Archives For: Updates

On Swearing, Ctd

Jan 23 2015 @ 1:58pm

Prospero peruses the subject:

Taboo words can survive underlying social change. Church attendance has plummeted over the past few decades in Quebec, but a distinctive clutch of swear-words in the local variety of French are still some of the roughest words in the language: chalice (calisse!) and “host” (hosti), for example. The words remain powerfully charged partly because they are simply learnt as taboo words, and serve a special function divorced from their original context.

Swearing activates a bit of the brain that is used for other kinds of emotional responses like shouting and crying. The reason it is so hard not to swear in front of a child when you stub your toe is that you haven’t consciously processed the words through the same part of the language engine that you would use to explain a maths problem. Studies have even shown that swearing makes physical pain more bearable. …

A last class of words, though not quite as powerful, fill out the picture.

Read On

What’s In A Black Name? Ctd

Jan 23 2015 @ 9:25am

Readers ramp up the thread:

About the discussion on discriminating against black names, there is also this research, where the researchers sent out emails to professors from many disciplines seeking help/information about their PhD programs. The emails were signed by generic White, Black, Hispanic, Indian, and Chinese male/female names. Then they measured the response rate: how fast the professors responded and how willing they were to help the student. Regardless of the professors’ discipline, sex, race, White males had it the best, and the Asians the worst. This only changed with Chinese professors responding to Chinese students. So, there you go.

A few readers also point to a study entitled “Are Emily and Greg More Employable Than Lakisha and Jamal?” The abstract conclusion states, “White names receive 50 percent more callbacks for interviews.” Another redirects to the real world:

I read your post and thought perhaps employers need to institute anonymous application processes. A quick search online revealed that some organizations (and governments) have done just that with positive results.

Read On

Heads Up

Jan 20 2015 @ 3:55pm

I’ll be live-blogging the SOTU at 9 pm tonight, and we’ll be covering other reactions among the blogs and tweets thereafter. Tune in.

Update from a reader:

Know that I’ll be drinking IPA out of my sweet new Dish mug during the State of the Union tonight. One healthy chug every time the camera focuses on a scowling Republican.

Was Selma Really Snubbed? Ctd

Jan 20 2015 @ 7:28am

An insider joins the debate, quoting a reader:

A qualified film not receiving “enough” nominations is no reflection of the quality of the film. Instead, it’s simply a failure of the film’s PR hacks’ effectiveness at marketing directly to the Academy voters. It’s not the film’s fault, nor is it the Academy’s fault; it’s the film’s publicists’ fault. In the case of Selma, I’ve seen more publicity for Paddington.

I’ll call bullshit on that one. To say Paramount’s failure to get a screener to guild members on time is the reason for Selma‘s failure to nominate director Ava Duvernay is condescending to those members that vote on said nomination. As a Producers Guild member, almost every member I know sees it as their responsibility to see all the major potential nominees and they take that responsibility seriously. Aside from screeners, you’ll notice at the bottom of your local paper advertisements for the prestige films a notice that guild members are accepted free at all the major multiplexes. Combine that with the screenings the studios hold before and after a film’s release in not only New York and L.A., but also San Francisco, Atlanta and Chicago, there are plenty of opportunities for guild members to see all of the pictures. Being in the Academy especially is a big honor (besides being an organization that’s very difficult to join) and Academy members treat the nominations period like the High Holidays.

And it may just be that Duvernay’s lack of a nomination has nothing to do with the color of skin but rather the fact that Selma is, frankly, a good but not great movie.

Read On

Hathos Alert

Jan 16 2015 @ 5:25pm

The headline says it all:

“I have not seen ‘American Sniper’,” writes New Republic’s reviewer of ‘American Sniper’

Well, almost all:

Update from a reader:

The headline most assuredly does NOT say it all. It is an opinion piece about the characterization of American Sniper put forward by the marketing of the movie. The author disagrees with this characterization. It is not in any way, shape or form a “movie review,” but if you just lie and say it is, then you can create another phony right-wing Gotcha! moment to chew up the next news cycle.

By the way, thank you for not having a comments section.

Another reader retorts:

Unfortunately, the headline does say quite a bit. Look at what the article actually says.

