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8 Decor Decisions That Make Your Home Look Like A Mess

Wed, 2014-07-23 11:49
Try as we might, even the tidiest among us have a hard time keeping our homes clean. There is, after all, life and kids and everything in between. But not all messy homes are a product of messy people. To the contrary, your decor itself may be to blame.

Not sure what we mean? Read on to see how some of our most common design decisions could be making our homes look messier than they actually are.

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Are you an architect, designer or blogger and would like to get your work seen on HuffPost Home? Reach out to us at with the subject line "Project submission." (All PR pitches sent to this address will be ignored.)

Is the 2015 Chicago Public Schools budget based on a "gimmick?"

Wed, 2014-07-23 11:44
Q: What's 14 months long and lasts 365 days? A: The Chicago Public Schools 2015 fiscal year.

That's no joke. It's the gist of a report from fiscal watchdog the Civic Federation that eviscerates Chicago Public Schools' proposed budget for fiscal year 2015. The $6.8 billion budget is expected to be voted upon (and adopted) on July 23.

The Civic Federation says the proposed spending plan is based on an "accounting gimmick" that uses 14 months of revenue to support a 12-month budget.

"This is yet another misguided budget that fails to address the alarmingly clear message that the District's current cost structure is unaffordable," said Sarah Wetmore, vice president of the Civic Federation.

The report criticizes both CPS' plans for new programs and school buildings while simultaneously cutting budgets at existing schools. In general the Civic Federation criticizes the district in virtually all aspects of money management, from its creation of a teacher pension crisis to its efforts to blame state government for its money woes.

Ultimately, the report says the tricks and spending of the 2015 budget will create a deficit of $1 billion for subsequent budget years. Read the full report at Reboot Illinois.

As its schools face financial issues, Chicago's mounting pension crisis has fueled speculation whether it could join Detroit as the second major U.S. city to enter bankruptcy. But a vote by Detroit public employees and retirees might serve as an example to those affected by Chicago's pension trouble.

The 12 Things Every First Apartment Needs

Wed, 2014-07-23 11:35
Finding that first place to call home after college can be a stressful experience for a recent graduate.

While retailers like IKEA, Target and Bed, Bath and Beyond are here to help, such massive stores can leave you feeling overwhelmed and uninspired. Even worse? You might miss the opportunity to transition your space from the poster-clad dormitory of yesteryear to the stylish, adult space of tomorrow.

Fear not -- we've created the only list you need when it comes to making that first apartment your own. Check out the 12 must-have items below.

1. ARTWORK that was not purchased from the college bookstore.

Just keep in mind the fact that you don't have to break the bank (or even step foot in a gallery) to find something that works for your place. And at the end of the day, a little framing goes a long way.

2. A PLACE FOR YOUR MAIL that doesn't take up valuable kitchen counter space.

Having your own place also means having your own bills to pay. Find a small spot, like a side table near the door, where you can keep everything from keys to thank-you notes.

3. A RUG that isn't actually the mat you took from the bathroom you shared with several roommates.

Adding a rug isn't just a way to keep things cozy; it's also a great way to cover floors that you might be stuck with in a rental.

4. LIGHTING that isn't the hideous fixture your landlord hasn't updated since buying the apartment building.

Again, this is another place where you can mix personality with practicality. The right lighting can compliment the theme of any room and can also make your home feel more spacious.

5. BEDDING that didn't come in an all-in-one bag.

While the pre-styled package is an affordable and easy option, it completely takes away one of the best ways to bring some character to the bedroom. Even if you start with the bag as a base, add a few hand-picked touches like different sheets, vibrant throw pillows or a luxe blanket.

6. A PLACE TO SIT that's not a futon or the floor.

Granted, not everyone has room for a love seat, sofa combination or a perfectly placed sectional, but there should still be an option for you and a few guests. Try a couple comfy chairs or a smaller settee for a welcoming vibe.

7. BOOKSHELVES that aren't filled with textbooks and notebooks.

Bookshelves can be used to hold your books, provide a place for decor and serve as extra storage -- all of which are necessary in a first apartment.

8. A COFFEE TABLE that doesn't primarily function as a clutter station.

And with a coffee table comes those epic coffee table books you've always wanted to own.

9. PLACE SETTINGS that aren't a hodgepodge of alma mater glasses and silverware stolen from the fraternity house.

No, you do not have to "register" for your first apartment so you have enough plates to serve your extended family at Christmas -- but you should have enough dishes that you and your roommates can eat on something besides paper plates. And if you have guests over for a drink? A set of wine glasses beats out plastic solo cups every single time.

10. WINDOW TREATMENTS that aren't blinds that came with the apartment.

Unfortunately, blinds are usually one of those things that you agree to live with when you sign a lease. But curtains are a great way to hide whatever you're working with, give yourself some privacy and (if hung properly) make your ceilings look even higher.

11. TOWELS that aren't terribly mismatched and faded.

Whether you're talking dish towels or bathroom towels, it's always good to start with a fresh set in a new place. They give a clean, cohesive impression.

12. A PERSONAL TOUCH chosen by you, not your mom.

From your favorite fresh flowers to a bold paint color, add something that will let people know it's your home when they enter.

Have something to say? Check out HuffPost Home on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram.


Are you an architect, designer or blogger and would like to get your work seen on HuffPost Home? Reach out to us at with the subject line "Project submission." (All PR pitches sent to this address will be ignored.)

World's Most Badass Dancing Old Man Has Amazing Salsa Moves, Too

Wed, 2014-07-23 10:34
There's a video bouncing around the Internet of a dancing old man who throws his crutches aside to let his inner "so you think you can dance" shine through. Needless to say, it's amazing.

What you may have missed however, is a video of someone who appears to be this same adorable elderly man shaking his tail feather to a simple yet enthusiastic salsa routine.

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Post by Rodrigo Pires.

In this brilliant video, apparently of another occasion (he's at least wearing a different outfit), he shares the company of a young woman who claps him through his seemingly impromptu act of self-expression. Go ahead sir, get your salsa on...

And if you missed the first dance, here it is in all its glory.

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Post by Edgard Eleuterio Daza.

The unknown gentleman appears to be at some sort of social function, when he drops his canes and gets down like nobody is watching.

There's no denying that he's enjoying himself now is there? Now that, my friends, is the exact meaning of staying forever young!

How Much Do You Know About The Sex Lives Of College Students?

Wed, 2014-07-23 09:00
When it comes to college students and sex, we're willing to bet you don't know as much as you think you do.

Many of the findings from Dr. Sandra Caron's 20-year-study, which surveyed more than 5,000 college students between 1990 and 2010, are surprising to say the least.

Test your knowledge on the sex lives of college students with our quiz!

Quiz widget by

Once you've taken the quiz, check out the answers in the slideshow below.

16 Board Games That Defined Your Childhood, Ranked From Worst To Best

Wed, 2014-07-23 08:50
You remember them, and you remember them well. Board games were a common childhood experience shared by most kids raised in the U.S. -- a life saver for those who didn't grow up with high-tech innovations such as Fruit Ninja and Flappy Bird.

Yes, it was a simpler time. One where the truth of the phrase, "it's just a game" depended entirely on whether you won or lost. Board games came, they conquered your life and mostly, they just saved you from being bored. (See what we did there?)

Here they are, definitively ranked. Which was YOUR favorite?

16. Mall Madness: THE WORST.

(Photo by StevenGroves via Flickr)

Game Instructions: "This Mall talks! Press the button and listen as the electronic voice of the mall takes you on an exciting shopping spree!"

Real Life Instructions: Hooray! You get to go on a shopping spree where you get to keep nothing, all the while developing terrible spending habits that will haunt you into adulthood.

15. Don't Wake Daddy

(Photo by Rusty Blazenhoff via Flickr)

Game Instructions: "Be the first player to tiptoe from your bed, past all the noisy obstacles, to the refrigerator for a midnight snack without waking Daddy."

Real Life Instructions: Hold your breath in excruciating anticipation until the man in the middle of the board pops out of his bed. Then you lose, or start over, or whatever.

14. Hungry Hungry Hippos

(Photo by drake lelane via Flickr)

Game Instructions: "Be ready to join in the feeding frenzy when you release all the marbles onto the game base, because all the hippos will be chomping and your hippo will need to move fast."


13. Trouble

(Photo by mkrill via Flickr)

Game Instructions: "Pop into the racing, chasing game where everyone's in Trouble!"

Real Life Instructions: Make your way around a seemingly average board while popping the dice instead of rolling them. Groundbreaking fun ensues.

12. Chutes and Ladders

(Photo by DerekSteen via Flickr)

Game Instructions: "Chutes and Ladders is the game of rewards and consequences."

Real Life Instructions: You're basically just climbing up and sliding down things while imagining what it would be like if instead of stairs, your whole house was filled with chutes and ladders.

