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February 2007 Archives

"Hollywood ... doesn't matter much anymore"

People don't talk about movies the way they once did. It would seem absurd to say, as [Pauline] Kael once did, that she knew whether she would like someone by the films he or she liked. Once at the center, movies increasingly sit on the cultural margins.

This is both a symptom and a cause of their distress. Two years ago, writing in these pages, I described an ever-growing culture of knowingness, especially among young people, in which being regarded as part of an informational elite — an elite that knew which celebrities were dating each other, which had had plastic surgery, who was in rehab, etc. -- was more gratifying than the conventional pleasures of moviegoing.

In this culture, the intrinsic value of a movie, or of most conventional entertainments, has diminished. Their job now is essentially to provide stars for People, Us, "Entertainment Tonight" and the supermarket tabloids, which exhibit the new "movies" -- the stars' life sagas.

Traditional movies have a very difficult time competing against these real-life stories, whether it is the shenanigans of TomKat or Brangelina, Anna Nicole Smith's death or Britney Spears' latest breakdown. These are the features that now dominate water-cooler chat. There may have been a time when these stories generated publicity for the movies. Now, however, the movies are more likely to generate publicity for the stories, which have a life, and an entertainment value, of their own.

"The movie magic is gone: Hollywood, which once captured the nerve center of American life, doesn't matter much anymore," by Neal Gabler, Los Angeles Times, February 25, 2007

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February 28, 2007 06:37 AM   Link    Caught Our Eye    Comments (0)

Bully in the family

"A favorite tactic of the bully in the family is to set people against each other. The benefits to the bully are that: the bully gains a great deal of gratification from encouraging and provoking argument, quarrelling and hostility, and then from watching others engage in adversarial interaction and destructive conflict, and the ensuing conflict ensures that people's attention is distracted and diverted away from the cause of the conflict."

"Bullies within the family, especially female bullies are masters of manipulation and are fond of manipulating people through their emotions (e.g. guilt) and through their beliefs, attitudes and perceptions. Bullies see any form of vulnerability as an opportunity for manipulation, and are especially prone to exploiting those who are most emotionally needy."
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The bully may try to establish an exclusive relationship (based on apparent trust and confidence) with one family member such that they (the bully) are seen as the sole reliable source of information; this may be achieved by portraying the target (and certain other family members) as irresponsible, unstable, undependable, uncaring, unreliable and untrustworthy, perhaps by the constant highlighting - using distortion and fabrication - of alleged failures, breaches of trust, lack of reliability, etc.

Tim Fields on bullying within the family, on "Thru the Looking Glass" blog, February 1, 2007

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February 27, 2007 09:47 AM   Link    Caught Our Eye    Comments (0)

"The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn't"

And Joe said, "I've got something he can never have."
And I said, "What on earth could that be, Joe?"
And Joe said, "The knowledge that I've got enough."

"Kurt Vonnegut and The No Asshole Rule," Bob Sutton, Work Matters, February 22, 2007

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February 25, 2007 08:27 AM   Link    Career ~   Caught Our Eye    Comments (0)

Saving gasoline

This is a WWII poster from the Northwestern University archives.

Have you really tried to save gas by getting into a car club?
Have you really tried to save gas by getting into a car club?

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February 21, 2007 11:57 AM   Link    Art    Comments (0)

Thelonious Monk

Blue Monk

Thelonious Monk: Blue Monk (recorded in 1958). Thelonious Monk - piano. According to comments: Ahmed Abdul-Malik - bass. Osie Johnson - drums.

Hat tip: Orin Kerr


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February 20, 2007 06:17 AM   Link    Art ~   Music    Comments (0)

"A Strange Story" - Joyce Hatto, fakes, and "expertise"

Joyce Hatto, a pianist who died in 2006, was celebrated by many allegedly knowledgable music critics in the last few years of her life for "a discography that in quantity, musical range and consistent quality has been equalled by few pianists in history."

A preliminary investigation now reveals that many of Hatto's recordings were copies, some slightly altered, of other pianists' recordings. See "Joyce Hatto - The Ultimate Recording Hoax - Part 1," Pristine Classical, which concludes: "We have yet to investigate a Hatto recording that has not proved to be a hoax."

Andrew Rose, who runs the remastering firm Pristine Audio and who analysed the Hatto recordings, said: "There are a lot of critics and publications with egg on their faces."

