Terminator Genisys Review: Arnold (but little else) is back

Thirty-one years and counting, and the Terminators keep rolling off the assembly line like new iPhones, upgraded with shape-shifting abilities, rebooted Sarah Conner assassination levels and, one presumes, better selfie cameras. “Terminator Genisys,” directed by Alan Taylor (“Thor: The Dark World”), is the fifth entry in the series begun by James Cameron and a naked money… Continue reading

Ben Affleck, Jennifer Garner Announce Divorce

Hollywood couple Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner announced their divorce on Tuesday. The couple had been married for 10 years and have three children. “After much thought and careful consideration, we have made the difficult decision to divorce,” Affleck and Garner said, via a joint statement. “We go forward with love and friendship for one another… Continue reading

BET Awards 2015: Nominees, Performers, Presenters, Honorees

The 2015 BET Awards airs Sunday at 8 p.m. on BET. While the best way to watch the main event is on television, BET has provided a backstage live stream, which also begins at 8 p.m. Access the live stream here. The star studded 2015 event, which takes place at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles,… Continue reading

From Daenerys Targaryen to Sarah Connor

She ruled the hearts of Game of Thrones fans with her impeccable and meticulous portrayal of Daenerys Targaryen and now, with the upcoming release of her latest action film Terminator Genisys, Emilia Clarke says she takes her time before choosing a role. The 28-year-old actor is embodying Sarah Connor in the forthcoming film and will be… Continue reading

Can we teach restaurant servers to treat all customers equally, regardless of race?

Zachary Brewster, Wayne State University; Jonathan R Brauer, University of Nebraska Omaha, and Michael Lynn, Cornell University

Like most human behavior, tipping practices vary widely.

For instance, one customer may tip generously even after receiving poor service. Another may verbally praise a server for providing excellent service, only to leave the restaurant without tipping.

Nonetheless, restaurant servers do notice patterns. Since many in the United States rely on tips for most (if not all) of their income, the custom of tipping presents servers with a powerful economic incentive to anticipate and react to customers’ tipping tendencies.

This has an effect on how servers treat customers. Research suggests that servers tend to devote more attention and efforts to customers who are expected to tip well – and this comes at the expense of those who are expected to tip poorly.

But our recent findings show that servers aren’t entirely motivated by their expected tips. This could change the way we interpret why servers treat certain customers the way they do, and could influence how they’re trained.

Let’s pick this apart a bit, with a focus on how it relates to race.

Countless observable customer and table characteristics affect servers’ expectations for receiving a good or poor tip, whether it’s age, gender or attire.

Of these, research has identified skin color as a particularly salient cue, one that triggers servers’ stereotypical expectations of receiving an adequate (more than 15%) or inadequate (less than 15%) tip.

For instance, a recent survey of over 1,000 restaurant servers across the US found that nearly 70% of servers perceived blacks as below-average tippers, while 50% perceived Hispanics as below-average tippers.

In stark contrast, a mere 2% of servers perceived white customers to be below-average tippers.

This stereotype likely stems, in part, from servers’ actual experience. Research does show that racial and ethnic minorities are less familiar with dominant US tipping norms, which denote 15%-20% of the bill as an appropriate tip size. For this reason, they tend to tip their servers less than their white counterparts, who are more familiar with this norm.

As a result, white customers are more likely to get better service in full-service US restaurants.

However, this statement necessitates an important caveat, one that is either absent or minimized in prior scholarly and popular reports about how servers treat diners.

Specifically, just as humans are not motivated solely by economic concerns, restaurant servers are not motivated strictly by the desire to maximize tip earnings. For this reason, servers’ interactions with customers cannot be reduced to the tips that servers think their customers might (or might not) leave on the table.

For instance, a key finding from our recent research is that servers’ moral emotions and beliefs about how people deserve to be treated are as important – in some cases, more important – than economic considerations about customers’ tipping intentions.

Specifically, we found servers who have strong internalized moral convictions to treat all customers equally were less likely to report giving less effort when waiting tables of black and Hispanic customers. Notably, this held especially true among servers who perceived blacks and Hispanics to be poor tippers relative to whites.