11. Jumanji

(Photo by JeepersMedia via Flickr)

Game Instructions: "Beware the dangers of the jungle! Every step could lead into the path of a raging rhino, lurking lion or slurping quicksand."

Real Life Instructions: Play the game. Prepare for disappointment when Robin Williams and monkeys and shit don't actually come to life.

10. Risk

(Photo by Usonian via Flickr)'

Game Instructions: "Only the strong will survive in this exciting, unpredictable game of global domination."

Real Life Instructions: Embark on seemingly never-ending experience that seriously strains your relationships with friends and family. Pretend to be disappointed when the board "accidentally" gets hit, sending pieces flying everywhere and ending the game.

9. Trivial Pursuit

(Photo by ghirson via Flickr)

Game Instructions: "Great questions from art, sports, literature, geography, entertainment, science, nature and more."

Real Life Instructions: Guess your way through trivia questions about people and events that were popular 20 years before your birth. Chalk up your correct answers to your intelligence, blame incorrect ones on outdated nature of the questions. Classic trivia.

8. Candyland

(Photo by Tafkabecky (Becky Bokern) via Flickr)

Game Instructions:"Passing the peppermint forest and the ice cream sea on the way, the first one to reach the candy castle wins."

Real Life Instructions: Now you're hungry. Congratulations.

7. Scrabble

(Photo by djwtwo via Flickr)

Game Instructions: "Put letters together, build words, add up your points and win!"

Real Life Instructions: Try not to let it weigh too heavily on your ego as you realize that you have the worst spelling and vocabulary among your family and friends. Resist urge to cheat. Blame everything on having too many vowels.

6. Monopoly

(Photo by Justin Sullivan via Getty Images)

Game Instructions: "Monopoly is the fast-dealing property trading game that your will have the whole family buying, selling and having a blast."

Real Life Instructions: Yes, you're getting screwed on your rolls. Yes, every deal your opponents want to make is a rip-off. Yes, the banker is swiping extra cash. And yes, you will lose this game in humiliating fashion after selling all your houses, mortgaging all your properties and begging your sister for a free stay on Mediterranean Avenue.

5. Battleship

(Photo by unloveablesteve via Flickr)

Game Instructions:"Classic Battleship game lets you hold head-to-head naval battles."

Real Life Instructions: Keep the red dots off your damn boat. That's how you sink. Full disclosure: Your opponent will definitely be a lying, cheating doodoo-head.

4. Sorry

(Photo by Associated Press)

Game Instructions: "By drawing cards, players move their game pieces around the board, hoping to eventually accumulate all their pieces at the final destination -- home sweet home."

Real Life Instructions: By drawing cards, you will plod along in enraging circles until your opponent miraculously slides into home with the life-ruining "move 4 spaces backwards" card.

3. Life

(Photo by CliffMuller via Flickr)

Game Instructions: "The Game of Life challenges you to manage your money and get to retirement wealthy."

Real Life Instructions: Nobody wins at real life, so this might be as close as you get. Savor it while you can.

2. Guess Who?

(Photo by Alice Bartlett via Flickr)

Game Instructions: "Try to deduce the identity of their opponent's mystery person."

Real Life Instructions: Enjoy this memory exercise until you realize that this game is basically just you staring at a bunch of fictional white people's faces.

1. Clue: THE BEST.

(Photo by miss karen via Flickr)

Game Instructions: "Collect the right clues, make the right deductions, to determine who, where, which weapon and you will solve the mystery and win the game."

Actual Description: Kick ass and feel like Angela $*%@ing Lansbury in Murder She Wrote as you figure out who killed whom, with what and where.

Man, like it was yesterday...

All game instructions via Amazon

Jack White Looked Pretty Miserable At The Cubs Game

Wed, 2014-07-23 08:38
Jack White attended the Cubs-Padres game at Chicago's Wrigley field on Tuesday, July 22, and boy, did he not look happy.

Actually, he looked downright miserable, at least for the moment he was caught on camera.

We have audio of Jack White at the Cubs game.

— Sean Gentille (@seangentille) July 23, 2014

Is that Jack White

— Torque Penderloin (@AndrewCieslak) July 23, 2014

That might be the most upset we've ever seen anyone look at a baseball game, especially while their team was winning, no less.

Later in the game, the 39-year-old was spotted again, and he didn't really look any happier:

not a fan of cracker jacks

— nick pants (@nick_pants) July 23, 2014

We don't know if White just suffers from a severe case of bitchy resting face or if he was really bummed out, but if it's the latter, cheer up, dude.

You Probably Don't Know Rising R&B Star SZA Yet, But You Will

Wed, 2014-07-23 06:44
Among the dozens of musical acts comprising the lineup for the past weekend's Pitchfork Music Festival, only a handful of performances came with the same level of anticipation as that of R&B artist Solana Rowe -- better known by her stage name, SZA.

The St. Louis-born, New Jersey-raised 23-year-old first caught the eye of much of the music world in 2013, when she was signed to rising hip-hop label Top Dawg Entertainment, which boasts Kendrick Lamar and Schoolboy Q among its critically acclaimed crew.

That SZA is TDE's first female signee -- not to mention its first singer -- has been the central focus of many headlines about her, but Rowe is somewhat uncomfortable with that attention.

"That shit doesn't make any sense to me," she told The Huffington Post. "I just feel like I'm not the first female to win a fucking Grammy or an Oscar, so for me, I feel like I have to earn my space and prove who I am and what I am, not as a woman but as an artist."

Later in 2013, she self-released an eight-track EP titled "S."

"S," like much in SZA oeuvre, generally fits under the broad umbrella of R&B, but is otherwise difficult to classify. Hazy slow jams are all driven by SZA's hauntingly airy singing voice, featuring samples ranging from Fleetwood Mac to "Rosemary's Baby."

SZA has yet to release a full studio album -- which is currently in the works -- but she followed "S" with, naturally, "Z," another EP verging on album length and featuring cameos from Chance the Rapper, as well as TDE labelmates Isaiah Rashad and Lamar. Critics rendered mixed reviews for "Z," but the it helped the singer continue to amass an ever-growing fan base. (She has almost 90,000 Twitter followers.)

Backstage, after providing guest vocals during Rashad's Sunday set at Pitchfork, SZA seemed relaxed and chatty. One might never have guessed that in the last three months alone, she's performed on stage with Willow Smith at a sold-out show at Rough Trade in Brooklyn, released a new duet with Grammy winner Jill Scott and opened for Coldplay on their latest tour. You'd never know Vogue is on the record as "obsessed" with her hair or that The New York Times was shooting a style feature on her at the festival.

"It's a cool life," she said. "Everything has only gotten higher and higher."

Despite her recent successes, there was a quiet, apparent nervousness to SZA during her set at the festival. While some songs -- "Childs Play" and "Julia" -- sailed, softer songs fell short of resonating in the way they might while listening to them alone with headphones.

SZA has previously said she doesn't feel she "fits the stereotype" of a successful singer, something she said she still feels today, all the buzz aside.

"I'm very sensitive and I think a lot of performers have a good poker face. I don't know, I think there's a lot of things that I am a little too opinionated about, but you never know," she said.

And the pressure surrounding her first full-length release under a renowned label? Immense, she said, but not for the reasons one might think.

"My pressure doesn't really come from music, my pressure comes from everything else, the things that are just part of being a 'public figure,'" she admitted. "Everyone has an opinion on you and thinks they know you or what you're trying to do."

When SZA speaks about her music, her words fly out quickly. It's immediately apparent that her songwriting consumes her. When it comes to the PR side of the business, her frustration is equally evident. Her mood shifts ever so slightly.

"People just think I'm trying to get into neo soul, like the second coming of Badu or like Lauryn Hill Like, 'Oh, yeah, she's neo soul, she'll have dreads soon I'm sure and, she should work with Common,' and all this shit."

SZA at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Fall 2014 at The New Museum on February 10, 2014 in New York City. (Cindy Ord/Getty Images)

"The fact that I'm a fuller-figured, brown-skinned woman with curly hair now means that I must be striving for Erykah Badu-ism, part two, because I could never be part one," she continued. "But I have no desire to be that. As amazing of an artist she is, I don't want to be pigeonholed into the being of someone else or something. I just want to be able to do what I want to do."

For now, that means collaborating with artists and producers whose work speak to her -- she drops Kaytranada and SBTRKT as two names she could see herself working with someday. Another name that comes up is Icelandic icon Björk, whose work SZA has repeatedly cited as hugely influential.

She's also taking her time crafting the new album, which will be titled "A," a process she can't help but smile as she describes what she's putting together as "fucking amazing."

