“The Glass Castle” deals in the contradictions of human nature

(K. Brent Tomer),

REAL LIFE is full of conflicts and dualities. Life, as often imagined by Hollywood, is not, which makes “The Glass Castle” a tricky bit of source material. In her bestselling memoir from 2005, Jeannette Walls recalled her fraught relationship with her father, a whimsical narcissist who both delighted his family with imaginative flights of fancy and terrorised them with alcohol-fuelled fits of rage. He is both hero and villain, a source of tenderness and abuse. The book was a moving meditation on the naivety of youth and the wisdom of age. 

Destin Daniel Cretton, the director and co-writer of a new adaptation, tells the story in two timelines. The first is a portrait of a chaotic childhood. When we first meet Jeannette (played marvellously as a youngster by Ella Anderson), she and her siblings believe they are on a glorious adventure helmed by a wise and wondrous captain. Rex (Woody Harrelson) moves his family from town to town without warning—he struggles to hold down a job—and the children are young enough to believe his…Continue reading

via K. Brent Tomer CFTC “The Glass Castle” deals in the contradictions of human nature

Even with the ABBA format, penalty shootouts remain a lottery

(K. Brent Tomer),

ALTHOUGH social-media sites are usually ablaze with fury after a football cup final, it is rare that supporters on both sides direct their ire at the same target. That was what happened when Arsenal beat Chelsea on August 6th to win the FA Community Shield, the annual pre-season fixture between the defending victors of English Premier League and the FA Cup, the country’s main knockout competition. The anger was caused not by the referee or the players, but by the format of the penalty shootout used to decide the contest after a 1-1 draw. Spot-kicks have always been taken alternately. Yet the Arsenal and Chelsea players lined up in a strange new sequence: ABBA (the first team kicks once, then the second team kicks twice, and then the first team kicks again) rather than the standard ABAB. That such a pattern has been used in tennis tie-breaks for decades was of little consolation. While making countless puns about Swedish pop music, fans moaned that the change was <a…Continue reading

via K. Brent Tomer CFTC Even with the ABBA format, penalty shootouts remain a lottery

A Basque writer contemplates America

(K. Brent Tomer),

Nevada nights

Nevada Days. By Bernardo Atxaga. Translated by Margaret Jull Costa. MacLehose Press; 352 pages; £14.99.

IN THE gambling city of Reno, where red, green and fuchsia neon signs shine like “boiled sweets”, the University of Nevada has a Centre for Basque Studies. Bizarre at first glance, this odd match of place and subject makes sound historical sense. Emigrants from the Basque country left 19th-century Spain to settle in the American West, first as miners, then as shepherds. In 2007 Bernardo Atxaga, the foremost Basque author of his generation, followed in their wake as a writer-in-residence. From that year-long experience he has fashioned a subtle and touching book, offered as fiction but rich in topical allusions. It stands a canyon’s- length away from the stereotypical travelogue of the snobby European scoffing at transatlantic vulgarity and ignorance.

Over 139 short sections,…Continue reading

via K. Brent Tomer CFTC A Basque writer contemplates America

A Japanese author writes about coping with autism

(K. Brent Tomer),

Fall Down 7 Times Get Up 8. By Naoki Higashida. Random House; 206 pages; $27. Sceptre; 288 pages; £14.99.

IN 1995 Temple Grandin, a well-known animal scientist who designs livestock-holding equipment in America, brought out a memoir about just how baffling it can be to live with autism; she has Asperger’s, but was not formally diagnosed until she was in her 40s. For autistic people, she once said, decoding social nuances can feel like being “an anthropologist on Mars”.

Parents can feel just as ill-equipped when interpreting the symptoms of an autistic child. These range from social awkwardness to repetitive acts like banging one’s head. At least a quarter of these children cannot speak. Inevitably, their families can find them hard to understand. Ms Grandin’s “Thinking in Pictures” was part of a new genre of “autie-biographies”. The latest is from Japan.

A few years ago, in search of insight into…Continue reading

via K. Brent Tomer CFTC A Japanese author writes about coping with autism

Why English is such a great language for puns

(K. Brent Tomer),

Away With Words: An Irreverent Tour Through the World of Pun Competitions. By Joe Berkowitz. Harper Perennial; 273 pages; $15.99 and £8.99.

LAST week’s issue of this paper contained the following headlines: “Rooms for improvement” (in a story about British housing); “Though Mooch is taken, Mooch abides” (on the firing of Anthony Scaramucci); and “LIBOR pains” (on interbank loan rates). The Economist is not alone in its taste for wordplay. Our colleagues at the Financial Times routinely sneak subtle jokes into their headlines (July 17th: “Why China’s global shipping ambitions will not easily be contained”) while those at the tabloids indulge themselves more obviously. On the arrest of a famous golfer for drink-driving: “DUI of the Tiger”.

