Annette Insdorf: New Movies For Foodies

Annette Insdorf: New Movies For Foodies 2014-04-18

Popcorn is the perfect crunchy, salty accompaniment to film viewing, but it might be insufficient while watching two new mouth-watering movies -- Tasting Menu, opening today at Manhattan's Quad Cinema, and Chef, a Tribeca Film Festival selection scheduled for May 9 release. In both contemporary stories, when the camera captures the sensuous preparation of dishes, our taste buds are aroused.

Tasting Menu, an English-language Spanish-Irish co-production directed by Roger Gual, focuses on one particular Catalan meal. Jon Favreau's Chef is by contrast a culinary road movie that begins in a tony LA eatery and makes its way to Miami, where Cuban sandwiches are the delicacy.

A small group of diners gather in Tasting Menu at an exclusive Costa Brava restaurant for its last supper, as super-chef Mar (Vicenta N'Dongo) has decided to close at the peak of its success. They include a widowed, impoverished countess (Fionnula Flannagan); a curmudgeon (Stephen Rea) who makes secretive phone calls; a separated couple who booked the dinner reservation at an earlier, happier time, and two Japanese men competing to buy the restaurant. Misunderstandings, confrontations and touching connections play out while they taste delicacies like snail caviar, or sip a margarita inside an aloe vera plant.

When Tasting Menu premiered as the opening-night selection of the Galway (Ireland) Film Festival in July, Gual lamented that -- despite the enticing dishes onscreen -- he and the crew got to eat only sandwiches. But at an intimate dinner created in Manhattan by chef Mario Batali on Wednesday night -- inspired by the film -- the director acknowledged that the cast was luckier: "It's the only film I've directed whose actors were delighted when I asked for another take," he said over a scrumptious first course of Root Vegetable Salad with Foglie di Noce, Bee Pollen Cironette and Tomato Marmellata. 2014-04-18-TastingMenuphoto A scene from TASTING MENU. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.

At the Galway Film Festival, Flannagan recalled the shoot as the happiest of her career: "Eating in films is always a horror," she added. "But because each of the little dishes was divinely small, it was intoxicating food. Most of Catalan cooking is magical anyway. And Roger has a sense of humor as well as of the human condition."

Comedy is more central to Chef, an enjoyable ode to food, freedom and Twitter. Favreau plays Carl, a chef whose boss (Dustin Hoffman) forces him to cook old standards, especially when a famed food blogger is about to dine. Carl reluctantly complies and receives a nasty review that throws him into a deep and angry funk.

His 10-year-old son Percy (Emjay Anthony) teaches him to use Twitter, but can't prepare him for the fallout of Carl's vitriolic response to the critic Ramsey (Oliver Platt): what he thought was a personal message goes viral, as does a subsequent video of his verbally attacking Miller.

His ex-wife Inez (Sofia Vergara) encourages him to join her and Percy on a trip home to Miami, where Carl had honed his craft as a chef. In a delightful cameo Robert Downey, Jr. plays Inez's former husband, who gives him a used food truck to start his own business.

Carl gets his mojo back, creating a traveling mobile eatery. (Warning: the mere sight of the increasingly popular Cuban sandwiches that he prepares so lovingly with his son and loyal buddy John Leguizamo may increase your cholesterol, given the generous helpings of ham, cheese and butter on display. Ditto for the deep-fried beignets in New Orleans.)

2014-04-18-chefCHEFOS_Image_rgb.jpg Emjay Anthony, John Leguizamo, Jon Favreau, and Sofia Vergara in CHEF. Photo Credit: Merrick Morton.

It's no surprise that a filmmaker who has been directing such mainstream crowd-pleasers as Iron Man would make an independent film about a chef chafing at his restaurant boss and wanting to cook with originality and autonomy. Maybe preparing a movie and a meal are not worlds apart: both require skill, passion, the ability to galvanize a staff, and "proof in the pudding"--seeing the recipients of the concoction appreciating it.

The tension is similar too, between 'give them what they want' (which Carl calls being in a creative rut), and invent something unique that might not be embraced by the majority. Both Tasting Menu and Chef succeed in navigating between personal vision and audience expectation, as the characters create dishes that reflect their own juicy emotions.

_____________ Annette Insdorf, Director of Undergraduate Film Studies at Columbia University, is the author of PHILIP KAUFMAN.
Andrew Deyoung: Dc On The Tv: Why We Love Shows About The Nation's Capital

Andrew Deyoung: Dc On The Tv: Why We Love Shows About The Nation's Capital 2014-04-18

This post originally appeared at The Stake.

On Scandal, Olivia Pope's merry band of DC fixers call themselves "gladiators." GLADIATORS. Think about that for a second.

This is what a cultural theorist might call slippage, a rupture, the intrusion of the Real -- that rare place where the pervasive irreality of our postmodern copy-of-a-copy-of-a-copy culture begins to tear and What's Really Going On comes crashing through. That's not how it's intended, of course -- mostly, Shonda Rhimes and the characters she's created seem to regard the "gladiator" thing as a point of pride, a label signifying unassailable professionalism and badassery. Still, every time a character on Scandal pauses to call themselves or someone else a gladiator (and they do it constantly, "I'm a gladiator," "Don't forget, you're a gladiator," "Gladiators in suits, remember?") I sit up where I'm planted on my couch as if Kerry Washington just looked at the camera, breaking character and the fourth wall, and said to me, and me alone:

"None of this is real. All of this -- the melodrama, the sex, the intrigue, the power, the OMG plot twists and the silly scenery-chewing speeches -- it's a distraction. We're gladiators, and you're the mob, your thumbs held out, preparing to decide whether we live or die. Bread and circuses, get it? Rome is burning."

Rome is burning.

Now that's a scandal.


There are no less than seven shows set in Washington, DC on the air right now. ABC's got Scandal, HBO's got Veep, Netflix has House of Cards, FX has The Americans -- and that's just the shows I watch; there's also Homeland, Alpha House, and The Blacklist.

Did I miss any?

Regardless of the exact count, the DC show is clearly experiencing something of a moment right now, occupying the same position of cultural prominence as, say, the lawyer show did in the late '90s. But what does the DC-based show's dominance mean? What is it about the current cultural consciousness that has allowed these shows to park so squarely in the center of the American zeitgeist?

The most obvious answer to that question is that Washington has captured our collective imagination because Washington is widely held to be broken. Americans may disagree on the source of the brokenness -- some trace it to ideological intransigence on the right, other to federal overreach in Obama's ACA -- but the sense that Something Is Deeply Wrong exists on both sides of the ideological divide. No one knows where the apocalypse is coming from. Will it be the national debt? An NSA surveillance state? A terrorist attack? Economic decline? Corporate oligarchy? But everyone agrees on one thing: there's a storm coming, and Washington is to blame.

In this analysis, TV shows about Washington are so popular because Americans are looking to diagnose the world's current malaise by looking for signs of sickness in the nation's -- and the world's -- capitol. The current crop of DC TV offers plenty of symptoms (spoiler alert, kind of, I guess): lobbyists, big money, interest groups, cynical politicians, backdoor deals, rigid ideology, 24-hour media, election rigging, electronic surveillance, torture, murder, terrorism. It's a sobering list.

How odd, then, that these shows aren't perceived as being sobering. On the contrary -- their portrayals of Washington DC as cesspools of corruption and human degradation are lauded as juicy, twisty, fun and entertaining in a guilty-pleasure sort of way.

What's going on here?


Karl Marx once said that history repeats itself, "first as tragedy, then as farce." Something like that appears to be happening with the DC shows currently on offer, in which the specter of our recent history comes back to haunt us -- but in its second iteration, it's no longer scary. Instead, it makes us laugh. It makes us thrill. It entertains us.

This is perhaps most true of Scandal, ABC's blatantly ridiculous DC show in which presidents have affairs, staffers arrange murders, spies torture each other with drills and pliers and pruning shears, and Olivia Pope and Associates rush around town making sure that none of this mess is visible to the American people, that the facade of DC respectability is intact regardless of what fresh insanity is taking place underneath. It's not farce, exactly, but it certainly is outlandish, and in three short seasons the show has enacted the following American tragedies: the Lewinsky scandal, the Florida recount, the Global War on Terror, NSA wiretapping.

House of Cards seems less farcical than Scandal from the outside, but that's mostly Hollywood trickery -- behind the stellar production values, behind big names like Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright, behind the veneer of respectability that the association of David Fincher brings, lies a show that is just as preposterous as any soap opera. The show is, perhaps, slightly more perceptive about what's wrong with Washington -- to the horrors evoked by Scandal, House of Cards adds lobbyists, government shutdowns, and obscure fears about China. But these things mostly exist to foreground the juicy stuff: the killing, the scheming, the sex.

Veep is the most farcical of the bunch -- literally, since it's actually funny. (Scandal and House of Cards can be unintentionally funny sometimes; it doesn't really count.) It's also the most ruthless in its portrayal of the capitol, though it's hard to see that at first. Scandal and House of Cards show us a Washington in which everyone's cynical and evil -- Veep gives us a capitol where those things are true but everyone's incompetent to boot. If the people in Washington were half as good at governing the nation as Selina Meyer and her crew are at firing off foulmouthed insults, this would be the most well-run country in the world. If Veep's right about Washington, what's wrong with the town is cynicism, venality -- but above all, pervasive stupidity.


That paints a depressing picture of the reality -- and, of course, the reality may well be exactly that depressing. But what's odd about these shows is that they aren't depressing. They're kind of fun. That's what distinguishes this crop of DC shows. Unlike The West Wing -- a show that ran from the Clinton era to Bush's second term but which sometimes seems to be much older than that -- these shows don't package politics inside entertainment. They package entertainment inside politics. When something undeniably real does break through -- when Huck from Scandal gets waterboarded, for instance, or when Selina Meyer honestly wrestles with how to express her stance on abortion -- it's a surprise. Often, it comes as a punch to the gut. Something entirely foreign to the experience of the show.

