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JANUARY 13, 2013

WARRIOR POSES


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01.13.13 #31 CONTENTS

Enter POINTERS: Newspaper Death Threats ... Will NBC Stick by Trump? MOVING IMAGE Q&A: The Office’s Resident Grump

Voices

WARRIOR POSES Yoga, military style. BY DAVID WOOD

GEORGE HOBICA: 17 Things Your Flight Attendant Won’t Tell You JASON LINKINS: ‘Psychopaths’ Hijack Debt Ceiling Ritual JANELL BURLEY HOFMANN: Your iPhone Contract, With Love, Mom. QUOTED

ANARCHY IN THE CLASSROOM Where students rule! BY LUCAS KAVNER

Exit ART: From Office Space to Erotica: An International POV TV: 10 Reasons to Love It in 2013

FROM TOP: FLICKR/THE U.S. ARMY

TASTE TEST: The Best Cheap Beer Brands TFU

GO GO GADGETS Your next gotta-have-it device from CES.

BY JASON GILBERT

FROM THE EDITOR: Yoga Warriors ON THE COVER: Photo Illustration

for Huffington by Troy Dunham


LETTER FROM THE EDITOR

HUFFINGTON 01.13.13

Yoga Warriors N THIS WEEK’S issue, David Wood writes about a tool increasingly used to help veterans confront the many challenges waiting for them when they return home from war zones: yoga. There’s a growing consensus among military doctors, researchers, and veterans themselves, that conventional treatments aren’t always enough to help vets navigate the consequences of PTSD — from unemployment and domestic violence to substance abuse,

ART STREIBER

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anxiety, and suicide. As Wood puts it, “Once dismissed as mere acrobatics with incense, yoga has been found to help ease the pain, stiffness, anger, night terrors, memory lapses, anxiety and depression that often afflict wounded warriors.” The embrace of yoga — especially among onetime skeptics in “hard-core military circles” — is a step forward in our efforts to give veterans the care they need and deserve. It’s also in line with the latest research and thinking about the destructive force of stress in our lives. The adrenaline-fueled hyper-vigilance that’s

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LETTER FROM THE EDITOR

so vital to our soldiers in combat zones becomes, for many, a nightmare of anxiety that makes it difficult to function when they come back home. That was the case for Sgt. Senio Martz, a 27-year-old Marine who was knocked unconscious by a roadside bomb when leading his squad through southern Afghanistan in 2011. Today, yoga relieves him from the need to closely monitor his surroundings during the day — an obsession that was also keeping him up at night. “Last night after yoga, I had a good sleep,” he says. “That’s a place I haven’t been in a long, long time.” Pentagon and Department of Veterans Affairs researchers have found that yoga’s stretching, breathing techniques and meditation can help calm the part of the brain that the stresses of war kicks into a state of hyper-arousal. And more and more yoga teachers are bringing these practices to the vets who need them. Robin Carnes, who helped develop a program called iRest, found that meditation helps draw patients’ attention inward, away from out-

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side stresses. She also founded “Warriors at Ease,” which trains and certifies yoga teachers to bring calming yoga practices to even more soldiers in need. As Wood writes, using yoga to help returning veterans isn’t as surprising as it might seem. “After all, yoga — a Sanskrit word Yoga meaning to “join” or dates back “unite” — dates back to 3,000 B.C., to 3,000 B.C., and its and its basic basic techniques were techniques used in the 12th cenwere used tury when Samurai in the 12th warriors prepared for century battle with Zen mediwhen Samurai tation.” As more and warriors more skeptics are conprepared for vinced, and as yoga battle with Zen becomes further ingrained in our military meditation.” hospitals, that means more veterans will be making deep breathing and Downward Dog part of their recovery regimens.

ARIANNA


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CHUCK 1 HAGEL TO FACE TOUGH FIGHT

President Obama nominated moderate Republican and former Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel as secretary of defense this week. “Chuck understands that war is not an abstraction ... It is something that we do only when it is necessary,” Obama said. But Republicans have signaled that the Vietnam War vet will face a tough confirmation battle. “I don’t know what his management experience is regarding the Pentagon — little, if any,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told CNN. “So I think it’s an incredibly controversial choice, and it looks like the second term of President Obama is going to be an in-your-face term.” Critics of Hagel’s nomination have cited his positions on Israel and gay rights and his criticism of the Iraq War.


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POINTERS

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NEWSPAPER EMPLOYEES RECEIVE DEATH THREATS

Staff members of the Journal News are being threatened after publishing a map with names and addresses of local gun permit owners. The writer of the article told The New York Times: “The people have as much of a right to know who owns guns in their communities as gun owners have to own weapons.”

MORTGAGE COMPANIES FORKING OVER $8.5 BILLION Ten mortgage companies have agreed to pay $8.5 billion to settle homeowners’ claims that the companies mismanaged their loans, in some cases pushing them into foreclosure. The deal replaces the Independent Foreclosure Review, which would have provided homeowners with a third-party review, and seems to acknowledge the program’s failure. Authorities say the new deal will provide aid “significantly more quickly.”

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GABRIELLE GIFFORDS, MARK KELLY START GUN CONTROL INITIATIVE

On the second anniversary of the Tucson, Ariz., shooting that killed six and gravely wounded Gabrielle Giffords, the former congresswoman and her husband created a political action committee, Americans for Responsible Solutions, to help prevent gun violence. “We can’t just hope that the last shooting tragedy will prevent the next,” Giffords and Kelly wrote in a USA Today op-ed. “Achieving reforms to reduce gun violence and prevent mass shootings will mean matching gun lobbyists in their reach and resources.”


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WATCH OUT, DONALD

Donald Trump may want to avoid making waves as we settle in to the new year. NBC chief Bob Greenblatt took a moment at the Television Critics Association press tour to address the Apprentice star, saying the network would be watching him. “He has his political belief system but I really don’t think what he’s doing in his personal life is going to corrupt what he’s doing on the show,” Greenblatt said. “That said, if he becomes somehow hurtful or says or does things that cross a line, we would figure out what to do about that.”

STUDENT SUSPENDED OVER … WHAT?

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An eighth grader in Vietnam has been suspended for a year because of a Facebook post, the AP reported. The student, who posted a parody of a speech by revolutionary leader Ho Chi Minh, said it was “just for fun.” She joked about never taking tests again and included language from one of the leader’s speeches about resisting French rule, according to statecontrolled media.

THAT’S VIRAL BIEBER TAKES A HIT

A selection of the week’s most talked-about stories. HEADLINES TO VIEW FULL STORIES

THE WORLD’S MOST LOYAL CAT

YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO GIVE A COP THE FINGER

THIS IS ONE WAY TO GET YOUR KID OUTSIDE

MADONNA TAKES A TUMBLE


Q&A

FROM TOP: AP PHOTO/MATT SAYLES; BYRON COHEN/NBC/NBCU PHOTO BANK VIA GETTY IMAGES

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Angela Kinsey on Parenting With Her Office Ex-Husband “I’m really fortunate because my ex and I are really good friends, and I talk to him every day ... I feel like we really do have a partnership ... like I have someone who gets my back there.”

Above: Kinsey, 41, at the Screen Actors Guild Awards in 2012. Below: Kinsey (left), Oscar Nunez and Jenna Fischer in season 9 of The Office.

FOR THE FULL INTERVIEW, VISIT HUFFPOST LIVE


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The Week in Photos From South Korea to the Vatican, ahead find our selections of this week’s most compelling images. Bnei Brak, Israel 01.01.2013

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The body of Rabbi Abraham Jacob Friedman, leader of the Sadigura Hasidic dynasty, is carried by ultra Orthodox Jewish men during his funeral.


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Prague, Czech Republic 12.27.2012 Female gorilla Kijivu holds her newborn baby, born Dec. 22 at the Prague Zoo.

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Hong Kong, China 01.01.2013 People attend a New Year’s Day rally to express their support for Hong Kong’s Chief Executive CY Leung prior to a demonstration by tens of thousands of protesters calling for his resignation.

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Melbourne, Australia 01.03.2013 Jershon Witehira jumps into the water at St. Kilda Beach during a heatwave. Temperatures soared past 100 degrees Fahrenheit as Australia encountered its high fire danger season.

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Hwacheon-Gun, South Korea 01.05.2013 Anglers cast lines for mountain trout into a frozen river during an ice fishing competition at the Hwacheon Sancheoneo Ice Festival, an annual event attracting thousands of visitors.

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Islamabad, Pakistan 01.03.2013 Sadia Mukhteya, 12, reads in front of the class at a school in a slum on the outskirts of Islamabad, where gunmen killed several female teachers and aid workers in an ambush on a van carrying workers home from a community center.

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Vatican City, Vatican 01.07.2013 Pope Benedict XVI delivers his annual “State of the World” address to accredited ambassadors at the Regia Hall, appealing for an end to the conflict in Syria.

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VLADIMIR RYS PHOTOGRAPHY VIA GETTY IMAGES

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Thessaloniki, Greece 01.06.2013 A Greek vicar holds a crucifix as young men prepare to jump into the cold sea during the Greek Orthodox celebration of the Epiphany, the feast day that traditionally commemorates Jesus’ baptism in the River Jordan.

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Taunton, England 01.07.2013 A gentleman watches the action from the center of Taunton racecourse with his dog Daisy.

