Nicholas Kristof: Why 2018 Was the Best Year in Human History! (NY Times)
Once again, the world's population was living longer and living better than ever before.
Garrison Keillor: Life is good, unless you get on the wrong train
Children are growing up during this administration who are learning a good lesson: if you don't know history and you can't do math, you're in deep water and there's no way to hide it.
Paul Waldman: No one in the Trump administration has any credibility left (Washington Post)
Something curious is happening right now: The president of the United States will give a prime-time address on an urgent political controversy, and pretty much everyone acknowledges that in that address he is going to lie to the American people.
Greg Sargent: The real national emergency is the threat of Trump's collapse (Washington Post)
The big story, which is everywhere for all to see, is that Trump and his advisers cannot justify the wall as Trump envisions it in any remotely credible way; that this is becoming harder to mask with lies; and that for Trump Nation, this really is an emergency.
Paul Waldman: In 2016, Trump said the system was rigged. Now that's the Democrats' message. (Washington Post)
… you could not possibly have imagined an administration that has made it easier to hammer home the theme of a system built to enrich the rich and empower the powerful than Trump's. His greatest policy achievement is an unpopular tax cut that primarily benefited corporations and the wealthy; he stocked his Cabinet with millionaires and billionaires; and he has made clear that he sees the presidency as a vehicle for personal enrichment. Right now, the acting secretary of defense is a former defense contractor executive, …
Andrew Tobias: Progress!
Jim Burt: "Just tell POTUS his new wall has been completed and is in place: an impenetrable barrier built from the same materials used to make the Emperor's New Clothes and fully paid for by Mexico. Congratulate him on his success. Then move on. He'll never know the difference. He's not detail-oriented."
Anakana Schofield: "What we gain from keeping books - and why it doesn't need to be 'joy'" (The Guardian)
Tidying guru Marie Kondo advises us to ditch reading we don't find joyful. But one's personal library should do much more than anthologise warm feelings.
Alison Flood: Crashing author earnings 'threaten future of American literature' (The Guardian)
Authors Guild survey finds writers' incomes have fallen dramatically in five years - with literary novelists worst-hit.
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• Javier Bardem, the Spanish actor who played the very evil murderer in the Coen Brothers' No Country for Old Men, had a number of other jobs before becoming an actor. In fact, for one day when he was a teenager, he was a stripper. He says, "Unfortunately, I made the mistake of talking about it years later and my mother and sister read the article. You talk about showing your *ss and then your mother reads all about it." As a citizen of Spain, he has a perspective different from that of Americans. For example, one day he had a nude scene, and the American crew made sure that he was covered up when he was not actually working-he definitely got the idea that people did not want to see his rear end. However, when he was murdering people in a scene, the Americans on set were happy. Mr. Bardem says that "the day I was killing people they were like, 'Yaah! That was good!' I know I don't have a nice *ss, but I would go for an *ss over killing people every time." A final difference between Spain and other countries is this, according to Mr. Bardem, "I like the way people behave in my country. It's about being open to life instead of being obsessed about getting somewhere. There's a moment when they put the worries about paying the bills to one side and just live. In some countries, it's all about being number one and if you are second you are a failure."
• This may be a shock to some people, but at one time, two-time Oscar-winner Jody Foster thought about giving up acting. She found acting not to be rewarding anymore, and she thought about entering some other profession where she could use her analytical skills. Ms. Foster says, "I had been feeling there was something kind of not intellectually valuable about being an actor. It had started to seem like a really dumb job." Fortunately, she realized what the problem was: "It was me. It was my fault. I wasn't bringing enough to it. I hadn't realized that it was my responsibility to go deeper, to really build a character from the ground up; that to really be a good actor, you had to be able to discuss a movie, any movie that you're taking on, and to see the literature in it. Then it becomes fascinating. Then you get better as an actor. Then you learn to really love movies." With this realization, Ms. Foster rededicated herself to her career-at age 12. This paid off in a big way. Just two years later, when she was 14, she played a prostitute in Taxi Driver, earning an Oscar nomination.
• One problem that many actors have is acting in bad weather conditions of extreme heat or extreme cold, often at unpleasant times such as night or very early in the morning. In her acting, Laura Linney deals with industrial-strength issues such as death, illness, and personal failure. However, she says, "You know what's more difficult, what they don't teach you in drama school? How to act at 4:30 in the morning in the freezing cold or boiling heat. That's more challenging than any sort of emotional work. And it's like childbirth. You forget about it once a movie's finished and you're on to the next." While acting in the 2007 remake of 3:10 to Yuma, Russell Crowe ran into the problem of an unpleasant acting environment: "We were surrounded by four-and-a-half feet of snow doing scenes where we're talking about the drought."
