Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Finnish Schools & Other International Links

This look at Finnish educational policy and practice is fascinating, and kind of makes me want to be a teacher. In Finland.

This Italian mayor's town was going to be merged with its neighbor, so he basically declared himself a prince.

You know what's really pretty? Greenland.

How should Germany treat the extreme right?

Apparently Gadhafi has an album of Condoleezza Rice. Creepy.

Motherhood and equality in Germany

Muppet Madness & Other Entertainment Links

An Open Letter to The Muppets

And goodness, do I want Muppet nail polish.

Important: 10 Myths About Television That Fans and Viewers Believe

The 10 Best TV Shows to Watch All at Once

The Nice Guy and the Manic Pixie Dream Girl

Five Broadcast Programming Battles To Watch This Fall

I am still in denial about them getting rid of Samantha.

Hey, Castle fans...

Did you see the new, somewhat shocking season four promo yet? If not, I have it for you over at TheTelevixen.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A Remake I Actually Want & Other Entertainment Links

I am usually skeptical about remakes of things I like. I am absolutely nothing but enthusiastic about the prospect of a Firth/Mulligan My Fair Lady.

The Incredible Shrinking TV Season

MSNBC should ditch the weekend trash shows.

There are not enough women in the TV industry.

The epic Dawson's Creek rewatch at HelloGiggles continues.

I am SO SICK of the online marketing nonsense on The Archers.

A Brief History of the Crossover

I greet any "new Star Trek series" rumors with a lot of skepticism, but here you go.

Arthurian Legal Fights & Other Religion Links

In the "Yes, this is a real headline" files: Druid Leader King Arthur Loses Legal Fight Over Stonehenge Remains

The Huntsman and Romney campaigns have prompted some interesting pieces on what it means to be Mormon:
GOP Rivals Have Different Takes on Mormon Faith
Is Jon Huntsman a Jack Mormon?

Here's an interesting look at the everyday life of the bishop of London.

Holocaust-related Torah recovery fraud? Ugh.

The Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America

Turkish Government to Return Seized Property to Religious Minorities

Personalized TV Recommendations for Teen & Supernatural Drama Fan

@Medlinniel on Twitter asked for recommendations; here's what she likes: "Vampire Diaries. Pretty Little Liars.. True Blood and... The New Girl (which isn't out yet)"

Okay! First of all, if you like Vampire Diaries, you must try The Secret Circle. It's made by the same people, and based on another trilogy by the same author. It's about a young girl who moved to a small seaside town to live with her grandmother and discovers that her family is one of several families of witches in the town. I've seen the pilot and liked it a lot. For your viewing convenience, it's on the CW on Thursdays at nine, right after Vampire Diaries.

You should probably try the CW's other new show Ringer, on Tuesdays at nine. It stars Buffy's Sarah Michelle Gellar and just cast Moonlight's Jason Dohring (also known as Logan from Veronica Mars), so it's sort of vampire-adjacent. It's about a woman on the run who tries to stay safe by impersonating her missing, estranged twin sister, only to discover that people are after the twin as well. It doesn't look like it's going to have a supernatural element, but the pilot has a similar feel to the sort of shows it sounds like you like - somewhere between PLL and Nikita with a little Gossip Girl thrown in.

A few more ideas: ABC's Revenge is a Hamptons soap about a young woman trying to get revenge on the rich community that somehow ruined her family, and it looks like it could be a lot of fun. (It's loosely based on The Count of Monte Cristo. And if you're looking for more shows with magic or supernatural elements, try ABC's Once Upon a Time and NBC's Grimm.

I hope that helped! If you try any of these shows, let me know what you think!

Fall TV Reference Sheet & Personalized Recommendations!

I've finally finished updating my public TV spreadsheet, which has premiere dates, a grid for fall, and more. Just click here, and let me know if there are any issues or, of course, if you have any information I'm missing.

I'm also going to try doing some personalized recommendations, because that seems less daunting than trying to write about the whole schedule, somehow. So! Leave a comment telling me some current or past shows you love, and/or genres or topics you like or don't like, and I'll write a post just for you.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Bo Slideshow & Other Politics Links

Need a pick-me-up? Try Bo Obama. Seriously, I've been just leaving that open in a browser tab for when I need it.

You may have heard that the Republicans don't want to raise taxes. This is not true. They are all for raising taxes on poor people.

Conservative intellectuals are not thrilled with their current options.

This guy really liked Perry.

