TIME Culture

Poor, Disconnected and Living in the Cloud

Heather Seggel
Courtesy of Heather Seggel

When your work doesn’t demand a physical address and you’ve lost social contacts and the web of connections they provide, it’s all too easy to find yourself hovering more or less nowhere

Last week I turned 45. I may soon become homeless.

I am not the stereotypical candidate for homelessness: I have a BA in English and a small business as a copywriter. And yet, my situation says something about where we live now in California—somewhere between a real roof and a virtual one. When your work doesn’t demand a physical address and you’ve lost social contacts and the web of connections they provide, it’s all too easy to find yourself hovering more or less nowhere.

Earlier this year the trailer park in Ukiah where I’d been living for nine years went from generally sketchy to frankly unsafe. It was familiar and semi-affordable, but a rent hike combined with dangerously lax maintenance (a leaky roof, a heater that shorted out, and more mice than I felt comfortable sharing my space with) motivated me to take action. It was time to go.

I frantically looked for a place but Craigslist and newspaper classifieds turned up nothing. My aunt in Santa Rosa offered to rent me a room, though her lease would be up before long; She’s steadily advancing up a waiting list for a senior apartment. When she moves, the house will be sold and I will be out of a room.

Housing in Sonoma County is a bit more expensive than in Mendocino County where I used to live. But in both places available housing is so scarce that prices are stratospheric. A studio can run you $975 or more; anything under $750 is snapped up before it hits the market. I applied for subsidized housing at two places that required me to send paperwork by mail, and I was refused a spot on their years-long waiting lists because my income is too low. On the other hand, because I run my own business and make $500 to 700 a month writing full time, I am not eligible for unemployment.

It wasn’t a shock to learn that I’m too poor for subsidized housing. In my twenties I applied for general assistance and was turned down—but not before a social worker advised me to have a baby if I wanted public money. There has always been a net under the cliff’s edge for people in dire straits, it’s just that cliff is crumbling a lot faster than even I would have expected. What little safety net remains might catch you if you fall hard enough to lose your home and job at once. But if you work full-time and get paid poorly for it, there’s precious little for you to grab onto.

Since the Internet was turning up no new leads, I dug into The Job Hunter’s Survival Guide, a recession-specific reboot of Richard Bolles’ classic What Color is Your Parachute? The self-evaluation exercises seemed like they might be helpful, and work and housing are snugly intertwined. If nothing else, the solution-oriented focus might shore up my resolve to keep trying. The same advice comes up repeatedly in the book: Take a group of friends out to dinner and compare notes. Ask 10 family members to help you with career path evaluations. This presented a problem.

There’s no comfortable way to admit this: I don’t have 10 friends and family members, or at least not the kind Bolles is talking about. I have relatives, sure, but other than the one I’m living with, they’re scattered around the globe and we don’t see each other often. I have nobody to call or visit, to have a cup of coffee with or phone to check in about matters great and small. In practical terms, I have no friends.

I should say I have no friends IRL, or “in real life,” because I have many virtual friends online. It’s satisfying to post something I think is funny and get an affirming thumbs-up in reply, and I have found a small group on Twitter via a blog I contribute to who are engaging and kind human beings. I have my own blog as well, and a network of editors around the country for whom I work. But even if upturned thumbs were redeemable for shingles, I’d have trouble putting a roof over my head with them. And a roof in a neighborhood without friends and neighbors means depending on those clicks for more than they can provide, like warmth and empathy and two-way exchange that isn’t sterile.

I’ve tried to figure out how I ended up friendless. Years back I lost a job when my ride fell through and I couldn’t get to work. My work friends hung in with me for a while, but without the job to provide context for our relationships, they eventually faded. Working from home in a remote location never replaced those lost friends, and not long after that I ended up homeless in 2004 for just over a year. Once I’d found a place to live I worked overtime to connect with my community, but was continually rebuffed. A coworker at my first job told me point-blank, “Everyone here is done as far as socializing goes. You’ll need to look elsewhere for that.”

But I had a laptop. So I would go home and scroll through Facebook, hoping to click and be clicked in return enough times to quell my increasing anxiety. It’s not coincidental that I felt hungry pretty much all the time back then. When I shifted to writing full-time, my labor connected me to people around the country and the world, though I myself was essentially nowhere.

