WEEKEND | 17 MAY 2013

POLICY

FOOD STAMPS GET LICKED BY CUTS

Monica Potts | The American Prospect

This week, the Senate and House agriculture committees sent bills that would guide farming policy for the next five years to both legislative chambers for a vote. The vast majority of the legislation’s outlined spending goes to a program that has proven a rich target for a Washington drunk on spending cuts—the food stamp program. The House bill would lower benefits across the board, cutting $20 billion over five years from the program’s $80 billion-a-year budget. The Senate’s version would trim $4.4 billion from food stamps. Many of the cuts in both come from getting rid of a program that allowed states to streamline the ways they provide assistance to the poor.

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PSYCHOLOGY

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WHY FRENCH KIDS DON’T HAVE ADHD

Marilyn Wedge | Psychology Today

In the United States, at least 9% of school-aged children have been diagnosed with ADHD, and are taking pharmaceutical medications. In France, the percentage of kids diagnosed and medicated for ADHD is less than .5%. How come the epidemic of ADHD—which has become firmly established in the United States—has almost completely passed over children in France?

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THE ECONOMY

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BERNANKE, BLOWER OF BUBBLES?

Paul Krugman | The New York Times

And there’s a lot of bubble talk out there right now. Much of it is about an alleged bond bubble that is supposedly keeping bond prices unrealistically high and interest rates — which move in the opposite direction from bond prices — unrealistically low. But the rising Dow has raised fears of a stock bubble, too.

So do we have a major bond and/or stock bubble? On bonds, I’d say definitely not. On stocks, probably not, although I’m not as certain.

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GRAFFITI

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ESTRENO

r2hox | flickr
estreno 1
estreno 2

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CINEMA

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THE BMX BOYS OF E.T.

Emmon Hassan | Naratively

As the movie was ending and applause filled the theater, the BMX stunt kids filled with pride, waited for their names to scroll up during the end credits. They never did. None of the eight BMX stunt riders were ever credited. Apart from a couple of articles in BMX magazines, the stunt kids whose work for the chase scene launched untold thousands of BMX riders were lost to history.

Also forgotten was the story of a bicycle broker from Torrance, California, and the relatively unknown Japanese BMX brand taken under his wing in 1979.

Present at the very same screening, at Culver Studios in West L.A., was Howie Cohen, in his forties at the time. Cohen was a savvy bicycle wholesale distributor and enthusiast who jumped at an opportunity when it presented itself. His company, “Everything Bicycles,” was the only hint at the story of the boys who never appeared in the credits.


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GENDER

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IS HOMOSEXUALITY NATURAL? YES. SO IS MALE LACTATION

Kalliopi Monoyios | Scientific American

As Gwenn Seemel points out in her richly illustrated book, Crime Against Nature, the non-human animal kingdom is chock-full of examples that challenge many of our deeply held beliefs about what is “natural” behavior in everything from sexual preference to lifestyle choices to gender roles and even gender identity.

A third gender, male pregnancy and lactation, female penises – Seemel’s book covers it all and reminds us that if you’re inclined to look to nature for answers regarding what is “normal,” “natural,” or even “moral,” it’s clear that nature passes no judgement. There are no rules but the ones we impose on ourselves.

. . . These images comprise a series of posters that combine the book’s text and illustrations into one. Many of Seemel’s original acrylic paintings from Crime Against Nature are available for sale (scroll down).

You can read Crime Against Nature online for free or buy it in pdf format ($6) or hard copy ($35).

Gwenn Seemel is also a portrait artist. View her portrait portfolio here.

>13-021SeemelBats

13-021SeemelClownfish

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THE PRESIDENCY

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A NEWCOMER’S GUIDE TO THE 3 OBAMA SCANDALS

James Fallows | The Atlantic

Obama’s endorsement of the wiretaps seizure of phone records and investigation suggests surprising blindness to two great and not-very-hidden realities of presidential history. [Sorry, these were not wiretaps.]

One is, secrets always get out. Presidents always hate it, and they always do their best to prevent it. Usually they manage to guard the truly life-and-death, real-time operational details — for instance, in Obama’s case, the suspected whereabouts of Osama bin Laden. But always there are leaks. Always. Always. And they are nearly always less consequential than is alleged at the time.

The other great historical constant is that after-the-fact hunts for leakers always go wrong. That is because they criminalize the delicate but essential relationship between reporters and government officials.

. . . He must know the temptations that work on any president: the temptation to steadily arrogate executive power, to become so resentful of the limits on his power in domestic-legislation fights that he is drawn toward his untrammeled international authority, to slide imperceptibly from his (unavoidable) role as the person who must make countless hard decisions to a sense that his judgment automatically equals what is best for the country. He must know what the open-ended “war on terror” has done to the balance of powers, the fabric of life, and the rule of law in our country. Obama’s (and America’s) ideal, Abraham Lincoln, infringed heavily on civil liberties in the name of wartime emergency. That war, like Franklin Roosevelt’s, had a definable end.