Ayn Rand's Influence on the Tea Party

The Thomases vs. Obama's Health Care Plan

Getting Time to Yourself & Other Surprisingly Good Advice

How to Get Some Time to Yourself

Helping the Heartbroken & Asking for Things

How to Be Around People When You're in a Crappy Mood

How to end an email

Wine Apps & Other Food & Drink Links

Like wine? There's an app for that.

I don't agree with everything here, but a vegetarian's guide to talking to carnivores has some interesting points.

A Finnish farm girl at Hamburger U.

The challenge of not cooking on Shabbat

Eat Like a Foodie at Home, Without Breaking Your Budget

South African wine: "Rooted in human misery."

An appreciation of '90s junk food

Make the perfect panna cotta.

Mozart's Sister & Other Music Links

This movie about Mozart's sister Nannerl sounds promising.

Are virtuosos becoming a dime a dozen?

Brian Wilson does Disney? Sign me up.

Liszt: Not that great a composer but underappreciated as a performer and teacher?

Welsh Words for Rain & Other Language Links

Welsh has lots of words for rain.

"Heteronormative" doesn't technically mean what you think it means.

Oh, Old Navy. Is this really necessary?

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Hurricane Blogging, Part I


It's not actually raining here yet, but as you can see, I am all ready with anything I could possibly need. And, of course, I'm aggregating links, because that's what I do. But first: some of these are funny, but that doesn't mean I think you shouldn't take the storm seriously. I believe some of the panic is overblown, but by all means, do what you need to prepare, and if you're somewhere where you're supposed to evacuate, DO THAT. Don't be dumb.

Entertaining and/or informative liveblogs:
NYMag's Daily Intel
NY Times's The Lede
The Atlantic Wire
Gawker

What to Expect When You're Expecting a Hurricane

The Ultimate Hurricane Survival Guide

In case you hadn't heard, the Republicans aren't so big on disaster relief right now.

Here's Why You Shouldn't Make Phone Calls During the Hurricane (unless you need to call 911!)

The 10 Stupidest Ways to Die in a Hurricane

The upside to a hurricane

Who will actually evacuate?

F-22 Jets Allowed to Fly Just to Escape Irene

Friday, August 26, 2011

Tom Brady Loves Uggs & Other Sports Links

In Retrospect, It’s More Of A Shock That Tom Brady Wasn’t An Uggs Spokesmodel Sooner

Dear NFL training camps, Good job on the security there.

The new documentary about Ayrton Senna sounds fascinating.

The new Google format for sports results is great unless you're trying to look something up without actually being "spoiled" on a current game.

Oh, New Hampshire, never change.

CTRL+F & Other Science & Tech Links

Good news! Wasting time on the Internet makes you a better worker.

NINETY PERCENT of people don't know about CTRL+F. Now I'm worried. You all do, right? Anyone need a lesson? No judging, promise.

On a similar note: Students have no idea how Google works. Oh, geez.

GameStop: Pretty shady.

Relativity via telegram

Never say that Twitter never accomplished anything, because this story is amazing.

Riverside, Iowa has a sense of humor.

I am in awe of this Rubik's cube cake.

The secret world of hackers is fascinating.

The Jessi Slaughter story is pretty horrifying.

This is one of the reasons why I generally think online reviews can be more trouble than they're worth.

Facebook finally letting people pre-approve photo tags. About time.

Haven Recap: Audrey Parker's Day Off

Can we talk about how amazing Nathan is? Um, anyway, look, I recapped!
And oh … Nathan. One of the saddest/sweetest Audrey/Nathan moments ever came during the repeat when he was the one to die: As Audrey held him as he was dying in the street, he said: “It doesn’t hurt. The only thing I feel is you.” In the next repeat, she’s so relieved to see him alive and well, and they have a cute little moment in which she tastes his coffee for him to see if it’s too hot, since he can’t tell. It’s played as though this is a regular thing for them, and I’d love to see some more of these everyday examples of how she helps him navigate the world.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Naked Without a Book & Other Links for Literature Lovers

Don't you feel naked when you forget a book? I do.

History's Ill-Fated Literary Couples

I adore Eliot's Four Quartets, but when I read about things like this I can't help but wonder why people don't put that energy into an actual problem like, I don't know, feeding starving children. Also, you know, PLACES CHANGE. Get over it.

