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Observations

Winter’s Bone and redemption

This is months behind the curve, I know, but we just saw Winter’s Bone at our house. I was truly impressed by this film. I saw everything the critics and fans did in this film, but maybe one more thing: This was a film that treated the rural poor with respect. The characters were real people, not Disney-fied or villified.

I thought I saw that in the film first time around, but listening to the director’s commentary convinced me. The people who did this film in rural Missouri went in to understand the people in Daniel Woodrell’s novel and bring them to life on the screen. The film’s heroine, Ree Dolly, redeems a lot of pain with her struggle to help her family make ends meet on their land.

At our house, we have a nodding acquaintance with rural poverty — not the kind as mean and threatening as depicted in the film, but a somewhat kinder and gentler southwestern Virginia variant of it. The authenticity of Winter’s Bone made it especially chilling, and uplifting, to us.

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Observations

Pandora: lots of jollies per dollar

Here’s an idea with lots of jollies per dollar: Pandora Internet radio. The idea is pretty much like a radio station: music plays with only a few commercials. Where Pandora excels is in figuring out, automatically, what you’d like to hear. You start by giving it the name of a favorite artist or song, with some basic information about yourself. Pandora then picks music you would like. You can vote to “like” a song, in which case Pandora will play additional similar songs for you. Or you can vote to “unlike” a song and Pandora will move on to another one. As you vote on more songs, Pandora gets even better at figuring out what you like. Try it out at www.pandora.com . Oh, did I mention it’s free?

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Observations

Don’t forget the economics!

My latest project is a book, Economic Episodes in American History, forthcoming from Wohl. This book shows how economics shaped key parts of economic history. You can read about it here. Mark Schug and I worked hard putting it together, and we think it will be great for history teachers. Personally, I enjoyed finding out lots of neat things I didn’t know about American history. I hope history teachers will enjoy it, and use it to show students the economic side of history. We’re beginning to get a little buzz about it: see here and here.

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Observations

The grammar game

Here’s a fun game to play with people who care about grammar (word use, sentence structure and all that):

1. You hear incorrect grammar spoken, either by another person in the room or by someone in the media.

2. You repeat the thought, but with the grammar corrected. (This must be an actual grammatical error, and not just a matter of taste.)

3. If no one else in the room catches you doing that, you get one point. If others catch you, they call “correction!” and you lose one point.

Example: A news reporter says, “There’s lots of reasons why the opposition party will gain seats.” You say, “That’s right. There are lots of reasons why the opposition party will gain seats.”

Hint: When you’re playing against an experienced player, wait a few minutes before making a correction, preferably when someone’s phone is ringing, a dog is barking, and Girl Scouts have arrived at the door to sell cookies.

One other thing: At our house, correcting sportscasters will get you zero points. It’s just too easy.

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Observations

“Lost” time

Even today, people have strong opinions about the series finale of Lost on ABC television. I can’t add much to what the reviewers said, but there are three things that come to mind:

  1. Overall, I liked the series.
  2. For a supposedly intellectual series, there sure was a lot of on-camera time devoted violence and threats of violence. Lots of beatings and shootings.
  3. Like some fans, I was hoping the finale would provide some coherent story of what the island was and how it worked. It didn’t. The producers even apologized a bit in the two-hour leadin to the series finale, saying the series was always about the people and not so much the mythology of the island.

And with it all, yes, I liked the series.