I think Barack Obama has made a bad mistake in endorsing this investigation. It is one of the rare times I question not his effectiveness or tactics but his judgment. I hope he reconsiders.

FALLOWS RESPONDS TO CRITICS

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DOCUMENTARY

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JELA

Will Robinson-Scott | Vimeo

This film follows Jela, brought up in the heart of the East End of London in a Turkish and English family. He talks about his memories of growing up in the 80s and 90s and his time on the streets and on football terraces. Jela grew up fast, being immersed in football violence , skinhead culture , and hard drug use before his life spiraled out of control, now sober he looks to the future.
The East End he grew up in has changed on the surface but many of the faces he grew up with remain the same. His struggles have made him what he is today and Jela is East London through and through.

Film by Will Robson-Scott

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CRIME AND PUNISHMENT

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RAJAT GUPTA’S LUST FOR ZEROES

Anita Rhagavan | The New York Times Magazine | print

It would take more than a year for them to learn of the depth of Gupta’s legal tangles. In March 2011, the S.E.C. charged him in the largest insider trading case in United States history. Months later, he was indicted on a charge of giving Rajaratnam, the subject of the investigation, inside information from two of the boards he sat on, Goldman Sachs and Procter & Gamble. Many remained incredulous, but in June 2012, Gupta was found guilty of conspiracy and securities fraud in connection to tips about Goldman — including Warren Buffett’s $5 billion investment in the bank during the financial crisis. Phone logs revealed that less than one minute after hanging up from the board call unveiling the Buffett deal, Gupta phoned Rajaratnam, who then bought nearly $35 million worth of Goldman stock. A federal judge called it “the functional equivalent of stabbing Goldman in the back.” Gupta was sentenced to two years in prison.

The 64-year-old Gupta, who remains free on appeal, has vigorously maintained his innocence. But even as his appeal is heard this week, the fundamental question behind his case remains a mystery. Why would one of the most revered C.E.O.’s of his generation, who retired with a fortune worth some $100 million, show such bad judgment? How could he get into business with a trader who was known for giving Super Bowl parties filled with scantily clad women. The confusion, a management consultant might suggest, may arise from looking at the problem from the wrong angle. What if Gupta, the adviser to presidents and executives, simply got played?

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GRAFFITI

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SAXOFONISTA

r2hox | flickr
saxofonista 01
saxofonista 02
saxofonista 03

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EMPIRE

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WASHINGTON GETS EXPLICIT. ITS ‘WAR ON TERROR’ IS PERMANENT

Glenn Greenwald | The Guardian

On Thursday, the Senate Armed Services Committee held a hearing on whether the statutory basis for this “war” – the 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF) – should be revised (meaning: expanded). This is how Wired’s Spencer Ackerman (soon to be the Guardian US’s national security editor) described the most significant exchange:

“Asked at a Senate hearing today how long the war on terrorism will last, Michael Sheehan, the assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict, answered, ‘At least 10 to 20 years.’ . . . A spokeswoman, Army Col. Anne Edgecomb, clarified that Sheehan meant the conflict is likely to last 10 to 20 more years from today – atop the 12 years that the conflict has already lasted. Welcome to America’s Thirty Years War.”

That the Obama administration is now repeatedly declaring that the “war on terror” will last at least another decade (or two) is vastly more significant than all three of this week’s big media controversies (Benghazi, IRS, and AP/DOJ) combined. The military historian Andrew Bacevich has spent years warning that US policy planners have adopted an explicit doctrine of “endless war”. Obama officials, despite repeatedly boasting that they have delivered permanently crippling blows to al-Qaida, are now, as clearly as the English language permits, openly declaring this to be so.

It is hard to resist the conclusion that this war has no purpose other than its own eternal perpetuation.

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FOOTBALL

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LOVE YOUR JOURNEY

Wallop Creative | Vimeo

World Freestyle Football Champion, Andrew Henderson, takes us through the streets of London like never before.

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DATA

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HANS ROSLING: THE MAN WHO’S MAKING DATA COOL

Claire Provost | The Guardian

When Time magazine included him in its 2012 list of the world’s 100 most influential people, it said his “stunning renderings of the numbers … have moved millions of people worldwide to see themselves and our planet in new ways”. However, Rosling, 64, is less convinced about his impact on how people view the world.

“It’s that I became so famous with so little impact on knowledge,” he says, when asked what’s surprised him most about the reaction he’s received. “Fame is easy to acquire, impact is much more difficult. When we asked the Swedish population how many children are born per woman in Bangladesh, they still think it’s 4-5. I have no impact on knowledge. I have only had impact on fame, and doing funny things, and so on.”