But maybe that's what we need. More punches to the gut.


So, which of these shows gives us the best vision of what Washington is really like?

I don't know. I'm not a Washington insider. I'm told that President Obama loves Homeland, for whatever that's worth; that Joe Biden is a fan of Veep; that, perhaps protesting too much, many in the House and Senate object to House of Cards' cynical portrayal of what they do. No one seems to think Scandal has much to do with what's real. Which is perhaps as it should be.

But maybe it's the wrong question.

Maybe none of them are real. Maybe all of them are.

And maybe that's the point.

At some point, we all tend to ask our favorite fictional worlds to reflect reality, but verisimilitude -- literally, similarity to the real -- is the one thing TV can't give us. Art, however much we might want it to, doesn't reflect reality. It creates its own reality. Veep, Scandal, House of Cards, even The West Wing -- they all create an alternate reality for us to live in. In some ways, the realities they create correspond with actual reality. In other ways, they don't. And which is which and who's to say, nobody really knows. Washington wonks may well spend their time crafting brutal, obscene insults, as they do in Veep. The town may be overrun with torturers, murderers, and spies, as it is in Scandal. And powerful politicians may be motivated more by pride and personal vendettas than they are to their constituents, as they are in House of Cards.

Or maybe not.

But who's to say that the portrayals of Washington that we see on ABC, HBO, Netflix, and the rest are any more or less real than what we see on CNN or Fox News? Who can blame us for choosing an unreal Washington when even the portrayals of the "real" capitol are becoming more and more fake? When we're losing hope that the portrayals we see of what's going on in the halls of power in our nation's capital, of the people who hold such power over the shape of our lives, will ever come close to meeting the reality of What's Really Going On?

And so, faced with a choice between falsehoods, we pick the irreality that appeals most to us. We watch. We tweet. We recap. We dish. We wait for the next OMG plot twist as the gladiators battle it out on our TV screens.

Are we not entertained?

Peter M. J. Hess, Ph.d.: The Sun Revolves Around You? Narcissism On A Cosmic S

Peter M. J. Hess, Ph.d.: The Sun Revolves Around You? Narcissism On A Cosmic Scale 2014-04-18

The center of the universe might be closer than you think -- in fact, it might be right under your feet. A conservative Catholic crank, Robert Sungenis, is now resurrecting the long-discredited geocentric model in a bizarre movie called The Principle.

Geocentrism is the idea that the Earth is at the center of a sphere of stars and galaxies and that everything in the universe revolves around us every twenty-four hours. It's a toddler's perspective, the kind of self-centered conclusion you might draw if you didn't know anything about how the world works. But even a smidgeon of exposure to science shows this naïve observation to be incorrect. Indeed, it's been centuries since scientific and religious institutions accepted the falseness of the geocentric model.

But even hundreds of years after the career and trial of Galileo -- and long after the gradual acceptance of heliocentrism even by the Catholic Church -- Sungenis argues that Galileo was fundamentally wrong. He is also a holocaust denier, but I'll leave a discussion about Sungenis' anti-Semitism for another day.

It boggles my mind that the anthropocentric narcissism of geocentrism exists anywhere but in books on the history of science. Astronomer Phil Plait roguishly echoes my thoughts in noting that

Of all the wrongiest wrongs that ever wronged wrongness, Geocentrism is way up on the list. The idea that the Earth is the center of the Universe makes creationism look positively scientific in comparison. It might be edged out by people who think the Earth is flat, but just barely.

On the other hand, garden-variety geocentrists might be much more common than you realize. At this moment a geocentrist might be changing your tire, or steaming your latte, or cleaning your teeth, or teaching your children. Polls shows that one in four Americans clearly falls into Robert Sungenis' camp. On the 2012 edition of the National Science Foundation's "Factual Knowledge Quiz," only 74 percent of adults correctly answered this question: "Does the Earth go around the Sun, or does the Sun go around the Earth?" Now I wonder, are these 60 million Americans really geocentrists, or are they just profoundly ignorant of how the world is actually structured?

Sungenis proclaims on his website that his 90-minute documentary The Principle challenges the foundation of modernity: the view that "neither are we on Earth special nor do we occupy a special place in the universe." This is revealing. Much as some creationists reject evolution because they reject the concept that humans are animals, Sungenis seems to think astronomy has taken away the "specialness" of our place in the universe. It's the same kind of juvenile complaint an older child might make when a new baby sibling joins the family.

Sungenis also proudly tells us that the film is narrated by Kate Mulgrew, who played Captain Janeway on Star Trek: Voyager. (The idea that narration by an imaginary spaceship captain on a fictional show lends scientific credibility to his movie makes about as much sense as does anything in geocentrism.) But last week Mulgrew vigorously denounced any implication that she endorses the film:

I understand there has been some controversy about my participation in a documentary called THE PRINCIPLE. Let me assure everyone that I completely agree with the eminent physicist Lawrence Krauss, who was himself misrepresented in the film, and who has written a succinct rebuttal in SLATE. I am not a geocentrist, nor am I in any way a proponent of geocentrism. More importantly, I do not subscribe to anything Robert Sungenis has written regarding science and history and, had I known of his involvement, would most certainly have avoided this documentary. I was a voice for hire, and a misinformed one, at that. I apologize for any confusion that my voice on this trailer may have caused. Kate Mulgrew

Lawrence Krauss, a cosmologist at Arizona State university who directs the "Origins" project, discovered that some public-domain video clips of himself had been co-opted for the film. He was less tactful in describing Sungenis' geocentrism and holocaust denial: "It is tempting to say that both claims are obscene nonsense, but I believe that does a disservice to the word 'nonsense'." Krauss's approach to Sungenis' fraudulent film is consonant with NCSE's response to science denial for the past three decades:

It is, after all, impossible in the modern world to shield everyone from nonsense and stupidity. What we can do is provide the tools, through our educational system, for people to be able to tell sense from nonsense. These tools include the scientific method, skeptical questioning, empirical evidence, verifying sources, etc.

For most of us, the very premise of the movie The Principle is so incoherent that it isn't even wrong; dealing with it is simply a waste of valuable time. Watching an interview with Sungenis and Bennett is like trying to make sense of a Stockhausen symphony in an amusement park while tripping out with Timothy Leary. After watching it I was tempted to respond as Alvie Singer did to Dwayne in Annie Hall: "Right. Well, I have to - I have to go now, Duane, because I, I'm due back on the planet Earth."

For those with a taste for the bizarre world of reality denial, the captain of Geocentric Airlines has turned off the seatbelt sign; in fact, you may abandon your seatbelts altogether because the captain has discovered that we were never in motion at all. Here is the blurb from the website "Galileo was Wrong and the Church was Right."

Your world will be rocked, literally and figuratively...modern science has documented for us in bold fashion that the Earth is motionless in space and occupies the center of the universe (yet has done an equally remarkable job in keeping these important facts out of our educational system).

Sungenis' denial of astronomical truth will appeal to only a narrow segment of the most fundamentalist Protestant or Catholic population. And don't be surprised if even Young Earthers quickly try to put as much real estate as possible between themselves and Robert Sungenis. One hopes that a geocentrist might one day wake up to the fact that if even YECs are giving you the cold shoulder, your world view must really be lost in space!

Reflective Bride: Why I'm Not Changing My Last Name For Marriage

Reflective Bride: Why I'm Not Changing My Last Name For Marriage 2014-04-18

Some of the most common questions I was asked as a newlywed were, "Does it feel any different to be married?" "Have you got used to calling him 'husband' yet?" and, of course, "So are you taking his last name?" When I answered in the negative (for all three questions, actually), the latter query was followed up with further questions. "Oh, are you keeping your name for professional reasons? Is it because of all the paperwork hassles with getting new ID? Are there no boys in your family to carry on the name?" And then, in a conspiratorial whisper, "Do you not like your husband's last name?

That's not it, I would reply. I just don't believe in changing one's identity for marriage.


I decided at the ripe old age of 15, almost 10 years before I met the man who would become my husband, that I would not change my name for marriage. At that age the decision mostly sprung from the fact that I just plain liked my name. I have an unusual first name and last name. Several times I've introduced myself to someone on email and received a message back signed off with "P.S. cool name!" In my brooding teenage years I gave a lot of thought to my name; if asked right now how many letters and syllables are in my first and last names, or in my full name, I could answer without blinking.

To me, as it would be for many other people, my name is my identity. If someone asks you "who are you?" the answer that you give is your first and last name. For me, my name is who I am.

As I grew older, learning more about gender politics and the inequalities that women still face in society cemented that teenage decision to keep my name. The expectation that women should change their last name for marriage, swapping their own identity for their husband's, is -- inarguably -- sexist. And I say "inarguably" because no one could claim there is an expectation of the same name-change in men. I remember a class in college about gender and the media, where a male student asked in our discussion group, "Would you change your name for marriage?" "No. Would you change your name?" I answered coolly.

"What?" he sputtered. "No! Why would I change my name?"

"Exactly," I replied.

To put it bluntly -- as I sometimes do when people really grill me about my decision -- it's not 1950 and I'm not cattle that needs to be branded with my owner's name.

So identity and equality are the two most important factors for me in keeping my name. However, other reasons reinforced my decision, after receiving the following reactions to my matrimonial surname plans...

"It's tradition": So was slavery. So was women not being able to vote. Tradition doesn't make any of them a good thing.

"You could still keep your name, but add his with a hyphen": That would still be changing my name and identity, and would not be much of a move for equality unless my groom were doing the same.

