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  • movies « Liam McHugh-Russell
    see the end game Replaces the sociology of Martha Mae with the soft focus metaphysics of a freshman dorm room Is she or isn t she The narrative provides just enough misdirection to make you feel at the end that the answer can only be both If dark and disturbing are not really your style I guess I would ask a question how do you feel about Wes Anderson He made Rushmore and The Royal Tennenbaums If you are into his style and there is really no mistaking it then rush to see Moonrise Kingdom It provides all the twee odd strangely paced artifice and nostalgia painted in pastels and tartans over the surface of every one of his films though with less of the pathos that marked say Tennenbaums Some people find his focus on art design rather than art frustrating and can t connect to films without the veneer of Hollywood realism if you are not that person then you will probably find more than a few things to like in this particular take on his one man genre a particular interation that dips more directly into the style of kids adventures books than anything else in his oeuvre in some sense even more so than The Fantastic Mr Fox Though this one has nothing on par with the latter s amazing wolf on the hill scene An older movie that also borrows from the school of valorizing presentation over representation and flair over fervour is Rian Johnson s Brick In its essence it s like a film school project on genre mixing bringing together film noir s mystery caricature hard knocks and careless violence with the lightness nostalgia and dramatis personae of a cheesy high school romantic comedy Except for a few moments where Johnson allows the awkwardness and doubt of actual teenagers to poke through the script s surface the mastery of the film lies precisely in how well these two elements are balanced giving what is obviously pastiche the patina of reality Speaking of bank robberies and of old movies have you seen Inside Man A Spike Lee joint that seems the most significant departure from his usual efforts to capture the lived realities of America s black communities the film proves that his skills go much deeper than just a commitment to faithful storytelling By letting the narrative unfold both forward and backward toward the heist s punchline Lee is not only able to make a movie about the thrill of constructing and executing the job a la Ocean s Eleven but also provides a mystery or really two mysteries one of which is as political as you would expect from one of his picture Except for the spent payoff of knowing how the hell they pulled off the job the whole thing held up under a recent second viewing as well A movie that really lets the camera do a lot of the work and some might say too much is Meek s

    Original URL path: http://Mchugh-Russell.ca/tag/movies/ (2016-05-01)
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  • New York Times « Liam McHugh-Russell
    world excels at facilitating countless micro discussions and exchanges on almost every conceivable topic this hyperactive space tends to crowd out avenues for the slow churning of grand arguments and theorizations In one way his regular commenting on my blog and as you ll see at least one element of the post itself goes some way to providing a quirky counter current to his position The argument of the piece a bit ironically if Gabler s argument is right given its appearance in a print publication is a bit muddled on what the problem is what the sources of it are and what the implications might be but his point about digital media can probably be summed up in his claim that you can t think and tweet at the same time His big idea is short form media is bad for big ideas While it is true that the average blog post is shorter than the average book the problem with critiques like this is that they are stuck using a metric of information density which uncritically borrowed from the age of Gutenberg Sure it s impossible to summarize big ideas in 140 characters But a huge portion of people use Twitter not as a way to communicate directly but only as a way to encode other kinds of communications Why does the NY Times have its own dedicated microurl Because of how frequently people were using Twitter to link to articles in the Times So when Gabler claims that Twitter is bad because tweeting is largely a burst of either brief unsupported opinions or brief descriptions of your own prosaic activities a form of distraction or anti thinking he s providing an unfairly narrow image of how social media is used Another example It s true that I waste some amount of time on facebook watching videos of cats chasing lasers though my favourite online video remains this classic of cats who shoot lasers But most of my time there is spent following links posted by friends reading the comments they write on these articles commenting on their positions and when I m lucky getting into an even more extended conversation on these topics The reality is the majority of my discussion of ideas now happens not IRL but on facebook This concerns me certainly But not because it heralds the doom of thought itself One could respond that among those using online technologies my network of friends is anomalous and that though Gabler s vision of Twitter may be narrow he s right about the majority of online content Well fine but then the only important question is are people talking about big ideas more or less than before Twitter Because I am willing to wager with 1 to 1 odds that most of Western societies has always talked about the mundane details of their lives most of the time Were the biggest celebrities in 1899 intellectuals actors or war heroes But let me get back to

