Monday | 11 March 2013 (Morning Edition)

education / race

THE LEADING LIBERAL AGAINST AFFIRMATIVE ACTION
David Leonhardt | Economix / The New York Times

Mr. Kahlenberg does not question the continued presence of racism. Its existence is one reason that some other higher-education experts who share some of Mr. Kahlenberg’s views would rather see colleges move toward a combination of race- and class-based affirmative action.

When I asked him if he agreed, he said he had spent a long time thinking about that issue and ultimately decided he favored only class-based preferences. They can be structured in a way to recruit a racially diverse class, he believes — and college administrators have come to care so much more about racial diversity than about economic diversity that the two programs would not coexist easily. “My reluctant conclusion is that the only way to get universities to focus on class is if they can’t first use race,” he said.

economy

THE SCARIEST JOBS CHART EVER ISN’T SCARY ENOUGH
Jacob Goldstein | Planet Money

The chart cuts off when employment gets back to its previous peak. But, because of population growth, getting back to where we were five years ago isn’t enough. To get back to full employment, we need to have millions more jobs than we had then.

This led us to wonder: What would Scariest Jobs Chart Ever look like if you compared the past five years with comparable periods for all of the other postwar recessions. How much worse is it this time?

business / media

WHATEVER HAPPENED TO TIME INC.
John Cassidy | Rational Irrationality / The New Yorker

Although small compared to its parent company, Time Inc. remains a behemoth in the publishing world, sucking up more than one advertising dollar of every five spent on magazines. In terms of revenue, three of its titles—People, Sports Illustrated, and Time—are in the top five nationally, according to a recent study. And for all its recent problems, the business still produces a lot of cash. In 2012, it generated an adjusted operating income of four hundred and sixty-three million dollars, on revenues of 3.4 billion dollars. To be sure, that was much less than the operating profit of about nine hundred million dollars that the firm made at its peak, but it ain’t chump change.

When Time Inc. regains its independence, it will be able to set its own budgets and issue bonds to finance investment and acquisitions.

work

THE INTERCEPT IS NEGOTIABLE THE SLOPE IS FIXED
Frances Wooley | Worthwhile Canadian Initiative

A new hire only gets one chance to negotiate: a brief window between the time that an offer is made and the time when that offer is accepted. Those initial terms and conditions determine the employee’s salary for years to come – possibly the entire the duration of his or her time at the institution.

Think of a graph with job tenure (years of service) on the horizontal axis, salary on the vertical, and a curve showing the evolution of a person’s salary over time. Roughly speaking, the intercept of that curve is negotiable, and the slope is, if not entirely fixed, at least largely independent of a person’s initial starting salary.

An extra $100 in starting salary means an extra $100 in salary each and every year – until one jumps to a different pay scale, gets a salary-boosting outside offer, or hits a salary ceiling – none of which may ever happen. Hence, If one is offered a job, it is critically important to negotiate.

science

PLANTS GIVE BEES A CAFFEINE BUZZ
Scicurious | Scicurious Brain / The Scientific American

it’s a natural product of plants like the coffee plant and the tea bush. But the question is, why do these plants have it in the first place? It turns out that there are two answers to that question. First, caffeine is a natural pesticide, which can paralyze and kill insects that want to chomp on the leaves, berries, or other parts of the plant. It’s good for keeping a bug off your back.

But these plants also produce flowers, and these flowers need bees. So it’s somewhat surprising to realize that the coffee plant, as well as plants from the Citrus genus (yup, that means oranges), have caffeine in their nectar. After all, if caffeine is a poison to some bugs, you don’t want to be poisoning your pollinators! But it turns out that bees aren’t like other bugs, and may enjoy themselves a jolt like humans do! Whether they enjoy it or not, they certainly remember it!

HOW THE TRANSIT OF VENUS CHANGED CINEMATOGRAPHY
CultureLab / The New Scientist

What better place to view a film about the transit of Venus than an 18th-century observatory? A once-in-a-lifetime experience, the opportunity for us to watch the planet traverse the face of the sun in June last year was the last this century and will not recur until 2117.

To mark the occasion, Modern Art Oxford and the University of Oxford commissioned Turner prizewinning artist Simon Starling to film the transit. The 35-millimetre film that Starling shot in Hawaii and Tahiti, Black Drop, is now being shown in the Radcliffe Observatory, Oxford, which was built shortly after the first global scientific effort to record the transit.

Starling’s film is being screened in the elegant Observing Room, which housed optical telescopes to investigate the night skies until the observatory closed in 1934.

