Sunday, April 26, 2009


This story in last week's New Yorker is about the "cosmetic" use of prescription drugs used for attention-deficit disorder. It's probably old news to many of you -- but the story looks at studies that indicate some of these drugs can improve one's ability with certain tasks, like memorizing numbers, and that some people find they can concentrate better and for longer under their influence. She raises the question of whether college students who use these drugs should be punished for cheating. Toward the end the author makes an interesting connection with the "transhumanists" like the guy we read about in Wired who hopes to live forever if he can get to the singularity.

And I know I've been shoving Virginia Heffernan down your throats all semester, ... but there are a few more weeks left. Here's her column from the Sunday Times Magazine. Again, she's right on the money, taking the somewhat contrarian view that user comments online are basically a wasteland of ill-considered poison. We've discussed the merits of user-generated comments in class, and many publications go out of their way to get as many as possible. And many readers seek the most-commented-upon stories as well. Heffernan suggests reader comments should rise to a base level of insight.

Which brings us back to snark. Here's yet another review of David Denby's book Snark. This one, coincidentally, is written by Toby Young the British critic who we'll be reading for class and discussing on Tuesday.

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