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In the News 28.08.17 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

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In the News 28.08.17 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
In the News 28.08.17 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
In the News 28.08.17 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Are You Downplaying Luck’s Role in Your Life?

When we succeed, we often take that success, in retrospect, to be the result of suffering that liquid trinity of blood, sweat, and tears. Perhaps fortune favored you here and there but, by and large, it was your effort and talent—not contingency—that won the day.

Nonsense, says Robert Frank, a professor of economics at Cornell University and the author, most recently, of Success and Luck: Good Fortune and the Myth of Meritocracy. Just consider the case of the actor Bryan Cranston, a “vivid example,” he says, of the importance of luck’s invisible hand. Cranston got to play Walter White, the school-teacher-turned-meth-dealer in Breaking Bad, because two talented actors, John Cusack and Matthew Broderick, refused the part. Indeed, the whole show may not have been made if it weren’t for Vince Gilligan—the show’s creator, writer, director, and producer—luckily not knowing about Weeds, a show about an affluent suburban mother who becomes a major pot-dealer. He thought the plot was so similar to Breaking Bad’s that “he wouldn’t have had the will to go on” to pitch the show to AMC, he’s said, if he knew about it in the weeks beforehand. “I would have said to myself (and I’ve said this a lot), ‘Damn! All the good ideas are already taken!’”

Read the rest of this article at: Nautilus




Can Anything Stop Rural Decline?

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TOCHIKUBO, Japan—The children had moved to the big city, never to return.

So their parents, both over 70, live out their days in this small town in the mountains, gazing at the rice paddies below, wondering what will become of the house they built, the garden they tended, the town they love.

“I don’t expect them to come back,” Kensaku Fueki, 73, told me, about his three daughters, all married and living in Tokyo. “It’s very tough to live on farming.”

For decades, young people have been fleeing this rural village, lured by the pull of Japan’s big cities like Tokyo and Osaka. Tochikubo’s school now has eight children, and more than half of the town’s 170 people are over the age of 50. “Who will come here now?” said Fueki, who grew up in this village and remembers a time when many of the houses weren’t abandoned, when more people farmed the land and children roamed the streets.

This village is not an anomaly. Japan is slowly becoming something like one big city-state, with the majority of the population centered in an urban belt that runs through the cluster of Tokyo, Osaka, and Nagoya, all located relatively near each other, along the route of Japan’s bullet train. In 1950, 53 percent of Japan’s population lived in urban regions; by 2014, 93 percent did. (In the U.S., by contrast, 81 percent of the population lives in urban regions.) It is mostly young people who move to the cities, and that means that as Japan’s population ages, the cities and towns outside the city-state are left to fade away. Japan’s Ministry of Internal Affairs says that now, around 15,000 of Japan’s 65,000 or so communities have more than half of their population over the age of 65.

Read the rest of this article at: The Atlantic

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How Roger Federer Upgraded His Game

Near the end of a conversation with Roger Federer earlier this month, in a small dining room that had been set aside for us off the lobby of the Mount Stephen Hotel in Montreal, I asked if he happened to catch the final poignant seconds of Usain Bolt’s remarkable career as a solo runner in the 100 meters two days earlier at the World Track and Field Championships. Bolt finished a disappointing third, behind his longtime rival Justin Gatlin and another American sprinter, Christian Coleman. “I meant to, but I missed it,” Federer said. “So I caught it on the highlights.”

What did you think, I asked him.

“Well, you know, it was maybe a pity that he didn’t win,” Federer said of his fellow GOAT (Greatest of All Time). “But at the same time, it doesn’t change anything in my opinion if he won the last race or not. I’m long past the thing that you have to end your career in a fairy tale. Everybody kind of wants this — mostly the press — and if you don’t win, it’s: ‘Ohhh, my God! The fairy tale didn’t happen!’ So for me, yes, it would have been nice, but this way is O.K., too.”

Read the rest of this article at: The New York Times

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The Safdie Brothers Are Classic New York Hustlers

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Before deciding he wanted to make a Safdie Brothers movie, the erstwhile heartthrob Robert Pattinson hadn’t actually seen a Safdie Brothers movie. It was one still image — of the lead actress from their 2014 addiction drama Heaven Knows What — that led him to pick up the phone.

“He said, ‘I wanna be on a movie set that had the energy that I imagine this had,’” Benny, 31, says.

“Little did he know, there was no movie set,” Josh, 33, laughs. Adapted from the street life of its star, Arielle Holmes, Heaven Knows What is a breathless, booming piece of work — somehow both a plotless character study built on mumbly dialogue and stolen shots, and a punch to the face. “We were just this weird little crew making this movie in a very serious fashion.”

For over a decade, that’s been the mission statement. The Safdies split a schizophrenic childhood on either side of the East River, with a dutiful mother in Manhattan and a reckless, hyperactive dad in Queens. They came up making shorts. It was proto-YouTube free-form stuff; weird little poppy experiments. Then they went to micro-budget features, flitting through form and genre. The only throughline was the seriousness, the intensity — these were pure and true reflections of New York City, their obsession and their home.

Read the rest of this article at: Fader

Martin Crane’s Hideous Chair Was The True Star of Frasier

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I’m surprised to find myself writing about Frasier, because Friends was the great behemoth of my teenage years, winkling its speech patterns and preoccupations deep into my subconscious, and I date the end of my youth to the day I met Real Live Matthew Perry.

But what was the theme of Friends  – also featured in our 90s sitcom week – what wisdom did it have to impart? Only that . . .  it’s nice to have friends in your twenties? And a nice apartment. (And Ross is a monster.) By contrast, Frasier has a proper emotional core, woven through the story from the beginning. It is about what happens when you move social classes. What you gain, and what you lose.

That message is clear from the pilot episode, which begins with Frasier Crane returning from the Boston of Cheers to his hometown of Seattle. The episode is structured quite simply, introducing each of the other characters in turn.

First: Niles, who is fastidious – wiping his seat down with a handkerchief in Cafe Nervosa – and trapped in an obviously loveless, sexless marriage with Maris. (Frasier: “Maris is like the sun. Except without the warmth.”)

He tells his older brother that it’s time to consider putting their father in a retirement home; after being shot in the hip, Martin isn’t recovering well, and was recently found in the floor of his bathroom. The episode is called “The Good Son”, and that’s what Frasier struggles to be.

So he invites Martin to live with him, and it’s particularly tough because this iteration of his dad is far grumpier than later ones – sitcom characters are not really supposed to change, but Martin grows into an adorable grump. But at the start, he’s unhappy with where life has taken him. He doesn’t want to be dependent, and that makes him mean.

Martin: Let’s cut the “Welcome To Camp Crane” speech. We all know why I’m here. Your old man can’t be left alone for ten minutes without falling on his ass, and Frasier got stuck with me. Isn’t that right?

Martin arrives trailing two horrors – his battered, vomit-green striped armchair and Eddie the Dog, who spends most of the first season staring balefully at Frasier. (Sad fact: Moose the Dog had to retire from the show on health grounds in the eighth season; his role was taken by his son Enzo.)

That armchair is the single most meaningful object in the whole of 1990s comedy. The producers had spent a fortune decorating the apartment (around $500,000) and there are several references to an Eames chair which Frasier loves, which you can see on the landing to Frasier’s right in the picture below. What gets pride of place in his living room instead, however, is the nastiest chair ever designed. It’s so hideous because it was specially made by the props department, using an offcut of original 1970s fabric.

Read the rest of this article at: New Statesman

P.S. previous articles & more by P.F.M. // Top images: @taramilktea; @societysocial; @belenhostalet