In recent years, literature has been getting attention from an unusual quarter: mathematics. Alongside statistical physicists analysing the connections between characters in the Icelandic sagas, and computer scientists exploring the life and death of words in English fiction, a team of mathematicians at the University of Vermont have now looked at more than 1,000 texts to see if they could automatically extract their emotional arcs. And their results show something interesting, not just about narratives, but also about using this approach to study literature.
For the past fifteen years, the nation’s public schools have been a prime target for privatization. Unbeknownst to the public, those who would privatize the public schools call themselves “reformers” to disguise their goal. Who could be opposed to “reform”? These days, those who call themselves “education reformers” are likely to be hedge fund managers, entrepreneurs, and billionaires, not educators. The “reform” movement loudly proclaims the failure of American public education and seeks to turn public dollars over to entrepreneurs, corporate chains, mom-and-pop operations, religious organizations, and almost anyone else who wants to open a school.
In early September, Donald Trump declared his commitment to privatization of the nation’s public schools. He held a press conference at a low-performing charter school in Cleveland run by a for-profit entrepreneur. He announced that if elected president, he would turn $20 billion in existing federal education expenditures into a block grant to states, which they could use for vouchers for religious schools, charter schools, private schools, or public schools. These are funds that currently subsidize public schools that enroll large numbers of poor students. Like most Republicans, Trump believes that “school choice” and competition produce better education, even though there is no evidence for this belief. As president, Trump will encourage competition among public and private providers of education, which will reduce funding for public schools. No high-performing nation in the world has privatized its schools.
Now Alexandra Zapruder, granddaughter of the videographer and a founder of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, has written a moving and enlightening account of the famous film that is part personal memoir; part detailed history of the film and its (inestimable) role in the nation’s understanding of the assassination; and part overview of the film as an inspiration for countless, often bizarre conspiracy theories as well as for works of art as disparate as Michelangelo Antonioni’s “Blow-Up,” Oliver Stone’s “JFK,” Don DeLillo’s “Libra” and “Underworld,” and a particularly inventive episode of “Seinfeld.” So much history, embodied in a mere 26 seconds of home-movie film! Not least, this film would one day be sold by the Zapruder heirs to the U.S. government for $16 million, the highest price ever paid for “an American historical artifact,” to be stored in the National Film Registry for scholars and historians to study.
Chris Smith’s new book about “The Daily Show” in the Jon Stewart years has a theory about the events that let the show find its voice. After Bush vs. Gore in 2000 and just after the 9/11 attacks, real news became so surreal and television news so lathered that a fake news show could find its footing just by playing things relatively straight.