In other words, for many servers, the moral motivation to provide equitable service to all clientele appears to effectively neutralize any economic motivation to discriminate against black and Hispanic customers, even when these servers stereotypically expect minority clientele to be poor tippers.

It’s important to note our findings indeed confirm what many already know from countless dining or serving experiences: that blacks, Hispanics and other customers of color are less likely than whites to receive optimal service while dining in full-service restaurants.

However, our research also provides some context to the dominant narrative on tipping. Because prior research indicates that blacks, on average, tip less than whites – and there’s the implication that servers are motivated only by economics – servers who put in less effort when waiting on tables of black customers are let off the hook.

But our research adds a layer to this. Yes, servers are motivated to maximize their tips. But they’re also motivated by deeply held emotions and beliefs about how customers deserve to be treated.

Our research thus suggests new potential solutions for eradicating race-based (and other) discriminatory service in the restaurant industry.

Some have called for eliminating the custom of tipping altogether, or reducing group differences in tipping behaviors by promoting awareness of the 15%-20% tipping norm. Both of these options currently seem unlikely (but not impossible).

Instead, restaurant managers could also consider building upon existing server training programs by simultaneously appealing to servers’ economic and moral motivations.

For instance, in addition to highlighting the morally inappropriate nature of discriminatory service, programs might also underscore the illogical reasoning behind race-based service discrimination.

In other words, it’s unwise to treat tables differently, even if you’re expecting a lower tip. By providing the best possible service to everyone, servers can maximize their potential tipped income by increasing the chances of receiving an optimal tip from every customer – not just their white clientele.

Of course, striving to provide equitable service to all comes at a cost: it’s physically and emotionally exhausting to put on your best face for every customer. It can also be demoralizing when the same high-quality service is not consistently rewarded.

Fortunately, trying to offer the same high-quality service to every customer may be worth the effort. Servers will not only end their shifts with more money in their pockets, but they’ll also take comfort in knowing that giving all of their customers equally good service is the morally right thing to do.

The Conversation

Zachary Brewster is Assistant Professor of Sociology at Wayne State University.
Jonathan R Brauer is Assistant Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice at University of Nebraska Omaha.
Michael Lynn is Burton M Sack ’61 Professor in Food and Beverage Management at Cornell University.

This article was originally published on The Conversation.
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Kim Kardashian West talks Kanye, North and clothing line, but not Caitlyn Jenner

She needs no introduction. Every move made by reality TV juggernaut Kim Kardashian West is subject to intense scrutiny, fuelling equal parts adoration and vitriol. Kardashian West’s brand empire includes a video game, perfumes, countless promotional projects and a children’s clothing line with her sisters, called Kardashian Kids, coming to select Babies R Us stores in… Continue reading

Same-sex ruling was no surprise to Supreme Court gamblers—and shouldn’t be to you either

Leighton Vaughan Williams, Nottingham Trent University

The US Supreme Court ruled on Friday, by five votes to four, that same-sex couples are constitutionally entitled to marry. The previous day, the same court upheld by six votes to three a key funding platform of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), sometimes termed “Obamacare.”

What do these landmark decisions tell us about the way the Supreme Court might rule in the months and years ahead? Could this even be the beginning of a new wave of liberalism at the court?

No surprise to some

To answer these questions, we should pause to ask a different one. Were either of these decisions unexpected? Were they surprising? To some they were, but not to those who are well-versed in the ways of the court. The FantasySCOTUS prediction market, for example, nailed both results exactly. (SCOTUS is the acronym for Supreme Court of the United States.)

For those unfamiliar with FantasySCOTUS, it is a type of “wisdom of the crowd” fantasy league, sponsored by Thomson Reuters and populated by lawyers, law students and others, all of whom compete for cash prizes (up to US$10,000) by forecasting Supreme Court decisions.

As such, it is like a fantasy sports league for those who follow the Supreme Court as closely as others might follow the New England Patriots or the New York Yankees. Or perhaps more closely, like the Hollywood Stock Exchange, where followers trade contracts on the success of the next movie or the next Oscar winner.

