Archives For: Updates

Mental Health Break

Jul 22 2014 @ 4:20pm

Breaking the fourth wall:

Looking at you – Movie Montage from Brutzelpretzel on Vimeo.

Update from a reader:

A quick note: The vast majority of these clips are not really “Breaking the Fourth Wall.” They are simply POV shots, showing what one of the characters in the film is seeing. It’s an effective technique for helping the audience put themselves into the mind of one of the characters. But true breaking of the fourth wall is the direct acknowledgment of the audience. You are not being put in the position of a character; you are being asked to conspiratorially join in the movie.

My favorite versions are malevolent in nature; many remember several shots like this in the Austrian and American versions of Michael Haneke’s Funny Games, as one of the young killers turns to the camera and asks the audience their opinion. But my favorite comes in Atom Egoyan’s Felicia’s Journey as repressed serial killer Bob Hoskins slowly walks through his home, I believe up some stairs, presumably on his way to kill a young victim. And then he pauses, and looks directly at the camera for an uncomfortable moment, before continuing on. Essentially he was indicting us in his crimes, there are no passive observers.

Treating Prostitutes Like Children

Jul 22 2014 @ 3:19pm

Elizabeth Nolan Brown sees the Swedes doing so:

Many areas have adopted or are considering what’s known as the “Swedish” or “Nordic Model,” which criminalizes the buying, rather than the selling, of sexual services (because, as the logic goes, purchasing sex is a form of male violence against women, thus only customers should be held accountable). In this nouveau-Victorian view, “sexual slavery” has become “sex trafficking,” and it’s common to see media referring to brothel owners, pimps, and madams as “sex traffickers” even when those working for them do so willingly.

The Swedish model (also adopted by Iceland and Norway and under consideration in France, Canada and the UK) may seem like a step in the right direction—a progressive step, a feminist step. But it’s not.

Read On

Shifty Work Conditions

Jul 22 2014 @ 7:29am

McArdle contemplates the current state of part-time labor:

Unfortunately, the weakness in the labor market has coincided with yet another market development: scheduling software and technology that allows retailers to manage their workforce as another just-in-time input.

Workers are asked to input blocks of hours when they will be available; the software then crunches through everyone’s availability and spits out a schedule that takes account of everything from weather forecasts to the danger that a worker will go over the maximum number of hours to still be considered part time. Obviously, you can’t string together multiple jobs this way, because each job requires that you block out many more available hours than you will actually work. Meanwhile, Steve Greenhouse reports on even worse practices that I hadn’t heard of: requiring workers to be “on call” at short notice or scheduling them for shifts and then sending them home if business looks light.

In this situation, no matter how hard you are willing to work, stringing together anything approaching a minimum income becomes impossible. That makes it much more deeply troubling than low pay.

Update from a reader, who brings up unions:

This is why anyone who works at a part-time job in a non-union shop is essentially a wage slave.

Read On

Superhero Social Justice

Jul 21 2014 @ 6:42pm

Kevin O’Keeffe relays the big news out of the comic book world:

Continuing the trend of diversifying their lineup of heroes, Marvel announced on last [week's] episode of The Colbert Report that the next Captain America will be Sam Wilson – currently known as The Falcon. … It’s the second big change for Marvel’s Avengers this week. On Tuesday, the women of The View announced that the next Thor would be a woman. Like with Thor, the new Captain America isn’t an off-shoot series – this is the primary Captain America, and the first black Captain America to officially hold the title.

Freddie sighs at those he believes are confusing symbolic firsts for real progress:

The glee with which these changes have been met, contrasted with the bleak state of structural change and economic justice, will tell you pretty much all you need to know about a certain strain of contemporary American liberalism. We’re mere weeks away from a Supreme Court decision where an alliance of religious crazies and corporatists was able to remove a legal provision requiring employers to pay for emergency contraception, but don’t worry, ladies! You too can now be portrayed as a heavily-sanitized version of a minor god from a long-dead pantheon. Black Americans continue to lag national averages in a vast number of metrics that depict quality of life, and in some of them have actually lost ground, but never fear. The guy portrayed punching people while wearing red white and blue spandex will now be black.