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Aleppo, Syria 01.06.2013 Syrian men leave the old city of Aleppo as the civil war continues into the New Year, with an estimated 60,000 people dead since it began in March of 2011.

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New York, New York 01.01.2013 People celebrate as the ball drop rings in the new year in Times Square, where approximately one million people gathered for the festivities.

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Birmingham, England 01.05.2013 Elvis tribute artist Pat David Bishop poses as he waits to perform during the European Elvis Championships, a three-day competition from which a winner will go on to compete in the King of the World Elvis Tribute Artist World Championships in Memphis, Tenn., in August.

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Voices

GEORGE HOBICA

HUFFINGTON 01.13.13

GRAHAM MONRO/GM PHOTOGRAPHICS/GETTY IMAGES

17 Things Your Flight Attendant Won’t Tell You EVER WONDER what your flight attendant really thinks of you? What they’d tell you if they had the nerve? Or weren’t afraid of being fired? What deep, dark secrets would they reveal about their jobs? I have a number of friends who work as flight attendants. One of them recently retired after 20 years flying for the most storied name in commercial aviation, while others work for less glam-

orous domestic U.S. airlines. I asked them what they’d tell their passengers if they could tell them anything at all, or what secrets they’d reveal only if granted complete anonymity. All I can say is that these people do not represent every single flight attendant in the skies, so if you’re a flight attendant yourself, please hold your fire and don’t shoot the messenger. But I didn’t make this stuff up. What you read here may shock you, or make you laugh, I’m not sure which.

George Hobica is a syndicated travel journalist


Voices 1. You know that coffee you ordered? It’s actually decaf even though you asked for regular. We’d rather that you sit back, relax and fall asleep so you don’t bother us too much. Our airline sent around a memo wondering why the decaf supplies were going so fast, noting that decaf costs more than regular coffee. 2. When we “arm” the doors on your aircraft, each flight attendant checks the work of his colleague at the opposite door. You’ve heard it a million times: “arm doors and cross check.” Did you hear “crotchcheck?” It wasn’t your imagination. We get silly sometimes. And yes, despite all the cross checking — maybe because we’re checking crotches instead — once in a great while we screw up and we forget to arm the doors, which means the emergency slides won’t automatically deploy if needed in an emergency. We can get fired for that. 3. Our airline used to pay us when we showed up for duty at the airport. That was eons ago. Then we got paid our measly hourly wage when the cabin doors closed. Then it was when the plane’s brakes were released. Now we get paid only when the wheels

GEORGE HOBICA

HUFFINGTON 01.13.13

leave the ground (“wheels up” in airline parlance). We don’t even get paid when we’re taxiing! There can sometimes be hours of delay between the time we show up for work and when we’re airborne. Different airlines have different policies, but it’s a way for them to save money. So when we greet you

Please don’t ask me what we’re flying over. I’m as clueless as you are. I am not flying the plane.” at the door, we do that for free. When we serve you your pre-flight drink, we do that for free, too. No wonder our smiles are so fake. 4. If a flight is late, the airline might have to pay us overtime. If the flight is going to be late anyway, we’ve been known to delay it even further in order make sure overtime kicks in, which on our airline means up to double the hourly pay. We might find some minor defect in the aircraft or use some other ruse to make up for the money we don’t get paid waiting for take off. 5. Yes, we can upgrade you to business class or first class after the airplane’s doors close. No, we


Voices don’t do it very often, partly because on some airlines we have to file a report explaining why we did it, partly because there has to be a meal for you and partly because the forward cabins are often full. Who do we upgrade? Not the slob who’s dressed in a dirty tank top. It helps if you’re extremely nice, well dressed, pregnant, very tall, good looking, one of our friends or all of the above. 6. Please don’t take your computer and a newspaper into the lav. It’s gross and it means you’re going to be occupying it longer than you should. 7. Please don’t ask me what we’re flying over. I’m as clueless as you are. I am not flying the plane. 8. Please don’t do deep knee bends in my galley while I’m trying to work. You won’t get deep vein thrombosis on a flight between Houston and Austin. 9. Jiggling your glass of ice at me won’t make me dash to the galley for a refill. In fact, it makes me want to scream. 10. When I ask you what you’d like to drink and you ask me “Well, what do you have?” I want to answer “Not a lot of time.” But you wouldn’t like that. 11. I want to yank your head-

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phones off your head after I’ve asked you what you want to drink and you’ve responded “huh?” three times. After the fourth time I just move on or give you a Coke. 12. Yes, we do ask the captain to leave the seatbelt sign on long

Yes, we do ask the captain to leave the seatbelt sign on long after the turbulence has ended so we can serve in the aisles.” after the turbulence has ended so we can serve in the aisles. 13. On night flights, we sometimes hold off on meal service as long as we can so that you’ll be asleep and we’ll have less to do. 14. All male flight attendants are not gay, even if they might look like they are. 15. We really don’t like children. Not just your children, children period. Why do you think we chose a career where we spend half our lives away from home? 16. If you poke me, I’m going to poke you back. Harder! 17. Don’t ask me where you can shove your bag. I’ve been waiting 12 years to tell you where you can shove it.


Voices

JASON LINKINS

HUFFINGTON 01.13.13

WIN MCNAMEE/GETTY IMAGES

‘Dangerous Psychopaths’ Hijack Debt Ceiling Ritual

O

ne of the things that I hope to successfully convey as Congress proceeds from the pooch punt that averted that “fiscal cliff” (that Congress created so that they could heroically avert it) to the fiscal crisis moment slated for March of this year, it’s that debt ceiling hostage takers are dangerous psychopaths. Yes, we can trace instances of Congresscritters shaking the chandeliers on the debt ceiling going back many presidential terms — heck, there was once a senator from Illinois named Barack Obama who troubled the Bush administration over it. It was a dumb idea then, as it is now. ¶ But what’s changed to make things worse is that this is no longer mere idle talk and procedural bravado — there are people in Congress who truly

Jason Linkins is a reporter at The Huffington Post, covering media and politics


Voices see default as an ideal alternative to having to concede any points in what should be a rational process of negotiation and deal-making. (And unfortunately for everyone, a key enabler to this madness has been that former Illinois senator, who opened the door to negotiating over the debt ceiling back when he was still hopeful of a “grand bargain” on the debt.) But the enabling isn’t just happening in Congress, it’s happening in the media, as well, which is why another thing I would like to make clear is that those who see debt ceiling lunacy as a legitimate side in a debate or just one more interesting point of view among many are just as culpable in what could be a pending economic calamity as the lunatics themselves. We should not be talking about a “debate” over the debt ceiling, or portraying a rise in the debt ceiling as a thing that Democrats “want” or are bargaining to obtain. I require oxygen to continue respiring. Oxygen is not something I “want” or am bargaining to obtain. Give me oxygen right now or I die and that’s that. The rise in the debt ceiling is similarly necessary, because Congress has already agreed to spend a certain amount of money,

JASON LINKINS

and according to this dumb ritual, must now affirm their intentions to fulfill their previously agreed-to obligations. This is not a matter for debate — the country and the economy needs the debt ceiling rise, full stop. Henry Blodget, in taking up the cause of the trillion-dollar platinum coin, similarly characterizes the entire notion of having a “debate” over the debt ceiling as hopelessly silly-slash-bordering on bonkers, and he does so in a way that’s admirably stark and accurate: “To be clear: The “trilliondollar coin” is a ridiculous idea… But the problem is that some of the people who have been elected to lead this country have revealed themselves to be unserious, irresponsible people. How? By threatening to turn the United States of America into a deadbeat nation that refuses to pay its bills.” It wasn’t always this way. But as The New Republic’s Alec MacGillis explains, as idle talk over debt ceiling hostake-taking evolved, seemingly overnight, into a more serious and dangerous psychosis, the media coverage has shifted in reverse. Where the hostage-taking was once portrayed properly, as “brazen and unprecedented,” the media now gives the hostage-takers a pass.

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Voices And since the “fiscal cliff” was “averted” and the media has shifted focus to the next big battle, discussion of the debt ceiling dead-enders and their future plans has only gotten more blithe and unconcerned. MacGillis provides a fine example of what’s been steeping in the Beltway brain since New Years Day — this passage from the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza that treats debtceiling hostage taking as a perfectly natural and polite thing to do, never registering even a scintilla of shock over the implication of using the threat to tank the global economy as a bargaining tactic: “Make no mistake: No deal on the fiscal cliff was a political loser for Republicans; this is an issue they needed to get off the table in order to find better political ground — debt ceiling — to make their stand.” This is like saying, “Now that the issue of what to wear to brunch has been settled, we can now proceed to strip naked and slice off our own genitals with a rusty paring knife,” and never even twitching at the hot, molten insanity of the idea that was just expressed. MacGillis writes (and I emphasize): “So: a threat to plunge the nation’s [sic] into default and with

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HUFFINGTON 01.13.13

it imperil the nation and world’s economy, seen only a year and a half ago as the political equivalent of a nuclear option, is now viewed as ‘better political ground.’ What to make of this? The shift in mindset is surely in part a function of basic human nature: our

Give me oxygen right now or I die and that’s that. The rise in the debt ceiling is similarly necessary.” remarkable ability — for good or ill — to adapt ourselves to new realities. More than that, though, it is a function of that far more Beltway-unique tendency, to report and comment on politics and governance as pure gamesmanship in such a way that conveys savvy but not judgment. And if it’s all a sport, who’s to object if one side has radically shifted the goalposts? Good for them, if they can get away with it. And after all, the higher the stakes in the clash, the better the story.” Some people just want to watch the world burn, and some people just want to get that story first. They’re all dangerous.