Six Authors Who Were Copywriters First

20 Celebrities With Stunning Home Libraries

Last Night's News: Everything Is Awful

In case you were out actually having a life last night or something, let me catch you up on the late-breaking news. (Spoiler: It's all bad.) Steve Jobs resigned as CEO of Apple for health reasons. Slate laid of a bunch of people, including June Thomas, Jack Shafer, Timothy Noah, and Juliet Lapidos. Oh, and there's that hurricane thing. So if things seem a little gloomy this morning, well, now you know.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Why Are There So Many Dumb Articles About Reading?

Another day, another high-profile example of People Being Wrong On The Internet about books and reading. It's really time to stop the madness. I'm going to declare a personal moratorium on linking to these articles or engaging with them directly,* partially because giving them more traffic will only encourage them, and partially because at this point these stories just make me so tired. (This week most of the attention seems to be going to the one about boys and the one about the President.) But I did think it was worth asking, more generally, why there are so many dumb, panicky articles about what people are or aren't reading in the first place. To some extent, I'm sure I just notice them more because things about books get into my filter bubble; if I started caring passionately about chess, I'd probably suddenly notice a million examples of People Being Wrong On The Internet about chess. But I do think there are objectively a lot of these articles about reading.

And I think a lot of it comes down to the idea that books, and especially novels, have this mysterious, magical power to make people think about new things, and think about old things in new ways. Those of us who love books are now saying 1) Um, duh and 2) But isn't that good? And to most of us, it is! But to a lot of people who write these articles, all this exposure to new ideas and encouragement to think for oneself is dangerous, especially when the reader in question is someone they see as inferior to themselves (children, women, minorities) or as an enemy (a Democratic president).

If you hand a child a math book, you can expect him to learn some math; if you see a president reading a string of biographies of previous presidents, you can choose to assume that he's contemplating the duties of the office. But if they're reading novels, then it's harder to predict what they're getting out of all that made-up stuff. It could be making them think about new things, and then anything could happen. And if you already have a lack of imagination and intellectual curiosity and a deep suspicion of the other, then that right there is reason to PANIC PANIC PANIC.

* You know, for today. Until something comes along that I just can't resist. I'm not promising anything crazy here.

Hookers With Rules & Other International Links

This piece about the German economy and national character is long but really worth the read.
"This preternatural love of rules, almost for their own sake, punctuates German finance as it does German life. As it happens, a story had just broken that a division of a German insurance company called Munich Re, back in June 2007, or just before the crash, had sponsored a party for its best producers that offered not just chicken dinners and nearest-to-the-pin golf competitions but a blowout with prostitutes in a public bath. In finance, high or low, this sort of thing is of course not unusual. What was striking was how organized the German event was. The company tied white and yellow and red armbands to the prostitutes to indicate which ones were available to which men. After each sexual encounter the prostitute received a stamp on her arm, to indicate how often she had been used. The Germans didn’t want just hookers: they wanted hookers with rules.
It's fascinating, I promise, even if you don't love rules as much as I do.

The global crisis of institutional legitimacy

International student workers are protesting at Hershey.

Should the U.S. Demand Extradition of Lockerbie Bomber from Libya?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Brokered Convention Dreams & Other Politics Links

How likely is a brokered convention? Not very.

Just for the headline: George Pataki Oddly Close to Running for President

Why it's not that helpful to ask "What Would Hillary Have Done?"

Culture-War Candidates Aren't 'Victims' Just Because People Hate Them

This can't possibly end well.

Stop handing your babies to politicians.

Spotlight Lingers for 2008 Celebs

Notches on David Tennant's Bedpost & Other Entertainment Links

This profile of David Tennant is the sweetest thing you'll read all day.

Elisabeth Sladen's autobiography should be fascinating.

Why One Day Is the Most Toxic Romance of the Year

PSA: There's going to be a stripper movie with Matt Bomer next year. Plan your life accordingly. (Also: Joe Manganiello and more.)

Emma Thompson doing a movie about Victorian artists? Yes, please.

TV nostalgia: Legends of the Hidden Temple and Dawson's Creek

Revolutionary War Bioweapons & Other History Links

British Used Bioweapon in US War of Independence

Coco Chanel: Nazi Agent?

Britain's First Pre-Roman Planned Town Found

Also found: a Roman amphitheatre in Yorkshire.

Here's an interesting contemplation on the Berlin Wall anniversary.

You can now watch Britain's public information films from 1945 to 2006.

The Old Bailey now has a searchable online archive.

Movie Review: Midnight in Paris

WARNING: I AM GOING TO SPOIL THE END OF THIS MOVIE.