The “crowd prediction” for the gay marriage (Obergefell v Hodges) case was a 5-4 decision in favor of constitutionally guaranteed same-sex marriage rights. The prediction for the ACA (Burwell v King) case was a decision of 6-3 in favor of the continued funding arrangements for Obamacare. In both cases, FantasySCOTUS was spot on.

So these rulings came as no surprise to the prediction market. What about legal scholars? The Wall Street Journal Law Blog asked four experts to forecast the outcome.

Two of them predicted a 5-4 or 6-3 majority in favor of constitutionally guaranteed rights, one called it correctly as 5-4, with one dissenter.

The reigning champion

But more pertinently, perhaps, Jacob Berlove, the FantasySCOTUS reigning champion, as well as the other two leaders in the league, called it 5-4 in the correct direction.

That Berlove got it right is not altogether surprising. He was already famous enough in 2012 to be labeled “the best Supreme Court predictor in the world,” having won the league three times in a row.

So how easy is it to guess the opinions of the Supreme Court justices? Not really that difficult, according to my reading of the evidence, especially on touchstone cases like Bush v Gore (2000), Citizens United v FEC (2009), National Federation of Independent Business v Sebelius (2012), Obergefell v Hodges (2015) and Burwell v King (2015).

Take the 2012 case, in which the court was asked to decide whether President Barack Obama’s signature Affordable Care Act was in fact constitutional. Forecasts of the outcome diverged wildly.

In any event, the ACA was saved by the deciding vote of Chief Justice John Roberts, who ruled that while the individual mandate on citizens to buy insurance or face a penalty was not constitutional under the powers of Congress to regulate commerce, it was constitutional under its powers to tax. And so, by 5-4, the individual mandate that funded the ACA was upheld.

Was this predictable? Yes, if we adopt an approach to forecasting these closed-door decisions based on the very simple idea that Supreme Court justices vote in accord with their personal preferences, as I have argued elsewhere. In some cases, these are as simple as siding with what they want the law to be, regardless of what they actually believe it to be. This easily explains the Bush v Gore decision in 2000, which overturned the Florida Supreme Court and authorized the termination of the recount, handing the election to George W Bush by 5-4 (five Bush supporters, four Gore supporters).

In that case, one of the conservative justices (Justice Antonin Scalia) had to perform legal gymnastics to square that with every vote he had previously cast, notably on states’ rights.

Some, like Roberts – who wasn’t around for that ruling – have more nuanced preferences, in his case a desire to see enacted the outcome he prefers but with a strong belief in the authority of Congress to decide legislation as it sees fit. In both ACA cases, the chief justice was acting in accord with his cherished personal attitude toward the role of Congress.

Only Justice Anthony Kennedy was in any way a close call, his personal opposition to Obamacare conflicting with his deeply held aversion to an outcome that would in effect coerce states into setting up their own marketplaces if they wanted their citizens to have insurance. So this case could have gone 5-4 or 6-3, but either way it was a pretty safe bet to be decided in the direction it did.

Inevitable and predictable

The Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage was much easier to predict. Five of the justices were personally in favor of same-sex marriage equality, while four were personally opposed. So the ruling was as inevitable as it was predictable.

In a court that is currently weighted 5-4 to the conservative side of the argument, however, victories are to be savored by liberals, but certainly not to be expected. Any new wave of liberalism at the Supreme Court would first require a new wave of justices, and for the moment, at least, that does not look likely to be happening any time soon.

The Conversation

Leighton Vaughan Williams is Professor of Economics and Finance and Director, Betting Research Unit & Political Forecasting Unit at Nottingham Trent University.

This article was originally published on The Conversation.
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Does Inside Out accurately capture the mind of an 11-year-old girl? A child psychologist weighs in

Jane Timmons-Mitchell, Case Western Reserve University

Pixar’s new film Inside Out provides an interesting spin on how to understand what’s going on in the mind of an 11-year-old girl. The bulk of the action takes place inside protagonist Riley’s head, where a group of emotions (Joy, Sadness, Fear, Disgust and Anger) work together (or not) to direct her behavior.