Lighten up, Freddie. Progress comes in all forms, big and small. And it’s often the small cultural changes, added together, that have the most lasting impact. Ta-Nehisi put it best, in a post written four years ago, reacting to the news that Captain America was headed to the big screen:

One thing that makes me sad–I wish they’d been ballsy and made Captain America black. … The subtle power of a black Captain America–in the age of a black president–really could be awesome.

Also awesome:

So far, the Hollywood version of Captain America hasn’t made the same move as Marvel, but here’s hoping. Meanwhile, Danny Fingeroth explains the business logic behind these sort of decisions:

Read On

The View From Your Obamacare, Ctd

Jul 21 2014 @ 6:16pm

A reader has a jaded view:

It’s nice to see some of the stories you post about how much the ACA has helped people. The President Obama Visits Boston To Talk About Health Carestories where people mourn for those who refuse it and need it are sad. Allow me to present you with a third type, the people who aren’t eligible due to system bugs.

Yep. Jack and shit for my family. I tried to sign up, since my wife and kids’ coverage ended in May and the ACA won’t cover them. We aren’t rich. We’re lower-middle class, according to the federal poverty line, but out of red state Medicaid income levels. I tried the site – nothing but errors. I spent an hour or more on the phone and neither the persons I spoke to or their supervisors understand why they can’t process it for us. I could call my senator or congressman, but I doubt Lindsey Graham or Trey “Benghazi” Gowdy will investigate.

I’m disabled and currently get Medicare. Prior to May, my wife, two small kids and I all received Medicaid.

Read On

The Elusiveness Of Hitler’s Evil

Jul 21 2014 @ 9:01am

In an afterword for the new edition of his Explaining Hitler, Ron Rosenbaum reflects on one of the central puzzles driving examinations of Hitler’s life – “why that innocent infant evolved into a genocidal monster”:

[S]omething or some things made Hitler want to do what he did. It wasn’t a concatenation of Adolf Hitler, Kinderbildimpersonal, external forces, a kind of collective determinism. It required his impassioned personal desire for extermination, even at the potential cost of defeat for Germany. It required him to choose evil. It required free will.

It required Hitler to make a continuous series of choices, the ultimate source of which may always be shrouded in mystery. We will likely never know, for instance — barring some discovery in a “lost safe-deposit box” — what went on between Hitler and the alleged hypnotist, Dr. Forster, said to have treated him at the time of the World War I German surrender and instilled in him a will to avenge the (baseless) “stab-in-the-back” myth of German defeat. We have only Ernst Weiss’s fascinating novelistic speculation (The Eyewitness) to go on, and it can’t be counted as proof, although it may be the unsolved Hitler mystery I’d most like an answer to. In fact, we lack proof, and the most salient clues might be lost in the mists of history. We just may never know with certainty what made Hitler Hitler. And worse, we may never know why we don’t know: whether it’s because of a missing piece of biographical evidence, or an inability to evaluate the evidence we have. It’s beyond frustrating not knowing whether we might.

Update from a reader:

Long-time reader and subscriber. Your post on “why that innocent infant evolved into a genocidal monster” I would highly recommend reading Robert G. L. Waite’s The Psychopathic God, which does a pretty good job of showing how documented accounts of his childhood history correlate to his compulsions later in life.

Read On

Teaching To The Text

Jul 18 2014 @ 8:30am

Meredith Broussard argues that standardized tests measure “specific knowledge contained in specific sets of books: the textbooks created by the test makers”:

All of this has to do with the economics of testing. Across the nation, standardized tests come from one of three companies: CTB McGraw Hill, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, or Pearson. These corporations write the tests, grade the tests, and publish the books that students use to prepare for the tests. Houghton Mifflin has a 38 percent market share, according to its press materials. In 2013, the company brought in $1.38 billion in revenue.