"Well, what if your husband did hyphenate his name, too?": Great for equality, but then it would be two people changing their identity for marriage.

"What will your children have as a last name?": They could have both our last names hyphenated, mine as a middle name, or just take their father's surname -- none of which I have a problem with. I do think it's unequal that children automatically take their father's name, but other approaches are not yet as widely accepted as women keeping their surnames -- though I think this is will change with time.

"Won't you not feel like a family if you have a different last name from your children?": I'm quite sure that if I birth and/or raise a child, that's plenty to qualify me for feeling like their family. Whether or not I have the same last name as my child won't stop me loving them or feeling attached to them. Also, with this logic, would I no longer feel like I'm part of my parents' family if I take a different surname from theirs? In these days of blended families, the idea that everyone in a family would have the same last name is a touch old-fashioned.

"Keeping your maiden name is keeping your father's name; isn't that also sexist?": Yes, it is. However, that's the name I had for the first 29 years of my life before my wedding, and that's who I see myself as.

"People will refer to you as 'Mrs Reflective Groom' anyway": Yes, they will. A few decades ago it was common to assume any married woman you met was a housewife; that's not a good reason for women to stay out of the workplace. People more familiar with my husband indeed call me 'Mrs. Reflective Groom' on meeting me for the first time -- just as people familiar with me greet him as. 'Mr Reflective Bride.' I'm not going to give them a lecture, just as my groom has not made a big show about correcting people.

"Ah, you're just afraid of divorce": That's not a reason for my decision, but it is something to consider. I love my husband dearly, and hope we are together until we die in each other's arms at the exact same moment at age 100, but it would be naive not to realize that something like a third of western marriages end in divorce. Would I then change back to my birth name? And if I re-marry, do I change it again to the new husband's name? What am I, a baseball card?

Then there is the reaction I get from brides who have taken their husband's name, who often look a little hurt by my decision: "It's just nice." If you think this way, I applaud you. After all, the same thing could be said about weddings: they're stressful, expensive and time consuming... but, you know what, they're just nice. But the things that make weddings nice are that they bring together family and friends, celebrate your love, and are an excuse for an awesome party. Really consider what you find so nice about changing names. And if it is so nice to have the same last name as your spouse, perhaps it shouldn't only be women stepping up to make the change.

These are my own, personal reasons for maintaining my birth name. If you, however, are not as fond of your name or do not see it as part of your identity -- perhaps because it's from a parent you don't have a good relationship with, the name is something you got teased for, or you just feel it's not particularly you -- then I think marriage is a great opportunity to take a new name. But I believe this should be the case for men as well, and that neither gender should feel obligated to switch names.

If you are debating whether to change your surname for marriage, don't listen to the people who question your decision -- don't even listen to this article -- but take time to ponder for yourself your thoughts on name and identity, and what's important to you. If you, too, do think "it's just nice", ask yourself what you find nice about it before committing to a decision. It's your name, and only you should decide what to do with.

S.r. Hewitt: 10 Fascinating Facts About The Ten Commandments (the Movie)

S.r. Hewitt: 10 Fascinating Facts About The Ten Commandments (the Movie) 2014-04-18

Watching Paramount's The Ten Commandments is, for many, an annual part of the spring holidays. While there have been other film versions of the story of the exodus, none have the epic staying power of the 1956 classic. Indeed, many have now grown up with the image of Charlton Heston irreparably set as the image of Moses.

Bringing a bible story to the big screen often warrants certain liberties. In the case of The Ten Commandments, this meant the introduction of a love story between Moses and Nefretiri, a power struggle between Moses and the young Ramses and the creation of Lilia, the love interest of Joshua.

Surprisingly, many of the places Cecil B. DeMille appears to have gotten creative are actually based on extra-Biblical Jewish sources:

1 ) Moses, Conquerer of Ethiopia The grown-up Moses is introduced in The Ten Commandments when he returns to Pharoah after bringing Ethiopia into alliance with Egypt. There is no record of Moses conquering Ethiopia on behalf of Pharaoh. However, there is a Midrash (narrative from the Oral Torah) that details how, after fleeing Egypt, Moses went to Ethiopia and was named king. This occurred before he came to the tent of Jethro, where he married and became a shepherd.

2) The Day of Moses In trying to instigate trouble for Moses, Prince Ramses tells his father (Pharaoh Sethi) that Moses not only gave the Hebrew slaves extra grain, but one day in seven to rest, a day that the Hebrews now called "the Day of Moses." While the reference to the "Day of Moses" is a little over the top on drama, it is true, according to the Midrash (Exodus Rabbah 1:28), that Moses convinced Pharoah to give the Jews a day of rest each week. He did so by noting that Pharoah gave his horses time to rest, so why not his slaves.

3) The Evil Dathan The vile Dathan, played by Edward G. Robinson, is one of the most memorable and unlikable characters in the movie. Dathan and his brother Aviram, who is mostly a silent presence in the movie, appear repeatedly in the Torah as troublemakers. In Egypt, Dathan was an Israelite overseer. Rather than Joshua being the Israelite whose life Moses saves by killing the Egyptian taskmaster, as presented in the movie, there is a Midrash that implies that this was Dathan's story (in the Midrash he is referred to only as the Hebrew). One night, Dathan's Egyptian boss sent him out on assignment and went into his home. In the dark, the Egyptian pretended to be the man and had relations with his beautiful wife (Shelomit). When the man let the taskmaster know that he knew what had happened, the Egyptian began to strike him.

The next day, Moses tried to intercede when Dathan and Aviram are fighting. Dathan is the one whom the Torah quotes as saying: "Will you kill me as you killed the Egyptian?" (Exodus 1:29).

4) The Known Redeemer In the movie, Prince Ramses is set on finding the foretold redeemer of the Hebrew slaves. With information from Dathan, he is led to Moses, whom he presents to Pharoah Sethi as the one whom they have sought. Unable to kill Moses, who is like a son to him, Pharoah Sethi commands that Moses' name be stricken from all records and that he be sent into exile. In fact, Exodus 2:15 clearly states that "When Pharaoh heard this thing [Moses killed an Egyptian], he sought to slay Moses. But Moses fled..."

5) Muslims in Midian Jethro and his seven daughters are subtly presented as followers of an Islam-like faith. They claim Ishmael as their forefather and state that Ishmael was the son brought to the mountain as a sacrifice to God. While Jethro is portrayed in the Midrash as a man who tried a wide variety of religions and who was serving as a priest in Midian when Moses met him, he is never associated with Islam -- perhaps because Islam developed hundreds of years later. Even if one were to assume that he was part of a pre-Islamic tribe descended from Ishmael, this would be false because the Midianites were descendants of Abraham and Keturah (his wife after Sarah) and not from Ishmael.

6) Joshua Makes Moses Move Throughout the movie, Joshua is a bigger-than-life, hunky hero. He's a stonecutter in Egypt who stands up to Dathan, a protector of the elderly Joshabel (meant to be Jochebed) and, most significantly, the man who spurs Moses forward on his search to understand who he is. Alas, none of these instances have any foundation. There is no record of Joshua suddenly appearing in Midian and pushing Moses to go seek God on the mountain. Perhaps this was meant to reflect the biblical account of Aharon coming from Egypt to meet Moses in the wilderness. However, this took place only after Moses had agreed to go and lead the Israelites out of slavery.

7) Hey, That Bush is on Fire Speaking of the mountain, it appears that everyone in the region can see something special about it. A dark cloud hovers over it at all times, and it is referred to as God's mountain. Additionally, Tzipporah and Joshua tell Moses about the bush that is on fire but does not burn. According to Jewish tradition, Moses did not deliberately go to find God on a known holy mountain with a burning bush visible to others. The biblical text states "Now Moses kept the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian: and he led the flock to the backside of the desert, and came to the mountain of God, even to Horeb" (Exodus 3:1). According to the Midrash, he found the burning bush when he was following one stray sheep to make certain it was returned to its flock.

8) Korach the High Priest By the end of the movie it appears that the film-makers just wanted to include as many Bible stories as possible. Once the golden calf is made, Dathan takes charge. He declares Korach the high-priest and debauchery and chaos ensue. It is true that Korach was a Levite who wished to be the High Priest and led a rebellion against Moses and Aharon. It is also true that Dathan was one of Korach's prime supporters in the rebellion. However, the events of Korach's rebellion are recorded in the Book of Numbers and took place elsewhere. The story of Korach is additionally misapproprated when the ground opens up and swallows the unrepentant worshippers of the golden calf. This is actually another piece of the story of Korach. The Torah clearly relates that those who chose the calf over God were slain by the swords of the Levites.

9) One Man Struck Down In a small but fascinatingly accurate incident in the movie, one man cries out against the licentious worship of the golden calf. Another man comes from behind and strikes him down, presumably killing him. This was not added as random violence but is a reference to the death of Hur, the son of Miriam and Caleb, that is presented in Talmud Sanhedrin 7a: "Rabbi Benjamin ben Japhet says, reporting Rabbi Eleazar: He [Aharon] saw Hur lying slain before him and said [to himself]: If I do not obey them, they will now do unto me as they did unto Hur... Better let them worship the golden calf, for which offence they may yet find forgiveness through repentance."

10) Moses Final Words The final scene of The Ten Commandments has Moses saying goodbye to a small group of significant characters. After commanding Joshua to be strong leader and to have faith, he presents a copy of the Torah to Eleazar to place in the ark and than tells all those gathered (and perhaps the crowd far below) "Go, proclaim liberty throughout all the lands, unto all the inhabitants thereof!" Beautiful as this verse is, it is actually a reference to the celebration of the jubilee year and comes from the 25th chapter of Leviticus. If it is a quote that you recognize, it is also inscribed on the Liberty Bell.

