“In 1985, Nobel Laureate Gary Becker observed that the gap in employment between mothers and fathers of young children had been shrinking since the 1960s in OECD countries. This led Becker to predict that such sex differences “may only be a legacy of powerful forces from the past and may disappear or be greatly attenuated in the near future.” In the 1990s, however, the shrinking of the mother-father gap stalled before Becker’s prediction could be realized. In today’s economy, how big is this mother-father employment gap, what forces underlie it, and are there any policies which could close it further?”

Kevin Milligan, author of ’The Road to Egalitaria: Sex Differences in Employment for Parents of Young Children’. 

Image Credit: Milligan, 2014 CESifo Economic Studies

Please fire me. A customer just tried to convince my manager and I that the policy “opened CDs, DVDs, and Blurays may not be returned…” means that they “may” possibly be returned. She claimed to be an English teacher.

The complaints we hear today about “slacktivism” are identical to an earlier generation of complaints about “armchair activism.” Where today we hear that actions performed via the Internet are too simple to make a difference, in the 1970s we heard that actions performed via the mail or the telephone were too simple to make a difference.
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Arcade Fire’s Will Butler: ‘My goal in art is to be like Moby-Dick’

Arcade Fire’s Will Butler will be writing a song a day based upon a news story in the Guardian for a week from 23 February. Each original track will premiere on the Guardian’s website.

“It was partly inspired by Bob Dylan, who used to announce that certain songs were based on headlines,” Butler says of the project. “It would be a song he wrote in two weeks or something, such as The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll, which is one of the greatest songs ever. So I’ve set myself an impossible bar.”

He’s up for the challenge, though, although he says his songs have never come to fruition this quickly in the past . Usually, when he writes, three-quarters of a tune are established, and the remaining quarter will be “a bit more hammer and chisel”.

“I’ve been reading the Guardian every day, perusing the different sections. Some of them possibly lend themselves to songs. It’s a cruel thing, but sometimes you read something and think, ‘Uh oh. I could make something really meaty out of that.’ Something like the Dominique Strauss-Kahn trial – my God, that’s the gnarliest story in the world, but it’s interesting. Or you might read a science headline and think, ‘The universe is so much bigger than I thought it was.’ There’s something really beautiful in that.”

The younger brother of Arcade Fire frontman Win has been an integral part of the band’s lineup since he was at university. His own songwriting merits came to the fore on his first solo album, Policy; a rollercoaster of raw, energetic rock’n’roll.

His decision to make a solo record, he says, was virtually a fluke. In 2013, when Win’s wife and co-singer Regine became pregnant, Butler and composer Owen Pallett suddenly found themselves completing an Arcade Fire score for Spike Jonze’s movie Her – for which, in January last year, the pair were nominated for an Oscar, for best original score. “Owen and I got the nomination, but the whole band worked on the score,” he explains. I thought, ‘Well, If I have my name attached to something, I might as well do something of my own.’”

Thus, last May, he took a three-week break from touring with the band to check into Electric Lady, the legendary New York studio built for Jimi Hendrix, which has produced classics by everyone from Stevie Wonder to Led Zeppelin

“Studio A is the utterly classic room where the Stones recorded [Emotional Rescue, and overdubs on Some Girls],” he enthuses. “The Clash recorded The Magnificent Seven there. Studio B, the next floor up, is where D’Angelo lived for two years while he was making Voodoo. And then the top floor, where I recorded, was Hendrix’s apartment.”When Arcade Fire recorded Reflektor there, they had an unexpected visit from David Bowie, who had nipped in to add finishing touches to The Next Day. “He’s lovely, the best smelling human I’ve ever smelt,” says Butler, who recalls how the normally reclusive Thin White Duke declared: “‘Electric Lady, I haven’t been here since we recorded John Lennon doing backing vocals on Fame.’ I’m like, Oh, I see. Well, come on in.”Like Bowie, Butler found himself energised by the environment in the studios and the West Village in general, and you can hear it on the colourful bustle of Policy’s fast-and-furious mix of everything from Strokes/Violent Femmes-type rockabilly rumbles to Talking Heads/Black Keys playful funk. Synths, pianos, guitars and pounding beats are hurled against madcap lyrical ideas and barmy vaudeville characters.The 32-year old describes Policy as “100% serious and 100% joking” – and weighty themes such as God, Armageddon or money happily co-exist with comic one-liners. “My goal in art is to be like Moby-Dick”, he says, explaining that when he first read Herman Melville’s classic 1851 novel when he was 18, he expected a sombre work about a serious pursuit of a whale. “But the first 100 pages are literally slapstick comedy and jokes about whale penises. Even something like Dostoevsky’s Notes from the Underground is written in a really ironic style. The narrator is self-consciously pathetic but really angry at the world, but also making jokes.”

Policy’s more serious side was first triggered by reading Dostoevsky and Kafka in his teens and comes from his interest in the ways governments impact on our lives. In fact, Butler landed a place to study at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, but in the end, Arcade Fire’s Reflektor tour got in the way. “On the one hand, the government is – in a country like America or Canada or the UK – the expression of the people,” he explains. “It’s not freedom from things but its freedom to govern, which is a beautiful concept. But there’s a sense that modern government almost takes the place of the Old Testament God. Things happen because governments cause them to, but people are like, ‘No. This is how the world is. It’s a world of pain.’ There’s something very Old Testament about that – yet we’re on our knees to them about policy as well.”

Despite the current dark times, Butler – an Obama fan and general glass-half-full type – insists he is “extremely optimistic”.

“We invented the polio vaccine,” he says. “We’ve largely eliminated slavery. I have a lot of sympathy for the doom and gloom types: ‘The globe is swarming and people are killing each other and nobody’s doing anything and it will all end poorly!’ On the other hand, I can’t help but think, ‘But we have online shopping and next-day delivery.’ I’m naturally hopeful that we’re slowly [making] things better.”

Of course, he has a lot to be optimistic about. There’s the album, a tour and he hopes that the other Arcade Fire members’ various solo exploits – from classical music to playing with other bands – can only benefit the group’s creativity when they reconvene. Meanwhile, his more famous brother is DJ-ing and hosting parties. Might some sibling rivalry creep in? Could Policy encourage Win to make his own solo album to try and outdo his brother? “Not yet,” the younger Butler says. “But we’ll see how the year goes.”

Samsung was recording private conversations using some of its TVs…

And now a privacy group, EPIC, has asked the FTC to investigate.

"Samsung routinely intercepts and records the private communications of consumers in their homes," said the privacy group in its 20-page complaint (PDF). "Samsung’s attempts to disclaim its intrusive surveillance activities by means of a ‘privacy notice’ do not diminish the harm to American consumers."

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Harm Reduction International (HRI) has launched their bi-annual report on the Global State of Harm Reduction. Essential reading for anyone interested in harm reduction and/or global drug policy: http://www.ihra.net/contents/1524

Hey a heads up!

I can no longer use social media to field messages or questions about orders. There are just too many avenues to keep up with. From now on all inquiries MUST be emailed via the store- you can use the contact tab to access the mailing system or use the email provided when you place an order. It’s the orange thingy on the left margin in the store that says “contact”: http://missmonster.myshopify.com/

This way i can put more quality time into one contact platform than try to keep up with various inboxes/threads/comments. My time is just spread too thin and one person cannot physically keep up with all of this AND put time into making work. Thank you for understanding and thank you for all of your fantastic support!

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Will Butler: “Take My Side” - David Letterman