    Original URL path: http://Mchugh-Russell.ca/tag/new-york-times/ (2016-05-01)
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  • Oprah « Liam McHugh-Russell
    that problems can be solved simply by saying yes to any idea new or old so long as it is well packaged and expressed with enthusiasm or certainty I suppose compared to the dominant strand of the American zeitgeist that a country willing to raise a quizzical eyebrow pause before jumping onto the wagon of every fad that bristles with enthusiasm and reject the magical thinking of by believing it we can make it so will look like an elephant graveyard of nay saying Eeyores But nothing could be further from the truth For inasmuch as the Russian stereotype of fatalism is anything more than a stereotype it has nothing to do with being critical and has everything in common with the eager beaver American disease whereas in the lands of Slavic stereotype there is an almost overweening willingness to say yes to everything that already is no matter how bad and no to any idea about how things might be better in the always on digital Manhattan of Twitter Entertainment Tonight and BuzzFeed the almost laughable but ultimately tragic logic of the TEDtalk circuit doles out gold stars to every nincompoop self deluded enough to stand in front a crowd and expound breathlessly on an idea that promises everything everything and at almost no cost What I am getting at here is of course being critical is a constructive disposition and even a positive one but just not in the insane sense in which that word is batted around the Oprah bookclub lowlands of North American public discourse The alternative to critique is a society where everyone is shitting themselves with excitement about a future in which we all get to be the next Steve Jobs all while 2 of the population is in jail literacy rates are declining and social mobility is lurching in the direction of the ancien regime It is almost enough to drive you out of your house and into a bathtub in the street I ll take boring slightly wry but ultimately well managed conservatism over that hokum any day March 26th 2015 Tags critique negation Oprah positive thinking positivity Theodor Adorno Category culture Uncategorized Leave a comment Democracy for Everyone Good news everyone finance is getting more democratic because technology You know how democracy works right It means that a service that was previously only sold to some people gets sold to everyone now It used to be that only finance dudes got to have finance but now everyone does Hooray Let s watch a video of democracy happening What were we talking about Oh yeah today s breathlessness about the democratizing potential of financial institutions comes from Mohammed Al Erian who as Chair of Barack Obama s Global Development Council apparently has a job whose sole requirement is an uncriticial embrace of the Silicon Valley doctrine of social policy i e the best way to deal with the social problems caused by deterministic technological change and inevitable laissez faire economic governance is

    Original URL path: http://Mchugh-Russell.ca/tag/oprah/ (2016-05-01)
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  • power « Liam McHugh-Russell
    system as a whole All I m concerned with is how this affects our company It s not that the US financial class is uninterested in politics but many of them nonetheless have an unsophisticated view of politics backed up by fear and selfishness not a desire to rule per se All this provides proper context for a recent exposé in New York Magazine detailing the hazing rituals of Kappa Beta Phi an exclusive club for powerful Wall Street types What is most striking about this soirée for billionaires and those making due with only hundreds of millions is not simply the fact of their gathering but how much closer their hijinx come to the crude embarrassments of a freshman fraternity rush than a secret meeting of the Illuminati It s a wonder reading the KBP piece next to a recent investigation into real college fraternities that more Wall Street types aren t falling off things to their death It s easy to look at the incredible power that has been accumulated by Wall Street over the last 30 years and assume that its ascendance was by design that it could only have resulted from a clandestine concerted scheme It s doubly so given that much of the still powerful neoliberal orthodoxy is not only the brainchild of an intellectual revolution but the result of a concerted political project Fine But strategy to respond has to take into account as well how much the smartest guys in the room are far from it and how much the structures of power are self reinforcing with or without concerted efforts by anyone If there s one thing Wolf of Wall Street can help make clear it s that February 21st 2014 Tags conspiracy finance fraternities Kappa Beta Phi politics power Wall Street Wolf of Wall Street Category Uncategorized Leave a comment The Will to Power at Qatar Airways So go read this description of the working conditions for airline attendants at Qatar Airways What s going on here Sure the working realities for south Asian men depicted in the article make it impossible to describe the attendant s conditions as horrendous but still this seems not only unpleasant but also irrational on the part of the employer Neoclassical economists have no way to explain the existence of employees at all In the world of endless spot markets labour is a commodity purchased in infinitely divisible portions to perform discrete tasks under controlled conditions There can be no bosses because individual workers are only contributing exactly what they have contracted to do The institutionalists do a bit better Back in 1937 Ron Coase was first economist to notice that the world of production work and exchange isn t just an anonymous field of spot markets but also contained you know firms and employees and managers Of course other economists had studied firm strategies and the decisions made by managers but he was the first to ask if the market is so great at