To understand my feelings about Woody Allen's new romantic fantasy Midnight in Paris, you first must understand the Holmes Index. It rates movies by how hot it would have to be to go see a given movie in the theater and be delighted by the air conditioning, if nothing else. This is basically what happened with me and Midnight in Paris. I got home from a midday August wedding in an unair-conditioned venue and decided that I could not spend the evening in my unair-conditioned apartment, and this was the best local option. I went into it hoping to be somewhat entertained while I bought a few hours of cool air, and from that perspective, this surpassed my expectations: I was thoroughly charmed as I watched. But the more I thought about it afterward, the less impressed I remained.

The Story: Successful-screenwriter-turned-struggling-novelist Gil* (played both unexpectedly and unexpectedly well by Owen Wilson) accompanies his fiancee and her family to Paris, where he becomes obsessed with the idea of moving there to write and walk in the rain, much to the fiancee's chagrin. As he becomes frustrated with her conservative, snobby parents and know-it-all pseudo-intellectual friends, he starts walking around alone at midnight, when a car happens along to take him back in time. He goes to the 1920s - his idea of the best time to live in Paris - and hangs out with the Fitzgeralds, Hemingway, Cole Porter, Gertrude Stein, Dali, etc. He gets all sorts of inspiration and also falls in love with Picasso's mistress. They travel to the 1880s - her idea of the perfect time to live in Paris - where they meet famous artists who are wishing they lived in the Renaissance. So Gil realizes that everyone thinks an earlier time period was better, so the important thing is to do what you really want to do so you don't idealize another time. He breaks up with his fiancee and stays in Paris, where he may begin a romance with a Clemence Poesy doppelganger who sells Cole Porter records at the flea market and likes to walk in the rain.

The Good: Woody Allen certainly understands what the ego of the insecure arty leftist needs, and from Gil's arguments about the Tea Party with his prospective father-in-law to his frustration at the Expert In Everything friend to his vindication by the museum guide (played perfectly competently by Carla Bruni) who says that he's right and the other guy's annoying, the modern parts of the film hit all the necessary notes. And the historical sections were a terribly fun game of figuring out who was who and what was going on. Kathy Bates made an awesome Gertrude Stein, and Corey Stoll's portrayal of Hemingway was a highlight. And hey, Gil got to do what generations of readers have no doubt thought and just give Zelda Fitzgerald a Valium already. (Also worth mentioning: I'm not an Owen Wilson fan, but I actually liked him in this.)

The Bad: As described above, the moral of "make the life you want so you don't have to daydream about other lives" was frustratingly simplistic and didn't really get into any of the questions of art and happiness and mental illness that the selection of historical characters invited. And I was frustrated by the fact that there was absolutely no discussion of the time travel mechanism, and while I can go with "it's just fantasy" to some extent, there were still issues of internal consistency and of how easily Gil was passing unnoticed in his modern clothes and having Gertrude Stein reading his modern novel, etc. Whether Gil was changing the future by affecting the decisions of famous people in the past was not even mentioned.

The Verdict: If you like Woody Allen and/or cultural figures of the 1920s, this is probably worth Netflixing once it hits DVD. But I wouldn't necessarily bother seeing it in the theater - unless, of course, you need some air conditioning.

* A sign of a less-than-great movie: In retrospect, I could not remember a single character's name (other than the historical figures, of course) and had to look them up.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Why I Love the Primary System (& Think It Needs to Change)

In my experience, this is completely right:
The problem as I see it is that the voters in [Iowa and New Hampshire] take their responsibilities too seriously. The try to think for the nation and not simply as a voter. I recall a perfect example of this phenomenon from the 2004 election. Howard Dean entered the Iowa caucuses as a surprise favorite but didn't win. After the voting I heard an interview with a voter who explained that she preferred Howard Dean to John Kerry, but voted for Kerry because she thought he was more electable.
This is my third presidential election cycle in New Hampshire, and from a personal perspective, it's awesome. So much attention! So many chances to see candidates! Let's have waffles with Mike Huckabee! Oh, hey, Giuliani's at the office! It's fun, and it lets anyone interested learn enough to start thinking of himself as an "expert" quite easily.

But, yes, this means we take ourselves way too seriously. In 2004, I came very close to making that exact "Kerry's more electable" decision described above; I wound up sticking with Dean, but I was agonizing over it until I walked in to vote. Of course, yes, there would be some of this type of thinking in any state, but when a state has this privileged place over and over, it's way too easy for more and more people to start thinking of themselves as experts or insiders or analysts rather than, you know, voters.