"Pianist's virtuosity is called into question," by Martin Beckford,, February 18, 2007

It was already one of the strangest stories the classical music world had witnessed. But the discovery of the late English pianist Joyce Hatto as the greatest instrumentalist almost nobody had heard of, appears to have taken a bizarre, even potentially sinister turn.
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But at the same time as the cult of Hatto was burgeoning, there were persistent rumours on the internet as to the true origins of the recordings. How, wondered the doubters, could one woman -- especially one who had battled cancer for many years -- have mastered a range of repertoire and recorded a catalogue that arguably makes her more prolific than even the Richters and the Ashkenazys.

However, Gramophone critic Jeremy Nicholas published a letter in the magazine asking anyone who had any evidence of any wrong-doing to come forth. Nobody did, and the matter rested. Until now.

"Masterpieces Or Fakes? The Joyce Hatto Scandal," Gramaphone, February 15, 2007

Joyce Hatto, who has died aged 77, was one of the greatest pianists Britain has ever produced. Before the appearance of press and internet articles earlier this year, it was widely assumed that she had left us some years ago. In a sense she had: from the early 1970s she suffered from a cancer that not only made her the longest surviving patient treated by Addenbrooke's Hospital, Cambridge, but also prevented her from appearing in public for the past 30 years.

Her legacy is a discography that in quantity, musical range and consistent quality has been equalled by few pianists in history.

Obituary: Joyce Hatto: Brilliant pianist whose career was cut short by cancer which struck in the 1970s, by Jeremy Nicholas, The Guardian, July 10, 2006

Yet some things remain totally obscure in this story. Even the recourse to irony does not explain convincingly why Joyce Hatto and her husband decided to issue these recordings. Another strange thing is the pattern, if any, of the altered recordings. Among the recordings that have been altered, there are two by widely known soloists and orchestras, the Rachmaninov concerto under Esa-Pekka Salonen and Yefim Bronfman (on a Sony Classical CD), and the Brahms concerto under Haitink and Ashkenazy (on a Decca CD). However, three other recordings that have been identified are by lesser-known soloists for smaller labels, such as Laszlo Simon for BIS, Carlo Grante for Altarus or Eugen Indjic for Claves. More interesting that discovering what motivated the entire enterprise would be perhaps to understand why the "producer" and the "performer" in Concert Artist's recordings used specifically these recordings. A reason perhaps is that, in the randomness of these choices, Hatto and her husband thought their mischief would be less perceptible.

However, it is possible that the couple also wanted to disclose, albeit in a rather subtle way, their hoax. All of Hatto's recordings with an orchestra, except for a few from her early years (and I suppose these were actually made by her), were made with a certain "National Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra" under the baton of "René Köhler." It should be evident that such a name for an orchestra is just a concoction of the terms that are more commonly used when naming ensembles: "national," "symphony," "philharmonic." But "Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra" is almost a redundancy (one might claim that "philharmonic" and "symphony" are synonims, but there is a subtle difference between the terms). Furthermore, Maestro Köhler hasn't recorded anything else, at least not classical music. René Köhler (yes, with the same diacritics, by the way) even has a website, but he seems to be a singer and songwriter from somewhere in Scandinavia. We can't help wishing him the best of luck in his new musical ventures.

"A Strange Story," by Hipermnésia Hipnagógica, February 16, 2007


February 19, 2007 10:17 AM   Link    Music    Comments (0)

Happy Chinese New Year - Gung Hay Fat Choy!

The Chinese Year of the Pig / Boar starts February 18, 2007, and will be kicked off in New York City at 11 am with the Firecracker Ceremony at Chatham Square. The Lunar New Year Fireworks Spectacular, presented by the Chinatown Partnership, will start at 7:00 pm in Columbus Park in Chinatown (Mulberry Street between Worth and Bayard Streets).

Photo courtesy of Explore Chinatown

The 8th Annual Chinatown Lunar New Year Parade and Festival, presented by the Better Chinatown Society, will take place on Sunday, February 25, 2007, starting at 1:00 pm. It will run from Mott and Hester Sreets, down Mott Street to East Broadway, then travel along Allen and Grand Street, and finish at Chrystie and Canal Streets. (pdf map here) Calendar here.


February 17, 2007 11:37 AM   Link    Fun    Comments (0)

Scrap rubber

This is a WWII poster from the Northwestern University archives.

America needs your scrap rubber
America needs your scrap rubber

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February 16, 2007 09:27 AM   Link    Art    Comments (0)

Sonny Rollins on the road - with Bret Primack

Bret Primac has a fantastic channel on YouTube - JazzVideoLand. We love this video of Sonny Rollins, but check out the entire channel: JazzVideoLand.