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  • science « Liam McHugh-Russell
    who have the right kind of knowledge But that obscurity results partially from a gradual expansion of referents over the last 200 years from a term with a narrow meaning little differentiable from bookkeeping to a bloated pastiche that includes practices which used to be derided as immoral speculation sold as insurance offered as opportunities for investment or understood as depositing money in a bank But it occurred to me today that the transformation of the world hand in hand with the transformation of the word is not always a process that s driven by the search for ordered scientific clarity Consider for example that for the generation born after 1998 there will never be a world without a like button In the interaction with facebook like as verb takes on an active social sense slightly askew from its prior usages When I was 15 years old liking Radiohead meant I possessed a preference that was stationary inert and internal ready to be dragooned into action only once I was forced to choose between alternatives a thing I might take out to to show a potential friend or choose to keep to myself a feeling that related me as much to myself as to a network of my teenage classmates To like something in the facebook era by contrast not only to have something but is in the stronger sense to act It is is to make a mark in the world To like becomes not only to possess an internal orientation a feeling or an affect or an emotion but to engage in a form of communication one directed to a crowd of friends and acquaintances plus a less than predictable network of relations of relations In being inseparable from this act of communication to like something in this way leaves behind the world of private preferences secret pleasures silent joys The meaning of words lies not only in their use but in the networks of incoherent sometimes contradictory meanings they are used to express Words divide up the world into manageable categories leaving certain senses behind even as they pick up new ones picking up certain meanings and abandoning others Perhaps the current generation will never use like in ways that are noticeably different from how I do But it is one possible future of the word and of the world To finance is no longer limited to its original sense in English of paying a ransom to release a prisoner Nor is liking something bound to have quite the same freight or carry quite the same information as when we were young March 6th 2015 Tags facebook finance history history of science information James Gleick knowledge science science and technology studies Wall Street Category Uncategorized Leave a comment Do not listen to me So it turns out that experts are terrible at what they do At least if the expert who stars in this CBC documentary profiled here in the Toronto Star is to be believed Science

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  • taxes « Liam McHugh-Russell
    The undercurrent here these are University of Chicago economists after all is that there is no market failure which small business subsidies actually address Their point is that small businesses are a terrible proxy for innovative firms labour intensive production and services and growth industries Thus small business benefits are market distorting not market correcting The first problem with the conclusion is one of research design they don t have a negative case They are studying the intentions and outcomes in a US small business sector which already benefits from a network of subsidies and tax benefits The relevant question isn t given existing subsidies what portion of the small business sector is innovative It s without these subsidies would the economy as a whole see lower employment growth and less innovation I don t think they ve provided relevant data to answer that question The other problem I have with their conclusions turns on their narrow definition of market failure Now for the most part they are responding to a certain set of arguments so this isn t a failing of the paper so much as of the entire discussion Because the discussion seems to discount the overall social benefit of a rich ecology of small businesses One of the market failures which small business subsidies can provide is that the market doesn t necessarily make a city liveable because there are obvious collective action problems in getting citizens to pay for liveability Now does the P A benefit from small business subsidies Maybe not it does have another branch in another part of town But there is no doubt that without these subsidies my neighbourhood Starbucks may have priced out some of the local cafés and the McDonald s two blocks away would have found it easier to compete with local restaurants rather than shutting down for lack of profitability three years ago Now I don t know about you but that s market distortion I can live with h t David Lizoain October 5th 2011 Tags Benjamin Wild Pugsley cities Erik Hurst small business subsidies taxes Category city economics Leave a comment Smarter ducks Over on the New York Times economix blog an argument for high taxation and robust government spending using data from of all places the Republican supporting Heritage Foundation in response to those who think that those who pay low taxes are lucky duckies As an example of the cute analysis Equatorial Guinea According to the Republican leaning Heritage Foundation those who live in this small country in sub Saharan Africa are lucky duckies indeed Because of recently discovered oil deposits the citizens of Equatorial Guinea pay less than 1 percent of the gross domestic product in taxes The comparable figure for the United States is 26 9 percent of G D P according to Heritage However Equatorial Guinea doesn t seem to be a very pleasant place to live The people are poor and have little freedom Heritage says that persistent institutional weaknesses