Voices

JANELL BURLEY HOFMANN

HUFFINGTON 01.13.13

GETTY IMAGES/FLICKR RF

Your iPhone Contract, With Love, Mom. DEAR GREGORY, Merry Christmas! You are now the proud owner of an iPhone. Hot Damn! You are a good and responsible 13-year-old boy and you deserve this gift. But with the acceptance of this present comes rules and regulations. Please read

through the following contract. I hope that you understand it is my job to raise you into a well-rounded, healthy young man who can function in the world and coexist with technology, not be ruled by it. Failure to comply with the following list will result in termination of your iPhone ownership. I love you madly and look forward to sharing several million

Janell Burley Hofmann is a writer and community activist


Voices text messages with you in the days to come. 1. It is my phone. I bought it. I pay for it. I am loaning it to you. Aren’t I the greatest? 2. I will always know the password. 3. If it rings, answer it. It is a phone. Say hello, use your manners. Do not ever ignore a phone call if the screen reads “Mom” or “Dad.” Not ever. 4. Hand the phone to one of your parents promptly at 7:30 p.m. every school night and every weekend night at 9:00 p.m. It will be shut off for the night and turned on again at 7:30 a.m. If you would not make a call to someone’s land line, wherein their parents may answer first, then do not call or text. Listen to those instincts and respect other families like we would like to be respected. 5. It does not go to school with you. Have a conversation with the people you text in person. It’s a life skill. *Half days, field trips and after school activities will require special consideration. 6. If it falls into the toilet, smashes on the ground, or vanishes into thin air, you are responsible for the replacement costs or repairs. Mow a lawn,

JANELL BURLEY HOFMANN

babysit, stash some birthday money. It will happen, you should be prepared. 7. Do not use this technology to lie, fool, or deceive another human being. Do not involve yourself in conversations that are hurtful to others. Be a good friend first or stay the hell out of the crossfire. 8. Do not text, email or say anything through this device you would not say in person.

It does not go to school with you. Have a conversation with the people you text in person. It’s a life skill.” 9. Do not text, email or say anything to someone that you would not say out loud with their parents in the room. Censor yourself. 10. No porn. Search the web for information you would openly share with me. If you have a question about anything, ask a person — preferably me or your father. 11. Turn it off, silence it, put it away in public — especially in a restaurant, at the movies or while speaking with another human being. You are not a rude person; do

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Voices not allow the iPhone to change that. 12. Do not send or receive pictures of your private parts or anyone else’s private parts. Don’t laugh. Someday you will be tempted to do this despite your high intelligence. It is risky and could ruin your teenage/ college/adult life. It is always a bad idea. Cyberspace is vast and more powerful than you. And it is hard to make anything of this magnitude disappear — including a bad reputation. 13. Don’t take a zillion pictures and videos. There is no need to document everything. Live your experiences. They will be stored in your memory for eternity. 14. Leave your phone home sometimes and feel safe and secure in that decision. It is neither alive nor an extension of you. Learn to live without it. Be bigger and more powerful than FOMO (fear of missing out). 15. Download music that is new or classic or different than the millions of your peers that listen to the same exact stuff. Your generation has access to music like never before in history. Take advantage of that gift. Expand your horizons. 16. Play a game with words or

JANELL BURLEY HOFMANN

puzzles or brain teasers every now and then. 17. Keep your eyes up. See the world happening around you. Stare out a window. Listen to the birds. Take a walk. Talk to a stranger. Wonder without googling. 18. You will mess up. I will take away your phone. We will sit down and talk about it. We will start over again. You and I, we are always learning. I am on your

You will mess up. I will take away your phone. We will sit down and talk about it. We will start over again.” team. We are in this together. It is my hope that you can agree to these terms. Most of the lessons listed here do not just apply to the iPhone, but to life. You are growing up in a fast and ever-changing world. It is exciting and enticing. Keep it simple every chance you get. Trust your powerful mind and giant heart above any machine. I love you. I hope you enjoy your awesome new iPhone. xoxoxo, Mom

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CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: MARIO TAMA/GETTY IMAGES; AP PHOTO/NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR’S OFFICE, TIM LARSEN; GETTY IMAGES/TETRA IMAGES RF; AP PHOTO/ANDREW MEDICHINI

Voices

QUOTED

“Attempting to understand others is not a threat. It is, in fact, the opposite.”

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“There is only one group to blame for the continued suffering of these innocent victims: the House majority and their speaker, John Boehner.”

—New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R)

lit into House Speaker John Boehner and House Republicans last Wednesday for not holding a vote on a Hurricane Sandy relief bill

—HuffPost commenter MountPanic,

on a high school senior’s suspension after writing a poem about the Sandy Hook shooting

“It was a 900seat complex created to promote arts and culture... $10 says it was buried by conservatives.”

— HuffPost commenter EricHeroux,

on the discovery of an ancient Roman arts center from 123 A.D.

“The number one piece of advice to divorce proof your marriage.... don’t believe your marriage is divorce proof.”

—HuffPost commenter thinkingwomanmillstone, on how to avoid divorce


Voices

QUOTED

The day guns are authorized in my kids school, is the day my children begin homeschooling.

—HuffPost commenter kvrijmoet,

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: GETTY IMAGES; MARK WILSON/GETTY IMAGES; JASON MERRITT/GETTY IMAGES

on a teacher bringing a loaded gun to school due to fear after the Newtown shooting

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“If I were president, I’d use the 14th Amendment, which says that the debt of the United States will always be paid.”

—House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi

offered her strongest endorsement to-date of the 14th Amendment option on CBS’ Face the Nation

“When I’m on a crowded bus and someone says something bad to me, in my heart I want to give him a tight slap, but I’ve learned to ignore it. What’s the use?”

—Rashmi Gogia,

“Not to sound rude, but [acting] is stupid.”

—Jennifer Lawrence

to Vanity Fair, on responding to those who ask how she remains levelheaded

a 35-year-old receptionist in a New Delhi law office to the AP, in light of a brutal assault case in India that spurred men and women to demand that authorities create a safer environment for women


SHUTTERSTOCK, ILLUSTRATION BY MARTIN GEE

01.13.13 #31 FEATURES

WARRIOR POSES ANARCHY IN THE CLASSROOM GO GO GADGETS


TRAINED TO KILL, LEARNING TO BREATHE

WWW.ARMY.MIL

B y D AV I D W O O D

OR A DECADE, troops returning from war with mental and physical trauma have been dosed with cocktails of numbing drugs and corralled into talk-therapy sessions, often with civilian clinicians who have no experience in combat and its aftereffects. ¶ But alarmingly high suicide rates among veterans, as well as domestic violence, substance abuse and unemployment, suggested to some military doctors, combat commanders and researchers that conventional treatments aren’t always enough. ¶ Now, one proven, effective treatment is gaining wide acceptance within hard-core military circles: yoga.


WARRIORS POSE

Once dismissed as mere acrobatics with incense, yoga has been found to help ease the pain, stiffness, anger, night terrors, memory lapses, anxiety and depression that often afflict wounded warriors. “It’s cleansing — I really feel refreshed,” Marine Sgt. Senio Martz said after finishing a recent yoga session. A stocky 27-year-old, Martz was leading his nine-man squad on a foot patrol through the lush poppy fields and rock outcroppings of the Kajaki district of southern Afghanistan 20 months ago when a roadside bomb knocked him unconscious and killed or wounded the Marines under his command. The blast put an end to his plans for a career in the Marine Corps. It also left him hyper-vigilant, a symptom of post-traumatic stress disorder, and carrying the joint burdens of guilt and shame: As a squad leader, it had been his responsibility to bring his nine Marines home safe. “It’s a feeling of regret — failure — that really affects me now,” he said. “I didn’t see the signs that could have alerted me to warn them to get away.”

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He stared at the floor and then looked up with a tight smile. “I go on living where their lives have ended. I can’t help them now.” Yoga gives him relief from the acute anxiety that forces him to listen to and sight-sweep every-

“I KNEW ANECDOTALLY THAT YOGA HELPED — AND NOW WE HAVE CLINICAL PROOF OF ITS IMPACT ON THE BRAIN, AND ON THE HEART.” thing around him, constantly checking the doors and windows, always on alert, poised for danger, with no break. It is hard for him to let go. “I gotta push myself to try some of these techniques,” he admitted. “But last night after yoga, I had a good sleep. That’s a place I haven’t been in a long, long time.” Martz’s experience is backed up by reams of scientific studies, including research funded by the Pentagon and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Researchers have demonstrated that traumasensitive yoga, which focuses on stretching, breathing techniques


FLICKR/THE NATIONAL GUARD

Kocian began teaching because soldiers expressed great interest when they discovered he was an avid student of yoga.