Sonny Rollins is such a beautiful artist, and this video really brings that out. The last time we saw him was at a free concert in Central Park ... just a small group of people ... he was very gracious and talked and had his picture taken with anyone who asked ...

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February 15, 2007 07:37 AM   Link    Fun    Comments (0)

Why you praise children for their hard work....

According to a survey conducted by Columbia University, 85 percent of American parents think it’s important to tell their kids that they’re smart. In and around the New York area, according to my own (admittedly nonscientific) poll, the number is more like 100 percent. Everyone does it, habitually. The constant praise is meant to be an angel on the shoulder, ensuring that children do not sell their talents short.

But a growing body of research--and a new study from the trenches of the New York public-school system--strongly suggests it might be the other way around. Giving kids the label of “smart” does not prevent them from underperforming. It might actually be causing it.

"How Not to Talk to Your Kids: The Inverse Power of Praise," by Po Bronson, New York magazine, February 13, 2007

That's why you praise your children for their hard work and perseverance - those are qualities they can change and those qualities will be helpful to them no matter what they do in life. How "smart" they are they can't change. I'm convinced that the praising of children for being "smart" is a reflection not of brighter children, but of insecure parents competing with other insecure parents.

Also see "For once, blame the student," by Patrick Welsh, USA Today, March 7, 2006:

What many of the American kids I taught did not have was the motivation, self-discipline or work ethic of the foreign-born kids.

Politicians and education bureaucrats can talk all they want about reform, but until the work ethic of U.S. students changes, until they are willing to put in the time and effort to master their subjects, little will change.

A study released in December by University of Pennsylvania researchers Angela Duckworth and Martin Seligman suggests that the reason so many U.S. students are "falling short of their intellectual potential" is not "inadequate teachers, boring textbooks and large class sizes" and the rest of the usual litany cited by the so-called reformers -- but "their failure to exercise self-discipline."

Quotes about hard work

"Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not. Genius will not. Education will not. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. Press on."
-- Ray Kroc

"If it's worth doing, it's worth doing badly."
-- G.K. Chesterton

"Dissatisfaction with oneself is one of the foundation stones of every real talent."
-- Anton Chekov

"Let us be grateful to Adam, our benefactor. He cut us out of the 'blessing' of idleness and won for us the 'curse' of labor."
-- Mark Twain

"Success is the ability to go from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm."
-- Winston Churchill

"I haven't failed, I've found 10,000 ways that don't work."
-- Benjamin Franklin

"Victory goes to the player who makes the next-to-last mistake."
-- Chessmaster Savielly Grigorievitch Tartakower (1887-1956)

"The heights by great men reached and kept
Were not attained by sudden flight.
But they, while their companions slept,
Were toiling upward in the night."
-- Longfellow, "The Ladder of St. Augustine"

"Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing."
-- Theodore Roosevelt

"The truth is that many successful people are no more talented than unsuccessful people. The difference between them lies in the old axiom that successful people do those things that unsuccessful people don't like to do."
-- Harvey Mackay

February 14, 2007 05:18 AM   Link    Caught Our Eye    Comments (0)


Congressional members, led by appropriators and an army of staff, have already figured out a new way to keep their favors in the money, and it might as well be called 1-800-EARMARKS (which unfortunately is already taken). All across Washington, members are at this moment phoning budget officers at federal agencies--Interior, Defense, HUD, you name it--privately demanding that earmarks in previous legislation be fully renewed again this year. There might not be a single official earmark in the 2007 spending bill, but thousands are in the works all the same.

And getting far less scrutiny than before--if that's even possible. Under this new regime, members don't even have to go to the trouble of slipping an earmark into a committee report, where it might later (once the voting is over) come in for criticism.

"It's a Trough Life: The secret new way of earmarks," by Kimberley A. Strassell, The Wall Street Journal, February 9, 2007

We are offering a course about earmarks on February 23, 2007: Earmarks: Everything You Need to Know.

February 12, 2007 08:07 PM   Link    Budget ~   Earmarks    Comments (0)

John Williams & Julian Bream: C.Debussy-Clair de Lune

John Williams & Julian Bream: C.Debussy-Clair de Lune on YouTube

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February 11, 2007 09:27 AM   Link    Music    Comments (0)

Scan all your old photos to CD / DVD

Do you have boxes of old photographs in your attic? Or boxes of family photos you inherited from parents or grandparents? will scan your old photos on CD or DVD for $49.95 per 1000 photos. You can add proof books with 25 images per page to allow rapid viewing.