In this way, my fingertip grip on yet another ledge has given way, but instead of a straight drop downward, I’m afloat, a sort of ghost. My work is virtual: It’s conducted, delivered, and sometimes even reimbursed online. I say I’m in Northern California, but as a freelancer, I could be anywhere and sending work to anywhere, for a third party client even farther out in the anywhere-o-sphere. It’s nice to feel a sense of global connectedness, especially since I haven’t traveled much. But if I can’t do enough piecework to pay ever-rising rents, I can’t establish myself somewhere concrete. This, in turn, makes it nearly impossible for me to access health care or other public services, including ones dedicated to helping people find housing. It’s better than landing headfirst on the concrete, but not by much.

Policymakers would probably view my situation as a simple need for affordable housing, but what I need is more complex. Yes, I need a place to live urgently, but if I end up somewhere too far from people, stores, and a post office I can walk to, I will end up feeling like I’m in about the same place where I am now. It’s exhausting to even contemplate. This demands that I leave the emotional safety of a life spent alone, meeting my needs with large batches of zeroes and ones, and that I grow myself back into a human being apart from my USB port.

That real person, who I have yet to become, needs a community to call her own with friends (if I’m lucky), neighbors, and social access, not access ports. I still believe this can happen, but in the years since I was first without a home, the world has changed in ways that have never really let me back inside. I can’t be the only one. Surely there are enough of us in similar need to take a stand and repair these societal disconnects, but it’s not a world we can engineer by mouse-click. We may need to go outside, to reclaim the commons for conversation instead of Words With Friends.

Heather Seggel is a freelance writer. Her work has appeared in San Francisco magazine, Women’s Review of Books, UTNE, The Toast, and many other places. She is currently between homes in Northern California.

This story was originally written for Zócalo Public Square.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Culture

Watch Mindy Kaling and Elmo Dance Together

It's a cuteness explosion

Mindy Kaling stopped by Sesame Street Tuesday to help Elmo teach kids about a new vocabulary word: enthusiastic. It turns out that both Kaling and Elmo are enthusiastic about dancing. Watch the Mindy Project star break it down with your favorite fuzzy monster.

TIME Culture

Camille Paglia: The Modern Campus Cannot Comprehend Evil

Woman walking college campus
Getty Images

Paglia is the author of Glittering Images: A Journey Through Art From Egypt to Star Wars.

Young women today do not understand the fragility of civilization and the constant nearness of savage nature

The disappearance of University of Virginia sophomore Hannah Graham two weeks ago is the latest in a long series of girls-gone-missing cases that often end tragically. A 32-year-old, 270-pound former football player who fled to Texas has been returned to Virginia and charged with “abduction with intent to defile.” At this date, Hannah’s fate and whereabouts remain unknown.

Wildly overblown claims about an epidemic of sexual assaults on American campuses are obscuring the true danger to young women, too often distracted by cellphones or iPods in public places: the ancient sex crime of abduction and murder. Despite hysterical propaganda about our “rape culture,” the majority of campus incidents being carelessly described as sexual assault are not felonious rape (involving force or drugs) but oafish hookup melodramas, arising from mixed signals and imprudence on both sides.

Colleges should stick to academics and stop their infantilizing supervision of students’ dating lives, an authoritarian intrusion that borders on violation of civil liberties. Real crimes should be reported to the police, not to haphazard and ill-trained campus grievance committees.

Too many young middleclass women, raised far from the urban streets, seem to expect adult life to be an extension of their comfortable, overprotected homes. But the world remains a wilderness. The price of women’s modern freedoms is personal responsibility for vigilance and self-defense.

Current educational codes, tracking liberal-Left, are perpetuating illusions about sex and gender. The basic Leftist premise, descending from Marxism, is that all problems in human life stem from an unjust society and that corrections and fine-tunings of that social mechanism will eventually bring utopia. Progressives have unquestioned faith in the perfectibility of mankind.