Guillermo Rodríguez: The Day Charlie Chaplin Won Over Disney Channel

Guillermo Rodríguez: The Day Charlie Chaplin Won Over Disney Channel 2014-04-18

I suppose that, when it comes down to it, I'm an average dad.

In moments of paternal exaltation, my wife and I follow the manual down to the letter: we think that our 5-year-old and 10-year-old daughters are the prettiest, kindest, and smartest that the world has ever seen. But when lucidity returns, we arrive at the conclusion that, yes, they're great, but they also have multiple defects.

Of course, I'm responsible in large part for any deficiencies my girls suffer. Most of the time, as a father, I know I'm just not doing as well as I could: I don't spend enough time with them, I sometimes try to shirk my responsibilities. For example, I don't keep them from using video consoles or tablets, or watching TV. Some nights, looking back on the day, I realize they've spent hours and hours with their Nintendo. The next day may be the same.

I allow it, even though I know it's not the best for them.

My daughters are normal. They read, they think, they do their homework... and like good girls, they're unpredictable. One night -- sick of them watching American TV series in which the characters, handsome boys and attractive girls, live in luxury apartments in Manhattan, drive Porsches, and have parents who, luckily enough for the kids, are never home -- I took an initiative that was wholly successful.

I turned off the show they were watching and put on Charlie Chaplin's The Kid. As I recall, that evening I had been listening to a radio show celebrating the 125th anniversary of the birth of Chaplin, without any doubt one of film history's great geniuses.

I must admit that when the movie started, I was convinced that my experiment was going to end up shipwrecked in a sea of mistakes. The movie was in black and white, silent, starring a mustachioed man in a bowling hat. It did not exactly feature the stuff that based on what I've seen, seem to interest kids these days.

Despite that, I triumphed. Few times have I seen my kids laugh so hard as that night. They asked me to replay the scene in which the kid flees from the police running as fast as he can at least five times.

And, with tears in their eyes, they turned away when the same kid was separated forcefully from his vagabond father. During the 52 minutes that the movie lasts, I explained everything that they didn't understand, jumped ahead a few scenes to pique their interest ("Just wait and see what happens next!"), and overacted, laughing in big guffaws at scenes that I already knew by heart. Five days later, they'd seen The Kid many more times.

Weeks later, I did the same thing with another Chaplin film, Modern Times. In various moments, I had to stop the movie because my eldest daughter, who's 10, was actually crying to the point of tears (during the celebrated screws scene) or screaming from all the suspense (at the end of the movie, when Chaplin almost roller skates off a cliff). My 5-year-old laughed, screamed, and enjoyed everything just the way a little girl would.

At this point they've seen The Kid, Modern Times, and The Gold Rush -- well, with the last few minutes of that one muted. It's not a revolution, I know. But it's a small victory, at least for me. They haven't and won't stopped watching Disney Channel series that I hate, like Jessie, My Dog Has a Blog, or Shake It Up. But they know who The Tramp is. They have seen top-notch cinema and have worried about how it's humanly possible for a worker to have to spend eight hours a day screwing in screws on an assembly line.

In short, I've been witness to the fact that with a little effort, any kid can have their attention captured, can be asked a little more than normal -- and will respond well to the challenge.

You only need the will to do it. And the genius of Charlie Chaplin.

The Daily Meal: How To Make Beautiful 'dyed' Easter Eggs At Home

The Daily Meal: How To Make Beautiful 'dyed' Easter Eggs At Home 2014-04-18

Finding Easter eggs during a hunt is only half of the fun. Dyeing, painting, decorating, and beautifying the delicate shells are an adventure of their own. Whether hand painted, tye-dyed, or colored with other food (or drink) products, just like snowflakes and their different shapes and various designs, no two are alike!

Click Here to see the Complete Slideshow for 9 Recipes for Naturally "Dyeing" Easter Eggs

The tradition of painting Paschal eggs (aka Easter eggs) dates back to when households would give up eating eggs in observance of Lent. Fat Tuesday was known to be the last day people were able to enjoy dairy and eggs before the celebration of Easter. Sometimes Easter eggs were dyed red to represent the blood of Jesus Christ.

With all of those egregious color tablets and strange kit contents, you may be less than thrilled about getting crafty. The answer to gorgeously colored eggs could be right in your refrigerator. We've compiled advice from egg-cellent experts to assist in giving us great recipes for dying Easter egg naturally! They're more natural and, in many cases, less messy and safe for kids. Safeway executive chef Jeff Anderson suggests keeping things lighthearted.

"Have fun with this!" Anderson exclaimed. "Pick your favorite produce and experiment with formulas to create different colored eggs. Make sure to pick the freshest fruits and vegetables for better color."

You can make everyone green with envy by using spinach for a grassy hue. With the help of beets you can tickle your Easter eggs pink! Break out the ingredients (not the eggs), roll up your sleeves, and maybe put on an apron for good measure.

-- Hilary Sheinbaum, The Daily Meal

More Content from The Daily Meal:

11 Ways to Decorate Easter Eggs Without Dye

10 Pimped Out Easter Eggs

25 Easter Eggs That Look Like Celebrities

The World's Tallest Chocolate Easter Egg

10 Highest Calorie American Holidays

Kiri Westby: What Happened Next? The Good, The Weird And The Ugly Of Coming Ou

Kiri Westby: What Happened Next? The Good, The Weird And The Ugly Of Coming Out Of The Pot Closet 2014-04-18

As far as I know, no one had done it before -- declared to the world that they smoke pot, practically daily, that they're also in charge of raising children and that they're not going to be ashamed anymore.

But I did.

Naturally, there have been a lot of questions along the lines of "Sooo? What Happened Next? We're dying to know! Does your mother-in-law still love you?"

I'd like to think that these come from folks who genuinely want to avoid the land mines and labels that may accompany coming out of their own "pot closets."* So, with the hope that more of us begin to speak up about the role that marijuana plays in our lives, I share the story of what happened after I wrote this blog and hundreds of thousands of people around the world read it.

THE GOOD: 90% of the feedback I saw in the comments was positive. Folks who do, and folks who do not smoke marijuana chimed in to agree that despite their personal choices around pot, given the changing legal landscape, we need to have open conversations with our kids about it. This was, first and foremost, a parenting blog.

Some folks, conversely, called me a drug addict and predicted that I will have a drug-addicted kid one day... but then again, some parents believe that not talking to their kids about sex is an effective way to prevent teen pregnancy (despite alarming new statistics proving the opposite), so that didn't surprise me much.

My mom, who has been put through the paces during my work in war zones, plus a short stint in Chinese prison, had a predictable response: "What's all the fuss?"

My dad was concerned that I felt shame from the terrible choice parents in his time had to make: Either hide their occasional pot use or make their children complicit in illegal activity (a choice many parents must still face today).

My extended family is still speaking to me, though weeks of uncomfortable silence can be expected. Change is rarely comfy, and it can be painful to adjust the sails on one's thinking. Also, I experienced a layer of judgment for smoking pot and a layer for "airing dirty laundry" in public, so I suppose it depends how you come out. I expect some family felt tainted by public association... there's that stigma again.

It affected a lot of my close friends as well, and my personal message boxes were flooded with notes supporting me privately while wishing they could do so publicly (but they work with kids, they practice law, they enforce the law, they've already had trouble with the law or they still face very real consequences where they live).

I like to think that the days after prohibition were a little similar, as the wine bottles slowly made their way onto the dinner table. It takes time to change culture...

...Or cultures? After my blog went viral in the U.S., The Huffington Post sent my blog to HuffPost Germany and El HuffPost, the Spanish version. Suddenly, the conversation was global and I was having Twitter convos with parents in Andalucía, Berlin and Chile. It seems my suspicions about there being a lot more of us were right and I've made some fun new e-friends in the process.

I've also received dozens of requests to smoke and while I'm flattered, for the record, if I don't know you, I'm not gonna get stoned with you. In fact, I usually smoke alone at the end of my day, between the time my daughter sleeps and my husband gets home from work, and most of the time I fall asleep from exhaustion shortly after. I mainly use pot to help me sleep and to work through some serious PTSD (and if I have to wake up at 3 a.m. to a crying child, I am stone cold sober, which wasn't the case when I tried over-the-counter sleeping pills).

And lastly, a teenager made a YouTube video about my blog, commending me for having the courage to start the conversation, and admitting that when her dad switched from alcohol to pot, "it was like night and day." This was the cherry on top for me and I hope that one day, my daughter is just as smart and brave.

THE WEIRD: I have been blogging on HuffPost for more than five years. Most of my pieces have been well-received, shared around a few hundred times and then faded away into the white noise of the Internet. In my naiveté, I didn't realize that there is an entire world of mainstream media that picks up on popular blogs to take the topics further onto TV.

Imagine my surprise when my husband's cell phone rings at 9 a.m. the next morning with Muriel, a producer at ABC's "20/20" asking for "an exclusive" (An exclusive to what? I wonder, it's all pretty much in the blog). This is particularly shocking to hubby, considering he doesn't even have an email address and thinks Facebook is the world's biggest waste of time (we are still not sure how they got the number). In addition, we haven't watched mainstream TV in a decade and we both think Barbara Walters is still anchoring "20/20." I happily grant them an exclusive (I love Barbara Walters!) though I'm still wondering what more they're looking for? Luckily for me, I get to hide behind this "exclusive" when FOX News gets in touch and my Twitter feed blows up with media requests.