FLICKR/THE NATIONAL GUARD

WARRIOR POSES

and meditation, can help patients regain their inner balance, calming that part of the brain that has become hyper-aroused under severe stress. Trauma or prolonged stress can cause a malfunction of the parasympathetic nervous system, researchers say. That’s the part of the brain that enables the body to relax, easing pain and even helping unblock digestive systems — often a problem for wounded troops who get high doses of medication and not enough exercise. In war zones, researchers have found, this parasympathetic nervous system often becomes “frozen” as the body gears up for

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danger by injecting adrenaline into the bloodstream, causing rapid breathing and pulse and hyper-vigilance — the “fight or flight” response. That’s good and necessary selfpreservation in times of peril that helps keep troops alert and alive. Back home, however, that hyper-vigilance is out of place and can cause insomnia, anxiety and outbursts of anger. Returning warriors with PTSD become dependent on drugs or alcohol “because they have no other way to calm themselves down,” said Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, a clinician and researcher who has studied PTSD since the 1970s.

Spc. David Kocian teaches a yoga class at Camp Adder, Iraq.


COURTESY OF ROBIN CARNES

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Not all yoga helps. Some forms of yoga are used by special forces, for instance, to build muscle power and flexibility. But yoga teachers working with wounded troops have developed trauma-sensitive forms of yoga, including a technique called iRest. This adaptation uses meditation techniques in a soft and secure setting to reactivate the parasympathetic nervous system by drawing the patient’s attention and consciousness inward, rather than focusing on stress and the terrors that dwell outside, said yoga teacher Robin Carnes. For instance, Carnes has learned that when she is giving a class to troops with hypervigilance, like Martz, she should first open all the closet doors and drawers, so that her patients don’t spend all their time fretting about what might be inside. In 2006 Carnes, a veteran yoga practitioner and teacher, began working with wounded troops at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, now located outside Washington, D.C. There, she was an instructor in a Pentagonfunded program to examine the feasibility of using iRest yoga nidra as an adjunct treatment for PTSD symptoms. After the study

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was completed, she was hired as the yoga and iRest instructor for a Pentagon-funded multidisciplinary treatment program for patients with acute PTSD and TBI. She later established an organization called Warriors at Ease to train and certify teachers to use the techniques with the military. Drawing from traditional yoga, trauma-sensitive yoga teaches patients to firmly plant their feet and activate their leg muscles in poses that drain energy and tension from the neck and shoulders, where they naturally gather, causing headaches and neck pain. “The goal here is to move ten-

Robin Carnes, a yoga instructor, used iRest yoga as a treatment for PTSD for the Pentagon.


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“WE’RE ALL HEAD INJURIES!” sion away from where it builds up when you are stressed, and focus it on the ground so you feel more balanced and connected,” Carnes said. When she started at Walter Reed, she said, she was working with eight wounded troops with physical and mental health injuries. Some hadn’t slept for more than two hours at a time, for years, she said. “They were immediately like, ‘I can’t do this, it won’t work, you have no idea what’s going on in my brain.’ I’d say, ‘Just try it, it’s helped others.’ And probably because they were desperate — nothing else had worked, including drugs — they did try it. And I saw, sometimes within the first day, they started to relax. Snoring! They’d tell me, ‘I don’t know what happened, but I feel better.’” One of her patients was struggling with outbursts of violent anger, a common effect of PTSD, and had gotten into raging arguments with his wife. Two weeks into regular yoga classes, he went home one day “and his wife lit into him and he could feel a con-

frontation coming on,” Carnes said. “He told me that he’d taken a deep breath and told his wife he was going upstairs to meditate. And that was the first time he’d been able to do that.” Practices like iRest and other forms of yoga are so clearly effective that now they are taught and used at dozens of military bases and medical centers — even at Little Creek Naval Amphibious Base in Norfolk, Va., home of the Navy SEALs, the branch of commandos who killed Osama bin Laden. “I knew anecdotally that yoga helped — and now we have clinical proof of its impact on the brain, and on the heart,” said retired Rear Adm. Tom Steffens, a decorated Navy SEAL commander and yoga convert. Within the military services and the Department of Veterans Affairs, he said, “I see it growing all the time.” Steffens, an energetic man with a booming voice, first tried yoga to deal with his torn bicep, an injury that surgery and medication hadn’t helped. He quickly became a convert, practicing yoga daily. Visiting with wounded SEALs a decade ago, he noticed that “the


COURTESY OF ANNIE OKERLIN

WARRIOR POSES

type of rehab they were doing was wonderful, but there was no inward focus on themselves — it was all about power as opposed to stretching and breathing.” Before long, Steffens had helped start a foundation, Exalted Warrior, that holds yoga classes for wounded troops and their families at the Portsmouth Naval Hospital in Virginia, the James A. Haley VA Medical Center in Tampa, Fla., and elsewhere. The military’s embrace of yoga shouldn’t be a surprise. After all, yoga — a Sanskrit word meaning to “join” or “unite” — dates back to 3,000 B.C., and its basic techniques were used in the 12th century when Samurai warriors prepared for battle with Zen meditation. Still, some old-timers are shocked to find combat Marines at Camp Lejeune, N.C. and amputees at James A. Haley VA Medical Center practicing their Downward Dog and deep breathing techniques. One early skeptic: Thomas S. Jones, a wiry retired Marine major general who likes to mask his love for Marines with a staccato parade-ground bark and a jut-jawed, prove-it approach to life. Some years ago Jones started inviting wounded Marines to an

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intense, six-day retreat at a camp in the mountains of Pennsylvania to help them figure out what to do with the rest of their lives, to set goals and start working toward them. He quickly found that the Marines, struggling with physical wounds and PTSD, had trouble focusing. Someone mentioned that yoga might help. “Well, we’ve tried some ideas that didn’t work out and we threw them away,” Jones said dismissively, “but we’ll try it.” And? “It has helped,” Jones told The Huffington Post in a slightly disbelieving voice. Yoga

Exalted Warrior Foundation teachers conduct adaptive yoga classes with wounded soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.


AP PHOTO/MARI DARR~WELCH

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has since become a centerpiece of the retreat, called Semper Fi Odyssey. “This whole idea of relaxation, there’s a lotta guys who can’t do hardly anything physical, can still do yoga. And there’s a lot of value in meditation.” The results, Jones and others have discovered, are indisputable. A study published earlier this year of 70 active-duty U.S. troops, then-based at Forward Operating Base Warrior, in Kirkuk, Iraq, found that daily yoga helped relieve anxiety, reduced irritability and improved sleep — even amid daily “gunfire

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and helicopter sounds.” Progressive relaxation, calming breathing and relaxation techniques “reduce physical, emotional, mental and even subconscious tension that characterizes PTSD,” according to retired Air Force Maj. Nisha N. Money, a physician who recently served as chief of fitness policy for the Air Force. “Guys with trauma — their center is out there,” said Annie Okerlin, flinging her arm outward. She’s a yoga expert who works with wounded warriors, families and staff therapists at the VA hospital in Tampa, Walter Reed and elsewhere. “What we do is gently and sweetly bring them back to their center, here,” she

Instructors work to guide veterans to find their “center,” helping them turn inward rather than focusing on the stressors outside.


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“I’M STRETCHING — EVEN THOUGH THAT LIMB IS NO LONGER THERE.” said, touching her chest. Much of her work is with amputees. “I always tell the guys, ‘Your brain still thinks your leg is there, so we are going to speak to your brain as if your limb IS still there,’’’ she said. “I tell them to flex the foot — spread your toes! — and the brain goes, ahhh, that feels good, I’m stretching — even though that limb is no longer there. It settles the brain down, because it’s doing its job, the blood flow increases, guys can feel their body again, the trauma fades. It’s beautiful!” Working at Walter Reed, she once came across a double, abovethe-knee amputee, who had been wounded by an IED. He was huddled in his hospital bed, his mother perched beside him on the edge of a chair, and for weeks he had refused to move, even for his physical therapy sessions. He admitted he was ashamed to be seen with his stumps twitching. Okerlin sat with him, leading him through some gentle breathing exercises. She could see him relax, and after

a few minutes he fell asleep. The next day he showed up for his physical therapy appointment to begin the healing. With partially-paralyzed patients, Okerlin often has them lie on their back, put their hands on their rib cage and feel their breathing. One patient told her he was amazed to find he could feel a rush of energy toward his legs even though he still had no sensation in his legs. Okerlin recently spent several days at a Semper Fi Odyssey retreat, teaching yoga and iRest to Marines with physical wounds, PTSD or traumatic brain injury. She has a warm and engaging style and works to establish a non-threatening environment in her sessions. “People who’ve been traumatized have lost their ability to feel secure,” she said. As the wounded Marines settled onto floor mats, she told them, “You can close your eyes if that feels comfortable, but I will have my eyes open all the time watching,” emphasizing that they are safe and can relax. “There’s no wrong way to do this,” she said. “Are there any


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head injuries here?” she asked, and a wiseguy in the class called out, “We’re ALL head injuries!” to general chuckles. At one point she had them on their backs, knees drawn up and held by their arms, a posture she tells them “massages the descending colon.” “This will help ensure you have that morning constitutional,” she told them cheerfully as they gently rocked back and forth. Soon she had them focusing all their attention on their breathing, urging them to feel how each inward and outward breath lightly traces their spine. “Now I’m going to turn the lights out,” she said softly, “in three, two … one. If you fall asleep, that’s fine. If you’re snoring too loudly, I will come by and touch you on your right shoulder.” On the mat next to Sgt. Martz were two Marines. One was Billy Wright, 49, who did two combat tours in Lebanon in 1983 and was later paralyzed from the chest down in a car wreck. He uses yoga breathing exercises to loosen up his muscles and joints that stiffen from long periods in his wheelchair. “Even lying on my back I can feel my hips flex,” he said. “Sitting in the chair, they get real tight and this loosens them up.”