"I've changed a lot very fast and I don't know if someone who becomes a megastar is going to be able to change all the time," she said. "It's not that I desire to be a megastar, it's just that I want to be remembered for pioneering something, for setting something into motion or introducing and successfully merging different worlds that don't 'belong together.' I want to speak to everyone."

Illinois Among the Top 10 Worst States for Job Growth Since Recession

Tue, 2014-07-22 16:42
It's no secret Illinois is having a rough time creating jobs, which arguably will be the foremost important issue when voters head to the polls in November.

Nationally, Illinois ranks 42nd for job creation since the end of the Great Recession, according to an Associated Press report and Crain's Chicago Business.

In June 2014, Illinois had 5.81 million jobs -- and increase of three percent from 5.64 million in June 2009.

Illinois is the eighth-worst since the Great Recession. Here are 10 through six of the worst. See the fifth through number one worst at Reboot Illinois.

10. Vermont

Tie - 9. Missouri and Virginia

8. Illinois

Tie - 7. Maine and New Hampshire

6. Connecticut

Spinning job numbers so they mold with one side's desired political rhetoric is a bipartisan practice, especially in an election year. For example, take a look at how each gubernatorial candidate used June's 7.1 percent unemployment rate as campaign munition against one another.

Gov. Pat Quinn touted the fourth consecutive month of a declining jobless rate, largest quarterly drop since records began in 1976 and 6,000 new jobs as a clear sign of the state's steady improvement -- though unemployment statistics don't incorporate individuals who gave up looking for work and dropped out of the labor force.

"The bottom line, just as a matter of fact, is that there are more people working in Illinois today than there were when the governor took office," noted Quinn's campaign spokeswoman Brooke Anderson.

On the other hand, Republican candidate Bruce Rauner consistently highlights that Illinois has lost and continues to lose thousands of jobs under Quinn's leadership and policies.

"Illinoisans are still suffering after years of Pat Quinn's high tax policies, and the state has lost thousands of jobs this year alone," said Rauner's spokesman Mike Schrimpf after the release of June's preliminary unemployment figures on July 17.

Both of these statements are correct.

Quinn took office in January 2009 when the recession was battering the state, not to mention he inherited a bad situation from former Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

Since then, roughly 9,600 Illinois jobs have been added under Quinn, however, the governor's office starts its count a year later and when the Illinois Department of Employment Security says the recovery began. In this case, about 250,000 jobs have been created in the private sector, but if you include government positions, that number drops to roughly 228,000. And by not including Quinn's first year in office, neither are the 219,000 jobs lost.

As for Rauner, he is also correct when he says the state "has lost thousands of jobs this year alone." Between December 2013 and June 2014, a total of 18,100 jobs have disappeared in the private sector, or a total of 15,500 non-farm positions if government is included.

Putting politics aside, there's no denying Illinois still lags far behind the nation and its regional neighbors in job creation, and has the second-highest unemployment rate among bordering states.

While the state economy appears to be on the mend, it's certainly a slow one and Illinoisans are running low on patience. Job growth during the coming months could have a telling impact in November.

Next article: Poll shows voter success for Bruce Rauner plan on jobs, economy
Illinois unemployment rate continues downward trend, but do statistics tell a different story?
Top 10 things to know about Bruce Rauner's fiscal plan
Report shows raising Illinois minimum wage might actually speed up job creation
Cartoon: Democratic math on minimum wage

10 Men Tell the Reasons Why They Cheat

Tue, 2014-07-22 16:11
Why would a man need a sidepiece anyway?

I'm blessed to have a lot of male Facebook friends and I've decided to milk these friendships for as much information that I can get. And that brings me to today's installment the: Top 10 Reasons Why Men Cheat.

WARNING: These explanations of why men cheat, gleaned from my male Facebook friends, will make you furious, especially if you've been in a relationship with someone who has cheated on you. Please do not read any further until you've put on your big girl panties and swallowed your pride.

Ready? Let's proceed.

1. Someone was pursuing me. "I'll [sleep with] a woman to settle my curiosity. It has nothing to do with what my main girl is not doing, it's just, someone offered, and I was curious and wanted to test the water." -"Doug," 42

2. She's not freaky enough. "I want oral sex. I want anal sex. I want adventurous sex in risky places, and I don't necessarily want that from my girlfriend. In fact, I'd PREFER not to get that from the woman that I introduce my mother to." -"Jerry," 25

3. I was tired of having sex with her.
"I want to hear another woman's voice call my name. I want variety." --"Michael," 39

4. She doesn't attract me anymore. "This is terrible; but my wife gained 30 pounds after she broke her foot, and I started to look elsewhere for sex. The cast and crutches, watching her struggle, it was just ugh. I was there for her, but she didn't arouse me anymore. I'd give her a kiss on her forehead and go out to [sleep with] someone else." --"Thomas," 44

5. Other options are always available. "Why settle for one sex partner when you can have two? Or 10? The ladies don't seem to mind that I'm wearing a ring. And I have my pick of the litter." --"Jack" 34

6. She always accused me of cheating, so I strayed. "I figured, what the hell? She thought I was sleeping with my coworker, our neighbor, random waitresses and I wasn't doing a thing. NOW I am seeing someone and she doesn't have a clue. I can honestly say that she drove me to do it." --"Michael," 39.

7. "It's not really cheating if she doesn't find out," --"James," 22

8. No foreplay is required. "I don't want to make love all the time. Sometimes I just want a quickie, get it in and go. I can do that with my sidepiece so, I do what I've got to do." -"Kyle," 26

9. I'm fulfilling a need.
"Being with someone else every now and then has nothing to do with my primary relationship. It's not cheating; it's just fulfilling my needs as I see fit." "Mario," 31.

10. I was conflicted about my sexuality.
"I cheated on my girlfriends in college to prove to myself that I was into women, but it was a lie. I'm gay. I've always known it, I was just afraid to act on it. Now I'm in a monogamous relationship with my boyfriend and we've been together for two years. I would never cheat on him." --"Charlie," 28

The more I think about these responses, the more I realize that cheating is rarely about the girlfriend or wife's shortcomings, cheating is mostly about a man's greed.

Liberal Nationalism Is Not Only Possible, It's Essential

Tue, 2014-07-22 14:54
Out of many, one. As important today as ever.

"Nationalism is an infantile disease. It is the measles of mankind." -- Albert Einstein

This is a popular sentiment in certain circles, including among some people for whom I have a great deal of respect. And, without question, nationalism has inspired many of the worst crimes human beings have committed against one another. Nationalism has often been a dangerous thing when it is directed outward, at another group defined as somehow inferior.

On the other hand, nationalism can also liberate a people from imperialism, and can encourage an end to oppression within a society. Nationalism can help overcome division and create community. That's the kind of nationalism -- a liberal nationalism, a civic (rather than ethnic/racial) nationalism -- that I want to focus on here.

What exactly is nationalism? At its most base level, nationalism is the feeling of belonging to a national community. "What kind of community"? is the key question to ask, the answer to which helps us determine whether a form of nationalism is likely to prove dangerous. In a liberal or civic form of nationalism, the community in question must not be restricted by any identity-related criteria (race, religion, culture, language, ethnic background, sexual orientation, etc.). A civic nation must include all those who reside within that nation's borders.

Civic nationalisms represent nations made up of people who choose to join them either by emigrating to or by remaining in a particular country. The members identify themselves as a community of citizens -- unified by a commitment to basic democratic ideals -- who share not only membership in a political system but who also recognize obligations to one another and to a common good that benefits the whole national community.

At this point, there may be questions popping up: What about undocumented immigrants? What about multilingualism? These and others are important policy issue that have their place. In this discussion, however, I want to examine the concept of civic nationalism itself, and explain why it is a crucial part of pushing our country in a more progressive direction.

Progressive champion Robert Reich called for the cultivation of a strong sense of national community here:

The pronouns "we" and "they" are the most important of all political words. They demarcate who's within the sphere of mutual responsibility, and who's not. Someone within that sphere who's needy is one of "us" -- an extension of our family, friends, community, tribe -- and deserving of help. But needy people outside that sphere are "them," presumed undeserving unless proved otherwise.

The central political question faced by any nation or group is where the borders of this sphere of mutual responsibility are drawn.

Why in recent years have so many middle-class and wealthy Americans pulled the borders in closer?

(....) The first step in widening the sphere of "we" is to break down the barriers -- not just of race, but also, increasingly, of class, and of geographical segregation by income -- that are pushing "we Americans" further and further apart.

There has to be something concrete that makes those of us living in the United States more than just co-residents who share little other than proximity. There has to be something that makes 300 million people into "we" and "us." That something is civic nationalism.

Now, if you recoil from the word nationalism, then fine, just call it something else. Call it national cohesion, national unity, a sense of community or peoplehood. That's fine. Coming from the academic study of nationalism, I developed an understanding of civic nationalism as something defined in opposition to the kind of exclusionary form of nationalism defined by "blood." Whatever one calls it, civic nationalism is crucial to building a healthy American society for two reasons above all others.

