Israel Film Festival

It is remarkable – non? – that, with the vast amounts spent on arts marketing it’s so hard to know what great arts events are on, where they’re on and whether you should go to them ahead of other arts events. In other words that it’s so hard not just to ensure that the information turns up on some feed of yours in a form that’s easily accessible and comprehensible, but also in a form that allows you to ignore dross, unless you want dross.

As a small contribution to solving this problem (with larger contributions in the wings), as you know Troppo hosts film festival highlights in a form that makes it easy for you to identify when and where good films are on. Here’s the Israeli Film Festival films that score around four stars or more from decent independent reviewers.

What’s there not to like?

Top Picks

A deeply compassionate depiction of the intricate and complex relationship between Jews and Arabs in the late 1980s, based on Sayed Kashua’s bestselling novels Second Person Singular and Dancing Arabs. Leaving his Arab home town of Tira to attend a prestigious Jewish boarding school, Eyad faces a dilemma: can he be accepted in this new environment without sacrificing his sense of self and culture? Though this opportunity suggests a positive future, Eyad struggles among Israeli Jews, feeling shame at simple things like not knowing how to use silverware, what music to listen to, and not pronouncing Hebrew correctly.
☆☆☆☆ IMDB
Show Timings:
This multi award-winning comedy is set in 1991 during the immigration wave from Russia to Israel and depicts one family’s hilarious experience through a video recording when their aunt dies in-flight causing all kinds of problems with entry paperwork!
☆☆☆☆ IMDB
Show Timings:
From around the world, a group of thirty somethings return to their homeland of Israel to attend a mutual friend’s wedding with dramas forcing them to reexamine their relationships and desires.
☆☆☆☆ IMDB
Show Timings:
Zohara decides to travel to her estranged sister’s wedding, but on the way becomes an accomplice in a young Bedouin woman’s desperate escape from an arranged marriage.
☆☆☆☆ IMDB
☆☆☆☆ Vox Magazine
Show Timings:
Aidan Bloom is a 35-year-old man who finds himself at major crossroads, which forces him to examine his life, his career, and his family. A struggling actor, father and husband, he is still trying to find his identity; a purpose for his life. He winds up trying to home school his two children, when his father can no longer afford to pay for private education and the only available public school is on its last legs. Through teaching them about life his way, Aidan gradually discovers some of the parts of himself he couldn’t find.
☆☆☆☆ IMDB
Show Timings:
Two men, spy and handler, whom history insists must be adversaries, forge an unexpected trust and friendship. A Palestinian in Ramallah, Mosab Hassan Yousef, whose father is a Hamas leader, grows up angry and ready to fight Israel. Arrested for smuggling guns at the age of 17, he’s interrogated by the Shin Bet, Israel’s security service, and sent to prison. But shocked by Hamas’ ruthless tactics in the prison and the organization’s escalating campaign of suicide bombings outside, Mosab astonishingly agrees to spy for Israel. Focusing on the complex relationship with his handler, The Green Prince is a gripping account of terror, betrayal, and unthinkable choices, along with a friendship that defies all boundaries
☆☆☆☆ IMDB
☆☆☆☆ The Guardian
Show Timings:

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I managed to trigger the warning email below, presumably by installing Gmail Meter. But I’ve uninstalled it. It comes every day or so. The first link generates a “Forbidden: Error 403″ while the latter link invites me to do some programing at Google Developer. I can’t unsubscribe, and Gmail won’t let me mark it as junk. The Troppo Mercedes is available for a two week respite from the panelbeaters for the person who can answer this question:

What the hell can I do?

Your script, Gmail Meter, has recently failed to finish successfully. A summary of the failure(s) is shown below. To configure the triggers for this script, or change your setting for receiving future failure notifications, click here.




Error Message



8/19/14 1:17 AM


Authorization is required to perform that action.


8/19/14 1:17 AM


Google Apps Script

Need help? Visit the Google Apps Script documentation. Please do not reply to this message. (c) 2014 Google

Free, marginal cost pricing and policy

Chris Anderson managed to get an article, and then a book of the article (a pet peeve of mine, but we’ll move on) out of the idea that ‘free’ is a big deal. Better than a low low price, free avoids ‘mental transactions costs’ and is all round a Big New Thing. One thing that I don’t think he mentioned is that the ‘free’ of the internet revives to practical relevance an old insight from textbook economics which was theoretically clear but always of less use than some economists appreciated because of the practical difficulties of implementing it. (Sound familiar?)

There’s always been a ‘textbook’ case for governments to help subsidise from general revenue their own or even other service providers’ fixed costs to make marginal cost pricing (as supported by Economics 101) financially viable. But the incentive perversities and institutional complexities of doing so were usually formidable. If you issue subsidies for fixed costs, how will you get those fixed costs met at lowest cost? How will you prevent various tricks to maximise fixed costs to further lower marginal costs? How do you even define fixed costs in contradistinction to marginal costs – there can be difficulties making the distinction in practice.