The horrors and atrocities of history have been edited out of primary and secondary education except where they can be blamed on racism, sexism, and imperialism — toxins embedded in oppressive outside structures that must be smashed and remade. But the real problem resides in human nature, which religion as well as great art sees as eternally torn by a war between the forces of darkness and light.

Liberalism lacks a profound sense of evil — but so does conservatism these days, when evil is facilely projected onto a foreign host of rising political forces united only in their rejection of Western values. Nothing is more simplistic than the now rote use by politicians and pundits of the cartoonish label “bad guys” for jihadists, as if American foreign policy is a slapdash script for a cowboy movie.

The gender ideology dominating academe denies that sex differences are rooted in biology and sees them instead as malleable fictions that can be revised at will. The assumption is that complaints and protests, enforced by sympathetic campus bureaucrats and government regulators, can and will fundamentally alter all men.

But extreme sex crimes like rape-murder emanate from a primitive level that even practical psychology no longer has a language for. Psychopathology, as in Richard von Krafft-Ebing’s grisly Psychopathia Sexualis (1886), was a central field in early psychoanalysis. But today’s therapy has morphed into happy talk, attitude adjustments, and pharmaceutical shortcuts.

There is a ritualistic symbolism at work in sex crime that most women do not grasp and therefore cannot arm themselves against. It is well-established that the visual faculties play a bigger role in male sexuality, which accounts for the greater male interest in pornography. The sexual stalker, who is often an alienated loser consumed with his own failures, is motivated by an atavistic hunting reflex. He is called a predator precisely because he turns his victims into prey.

Sex crime springs from fantasy, hallucination, delusion, and obsession. A random young woman becomes the scapegoat for a regressive rage against female sexual power: “You made me do this.” Academic clichés about the “commodification” of women under capitalism make little sense here: It is women’s superior biological status as magical life-creator that is profaned and annihilated by the barbarism of sex crime.

Misled by the naive optimism and “You go, girl!” boosterism of their upbringing, young women do not see the animal eyes glowing at them in the dark. They assume that bared flesh and sexy clothes are just a fashion statement containing no messages that might be misread and twisted by a psychotic. They do not understand the fragility of civilization and the constant nearness of savage nature.

Paglia is the author of Glittering Images: A Journey Through Art From Egypt to Star Wars.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Innovation

Watch These Beautiful Drones Dance With Cirque du Soleil

Flying lampshades come alive

Forget annihilating terrorists and spying on people surreptitiously—drones can dance. According to this recently released video’s description:

Cirque du Soleil, ETH Zurich, and Verity Studios have partnered to develop a short film featuring 10 quadcopters in a flying dance performance. The collaboration resulted in a unique, interactive choreography where humans and drones move in sync. Precise computer control allows for a large performance and movement vocabulary of the quadcopters and opens the door to many more applications in the future.

How else might drones change art and culture?

(via IEEE Spectrum)

TIME Books

Lena Dunham: A Generation’s Gutsy, Ambitious Voice

Lena Dunham, author of 'Not That Kind of Girl'
Lena Dunham, author of 'Not That Kind of Girl' Autumn de Wilde

Roxane Gay is the author of Bad Feminist, a new collection of essays.

The Girls star takes on Hollywood, friendship, rape culture, and more—with humor and tenderness—in her new memoir

During the first season of her critically acclaimed HBO series, Girls, Lena Dunham’s character Hannah Horvath, high on opium, tells her parents, “I don’t want to freak you out, but I think that I may be the voice of my generation—or at least a voice of a generation.” The line made waves as people conflated the fictional character with her creator, perhaps not wrongly. How dare a young woman make such a bold claim? All too often our culture tells young women their voices don’t matter or deserve to be heard.

In her debut essay collection, Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She’s “Learned,” Dunham demonstrates her 28-year-old voice’s admirable range. While some celebrity essay collections and memoirs are lackluster, even embarrassing to read, Not That Kind of Girl suffers few missteps. Dunham’s cinematic flair translates to the page with vigor and clarity—not unlike the late Nora Ephron, to whom she is often compared and to whom the book is dedicated (along with Dunham’s family and her boyfriend Jack Antonoff of the indie-rock band fun.). Instead of tossing pithy, pseudo-motivational observations at the reader, Dunham has crafted warm, intelligent writing that is both deeply personal and engaging, clustered in five topical sections: “Love & Sex,” “Body,” “Friendship,” “Work” and “Big Picture.”