He’s similarly nonplussed about being a data guru. “I don’t like it. My interest is not data, it’s the world. And part of world development you can see in numbers. Others, like human rights, empowerment of women, it’s very difficult to measure in numbers.”


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ATHLETICS

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WHY BASKETBALL WON’T LEAVE PHIL JACKSON ALONE

Sam Anderson | The New York Times Magazine | print

Everyone wants to know what Phil Jackson is doing.

In the absence of data, they are happy to speculate. The first time I met Jackson, at the end of April, rumor had it that he might become the coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers. (Cleveland hired Mike Brown instead.) When we met again, a week later, the rumor was that he was maybe going to be an executive for the Toronto Raptors. While that rumor was still circulating, a new rumor popped up that he had taken a job with the Detroit Pistons. (Later it emerged that he agreed only to help the team, whose owner is a friend, choose its next head coach.) Then a rumor broke that the Brooklyn Nets were after him as a possible coach and/or president and/or part-owner.

What I can confirm, because I saw it with my own eyes, is that on the afternoon of Friday, May 3, Phil Jackson went shopping for groceries.

THE REMBRANDT OF BASKETBALL

Sam Anderson | The 6th Floor | The New York Times

The first time I talked to Phil Jackson, at a diner, he spontaneously sketched a play on his place mat. I try to keep things professional when I’m doing an interview, but I have to admit there was a not-tiny part of me that was squealing, internally: OMG the winningest N.B.A. coach of all time is literally drawing me a play right now, just like he drew Michael Jordan plays during time outs — OMG I’ve finally achieved my childhood dream of turning into Michael Jordan. (Phil Jackson, whom I wrote about in this weekend’s magazine, was leading Jordan to his first championships during the peak years of my adolescence, so the Jordan/Jackson mythology is still plugged into some pretty preprofessional emotional zones for me.)

After the interview, I was strolling down the main drag of El Segundo toward the beach and I called my wife to check in. When I told her about the place mat, she said: “That’s amazing. You kept it, right?”

I realized that I hadn’t kept it. I had left it on the table.

She told me to hang up and call the restaurant immediately. The waitress said she had just cleared the table but would see if the place mat was still around. When I came back later, she handed me what she had managed to pull out of the garbage can: Phil Jackson’s place mat, crumpled and crinkled, transparent with yellow grease spots, basically destroyed.

I felt a sense of loss: as if Mozart had sketched out a melody for me and I had accidentally sneezed on it.

In the end, though, it turned out to be not such a big deal. The second time I met Jackson, at the grocery store, our conversation turned into an impromptu coaching clinic. I realized that, as long as there is a pen and anything at all to scribble on, you can’t really stop Phil Jackson from sketching. This time, just in case, I had brought a stack of blank paper, and he ended up filling most of it, front and back, sometimes drawing several variations of the same play on one sheet. At one point, after he’d been sketching for a while, I apologized; I said I felt like I was making him do a lot of work. “No,” he said, “you’re just making me think.” He seemed to be enjoying himself.

THE DRAKE SHUFFLE: A perpetual-motion system, invented in the 1950s, in which everyone takes turns filling the same set of roles. Jackson tried it in the playoffs in L.A., where he thought it would be good for Lamar Odom.
drake shuffle

SWITCH CUTS: If you should ever find yourself needing to get Shaquille O’Neal open in the post when teams are aggressively denying him the ball, try this: a series of switch cuts followed by a “down the gut” pass.
switch cuts

7 SECONDS OR LESS: Mike D’Antoni’s high-scoring Phoenix Suns offense, led by 2-time MVP Steve Nash, managed to knock Jackson’s Lakers out of the playoffs twice. “There’s some exceptional things in it,” Jackson said, although he conceded that it has yet to win a championship. “You don’t know if eventually you get to a position where you can’t make all of your plays jump shots.”
mike d

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LITERATURE

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WOULD YOU LIKE TO BE FRIENDS WITH HUMBERT HUMBERT? A FORUM ON ‘LIKEABILITY’

The New Yorker

Claire Messud’s new novel, “The Woman Upstairs,” is narrated by Nora, a schoolteacher who is outwardly tidy, quiet, and pleasing, and inwardly enraged at her constant capitulation to the desires of others and her own stalled artistic impulses. Her voice is edgy, assured, and marked by bursts of rage: “It was supposed to say ‘Great Artist’ on my tombstone,” she tells us, “but if I died right now it would say ‘such a good teacher/daughter/friend’ instead; and what I really want to shout, and want in big letters on that grave, too, is FUCK YOU ALL. Don’t all women feel the same?” The book has been widely praised for its portrayal of an unbounded inner life, and yet it has also prompted discussion about many readers’ resistance to unlikeable characters—particularly unlikeable female characters. When Messud was recently asked by PW if she would like to be friends with Nora (the interviewer said, emphatically, that she would not), she responded sharply:

For heaven’s sake, what kind of question is that? Would you want to be friends with Humbert Humbert? Would you want to be friends with Mickey Sabbath? Saleem Sinai? Hamlet? Krapp? Oedipus? Oscar Wao? Antigone? Raskolnikov? Any of the characters in The Corrections? Any of the characters in Infinite Jest? Any of the characters in anything Pynchon has ever written? Or Martin Amis? Or Orhan Pamuk? Or Alice Munro, for that matter? If you’re reading to find friends, you’re in deep trouble. We read to find life, in all its possibilities. The relevant question isn’t “is this a potential friend for me?” but “is this character alive?”