• When he was four years old, actor Steve Buscemi was hit by a bus and got his skull fractured. This doesn't mean that he was unlucky-the accident could have been a lot worse. In addition, when he became 18 years old, he received a $6,000 settlement from the city. He used the money to pay for acting school at the Lee Strasberg Institute, where he studied with John, Lee's son, who was more laid-back than his famous father. For example, Mr. Buscemi describes an acting scenario at the institute: "They had this thing where if you were in a desert and imagining sun beating down on you, you couldn't use the stage light to imagine the sun. But John said if the stage light works, that's fine. The audience don't know and don't care." Mr. Buscemi, of course, gets results, as is evidenced by his roles in such movies as Fargo, Reservoir Dogs, and Ghost World.
• Actor Jimmy Stewart once told director Peter Bogdanovich about a stranger, a fan, who told him how much he liked his delivery of a piece of dialogue that Mr. Stewart had said in a movie made 20 years previously. Mr. Stewart reflected, "And I thought, that's the wonderful thing about movies. Because if you're good, and God helps you, and you're lucky enough to have a personality that comes across, then what you're doing is, you're giving people little … tiny … pieces of time … that they never forget."
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D.C. considers turning off the water
Local news story below. Linda says "Go ahead! Cut the water to 1600 Pennsylvania and all the other government sites in D.C. I bet that would get some action from Predator & Congress:
While many federal workers furloughed during the shutdown are wondering how they will pay their bills, the federal government says it will only pay part of its water bill.
The U.S. Department of the Treasury said in an email to DC Water that it was short $6 million due to the shutdown.
"So, of the approximately 16-and-a-half million dollars that we anticipated to receive, we will only receive 10-and-a-half million dollars," Matthew Brown, chief financial officer at DC Water, said during a board meeting on Jan. 3.
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'I Love You, America' Canceled
"I Love You, America," Sarah Silverman's Hulu late-night talk show, has been canceled after two seasons.
Silverman made the announcement Wednesday morning on Twitter, saying, "Well, Hulucancelled 'I Love You, America' and we're all pretty damn heartbroken. … So in traditional twitter funeral style, I'll be RTing the love."
According to an individual with knowledge of the situation, Silverman and Funny or Die, who own the show, plan to shop the series to other networks and streaming platforms.
In the series, Silverman comedically dissected current events as a way to cut through the polarization that currently exists in America. Episodes featured a monologue by Silverman in addition to guest interviews and pre-taped segments. It aired 10 hour-long episodes in its first season and 11 in its second. "I Love You, America" was only Hulu's second attempt at a talk show, with the first being "Spoilers with Kevin Smith" from 2012.
The show was nominated for an Emmy in the outstanding variety sketch series category in 2018 and was recently nominated for a WGA Award for best comedy/variety sketch series. The series has also received strong critical acclaim, holding a 93% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
The 50th anniversary of the Woodstock music festival, one of the watersheds of the 1960s counterculture movement, will be celebrated in August with two competing events.
Michael Lang, the co-producer of the 1969 Woodstock festival, announced on Wednesday that the official Woodstock Music and Arts Fair would take place from Aug 16-18 at a motor -racing venue (Watkins Glen) in upstate New York.
Last month the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, the current owners of the field where the 1969 festival took place, announced it would mark the 50th anniversary with a "pan-generational event" on the same dates.
Lang did not announce the 2019 performer line-up but said more than 60 musicians would take part on three main stages at Watkins Glenn International, the site of car racing events including NASCAR.
Blue Pigment in 1,000-Year-Old Teeth
Traces of a rare and expensive blue pigment, called ultramarine, have been detected in the teeth of a woman who died in Germany nearly 1,000 years ago. The discovery suggests women played a more prominent role in the production of manuscripts during the medieval period, and that ultramarine was more available in Europe than previously assumed.
Blue pigments are quite rare in nature. During the medieval period, only a few sources of blue pigment were known, including ultramarine, which is made by grinding and purifying lazurite crystals from lapis lazuli, an ornamental stone sourced from east Persia, now Afghanistan. During the European medieval period, between the 5th to 15th century AD, ultramarine was used by scribes and painters to adorn their manuscripts with the vivid blue color, which has been referred to as the most perfect color.
New research published today in Science Advances uncovers evidence of ultramarine in the dental plaque of a woman found buried next to a medieval monastery in Germany. The presence of blue pigment in her teeth suggests she, and possibly her female peers, contributed to the preparation and/or production of colored medieval manuscripts, also known as illuminated texts. It's an important discovery because women were previously thought to have minimal involvement in this industry.