Each of the 29 pieces—essays mixed with lists, like “18 Unlikely Things I’ve Said Flirtatiously”—is confident and assured, sidestepping self-deprecation and instead offering intense self-examination. Dunham’s self-awareness can almost overwhelm with truthiness, as in “Barry,” her glancing, tragicomic account of being raped by a “mustachioed campus Republican” who, among other nonconsensual acts, removes his condom without her permission or knowledge. “A sexual encounter that no one can classify properly” sounds precisely like a voice of her generation, one struggling to come to terms with rape culture. (And yet, “I feel like there are fifty ways it’s my fault … But I also know that at no moment did I consent to being handled that way” sounds like a voice of every generation of women.)

Unlike Hannah Horvath, Dunham in her self-awareness does not come across as self-obsessed. When she is absurd, she acknowledges that absurdity. “13 Things I’ve Learned Are Not Okay to Say to Friends” is among the most drolly enlightened of the lists, made up of ostensible real-life Dunham quotes like “No, please don’t apologize. If I had your mother I’d be a nightmare, too” and “There’s nothing about you in my book.”

She reveals her vulnerabilities in a deadpan manner, showing us how she loves and has been loved, how she has wronged and been wronged. But it’s not all laughing around the hard stuff. At the end of “Barry” comes a teary phone call with Antonoff, in which she tells him what happened with the hipster rapist; here the narrative turns deeply confidential, allowing the reader into what you realize is Dunham’s truest interior life, as fragile and authentic as yours or anyone’s.

Not That Kind of Girl is evidently what she has learned thus far, and Dunham is far from an autocratic memoirist, even warning us, “I’m an unreliable narrator. Because I add an invented detail to almost every story I tell about my mother. Because my sister claims every memory we ‘share’ has been fabricated by me to impress a crowd.”

Dunham has received a great deal of criticism from critics, including me, over the lack of racial diversity on Girls. That assessment is well but narrowly placed. The lack of diversity is a fault of Hollywood more than of Dunham. Thankfully, this essay collection translates far beyond the white, urban demographic of Girls.

Some things, like our humanity, are universal. We all examine our families’ bonds and oddities. We all experience the insecurity of becoming an adult and navigating the world in an imperfect, human body. In Dunham’s case, body image and family are inextricably linked. She believes her penchant for exhibitionism and onscreen nudity came from her mother, the artist Laurie Simmons, who took nude ur-selfies with a Nikon back in the day. We all love, and hate, and nurture ambitions and nurse failings. We all worry about death and cancer—“I’m not scared enough to do any 10K walks, but I’m pretty scared,” Dunham jokes in “My Top 10 Health Concerns” (which include tonsil stones and infertility). Her privilege is undeniable in her television work and even in these pages, but by revealing so much of herself in such an intelligent manner, she allows us to see past that privilege and into her person.

And what is a voice of a generation, really? The phrase offers a seductive rhetorical flourish that speaks, at its core, to a yearning. We are forever in search of someone who will speak not only to us but for us. In the introduction, Dunham writes, “There is nothing gutsier to me than a person announcing that their story is one that deserves to be told, especially if that person is a woman.” Not That Kind of Girl is from that kind of girl: gutsy, audacious, willing to stand up and shout. And that is why Dunham is not only a voice who deserves to be heard but also one who will inspire other important voices to tell their stories too.

Roxane Gay is the author of Bad Feminist, a new collection of essays.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Culture

“Happy National Punctuation Day!” ;)

Neustockimages; Getty Images

To celebrate this annual recognition of commas and periods, TIME explores some ways that punctuation just "aint" the same as it used to be

This Sept. 24, like the previous 10, is National Punctuation Day. ’Tis a time for merrily gargling our hyphens and luxuriating in bathtubs full of em dashes, for braiding parentheses in our hair and giving our suitors octothorpes as love tokens after we dance on clouds of ampersands.

