Chinas cram schools
Each year,more than 9 million Chinese students give the gaokao,Chinas hyper-competitive college entrance exam. A gruelling two or three days experience ,the test covers Chinese,mathematics,a foreign language,physics,geography,history,among others. Rachel Lu writes that as parents expect their children to become breadwinners,the pressure to perform is intense. She notes how most students study at home for a year,but others are sent to cram schools like Maotanchang High School in Anhui. Here,classes are so crowded that teachers use loudspeakers. The article describes schedules that run from 6.10 am to 10.50 pm,with only two 30-minute meal breaks and one hour of downtime. Students have even been arrested for goofing about.
Women street racers known as the Speed Sisters have become a beloved component of the Palestinian racing scene. The team,formed in 2009 with the help of the British consulate in Jerusalem,comprises Betty Saadeh,Noor Dawood,Mona Ennab and Marah Zahalka. Samuel Nelson Gilbert and Lazar Simeonov write that the Speed Sisters are the first all-female racing team in the Middle East who have helped propel the nascent Palestinian racing scene into the international spotlight while breaking stereotypes. Although the group reached a high of eight members in 2010,only four remain as some got married or stopped for other reasons. Mona says that she feels racing is a means of resistance. When I drive I feel free from pressures of life,from the political situation.
Where Kubrick erred
Laura Miller writes about how it is no secret that Stephen King disliked Stanley Kubricks film adaptation of his 1977 novel The Shining. She says Kubrick faithfuls tend to incant the words genius and masterpiece over and over again and are oblivious to others opinions. Kubrick buffs also like to point tauntingly at Kings poorly regarded 1997 miniseries adaptation,labelling it a failed attempt to better the master. But by all accounts King is motivated not by competition but rather by a protective instinct toward characters who clearly mean a lot to him. Miller says the two men represent diametrically opposite approaches to narrative art one an aesthete and the other as a humanist. Everything that makes Jack Nicholsons performance iconic his grinning,campy,manic nastiness undermines Kings point,which is that Jack Torrance could be you. She writes that King is essentially a novelist of morality and the decisions his characters make matter. The difference with Kubrick is that his characters are largely in the grip of forces beyond their control.
The war on drugs
The worlds most extensive study of the drug trade has just been published in the medical journal BMJ Open,providing the first global snapshot of four decades of the war on drugs. Stephen Marche says it could not have been a bigger failure as drugs have become not only purer,but cheaper. Coke is on an 80 per cent discount from 1990,heroin 81 per cent,cannabis 86 per cent. Marche says the study also poses a question about demand. He feels the demand will always exist as drugs feed a human despair which is endless. The real question is… trying to mitigate social consequences and treating the desire for drugs as a medical condition rather than as a moral failure.