Using you can make books from your photos.

Download Picasa from Google to tag all of the photos, make slideshows, cards, etc.

See "A lifetime of photos on a single disc," by William M. Bulkeley, The Wall Street Journal, January 31, 2007.

Also see "Creating Your Own Photo Book Becomes Easier," by Walter Mossberg, The Wall Street Journal, December 6, 2006.

February 9, 2007 12:47 PM   Link    Caught Our Eye    Comments (0)

I, Pencil

Leonard Read's delightful story, "I, Pencil," has become a classic, and deservedly so. I know of no other piece of literature that so succinctly, persuasively, and effectively illustrates the meaning of both Adam Smith's invisible hand--the possibility of cooperation without coercion--and Friedrich Hayek's emphasis on the importance of dispersed knowledge and the role of the price system in communicating information that "will make the individuals do the desirable things without anyone having to tell them what to do."

"I, Pencil: My Family Tree as told to Leonard E. Read," by Leonard Read, December, 1958, from the Introduction, by Milton Friedman

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February 7, 2007 07:27 AM   Link    Economics    Comments (0)

Correlation and causality

On the first day of class, I tell my undergraduates that if they only learn one thing in my course, I hope that it will be to recognize and appreciate the difference between correlation and causality. Most of the students laugh smugly, thinking they already know the difference. It never ceases to amaze me, however, when a cleverly designed exam question reveals how easily they can be tricked into forgetting the distinction.

Even among people who know the difference between correlation and causality, there is a lack of appreciation of the fact that when it comes to making public policy, only causal relationships are relevant. I’ve even attended lectures given by tenured professors at Harvard who fail to understand this simple point.

The example I often use to demonstrate why we don’t want to make public policy based on correlations is particularly relevant today in light of the Chicago Bears playing in the Super Bowl. In my example, Chicago’s beloved Mayor Daley is trying to think of ways to increase the likelihood that the Bears win the game. He’s noticed that whenever the Bears win, people in Chicago are happy. Which sparks a great idea: decree that all Bears fans have to be happy on Super Bowl Sunday. It has always been true in the past that winning games and being happy go together, so by demanding the Bears’ fans are happy, it will cause the Bears to win the Super Bowl.

Of course, Mayor Daley is smarter than that. Hopefully you are too and you understand why such a decree would be ludicrous. If not, I encourage you to start over at the beginning of this blog entry and try again.

"Should Mayor Daley decree that all Chicago Bears fans be happy tomorrow?" by Steven D. Levitt, Freakonomics blog, February 3, 2007

A basic proposition of economics is that talk is cheap.

Dear Economist, by Tim Harford, Financial Times, February 2, 2007

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February 5, 2007 11:17 AM   Link    Economics    Comments (0)

Me travel?

This is a WWII poster from the Northwestern University archives.

Me travel?  . . . not this summer Vacation at home
Me travel? ... not this summer Vacation at home.
By Albert Dorne, 1945

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February 4, 2007 09:47 AM   Link    Comments (0)

Most popular books with Hobnob readers

These are the books most popular with Hobnob Blog readers.

Congressional Deskbook 2005-2007, by Judy Schneider and Michael L. Koempel Media Relations Handbook, by Brad Fitch Legislative Drafter's Deskbook, by Tobias A. Dorsey
Congressional Deskbook 2005-2007, by Judy Schneider and Michael L. Koempel Media Relations Handbook, by Brad Fitch Legislative Drafter's Deskbook, by Tobias A. Dorsey

Congressional Directory Common Sense Rules of Advocacy, by Keith Evans Real World Research Skills, by Peggy Garvin
Congressional Directory  Common Sense Rules of Advocacy, by Keith Evans Real World Research Skills, by Peggy Garvin
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February 3, 2007 09:47 AM   Link    Caught Our Eye    Comments (0)

The End is Near!

Doomsayers like to think they’ve made a rational, scientific inquiry and discovered that the past is an unreliable guide: Sure, we’ve survived all these millennia, but we’ve never faced global threats like the ones today. But I share M. Skinner’s belief that they’re being hubristic in assigning themselves such a special place in history: the first humans ever to accurately foresee the end. It’s always possible they’re right. It seems far more probable they’re like all the past prophets of doom who mistakenly thought they were special, too.

"Isn’t That Special? Copernicus Meets Doomsday," by John Tierney, Tierney Lab, January 31, 2007

See "The End Is Near," by Amir Malka.

February 1, 2007 06:27 AM   Link    Caught Our Eye    Comments (0)