But while we can count on this semiotic orgy coming around every year, we cannot be so sure that the way we use punctuation will be the same from one to the next—even if the ostensible reason for this holiday is to celebrate “the importance of proper punctuation.” After all, the proper among us once wrote today as to-day; they once referred to the 1920s as the 1920’s; and they once marked quotations with diples (>) rather than these guys: (“”).

Here are five modern examples of how punctuation is evolving, with no certain conclusion and whether the traditionalists like it or not.

Emoji are being wielded as punctuation.

Especially on platforms like Twitter, emoji are being used to serve the same key purpose of punctuation: aiding understanding by providing clues to how the surrounding words should be interpreted. Take the text of this real tweet, randomly selected from emojitracker.com:

“Who tf put cheese in my bag today Screen Shot 2014-09-23 at 6.00.07 PM

Just as exclamation points can convey excitement or question marks can suggest a lack of certainty, the angry face helps the reader understand that writer was angry about discovering their bag contained cheese of uncertain origin.

There is more freedom from conventions.

Look back at the above tweet. While an English teacher might whip out her red pen and put a question mark at the end of the sentence, we can easily discern the writer’s uncertainty about the cheese-smuggler’s identity by the word who. We don’t need the mark, and space-constrained platforms like Twitter and text messages have made us more apt to drop unnecessary characters—as well as less likely to make the assumption that character-dropping equals ignorance.

Meanwhile, the same marks missing from the ends of sentences or middle of words are settling into non-traditional roles. “Now you have Twitter and email taking older marks and giving them new life as emoticons,” says Keith Houston, blogger and author of Shady Characters, a history of punctuation marks. “People are punctuating in unstandard ways, and they are freed from convention because these messages are ephemeral.”

The apostrophe is losing steam in some circles.

Social media analytics firm Brandwatch scoured Twitter for trends in 2013 and found that the top five “grammatical errors” were: im, wont, cant, dont and id. Meanwhile, corporations like British super-bookstore Waterstones (neé Waterstone’s) have seen fit to erase those marks from their names. Cities are dropping them from street signs. And while some grammarians may cry most foul, others are calling for the apostrophe’s dumb round head.

The advocates behind the “Kill the Apostrophe” website have been joined by author James Harbeck in asserting that, in most cases, rules about apostrophe usage only serve to irritate those people who know the rules and confuse those who do not. “The great question with a lot of punctuation is, Do you really need it?” says Ammon Shea, author of hilarious grammar-police-takedown Bad English. And, he says, there’s often little risk of confusion when theyre absent.

Exclamation marks are becoming harder to avoid, for those who would like to avoid them.

As many have noted, the period that used to innocuously signal the end of a thought—like an orchestra conductor pinching his hand—has taken on a brusque aura these days, leaving the reader of any declarative sentence open to detect apathy or annoyance. This has led to a rise in exclamation marks, because people need something to fill the gaps left by informative cues we get only in face-to-face communication—the raised brows, the wide eyes, the smile. Fearing that we could come across as unfriendly, we tack on an exclamation mark (“Thanks!”) to make sure our fine disposition comes across.

The data supporting this shift is largely anecdotal, but the anecdotes are abundant. “The exclamation mark, once reserved for expressing joy or excitement, now simply marks baseline politeness,” writes New York Magazine’s Melissa Dahl, who goes on to quote a grammarian who describes them as nearly “mandatory” in email. “Dealing with such bare bones language,” says Shea, “you use whatever help you can get.” (If you don’t want this kind of help, there is a handy TIME guide on alternatives.)

Hyphens are being retired, perhaps faster than ever.

Hyphens have, of course, been chucked for centuries, as in the previous example of to-day becoming today. But that shift, Houston says, took about a century and wasn’t finalized until the 1900s. Today, at least some of the hyphen-tossing is happening faster. Take electronic mail, which started as the crazy notion of “E-mail” in the 1970s and became the un-hyphenated, ho-hum “email” among prevailing American media outlets in about 40 years.“The migration to ebook, ecommerce and email is not unexpected,” Merriam-Webster President John Morse previously told TIME. “This transition may come more readily in today’s technological environment.”

We can only wonder what tricksy technology is going to do to punctuation between now and next year’s National Punctuation Day. In the meantime, I need to get back to my em-dash bath.