First, because of its inclusivity, civic nationalism directly opposes racism, hatred, and bigotry of all kinds. America is an incredibly diverse nation. It would be all too easy for our population to divide itself into tribes based on any number of different characteristics. Civic nationalism gives us a way to overcome those divisions.

A civic nationalism, or at least a liberal one, also respects diversity. Therefore, it does not demand, as early 20th century nationalists did, that people become "100% Americans," that they "melt" into an undifferentiated mass of homogeneity, or conform to a pre-existing cultural model. A liberal civic nationalism is built on pluralism, on the foundation of a multi-layered identity that is not either/or, in terms of one's ancestral heritage vs. one's Americanness, but rather one that is both/and, one in which Americanness complements rather than competes with ancestral ties.

Integration, a two-way process, is what happens in a civic nationalist society. Newcomers learn the language, sign on to the democratic social contract, and become conversant with mainstream culture, but without being pressured to abandon their traditions, language, and culture. Many become one, but without becoming identical.

Additionally, a strongly anti-racist civic nationalism built on pluralism works against not only discrimination and oppression by one group directed at others within our society, but it also works against xenophobia and a sense of superiority vis-a-vis those in other countries. A pluralist America -- one that is diverse yet still unified around democratic, egalitarian ideals -- could well serve as a model for other diverse societies looking for an alternative to various forms of fundamentalism, i.e. a belief that everyone in a society (or the world) must act and think the same way.

Inclusivity plus pluralism is what makes civic nationalism such a powerful countervailing force to the worst qualities of other forms of nationalism -- to the hate and violence that so often flows from them. Civic nationalism rejects "us vs. them" thinking because it defines everyone in the land as nothing other than, to paraphrase Woody Guthrie's "This Land Is Your Land": you and me.

Second, civic nationalism directly opposes another highly destructive force, namely the hyper-individualism of the kind advocated, in its most extreme form, by Ayn Rand disciples such as Paul Ryan (and many others on the right). Rather than openly divide Americans along lines of race (although the racist aspects of Randian conservatism, at least in practice, are clearly evident in the rhetoric of "takers vs. makers"), this hyper-individualism peddles the myth that success and failure are achieved alone, ignoring what President Obama called "this unbelievable American system that we have," of course provided by society, that is necessary in order to build great wealth.

What civic nationalism does is get people of one economic background, race, religion, and region to identify people who differ from them on all those counts as members of their tribe, the tribe of Americans. Seeing them as part of the tribe, part of the family, part of the national community makes it much easier to be willing to share resources, to give back something -- not to strangers, but to fellow Americans. That's what Reich was talking about when he spoke of "widening" the "sphere of mutual responsibility."

Some of you may be wondering why we need civic nationalism to accomplish these goals. Why can't we just rely, for example, on appeals to common humanity. There's a simple answer: it doesn't sell. A feeling of community is not an intellectual decision that hundreds of millions of people will simply come to because we ask. There is no sense of world community strong enough to mandate a sharing of resources, at least not right now (check back with me if Martians or the Borg show up).

Furthermore, when we are talking about sharing resources in a structural, mandatory way, we are doing so through a political system of democracy in which our sovereignty is organized at the local, state, and ultimately national level. That system reflects our historical development as a political community. Americanness already exists. It is a powerful force, in particular among the people we want to reach, that we want to convince to move in a more progressive direction.

Therefore, abandoning nationalism -- even a civic form thereof -- as nothing more than a disease means that we progressives abandon Americanness to our political opponents. It means we allow the right-wing to define Americanness all by themselves, and, of course, to paint us as somehow "not American." If you think running progressive candidates for office as "not American" is a winning strategy, then I've got some Confederate bonds to sell you.

There's a reason why progressive reformers from Frederick Douglass to Martin Luther King, Jr. to Harvey Milk to Barbara Jordan have all sought to place the fight for equality within the civic nationalist American tradition rather than presenting it as standing opposed to Americanism. Doing so reflects both truth and pragmatism.

Civic nationalism stands for unity over bigotry. It stands for equality over discrimination. Above all, it stands for the common good over "I've got mine go get yours." What could be more progressive than that?

'Happy Christmas' Director Joe Swanberg Thinks 'Men Are Out Of Ideas' In Hollywood

Tue, 2014-07-22 14:16
After averaging more than three feature films per year between 2011 and 2013, director Joe Swanberg has decided to take it easy here in 2014. He has only one film currently scheduled for release this year, "Happy Christmas," a Sundance Film Festival premiere available via on-demand services now before beginning a limited theatrical release on July 25.

"I've attempted to make filmmaking into a normal, working class job," Swanberg said during an interview with HuffPost Entertainment at the end of June. "I've tried to turn it into a nine-to-five."

The difference, though, is that Swanberg is punching his clock next to movie stars. "Happy Christmas" has Anna Kendrick in the lead role and features supporting turns from Lena Dunham, Melanie Lynskey, Mark Webber, Swanberg himself. (Swanberg's young son, Jude, plays his character's son.) The film focuses on Jenny (Kendrick), a listless young woman who comes to live with her brother Jeff (Swanberg) and his wife, Kelly (Lynskey), after a difficult breakup. Over the Christmas holiday, Jenny forms a bond with Kelly, clashes with her older brother and falls in love with the music of Joel Alme, a Swedish artist whose songs are featured heavily on the "Happy Christmas" soundtrack. ("Nothing has sounded like that since Bob Dylan or something," Swanberg said of Alme's excellent, high-production 2010 album, "Waiting for the Bells," which is available on Spotify.)

Swanberg, who turns 33 next month, spoke to HuffPost Entertainment about "Happy Christmas," why men are out of ideas and how this new feature was born out of his own personal family experiences.

Melanie Lynskey, Mark Webber, Anna Kendrick, and director Joe Swanberg

This is a different role than people might expect from Anna. Why did you think she'd be a good fit?
On "Drinking Buddies," Olivia Wilde really surprised people because nobody had seen her do something like that. With Anna, while we were shooting "Drinking Buddies," and as I was getting to know her as a person, I was feeling that she was doing variations on a sort of Type-A, very put-together character. "Up in the Air" was so successful that it carried over to who she was playing. She was really good at that, so it makes sense. But I sort of knew that she would be really good at any movie she did. It felt fun to think of the most opposite of her "Drinking Buddies" character. Anna actually seems so much older in "Drinking Buddies" than she does in "Happy Christmas," even though we shot "Drinking Buddies" first. You actually see her digress a couple of years.

Yeah, it's a shock when we find out Jenny's in her late 20s as opposed to early 20s.
My brother lived with my wife and I when we first moved into that house. It's sort of based on him. I don't want to throw him under the bus and say everything in the movie comes from him, but it's based on that feeling of being in your 30s and starting your own family, but also having this younger sibling who is understandably figuring the things out that you already know. He should be doing that, but at the same time it's annoying. As you get older, there is this feeling of "just figure it out."

But in the film, it feels like your character is really giving Jenny the benefit of the doubt.
I'm curious to talk to people about how they relate to that. For me, it's really true to life. I'm very non-confrontational with my brothers, even when they annoy the hell out of me. We talked about it a lot on set: you get used to the ways people fuck up and they stop fazing you as much. For Melanie's character, it rang true that she would be more surprised by Anna's behavior and a lot more upset by it, and I'd be like, "Yep, that's Jenny. I've known her my whole life. She's like that." Those kind of family dynamics are interesting to me. When you choose to call people out, it's a bigger thing if it's your sibling.

"Happy Christmas" focuses on a woman in the throes of arrested development, which is a character that has traditionally been portrayed as male. You kind of did that in "Drinking Buddies," too. Why is it important to you as a storyteller to flip that script?
I'm really interested in it. I suspect we're on the cusp of a time where women's roles in the entertainment industry are about to get a lot bigger. My feeling is, and this is a little grandiose, that men are out of ideas. We need women to step up in a big way over the next 10 years or we're fucked culturally. We see what's happening right now, which is that we're just remaking, rebooting and re-franchising everything. That's because we're out of ideas. So if anybody is bringing new ideas to the table, they are really valuable right at this moment. Lena Dunham is obviously is bringing a lot of new ideas to the table, which is why people are responding to that in a big way.

Lena participates in that great scene with Melanie and Anna where Melanie's character, Kelly, talks about the challenges that come with being a mother.
A lot of "Happy Christmas" came out of conversations my wife and I had about her own identity issues when she became a mom. It's very hard for women, and it's not talked about at all. So a lot of the impetus for making "Happy Christmas" was just to get that conversation on screen. It's almost as if the movie's framework is built around the chance for them to have that conversation. To air those feelings. I don't know that I've seen that kind of conversation before.