Muriel didn't care much about my doing Canadian press, and I love Canada, so I then went on a live call-in radio show out of Vancouver. They sent producers to the streets asking folks to read my blog and provide comments, as a way of setting the stage for the overall debate (all I could think was wow, you sent people to the streets of Vancouver and asked them to read my writing? That's incredible!). One caller couldn't help but compare me to a crack addict, smoking crack in front of a child... an image out of her sheer imagination that provided the perfect opportunity to discuss all of the fear that still exists around weed, the extent of the stigma and the entire reason I very consciously used the word "pothead" in my title.

Several folks disagreed with the use of that word. It struck a chord down to the very shame and stigma I wrote about. For many regular marijuana users, the term "pothead" is a pejorative that speaks more to one's character than to one's use, and it's a label they've worked hard to transcend.

My experience tells me, however, that the only way to dismantle harmful stereotypes is to own them and redefine them by exposing how baseless they are. The moment we admit we toke up, there are a whole slew of assumptions and images based on stereotypes and scare campaigns. If we call ourselves potheads, then the term loses power and legitimacy. In fact, the week after my blog got attention, an anonymous piece popped up full of lawyers, doctors, youth pastors and police officers admitting to regular marijuana use.

This is the stigma we must begin to erase. We are all sober when we are sober and we can make safe choices around Cannabis use, just as we have learned to do around alcohol, without our entire character being called in to question night and day.

THE UGLY: I set a Google alert for the title of my blog and took my own voyeuristic journey through the land of the Internet. This was fun at first, as I watched the debate unfold and deepen on every major parenting website (which was the entire point). More blogs on the topic emerged, saying much of what I didn't have the space to say. But then the commentary took a dark turn and my stomach lurched as the misogyny emerged, (out came the words B*tch and C*nt and calls for violence). I suddenly felt like a target and started watching my back, my PTSD from being kidnapped in Sri Lanka flaring up like a bad rash. How does admitting to smoking pot warrant a call for rape? It's a leap that can only come from a place of hatred for "uppity" women who create change. It's antiquated and abhorrent and instead of responding to you trolls individually, I'll just take this chance to say GROW UP and GET A LIFE OFFLINE.

In the end, I decided not to go on "20/20" either. I set three restrictions with Muriel:

1. My daughter is too young to be on national TV around this issue.

2. Given the violent comments, please don't show my home or my neighborhood.

3. I'm not going to smoke pot on camera (because I do not believe we can simultaneously break down stereotypes while upholding them, and strong images have a way of being edited and reprinted in nefarious ways).

Apparently, that was enough to make my story less compelling. I was hoping they wanted to have a serious conversation or debate on the issue and they were hoping to film "a day in the life of pothead mom" (which I can tell you would make for some pretty boring TV... there's that stigma again).

I began to wonder if any media producers actually read my blog or if NPR is right? One thing was certain: I didn't write this for 15 minutes of TV fame and I'm nobody's dancing monkey.

So, I decided to limit further public commentary to this keyboard and to control the follow-up story myself. Instead of being framed and edited into "The Pothead Mom," I like to picture myself as a brave woman who is delicately navigating the line between motherhood and a career, all while modeling honesty and self-acceptance. I am pretty sure that wouldn't have been the headline on "20/20."

To echo the sentiments of the latest pot-smoking mom blogger to come forward, smoking weed is only one thing about me in a pool of a million talents. And in that vein, for those who read my writing on more serious topics, I promise this will be my last blog about marijuana... because my mom is right, "what's all the fuss?"


Kiri Westby

*I want to add something here about my use of the closet metaphor. If it weren't for the queer rights movement and the sacrifice of millions of gays and lesbians to live honestly, we wouldn't have this term. It has become colloquial, and is being used more and more to describe the process of living one's truth... and I agree with my fellow Boulderite Ash Beckham that "coming out of any closet is hard... and we need to stop comparing our hards." But I also believe that if we don't know where we've come from, we won't know where we're going. My choice to come clean about how I choose to relax is fundamentally different than someone's choice to be honest about who they were born to be; I may face social or professional rejection, but LGBTQ folks often face violence or death for being honest about their sexuality. By no means do I mean to make light of that.

Elaine Mckewon: Why This Is A Dark Time For The Field Of Climate Science

Elaine Mckewon: Why This Is A Dark Time For The Field Of Climate Science 2014-04-18

These are dark times for science -- in particular, climate science and related fields of study.

Hate mail, harassment campaigns, accusations of scientific fraud and threats of lawsuits have become the new normal for climate scientists and researchers who study climate change denial. These problematic conditions have a chilling effect on scientific research.

So what happens when a scientific journal becomes part of the problem?

Last month, the journal Frontiers in Psychology retracted a paper, 'Recursive fury: Conspiracist ideation in the blogosphere in response to research on conspiracist ideation', by cognitive scientist Stephan Lewandowsky and colleagues. It is a narrative analysis of blog posts published by climate deniers in response to Lewandowsky's earlier study in which he and his colleagues found that endorsement of free-market economics and conspiratorial ideation are associated with the rejection of science. Recursive Fury further examined and reaffirmed the link between climate change denial and conspiracy ideation.

As soon as Recursive Fury was published in February 2013, Frontiers received a series of complaints and threats from climate deniers who said they had been "libeled" and "defamed" in the paper. After a year-long investigation into these complaints and threats, Frontiers concluded

This investigation did not identify any issues with the academic and ethical aspects of the study. It did, however, determine that the legal context is insufficiently clear and therefore Frontiers wishes to retract the published article.

As a reviewer of this paper, I've shared my own first-hand account of the peer-review process and early negotiations to re-publish the paper, adding that I'd have expected a scientific journal to have more backbone. As you might expect, the journal copped a fair amount of criticism from other academics as well, appalled that a scientific journal would cave in to threats from climate deniers and abandon its responsibility to defend academic freedom.

What has been shocking is the journal's response to academic criticism. In an effort to deflect the growing backlash from scientists and negative media reports, the journal has issued false statements, changed its story on the retraction and exposed the authors of the paper to reputational damage.

First came the journal's statement which included the claim that "Frontiers did not 'cave in to threats'; in fact, Frontiers received no threats." I had to read that sentence twice. Surely Frontiers would not issue a statement that is patently and demonstrably false?

As it happens, a number of these threats are a matter of public record. When environmental journalist Graham Readfearn broke the story days before the paper's retraction, he posted 118 pages of documents obtained through a Freedom of Information request. Readfearn's article even directly quotes one letter from a blogger who made explicit legal threats against the journal:

I have sought legal advice which has confirmed that, as long as a reasonable number of blog readers are aware of my true identity and professional reputation (which is the case), I could potentially have a defamation action against the authors and publishers of this paper for an outright lie that was told about me.

As a reviewer, I was privy to some of the earliest threats sent to the journal following the paper's publication. Email exchanges between the journal's management, legal counsel and editors and reviewers clearly demonstrate that the journal received threats and responded to them as threats.

In one email, the journal's manager warns the journal's legal counsel, "This is not looking good. See doc attached from the blog writer." In the attached document, the blogger threatens to use his bully pulpit to expose the journal's "anti-science position," while his use of the word "libel" implies the threat of legal action:

I have been libeled by Stephan Lewandowsky in his most recent publication in your journal ... I demand that an immediate retraction be made. If I do not receive a reply in two days, I will pursue taking this to the next level ... in addition to pursuit of other action I will use my blog's public influence to explain to my readers your Journal's anti-science position when it suits your agenda.

In a later email (in the same exchange), the journal manager advises editors and reviewers, "We will have to keep this article back until we can establish whether it is libellous or not..." This email exchange culminated in a conference call to enable the journal's manager, legal counsel, editors and reviewers to discuss how the journal should proceed. Let me be perfectly clear: the very reason the journal convened the conference call was to deal with threats that had been received from climate denialists.

So the journal's claim that it "received no threats" is demonstrably false. Not the kind of behavior that instills confidence in the journal's integrity, professionalism and commitment to the truth.

In that same statement, the journal subtly began to change its story about why it had retracted the paper, explaining that its decision had been guided by concerns that the paper "does not sufficiently protect the rights of the studied subjects." With a bit of charity, this might be construed as a mealy-mouthed affirmation that it had bowed to legal threats and retracted an academically and ethically sound paper.

However, a more recent statement on the Frontiers web site by Henry Markram, who identifies himself as "Editor-in-Chief, Frontiers," leaves no doubt that the journal has now adopted the position that the paper was retracted because of academic and ethical issues.

In his statement entitled Rights of Human Subjects in Scientific Papers, Markram argues that the paper should never have been published owing to "fundamental errors or issues that go against principles of scholarly publishing". At the same time, he absolves Frontiers of all responsibility and points the finger squarely at the authors and reviewers: "[W]e fundamentally believe that authors should bear the full responsibility of submitting papers with the highest standards and that scientists should bear the full responsibility of deciding what science is published."

This latest position is rendered all the more suspect in light of the fact that the journal commissioned a report by an independent expert panel to further investigate such ethical issues. This panel concluded:

[B]log posts are regarded as public data and the individuals posting the data are not regarded as participants in the technical sense used by Research Ethics Committees or Institutional Review Boards. This further entails that no consent is required for the use of such data."

In other words, the experts made a clear distinction between a discourse analysis of public statements (on which the paper was based) and a scientific experiment involving human subjects.

So the journal now appears to be creating academic and ethical issues with the paper in order to justify its retraction, while off-loading any blame onto the paper's authors and reviewers. Again, hardly the kind of behavior that inspires the trust of scientists.

It does not help that Markram made some rather intemperate comments below his lengthy statement in which he questions the value of studying climate denial, suggests that the authors of Recursive Fury look like "the biggest nutters" (presumably compared to climate deniers), and clearly implies that the authors of the paper "abused science" to conduct a "public lynching" of climate denialist bloggers.

The whole episode has so far resulted in the resignation of three of the journal's editors in protest.