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The other was 24-year-old Joshua Boyd from Dry Fork, Va., a Marine lance corporal who did two combat tours in Iraq and came home wounded, with PTSD and mild TBI. He lost a good friend, a fellow Marine, who was killed by an IED. “They had stuck it inside a culvert,” Boyd said. “I had just gotten to Iraq and didn’t have IED training and I didn’t know what to look for. I didn’t look where I should have. It was my fault.” After the blast, he said, he and his platoon collected the body parts. At night, Boyd often jackknifes awake, yelling and sweating, dreaming of an intense firefight he experienced in Iraq in 2007. During this recurring dream, his wife is there in the middle of the battle and his buddies have abandoned them both while insurgents are closing in on them. He can feel them sense his weakness. “I do have trouble sleeping,” he said sheepishly. During the long nights, he is often either deep in his nightmare, or terrified he is about to have it again. But yoga has helped change the way he sleeps and dreams. “Yesterday I did the iRest session. I fell asleep,” he said. “When I got done, I felt so much more energized. I haven’t felt like that for years.”


FREE FOR ALL!!! S, E L U R E TH E K A M TS N E D U T S , S E S S A WHERE L C IR E H PICK T

AND STUDY SEIN FELD


ON A RECENT WEDNESDAY MORNING at the Brooklyn Free School, a class was in session. Ten students, ranging in age from about 12 to 16, sat around a table having a heated debate about chemistry. And superpowers. “Those elements don’t really go together,” said one boy in a hoodie and glasses. “Or I don’t think they go together.” “But that would make it a good power,” another boy piped in. “Cause they’re all so different. It’d be awesome to get all those elements together in one guy.” “Maybe,” the boy in the hoodie replied. “Let’s say maybe.” This was “Chemistry: The Gathering,” a class where students were creating an “elemental” version of the popular card game,

BY L U C AS K AV N E R


ANDIE J. SCHOENFELD

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“Magic: The Gathering,” involving different characters with specific chemical powers. Its curriculum was approved by the students themselves, just like all of the classes at Brooklyn Free School, a completely democratic K-12 private school occupying four floors of a quaint brownstone in the Fort Greene neighborhood of Brooklyn. As the animated back-and-forth went on, the young teacher, or “advisor,” who could have been mistaken for a student, mostly sat quietly and listened. Occasionally he posed questions, but generally the students guided the discus-

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“THE VOLUME IS UNRESTRAINED. THE KIDS ARE LOUD. THERE’S A LOT OF DYED HAIR.” sion. They were running the show. At Brooklyn Free School, which is split up into an upper school (ages 11 to 18) and lower school (ages 4 to 11), everything works like this: The students make the rules, they pick their classes, and

The BFS champions democratic decision making by having students vote on issues that affect them.


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they don’t have to come if they don’t want. There are no tests, no mandatory homework, no grades on a transcript. If there’s an issue that needs to be raised, you can call a meeting and discuss it with the entire school. If you’re sick of “Chemistry: The Gathering,” you can get up and walk out, or head up to a lounge and read a book all day, as certain kids are wont to do. Some spend years on “independent study” projects of their own choosing, while others opt for another class, like Screenwriting, Architecture and Design, Dystopian Literature,  Serial Killers in Society, or Seinfeld Appreciation, a studentled class that started recently. The Brooklyn Free School is looked to as a beacon for what independent, democratic schools can offer, especially to students who previously struggled in public schools. It has led a resurgence in the movement in America overall, one that peaked in the early ’70s and then mostly died out with the Nixon administration. It’s also a model that has been widely criticized. Critics of the model say its completely structureless environment won’t prepare students for the real world, and that lower income students,

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who can’t afford outside tutors, will miss out on essential learning. Renowned education writer and researcher Jonathan Kozol said that American free schools in the late ’60s and early ’70s, catered too much to the white middle class, even going so far as to refer to them, in his book, Free Schools, as “a sandbox for the children of the SS guards at Auschwitz.” But Brooklyn Free School’s founding principal, Alan Berger, soft-spoken and blunt, said a primary mission is to create a diverse student body, economi-

Principal Alan Berger founded the Brooklyn Free School in 2004.


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cally and ethnically. Only 20 percent pay full tuition, he said, and many simply pay what they can. The student body, made up of 60 students, is 49 percent white, 30 percent black, 13 percent Hispanic, and 5 percent Asian. Berger used to work in business, before he grew tired of all the “mergers and acquisitions” and moved on to education. He worked in New York public schools for a while, as a teacher and administra-

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tor, before being turned off again, this time by the lack of creativity and choice available to teachers and students in that rigid system. Berger said that every student “finding their own way” is a key part of his free school philosophy now. One student, Oscar (all students’ names have been changed), a talkative upper school kid with an impressive vocabulary, found his path after a rocky start. He said his favorite classes were The Wire and Urban Studies, where students watched and discussed the TV show The Wire, and an-

Students in ”Chemistry: The Gathering” create an “elemental” version of the card game “Magic: The Gathering,” with characters that hold specific chemical powers.


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other involving the study of different voting patterns, where they analyzed the best restaurants in the area, and then went and ate at those restaurants. “I also liked this class where we made exact replicas of ourselves out of tape,” Oscar said. He loves talking about the school, although he said it’s hard to explain to his friends what he does all day. It also took him awhile, he said, to get acclimated to the free-for-all environment. “It’s easy to figure out how everything works, but to get used to how everything works is another story,” he said. “Some kids fit right in. For me it took more than a year. I was upstairs playing Minecraft all the time.” If you don’t force any set of rules or academic requirements, Oscar said, each student will discover his or her own path to success. “Kids that don’t want to do anything, for example, eventually they just say, ‘I’m going to start doing something,’” he said. “The key is to build a relationship. That’s what we try to do here.” “Oddly enough,” said Oscar, “It works every single time.” “Well,” Berger paused and laughed under his breath. “Mostly.”

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IS A ‘WIDE OPEN CLASSROOM’ FOR EVERYONE?

When Berger founded the Brooklyn Free School in 2004, inside a Methodist Church in Brooklyn’s Park Slope neighborhood, he wasn’t sure what would happen. His was the first free school in the New York City area since the last one, the Fifteenth Street School, closed in 1975. Would people come? Would they stay? Free schools in the U.S. in the late-1960s and early-1970s were a result of the “whole social upheaval going on at the time,” said

A younger student looks on during the school’s 2011 Science Fair.


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Ron Miller, author of Free Schools, Free People: Education and Democracy After the 1960s. These free schools were often in obscure locations with minimal resources, like abandoned dry cleaners, public parks and churches. “1972 was about the peak year, a sense that a real revolution was happening in education,” Miller said. “Not only were there these hundreds of independent free schools, but even in public education, people were pushing for open classrooms.” But that initial surge faded, quashed by the Nixon administration’s strict education policies, Miller said, and most of the schools closed. Now 30 years later, the movement is revving up again, though it remains mostly private in the United States. Education Revolution, a website of alternative education resources, lists more than 100 free schools. Most are in blue states, but some have spread into the red ones, like the Great Oak School in Spring, Texas, and the Farm School in Summertown, Tenn. In New York, Brooklyn Free School paved the way for the Manhattan Free School, which opened in 2008. There are other free schools all over the world, includ-

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ing Palestine, Indonesia and Egypt. Miller lamented that today’s American free schools still generally cater more to middle- and upper-middle-class students. He pointed to the Albany Free School, founded in 1969 and open since, as an anomaly, and one that future free schools should look to. The Albany Free School calls

“THIS IS THE FIRST SCHOOL WHERE SHE’S FELT FULLY COMFORTABLE TO BE HERSELF ” itself “the oldest inner-city independent alternative school in the United States,” and the Brooklyn Free School has adopted many of its policies. “What I think is happening is that as the system becomes ever more standardized, with more control at the top from government, corporations, another grassroots movement is coming,” Miller said. “What you’re seeing now with Brooklyn Free School and others is families and educators wanting to get out from under the thumb of


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this standardization agenda.” Miller said he understood the reticence from certain parents and educators to the free school philosophy. “A wide open free classroom” will not be the best environment for every student, he explained. But the principles behind the free school movement — the idea that every family blazes their own path for their children and each student discovers his or her own way of learning at their own pace — is an agenda that serves the student, he said. “So many kids going to these alternative schools have really thrived,” Miller said. “Because they’ve been freed from the rat race. They follow their own path. They’re happy. And that’s what this is about: not having to be successful in conventional terms.”

THE ‘SELF-ESTEEM INOCULATION’

Lily Mercogliano, a former student of the Albany Free School, has been on the Board of Trustees and has worked as an advisor at Brooklyn Free School since 2005. “Most people who went through the free school system certainly have an affection for it,” Mercogliano said. “They see what it can do.”

Isaac Graves, a former Albany Free School school student who now writes and researches free school programs extensively, said he took from his experience a startling, “legitimate passion to

The Brooklyn Free School’s annual Field Day, an event of outdoor games and races.