Web 2.0 platforms will often provide a much cleaner opportunity to trial these ideas. Take, for example, the Australian firm CultureAmp, which successfully sells browser based employee engagement software to large and small firms whilst also offering a cut down free version. Government could negotiate with CultureAmp and its competitors to fund one of them to supply a full suite of web-based services within a certain jurisdiction for free. (It might make more sense to do this for businesses within a certain size also as larger businesses may well require customisation). Continue reading

My Trip . . .

In case anyone’s interested I did an interview on ‘my trip’ overseas recently which if you fancy a bit of light and slightly educational entertainment is here.

Anyway, the main burden of my remarks is that we’re losing ground within the leaders group on eGov and Government 2.0 (which I see as somewhat different things). The UK have been stepping up the pace and are now way ahead of us on the digital agenda including the PIMS agenda – personal information management services - which we’ve barely begun to work on.

This year every student studying at MIT will be given their own bitcoin wallet and $100 in bitcoin. Sounds like a fantastic way to kick off an ecosystem to build the internet of money!

We’re not distinguishing ourselves in this area. The UK has had three PMs pushing the digital agenda – Blair, Brown and Cameron. The US has had Silicon Valley pushing things along and Obama driving things with all sorts of highly talented people brought into the administration.

Us? Not so much, from either party.

Medical Marijuana Laws and Teen Marijuana Use

Amazing that this is such a big deal, that we can administer morphine but not medical marijuana to alleviate pain. The paper is here.


While at least a dozen state legislatures in the United States have
recently considered bills to allow the consumption of marijuana for
medicinal purposes, the federal government is intensifying its
efforts to close medical marijuana dispensaries. Federal officials
contend that the legalization of medical marijuana encourages
teenagers to use marijuana and have targeted dispensaries operating
within 1,000 feet of schools, parks and playgrounds. Using data from
the national and state Youth Risk Behavior Surveys, the National
Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997 and the Treatment Episode Data Set,
we estimate the relationship between medical marijuana laws and
marijuana use. Our results are not consistent with the hypothesis
that legalization leads to increased use of marijuana by teenagers.

by D. Mark Anderson, Benjamin Hansen, Daniel I. Rees – #20332 (CH HE LE)

The Dunera: kicking off an exciting life

An excerpt from the Dunera News. (for those who don’t know, the Dunera was the prison ship on which my father was deported to Australia in 1940 with the Battle of Britain raging around them). The exerpt is an autobiographical sketch by Richard Sonnenfeldt (1923–2009)

I was brought up as a German boy but, being Jewish, was lucky enough to be sent to boarding school in England in 1938. I was deported on the Dunera, sent to Hay, but again lucky to be released along with six others, taken back to Sydney and on to the Dunera. The ship developed trouble, we were taken off at Bombay and freed – being left in the hands of the Jewish Relief Committee.
It took six months for the US Consul to verify my credentials and issue me with a US visa. I arrived in New York in April 1941 and joined my family who had caught one of the last boats out of Lisbon. I wanted to enlist but was not accepted due to being of German origin. But a further 18 months on in 1943, I was given US citizenship, drafted and served in the Infantry in Italy and France. Then with the third and seventh armies in Germany and Austria. I saw battle at the Bulge and was there at the liberation of Dachau concentration camp, something I never forgot. Continue reading

Libertarians and the privatisation of income management

Employers are prevented by law from subjecting workers to income management. What if they weren’t?

Libertarians favour freedom of contract. They believe the government’s role is to enforce contracts not tell people what should be in them. One way governments have interfered with freedom of contract is by insisting that employers pay workers in cash. Laws like the nineteenth century truck acts were designed to prevent employers from paying workers in goods or forcing them to spend their wages in company stores. This restriction on freedom of contract continues today through the Australian Fair Work Act 2009.

Recently Andrew Forrest has suggested that a Healthy Welfare Card could help welfare reliant families by preventing spending on alcohol, drugs and gambling. According to Forrest, the card could offer stability and "help the most vulnerable families manage the routines required to hold down a job."

Many people who make this argument seem to assume that once someone moves into paid work, their drinking, gambling and substance abuse problems disappear. Or alternatively, they believe that until a person manages to overcome these problems, no employer will offer them a job. But in reality there are plenty of people with full time jobs who abuse alcohol, take drugs and have gambling problems.

What if someone proposed a scheme that allowed employers to offer jobs to people on income managed welfare payments and pay them using something like Forrest’s Healthy Welfare Card? They could argue that employers would be more likely to take on someone with long standing alcohol or drug problem if they knew their wages would be spent paying off a car that they could use to drive to work rather than on beer. The card could allow more people to get jobs, stabilise their lives and become self sufficient.

Continue reading

Cash for clunkers

Cash for Corollas: When Stimulus Reduces Spending
by Mark Hoekstra, Steven L. Puller, Jeremy West – #20349 (EEE IO PE)


Cash for Clunkers was a 2009 economic stimulus program aimed at increasing new vehicle spending by subsidizing the replacement of older vehicles. Using a regression discontinuity design, we show the increase in sales during the two month program was completely offset during the following seven to nine months, consistent with previous
research. However, we also find the program’s fuel efficiency restrictions induced households to purchase more fuel efficient but less expensive vehicles, thereby reducing industry revenues by three billion dollars over the entire nine to eleven month period. This highlights the conflict between the stimulus and environmental objectives of the policy.