This critical double standard—that tormented, foul-mouthed, or perverse male characters are celebrated, while their female counterparts are primly dismissed as unlikeable—has been pointed out many times before. But Messud’s comments seemed an occasion to examine the question again. We surveyed a group of novelists—Donald Antrim, Margaret Atwood, Jonathan Franzen, Rivka Galchen, and Tessa Hadley—asking them how often the question of likeability has been posed about their characters, if they anticipate this response as they’re writing (and also whether they think this is a question that women writers are confronted with more than men), and why this persists as a criteria for so many readers. Here are their responses.

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HOMELESSNESS

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FEWER HOMELESS, A BUSH LEGACY

David Frum | CNN

The federal Department of Housing and Urban Development reported that the number of the chronically homeless declined by 30% between 2005 and 2007. You might have expected the numbers to spike again when the financial crisis hit but no. Since 2007, the number of chronic homeless has dropped another 19%.

A broader measure of the number of homeless counts the number of people living out of doors on one randomly chosen night. That broader measure has also improved through the economic crisis. Between January 2011 and January 2012, homelessness among veterans dropped by 7%.

To what or whom do we owe this good news?

In very large part, we owe it to the president whose library opened in Dallas last week: George W. Bush.

For three decades, we have debated what causes homelessness and how to deal with it. Is homelessness a mental health problem? A substance abuse problem? A problem caused by gentrification and urban redevelopment? Or something else again?

The Bush administration substituted a much simpler idea — an idea that happened to work. Whatever the cause of homelessness, the solution is … a home.

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STORYTELLING

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THE MOTH PRESENTS MEG WOLITZER: FIRST LOVE, LONG ISLAND 1975


Meg Wolitzer | Moth Stories | Youtube

A teenager in love has to make decisions about sex.

Meg Wolitzer is a novelist whose new book, The Interestings, was published by Riverhead Books in April 2013. Her many novels include The Wife; The Ten-Year Nap; and The Uncoupling. Wolitzer’s fiction has appeared in The Best American Short Stories, and she lives in New York City

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MUSIC

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WATCH THE BEASTIE BOYS ALBUM COVERS EXPLAINED, BY THE ARTISTS WHO MADE THEM

Kyle Vanhemert | Co.Design

The cover for the Beastie Boys’ debut album, License To Ill, perfectly encapsulated the group’s subversive M.O. It showed a sleek plane with the Beasties’ logo on the tail–a nod to Led Zeppelin’s preferred mode of travel during the heyday of rockstar excess in the early ’70s–but only after opening the gatefold did you see the punchline: the plane had just smashed into a cliff.

“That was our kind of sense of humor,” explains David Gamble, AKA World B. Omes, who painted the iconic cover in 1986. Gamble’s just one of many artists and designers interviewed in this month’s Juxtapoz, a special issue dedicated to all the compelling art that helped propel the trio’s career. In the clip below, you can hear a bit about the work from the artists themselves.

The magazine goes into more depth, giving the story behind each cover. As they got older, the group became more hands-on with the visual aspects of their output, but in the early days, they were having too much fun to care.

THE OOH BABY GIMME MORES: BEAT UP KIDZ

Ryan Enn Hughes | Vimeo

FOALS: HOLY FIRE

Jacob Royal | Sputnik Music | amazon

Fortunately, most of Holy Fire finds itself with a fresh outlook. Lead single “Inhaler” is a surprisingly powerful number, with the chorus showcasing a heavier edge yet unforeseen from the Oxfordian group. The track’s also possibly the best one here because of its unique instrumentation, though, the playful percussive elements holding the verses together. And this sense of instrumental exploration is the area in which the album experiments, by approaching familiar song structures with a different timbre. Pardon my ignorance, but I can’t quite tell if “Out Of The Woods” features glockenspiel or marimba. Either way marks growth for Foals, a group becoming more familiar with its desire for growth than anyone could have anticipated. While this may seem like a bit of a leap, let’s consider the range of sounds featured in Total Life Forever, or lack thereof. Not to say the album was worse off for it – quite the opposite, actually – but the bottom line is that it’s nice to hear Foals avoid any sort of sonic comfort zone on Holy Fire.

foals - holy fire