7.26.2009 New York Times Digest


1. “Just Following Orders: An Evil Essay”

“Top scores go to the essay that ‘effectively and insightfully develops a point of view on the issue and demonstrates outstanding critical thinking, using clearly appropriate examples, reasons, and other evidence to support its position.’ Guidelines say nothing about the quality of the point of view taken.”

2. “Pop Quiz: Film Studies”

“Film studies spans the technical (think three-point lighting) and theoretical (think dialectical montage). But it’s summer, so this test is for fun.”

3. “Scientists Worry Machines May Outsmart Man”

“The idea of an ‘intelligence explosion’ in which smart machines would design even more intelligent machines was proposed by the mathematician I. J. Good in 1965. Later, in lectures and science fiction novels, the computer scientist Vernor Vinge popularized the notion of a moment when humans will create smarter-than-human machines, causing such rapid change that the ‘human era will be ended.’ He called this shift the Singularity. This vision, embraced in movies and literature, is seen as plausible and unnerving by some scientists like William Joy, co-founder of Sun Microsystems. Other technologists, notably Raymond Kurzweil, have extolled the coming of ultrasmart machines, saying they will offer huge advances in life extension and wealth creation.”

4. “For Mozilla and Google, Group Hugs Get Tricky”

“For Mozilla and its millions of fans, Firefox is not just cool software but also a cause: to ensure that no company, whether Microsoft, Google or anyone else, can tilt the Web to its advantage by tweaking its browser to favor its products or applications.”

5. “The Web Is Pouncing on Hollywood’s Ratings”

“The standard Hollywood ratings — G, PG, PG-13, R and NC-17 — must now compete with all manner of Internet-based ratings alternatives, some of which are gaining new traction through social networking tools.”

6. “For the Bike World, Tough Love From a Self-Described Snob”

“Few get a pass from the Bike Snob. He targets pro racers and reckless hairy-legged commuters. He scolds manufacturers that place form over function. He publishes pictures of bikes he considers ill-conceived, ridiculing their owners for garish taste, silly color schemes or needlessly expensive components. He teases publications (including this newspaper) for hyping the latest bike trends (like those clunky black Dutch city bikes).”

7. “A Woman Repulsed, a Man Convulsed”

“In the Swinging London of 1965 only one person isn’t having a good time: a painfully shy Belgian manicurist named Carol.”

8. “Listen to Me!”

“Rant videos can be seen as borrowing conventions from their 17th-century antecedents.”

9. “Love in 2-D”

“Nemutan is 10, maybe 12 years old and wears a little blue bikini and gold ribbons in her hair. Nisan knows she’s not real, but that hasn’t stopped him from loving her just the same.”


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