Put simply, any teacher who wants his or her students to pass the tests has to give out books from the Big Three publishers. If you look at a textbook from one of these companies and look at the standardized tests written by the same company, even a third grader can see that many of the questions on the test are similar to the questions in the book. In fact, Pearson came under fire last year for using a passage on a standardized test that was taken verbatim from a Pearson textbook.

Jarvis DeBerry adds:

If standardized tests are going to be based on textbooks that school systems can’t afford, [Broussard] writes, then you can guarantee that poor school districts are going to fail. She points out that in the 2012-13 school year, a school in Southwest Philadelphia used a reading curriculum by Houghton Mifflin called the Elements of Literature. The textbook paired with that curriculum costs $114.75. The school’s entire textbook budget per child? $30.30.

Update from a reader:

So we’ve gone from “teaching to the test” to “teaching to the text?” What’s the difference? None, actually! And what’s wrong with either of them? Why would you NOT want to test for the success of what you’ve taught or trained students to do? It’s absurd that this would even be a question.

Read On

A reader adds:

Reading the coverage and the collection of tweets on your blog, I think it’s worth pointing out that whatever the rebels and anyone else might say, the rebels themselves were touting that they had the Buk system less than three weeks ago!


After reading this remarkable post on the Guardian site, I discovered a report from only hours ago on the ITAR-TASS site about a Ukrainian military craft being downed by rebels (an An-26 mentioned above). It’s too early to conclude anything, of course, but the evidence so far sure seems to point to a fuck up of horrible dimensions on the part of the rebels.

But another urges caution:

I got home from work early and am a bit of an airplane nut, so I turned on the TV to see if there was anything on about the Malaysian Airlines flight. I’m flipping through channels and I see wall-to-wall coverage of this crash. Why? I’ve been watching an ABC News Special Report and you have Ray Kelly talking about terrorism, you have Richard Clarke talking about terrorism, you have (the normally more composed) Martha Raddtz talking about how this is the scariest time in the world that she can recall.

What the hell are these people talking about???

Read On

An Era Of Government Failure

Jul 16 2014 @ 11:44am

We’re living through it:

government failure

Ingraham and Hamburger unpack Paul Light’s study:

Two factors complicate the failure rate under Obama. The first is that many of the missteps under Obama had their roots in the Bush administration. That administration “could have fixed the information technology systems that led to the and veterans breakdowns, but didn’t. They could have fixed the civil service system that led to the problems in the Secret Service and the General Services Administration, but didn’t. And of course they could have fixed some of the policy problems that led to the 2008 financial collapse and the West, Texas fertilizer plant explosion, but didn’t.”

The other factor is the level of fierce Congressional opposition Obama has faced in office.

Read On

Paying For The Chill

Jul 16 2014 @ 7:29am

Iced coffee was already more expensive than hot coffee back in 2012, but prices keep climbing. Gabrielle Sierra explains why the cold brew can cost as much as a cocktail:

Iced coffee costs come from all sides, with the most obvious also being the easiest to overlook: the ice. “People think ice is free,” says Michael Pollack of Brooklyn Roasting Company, where a 24 oz iced coffee is currently $4.50. “Ice is a fortune. If you think we go through coffee fast, double that for ice. We actually store ten gallon refrigerator boxes of ice, because our needs are so tremendous.”

But the rising cost of beans – more of which are needed for cold coffee than hot - is also to blame:

In May, the New York Times went into detail about a coffee fungus that attacked fields in Central America, leaving less product to purchase. And fungus isn’t the only way mother nature is striking back at coffee lovers. According to, “The price of Arabica coffee beans has surged almost 100% from a level of 106 cents per pound to around 220 cents in mid April, due to tight supply as a result of prolonged drought in Brazil, followed by recent floods.”

And no doubt baristas are able to get away with charging more for iced coffee during the hot summer months. So if you need to save money on the surging price of coffee, you could always join the half of the world population that prefers the instant kind:

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