Sometimes, it takes a longer article to illuminate something as complex as education in America. Here are nine articles from 2013, covering everything from public policy to teaching practice. Many of the lessons highlighted by these writers will remain relevant in 2014 and beyond.
Read more. [Image: Bryan Snyder/Reuters]
With fewer than 10 days until Christmas, holiday celebrations and decorations are on display around the world. Mother Nature has contributed with snowfall from North America to the Middle East, as Santa’s helpers busy themselves everywhere from small markets to massive warehouses. Today’s essay is a peek at some of the scenes of the season so far.
Let’s be clear from the outset: The Wolf of Wall Street is not a “scathing indictment of capitalism run amok” or a “cautionary fable for our time” or any of the comparable high-minded plaudits that are likely to be thrown its way. Yes, Martin Scorsese’s new feature is undeniably topical: the story of a rogue Wall Street trader, Jordan Belfort, who made himself and his partners fabulously wealthy at the expense of the broader American public and got off—even after multiple fraud convictions—nearly scot-free. But the film displays almost no interest whatsoever in Belfort’s victims, and it is extravagantly incurious regarding the mechanisms by which he took their money. If this is a message movie, it’s one that features a message suitable for a cue card.
None of which, incidentally, is intended as an indictment. The Wolf of Wall Street is a magnificent black comedy, fast, funny, and remarkably filthy. Like a Bad Santa, Scorsese has offered up for the holidays a truly wicked display of cinematic showmanship—one that also happens to be among his best pictures of the last 20 years.
Read more. [Image: Paramount Pictures]
Jean Shepherd was an icon in his time. Now he’s not. What happened?
Ninety-nine years ago today, something strange happened on the Western Front: It fell silent. World War I had only just erupted that summer, but the fighting had already proven fierce, claiming nearly a million lives. On December 24, 1914, however, an estimated 100,000 soldiers, mainly British and German troops, laid down their guns, left the trenches, and mingled in the frigid cold of No Man’s Land to mark Christmas—an uplifting if surreal moment in an otherwise soul-crushing war.
"All I’d heard for two months in the trenches was the hissing, cracking and whining of bullets in flight, machinegun fire and distant German voices," Alfred Anderson, a British veteran and the last survivor of the Christmas Truce, recalled in 2004. “But there was a dead silence that morning, right across the land as far as you could see. We shouted ‘Merry Christmas’, even though nobody felt merry. The silence ended early in the afternoon and the killing started again. It was a short peace in a terrible war.”
Elsewhere on the Western Front, the celebrations were more exuberant and long-lasting, involving everything from impromptu soccer games to spirited renditions of “Silent Night” to free haircuts by a British machine gunner.
Read more. [Image: Imperial War Museums]
A lot of people assume that reindeer, just like Santa Claus, are make believe. But the antlered stars of Christmas stories such as Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and the Santa Claus movie are real animals—that bring in real business. Renting reindeer for an hour for, say, the company Christmas party typically costs several hundreds of dollars; their day rate is several times that.
Some economics are at play: supply is dwindling as demand is growing, especially at this time of year. The number of Canadian reindeer and caribou has plunged 81% in a decade. The global reindeer population has fallen too, as humans encroach on their lands. In the US, some farmers have ceased showing their reindeer in the face of growing regulations and disease management rules.
Read more. [Image: Czarek Sokolowski]
How do you wrap an app?
It’s a silly but salient question. Christmas Day 2013 is expected to be the biggest app downloading day ever. Developers will succeed or fail on whether their millions of dollars of marketing can convert new device owners into app buyers, and app buyers into app users. If developers could make it easier to give an app as a gift, it might afford them some greater measure of economic security.
Read more. [Image: Reuters]