Expert on comics that he is, all Demitasse wants for Christmas is one of those visors, like the one Cyclops wears, that would prevent him from injuring people by accident when he exerts his powers…
Happy Thanksgiving. With a valuable assist from Johann this past year, RBC film recommendations remain a regular feature of our website. I have been pleasantly surprised at the popularity of what started as a lark, and gratified that they lead at least some readers to rediscover old movies.
I last updated the RBC digest of film recommendations on Memorial Day, so the present holiday seemed a good time to bring the list up to date.
A digest of all the films we have reviewed is available here.
Happy viewing to all.
I’ll justify the number after the jump. For now: welcome to civilisation.
I know, I know: ACA doesn’t create a fully universal system, it’s complicated and kludgy compared to single payer, the federal website was launched as leaky as a sieve and is being repaired as it goes, it’s uncertain whether ACA will rein in healthcare costs, there are over 30 million more uninsured to go, yadda yadda. We’ll be talking about these problems many times. For now, Americans should celebrate a milestone.
How do we get to a million?
From G.H. Hardy, A Mathematician’s Apology:
It is one of the first duties of a professor, in any subject, to exaggerate a little both the importance of his subject and his own importance in it.
My students will agree that this is one duty I perform with diligence.
Footnote If you haven’t read Hardy’s memoir, you have a treat in store.
It’s clear that HealthCare.Gov is improving — and, at this point, it’s improving reasonably quickly. It won’t work perfectly by the end of November but it might well work tolerably early in December. A political system that’s become overwhelmingly oriented towards pessimism on Obamacare will have to adjust as the system’s technological infrastructure improves.
Just as Arthur Applbaum promised.
I am not a skeptic of psychic phenomenon on principle. We have solid scientific evidence that the human brain is capable of extraordinarily mysterious feats (e.g., synesthesia) and presumably we will discover more such oddities as neuroscience advances. At the same time, I am convinced that the most common basis for what appears subjectively to be ESP or precognition is illusory; a trick the mind plays on us.
For example, at breakfast last week, I found myself thinking about a former colleague that I hadn’t seen in years. “What he’s up to these days?” I wondered. A few hours later I opened my email and received the sad news from a mutual friend that this same former colleague had just died!
I could eat out on this tale for weeks: Though I was a continent away, “something” told me that my colleague had shrugged off this mortal coil. Do I have psychic powers? Are there other tragedies I can sense from a great distance?
If I looked at the two events in the abstract, the case for my psychic abilities seems promising. But when I examine the facts with a more gelid eye — particularly in light of the mind’s tendency to draw connections and to remember the unusual and forget the ordinary — the case falls apart.
I have many times in my life received the news that someone I know at least slightly has gone for a Burton. On how many of those occasions have I been thinking of the deceased just before I got the sad news? Until now, never. What did I do with this fact? I forgot it, because it was ordinary (Can you tell me what you had for dinner on the day the President didn’t get shot?). I will always recall the day the lightning struck, not the far more numerous days when it didn’t.
Here’s another edit that my memory made for me: Until I made myself review events, I forgot all the other people I was thinking about at breakfast. As I flipped back through the newspaper I read over my tomatoes and eggs, I saw the stories and realized that I also thought that morning about Price Charles, my great aunt, Erwin Rommel, the All Blacks rugby squad and Nigel Farage. How many of them promptly joined the choir invisible? None of them (not even Farage, sadly enough). Did I make a mental note at the the time to remember the people of whom I thought who did not immediately die? Of course not. It’s too commonplace to warrant the mental space.
What else did my mind edit for me? The reason why I was thinking of my old colleague in the first place. In the newspaper was a story about the physicist Stephen Hawking. This made me recall the time I was having lunch in Washington D.C. when Hawking and his entourage came in. My lunch companion that day was my now deceased colleague. This may mean that the newspaper’s editors have psychic powers, but pretty well ruins the case for mine.
Before I forced myself to review all the facts, my mind had edited all the dull bits out, leaving only two facts: I was thinking of someone who I hadn’t thought of in a long time and learned of his death only hours later. There is no real connection between those two facts, but the mind is an amazing connector of facts. Indeed, its ability to draw associations is central to the human ability to learn. But it can also, as in this case, fool us into seeing causal links between coincidental events.
Headline of the week:
And it gets better from there.
In the eyes of Republicans, the agreement with Iran has a fatal flaw: It was negotiated by the Obama administration. This president could negotiate a treaty promoting baseball, motherhood and apple pie, and Republicans would brand it the next Munich.
No phony even-handedness, no false equivalence. Just straight reporting. Bravo!
1. Yes, we should ban the routine use of antibiotics in farm animals.
2. And yes, the federal government should offer prizes for developing new antibiotics.
But I don’t believe for a second that there are no new antibiotics, or classes of antibiotics, left to discover.
Footnote I’d love to hear a libertarian analysis of the problem of factory farms breeding antibiotic-resistance disease organisms. Sounds like a case for regulation to me. But then I’m just a liberal.
Everyone “knows” that two glasses of red wine a day are good for your health. But, as Will Rogers said, it’s not what you don’t know that hurts you: it’s what you know that ain’t so. A paper by Hans Olav Fekjær and commentaries by Jurgen Rehm and Sven Andréasson, all in the latest issue of Addiction, review the evidence.
Yes, moderate drinkers have better health, on many dimensions, than non-drinkers and heavy drinkers. That’s the problem: too many dimensions, with too little biological mechanism. The logical thought is that people who drink in moderation probably have, on average, better health habits in other respects than those who don’t drink at all, since by definition they’ve avoided taking their alcohol use to excess while the abstainers either haven’t run that risk or have found that they can’t drink just a little. It’s also the case that, in Western cultures, drinking is normal while non-drinking is somewhat deviant. The fact that in India, where drinking isn’t a social norm, drinking isn’t associated with better cardiovascular health seems to me to seriously weaken the case for a causal connection in other societies.
Why the “Moderate drinking is good for what ails ya” theory has found such ready acceptance, while a comparable finding about moderate cannabis use and academic performance was ignored, is left as an exercise for the reader.