Professor Colin Davis, Chair in Cognitive Psychology at the University of Bristol, told environmental journalist Graham Readfearn: "My resignation was in response to Frontiers' handling of the retraction of the paper by Lewandowsky et al. The retraction itself was very disappointing."

Chief Specialty Editor of Frontiers Ugo Bardi, a professor of physical chemistry at the University of Florence, said in his resignation announcement that Frontiers had "shown no respect" for the paper's authors and referees, and that the journal's actions reflected a "climate of intimidation" around climate science.

Frontiers Associate Editor Björn Brembs, a professor of neurogenetics at the University of Regensburg, describes the retraction as an "outrageous act" which shows that the editors at Frontiers "are not really on the side of science":

Essentially, this puts large sections of science at risk. Clearly, every geocentrist, flat earther, anti-vaxxer, creationist, homeopath, astrologer, diviner, and any other unpersuadable can now feel encouraged to challenge scientific papers in a court.

Meanwhile, Australian climate scientist Roger Jones, Professorial Research Fellow at the Victoria Institute of Strategic Economic Studies and a coordinating lead author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, says he is now reconsidering his decision to become an associate editor of Frontiers' newly established area of Interdisciplinary Climate Studies. This is because of recent statements by the journal which made him doubt their understanding of research ethics:

I see this behaviour from Frontiers as counterproductive to science in general and climate science in particular ... If the statements made by Editor-in-Chief Henry Markram are representative of Frontiers at large, I can't see how it can be supported by the research community.

It's worth noting that the Frontiers "progressive publishing group" scored a partnership with the prestigious scientific journal Nature because of its stated commitment to provide an innovative platform for open-source publishing "by scientists, for scientists."

That is, unless those scientists dare to study the phenomenon of climate change denial.

Dj Cook: Living In A Converted Garage With A Master's Degree

Dj Cook: Living In A Converted Garage With A Master's Degree 2014-04-18

I am suffocated by student debt. I am 36 years old, I'm employed, and I live slightly above the poverty line.

I flirt with falling into poverty every single year. I'm sure most of these stories start out the same way. I would love to be a spokesperson or an activist for the plights of the indentured servants of student loan debt and/or the working poor, but I already have two jobs (full-time high school teacher and part time economics tutor), I have no savings nor any prospect of savings and with student loan debt being the only debt in this country that you cannot wash away with bankruptcy I can't afford to take off a single day of work to even attempt to organize or be part of an organization that fights for the millions of American who find themselves in the exact same situation.

I graduated from UC Santa Barbara in 2000 with an Economics degree (cruelly ironic, I know). My student loan debt was minimal from my undergrad and I ended up paying off about $6,000 from 2000-2007. In that same time I bounced from job to job, ultimately looking for a career. In 2007, I realized that my passion was teaching. I went back to school, obtained my teaching credential and a Master's degree in Education. At about the same time, the economy collapsed, taking most local, state and federal budgets for education with it. My Master's degree cost $36,000 with a 6.8 percent APR. But I was lucky enough to land a teaching job the first year out of school. I thought I had finally captured the elusive "American Dream."

Thinking that I would be able to keep my job for as long as I wanted based on good performance, I was excited to start the process of looking for a house to purchase. My student loan payments started to kick in six months after I graduated and that is when I realized that a home purchase was far away for me. I didn't realize what I was agreeing to when I was signing my student loan documents for graduate school because it had never been explained to me. I had no clue about the difference of borrowing from Sallie Mae or the federal government. I had no clue what the difference between subsidized and unsubsidized meant. I thought my loan repayments would be similar to my undergrad experience. One payment per month that could easily be paid off if I had a decent job. I knew a $36,000 education would take more time to pay off than my undergrad degree, but I didn't realize I was really signing up for four separate payments. This added up to about $400 in payments that I was not ready for. I contacted several banks to see if I could consolidate, but because of the types of loans, each bank informed me that I was unable to consolidate.

While this rude awakening was taking place, I was informed that I was being "laid-off" at the end of the school year due to budget cuts. I was distraught. I just devoted the last three years of my life to teaching and it appeared to be all for naught. I was fortunate enough to be rehired at the same school and actually received a nomination for "Teacher of the Year" in my second year as an educator (and also won Tri-Valley Coach of the Year for the varsity baseball team). But in that same week I was informed that I was being laid off again. After three lay-offs in four years I decided to move from California to Colorado in order to continue to teach but pay a lot less for rent, gas and everything else that is cheaper outside of California. In my two years in Colorado, I was laid off both times, so I moved back to California to take another teaching position. In my seven years as an educator, I've been laid off six times.

I am currently in a temporary teaching position that will ultimately leave me looking for work at the end of the school year again. On top of all that, there is a low key war in education between public education and for-profit charters, online schools and private schools. The for-profit machine has undermined the unions, backed standardized testing and refuses to acknowledge that our failing education system is due to social and economic issues rather than "bad teachers." The fact that I have seven years of public education experience also makes it very unlikely that a charter or private school would hire me due to the fact that I now come from the world of unionization and workers rights. I have pursued switching careers, but I find myself running into two different problems:

1) The longer I teach, the less desirable I become to any other profession. I recently interviewed with a bank and although I was offered the job, the salary was the same entry level wage that a 22-year-old college student would start at. I could not take a $17k pay cut, as I already live paycheck to paycheck.

In 2004 I registered with AppleOne (a temp agency) and received dozens of offers for executive assistant work. When I contacted several temp agencies in the summer of 2013 I couldn't even get a call back from the agencies, let alone a job offer.

2) The erosion of respect for the teaching position in general allows potential employers (whether intentionally or not) to discriminate against former teachers using the logic that teachers in the U.S. are bad at their jobs and held up by their union, therefore former teachers are bad employees.

I currently live in a converted garage (500 sq/ft) with no heat, no air conditioning, and no kitchen -- and all of that costs $900/month. I live paycheck to paycheck, with no savings. I have a dog, which I use to fill the biological urge to have children. At 36 years old, it's slowly starting to dawn on me that I will most likely never have children, as I would never intentionally bring another child into the world of poverty. A house and/or a family is a laughable proposition at this point.

My life prior to student loan debt and the economic collapse of 2008 was one of promise. I was a straight A student in high school and I have earned two degrees. I am a law abiding citizen and have never been arrested. In six and a half years I have paid off $2,000 of principle even though my payments have been roughly $400/month. Most of the payments have gone towards interest. In these current economic circumstances I have experienced the following emotions, thoughts, events and actions: 1) My financial situation has caused a level of depression that is hard to overcome sometimes; 2) My financial situation has made it impossible to buy a home and build equity; 3) My financial situation has caused so much stress it has inadvertently cost me two very important relationships; 4) I have thought about moving out of the country for good, abandoning my family, my friends and most importantly, my debt; 5) Worst of all, my financial situation has broken my spirit and leaves me with a sense of hopelessness most of the time.

I feel like this situation is turning me into a bad person. What happened to the American Dream we all strove so hard to reach? I've done everything that I was told to do in order to be successful. I earned excellent grades, I was in all kinds of extra-curricular activities, I went to college (twice), I pay my bills on time, I'm a good citizen and all for what? I'm in a lifetime of debt with no foreseeable answers. I would legitimately be better off if I was working for $15/hr with no student loan debt than making $56,000/year, getting laid off every year, only paying off the interest of my student loans and facing the possibility of defaulting on my student loans which would lead to a garnishment of my future paychecks.

Something needs to change and it needs to change now. Too many people are affected by this for it not to be something that everyone is aware of. For the vast majority of citizens of the U.S. and the world for that matter, we are not in a recession. We are in a depression disguised as a recession due to the fact that the upper one percent continue to pull obscene amounts of wealth out of the global economy, which ultimately covers up the loss of wealth the rest of us have suffered through. I would like to help in this cause because the alternatives are not the type of person I would like to be. I'm using this forum to literally beg for help from the American people. When good people are forced into bad situations the stitches that have held our society together for so long are at a great risk of tearing open and I do not want to speculate on what the effects of such a societal collapse would look like. One thing I know for sure though, is that such a collapse would come with even more pain and suffering.


DJ's story is part of a Huffington Post series profiling Americans who work hard and yet still struggle to make ends meet. Learn more about other individuals' experiences here.

Have a similar story you'd like to share? Email us at

Mimsie Ladner: What I've Learned From Traveling And Living Abroad

Mimsie Ladner: What I've Learned From Traveling And Living Abroad 2014-04-18

Today marks the five-year anniversary of my big move from Smalltown, USA to the bustling metropolis that is Seoul, South Korea. I've lived out a number of exciting and unique experiences over the past few years that include riding elephants through the jungles of Thailand, working in the slums of India, camping with nomads in the Sahara Desert and teaching English to some of the most adorable children in Asia. I've made memories that will undoubtedly last a lifetime.

This adventure has been incredibly fun, but it has also taught me a number of invaluable life lessons: lessons that have opened my mind and my heart; lessons that have changed me; lessons that I'm quite certain I would have never learned in my home country. Conveying all of them (including how to avoid creepy old men, lice remedies and universal charades) would require I write a book, but for time's sake, I've decided to include the more valuable of the lot:

Humanity is more trustworthy than we imagine. Though the media tries to make us think otherwise, the world is not a terrible place. Tragic events happen everyday and there are plenty of bad apples scattered across the planet, but in the grand scheme of things, we humans are pretty incredible creatures.

I've found that more often than not, the people of the world are more than willing to reach out and help those in need. Traveling isn't always easy and I feel incredibly blessed to have had more positive human interactions than I can count.