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learn,” and appreciated how few constraints there were on what he was allowed to study. He remembers being 13 and reading about acid rain, how it was killing all these fish in the Adirondacks, so he and a group of students decided to try and stop it. They became so passionate that they contacted Eliot Spitzer, who was attorney general and “fighting coal plants” at the time, and asked him to speak to students. They also brought in a government biologist. “Nobody told us to learn about these things,” Graves said. “We wanted to.” A sense of community is inherent in the free school movement. At Brooklyn Free School, if a parent or outside volunteer wants to teach a class, they can. There’s also quite a bit of volunteering. After Hurricane Sandy, many students have dedicated each Friday to gathering supplies and working at local Occupy Sandy depots. Kristan Morrison, an education professor at Radford University in Virginia and author of Free School Teaching, said she has been amazed at how well-rounded free school students are. She said many free school students often opt for a more stan-

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dardized high school education — mostly because of parents’ persuasion — but because of their free school “foundation,” they are more able to thrive there. “They learn quickly how to play the game, how to do what teachers expected, and picked up knowing

“SO MANY KIDS GOING TO THESE ALTERNATIVE SCHOOLS HAVE REALLY THRIVED, BECAUSE THEY’VE BEEN FREED FROM THE RAT RACE.”

how to be competitive,” Morrison said. “The harder game is how to be emotionally whole and emotionally healthy. I grew up thinking: this is the way the world is, this is the way I have to be. Whereas [free school] kids know there’s another choice. They might want to play this game, or not.” Free schools offer a sort of “self esteem inoculation,” Morrison


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said, where if someone thinks well of you, then you thrive. She said she wishes this notion was more central in inner-city schools, where some teachers are often despondent and kids are caught in “bubbles” that they never burst. “Know the whole child, understand where the child is coming from, adapt the curriculum to the child’s background and interests, give the child a lot of autonomy, there’s so much info out there, and all of it speaks to the sorts of things being done in progressive schools like Albany Free School, Brooklyn Free School,” Morrison said. “Those schools take it to the far extreme of progressive education, but there’s a lot of research out there that says: This stuff works.” One potential problem in free schools being widely accepted, Morrison said, is free school “official data.” When asked how many graduates the Brooklyn Free School has had, for instance, Berger said “20 or 21.” When asked how many had gone to college, Berger said, “We know how many have gone,” but wouldn’t provide a number. Still, Berger said, there are 60 students at the Brooklyn Free

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School, and a “growing waiting list.” He just wants to make sure he continues fostering a diverse mix of students, and to keep offering affordable tuition. “We’ve learned a lot since we first started,” Berger said. “But we try to make it work for all kids. We support kids for who they are.”

WHEELS! SCREENS! CHOICE!

After “Chemistry: The Gathering,” the students clear the classroom of folding tables, and both the upper and lower school kids stream in and began setting up chairs in a circle. It’s time for the All School Democratic Meeting, which happens every Wednesday morning. The volume is unrestrained. The kids are loud. There’s a lot of dyed hair. This is the meeting where both students and teachers can bring proposals to the floor, and the entire school votes. Some kids come prepared with proposals they know they’d like addressed, but most just come with vague ideas of things that bother them. First, students raise their hands and nominate a meeting “chair.” Every student has to decide whether to accept the nomination, and most of the lower school kids decline. “I nominate Alla,” one very young boy offered.


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“I don’t accept,” she said immediately. Eventually an upper school girl in a beanie and canvas jacket, Lee, won the nomination by a show of hands. The first order of business is introducing a reporter from The Huffington Post. There is a buzz, but Lee called “order,” and everyone mostly quiets. Throughout the meeting, some kids would not speak, and many chose to read or stare off into space rather than participate. “Order” was yelled often, over a rush of voices. A group of girls in a corner drew giant televisions with highlighters. The first order of business is that the Turtles, AKA the 8- to 11-year-olds, have raised the necessary funds to create the Turtle Times magazine. Forty percent of the proceeds from the magazine will go to staging the all-school play. At the Brooklyn Free School, Berger said, everyone gets a role in the annual all-school play. One lower school girl, Sasha, small with big eyes and a giant, frizzy winter hat, brought up the issue of “wheels,” basically whether lower school kids could bring skateboards, skates, or bikes to the park for recess. “I have the proposal you are al-

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lowed to bring a skateboard there, but only on the basketball court and you can’t use it other places,” she said. The issue was that many kids without “wheels” were getting left behind. One of the advisors, David, made an amendment to Sasha’s proposal. He asked if she’d be

“THERE ARE NO TESTS, NO MANDATORY HOMEWORK, NO GRADES ON A TRANSCRIPT.” willing to have one “wheels at the park” day, where kids can bring wheels of their choosing one day a week. “Yeah, I guess,” she replied. “Sure.” “And would you add that people need to have helmets?” “Well that’s a school rule,” Sasha said. “So yeah.” “Can I propose something?” an upper school girl chimed in. “A pajama day.” “Wait, can we finish talking


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about wheels?” Lily requested. “Okay, yes, “ Sasha said. “The proposal is that there will be a wheels day on Friday to test out the wheels at the park. If it works, I’ll be making a proposal to have wheels be allowed on Fridays.” This motion passes. The meeting, in general, seems very exciting to a select few, and immensely boring to the majority. As it progresses, kids get more restless. One boy spends the entire meeting with his head in his hands. The issue of “screens” is raised and many of the advisors break into a half-smile. This issue, said David, one of the advisors, has been coming up almost every week since the school was founded. “Screens” are more commonly known as computers, iPods and cell phones, and the rules seem to change constantly, he said, with some kids understanding that school is not a time to play games, and others thinking they should be allowed to do anything they want. The argument today: Upper school kids need screens to study and write their school transcripts for college. All transcripts at Brooklyn Free School are lengthy and creative, and the

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students work on them for a long time. Berger said the extra time allows students to focus on catering their transcripts toward their first-choice schools. But because of the absence of grades, it doesn’t work out that way. He said the creative transcripts certainly please “smaller, private

The BFS students take a trip to the NY Aquarium.


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schools,” but some larger ones weren’t always responsive. Still, transcripts are worked on extensively by certain upper school students with college hopes. Walter, a lower school kid with shaggy brown hair, said he thinks it “isn’t fair” that upper school kids can use screens whenever they want. If upper school is allowed screens, he said, then lower school should, too. “Do you want to use screens all the time?” An upper school girl asks him. “Like any time you want?” “Yeah,” Walter said. “Or upper school doesn’t get to use them at all.” “The upper and lower should have the same sort of rules, yes,” Sarah, a fast-talking upper school girl countered. “But if someone’s watching a lecture or typing a transcript, that’s very different than someone playing that dots game. Screens are not just screens.” The issue is not exactly resolved. It will likely come up again the following week. An hour later, the meeting ends. One advisor said he wishes there could be some sort of fight, just so I could see how it was resolved at

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one of these meetings. “The wisdom that comes out of them figuring out what to do,” he said. “Why did you do this? What’s underlying this? The whole school gets together. It’s amazing.” Past arguments have been over gay slurs, name-calling and bullying, and were resolved through

“NOBODY TOLD US TO LEARN ABOUT THESE THINGS. WE WANTED TO.” lengthy negotiations. Suffice it to say, some weeks a lot of meetings are called. But all the kids seem used to it, even the ones who have only been there for a few months. Upper school student Sarah, a student at Brooklyn Free School for three months, said this is the first school where she’s felt fully comfortable to be herself. Like Graves, the former Albany Free School student, she said being able to choose your own classes and way of doing things just made more sense to her. “The biggest different is choice, and not being confined to 15 minutes of socialization a day,” Sarah


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said. “I’ve always liked to read a lot. I was reading books in my old school that I’d read when I was 6, and my teacher was always saying I wasn’t taking enough time, I wasn’t trying hard enough, but I’d already read the book!” Experts pointed to Finland as a sort of guidepost. Finnish schools are often cited as among the best in the world, and students rank highly in all subjects. There, students aren’t measured at all for the first six years of their education, they’re not tested until high school, they have more recess and free time, and take fewer classes. The teachers have more creativity in assigning curricula. Though there’s more structure in Finnish schools, their values share a certain kinship with democratic schools. Kristan Morrison said she thinks Americans are hungry for alterations to the system like these, but with current government views on education, it will be a while before schools can change course. “There are still so many restrictions from federal and state governments,” Morrison said. “Teachers go in to teaching because they want to be engaging, creative, and then they’re stuck with all this testing.”

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These ideas are not lost on Berger, who has clearly taken creative, progressive education to the extreme. “We’re trying to nurture kids to stay themselves,” Berger said. “That’s what they need to bring to the world, to live a successful, individually happy life. There’s much more power in that, and it really brings diversity to the fold.” Later in the day, Berger wandered up to the top floor, past the “gym,” which is really just an emptied-out classroom. He said they had an epic, all-school “rock paper scissors” tournament in there recently. Generally, the classrooms are small, with artwork lining the walls and folding chairs and messy tables scattered around. At night, many of these classrooms are rented out to yoga classes or artists looking for studio space, so Berger can supplement the school’s income. On the top floor of the brownstone was Berger’s small office, which he shared. He leaned back in his chair. “One of the joys of running a school like this is there are so many opportunities to get to know kids for who they really are,” Berger said. “We’re figuring out how to make the world for everybody, not to fit everybody into the world.”