I don't know if I have.
Isn't it shocking that in 2014, there's a movie where nobody can remember ever seeing a mom talk about the frustrations and pleasures of having a kid and being a mom? I think there's "Baby Boom" in the mid-'80s. There have been stabs at it, but they haven't felt real. The circumstances have always been inflated in a big way. There's a lot of pressure women are under right now, because none of the old conventions have gone away, but there's an expectation to work and be independent. There's internal pressure too, to do both things. From the moment Jude was born he just had a different relationship with my wife than he did with me. That's biological. You're not going to escape that. He needs her for sustenance. We can change that with science and with baby formula and maybe we can do a lot of things, but right now, he wanted her in ways he didn't want me. That put a lot of pressure on her that it didn't put on me. So she didn't choose that; it was handed to her.

In the movie, your character could have easily turned into a jerk, but you keep him sympathetic, if a little disengaged. I liked that.
He's guilty of being oblivious. Which is bad in a relationship, but he's not a bad guy. I'm guilty of it too. You get caught up in work -- especially with my wife and I. One of us had to make money and that ended up being me. There was that pressure put on me that wasn't put on her, but it's also really shitty to not be in charge of the money that your family is making. It's very nerve-wracking. I was going out into the world in this attempt to provide, and she was having a really weird identity thing happening at home. She's also a filmmaker, but suddenly when people asked what she did, stay-at-home mom had to be added to the descriptor. I don't think she ever thought those words would come out of her mouth. It was sort of a trip. We were in a weird time, and I think both of us got into our own stuff. We weren't communicating a lot of that. She was quietly suffering and I was quietly freaking out. That's not good.

You were one of my favorite filmmakers on Twitter. Why did you quit?
I was spending too much time on there that's why. It was getting in the way of being productive, which is the main reason. Beyond that -- I don't know if this happens to you -- but it was rewiring how my brain works. I was finding myself in life experiences where my immediate reaction was how to craft a tweet out of it. I thought that was too far. I don't want to witness something incredible, feel something deep and then my immediate feeling is how to do I capture that in 140 characters.

I liked how you weren't afraid to speak to truth to power to popular films. I didn't agree with some of your critiques of "Gravity," but I appreciated reading them.
I miss that too, to be honest. That was the fun part of it for me. The conversation that it sparked was a different kind of conversation than I was having with a lot of strangers, which was really cool. That's a nice way to communicate. I wish I had better self control, I would still be on Twitter. But also, as a filmmaker, it's complicated for me to have a critical voice in the conversation. Because I understand the practical difficulties of making a film and they don't always turn out like you want. For me to have a negative opinion about something is almost a little more hurtful, because it's not my job. I'm just choosing to voice my negative opinion. But I also don't want to be the kind of person who is only championing and rah-rah'ing stuff. It's hard.

Looking ahead, you have "Digging for Fire" up next, which reunites you with Jake Johnson after "Drinking Buddies." What do you get out of him that other directors don't see?
I'm obsessed with him. I would say that he's my main collaborative and creative partner right now. It's hard for me to think of movie ideas that don't involve him. I'll quickly say what I like best, which is that he had the privilege -- and I'm sure it was frustrating for him over the years -- to live a lot of life before he got famous as an actor. He brings an incredible depth and wealth of human experience and knowledge to every character he plays, because he didn't have any spotlight on him. He just got to have a lot of jobs, he got to know a lot of people, he got to be a guy, he got to be a husband, and then he got famous. I relate to that. We're the same age. He's from Chicago. I've never had more fun writing with somebody, and I've never laughed harder on set than with how he chooses to be funny. You should expect to see a lot of him in my work.

This interview has been edited an condensed.

New Laws in Illinois You Don't Want to Miss

Tue, 2014-07-22 12:24
On January 1, many new Illinois laws went into effect, including prohibiting cellphone use while driving and a speed limit increase on some Illinois highways. Since then, the spring session of the Illinois General Assembly brought another batch of new laws and other actions. Here are five.

1) Open stands no longer require a permit if profits do not exceed $1,000
Any "home kitchen operation" cannot be regulated by the health department or local government. This became known as the "Cupcake Law" because it was inspired by 12-year-old Chloe Stirling of Troy, whose cupcake business had been shut down for not having proper credentials for a bakery. Learn more here.

2) A referendum for a minimum wage increase will be put on the November ballot
The referendum will ask voters if they think minimum wage should be increased from $8.25 to $10. The referendum is strictly advisory, but if a majority of voters give their approval, it's highly likely that lawmakers will then act to raise the minimum wage.

3) A referendum about requiring insurance companies to cover birth control will also be put on the November ballot
A month before the U.S. Supreme Court issued its Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Supreme Court Decision, Illinois lawmakers voted to place a referendum on the Nov. 4 ballot asking voters if they think insurance companies in the state should still be required to cover birth control. Though a law requiring insurance companies to do so has been on the books in Illinois since 2004, this advisory referendum will gauge public opinion on the question.

4) Dyslexia will now be included in Illinois' special education provisions
State Board of Education will provide teachers with training on how to properly help their dyslexic students.

5) Children will be able to hunt with adult supervision before taking the hunter training safety course
The Youth Hunting License also costs less than its adult counterpart.

Want to know what other laws and actions could affect you? Check out five others on Reboot Illinois, including legislation about sexual assault, voting and education.

How does a constitutional amendment ballot measure work in Illinois?
Want to tell your elected officials what you think of redistricting reform? Use our Sound Off tool.
Cartoon: Mike Madigan reform agenda leaves gerrymandering intact.
Yes for Independent Maps campaign manager Michael Kolenc explains the effort and why redistricting reform is needed in this op-ed.
Why do politicians cherish the power to draw their own district maps? Find out here.

Pitchfork Music Festival in Photos: The Best of the Fest

Tue, 2014-07-22 12:20
They came, they saw, they wore a whole lot of floral patterns.

The ninth installemnt of The Pitchfork Music Festival is now in the books, and the Chicago fest has never been stronger. The Union Park event this year boasted a wide-ranging lineup featuring everything from A-List names -- including Kendrick Lamar, St. Vincent and Beck -- to lesser-known newbies like Speedy Ortiz and local favorites Twin Peaks. The fest also benefited from glorious weather, a big improvement over the massive storm that cut Björk's highly-anticipated headlining set short the previous year.

Below, photo evidence of the festival's goings-on from photographer Justin Barbin, followed by our personal highlights from the weekend.

"As anticipated, acts like Lamar, Canadian electronic artist Grimes and Italian disco pioneer Giorgio Moroder provided some of the weekend's most exhilarating moments -- particularly Moroder's DJ set, which possibly was the gayest thing (a compliment, naturally) I've ever seen happen on the Pitchfork grounds, thanks to its stream of no-irony-here retro jams like "I Feel Love" and "Take My Breath Away." But for me, most of the most vivid memories I'll carry forward from the festival came during sets taking place earlier in the day, well before the top-of-the-bill headliners arrived on the grounds, and particularly on the more intimate Blue Stage.

Among those artists who truly stuck out were Cloud Nothings' thrilling set, which ended in a giant, noisy jam session that perfectly matched the energy of the hot mid-afternoon Saturday sun. Later Saturday, Ethiopian R&B artist Kelela was a revelation on the Blue Stage, connecting to the crowd assembled to watch her electronica-infused set in a way few other artists did over the course of the fest. From the moment she launched into her sexy "Up All Night" slow jam, she'd won the day -- if not the festival.

Other special moments included seeing Swedish-born artist Neneh Cherry taking in the festival the day after playing her first U.S. appearance since 1992(!) on Friday, seeming to emanate positive energy wherever she went. Finally, British genre-defier and dancer FKA twigs' quip that she's "learning how to vogue" as the latest lesson of her classes at "the University of Life"? Priceless -- her set was absolutely stunning, overcoming the Blue Stage's history of noise bleed from the main stages and claustrophobic logistics." -- J.E.

"Short of a major re-imagining, there aren't many surprises you can expect from a festival that's almost a decade old. Still, the live festival environment -- especially one as well-run and well-curated as Pitchfork's -- has the potential to coax some great moments out of the performers.

Of the headliners: Every rapper should take a page from Kendrick Lamar and insist on having a live band -- It makes such a huge impact on the energy of the set, both for the performer and for the audience. Lamar's pacing was pitch-perfect, and he balanced swagger, energy and sincerity (an undervalued currency in modern hip-hop) like the superstar that he is.

Annie Clark's St. Vincent, who rocks like a demon and looks like a space-age Disney princess, went full-on metal by head-butting the drum kit near the end of her raucous (yet somehow still precise) set. Hers was the fascinating and entirely entertaining live show that makes Pitchfork worth the price of admission. Beck and Neutral Milk Hotel had parallel performances in that both were better than their very worst (and if you've seen Beck circa "Modern Guilt," you know how bad it can be) but not quite as good as their best. If you had never seen either perform live, you were probably enjoyed both sets tremendously (and with good reason).

