Sunday 11.25.2012 New York Times Digest

1. Is This the End?

“Our species tends to see nature as something of a nuisance, a phenomenon to be outwitted.”

2. For Martha Stewart’s New Fans, Tattoos Meet Appliqué

“Martha Stewart has emerged as something of a patron saint for entrepreneurial hipsters, 20- and 30-somethings who, in a post-recessionary world, have begun their own pickling, cupcake and letterpress businesses and are selling crafty goods online.”

3. Cellphones Reshape Prostitution in India

“Cellphones, those tiny gateways to modernity, have recently allowed prostitutes to shed the shackles of brothel madams and strike out on their own. But that independence has made prostitutes far harder for government and safe-sex counselors to trace. And without the advice and free condoms those counselors provide, prostitutes and their customers are returning to dangerous ways.”

4. Hatching Ideas, and Companies, by the Dozens at M.I.T.

“One issue at the crux of technology transfer is: How do universities protect the public good?”

5. So You’re a Good Driver? Let’s Go to the Monitor

“I wanted to see how it felt to have my driving behavior captured, sent to an insurance company and analyzed. More drivers, seeking discounts on auto insurance, are voluntarily doing just that.”

5. The Dual Lives of the Biographer

“Life-writing calls for any number of dubious gifts: A touch of O.C.D., a lack of imagination, a large desk, neutrality of Swiss proportions, tactlessness, a high tolerance for archival dust. Most of all it calls for an act of displacement.”

6. The Snake in the Garden

“It’s only when we’re living in the future, the realm of ‘what if,’ that we brilliantly incapacitate ourselves.”

7. Neuroscience: Under Attack

“A gaggle of energetic and amusing, mostly anonymous, neuroscience bloggers — including Neurocritic, Neuroskeptic, Neurobonkers and Mind Hacks — now regularly point out the lapses and folly contained in mainstream neuroscientific discourse.”

8. When Do We ‘Get It’?

“I don’t think we are witnessing the emergence of a lasting break with the old, durable Hollywood ways, but we are seeing an exciting level of playfulness.”

9. Rediscovering the Electronic Music Godmothers

“Female composers of electronic and computer music have long been overlooked outside circles of scholars and record scavengers. But because of the efforts of a handful of small, independent record labels, that situation has begun to change.”

10. My Life as a Television Throwback

“Call it Slow TV.”

11. The Branding of Dita Von Teese

“Dita doesn’t wear jeans.”

12. Anne Lamott: By the Book

“I read both paper and e-books, but please don’t tell my publisher this. E-books are great for instant gratification — you see a review somewhere of a book that interests you, and you can start reading it five minutes later. At least I still know it is wrong. But when all is said and done, holding a printed book in my hands can be a sacred experience — the weight of the paper, the windy sound of pages turning, like a breeze. To me, a printed book is like a cathedral or a library or a beach — holy space.”

13. Drawing the Line, and Crossing It

“Who was Saul Steinberg? His acquaintances thought of him as an elegant dandy who seemed catlike in his refinement. In his prime, he lived on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, dined out most every night and held forth at dinner parties with piquant erudition and wit. But behind the thick glasses and mandarin mask lay a haunted figure, a fearful man who visited indignities upon himself and those around him. As Bair reveals, his love life was a string of infidelities, and crabbiness was his default mood. He eschewed interviews and spurned the company of very young children.”

14. Fooled You

“As we wait for the Singularity, when our iPhones will become sentient and Siri will start telling us what we can do for her, many of the savvier fiction writers have begun to come to grips with the fact that the tutelary spirit of the quest for the human may not be Dante or Emily Dickinson or Virginia Woolf, but Alan Turing, the British mathematician who helped start the revolution in computing.”

15. Skills Don’t Pay the Bills

“I knew that advanced manufacturing had become reliant on computers, yet the classroom I visited had nothing but computers. As the instructor Joseph Goldenberg explained, today’s skilled factory worker is really a hybrid of an old-school machinist and a computer programmer.”

16. Who Made That Emoticon?

“In 1982, as a young professor at Carnegie Mellon University, he realized the need for a symbol to temper the bickering that plagued online forums. The Internet was just a baby then, and yet already flame wars raged. Fahlman decided that a smiley face could be useful as a ‘joke marker’ (as he called it) to take the sting out of mocking statements or pranks. And so he hunted around the keyboard for a way to make the face. ‘But what do you use for eyes?’ he wondered. Once he found the colon, the rest was easy.”

17. Oliver Stone Rewrites History — Again

“Spend any time with Stone, and you’ll soon discover that he lacks what you might call the deliberation gene, whatever prevents us from saying things that will get us in trouble, lose us friendships, even jobs. Years ago, a producer on Nixon related that when he first introduced Stone to his mother, Stone declared, ‘You look Chinese.’ (She was not.) At dinner, I watched Stone jokingly tell two female Spanish film executives that he missed the days when attractive Spanish women, with little economic opportunity at home, served as maids in wealthy French households. The day we met, I mentioned that my family would be leaving Brooklyn for Connecticut, where we don’t know a soul. ‘But, really, what’s the worst thing that could happen?’ I said, offering the kind of throwaway phrase used to move from one topic to the next. Well, Stone postulated, quite earnestly, you could end up going through an acrimonious divorce and then be forced to wage an expensive battle over custody of your children.”

18. The Hard Life of an N.F.L. Long Shot

“O.K., don’t laugh, but when I’m listening to this, I imagine myself running through a primeval forest somewhere with just a loincloth on and a huge hunting knife in my mouth. I’m really looking to kill something.”

19. What Brand Is Your Therapist?

“Nobody wants to buy therapy anymore. They want to buy a solution to a problem.”

20. ‘In Berlin, You Never Have to Stop’

“In L.A., people actually get stuff done because you’ll go homeless if you don’t hustle. Here you can be superpoor for years and still live comfortably.”

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