GO GO GADGETS >> CES 2013

Ultra HD TV, hover(ish)boards and judgmental forks. Hello, future. >> BY JASON GILBERT


PREVIOUS PAGE: CLOCKWISE FROM TOP: JUSTIN SULLIVAN/GETTY IMAGES; COURTESY OF CES; DAVID BECKER/GETTY IMAGES; THIS PAGE: COURTESY OF ZBOARD

THE CONSUMER ELECTRONICS SHOW (or CES, to you) for 2013 has come and gone; and despite increased Internet belly-aching that the goliath tech convention has become less of a tastemaker than in years past, there were still a great number of eyepopping, jaw-dropping, innovative, exciting gadgets on display here in Las Vegas. From a computerized fork that buzzes and illuminates when you’re eating too quickly, to a small gizmo that can track the location of your lost luggage, to a cheap-o handheld gaming console that could change the future of video games, CES 2013 was both a fruitful display of ingenuity and a sneak peek at what the future of technology holds for both geeks and non-geeks alike. We’ve picked out 10 gadgets from the show, which are either the most important, the coolest or our favorites from the massive convention; dive in, and you just might find your next gotta-have-it device.

ZBOARD

We’re inching closer and closer to that hoverboard: On this electric skateboard, you lean forward to move forward and lean forward to slow down, no kick or push required. Coast around town on your skateboard without ruining the soles of your shoes, hepcat.


HUAWEI ASCEND MATE

JASON GILBERT

Move over, Galaxy Note: Huawei debuted the Ascend Mate, an Android device that now holds the title of smartphone with the world’s largest display. At 6.1 inches diagonally, the Ascend Mate beats out the 5.5-inch screen of Samsung’s Galaxy Note phablet, and positively dwarfs the iPhone 5’s 4.0-inch display. As smartphone displays get larger and larger, we have to ask: At what point will we just be holding our iPads up to our faces to make phone calls?


SIFTEO

GO GO GADGETS

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The building blocks of your childhood have grown up: Sifteo cubes are illuminated, digitized blocks that you shift around to play games with. After you try it once, you’ll be hooked — no matter how old you are.

FROM TOP: COURTESY OF SIFTEO; WILL LIPMAN; DAVID PAUL MORRIS/BLOOMBERG VIA GETTY IMAGES

TRAKDOT

A small battery-powered tracker (with cell reception!) that you place in your luggage, so that if it gets lost in transit you can find its location on a smartphone app. Why didn’t the airlines think of this years ago?

HAPIFORK

Overeating and weight gain can occur when you’re shoveling food into your mouth too quickly. This “intelligent fork” has sensors on both ends that track each bite you take, and the whole fork buzzes and lights up if it deems you to be eating too fast. A whole new meaning to the “slow food” movement.


DAVID PAUL MORRIS/BLOOMBERG VIA GETTY IMAGES

NVIDIA SHIELD

This new portable gaming console may look like an Xbox controller with a display chunked on top, but it’s so much more: On the Shield, you can play any Android game or stream any game from your PC to the screen. Watch out, Nintendo.


GO GO GADGETS

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ULTRA HD TVs

Samsung, Sony, Sharp, LG and more all unveiled new so-called “Ultra HD” TVs, which pack in way more pixels on the screen than your 1080p set at home. The result? The most gorgeous picture you’ve ever seen in a living room.

GECKO CAP

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP: DAVID BECKER/GETTY IMAGES; COURTESY OF CHARGE CARD; JASON GILBERT; COURTESY OF GECKO CAP

Invented by a pediatrician, the Gecko Cap is a rubber sensor that you put on top of your child’s inhaler; when he or she needs to use the inhaler, a light on the cap starts to flash and doesn’t stop until the inhaler has been used. It also syncs with an app so that a parent can see when the child has used the inhaler from afar.

CHARGE CARD

A portable iPhone charger the size of a credit card. One end plugs into your phone, and then a rubber extension doubles as a USB charger, which you can plug into your computer. Ditch the cord and carry around your charger in your wallet.

DISPLAIR

Pure coolness: The Displair projects any display onto a misting wall of vapor, which you can then control with your fingers just like you would any other touchscreen. There’s no great use for this technology yet, but it sure is cool to play Fruit Ninja on a screen made of mist.


ART

HANI ZUROB/COURTESY OF BLACK DOG PRESS

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Office Space to Erotica: An International POV BY KATHERINE BROOKS

Hani Zurob, Flying Lesson #03, acrylic and pigments on canvas, 200x160cm, 2010


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ART

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ITH THE NEW YEAR in full swing, it’s time to discard your inhibitions and embrace what the next 12 months of emerging art has to offer. Since we’ve already given you our guide to the 25 art exhibits we can’t wait to see in 2013, we know you have at least a few creative events to watch out for this year. Now we think it only fair to give you a primer on contemporary, international artists with strong points of view. We’ve narrowed the list down to 10 sculptors, painters, sketchers and filmmakers who have piqued our interest in 2013. Ahead, find a former business administrator’s office-inspired art, city planning proposals, Japanese erotica, and much more. TOSHIO SAEKI/COURTESY OF THE PRINTHOUSE GALLERY

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HANI ZUROB

WHO: Hani Zurob, a Palestinian exile working in Paris whose abstract and figurative works straddle the line between Paul Gauguin and Lucian Freud. Favorite concepts for the artist include identity, collective belonging and movement, and he often incorporates images of his son within his work. WHY: Though he has only been

working as an artist since the early 2000s, Zurob is the subject of a recently released book titled Between Exits: Paintings by Hani Zurob. We are excited to see what the artist has in store for 2013.

TOSHIO SAEKI

WHO: Toshio Saeki, a Japanese artist who mixes traditional Eastern imagery with Otaku subject matter to create vibrant and erotic ink drawings.

From Toshio Saeki’s Inkenka


UJI HANDOKO EKO SAPUTRO/COURTESY QUEENSLAND ART GALLERY

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WHY: He is showcasing his first UK exhibition at the Print House Gallery... at the age of 67. The show will be on view March 8-31, 2013.

UJI HANDOKO EKO SAPUTRO

WHO: Uji Handoko Eko Saputro, an Indonesian artist whose work is critical of the international art market, using aspects of comic

ART

art, graffiti and Javanese mythology to explore art’s commercialism. Think of an Indonesian Erik Parker or Robert Crumb. WHY: He is currently making a splash at the Asia Pacific Triennial in Queensland, Australia, which runs until April 14, 2013.

TIMA RADYA

WHO: Russia-based artist Tima Radya, who is known for his nontraditional street art installations

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Uji Handoko Eko Saputro, The Journey (detail), synthetic polymer paint on canvas, diptych: 180 x 210cm, 2011


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ART

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IGNACIO URIARTE/ COURTESY OF THE ARTIST AND NOGUERAS BLANCHARD, BARCELONA. PHOTOGRAPH BY SIMON VOGEL

that often serve as commentary on the country’s ongoing social and political conflicts. WHY: We came across Radya’s work at St. Petersburg’s first ever large-scale street art festival, Art Prospect, which was held in September of 2012. We expect big things from Radya and other Russian street artists in 2013.

IGNACIO URIARTE

WHO: Ignacio Uriarte, a Berlinbased artist. As a former business administrator, his work explores objects and themes related to the office space using plane geometry and colorful abstractions. He has been known to incorporate Bic pens, Xerox machines, ink cartridges, and other office paraphernalia in his process. WHY: He is showing his first North American solo museum exhibition, Line of Work, at the Drawing Center in New York this year. It opens on Jan. 17 and will run until March 13, 2013.

SEHER SHAH

WHO: Seher Shah, a Pakistan-born artist living in Brooklyn who works in large-scale drawings and prints. Many of her pieces examine and deconstruct modernist architecture

by depicting the power and spectacle of city planning initiatives. WHY: She is one of several noteworthy artists featured in the Rubin Museum’s current exhibit, Radical Terrain, which closes April 29, 2013.

PINAREE SANPITAK

WHO: Pinaree Sanpitak, a Thai artist who dabbles in everything from photography and collage to sculpture and installations, many of which focus on ideas of femininity and womanhood. WHY: She is about to showcase a new collection of work (including 100 amorphous, squeezable sculptures) in an exhibit titled Temporary Insanity at the AMOAArthouse, on view from April 20June 30, 2013.

GUILLAUME LEBLON

WHO: Guillaume Leblon, a Parisbased sculptor who uses found

Ignacio Uriarte, BIC Transitions, BIC pen on paper, 16 drawings, each: 11 13/16 x 16 9/16 inches, 2010


DARA FRIEDMAN/COURTESY OF HAMMER MUSEUM

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objects — tables, shelves, plywood, windmill sails — to create large-scale works that appear like the mystical ruins of some ancient civilization. WHY: He is debuting his first solo exhibition at a U.S. museum this year. The eponymous show begins on May 26, 2013 and runs until April 7, 2014 at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art.

PEDRO REYES

WHO: Mexican artist Pedro Reyes, a multimedia creative whose works, ranging from sculpture and architecture to

ART

performance and video, highlight the importance of individual and collective participation in social and cultural events. WHY: We listed him as one of the hottest artists of Art Basel Miami Beach, and we’re eager to see what will follow his work there.

DARA FRIEDMAN

WHO: Dara Friedman, a German artist who focuses on ideas of performance and individuality in the urban, public space through video installations and film. WHY: She is soon launching an exhibit at The Hammer museum in Los Angeles. The show is on view from Jan. 19 until April 14, 2013.

