1. “Fears of a Clown.” No one is better at making children laugh than Boswick the Clown. He doesn’t understand why adults are so scared of him.
“Though Boswick and other clowns allow that some children are genuinely afraid of them, in their experience most are not. Instead, they see clown fear among adults as a lazy pose, a jokey affectation that has become easy to adopt as clowns fade into irrelevancy and the number of people who’ve seen one in real life dwindles. ’It’s a designer phobia, really pretentious,’ says Sparky, a clown who lives a block away from Boswick. ’I can tell a person who has a clownaphobia right away if they have it; 99.9 percent are phony. I’ve met maybe two people who have it. If they have it, they apologize profusely. The other ones go, ’Oh, clowns are scary, that’s spooky.’’ Boswick’s good friend Funnybone, who has worked in South America and Asia, says, ’You go to another country, that concept of being afraid of clowns is nowhere. When I worked in Japan, I wore full clown makeup. It really is just something that’s happened here.’”
2. “In Europe, Fake Jobs Can Have Real Benefits.” The concept of virtual companies, also known as practice firms, traces its roots to Germany after World War II, when large numbers of people needed to reorient their skills.
“These companies are all part of an elaborate training network that effectively operates as a parallel economic universe. For years, the aim was to train students and unemployed workers looking to make a transition to different industries. Now they are being used to combat the alarming rise in long-term unemployment, one of the most pressing problems to emerge from Europe’s long economic crisis. Ms. de Buyzer did not care that Candelia was a phantom operation. She lost her job as a secretary two years ago and has been unable to find steady work. Since January, though, she had woken up early every weekday, put on makeup and gotten ready to go the office. By 9 a.m. she arrives at the small office in a low-income neighborhood of Lille, where joblessness is among the highest in the country. While she doesn’t earn a paycheck, Ms. de Buyzer, 41, welcomes the regular routine. She hopes Candelia will lead to a real job, after countless searches and interviews that have gone nowhere.”
3. “Cameron Crowe’s Reactionary Nostalgia.” Richard Brody on Aloha.
“Crowe conceives no self-questioning strategies, directs with no symbolic dimension. His extreme foregrounding of characters avoids the democratizing force of backstory—of a complex web of personal traits that distinguishes individuals by way of their experiences, desires, and idiosyncrasies. He takes classic construction at face value; the typecasting, and the identification of characters and their fates with their social roles, mark Aloha as cavalierly reactionary. Crowe is a cinematic general who sends his troops to fight previous, long-resolved wars while ignoring conflicts ensuing before his eyes. He has always been so, but the quality becomes increasingly obnoxious as the wars he re-fights recede deeper into the past, and as his nostalgia increasingly reveals an unwarranted pride in his obliviousness or indifference to the present day.”
4. “Teaching Trigger Warnings.” Sarah Seltzer on what pundits don’t understand about the year’s most controversial higher-ed debate.
“The debate has mostly been framed as students vs. faculty, hand-holding vs. freedom, political correctness vs. mind-expanding curricula. But educators who choose to utilize these warnings in their classrooms often see more nuance in the issue. ’We have to take [students demanding trigger warnings] seriously… because being more acutely aware of how students are responding to challenging material is just better and more responsible pedagogy,’ wrote Aaron R. Hanlon last week. Faculty in this camp say that they’re committed to academic and intellectual freedom, but also to honoring students’ experiences, in particular the often silent presence of rape survivors—a trauma-prone group—among the college-aged population. Rather than debating whether to teach troubling material, as much of the anti-trigger warning contingent fears, they say they’ve moved on to asking how to do so in a respectful way.”
5. “Let It Come Down.” For Reverse Shot, Nick Pinkerton on Heaven Knows What.
“I am not now nor have I ever been addicted to heroin, nor have I lived on the streets, so I can’t comment on how authentically this material is handled. I will say that the behavior of these people—Harley, Mike, Ilya—while very often reprehensible, never seems to originate from anywhere other than the characters themselves; not from some secularized idea of Catholic grace, as in the work of a certain fraternal filmmaking team from Belgium, or in order to serve the contingencies of the plot, of which there is not a great deal. Harley embodies a passion for martyrdom, regardless of the cause, that is common if not exclusive to youth—you hope she’ll leave it behind, that she’ll start to ascribe some value to her own life, though the movie ends giving no more indication as to where she’s going as it did to where she came from. I might add that she reminds me quite uncannily of a young lady I used to know; when last I heard from her, she had gotten on and off heroin, and was going to write her survivor memoir—no habit is complete, I suppose, until you produce your own Junkie.”
Video of the Day: Giorgio Moroder previews his upcoming Déjà Vu with an album megamix:
Links for the Day: A collection of links to items that we hope will spark discussion. We encourage our readers to submit candidates for consideration to firstname.lastname@example.org and to converse in the comments section.