During a trip to Japan, I had a middle-aged couple adopt me as their American daughter for a day at a sumo wrestling competition, eager to teach me the rules of the sport, share their snacks and shower me with gifts. I've gone hiking with a family in Taiwan, was escorted around Bangkok by a group of lively ladyboys and have shared countless meals with complete strangers on multiple continents. The travel gods have watched over me, and I'm certain my journeys would not have been the same without these incredible people so beautifully intertwined in them.

From the nameless faces who have guided me through airports, train stations and bus terminals to ensure that I arrive at the correct destination to the shy but genuine smiles I've received as I've wandered exotic lands, I've felt the undeniable connection that exists between us as humans. Furthermore, I've regained a sense of hope for our world's future in spite of all the darkness that exists in it.

Everyone we meet has something to teach us. When traveling, one crosses paths with a number of people from various corners of the world, with different lifestyles and mentalities. Some of them only pass through our lives. Some of them stick around for much longer. Either way, whether a result of destiny or coincidence, these strangers, companions and friends are also our teachers, if we are willing to listen to what they have to say.

I once agreed to join a group of acquaintances at a hole-in-the-wall bar in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. I began chatting with an expat over a bottle of 333, the local beer. We didn't have much in common, but as our conversation carried on, I recognized that this guy had something to say. I'm embarrassed to admit that I can't recall his name and I probably wouldn't be able to pick him out of a crowd, but I'll never forget what he told me: "It's our job to help others to realize their greatest potentials. Because if we don't do it, who will?"

I only had the pleasure of chatting with said guy for a couple hours, but three years later, I remember his words as clear as day.

In addition to keeping our ears open, our eyes are just as important, as there are a number of lessons to be learned that don't require words at all.

Our problems are insignificant compared to those in other parts of the world. Life's tough. Everyone's got their own troubles. In fact, we would never be happy if we didn't experience disappointment from time to time. Yet, I never realized the extent of how fortunate I was -- and am -- until I looked poverty, cultural genocide, suppression, war and prejudice square in the eye.

Hearing the stories of North Korean defectors and Tibetan refugees who were forced to escape their home countries to survive. Meeting child prostitutes. Chatting with the "comfort women" of South Korea who were used as sex slaves during the Japanese occupation. Watching beggars starve their children to elicit more sympathy (and money) from passersby. Riding through Mumbai's Dharavi slums on a motorbike at 4 a.m., and witnessing the sight of hundreds of sleeping bodies sprawled across the streets, seeking sanctuary from the Indian summer heat. As heartbreaking as these experiences were, I am fortunate to have witnessed such honest tragedy, as it has put my life and petty problems into perspective.

Although I'll never understand why or how I ended up being born into such fortunate circumstances, I've also come to learn that with greater privilege comes greater responsibility and to waste my fortune on myself would be a waste of life itself.


An open mind is essential for growth. I was never aware of how naive I was about the world until I dived into it, inhibition-less and wide-eyed. Having grown up in an ultraconservative homogeneous community, my exposure to the world was limited. I took everything I learned from my parents, my friends, my teachers and even the news at face value, never once questioning their logic's validity and failing entirely to think for myself. It didn't take long after my move for me to realize that everything I had learned my entire life was all relative and that in order to grow, I had to challenge my own thoughts and beliefs.

I've been blessed to have had stereotype after stereotype shattered throughout my travels. In wandering mosques with a group of giddy Muslim teenagers eager to talk about boys in Malaysia, busting out Bollywood dance moves with a Sikh gentleman in India and cracking jokes with witty Buddhist monks at a temple stay in South Korea, I've realized that religion plays a very small part in who we are as people. Yet, there is valuable insight to be learned from each.

I've found that the poorest of the poor (like the children in the barrios of Mexico willing to share with me their meals when they barely had enough for themselves) are usually far more generous than the wealthy.

Most importantly, I've recognized that just because a culture does something differently, it doesn't make its people inferior or repulsive or backwards. In fact, diversity is what makes our world such a beautiful place to live, explore and discover.


Yet, despite our differences, we are all still human. Body image issues, heartbreak, regret, pressure to succeed, insecurity, uncertainty about the future, desire to love and be loved in return. We may have different words to express these concepts, but we all experience them in the same way.


We are more than capable of overcoming tribulations independently. When we challenge ourselves to get out of our comfort zones and to throw out our safety nets, we are able to more easily recognize the vulnerability that exists within ourselves. It can be scary at first -- terrifying, even.

I was once hospitalized with an E. coli infection in Agra, a mere 24 hours shy of going into septic shock. I was quite certain that I was going to die there, in that crappy hospital room, smack dab in the armpit of India, thousands of miles away from my family and loved ones. I stuck it out and, after a few days of powerful antibiotics, cheesy Hindi soap operas and suspected anti-anxiety pills, I left a new person. Or, a less fearful one at least.

Whether it's being robbed, hospitalized, lost or even unable to read a menu, we encounter situations that require us to respond without the assistance of others, forcing ourselves to make our own decisions, which ultimately increases our confidence and certainty of our abilities.

We need a lot less than we think we need. I grew up in a world submerged in consumerism and excess and was taught that I needed the most fashionable clothes, the latest technology and a beautiful home and car to be happy.

After spending countless nights in homes with minimal electricity, taking showers with a maximum of two buckets of water and not having a car or a TV or a dryer for five years, I can honestly say that those widely-believed ideologies are nothing but bullcrap. I've come to learn that we do not need stuff to have an enriched life; in fact, when we own less, we are slaves to less.

The lack of creature comforts is irritating at times, but after getting accustomed to a simpler lifestyle, we are able to focus on more important things, like our relationships and life experiences. Sometimes, like in my case, it takes traveling to countries that force us to live under these circumstances to realize this.


The universe opens up doors (and windows and gates) when we put ourselves out there. Traveling isn't just about seeing landmarks, flirting with the locals and sampling regional cuisine. (Though, don't get me wrong, those are all added bonuses.) Traveling is about the people we meet, the experiences we encounter and the misfortunes we overcome. It's about the lessons we learn from others, about life and about ourselves. The world is our classroom; travel teaches us more than we could ever expect to learn in the comfort of our homes. We just have to be ready and willing to let it happen.

Alan Colmes: Congressional Democrats Making Huge Mistake Targeting Hate Speech

Alan Colmes: Congressional Democrats Making Huge Mistake Targeting Hate Speech 2014-04-18


Democrats Ed Markey of Massachusetts and Hakeem Jeffreys of New York want to clamp down on what can be said on radio under the rubric of "hate speech," and it's a terrible idea. Government should stay as far away from broadcast content as possible. And who will define "hate speech?" Hate speech can be anything you disagree with. It can be speech directed at a person who is offended. There is no asterisk in the Constitution that says "except for hate speech." With bills in the House and Senate, the lawmakers would direct the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to "analyze" media outlets -- including radio -- to determine if they're working to "advocate and encourage" hate crimes.

Oh, and how are they going to "analyze" media outlets? Using what metric?

Tying their bill to this week's alleged white supremacist shootings in Kansas, Markey says it is "critical to ensure the internet, television and radio are not encouraging hate crimes or hate speech." He brushes aside expected First Amendment arguments, saying "criminal and hateful activity" aren't covered by the Constitution.

Well, the Constitution isn't something to "brush aside." And, no matter how many heinous crimes are committed by deplorable white supremacists, it's inane to make the case that it's because something someone said on the radio. It takes more than a ranting talk show host to instill the kind of hate in someone that spurs on this kind of depraved behavior.

It doesn't propose any specific penalties but, instead, would collect information and report the findings to congressional oversight committees.

Just we need, a law that creates committees but has no enforcement power, on something the government shouldn't be enforcing in the first place. That will stop the white supremacists!

A who's who of left-leaning activist groups have gone on record supporting the bills, including the National Hispanic Media Coalition, which has clashed with talk radio in the past, and low-power FM advocacy Prometheus Radio Project.

They're all wrong

Andrew Wild: Wild Stat Of The Week: Paying Tribute To The Best There Ever Has

Andrew Wild: Wild Stat Of The Week: Paying Tribute To The Best There Ever Has Been 2014-04-18

WIld Stat of the Week: 64 (Years Vin Scully has been working the booth for the Dodgers)

There's any number of statistics to impress you with showing how long Vin Scully has been with the Dodgers. For example, over his time with the Dodgers, Vin has seen 11 Dodger managers, 12 U.S presidencies, 14 expansion teams, 22 Yankee platy-by-play announcers, and 33 Olympic games. Those numbers are certainly impressive, but what's really amazing about Vin's storied career has been his consistency and hard work through all 64 years. No other announcer is able to handle a game solo on their own like Vin still does at 86. Anyone who has ever listened to a Dodger game knows this is because of the incredible amount of trivia and anecdotes Vin has on hand to dispense, and always at the right time. It can be the second baseman's story about getting a scar as a kid, a history of the rookie center fielder's hometown in the pioneer days, or how the veteran catcher's great uncle scouted Jackie Robinson, but Vin always finds a way to turn the dog days of summer into can't miss TV.

The funny thing is that even though Vin started doing radio broadcasts and had to learn how to do a TV broadcast, he understands the medium better than pretty much anyone else out there. When we can see the action on the field, we don't need a separate play-by-play announcer just to tell us what we already know. Vin lets us watch the game ourselves, and simply peppers in all the extra things that make your average game a work of art.