The film’s primary conflict is a compelling one: it depicts Riley’s response to a major, life-changing event – a cross-country move. But from the perspective of a practicing clinical child psychologist with 30 years of experience, it’s only partly successful in accurately depicting why children react the way they do.

Most tweens would have difficulty with a cross-country move at the start of middle school, and Riley is, understandably, sad, angry, disgusted and fearful. She loses interest in things she used to like to do. The fact that her parents are also stressed, making it difficult for them to pick up on her angst until it is almost too late, also rings true.

Riley’s life appears to be run by her emotions. The character Joy is chief among them: it’s a core part of who she is, and a great deal of energy is expended to keep her feeling and acting in positive ways. Sadness, Fear, Disgust and Anger all have roles, and their order of appearance makes sense, developmentally.

Joy not only tries to keep the other emotions in check, but she’s also in charge of making sure that the core memories – which seem to define key areas of Riley’s functioning – are intact. A lot of time is devoted to trying to keep Sadness away, since she could taint these happy memories.

Joy is Riley’s predominant emotion, and she expends a lot of energy keeping negative emotions, like Sadness, at bay.
Disney/Pixar

But the notion that memories can be preserved unaltered is not in line with most current research thinking. Childhood traumatic events can be remembered accurately or inaccurately, while the field of eyewitness testimony is rife with examples of memories that are moderated by perception or time.

Furthermore, the emotions and behaviors of Riley are depicted using the same framework that adults often use to interpret their emotions. This misses the mark.

Children aren’t simply little adults; as developmental psychologists like Urie Bronfenbrenner have noted, it’s important to take into account the extent to which children are embedded in systems like family and school, where parents and teachers play a huge role in teaching children Riley’s age how to mediate their feelings.

Most 11-year-olds can tell you that they have feelings – and can name a few (though most would not name Disgust) – but more often than not, these feelings can overwhelm them. Adults, then, help them understand and make sense of their feelings, which is a gradual process.

In the end, the different characters for the emotions are altogether too mechanistic. It might be a nice way to show children that they have feelings, but it’s not really the way feelings work.

The film does have some signature strengths. The most authentic aspect of the film was the portrayal of conversations among Riley and her parents. Seeing her mother’s and then her father’s “inner emotions” react (like Riley, the parents also have characters assigned to their emotions) was a wonderful mapping of the kind of patterns that we see whenever families interact.

For example, at the dinner table, Mom gives Dad a look that’s intended to signal that he needs to take her side during an argument with Riley.

Dad’s emotions frantically discuss what she might mean. (“I wasn’t paying attention.” “Did we leave the toilet seat up again?” “Wait for her to do it again.”) Meanwhile, Mom’s (annoyed) emotions decide that she would have been better off with a former suitor. The humor with which it was handled was truly refreshing.

Similarly, one of the best aspects of the film is that Joy realizes that she must work with Sadness to enrich Riley’s emotional life. This is an age-appropriate realization; increased empathy in girls, especially, occurs at around Riley’s age.

Riley has a lot of experiences coming her way, as evidenced by the installation of the new control console at the end of the film with a red button labeled “puberty.” Like most adolescents, she will experience highs and lows, as her friends become more central and she discovers romantic feelings.

And it also sounds like groundwork being laid for a sequel centered on Riley’s pubescent years.

The trailer for Pixar’s Inside Out.

The Conversation

Jane Timmons-Mitchell is Associate Clinical Professor of Psychology at Case Western Reserve University.

This article was originally published on The Conversation.
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Frenzy on Fury Road: Mad Max faces a post-digital apocalypse

Ari Mattes, University of Notre Dame Australia

A cortege of battletrucks tears across the desert. A muscle-bound maniac roars pretty nothings at the bleak sky. A bald boy, face painted white, scurries around like a cockroach left stranded in a post-apocalyptic world.

There are metal spikes, sadistic implements of torture galore, massive machine guns mounted on the top of buggies, jeeps, motorcycles, and more leather than a Judas Priest concert.