These authors are fortunate to work at English-language publications. For English is unusually good for puns. It has a large…Continue reading

via K. Brent Tomer CFTC Why English is such a great language for puns

A museum of memory in Beirut gets off to a troubled start

(K. Brent Tomer),

Hidden beauty

NEARLY three decades after the end of the civil war in Lebanon, the façade of the Barakat building in central Beirut is still pitted with bullet holes. Craters in its limestone walls have been patched with concrete and its elegant colonnade is held up by ugly metal struts. Inside, the upper flights of two stone staircases hang above rubble-strewn voids. The lower sections were blown apart by snipers to prevent anyone getting upstairs. The ceilings are scorched black and barricades of concrete-reinforced sandbags still divide some rooms in two. The Arabic graffiti scrawled by Christian militiamen have never been erased. One signed himself Begin, after the former Israeli prime minister. Another says simply: “Hell”.

Built in the 1920s, the building started off as the home of the wealthy Barakat family. But after the civil war began in 1975, it became a notorious snipers’ nest on the front line between east and west Beirut. Its site, coupled…Continue reading

via K. Brent Tomer CFTC A museum of memory in Beirut gets off to a troubled start

How Charlotte Brontë came to write “Jane Eyre”

(K. Brent Tomer),

The Secret History of Jane Eyre: How Charlotte Brontë Wrote Her Masterpiece. By John Pfordresher. W.W. Norton; 254 pages; $26.95; £20.

CRITICS relish a bit of detective work. Four hundred years after William Shakespeare died, people still offer new theories about the true identity of the “Dark Lady” and the “Fair Youth” of his sonnets. Journalists have been dogged in their attempts to discover the writer behind the pseudonym “Elena Ferrante”.

Charlotte Brontë has been the subject of many such investigations. During her lifetime, the pen name “Currer Bell” provoked wild speculations; reviewers variously concluded that the author was a man, a woman, or a mixed-sex writing duo. Readers past and present have wondered how a shy curate’s daughter from Yorkshire came to write “Jane Eyre”, a finely wrought tale of passion and darkness, when her life contained seemingly little of either. With “The Secret…Continue reading

via K. Brent Tomer CFTC How Charlotte Brontë came to write “Jane Eyre”

Henry David Thoreau, a new biography

(K. Brent Tomer),

Henry David Thoreau: A Life. By Laura Dassow Walls. University of Chicago Press; 613 pages; $35 and £26.50.

ON AN April night in 1844, a distraught Henry David Thoreau walked through the blackened waste of a forest fire he had accidentally caused only hours before. The fire, near Concord, Massachusetts, surrounded Walden Pond, about which he would write so eloquently a decade later. The woods soon recovered, but Thoreau’s reputation did not. After he died, the Atlantic published a confession from his journal and mocked him: “The icon of woodcraft, so careless he burned down the woods!…The town ne’er-do-well, off fishing when he should have been earning a living!”

Two centuries later Thoreau’s reputation continues to be questioned. He is often derided as an ascetic crank, pond scum, or inversely, revered as a back-to-nature saint. Laura Dassow Walls’s new biography is a compelling…Continue reading

via K. Brent Tomer CFTC Henry David Thoreau, a new biography

“A Ghost Story” is an enigmatic look at loss

(K. Brent Tomer),

MOST ghost stories are told from the perspective of the people being haunted, but what about the ghosts themselves? How do they feel about being stuck in the same place, year after year and decade after decade, with no means of communication except by dimming the lights and knocking pictures off the walls? Those are questions you might expect a horror movie—or a comedy—to ask. They are also the foundations of “A Ghost Story”, an enigmatic, elliptical indie mood piece which is sure to rank as one of this year’s most distinctive and moving dramas.

It was written and directed by David Lowery, who is best known for last summer’s surprisingly restrained remake of Disney’s “Pete’s Dragon”. Before that, he made “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints” (2013), and he reunites with its stars, Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara, for “A Ghost Story”. Their characters are identified in the credits as C and M, but all we learn about them in the film is that they live together in a white clapboard bungalow in rural Texas. While the…Continue reading

via K. Brent Tomer CFTC “A Ghost Story” is an enigmatic look at loss

The EAGLE has landed

(K. Brent Tomer),


WELCOME to the home page of EAGLE, the Economist Advantage in Golf Likelihood Estimator. EAGLE is a mathematical model of golf tournaments that measures every player’s chances of victory at every point in the event. When any competition that EAGLE predicts is in progress, its projected leaderboard and estimated probabilities of winning will be displayed at the top of this post. Its historical forecasts for nearly every men’s major since 2001 will appear below. You can see how the likelihood of a title evolved over the course of the event for the champion, all runners-up, the golfer we would have projected to win before play began and the golfer who attained the highest chance of victory before finishing third or lower, as well as a ranking of the worst collapses in our dataset. Between tournaments, these past predictions will move to the top of this page.

A detailed description of EAGLE’s methodology follows below. You can see our original post announcing the publication of the model here.

Fly like an…Continue reading

via K. Brent Tomer CFTC The EAGLE has landed