TRANSIT OF VENUS
NASA | The Best of Science / Youtube

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music

LABYRINTH
Sasha Frere-Jones | The New Yorker

The current level of interest in Bowie reflects a larger theme in pop-music culture. While the long view of musical history suggests the obvious—that the greats remain great while a few fade out—in the near term, some acts seize the imagination of the moment. The Beatles have a flawless catalogue, but their aesthetic has left them on the outside for now: cartoons, granny glasses, and French horns don’t fit into 2013. Conversely, the ennui of present versions of punk and disco and rap—rooted in a young adult’s curt dismissal rather than a child’s open acceptance—has reinforced a common taste for darker acts such as Bowie. We no longer believe that all you need is love (or embroidered bell-bottoms), but we do believe in androgyny and world-weary dance parties buoyed by cocaine and artificially sour exchanges that mask a deep romantic streak.

THE STARS (ARE OUT TONIGHT)
David Bowie and Tilda Swinton | Youtube

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art

NEW WORK FROM DAVID DE LA MANO IN URUGUAY
The Wooster Group

David_de_la_Mano_MONTEVIDEO

The latest piece from David de la Mano is a wall titled “Testamento” painted in Montevideo, Uruguay. We love the delicate yet strong monochromatic theme in his work.

food / television / travel

BLUTARSKY: ZERO POINT ZERO
Anthony Bourdain | Travel Channel

[Ed. note: This is from November 2012, but I hadn’t seen it. I’m a big fan of Bourdain and No Reservations, so here it is.]

As our final episode of NO RESERVATIONS approaches, I’ve been asked to write a top ten list of personal favorites. That’s hard to do. It’s been a mixed bag—and deliberately.

Some disastrous shoots, through the sheer weight of misadventure turned out, like SICILY, to be good shows. Though not in the way we intended. The scenes that were supposed to be “great” ended badly—but the ones for which we had low expectations (the caper farmers in Pantelleria) became magically real, spontaneous and fun. ICELAND was certainly improved rather than hurt by running into a blinding blizzard—and a general overlay of depression and darkness. A near life – ending rollover on an ATV in NEW ZEALAND, however uncomfortable for me, became instant comedy gold.

Maybe the best single example of this was the ROMANIA show, where absolutely everything was ****ed up beyond all hope or recognition: wrong fixer (the inexplicably addled Zamir), unfriendly populace, officials looking for backhanders, and guides with other agendas who did their best (in the hope of portraying their country in a desirable light) to ensure that absolutely every genuine moment was quickly smothered under a thick scrim of artificiality, falsehood and staginess. It was a nightmare to shoot. An utter failure on all our parts—and yet it became a timeless classic of Travel Gone Wrong—unintentionally hilarious. It may have made all of us Public Enemies in Romania (and the subject of scandal and speculation in their national press)—and it may have been terribly unfair to the country and to the many Romanian expats who tuned in, looking to see something beautiful of their beloved homeland…

But it was an accurately gonzo—if unflattering– account of what it’s like to make an utter failure of a show, a masterpiece of incompetence on our part—and misguided good (and bad) intentions on the part of some of our hosts. It was at the same time our greatest failure as professional travel and food television producers—and our greatest success as technicians—and absurdists. We might never be able to repay the good people of Romania for our offenses against their national pride; but no small number of them recognized at least the worst of their country. I can assure you, by the way, that what we DIDN’T and could NEVER have included in the show, would have been even more painfully hilarious. To this day, in the hours after a shooting day, veteran crew members sit in hotel lobbies around the world, and tell the young ones about what really happened there.

But, of course, there were bright spots too. Shows of which I will always be proud. Favorites, both personal and professional where everything (or most things) came together.

HONG KONG, particularly the scene where a third generation noodle maker practices his craft, rocking painfully and disfiguringly on his bamboo pole under the faded photos of his parents encompassed everything I believe to be good and true about people who choose to make food the very best they can. It was a beautifully shot and edited sequence– one of our very best. If our show is principally in the business of celebrating cooks—wherever they may cook—and in whatever circumstances—then this was as good an example of our work as we could ask for.

VENICE was where we were really hitting a golden period for cinematography I think. Using film lenses and adhering to a stylebook shamelessly lifted from works like DON’T LOOK NOW and COMFORT OF STRANGERS, we’d do things like wake up very early in the morning to shoot in Piazza San Marco—intending to make the usually crowded Venice look empty and haunted. It’s an example of a show that came out just as we’d planned, looked and sounded like we wanted it to , and it also had the advantage of being filled with great characters and food. A lot of attention was paid to color balances (in scenes like the painter’s studio) and to the music and it paid off big time.

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