Happy weekend! Snow, again, here in New York on Friday, giving the city that magical early-morning quiet stillness, broken only by the sound of cranes collapsing. The good news is that the terrorists are getting dumber. Meanwhile, here’s what happened at Slate this week:
- Amanda Hess wrote that “social media has accomplished the impressive feat of making American political discourse even more annoying.”
- Justin Peters watched every Super Bowl, which is a stunt, but then he wrote this amazing essay about it, which is no stunt. (What was it like to watch them all? Horrible.)
- Katy Waldman wrote that “no form of advertisement is more self-hating, more apologetic, than a book trailer for literary fiction.” She used my own book trailer as an example. Sorry, I know it’s lame.
- New York Times film critic A. O. Scott threatened new Slatester Isaac Chotiner with fisticuffs: “I’ll fight you on Creed. Creed is a fucking great movie.” They didn’t actually fight in the end, unfortunately.
- Also, this 33-year-old young-adult series about wizards looks really good.
From Around the Web
“Hacking Technology’s Boys’ Club,” by Anna Wiener, the New Republic
This profile of Ellen Ullman identifies Ullman, who I knew slightly many years ago, as someone who is often the odd woman out—a woman in tech, a techie who’s also a literary novelist/memoirist, a resident of San Francisco’s SoMa neighborhood who isn’t incubating a startup, an elder in a world that valorizes twentysomethings. When Weiner wrote of “a deepening self-consciousness at the realization that Ullman was the first person I’d spoken with in months, my own parents notwithstanding, who was over the age of 40,” I wondered if I’d ever played that role for my Slate colleagues! — June Thomas, culture critic and Outward editor
“In India, a Small Band of Women Risk It All for a Chance to Work,” by Ellen Barry, the New York Times
This brilliant story on women and work in India is one of the most remarkable pieces of the year. It is not only a window into an India that is both changing rapidly and staying frustratingly stuck in place; it is also a character study of some very brave women. — Isaac Chotiner, contributor
“The Great Man Theory of Trump,” by Adam Ozimek, Forbes
One of journalism’s most powerful biases is the one in favor of making things seem more significant than they are. So I enjoyed Ozimek’s suggestion that, pace all the “what Trump means” arguments, maybe he doesn’t really mean anything. — Gabriel Roth, senior editor
“A God of the Bullring Made Human,” by Geoffrey Gray, the New York Times
This piece tells the gripping story of the mysterious matador and cult figure José Tomás’ bullfight last Sunday in Mexico City. As the sport goes out of fashion, Tomás’ fight seems a last stand against extinction. Around this precarious figure, Geoffrey Gray spins a meditation on the matador’s place in a changing culture. — Charlotte Lindemann, Slate Plus intern
And from Twitter:
- Chief political correspondent Jamelle Bouie recommends this “excellent piece comparing Hillary Clinton to George H. W. Bush, who occupied a similar space in the GOP.”
- Slate President Keith Hernandez likes Vulture’s “Toughest Scene I Wrote” feature.
- And departing Panoply consigliere Nicholas Quah called this piece on Vice co-founder Shane Smith “my favorite f--king thing I’ve read all day.”
Overheard on Slate Slack
Slack is a chat program we use to discuss what we’re getting for lunch.
----- February 2nd, 2016 -----
gabriel.roth: Caprese sandwich for 12-12:20. Get on board!
john.swansburg: I went wild tuna salad, same window.
I was going to say something disparaging about prosciutto, then thought better of it. Don’t speak ill of another man’s sandwich, I always say.
gabriel.roth: I say go for it, “Against Prosciutto” is slatepitchy as hell
john.swansburg: I’d be very content never to see another slice of prosciutto in my life. It’s like the chocolate-covered strawberry of meats -- ostensibly luxurious, but not actually good to eat. Too sweet, no character, the Twix bar of the charcuterie service.
gabriel.roth: OK wow
The chocolate-covered strawberry analogy had me worried because that’s exactly right, putting chocolate on a strawberry is so dumb. Where is he going with this, I wondered, and will it make me regret my lunch choice?
