Looks like a case of bottled up anger to me. Im gonna sentance you to anger managment courses. this hairy doctor will sleep in your bed with you and want to spoon.. J/K LOL. here's a few answers for you.
1) Smooth shapes can be accomplished in a number of ways. as a a matter of fact. every modelling form has some type of smoothing option. Poly for example have polygon>smooth which subdivides your faces evenly over your surface giving the illusion of a smooth surface. Nurbs and Sub D's on the other hand are bent surfaces (in simple terms). there surfaces are calculated by a proximity controler of some sort. Sub D's use a polygon Proximity shell to manipulate how the surface is calculated while nurbs surfaces use Control Verticies. these 2 surfaces are the ONLY true smooth surfaces in any rendering program. But polygons, while not truely smooth, are widely used because of there extensability and ease of use.
2) older pictures are just using good lighting techniques to get that photorealism. some of them, where also created using whats called GI Mel scripts or GI Joe Mel's as such. todays pictures done in Maya 5 use Mental ray a lot. it adds an element called photons to your work. they are emmited from lights and bounce from surface to surface according to how they are programed. this gives a nice smooth lighting effect.
3)my guess on this one is that it takes memory and resources to show you a really good picture so maya gives you a crappy reference and saves the resources for your work.
4)Use the sub divide tool or smooth tool.
5)Absolutly NOT they are great for modeling but whith nurbs modelling use only when you need to.
6) There are more video tutorials out there for texturing. MtMckinley has some great ones i believe. If you like poly's, he's gonna be your best friend. this guy is a poly master. Look for one of his posts, and check through the vip tutorial areas. When you get better at the basics advanced mapping will follow.
7) Yeah. it usually says that moving this element may cause an undesired effect. I just ignore it and make sure i keep my model clean. not sure why it does that.
Hope this helped
And after calming me down with some orange slices and some fetal spooning,
E.T. revealed to me his singular purpose.
--TOOL, 10,000 Days---