The film, of course, is Mad Max: Fury Road, George Miller’s long-awaited Mad Max sequel.

The story is a melange of the second (Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior – 1981) and third (Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome – 1985) entries, following a series of battles between a gang led by Immortan Joe (Hugh Keayes-Byrne), an obese warrior kept alive by a Marilyn Manson-esque breathing apparatus, and a group of renegades led by Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) and the eponymous Max (Tom Hardy).

Mad Max: Fury Road (2015).
© Warner Bros. Pictures and © Roadshow Films

In the post-apocalyptic future, Immortan and his cronies control the water in the “Citadel”, with Immortan leveraging this biopower to acquire petrol and bullets. The action begins when Furiosa liberates Immortan’s “breeders”, a group of young desert nymphs, and they head “east” towards the “Green place” of Furiosa’s youth, accompanied by Max.

They are pursued by Immortan, with other gangs joining the hunt along the way.

The desert we’ve seen before

The whole thing looks striking. The supersaturated reds of daytime desert (shot in Namibia, after the intended shoot location of Broken Hill fell through) are beautifully contrasted with the sombre blues of night, recalling the desert tones of Russell Mulcahy’s Razorback (1984).

Several of the sequences have a compulsively hallucinogenic quality, though this, coupled with the hammy performances of most of the cast, seems to verge more often than not on parody.

Nathan Jones and Hugh Keays-Byrne in Mad Max: Fury Road (2015).
© Warner Bros. Pictures and © Roadshow Films

This is a problem that plagues any late-coming sequel, and it is amplified when the earlier films have been so influential.

Having lived through hundreds of Mad Max homages and clones, from Italian actioner Warriors of the Wasteland (1983) to Filipino exploitation yarn Stryker (1983), from Neil Marshall’s medium-sized production Doomsday (2008) to Kevin Reynolds’ big budget extravaganza Waterworld (1995), we are so used to the tropes of the post-apocalypse film that everything in Fury Road seems like unimaginative cliché or worse, lampoon.

Gender renegades

Megan Gale in Mad Max: Fury Road (2015).
© Warner Bros. Pictures and © Roadshow Films

Charlize Theron is strong as the heroine of the film, much more dominant than Max.

Tom Hardy, however, is miscast as Max: Mel Gibson has a face that seems bent on revenge, rugged and Roman, with a hint of mania in the eye. Hardy, in contrast, has a face that seems bent on rowing in an Oxbridge regatta – and it is no surprise that Miller barely focuses on Hardy’s face throughout the film.

Whereas Max in the earlier films was stoic, a reluctant Messiah wandering the wasteland and imbuing the films with a sense of mythical solitude and pathos, Max in Fury Road is simply there – often barely present in his scenes.

Theron receives her fair share of lingering close-ups, though these too seem a little rushed, the camera frequently moving away from her gaze before the full solemnity of the situation can register for the viewer.

Does the shift in focus away from Max towards Furiosa reflect some kind of postmodern sensitivity to gender? Not really: the women who are featured, warriors though they may be, are mostly scantily-clad. The only “naked” body we see in the film belongs to model Megan Gale – proving her acting chops by frowning a lot.

The pace of the action

Miller and crew evidently put a great deal of time and energy into the film’s action sequences, but everything is shot and cut at such a monotonously frenetic pace that the sequences lose any meaningful impact. This is clearly post-digital cinema, and the classical style that made Miller’s earlier films so effective is sorely missed in Fury Road.

Fluctuations of rhythm and fluctuations of tempo are what endow an action sequence with potency, as demonstrated in the work of great action directors like Sam Peckinpah, John Woo and Robert Rodriguez.

The interplay between movement and stasis creates the tension that compels the viewer to engage with the image. If every sequence is developed according to one rhythm and tempo, no matter how “high octane” this may be, the whole thing becomes dull, and the visceral impact of the action sequences in Fury Road is completely undermined by their lack of rhythmic variation.