TIME Culture

Women-Led Blockbuster Successes Haven’t Killed Movie Gender Gap

140530_INV_PickPro_HungerGames_1
Jennifer Lawrence stars as Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire Murray Close—Lionsgate

Only 23% of the films studied had female protagonists, while just 31% of the speaking characters were women

Don’t be fooled by the box-office sales of movies starring strong women like Katniss in The Hunger Games or Elsa and Anna in Frozen: there’s still a gender gap in Hollywood. According to a new report by the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, only 23% of the films distributed internationally from 2010 to 2013 featured female protagonists and only 31% of the speaking characters were women.

Things are even less equitable behind the camera: only 8% of the 120 films studied had a female director. The dearth of women-helmed films correlates with how many women made it on-screen: the study showed that films with female directors had a 6.8% higher chance of including more female on-screen, and those with a female writer had a 7.5% higher chance of including women in the cast.

Even if movies did have lots of female characters, the portrayals were not necessarily empowering: appearance comments were directed at women five times more than men in the scripts. Women were also sexualized more often than men: they were over two times more likely to be shown in revealing attire or fully naked. And women characters were also less likely than men to have accomplished careers in film: only 14.8% of doctors in movies were women; 13.9% of executives; 9.1% of lawyers; 8.9% of engineers; and 4.1% of sports figures.

These new stats, while bleak, are not a shocking break from past studies: in 2013, women made up only 15% of the protagonists, according to San Diego State University, and only 36% of films passed the Bechdel test, a simple tool that asks whether there are two women in a movie that speak to each other about something other than a man.

And yet studios would benefit financially if they changed the current trend. A Vocativ analysis from earlier this year found that movies with strong female roles make more money. The Hunger Games franchise, Frozen, Maleficent and Gravity attracted massive audiences, in part because 60% of the over-25 movie-going audience is female, and women — like every other demographic — want to see people who look like them onscreen.

On a brighter note, women had a good summer at the box office: films with female leads like The Fault in Our Stars surprised analysts by edging out traditional tentpole films like Edge of Tomorrow, and female-driven fantasy and action films like Maleficent and Lucy proved that audiences will buy tickets to big blockbusters with women in the lead role. (And Jennifer Lawrence is poised to seal that claim with the next Hunger Games installment in November.) Hopefully, the big numbers will finally start to change producers’ minds: Marvel Studios has hinted at an upcoming superhero film, while Sony already has a D.C. film starring a heroine under way.

TIME society

Keep Your Shoes on for This All-Wood Airport Checkpoint

New York-based artist Roxy Paine used a combination of 3-D modeling and hand-carving to create this unique art installation

This article originally appeared on Lost at E Minor.

We’ve all been there: the rushing, the queues, the “shoes, belt, laptop” drone, the beeping, the swabs and the hands in strange places. But it’s unlikely that very many of us will ever actually stop to look around and take in any details of an airport security checkpoint.

Using a blend of 3D modelling and hand-carving, artist Roxy Paine has created an installation depicting a checkpoint frozen in time. From the rubber flaps on the x-ray machine to the shoes in the box, the whole thing is made from wood and illuminated by recognizable fluorescent lighting. Using forced perspective and clever foreshortening, Paine has managed to fit an 80-ft room into an 18-ft space and still make it seem life-size.

The room-sized diorama, carved from soft-hued maple, portrays a mundane space in a new light, freezing a room that we normally rush through without seeing so that we can observe minute details at our leisure.

(via Design Boom)

TIME Culture

Watch John Oliver Debunk the Miss America Pageant’s Scholarship Claim

It turns out the pageant isn't actually giving away $45 million in scholarships every year

Updated 6:30 pm ET

John Oliver has done it again. The Last Week Tonight host summed up everything that is wrong with the annual Miss America Pageant Sunday night—from the butt glue to the 20 second responses to the question of how the U.S. should deal with ISIS.

But Oliver’s team also dug into the Miss America Pageant’s assertion that they provide $45 million in scholarship funds every year. They found that the pageant winners doesn’t come even close to actually receiving that amount for complicated reasons that Oliver explains in his piece. And yet the claim that they are still the world’s largest provider of scholarships for women in the world is, sadly, true, even though women who compete for said scholarship must certify that they have never before been married or pregnant.