Read On

Headline Of The Day

Jan 16 2015 @ 4:45pm

All-women’s college cancels ‘Vagina Monologues’ because it’s not feminist enough

Update from a reader:

I am not particularly liberal, but a deeper dive into the reasons that Mt Holyoke had decided to not do their annual performance of Vagina Monologues is not really about how feminist the play is. It is about how the licensing of the play forbids any modification to (or criticisms of) the script within the performance [namely to include those who identify as women but don’t have vaginas]. Rather than put on the VM production again (for something like the 10th time), they are developing their own script and production. I don’t see much to mock about this. I don’t see any educational value for having college students put on a play that explicitly forbids them from modifying or interpreting it – particularly when they have performed the play several times before.

To Protect And Bomb

Jan 16 2015 @ 7:37am

This week ProPublica reported on law enforcement’s overuse of flashbang grenades:

Police argue that flashbangs save lives because they stun criminals who might otherwise shoot. But flashbangs have also severed hands and fingers, induced heart attacks, burned down homes and killed pets. A ProPublica investigation has found that at least 50 Americans, including police officers, have been seriously injured, maimed or killed by flashbangs since 2000. That is likely a fraction of the total since there are few records kept on flashbang deployment.

Read On

Map Of The Day

Jan 15 2015 @ 6:45pm

History professor Claudio Saunt created the above time-lapse, as well as a corresponding interactive map, to emphasize “the fact that the United States is built on someone else’s land”:

By the time the Civil War came to an end in 1865, it had consumed the lives of 800,000 Americans, or 2.5 per cent of the population, according to recent estimates. If slavery was a moral failing, said Lincoln in his second inaugural address, then the war was ‘the woe due to those by whom the offense came’. The rupture between North and South forced white Americans to confront the nation’s deep investment in slavery and to emancipate and incorporate four million individuals. They did not do so willingly, and the reconstruction of the nation is in many ways still unfolding. By contrast, there has been no similar reckoning with the conquest of the continent, no serious reflection on its centrality to the rise of the United States, and no sustained engagement with the people who lost their homelands.

Update from a reader:

“The fact that the United States is built on someone else’s land”. Um, isn’t this true of every modern nation? Isn’t it true that the Native Americans fought and killed each other to take land from their neighbors?

(Hat tip: Nathan Yau)

Busted With An Eggcorn, Ctd

Jan 14 2015 @ 9:12am

Just when we thought the thread was over:

I grew up visiting a cabin in the Sierra that my grandfather built after WW2, when my dad was little. Many of the stories about the cabin involved a Scandinavian journeyman carpenter they hired to help build it. Because of this, for much longer than I care to admit, I thought a finish carpenter was a carpenter from Finland.


I fly up and down the East Coast a lot. For a while I was puzzled about the flight attendants’ announcement about putting “your rollerboards” in the overhead compartments … until I realized that “rollerboards” is a corruption of “roll-aboards” – what small bags with wheels were called when they first came on the market.


My associate just tried to describe someone as shady and said: “He is all smoky mirrors,” instead of smoke and mirrors. I told her about your eggcorn thread and warned her that I would be submitting this.

Busted. Many more eggcorns below:

OK, I don’t know if you’ve heard this one already, but …

Read On

What Sets Off Fundamentalists?

Jan 13 2015 @ 1:24pm

Ron E. Hassner ponders the triggers of religious violence:

[W]hat is truly puzzling about fundamentalist wrath is not merely why some fundamentalist Muslims but not others choose to resort to terrorism against cartoonists but why there is no such Islamist terrorism against abortion clinics, for example, a prime concern for Protestant fundamentalists. For reasons anchored in theology, history and politics, these Christians would never consider reacting with force to a cartoon mocking Jesus just as a cartoon mocking Moses would barely elicit a shrug from a fundamentalist Jew. But fundamentalist Jews riot, and violently so, in response to desecrations of the Sabbath and the unearthing of Jewish remains by archaeologists, two themes that neither their Muslim nor their Christian counterparts have much interest in. …

Why don’t Protestant extremists bomb abortion clinics in Europe? Why have there been no Muslim riots in response to blasphemous cartoons in the U.S.? We cannot explain why fundamentalists attack without studying religion and we cannot explain when and where they attack without studying politics. This point is lost both on anti-Muslim voices, who wish to forge an essentialist link between Islam and violence, and on postcolonial activists who strive to place the blame for violence anywhere but on the shoulders of its Islamists perpetrators.

Update from a reader:

I had an enlightening conversation with a Kuwaiti medical student who is on placement at my practice today.

Read On