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Dara Friedman, still from Dancer, super 16mm film transferred to HD video, black and white, sound, 25 min., 2011


TV

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CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: MICHAEL BECKER / FOX; MICHAEL LAVINE/FOX; THE CW NETWORK, LLC; JORDIN ALTHAUS/NBC; COURTESY OF HBO (GIRLS, GAME OF THRONES)

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10 Reasons T to Love Television in 2013 BY CHRIS HARNICK

HE RETURN OF The Bluths on Arrested Development and Community’s Greendale Human Beings; one prequel to a beloved series and a sequel to another; Kevin Bacon in his first regular TV stint — we could go on, and we will. Ahead, find 10 reasons to love television in 2013.


CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: WILL HART/NBC; NEILSON BARNARD/GETTY IMAGES FOR THE NEW YORKER; 2012 THE CW NETWORK, LLC ; VIVIAN ZINK/NBC; COURTESY OF HB0

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TV

THE RETURN OF ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT JENNIFER HUDSON ON SMASH

After years of will-they-won’t-they rumors, it’s finally happening this spring on Netflix. The Bluths will be back, and all will be right with the world.

How do you spice up a musical? Add an Oscar winner with a killer voice. Smash is already drowning in talent, but adding Hudson’s show-stopping voice to the mix really ups the ante for the season two premiere on Feb. 5.

THE RETURN OF COMMUNITY

GAME OF THRONES

Season three is based on A Storm of Swords, one of the best books in George R. R. Martin’s series. Add some exciting new cast members — including Diana Rigg and Iwan Rheon — and March 31 can’t come soon enough.

The Greendale Human Beings have been gone way too long. This series is basically the Rodney Dangerfield of NBC: It can’t get no respect. Now that it’s finally on the schedule (Feb. 7 at 8 p.m. EST!), we can’t wait to see what Community has to offer under the guidance of new showrunners. All the headlines and departure news have just added to the anticipation.

THE CARRIE DIARIES

Once you get over the initial balking at a Sex and the City prequel series, The Carrie Diaries is a pretty well-done pilot. With good music choices and performances that blow pretty much every other CW show out of the water, this is one we’ve got an eye on. Watch for it Jan. 14.


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TV

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TINA FEY AND AMY POEHLER HOSTING THE GOLDEN GLOBES CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: COURTESY OF HBO; GAVIN BOND/NBC; GEORGE HOLZ / FOX; CRAIG SJODIN/ABC VIA GETTY IMAGES; MICHAEL LAVINE/FOX

Because … duh.

GUESTS ON GIRLS

The exploits of Hannah, Marnie, Shoshanna and Jessa are enough to bring us back this season, but guest stars like Donald Glover, Rita Wilson, Patrick Wilson, Colin Quinn and Shiri Appleby make season two (premiering Jan. 13) even more enticing.

THE FOLLOWING

By far one of the most entertaining of the 20122013 pilots, we can’t wait to be creeped out by James Purefoy and have the day (hopefully) saved by Kevin Bacon on a weekly basis, beginning Jan. 21.

GIRL MEETS WORLD

Cory and Topanga, together again! Technically this pilot is still in development, but given the buzz it’s created, we’re 99 percent sure Disney will go through with this Boy Meets World sequel series.

MARIAH CAREY AND NICKI MINAJ ON AMERICAN IDOL Whether they’re feuding or not talking to each other, we’re excited to see these two divas-turned-judges on screen together, beginning Jan. 16. Can Keith Urban keep the peace?


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TASTE TEST

The Best Cheap Beer Brands BY KRISTEN AIKEN

E HAVE TO be honest. We really weren’t looking forward to this taste test. Swigging down 10 different kinds of bottom-shelf beer in succession is kind of a gut buster. The worst part? We’re not drinking light beers. We’re talking real, regular, American-made beer. We all have our favorites, whether we developed an emotional attachment to a particular brand during college or we just think the bottle design looks cool in our hands. But you have to stop and wonder: Is your favorite brand

GETTY IMAGES

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PHOTOGRAPHS BY DAMON DAHLEN

actually the best-tasting beer? Or does your blind adulation mask the fact that it tastes like pond scum? We found out the answer, and it’s probably going to embarrass you. We blind-tasted 10 popular brands of regular, domestic, bottomshelf beer. In a slam to our fiercely loyal beer-drinking editors’ pride, we unknowingly ranked some of our go-to beers near the bottom of our list. Check out the results below, and let us know what you think. As always, this taste test is in no way influenced by the brands included.

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TASTE TEST

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#4

#2 #1

MILLER GENUINE DRAFT

MILLER HIGH LIFE

Comments: “Pleasant enough.” “Skunky.” “Kind of funky, more complex than the others.” “Reminds me of college, in a bad way.” “Bitter finish and great bubbles, but too hoppy.”

Comments: “Too bitter, but tolerable.” “Standard.” “Bready, nice balance. Could easily drink it all night.” “Pretty solid beer.” “Tastes like nothing, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.”

#3

MILWAUKEE’S BEST PREMIUM

Comments: “Smooth but cheap-tasting.” “Plain flavored, nothing special.” “Tastes like a frat house.” “Tastes metallic, but I can take it.” “Boring.” “Skunky, not my favorite.”

#5

PABST BLUE RIBBON

Comments: “A little bland, but okay.” “Sweet and foamy — inoffensive.” “A really light, easy-to-please flavor.” “Musky and heavy.” “Highly drinkable.”

COORS

Comments: “Nutty.” “Bad aftertaste.” “Very sweet and honey-like.” “Weak!” “Kind of sweet and watered down.” “Pleasantly grungy tasting.”


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TASTE TEST

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#9

#6

BUDWEISER

Comments: “Tastes the way cheap beer smells.” “Bitter and watery.” “Neutral taste, slight sweetness, and foamy.” “Tastes familiar, like college.” “Nice ratio of sweet to bitter.” “Eminently offensive.” “Like carbonated water, but in a good way.”

KEYSTONE ICE

Comments: “My pee tastes better than this.” “Really bitter.” “Pleasant bitterness at first, but bad aftertaste.” “Malty, with caramel notes and a slightly sour finish.” “Too watery.” “A little bitter.”

#7

#10 #8

NATURAL ICE

Comments: “God is disappointed.” “Neutral and decently smooth.” “Kind of like soda. Really sparkly.” “Apple-juicy, kind of flat and wan-tasting.” “Disgusting.” “Kind of fruity? In a good way. Very effervescent.”

YUENGLING

Comments: “Soapy.” “Not bad hoppiness.” “Too sour, no depth of flavor.” “It looks like it would taste good, but it doesn’t, which is annoying.” “No. This tastes like matzoh!”

ROLLING ROCK EXTRA PALE

Comments: “Tastes like raspberries.” “Weirdly sweet, like drinking corn.” “Savory and hoppy, but with a nasty metallic tang.” “Tastes like flavored water.” “Smells like bread. Do not like.”


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TFU

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AP PHOTO/MANUEL BALCE CENETA (NAVY CHAPLAIN); ROMEO GACAD/AFP/GETTY IMAGES (MOTORBIKES); JOSHUA PAUL/BLOOMBERG VIA GETTY IMAGES (MUSTANG); DIPTENDU DUTTA/AFP/GETTY IMAGES (TEA WORKERS)

Former Navy Chaplain Cites Bible on Newt Gingrich’s Gay Marriage Stance ‘Worthy of Death’

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Indonesian Province to Ban Women From Straddling Motorbikes

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LEAKED VIDEO SHOWS TEENS LAUGHING ABOUT RAPE CASE

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Mom Pranks 8-Year-Old Son, Makes Him Think He Bought a 50K Mustang on eBay

05 India Tea Workers Accused of Murdering Boss, Then Eating Him


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TFU

FREDERICK M. BROWN/GETTY IMAGES (DAMON); GETTY IMAGES (HORSE); GETTY IMAGES/LONELY PLANET IMAGES (GOAT); GETTY IMAGES/VETTA (METH LAB); GETTY IMAGES (CHICKEN)

Matt Damon’s New Movie Deemed ‘Too Gay’ by Studios

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Miniature Horses Sexually Assaulted

THE CRAZIEST THINGS EMPLOYEES HAVE TRIED TO EXPENSE (SEE: DEER URINE, GOAT)

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Four Words: Meth Lab Daycare Facility

Student Finds a Kidney Inside His KFC Chicken


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Editor-in-Chief:

Arianna Huffington Executive Editor: Timothy L. O’Brien Executive Features Editor: John Montorio Managing Editor: Gazelle Emami Senior Politics Editor: Sasha Belenky Senior Voices Editor: Stuart Whatley Quoted Editor: Annemarie Dooling Viral Editor: Dean Praetorius Social Editor: Mia Aquino Editorial Assistant: Jenny Macksamie Editorial Intern: Emma Diab Creative Director: Josh Klenert Art Director: Andrea Nasca Photography Director: Anna Dickson Associate Photo Editor: Wendy George Designers: Martin Gee, Troy Dunham Production Director: Peter Niceberg AOL MagCore Head of UX and Design: Jeremy LaCroix Product Managers: Jim Albrecht, Gabriel Giordani, Julie Vaughn Architect: Scott Tury Developers: Mike Levine, Carl Haines, Terence Worley, Ron Anderson, Sudheer Agrawal, Jacob Knobel Tech Leadership: Umesh Rao QA: Scott Basham, Moncef Belyamani, Eileen Miller Sales: Mandar Shinde, Jami Lawrence AOL, Inc. Chairman & CEO:

Tim Armstrong

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