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  • teaching « Liam McHugh-Russell
    has an implication about the process of learning Education is not a mechanical process I cannot in fact put my knowledge directly into your brain techno utopian fantasy notwithstanding Rather learning is necessarily active I can tell you something say the definition of GDP but your ability to remember it will depend on what you do when I tell you on whether you are writing it down when I am talking on what you are using to write it down on how soon you return to it after first hearing it My sense is that the best way to really learn the definition of GDP is to be forced to use it in practice or to reflect on its meaning why is it defined this way Why does the result of this calculation matter What would be wrong with other calculations How else might we have tried to capture this information How do we measure this aggregate in practice I would argue even further that the definition of GDP only becomes useful once a person can provide answers to these questions Memorizing the definition might get you marks on a test only your ability to think about it in context will make you a better economist Telling someone how a process or technique is supposed to aid their learning treats becoming a better learner meta learning as a passive rather than an active process Learning itself is a skill and like all skills it is only sharpened and refined through practice Telling students what contribution ePortfolios might make to learning therefore ignores both elements of Freire s insight first it assumes that the teacher knows exactly what contribution the process might make to the student s competence as a learner and that this knowledge is simply transferred to the student second it does not require students to use this knowledge and is almost sure to be ineffective at making them better learners In other words it may convince students to use ePortfolios but it will not make them better learners The reality is the best way to increase student learning competence is for them to be reflectively engaged in the learning process to constantly push them to think about how they learn best to consider what they might learn from a given experience to adopt practices which maximize their own learning to experiment with alternatives to ask better questions In other words it requires departing from a simple image of education as a service that universities provide to students and recognize that education is work which requires creativity thought engagement and participation by students September 21st 2012 Tags education ePortfolios framing learning meta learning Paulo Freire teaching universities Category education One comment I suppose that s a profession I would like to be a part of Even if it is not immediately recognized as such Law as it is idealized by the new law student is the philosophy of state power Not in the explanatory sense of political science but

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  • United States « Liam McHugh-Russell
    better June 1st 2014 Tags Borgen Denmark Nordic countries politics popular culture United States US politics Category politics Leave a comment Dr Pepper is hurting America One could call a recent episode in which the employees at a Mott s factory in upstate New York s Williamson face a 1 50 an hour pay cut combined with other benefits reductions just another day in the continued American slide toward inequality Yet as noted by New York Times writer Steve Greenhouse the strike is interesting because the concessions are being demanded at at time when the parent company The Dr Pepper Snapple Group is showing healthy profits As noted by Leo Casey over at Dissent Magazine s blog there s nothing new about the race to the bottom which has undermined middle class incomes over the past 40 years Wages for the bottom 90 of the American workers have stagnated for the last 30 years at the expense of the wages of the top 10 That s 20 years of growth for which all of the benefits have flowed to society s richest There is no reasonable argument that this is fair data shows that the change can t be attributed to growing gaps in educational attainment Besides fairness however there is growing understanding backed up by evidence and theory that inequality is a large part of what caused the financial crisis Former chief economist at the IMF Simon Johnson lays out arguments to that effect from Robert Reich and Raghuram Rajan no economic slouches themselves While admitting the long term fiscal problems faced by the United States Johnson points out that the immeditate causes of the fiscal crunch was paying for the financial crisis one facilitated by 30 years of growing inequality Johnson s argument is about the implications of this understanding for US fiscal policy but it also provides a useful perspective on the Mott s strike A recent book from Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett you can read a defence against their critics here has demonstrated the almost unbelievable numer of ways in which equality improves the lives of whole societies that is not just the poor the work of Johnson Rajan and Reich simply adds another reason to realize that the US has far from crossed the line from reasonable into irresponsible Some public advocacy groups have taken a hard tack on inequality yet public awareness on the causes of inequality have as of yet gained much less traction and policy responses seem focused on tax measures alone It is all well and good to focus on individuals and their earnings but ultimately distribution is a result as much if not more of the regulation of the market as it is of post income readjustment The Mott s strike demonstrates just one of the myriad ways in which corporations empowered and informed by legal rules and government policies are allowed to increase their share of the total economic pie It is this wealth which has increasingly found

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