Farther down on the bill, Majical Cloudz deserves a nod for hanging in and doing their best to salvage their set that unexpectedly turned acoustic when their MIDI controller went on the fritz (bonus points for courting the audience for percussive participation). If the music festival gods are just, Sharon Van Etten, Speedy Ortiz and Tune-Yards will get a bump in album sales and a host of new fans thanks to their excellent sets. Speedy Ortiz also gets the "know your city" award for giving a nod to Chicago's late, great artists and musician, Wesley Willis.

The very maturity of the Pitchfork Festival itself was perhaps its biggest advantage: It knows its scope, its size and its audience (which has diversified over the years. Hip-hop and electronic music no longer feel like one-off exceptions on the bill, though it retains its status as a haven for indie darlings like Grimes and rare performances by legendary acts like Neutral Milk Hotel." -- K.B.

Giorgio Moroder Is Back, Thanks To Daft Punk

Tue, 2014-07-22 12:00
If two French robots hadn't coaxed him out of semi-retirement, Giorgio Moroder would still be practicing his swing somewhere on a Los Angeles golf course. Instead, the 74-year-old Italian composer and record producer, credited with pioneering electronic dance music and crafting space disco hits like Donna Summer's "Hot Stuff," is back on the scene as a DJ.

A few hours before his hugely anticipated headlining appearance at the Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago on July 18, the Oscar and Grammy winner told The Huffington Post that it's the audience who inspires his energy.

"I just did a gig in France two days ago and it was incredible: 25,000 people doing whatever I wanted to do," Moroder said. "It's an experience. There are not too many people who can have that experience. Maybe the top 20 of the DJs -- and I'm by far not the top 20 -- but the feeling is incredible."

Despite the fact that he composed and produced some of the most popular songs of the past 40 years -- including Donna Summer's "Carry On," Blondie's "Call Me," Kenny Loggins' "Danger Zone" and Irene Cara's "Flashdance... What a Feeling" -- Moroder is genuinely surprised that younger fans recognize his older work.

"Amazingly, the young kids -- 20, 30 -- they know some of the songs. Some even know some of the lyrics. I don't know how, I guess it's the Internet," Moroder said. "It's quite amazing that people recognize the songs."

In the '70s and '80s, Moroder was well known behind the scenes as a producer and composer to artists like Summer, Mick Jagger and Jimmy Page, who came through his Musicland Studios in Munich.

Thanks to the track "Giorgio by Moroder" on Daft Punk's 2013 album, "Random Access Memories," in which Morodor speaks about his life over a swank instrumental, fans nowadays recognize Moroder's voice as much as they do his famously mustachioed face: Moroder said just moments earlier, en route to the Pitchfork festival site, that his driver hadn't seen his face. But when he spoke, the driver immediately asked him, "Are you Giorgio Moroder?"

"Random Access Memories" not only relaunched Moroder's career -- it catapulted Pharrell Williams to a whole new level of stardom and resuscitated the career of producer and musician Nile Rodgers, a veteran of the 1970s disco outfit Chic.

"If the Daft Punk [record] would not have come out, and without DJing, I probably would not do music. First of all, to start a new career, that's not easy," Moroder said. "That album was good for several people, me included."

Moroder was a fan of Daft Punk's 2001 song, "One More Time," but said he hadn't listened to much new music over the past decade. Now, he favors acts like David Guetta, Avicii and other radio-friendly artists -- "like what they play on KISS-FM."

"I love the EDM kind of music, the uptempo songs. The sounds are beautiful," he said, adding, "I just don't know how long it's going to last. It starts to become a little bit repetitive. But other than that, I love it."

Since he became a DJ himself a little more than a year ago, Moroder has fully embraced the digital revolution.

"I love analogue, but digital has so many good sounds and they're getting better and better," he said.

Pitchfork fest fans would tend to agree: Moroder's set went on to be the highlight of the event's opening day, no doubt earning him a few more fans who will snap up his new record, currently in the works.

"I'm preparing an album with all different kinds of artists," Moroder said. "Nothing is ready, but a lot of ideas. It's going to be a nice album."

How Art Is Crucial To Understanding The Human Mind

Tue, 2014-07-22 11:34
Antonio Damasio, M.D., is a professor of neuroscience and the director of the Brain and Creativity Institute at the University of Southern California. He is a pioneer in the field of cognitive neuroscience and a highly cited researcher. He has received numerous awards for his contributions to the understanding of emotions, feelings and decision-making, and he has described his discoveries in several books.

Walking the halls here at the Brain and Creativity Institute, I see art works from your personal collection, and downstairs there is a theater that is also used as a recording studio. How are you furthering the understanding of the connection between the brain and the arts?

As you come through the lobby, if you turn right, you go toward a laboratory of electrophysiology and a state-of-the-art 3-D MR brain scanner. If you turn left, you go into a small, state-of-the-art auditorium. Its acoustics were designed by Yasuhisa Toyota, who is responsible for the sound of some of the greatest music halls around the world from Tokyo to Hamburg, including the Walt Disney Concert Hall here in LA. What we wanted when we created this complex is to literally force people to say, “What an odd combination. Why?”

So here is the answer. On the one hand, we have the most modern form of inquiring into the brain-making mind, and, on the other, we have the oldest. Because when people were beginning to do theater, music and recitations of poetry, say, in an arena in Greece, they were in fact inquiring about the human mind in very probing ways. Great culture -- philosophy, theater, music -- gave us some of the most remarkable first entries into the human mind. We wanted to have these two approaches together to force those who work here as well as visitors to see that they’re not that different -- that the mission we pursue now is not that different from the mission that Sophocles or Aristotle pursued.

We need to bridge the two approaches and keep respecting the achievements of the past. The idea that by just doing neuroscience or advanced cognitive science, one can understand everything about the human mind is ridiculous. We need to bring past efforts in the arts and the humanities into the mix and also use the current contributions of artists and philosophers to understand this most complicated process that is the human mind.

How are you studying music’s effect on the brain?

One study we are doing investigates the effects of intense musical training on the minds and brains of children. This research capitalizes on the existence of El Sistema. This is a program that allows children, from poor neighborhoods starting at age 5, to receive intense music training in the afternoon, after regular school. It began in Venezuela and has had important results. Gustavo Dudamel, the young and famous Venezuelan director of the LA Philharmonic, is a product of El Sistema. Of course, the intent is not to turn the entire population into an active orchestra. The intent is to help develop the mind's architecture so that it can create citizens.

In Los Angeles, there is one such program and, in close cooperation with the LA Philharmonic and the Youth Orchestra of LA, we proposed to study the brain and mind development of the children involved in the program. We have these marvelous kids that come from the underprivileged Rampart district here in Los Angeles. We began studying 5-year-olds a little over a year ago, and we will accompany them regularly until they are age 11.

We’re finding out how they change in terms of their mental and social abilities. They’re tested, not only for their musical progress, but also for other aspects of cognition, affect and sociality. Their brains are also scanned so that we have a way of relating their mental and behavioral progress to their respective brain structure and function. We will ask numerous questions from the data we gather.

For example, does music training accelerate brain maturation? Does the individual resolve problems better? Is the individual better able to control her environment? Does the training turn impulsive responses into more nuanced responses? Are the perceptual abilities of the child better as a result of having to be attuned to different sounds and pitches?

In order to come to any reasonable conclusion, we need comparison groups. One comparison group comes from exactly the same socioeconomic background. The group is not assigned to music, but to soccer. There is intense athletic training instead of playing in an orchestra. So we hope to be able to check if another activity that is also organized, depends on a team and also requires fine coordination of movement will produce the same results or different results. We expect the study to give us some insight into how the brain handles creativity, and how creativity might influence who you are as a social creature.

Your wife Hanna, who directs the adjoining USC Brain Imaging Center, is studying 3-D images of the brains of great musicians such as Yo Yo Ma. She has joked that the brains are beautiful and even sexy. Are those brains different than everyone else's?

It’s an intriguing collection of the brains of some of the greatest musicians alive. We do not expect to find something extraordinary and conclude that musician brains are distinctively different from everyone else’s. Natural biological development, education and environment have a huge role to play in the resulting minds and brains.

In fact, I have a suspicion that one of the results of these ongoing studies will be to remove the myth that exceptional and admirable performers achieve what they achieve thanks to some special gift. Many people, provided they have the right training, the right environment, motivation and discipline can achieve professional-caliber performances. A lot of genius comes from great effort.

You have said that emotions and feelings play a central role in high-level reasoning and creativity. Explain.