But then: Too sweet? Prosciutto?
And what do Twix bars have to do with any of this? Twix bars are delicious!
Now I am looking forward to my sandwich even more.
laura.bennett: That’s a vivid but unpersuasive takedown of prosciutto, which is truly delicious in moderation
john.swansburg: I got a little carried away with the Twix bar.
My fight is not with the Twix bar.
gabriel.roth: I’m going to have a Twix bar as soon as I finish my sandwich.
john.swansburg: I might join you. John Swansburg would like to recall the shade he threw at the Twix.
But prosciutto is the pits.
gabriel.roth: I think the Twix thing proves you don’t have an argument and were just throwing nonsense invective around like some kind of Captain Haddock.
john.swansburg: The Twix in my armor.
But seriously, prosciutto: Tossed on every lousy panini from here to Quiznos, radically variant in quality, from so stringy it’ll be in your teeth for days to so hard around the edges that it might as well be a jerky, bland and buttery and with none of the sophistication of its rival cured meats, wrapped in cantaloupe at every bad brunch you've ever been to.
gabriel.roth: OK, the second pass is a lot stronger.
john.swansburg: I’m warming to my theme.
laura.bennett: The “stringiness” made me rethink my stance, I’ll admit
gabriel.roth: Right? It’s suddenly almost persuasive.
----- February 3rd, 2016 -----
julia.turner: Going with the pork at 12:20.
Also I have THOUGHTS about prosciutto.
gabriel.roth: definitely want to hear JT’s thoughts on prosciutto
julia.turner: OK, prosciutto. It is one of those things that is only worth eating if you are eating the good stuff. The difference between high and low-quality prosciutto is so vast that they might as well be different things altogether. And Swans is right that across paninerias and fast cashjzzzhsj joints people use it as a signifier for “fancy ham” and that this is a grave miscalculation and a disservice to diners because bad prosciutto is salty, greasy, tough AND stringy. All bad qualities. But good prosciutto, sliced thin, is completely delectable and unique among charcuterie in that it makes the grease/salt/umami experience we love from cured meats and renders it with unbelievable lightness and tenderness and delicacy. It’s like bacon as a cloud, bacon as an eiderdown feather, bacon as a dandelion puff. It’s great.
I will get some at DiPalo’s some morning and bring it in.
Very Short Q&A
This week’s personal question is addressed to Slate senior editor Laura Bennett.
Slate Plus: All editors have their go-to moves. What comments do you find yourself making on story after story?
Laura Bennett: When you edit a lot of things every day, you find yourself leaning on certain verbal crutches when communicating with writers. For me, those crutches are two words: clarify and tweak. If you were to make a word cloud of every note I’ve ever sent a writer, it would be a boring word cloud, but it would also basically be a jumble of phrases like “Just a few tweaks,” “Only small tweaks,” “Can you clarify,” “Is it possible to clarify,” “Just need to clarify,” and “Here are my tweaks.”
Clarify is a useful nudge for smart people with interesting thoughts who might be a little stuck inside their own heads. It means “Say this idea again but try some different words this time.” It usually works. Tweak is a cute, diminutive way to say, “Please do not resist my edits, I promise they are small.” If I ever say, “Here are my changes,” you’re in trouble.
We regret that, due to circumstances, the Best of Slate Podcasts will not appear in your podcast feed this week. We apologize. Feel free to listen to all the Slate podcasts, choose your favorite segments from each, and, using your Mac or PC, edit them into your own best-of compilation. (That will be more satisfying, in any case, because (a) it’ll be homemade, and (b) it’ll better reflect your own personal individual microtargeted preferences.) Thanks, and sorry. Normal service will be resumed next week.
Slate Plus editorial director