Every Dodger fan and every serious baseball fan has a Vin story. Their favorite call or story Vin placed so naturally in the flow of the game. I wasn't in front of the TV to hear my Vin story, but I think my story stacks up to anyone's. During the Dodger's run to the NLCS last year I got the chance to see my first playoff game in person when the boys in blue play the Braves in Game 4 of the NLDS. I sat in the outfield bleachers, and right below me was another fan with an old school radio where he eventually found the station Vin was on. Even though we were at the game, our entire section was listening intently to get our fix of Vin's sweet broadcasting. Unfortunately we couldn't listen to Vin the entire game as he steps out of the radio broadcast after the third inning. Down 3-2 in the bottom of the eighth, Juan Uribe twice failed to bunt and advance Yasiel Puig who was on first base. But at 2-2 Uribe launched a game-winning home run and Dodger Stadium erupted like nothing I've ever seen before. After the Dodgers punched their ticket to the NLCS, my dad and I were talking in the car on the way out. We were trying to remember if it was possible that Juan Uribe really failed to bunt in the same at bat as his game-winner. At that exact moment they replayed Vin Scully's classic call as Uribe ran the bases: "Isn't it amazing what someone will do when they can't bunt?" No one could have put it any better.

Leave your best Vin Scully moment in the comments.

Jim Wallis: The Risen Christ: A Call To Conversion

Jim Wallis: The Risen Christ: A Call To Conversion 2014-04-18

But the angel said to the women, "Do not be afraid; for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him." Matthew 28:5-7

"Christ is risen!" That is the Easter greeting that Christians around the world have used for generations. It is one of my favorite parts of Easter -- I love to hear the words "He is risen."

But for so many of us, Easter is not just a religious holiday -- it is a personal celebration and re-commitment. How do we personally experience the resurrection? Every year, as I hear and say "He is risen," I remember that it's not just a theological affirmation, but something I need personally.

Because I need -- I think we all need -- to remember and celebrate the hope that those words proclaim. "He is risen" is much more than an optimistic expression. It is not an empty platitude or wishful thinking, but the assertion of that in the midst of all the personal and collective pain, brokenness, injustice, and oppression that we see or experience, Christ is victorious. And we start over every Easter with a new affirmation and conviction of the hope that will always change both our lives and the world.

As I've been personally reflecting on the resurrection, I wanted to share an adaptation from the last chapter of my book, The Call to Conversion that explores what "Christ is risen!" meant to the earliest disciples. I hope that it will help you this Easter, as you celebrate the fact that "He is risen, indeed!" and reflect upon what this day of hope means for you.


Jesus is alive. That was the rumor which spread through Jerusalem that first Easter morning. Women came to the tomb early in the morning, the first witnesses to the resurrection. Their testimony as women was not even admissible in court under Jewish law; the word of a woman had no public credibility in that patriarchal culture. But God chose to reveal the miracle of Jesus' resurrection first to women. They were told to report the astonishing news of the empty tomb to the men. At first, the men did not believe it.

Jesus' first appearance was also to a woman, Mary Magdalene. She was in the garden near the tomb, stricken with grief. The one who had accepted and forgiven her, the one whom she loved so deeply, was gone. She saw a figure she thought was the gardener and said to him, "They have taken my Lord. Do you know where they have laid him?" Then a familiar voice called her name, "Mary." She looked up and recognized him. "Master!" she cried. Her Lord had come back, and the heart of the woman who had been cleansed by his love leapt for joy. Mary went straight to the disciples with a simple testimony, "I have seen the Lord." Their excitement must have been enormous.

The disciples were in hiding behind locked doors from fear of the authorities, says the Bible. They had seen what had happened to their leader and were afraid they would be next. So they huddled in secret.

The ones at the tomb who appeared as "young men in shining garments" told the women to go tell the disciples and Peter. Peter had always been the leader among the disciples, but he had betrayed his Lord three times with oaths and curses. Peter denied his Master from fear. The strong fisherman wept bitterly and became utterly dejected after the death of the Lord. Jesus especially wanted Peter to know of his resurrection. He wanted to make sure Peter was told, not as a rebuke, but so Peter would know that he was alive and that he still loved him. When the women told them the news, Peter and John ran to the tomb. John, younger and faster than Peter, arrived first and waited at the entrance, peering into the darkness. Peter, always the impulsive disciple, didn't stop at the entrance; he went right inside. He had to see. He had to know. They saw the empty tomb, and they believed.

Then Jesus came and stood among them. "Peace be with you," he said, as he looked into their eyes. Think what they must have felt at that moment. He showed them his hands and his feet. "It is I, myself . . . touch me and see." They could hardly believe what they were seeing. He even took a fish and ate it, just to show them he was real. He recalled to them the Scriptures and his own foretelling of his death and resurrection. It was really he, and he was really alive.

Thomas wasn't there. When the others told him, he didn't believe it. Perhaps wounded with pain and disillusionment, perhaps filled with bitterness and cynicism, Thomas would not let his hopes be rekindled. He said, "Unless I see the marks of the nails in his hands, unless I put my fingers in the place the marks were, and my hand into his side, I will not believe."

Later, Jesus came to his disciples again. This time, Thomas was present. "Thomas," he said, "put your finger here and see my hands. Put out your hand and place it in my side. Do not be faithless, but believing." Thomas must have witnessed the marks of Jesus' suffering with tears in his eyes. "My Lord and my God," he humbly exclaimed. For Thomas, and for them all, unbelief was turned to belief when they saw their Lord and the marks of his suffering. They were converted by the resurrection. The disciples had left everything to follow Jesus. He had touched their lives as no one else ever had. He was the one who loved them, and the one whom they had grown to love. Jesus was alive again and among his disciples as before, but now in a new way. The first words spoken to Jesus' followers at his empty tomb were, "Do not be afraid... He is not here; for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay." And the Scriptures say, "When they saw the Lord they were filled with great joy."

Until they saw Jesus, the disciples viewed the world the way others did. The central reality of their lives had been the power of the system and their own powerlessness. But when they saw him, they unlocked the doors, came out, and began turning the world upside down. The disciples were converted; they knew another reality then, one that was truer, greater, stronger, and a more compelling authority than the realities that had paralyzed them with fear. Jesus had risen, and Jesus was Lord.

We, too, are hiding behind locked doors and are afraid to come out. Jesus knows our fears. He wants us to know his resurrection. He says, "Go, tell my disciples that I have risen and that I am going before them. And go tell..."-- he slowly repeats each of our names. Tell him, tell her that we need not be afraid anymore. Like Peter, we have betrayed Christ because of our fears. But Jesus didn't hold Peter's fear against him. Nor does he hold our fears against us. We, too, have doubted like Thomas. We have become cynical, skeptical, and faithless. But Jesus stands among us, shows us his hands and his side, and he tells us to reach out and touch him. He tells Thomas and he tells us not to doubt .but to believe.

Jesus died for our sins, our doubts, and our fears. He rose from the grave to demonstrate his victory over them and to set us free from their power. He wants us, like Peter, Thomas, Mary, and the others, to know his resurrection. He wanted them to know, and he wants us to know, that his love for his disciples has no bounds, that he died to set us free, and that he rose from the dead to show us his way was true. "Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world."

___________ Jim Wallis is president of Sojourners. His book, On God's Side: What Religion Forgets and Politics Hasn't Learned About Serving the Common Good, is now available. Watch the Story of the Common Good HERE. Follow Jim on Twitter @JimWallis.
Food Riot: How To Use A Coffee Shop As An Office And Not Be That Person

Food Riot: How To Use A Coffee Shop As An Office And Not Be That Person 2014-04-18

First appeared on Food Riot by Susie Rodarme

Confession: I used to be that person who got super annoyed at people who work in coffee shops. I hated how they would spread their laptops all over the place, hog up space because they had to be near an outlet, sip the same damn cup of coffee for three hours when the table could have turned over several times in the interim and brought the coffee shop more money.

I still hate those things, but I am one of those people who uses a coffee shop as an office now. Unashamedly.

Since I got this writing gig (not to mention being the editor of my own, less illustrious site), I found that I really did work better when I was out of the house and pouring a steady stream of caffeine into my person. I concentrate better when I don't have fifty things in my peripheral vision nagging, "Hey! We are things that need to be done! Why aren't you doing us? WHY? WHY? WHY?" And that's before my cats start grumbling at me or using me as human cat furniture.

So where do I go? The coffee shop. Of course.

I imposed some rules on myself, though. I think these rules kind of mystify the employees, who will occasionally give me a break on something and look at me like I'm insane when I say no, no-I want to pay full price. Because I'm aware that camping out in the same seat for hours doesn't help my favorite neighborhood coffee shop, and I don't want to hurt their business while also using their electricity and free WiFi.

These are my rules for using a coffee shop as an office:

Take up the smallest space possible. I see people unnecessarily using two tables when they really could condense down into one and scoot that second table over so that it could be used by someone else. I know being near an outlet is Mission Critical, but if you have a laptop, a beverage, and a snack, you can work that with only one regulation-sized coffee shop table.

Spend money. One cup of coffee is my ticket to work for maybe an hour, and I kind of feel like that's pushing it a little. (Yes, even if it's fancy.) Coffee shops are affected by turnover, too; if, for example, you are not going to the cafe to work, and you know that it will be full of people not getting up from their work and there will not be a seat, you will probably choose a different shop. That coffee shop just lost business due to low turnover of tables. When I'm working, I try to buy things at least once an hour to justify my time there. If I'm getting refills, I add snacks or switch up my drink.

Tip well. Even if I'm spending money periodically, I'm still probably not spending as much as the table could earn were it open to many people, or groups of people, who might sit for just fifteen or twenty minutes (unless your cafe of choice is just totally dead). Tipping well keeps the baristas from giving me the side-eye.

I also take the baristas treats sometimes. I've taken cookies and soup (uh, not at the same time) to the baristas at my "office."

Be cognizant of rush hour. High volume times = more seats needed and more opportunities for table turnover. I don't like going during rush hour anyway because it's harder to find an outlet seat. Or any seat. I try to target off-peak times for maximum consideration.

Do you have personal rules for working in your "coffice"? (And also are you a little squigged out by how that sounds like "coffin"?)

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