Among the sources of blue pigment during medieval times, ultramarine was easily the most expensive, "reserved along with gold and silver for the most luxurious manuscripts," according to the authors of the new study. Consequently, the use of ultramarine in illuminated works was limited to "luxury books of high value and importance," and only scribes of "exceptional skill would have been entrusted with its use." But historians have found it difficult to identify the contributions of women.
The woman's teeth were radiocarbon dated to between 997 and 1162 AD. Her skeleton was normal, exhibiting no obvious signs of illness or trauma. The woman, who died between the age of 45 and 60, was buried next to a medieval church-monastery complex in Dalheim, Germany, of which little is known.
Documentary Added to Sundance Lineup
The Sundance Film Festival has added the world premiere of the documentary "Leaving Neverland," which focuses on sexual abuse allegations against the late pop star Michael Jackson.
The movie, produced and directed by Dan Reed, describes how Jackson allegedly began long-running relationships with two boys, aged 7 and 10, and their families while at the peak of his fame. The two, now in their 30s, claim that they were sexually abused by Jackson, and reveal how they came to terms with it years later.
Representatives for the Jackson estate issued a one-sentence statement in response to Wednesday's announcement: "This is yet another lurid production in an outrageous and pathetic attempt to exploit and cash in on Michael Jackson."
"Neverland" refers to the Neverland Ranch in Santa Barbara County, Calif., where Jackson lived between 1988 and 2003. The property was raided by law enforcement in 2003 in connection with molestation accusations against Jackson by a 13-year-old boy. Jackson was acquitted by jurors of all 14 criminal counts against him in state court in 2005.
"Leaving Neverland" will screen in the special event category at the festival in two parts, totaling nearly four hours, followed by a Q&A with the filmmakers.
Allows Wagers On Lies During Speech
Donald Trump's (R-Delusional) prime time address has cost a gambling website just short of $300,000 (£234,000), all because of the number of false statements the president made.
The website bookmaker.eu asked people to bet on how much Mr Trump would bet during his address, giving -145 odds that he would lie more than 3.5 times, and #115 for less than that. That means that $145 bet would yield $100 if Mr Trump lied four times or more.
Odds consultant John Lester told BuzzFeed News, which first reported on the betting, that the website lost $276,424 as a result of the speech. All told, 92 per cent of those who put money down correctly predicted that Mr Trump would make a habit of lies in his speech.
"It's a bad day for Truthiness and Bookmaker," Mr Lester told the news website. "We knew we were in trouble early with this one".
"We figured the president's strategy going in would be a bit of fear mongering to create pressure on the Democrats to approve the funding of the wall (or barrier), however the president was also constrained by an approximate 8-minute time limit," Mr Lester said.
Risen In Areas
Racist School Bullying
Racist bullying in US schools has jumped in areas where voters favoured Donald Trump (R-Deplorable) in the general election, a study has found.
Reports of students being teased or put down because of their race or ethnicity were 9 per cent higher in localities supporting the Republican candidate.
The study, which focussed on voting patterns and bullying incidents in the state of Virginia, found that 18 per cent more seventh and eighth grade students experienced some form of bullying in districts where support was given to Mr Trump rather than Hillary Clinton.
There were no meaningful differences in school bullying rates between Democratic and Republican localities prior to the 2016 presidential election, the research found.
For every 10 percentage point increase in voter support for Trump, the researchers found an 8 per rise in reported bullying and a 5 per cent increase in bullying because of a student's race or ethnicity.
Racist School Bullying
Five Different Types
Restless nights and blurrier days are extremely common. Around one in 10 people suffer from chronic insomnia, but many more will experience it from time to time over the course of their life. It's perhaps, therefore, not surprising to hear that insomnia can take on many forms.
A new piece of research from the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience argues that insomnia can be broken up into as many as five different categories.
"While we have always considered insomnia to be one disorder, it actually represents five different disorders," Dr Tessa Blanken, lead author of the study, said in a statement. To their surprise, the five insomnia types didn't differ in their sleep complaints, such as difficulty falling asleep versus waking up too early in the morning. However, they did differ in their electroencephalogram response to environmental stimuli.
As reported in The Lancet Psychiatry journal, researchers asked over 4,000 people to self-report their experience with insomnia, as well as their life history and personality type. From this data, they managed to find a few trends that allowed them to break insomnia down into numerous different categories.
When the volunteers were measured again after five years, most kept to their same type. Whether sleeping pills or cognitive behavioral therapy worked better also differed between groups.