lgcroundup

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The autonomous car of the future is here:

I was briefly nervous when Urmson first took his hands off the wheel and a synthy woman’s voice announced coolly, “Autodrive.” But after a few minutes, the idea of a computer-driven car seemed much less terrifying than the panorama of indecision, BlackBerry-fumbling, rule-flouting, and other vagaries of the humans around us—including the weaving driver who struggles to film us as he passes.

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As the critic Lewis Mumford wrote half a century ago, “The right to have access to every building in the city by private motorcar in an age when everyone possesses such a vehicle is the right to destroy the city.” Yet we continue to produce parking lots, in cities as well as in suburbs, in the same way we consume all those billions of plastic bottles of water and disposable diapers.
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The phrase “knew how to wear clothes” is a loaded one. To “know how to wear clothes” is another way of saying that Cary Grant embodied class, which is to say high class: Grant wore well-tailored clothes, and he knew how to hold himself in them. But he came from nothing, and the way he wore clothes was just as much of a performance as his refined trans-Atlantic accent, his acrobatic slapstick routines, and his masterful flirtation skills.
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Walter Isaacson’s book is long, dull, often flat-footed, and humorless. It hammers on one nail, incessantly: that Steve Jobs was an awful man, but awful in the service of products people really liked (and eventually bought lots of) and so in the end his awfulness was probably OK.
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In the fantasy and superhero realm, the most chilling and compelling villain of the year was surely Magneto, who in X-Men: First Class is more of a proto-villain, a victim of human cruelty with a grudge against the nonmutants of the world rooted in bitter and inarguable experience. Magneto is all the more fascinating by virtue of being played by Michael Fassbender, the hawkishly handsome Irish-German actor whose on-screen identity crises dominated no fewer than four movies in 2011. Magneto, more than the others, also evokes a curious kind of self-reproach, because his well-founded vendetta is, after all, directed against us.
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Enlightened is probably the sharpest satire of modern white-collar work since the original British version of The Office, and its skewering of this world intertwines with its portrait of individual personalities so deftly that you can’t separate them. Creator Mike White captures the unsettling blandness of office protocol, politics and jargon, from the chill that workers feel when Human Resources calls them out of the blue to the impressive-sounding word salad labels that the company gives to its departments and projects. (The experimental department to which the newly demoted Amy is assigned is called “Cogentiva.”)
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Why Whitney is Lucy, only less lovable:

This may sound like blasphemy to anyone who loves Lucille Ball, the woman who pioneered the classic joke rhythms that Whitney Cummings so klutzily mimics. Cummings has none of Ball’s shining charisma or her buzz of anarchy. Yet she does share Lucy’s rictus grin, her toddler-like foot-stamping tantrums, and especially her Hobbesian view of heterosexual relationships as a combat zone of pranks, bets, and manipulation from below. “This is war,” Whitney announces, before declaring yet another crazy scheme to undercut her boyfriend, and it might as well be the series’ catchphrase.

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Because women and girls don’t always kick ass, and neither should our heroines:

Bella Swan, by contrast, is a much more honest though cringe-inducing representation of adolescence. She doesn’t know who she is or what she wants. She’s clumsy, obtuse, and aggravating in her helplessness. She is also entirely internal, almost alienatingly so. One of my favorite passages from the novel New Moon is when Stephenie Meyer inserts a series of blank pages to stand in for the months that pass while Bella mourns — out of any reasonable proportion — Edward’s desertion. Bella, kind of wonderfully, takes her time.