Head Start Arithmetic Fail

[Newspaper Fail] A recent article in my local paper, Foster's Daily Democrat, once again stoked my frustration with newspaper journalism. It's a sob story about the recent closing of a Head Start program in Newmarket, NH. Lead paragraph:

The closing of Newmarket’s nearly 20-year-old Head Start Program in June — caused by the federal sequestration — has forced the parents of more than a dozen children to either drive to a nearby community for the program or to just stay home.

So: eek, that's awful. Those mean and nasty Republicans.

But wait a minute: just a few paragraphs down:

According to the national Head Start website, funding was cut nationally by about 5 percent for the nearly 50-year-old program.

So, let me get this straight: a 5% cut at the national level translates into a 100% cut at the Newmarket program? How does that work, exactly?

You don't need to be a math whiz to smell some untold story here. And I mean that literally: the Foster's story doesn't even attempt to explain the discrepancy.

Could this, for example, be "the so-called Washington Monument maneuver"? (Also known as the "gold watch" tactic, or the "firemen first" principle.) The idea is that "cuts" are taken primarily from highly visible, easily publicized services. Like, um, your local Head Start program. The easier to get people riled up and demand the "cuts" be undone.

Not that I have any brief to hold for Head Start. It's expensive, even after a minuscule cut to its funding, and even after decades of research, nobody's established that the program has any lasting benefits to the kids it is supposed to serve.

But you won't hear about any of that in Foster's.

The Brass Verdict

[Amazon Link]

A brief ad: this Kindle Edition of this book is available for $2.99 as I type, which is an insanely good deal. You know how it works, just click over there … (Unless you're blocking Pun Salad ads. Don't do that, they're unobtrusive and attractive Amazon links.)

Anyway, this book is from prolific writer Michael Connelly, who's been a Pun Salad fave for years. It is the second entry in his "Lincoln Lawyer" series, featuring flawed hero Mickey Haller, criminal defense lawyer.

After getting gut-shot in the previous book, Mickey is only just now crawling back from a sad addiction to painkillers. Things happen quickly when his shady colleague Jerry Vincent is murdered by an unknown assailant: due to a previous contractual agreement, Vincent's open cases are awarded to Mickey by default. Among these is the well-publicized case of movie tycoon Walter Elliot, who is alleged to have caught his wife in flagrante delicto with a younger man, shooting and killing them both.

There might be interesting stories to tell about lawyers whose primary purpose in life is to defend hapless, hopeless little folk being railroaded by an implacable legal juggernaut. Mickey is not one of those guys. He is interested, most of all, by the income the Elliot case will bring in. The case against Elliot is pretty good, but not airtight; Mickey must find a way to establish reasonable doubt, all while dodging his personal demons and skating on the edge of conduct that might get him disbarred.

And there's the annoying fact—remember—that Elliot's previous lawyer, Vincent, was murdered. Is Mickey travelling down the same path? Fortunately, the primary detective on the Vincent case is none other than Harry Bosch, the dour, dogged police detective from thirteen previous Connelly books. In this book we see him through Haller's eyes, which could have been corny, but Michael Connelly makes this work well. Neither Bosch nor Mickey is entirely honest with the other, they both know it, and their relationship alternates between contentious bickering and mutual, grudging, respect.

Mickey is a pretty good detective too, and things eventually get figured out. But the very end contains a twisty shock that I did not see coming.


Last Modified 2014-12-23 12:02 PM EST

Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi

[4.0 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

Why did I get this? Let me give you a hint: one of my favorite episodes of "The Big Bang Theory" is "The Thespian Catalyst", where the surprise finale features a fantasy sequence with Raj and Bernadette …

Wait, I don't want to spoil that if you haven't seen it. If you haven't seen it, watch for it to roll around on one of the channels that syndicate "Big Bang". You won't be sorry.

Anyway, where was I? Oh, yes, this movie. It's a 2008 Indian movie that Netflix (correctly) predicted I'd like a lot. The hero is Suri, a 40something schlub working in a cubicle for Punjab Power. He is infatuated with beautiful young Taani. Which is fine, but her father's untimely demise somehow results in the marriage of Suri and Taani.

"Be careful what you wish for" is as true in India as it is anywhere else. Both Suri and Taani are painfully aware of the age gap between them, and neither knows how to bridge it. But fate intervenes in the form of the dance show "Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi", for which Taani auditions. Suri gets a bright idea from his hairdresser friend, Bobby: he will audition as well, but as the flamboyantly made-over "Raj". Like Clark Kent and Superman, nobody, including Taani, can tell that Raj and Suri are the same person.

There are a lot of lavishly-produced song-n-dance numbers, which had me convinced that Anushka Sharma, the actress playing Taani, is the most beautiful and talented woman in the world. (Excepting, of course, Mrs. Salad.)

Cynics may quibble: the plot is preposterous, the acting is over-the-top, and the singing is screechy with repetitive, stupid lyrics. But (on the other hand), it's a lot of fun.

The movie is nearly 3 hours long, and it could easily have been trimmed by about an hour, but that's OK.


Last Modified 2014-11-09 8:27 AM EST