On Monday afternoon, the Miss America Organization defended its program in a statement, saying it was common practice to advertise the total figure offered in scholarships rather than what ended up being spent. “We highlight the impressive, generous $45 million in scholarships made available in an effort to honor every one of our academic partners nationwide who make available cash and in-kind financial opportunities to the [Miss America Organization] and young women who participate in the program,” a spokesperson for the organization said. “Each year, more than 8,000 young women compete for scholarships…As with any scholarship, the full amount awarded may not always be used as recipients’ plans change or evolve.”

This post has been updated with the Miss America Organization’s statement.

TIME Culture

6 Funny Movies You Should Watch This Weekend

Woman laughing
Glenn Glasser

Could you use a laugh? Get the giggles going with these movies, all handpicked by well-known comedians.

This post originally appeared on RealSimple.com.

1. The Cameraman

“This 1928 movie may have more laughs per second than any movie ever made, and it’s silent! The humor is in Buster Keaton’s insistence on focusing totally on the task at hand. In the film, he plays a newsreel photographer, and in one scene he is earnestly focused on shooting footage of a gang war in Chinatown. When an escaped organ grinder’s monkey jumps on his head and holds tightly onto his nose for safety and Keaton does not react—just keeps shooting—you can’t help but crumble.”
— Suggested by Elayne Boosler.

(MORE: Banishing Life’s Little Annoyances)

2. The In-Laws

“This 1979 movie is a favorite of many comedy writers I know. Alan Arkin plays a suburban dentist who inadvertently teams up with Peter Falk, a CIA agent, to take down a dictator in Central America. The chemistry between the two is priceless; words don’t do it justice. One favorite line: When discussing the upsides of working for the CIA with Arkin, Falk says, casually, ‘Are you interested in joining? The benefits are terrific. The trick is not to get killed. That’s really the key to the benefit program.’”
— Suggested by Annabelle Gurwitch, the author of I See You Made an Effort: Compliments, Indignities, and Survival Stories From the Edge of 50.

3. Midnight Run

“Robert De Niro is Jack Walsh, a bounty hunter tasked with bringing in the Duke, a former accountant for the mob who skipped bail. Walsh is constantly frustrated and angry, while the Duke is very annoying. It’s hilarious to watch them constantly nag each other as they get chased across the country.”
— Suggested by Russell Peters, a stand-up comedian and a judge on the NBC talent contest Last Comic Standing.

(MORE: 50 Great Books That Will Change Your Life)

4. Mistaken for Strangers

“It’s a funny, heartwarming documentary about rock and roll. The premise: Right before he goes on tour with his band, the National, lead singer Matt Berninger invites his slacker brother, Tom, to come along as a roadie. Tom decides to tape the whole thing, and the result—including when Tom films himself getting inebriated on the tour bus—is a great account of sibling rivalry and love.”
— Suggested by Mike Birbiglia.

5. Waiting for Guffman

“In this mockumentary masterpiece, Christopher Guest’s character, Corky St. Clair, is a beyond-eccentric theater director from off-off-off-Broadway who relocates to the tiny town of Blaine, Missouri, and is determined to showcase the acting ‘talent’ of the locals. The results are horrifyingly hilarious.”
— Suggested by Ross Mathews, the host of the late-night talk show Hello Ross! on E!

(MORE: 5 Ways to Stay Cool Under Pressure)

6. Made

This comedy is about two friends and aspiring boxers who get caught up in a money-laundering scheme. It’s all character driven and in the end, these two great pals (played by Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau) end up with a simple win, a little girl they raise together. Ricky, Vince’s character, is such a polarizing figure, but he manages to still be so hilarious. Just watch the scene where Ricky is sitting in first class on a flight to New York and he realizes that the alcohol is free. It’s a real representation of the film and the relationship he and Jon have in the film.
— Suggested by Steve Byrne, a stand-up comedian and the star of Sullivan & Son, on TBS.

— Reporting by Andra Chantim

(MORE: How to Tell If Someone Is Lying)

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