Sometimes it is tempting to say that feelings get in our way -- that if we didn't have them we would be happier. We wouldn’t have to bother with pain, sadness or even happiness. We’d just carry on like robots. But the reality is that without feelings, one would lose the entry into the world of consciousness. At the simplest level, consciousness begins with “sentience,” which is a building block of feelings.

More complex feelings are the first step in prompting our attempt to solve the problems of the human condition through the invention of appropriate responses. Very early on, for example, human beings -- confronted with the pain of others -- invented ways of consoling each other. I believe consolation was one of the very early functions of music, tens of thousands of years ago. Music probably started as both an instrument of consolation and an instrument of seduction -- both prompted by feelings.

Also, once we understand feelings, we have the possibility of making use of that knowledge for all sorts of medical applications. For example, depression, pain syndromes and drug addictions are all pathologies of feeling. People suffer with depression because they have feelings of sadness and worthlessness. They suffer from drug addiction because of feeling intense desire to use certain substances and because of their inability to cancel that desire. And that’s one of the great problems confronting societies across the globe right now. People keep throwing billions of dollars on the war on drugs. George Soros thinks that trillions have been spent, largely to put people in jail. And yet, the basic biological process behind feeling remains unclear.

The entire history of culture is one of responding to negative and positive feelings with the development of amazing social constructions. These include varied forms of governance, morality, justice systems, belief systems and the arts. The variety of the invention is such that major cultural differences have emerged, especially regarding morality, beliefs and governance. Cultures have not developed a single, uniform way of achieving well-being -- of achieving the good life. Note that well-being is itself a feeling state, one in which pain is absent and flourishing dominates.

Talented artists are often depressed or even addicts. It’s as if happiness dries up creative juices. If people create art to cope with feelings, does it follow that people with extreme feelings create exceptional art?

Pain and joy are two sides of the same coin, without a doubt. A lot of happiness and unhappiness is related to fundamental designs of our structure that pull us in the direction of love, sexuality and happiness -- or into aggression, death and suffering. But it doesn’t follow that these forces are symmetrical. I suspect that, in the history of culture, more things that we call great (in poetry, theater, philosophy, music) came out of pain and suffering than came out of happy times.

Some writers have actually said that rectifying their depression left them bereft of inspiration. However, if you have the training and know the craft, chances are you will remember enough of your own pain to find the impetus to continue working, and working well, even after pain subsides. By the way, if you are in extreme pain, your mental organization is impaired, and you are no longer creative. You need to be on the edge.

What Happened to "Rahmbo" Emanuel?

Tue, 2014-07-22 10:54
There's one name noticeably missing from the list of 2016 presidential contenders: Rahm Emanuel.

Most pundits will tell you Hillary Clinton's all-but-announced entry into the race means Emanuel has no choice but to sit it out.

But the real reason Emanuel can't run is his failed record as mayor of Chicago.

Three years ago, Emanuel was blessed by President Barack Obama to lead Chicago. Running the nation's third-largest city was supposed to be Emanuel's springboard to the White House.

A prolific campaigner, four-term congressman and adviser of two presidents, Emanuel was portrayed as the savvy insider and ruthless tactician who would fix what the city's previous mayor, Richard M. Daley, ignored -- the unions' stranglehold on the city, and Chicago's nearly $30 billion pension debt.

But with just one year left in Emanuel's first term, he has failed on both counts. At the pivotal moments when "Rahmbo" should have stepped forward, Emanuel backed down.

Take, for example, the city's collapsing pensions, which has sent Chicago's credit rating into free fall.

In his first year as mayor, Emanuel made bold attempts at reform. He demanded higher retirement ages (almost half of city workers retire before the age of 60).

He called for a suspension of automatic cost-of-living adjustments (retiring career teachers and firemen receive average pensions of $71,000 and $80,000, respectively).

And most importantly, he recognized the need for fundamental reform by proposing optional 401(k)-style plans for new workers.

But state politicians, who set retirement benefits for Chicago workers, snubbed Emanuel.

It's now two years later and Emanuel has given up on real reforms.

Instead, he recently championed a law that hikes city contributions to two pension funds by $4 billion through 2025 -- contributions Emanuel has proposed to fund largely through property tax hikes.

And that's just the beginning. The mayor has yet to address the city's other, more-troubled pension funds.

Emanuel's push for property tax hikes is a distinct policy reversal given his long-term vow not to raise city taxes.

It's also a bizarre political calculation; according to a Chicago Sun-Times poll, just 1 percent of Chicagoans favor a property tax hike to fix the city's pension problem.

Two years ago, Emanuel also backed down in his fight with the unions.

The mayor tried to use negotiations with the Chicago Teachers Union, or CTU, to demand a longer school day, more teacher accountability and a slowdown in teacher costs.

Chicago already had the shortest school day and year when compared to other large cities. And with a looming $1 billion dollar deficit in Chicago's school district, there was a need to reduce costs.

But Emanuel underestimated the strength and vitriol of the CTU, one of the most militant public unions in America. A week-long strike ensued, and broke the mayor's resolve. He gave in to demands for higher pay -- a 17 percent increase over four years -- and received few reforms in exchange.

However, appeasement didn't buy Emanuel peace with the CTU. When he was forced to shutter nearly 50 inner city schools to reduce the school district's massive deficits, the teachers' union labeled him a racist and a corporatist. Chicago's far left followed the union's lead.

It seems none of the typical left-leaning allies want to cooperate with Emanuel. Not the unions. Not the Democratic-controlled Illinois Statehouse. Not even the voter base that put him into office in the first place.

Emanuel's image is so tattered many question whether he can even win re-election in 2015. Emanuel garnered just 29 percent support in a recent Sun-Times poll. His backing among minorities was only 8 percent - amazing given Emanuel swept every predominantly black ward in Chicago in his 2011 race.

Emanuel's reputation and high-ranking connections were not enough to fix Chicago's problems.

Chicago's schools continue to fail its inner-city children. The city is still the nation's murder capital. And with Chicago's pensions spiraling out of control, it's the most likely to follow Detroit into bankruptcy.

The stakes in Chicago are high, but not just for Emanuel. Chicagoans are watching the city crumble and are suffering the consequences.

As for Rahm, if he can't save Chicago, then he can forget about running the country.

Jaume Plensa's Four New Sculptures for Chicago's Millennium Park

Tue, 2014-07-22 10:43
Jaume Plensa, the Spanish sculptor, added another four sculptural "portraits" to Chicago's growing Public Art in the parks. Ten years ago, Plensa, born in 1955, created the globally famous "Crown Fountain" which has become a Chicago landmark and a public sculpture Icon. The four new Plensa pieces are all modeled after young girls on the cusp of womanhood. Plensa titled the new works placed in Millennium Park "1,004 Portraits", since in his own words he merely added four new images to the 1,000 faces already depicted in his two tall video sculptures known as the "Crown Fountain".

"Look into My Dreams, Awilda" by Jaume Plensa in Millennium Park, Chicago, IL. Courtesy of the Richard Gray Gallery.

Both Crown Fountain video towers are live-action and kinetic with images of everyday Chicagoans; not the elite Chicago personages typically responsible for the addition of such artwork to the city's landscape. And whose names are memorialized throughout Millennium Park as Directional Landmarks. At the unveiling of his latest sculptures, set amongst Chicago's many architectural towers but planted on the grassy foundations of Millennium Park, Plensa confided to me that his "Crown Fountain" when it was first created was intended to be a very serious salute to the citizenry of Chicago and a welcome addition to the Millennium Park landscape whilst incorporating sounds of water with the constant changing seasonal imagery. What happened instead is what happens in many parks, the children began to splash in the fountain and play. So now as we spoke 10 years later, children were happily splashing in the fountain between the two video sculpture towers, playing in the waters, and becoming a part of Plensa's living sculpture. Indeed, the children humanized his Crown Fountain Video Towers into something playful and added a participatory element. Even as Plensa spoke about his new installation, he had to speak above the gleeful noises of the kids and the water sounds.

The first new sculpture, "Look Into My Dreams, Awilda" is made of a white resin and stands 39 feet tall. The work is at once both surreal and portrait-like with the elongation of features such as in a Modigliani painting. The piece has a power that is echoed by its three sculpture sisters "Laura," "Paula," and "Inez" cast in iron and now installed in the adjacent outdoor South Boeing Gallery. The installation of the works, which are on loan from the artist until December 2015, is co-presented by the Millennium Park Foundation with the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events and sponsored by the Boeing Company with support from the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation.

Jaume Plensa in front of his "Paula", "Laura", and "Inez" Sculptures in the South Boeing Gallery of Millennium Park, Chicago, IL. Photo by Patrick Pyska

The sculptor said he likes to capture the ephemeral beauty, as well as the possessive power of girls, just as they are becoming women; the Youthful Beauty of girls on the cusp of Blooming into Womanhood, a familiar subject for artists. Plensa's reputation has grown globally since he first conceived of the "Crown Fountain," turning him into one of the world's most foremost sculptors. Dubai, London, Liverpool, Nice, Tokyo, Toronto, and Vancouver now are host to the Barcelona-based artist's large public sculptures, many of them connected with water.