It is difficult to understand why the film of an auteur like Miller would be so lacking in sensitivity to cinematic rhythm – unless it’s a matter of the medium moving beyond the man. Has the “freedom” offered by digital cinema in fact hamstrung Miller’s ability to create a powerful action sequence?

In the 1964 essay Camus’ Stranger Retried , French literary theorist René Girard writes that every artist revisits and critiques his or her earlier works in his or her new work.

How, then, does Fury Road fit into the continuum of Miller’s earlier films, and what is Miller saying about his oeuvre in this new film?

Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron in Mad Max: Fury Road (2015).
© Warner Bros. Pictures and © Roadshow Films

Mad Max then and now

Mad Max identified the desolate qualities of the Australian landscape and used the landscape as a springboard for an interrogation of Australian cultural mythologies of mateship, masculinity, the bush, and so on. There’s a hauntingly off-beat quality about it that is probably as much a product of budgetary limitations as intentionality on the part of Miller.

Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior tapped into the anarcho-right tendencies of the time, both affirming and laying bare the advent of neoliberal capitalism in the US and UK, whilst at the same time inspiring a generation of rock bands and filmmakers. Thatcher’s infamous comment that “there’s no such thing as society” certainly resonates in the second film.

Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome continued in this tradition, amplifying the mythical tendencies of both scene and character and reflecting, in the process, on the earlier films in the series.

Whence emerges Mad Max: Fury Road? Is it, even if, in Macbeth’s words, “full of sound and fury,” a “tale told by an idiot … signifying nothing”?

Further reading:
How Mad Max wrote the script for the action blockbuster

Mad Max: Fury Road opens internationally today.

The Conversation

Ari Mattes is Lecturer in Media Studies at University of Notre Dame Australia.

This article was originally published on The Conversation.
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Ben Affleck’s Family Owned Slaves and He Doesn’t Want You To Know

PBS’s Finding Your Roots series, a show about discovering your lineage, is postponing its third season due to a recent discovery that Ben Affleck hid aspects of his family’s heritage regarding the owning of slaves in pre-civil war era America.

The publicly funded TV station stated that, in conjunction with New York station WNET, which produced the first two seasons of the show, it had launched a full investigation into an episode that aired in 2014 on April 18 with Ben Affleck, the day after the media reported on emails between the show’s host/executive producer, Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr., to Sony Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton, which were released as part of last year’s Sony hack which caused the delay and cancellation of the Seth Rogan comedy The Interview. PBS claims they had no prior knowledge of Affleck’s request to omit the information on his family, only learning of it from other media reports later on. Within correspondence, Gates sought legal counsel from Lyton after Affleck pleaded with him to cut any mention of his family being slave owners from the episode.

The PBS investigation determined that the co-producers of the show Finding Your Roots had operated in violation of the network’s editorial standards

“by failing to shield the creative and editorial process from improper influence, and by failing to inform PBS or WNET of Mr cialis canada. Affleck’s efforts to affect program content.”

Because of this, PBS won’t be moving forward with the scheduling of season 3 until its producers create a change in the way it handles historical information from a researcher/fact-checker perspective, as well as employing an independent genealogist. What followers of the series may be disappointed to hear is that any decision regarding the renewal of the show for a fourth season are being put on hold indefinitely, with Affleck’s episode being removed from reruns, home video and streaming services. Needless to say, PBS is not happy with how he handled this situation and is pretty much punishing the actor rather publicly and swiftly.

To be fair, Ben took to Facebook this past April to explain why he requested the edit, saying he was embarrassed and that, “The very thought left a bad taste in my mouth,” also stating that he regretted making the request. Gates had also went to bat for the actor, saying

“In the case of Mr. Affleck—we focused on what we felt were the most interesting aspects of his ancestry—including a Revolutionary War ancestor, a 3rd great–grandfather who was an occult enthusiast, and his mother who marched for Civil Rights during the Freedom Summer of 1964.”

Gates also released a statement to the NYTimes, saying “I sincerely regret not discussing my editing rationale with our partners at PBS and WNET and I apologize for putting PBS and its member stations in the position of having to defend the integrity of their programming​.”