Martha's Vineyard & Other Politics Links

Choire Sicha says everything that needs to be said about the President's vacation.

The GOP's New War on Schools

Rick Perry: Maybe not conservative enough, believe it or not.

This profile of Jon Huntsman makes him sound quite sane, so of course he's doomed.

The Ohio legislature wants a bar. Can you blame them?

Every time I'm reminded that some places have professional, full-time firefighters, I'm shocked. Nevertheless, this makes sense.

Comparing your opponent to Hitler: never a good political move.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Otters Triumphant & Other Animal Links

Otters! Otters everywhere! Gosh, they're cute.

I realize I should be happy about this watersnake no longer being endangered, but honestly, my first thought was "Gee, I'm glad my uncle moved to Chicago because I'd be terrified to swim at his lakefront Cleveland house now."

My favorite line of this shark attack story is "In a region more accustomed to threats from bears . . ."

Fasting Football Players & Other Ramadan-Related Links

Ramadan Pictures from Around the World

Wow - High school football players observing Ramadan.

And, similarly: The BBC talks to Muslim Olympic hopefuls.

Interesting read - The Major Roadblock to Muslim Assimilation in Europe

The actual problem with A Study in Scarlet

The latest cause celebre among book folk: a school has removed Conan Doyle's A Study in Scarlet from the curriculum (and can we stop calling it "banning"? Two different issues) because of that weird Mormon section. And . . . well, my feelings are mixed. On the one hand, sure, I generally think kids should have access to as many books as possible, and parents should make decisions about what their own kids read, but not anyone else's. But, again, this incident isn't a question (so far as I can tell) of removing the book from the school library or telling kids they aren't allowed to read it. It's about whether it's actively taught in class.

And I think our kneejerk "Every instance of objections to a book must be EVIL EVIL EVIL" response is a little too eager. Really, if it was selected to introduce the students to an important genre (mystery) and character (Sherlock Holmes), but then the students were distracted by or focusing on the derogatory portrayal of a religion - well, if the teacher then said "You know, I don't feel capable/informed enough to teach about nineteenth century British opinions of Mormonism in my English class, so I think I'll meet these objectives with a different text," I don't think I have a problem with that.

But my real issue here is with two assumptions that most of the articles about this controversy seem to be making: First, that A Study in Scarlet is an awesome book that should be taught, and that not teaching this book means not teaching Sherlock Holmes at all. To the first point: Frankly, this book is kind of weird, partially because of the Mormon thing and also just in general. It's not the easiest thing to get through. I know many people who gave up on Sherlock Holmes altogether because they found A Study in Scarlet unreadable. It also isn't particularly representative - it's a novel, and most of the Holmes canon is short stories.

So why does this have to be the students' introduction to the genre or the character? My suggested solution: teach a few of the short stories instead. Sure, A Study in Scarlet was first, but this isn't a series that needs to be read in order. Fans have spent decades trying to make the continuity between the texts work, in fact, and it just doesn't. So don't worry about that aspect. Pick a few stories that are a) a more accessible introduction to a perhaps-unfamiliar style, b) more fun, and c) more representative of the canon. The shorter format would also provide a great opportunity to teach the classic detective story structure in its pure, distilled form before moving on to longer texts with, say, subplots and character development. (And kids who get into Holmes will then read A Study in Scarlet whether you want them to or not.) That might work out better for everyone.

And then, you know, get ready for the "OMG Sherlock Holmes is a cocaine addict!" outrage.

HP Shocker & Other Links for Geeks

(Trying something new - links organized by topic, and posted whenever I have a bunch about a given topic. Or when I stagger them to autopost while I'm at work. Whichever.)

HP is getting rid of TouchPad and WebOS and selling the PC unit. Wow. Actually, I wonder if they'll spin it off as . . . Compaq? Heh.

Useful Chrome extension of the day: Tabulate

Star Trek quilts!

Is Apple going from metal boxes to airy glass stores?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

If you like the sort of things I like...

Then you probably want to watch The Hour on BBC America tonight:

Interesting: The Jurassic coastline

(I'm mostly trying out the "send to Blogger" feature in Google Reader, but these pictures really are worth a look.)

The Jurassic coastline: "

Guardian photographer Graeme Robertson in Lyme Regis, Dorset


"

Morning Coffee (8/17/11)

Can we just ignore the fact that I disappeared on you, and move on? It would be appreciated. Thanks. Here, have some links!

The "White Mouse" has died.

Restaurant Web sites are the worst.

Was Camus killed by the KGB?