Archive for the 'Entertainment' Category

Moved to FREEDAmerica!

Dear Readers,

I’m FREED!, so to speak, or rather write.  I’m moving my articles and commentary to my new site at FREEDAmerica.  

We’re developing exciting projects like (what do Trump’s tweets really mean?!?) and FREEDWork.  I may occasionally post here if I remember.  But don’t count on it.

I invite you to check us out at FREEDAmerica, sign up for our mailing list, contact us there to volunteer, and follow us as well on Twitter and Facebook.

Best Wishes,

Marc Freedman



Barkour, Ninja training for your dog

You may be familiar with Parkour, the ninja-like training that gained some notoriety ten years ago as you bound off walls, jump off buildings, and leap between roofs. It’s like flying, assuming you survive.

Well, don’t forget your best friend. Meet TreT, an American Staffordshire Terrier from Ukraine. This crazy canine does the same in this amazing video.

If you can get your own pooch to stop eating cat poop and pay attention for a minute, you can even get him to do the same with tips from TreT’s trainer’s web site. Or at least the pair of you can watch the video together while you eat ice cream and dream.

I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!

Imagine what would happen if Howard Beale had a son who followed his father’s path and you have Aaron Sorkin’s latest series on HBO, “The Newsroom.”

Howard Beale was the iconic anchor of the UBS Evening News in the 1976 Academy Award-winning  movie Network.   TV’s angry man ranted “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!”  That legacy thrived in real life with the emergence of extreme right wing broadcasters like Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, and Rush Limbaugh whose hysteria have similarly garnered high ratings.

Now 36 years later his son in the form of broadcaster and moderate Republican Will MacAvoy (masterminded by his boss and driven by his producer) is here.  He too is mad as hell and is not going to take the bland and pliant network news anymore.

Twelve years ago I wrote about aggressive conservative tactics that used lies and venom instead of policy and liberals were ill-prepared.  Today this extremism is in its brightest bloom yet and liberals are still unprepared.

The billionaire corporatists have succeeded.  They’re effectively running the country.  And running it into the ground.  They’re not done.

They’ve removed election funding restraints so their money can directly buy candidates at both national and state levels.  And that’s not good enough.  They seek even less transparency in their political and media investments.

They’ve successfully driven politics to the far right.  There is no true liberal political faction.  Democrats legislate from the center-right, best typified by passing Mitt Romney’s own Republican health bill.  And that’s not good enough.  They’re taking over the Republican party, successfully driving out moderates and shutting down political negotiation.

Regulations have been ripped apart, leading to the mortgage crisis and  a global depression.  And that’s not good enough.  They want even fewer regulations.

They’ve concentrated wealth and lowered their own tax rates to historic levels, leading to the crippling of the entire middle class and hollowing an economy driven by consumer spending.  And that’s not good enough.  They want even lower taxes.

They starved the economy, resulting in a continuation of the depression.  And that’s not good enough.  They want to continue a failed economic policy that hasn’t worked.

They’ve held the media to a false fairness where an extreme point of view is required.  It’s resulted is the disappearance of  liberal policies.  And that’s not good enough. They still cry about a fake liberal basis.

And so the fictional broadcast pendulum swings back, a long time in coming.

As Will McAvoy boss Charlie Skinner says:

Facts…are the center. Facts. We don’t pretend that certain facts are in dispute to give the appearance of fairness to people who don’t believe them. Balance is irrelevant to me. It has nothing to do with the truth, logic, or reality.

The series has its rough edges, which are improving.   Sorkin can be preachy.  The characters and relationships can be stilted.  Its idealism may not be realistic.   But its message is dead on target.  Facts and context are critical to a functioning democracy.  We and the media can aspire to do better.  Highly recommended!


The Claw … it’s fixed!

In What’s Really Going on at the Arcade Freakonomics blog author Daniel writes about the arcade game The Claw.  I’m sure you are as shocked as I to learn the game is rigged. Regardless of the morality of the Claw, or airlines charging for checked bags, one has to admire the inventiveness of such revenue optimization models.  Vegas wishes it could do the same.

Hamermesh writes:

A student described her summer job at an arcade. In the “crane” game you win prizes by manipulating a claw to grab stuffed animals or basketballs, but the arcade owner can and does manipulate the odds of winning. If a new crane machine is played rapidly, the crane is automatically adjusted from its normal settings to make the odds longer because the player is signaling an addiction to the game. If the machine lies idle for a while, the odds are made more favorable than normal. This three-tier price discrimination takes advantage of implied differences in players’ demand elasticities. This is the first example I’ve come across of price discrimination based on manifestations of individual-specific differences in demand elasticities rather than those based on the demographic or timing characteristics of demand.

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