevin Spacey? If you started 1 hour swimming daily I would think you’d be Haruki’s best friend :) I Love this Digest thanks Matt!! How cool is the Museum Dream idea?!


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