6.24.2012 New York Times Digest

1. “Talking Head

“I am Phil, a male Philip K. Dick android electronic brain, a robotic portrait of Philip K. Dick, a computer machine.”

2. “Apple’s Retail Army, Long on Loyalty but Short on Pay

“The Internet and advances in computing have created untold millionaires, but most of the jobs created by technology giants are service sector positions – sales employees and customer service representatives, repairmen and delivery drivers – that offer little of Silicon Valley’s riches or glamour.”

3. “Helpful Hands on Life’s Last Segregated Journey

“He charges $225 a body. For autopsy cases, he adds $50. A body with certain blood-borne infectious diseases costs $350.”

4. “Hiding Out, With Books and Food

“The most exciting thing about moving to Iowa is that we can live in a house. Here I’m complaining about the noise on Fourth Avenue, because when we get to Iowa, I might be wishing for more noise.”

5. “World War II Soccer Match Echoes Through Time

“What actually happened after the match remains as murky in many aspects as what happened during it.”

6. “A Georgia Town Takes the People’s Business Private

“Behold a town built almost entirely on a series of public-private partnerships – a system that leaders around here refer to, simply, as ‘the model.’”

7. “‘Exergames’ Don’t Cure Young Couch Potatoes

“‘Active’ video games distributed to homes with children do not produce the increase in physical activity that naïve parents (like me) expected.”

8. “The New Busking

“In a recent interview, Woody Allen revealed the astonishing fact that he has never sent or received an e-mail. It occurred to me that there are only two types of people alive today who have the luxury of indulging themselves in this manner: the very, very wealthy and the homeless.”

9. “Political Scientists Are Lousy Forecasters

“The government – disproportionately – supports research that is amenable to statistical analyses and models even though everyone knows the clean equations mask messy realities that contrived data sets and assumptions don’t, and can’t, capture.”

10. “The Science of Illusion

“If you are given a choice, you believe you have acted freely. This is one of the darkest of all psychological secrets.”

11. “Nature: Now Showing on TV

“This is how we mainly experience nature now – it comes to us, not the other way around – on a small, flat, glowing screen. You don’t exercise as you meander, uncertain what delight or danger may greet you, while feeling dwarfed by forces older and larger than yourself. It’s a radically different way of being – with nature, but not in nature – and it’s bound to change us.”

12. “Chris Hayes Has Arrived With ‘Up’

“I like the fact that it’s dialogic, small-d ‘democratic.’ We’re all sitting at the same table, we’re creating the public sphere in miniature. I was going to say, ‘We’re going to model Habermasian communicative action,’ but that’s excessively pretentious.”

13. “It’s as Easy as 123!@S

“As our dependency on the Internet has grown, so has the complexity of its restrictions.”

14. “A Practiced Nonchalance

“Levi’s 501’s are, to me, the originals and all other jeans will always be derivatives.”

15. “Banner Days

“Ever since the Enlightenment, when intellectuals articulated the crucial promises of the modern liberal state – security, liberty and self-governance – society’s dispossessed have struggled to claim these rights as their own. The gay and lesbian movement, like the black civil rights and women’s movements, has from its earliest days sought security (protection from violence and discrimination), freedom (inalienable human and group rights) and self-governance (the ability to participate effectively in political and economic life).”

16. “Seeking Susan

“The most poignant feature of these diaries is the evidence they contain of the diarist trying to feel, but forced to confess to an inability to do so.”

17. “The Great Mediocrity

“He exhibited a pathetic inability to succeed as an art student; a habitual hostility to paid employment; a wholly unremarkable penchant for pretty teenage girls; and a pretentious infatuation with the composer Richard Wagner. As a soldier in World War I, Hitler was so ineffectual at anything but ­message-running and mindless clerical work that even after the need for more officers became urgent, his superiors could not bring themselves to promote someone so lacking in leadership skills.”

18. “Who Made That Cubicle?

“He spent his last years apologizing for his utopia.”

19. “Kenneth Lonergan’s Thwarted Masterpiece

“Why he couldn’t finish the edit is in part a mystery of the creative process and in part the subject of the lawsuits.”

20. “When My Crazy Father Actually Lost His Mind

“Until the late 19th century, mentally ill people were locked in prisons or left to wander the streets. Reformers, seeking a more humane response, created a vast system of state-run psychiatric hospitals. By the 1960s, however, the overcrowded, often disturbing conditions in those facilities had come to light. At the same time, new psychiatric medicines were being developed, all of which gave rise to a new reform effort. Deinstitutionalization, the systematic closure of state psychiatric hospitals, was codified by the Community Mental Health Centers Act of 1963 and supported by patients’ rights laws secured state by state. Chief among those laws were strict new standards: only people who posed an imminent danger to themselves or someone else could be committed to a psychiatric hospital or treated against their will. By treating the rest in the least-restrictive settings possible, the thinking went, we would protect the civil liberties of the mentally ill and hasten their recoveries. Surely community life was better for mental health than a cold, unfeeling institution. But in the decades since, the sickest patients have begun turning up in jails and homeless shelters with a frequency that mirrors that of the late 1800s.”

21. “50 Shades of Mad Men

“As tedious as Fifty Shades of Grey becomes after only a few pages, it rather brilliantly translates all of the revulsion and dread of Mad Men into libidinal titillation. In both tales, we are presented with a handsome, Gatsby-like embodiment of the American dream, only to discover he has control issues and a dark past (his biological mom was a whore!), and therefore he will not be remotely capable of real intimacy, vulnerability, love, etc.”

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