Donna La Pietra, chair of the Millennium Park Foundation, faced Mr. Plensa at the opening ceremony and thanked him saying "we are tremendously grateful to Jaume for allowing Chicago to host these pieces. We can think of no better way to celebrate our 10th Anniversary than by hosting such an impressive array of works by one the original artists whose contributions to Millennium Park have made it a model for public spaces world-wide."

Timed to coincide with the debut of Plensa's Park sculptures, the Richard Gray Gallery will exhibit "Private Dreams," 8 new sculptures from Plensa's iconic series of heads made out of materials including bronze, glass, and, for the first time, volcanic basalt. The sculptures from "Private Dreams" are collectible and all continue the artist's focus on the human figure, specifically the head. The Park's sculptures are monumental and while these tall heads range from 23 feet to 39 feet, they still somehow cohesively blend with Chicago's second-largest tourist attraction, Millennium Park. And the thousands of people who are inspired and engaged by them.

We're Heading Into a Jobless Future, No Matter What the Government Does

Tue, 2014-07-22 10:18

In an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal, former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers revived a debate I'd had with futurist Ray Kurzweil in 2012 about the jobless future.

He echoed the words of Peter Diamandis, who says that we are moving from a history of scarcity to an era of abundance. Then he noted that the technologies that make such abundance possible are allowing production of far more output using far fewer people.

On all this, Summers is right. Within two decades, we will have almost unlimited energy, food, and clean water; advances in medicine will allow us to live longer and healthier lives; robots will drive our cars, manufacture our goods, and do our chores.

There won't be much work for human beings. Self-driving cars will be commercially available by the end of this decade and will eventually displace human drivers -- just as automobiles displaced the horse and buggy -- and will eliminate the jobs of taxi, bus, and truck drivers. Drones will take the jobs of postmen and delivery people.

The debates of the next decade will be about whether we should allow human beings to drive at all on public roads. The pesky humans crash into each other, suffer from road rage, rush headlong into traffic jams, and need to be monitored by traffic police. Yes, we won't need traffic cops either.

Robots are already replacing manufacturing workers. Industrial robots have advanced to the point at which they can do the same physical work as human beings. The operating cost of some robots is now less than the salary of an average Chinese worker. And, unlike human beings, robots don't complain, join labor unions, or get distracted. They readily work 24 hours a day and require minimal maintenance. Robots will also take the jobs of farmers, pharmacists, and grocery clerks.

Medical sensors in our smartphones, clothing, and bathrooms will soon be monitoring our health on a minute-to-minute basis. Combined with electronic medical records and genetic and lifestyle data, these will provide enough information for physicians to focus on preventing disease rather than on curing it.

If medications are needed, they can be prescribed based on a person's genome rather than a one-size-fits-all basis as they are today. The problem is that there is now so much information that humans cannot effectively analyze it. But artificial intelligence-based physicians such as IBM Watson can. The role of the doctor becomes to provide comfort and compassion -- not to diagnose disease or to prescribe medications. In other words, computers will be also taking over some of the jobs of our doctors, and we won't need as many human doctors as we have today.

It will be like the future that Autodesk CEO Carl Bass once described to me: "The factory of the future will have only two employees, a man and a dog. The man will be there to feed the dog. The dog will be there to keep the man from touching the equipment."

Summers is wrong, however, in his belief that governments can do as they did in the industrial age: create "enough work for all who need work for income, purchasing power and dignity." They can barely keep up with the advances that are happening in technology, let alone develop economic policies for employment. Even the courts are struggling to understand the legal and ethical issues of advancing technologies.

Neither they nor our policy makers have come to grips with how to protect our data and personal information, control cable and Internet monopolies, regulate advances in genetics and medicine, and tax the sharing economy that companies such as Uber and AirBnb inhabit. How are policy makers going to grapple with entire industries' disruptions in periods that are shorter than election cycles? The industrial age lasted a century, and its consequent changes have happened over generations. Now we have startups in Silicon Valley shaking up bedrock industries such as cable and broadcasting, hotels, and transportation.

The writing is clearly on the wall about what lies ahead. Yet even the most brilliant economists -- and futurists -- don't know what to do about it.

In his debate with me, Kurzweil said: "Automation always eliminates more jobs than it creates if you only look at the circumstances narrowly surrounding the automation. That's what the Luddites saw in the early 19th century in the textile industry in England. The new jobs came from increased prosperity and new industries that were not seen." Kurzweil's key argument was that just as we could not predict that types of jobs that were created, we can't predict what is to come.

Kurzweil is right, but the problem is that no matter what the jobs of the future are, they will surely require greater skill and education -- robots can do all the grunt work. Manufacturers who want to bring production back already complain that they can't find enough skilled workers in the U.S. for their automated factories. Technology companies that write the software also complain about shortages of workers with the skills that they need. We won't be able to retrain the majority of the workforce fast enough to take the new jobs in emerging industries. During the industrial revolution, it was the younger generations who were trained -- not the older workers.

The only solution that I see is a shrinking work week. We may perhaps be working for 10 to 20 hours a week instead of the 40 for which we do today. And with the prices of necessities and of what we today consider luxury goods dropping exponentially, we may not need the entire population to be working. There is surely a possibility for social unrest because of this; but we could also create the utopian future we have long dreamed of, with a large part of humanity focused on creativity and enlightenment.

Regardless, at best we have another 10 to 15 years in which there is a role for humans. The number of available jobs will actually increase in the U.S. and Europe before it decreases. China is out of time because it has a manufacturing-based economy, and those jobs are already disappearing. Ironically, China is accelerating this demise by embracing robotics and 3D printing. As manufacturing comes back to the U.S., new factories need to be built, robots need to be programmed, and new infrastructure needs to be developed. To install new hardware and software on existing cars to make them self-driving, we will need many new auto mechanics. We need to manufacture the new medical sensors, install increasingly efficient solar panels, and write new automation software.

So the future is very bright for some countries in the short term, and in the long term is uncertain for all. The only certainty is that much change lies ahead that no one really knows how to prepare for.

Home Depot's Latest Product Could Save You From Having To Go To Home Depot Again

Tue, 2014-07-22 09:30
The latest item to hit the shelves of Home Depot has the potential to solve one of biggest annoyances of do-it-yourself home repair: having to go to the hardware store in the first place.

Earlier this month, the world's largest home improvement chain announced the start of a pilot program to sell MakerBots, a type of professional-grade 3-D printing machine, in a dozen stores following a three-month period of online-only sales. The MakerBot printers, which range from a compact $1,375 model to a high-end $2,899 version, went on sale July 14 in Chicago and New York City-area stores, as well as Home Depot locations throughout California.

"As we were thinking about a partnership with MakerBot, we're always looking for new innovation," Joe Downey, Home Depot's online merchant for tools, told HuffPost by phone. "It's really about bringing about new innovation to customers."

3-D printed nuts and bolts from a MakerBot machine.

3-D printers can whip up everything from vagina selfies to handguns, but Home Depot envisions its customers using the MakerBots for decidedly more practical applications.

"Imagine a world where you can 3-D print replacement parts and use 3-D printing as an integral part of design and building work," MakerBot CEO Bre Pettis said in a statement.

In demonstration kiosks at the 12 pilot locations, Home Depot employees can demonstrate for customers how to print items like replacement parts and product prototypes, CBS reports.

While a MakerBot can, in theory, churn out many of the same items that people go to Home Depot to buy, the retailer doesn't seem worried about 3-D printing itself into obsolescence.

"We're comfortable with the partnership," Downey said, noting that customers have "economies of scale to consider." In other words, a MakerBot owner would be unlikely to print all her own screws or bolts for a large project.

Besides, said Pettis of the current fleet of MakerBot printers, "You can't use it as a hammer."

Downey said customers typically use the printers for personalization projects, like a Chicago father who Downey said purchased a MakerBot to print custom furniture for his daughter's dollhouse.

Users can print tools like this adjustable wrench with a MakerBot.

The current generation of 3-D printers are still relatively slow -- printing an item the size of a Lego brick can take roughly half an hour -- and customers would still need to go to a store to purchase the (often costly) raw materials.

"Ten years from now, it will be quite common for people to have 3-D printers in their homes," Tim Shepherd, an analyst with the U.K.-based research firm Canalys, told Bloomberg last week.

In addition to Home Depot, companies like Amazon, Staples and Dell have joined the ranks of 3-D printer retailers.

Touted as a "second industrial revolution," 3-D printing comprises a $3 billion industry that has grown 600 percent in the past decade, Forbes reports.