Sunday 10.21.2012 New York Times Digest

1. A Woman of Intellect and Style

“McCarthy was probably one of the first female intellectuals I was aware of, and there was this sense of the presentation of yourself as not so much distinctive as elegant, of presenting yourself with respect – self-respect was manifest.”

2. For President, a Complex Calculus of Race and Politics

“Obama is balancing two deeply held impulses: a belief in universal politics not based on race and an embrace of black life and its challenges.”

3. Gosh, Who Talks Like That Now? Romney Does

“He has emerged as if in a rhetorical time capsule from a well-mannered era of soda fountains and AMC Ramblers, someone whose idea of swearing is to let loose with the phrase ‘H-E-double hockey sticks.’”

4. When the Web’s Chaos Takes an Ugly Turn

“Reddit isn’t the only Web site struggling with these issues. Such creepshots appear on other places around the Web, including Twitter. And sites from YouTube to Instagram, the photo-sharing app, are grappling with how to address provocative content, from images depicting self-harm to violent torture videos, and where to draw the line about what to publish and what to remove.”

5. Google’s Crystal Ball

“On Election Day in 2008, roughly 1 in 100 searches that included ‘Obama’ also included ‘KKK’ or ‘nigger.’”

6. Your Assignment for Today: Chew Gum

“Chewing xylitol-sweetened gum decreased the risk of cavities by up to 70 percent, and a follow-up study showed that the benefit lasted for up to five years.”

7. The Opiate of Exceptionalism

“This national characteristic, often labeled American exceptionalism, may inspire some people and politicians to perform heroically, rising to the level of our self-image. But during a presidential campaign, it can be deeply dysfunctional, ensuring that many major issues are barely discussed. Problems that cannot be candidly described and vigorously debated are unlikely to be addressed seriously. In a country where citizens think of themselves as practical problem-solvers and realists, this aversion to bad news is a surprising feature of the democratic process.”

8. Latter-day Patriarch

“He swore like a sailor and prayed like a saint. He alternately made peace with Indian tribes and massacred them. He couldn’t decide whether dancing was sinful; he permitted it one week and forbade it the next.”

9. Me Translate Funny One Day

“But outright jokes are not the holy grail of comedy, as any stand-up comedian will tell you. It is harder to recreate the seductive humorous tone of a Dickens or a Twain – or for that matter, a Cosby or a Pryor – than it is to render a one-liner into Mandarin. To really make people snort milk out their noses, you need to earn their trust with a convincing persona that summons an atmosphere of ambient hilarity.”

10. T. C. Boyle, Doomsday Preacher

“You have to take 90 percent of what I’m saying as tongue in cheek, but there is some serious thought behind it.”

11. Who Made That Dental Floss?

“The Victorians also loved their toothpicks. After dinner, a gentleman would produce a leather box, reach into its velvet-lined interior, withdraw his gold pick and begin grooming. Charles Dickens owned a toothpick inlaid with ivory and engraved with his initials; it retracted into its own handle like a tiny spyglass.”

12. Yoko Ono: A Reconsideration

“Her art is instructions for tasks impossible to complete.”

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