Does Silicon Valley Have a Sense of Humor?

Slate's weekly roundtable.
April 9 2014 12:46 PM

The Culture Gabfest “My Little Dictaphone” Edition

Slate’s Culture Gabfest on The Unknown Known, HBO’s Silicon Valley, and the speed-reading app Spritz.

Listen to Culture Gabfest No. 290 with Stephen Metcalf, Dana Stevens, and Julia Turner with the audio player below.

And join the lively conversation on the Culturefest Facebook page here:

Advertisement

The sponsors of today’s show are Stamps.com and Audible. Go to Stamps.com and use the promo code “CULTUREFEST” for your no-risk free trial and bonus offer. Get a free audiobook from Audible’s collection of more than 150,000 titles and a subscription to a daily audio digest when you sign up for a 30-day free trial at www.audiblepodcast.com/culturefest. This week’s pick for the Culture Gabfest Bucket List—the books you’ve got to read to be a smarter culture hound—is Life on the Mississippi by Mark Twain, read by Michael Prichard.

Culturefest is on the radio! Gabfest Radio combines Slate’s Culture and Political Gabfests in one show—listen on Saturdays at 7 a.m. and Sundays at 6 p.m. on WNYC’s AM820.

On May 4 the Culture Gabfest will be hosting a live show in Montreal as part of the Blue Metropolis Literary Festival. The show on Sunday is sold out, but there are still tickets to a cocktail party with the gabbers on May 3.

And don’t forget you can find Culture Gabfest T-shirts for sale in the Slate Store.

On this week’s episode, the critics discuss The Unknown Known, Errol Morris’ confounding portrait of Donald Rumsfeld. After 33 hours of interview footage and tens of thousands of dictated memos, the former secretary of defense remains cagey, cryptic, and above all unknown. Next, the gabbers turn to the new HBO comedy Silicon Valley, Mike Judge’s incisive parody of Palo Alto’s startup culture. But are techies in on the joke? And finally the critics wrestle with Spritz, an app that promises to make its users speed-readers, based on its efficient, nonlinear layout of text. For the next generation of readers, is faster necessarily better?

Links to some of the things we discussed this week follow:

Endorsements:

Dana: “Bach Psychology: Gothic, Sublime, or just human?,” Michael Markham’s essay in the Los Angeles Review of Books about the perils of Bach biography.

Julia: I Am the Beggar of the World: Landays from Contemporary Afghanistan, a collection of clandestine poems by Afghan women. It’s great book of poetry and offers more insight into modern Afghanistan than anything she’s ever read.

Outro: “Springtime Can Kill You” by Jolie Holland (and Steve’s newly hatched chicks!).

You can email us at culturefest@slate.com.

This podcast was produced by Ann Heppermann. Our intern is Anna Shechtman.

Follow us on Twitter. And please like the Culture Gabfest on Facebook.

Stephen Metcalf is Slate's critic at large. He is working on a book about the 1980s.

Dana Stevens is Slate's movie critic.

Julia Turner is the editor in chief of Slate and a regular on Slate's Culture Gabfest podcast.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

The Democrats’ War at Home

How can the president’s party defend itself from the president’s foreign policy blunders?

Congress’ Public Shaming of the Secret Service Was Political Grandstanding at Its Best

Michigan’s Tradition of Football “Toughness” Needs to Go—Starting With Coach Hoke

A Plentiful, Renewable Resource That America Keeps Overlooking

Animal manure.

Windows 8 Was So Bad That Microsoft Will Skip Straight to Windows 10

Politics

Cringing. Ducking. Mumbling.

How GOP candidates react whenever someone brings up reproductive rights or gay marriage.

Building a Better Workplace

You Deserve a Pre-cation

The smartest job perk you’ve never heard of.

Hasbro Is Cracking Down on Scrabble Players Who Turn Its Official Word List Into Popular Apps

Florida State’s New President Is Underqualified and Mistrusted. He Just Might Save the University.

  News & Politics
Politics
Sept. 30 2014 9:33 PM Political Theater With a Purpose Darrell Issa’s public shaming of the head of the Secret Service was congressional grandstanding at its best.
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 30 2014 7:02 PM At Long Last, eBay Sets PayPal Free
  Life
Gaming
Sept. 30 2014 7:35 PM Who Owns Scrabble’s Word List? Hasbro says the list of playable words belongs to the company. Players beg to differ.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 30 2014 12:34 PM Parents, Get Your Teenage Daughters the IUD
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Sept. 30 2014 3:21 PM Meet Jordan Weissmann Five questions with Slate’s senior business and economics correspondent.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 30 2014 8:54 PM Bette Davis Talks Gender Roles in a Delightful, Animated Interview From 1963
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 30 2014 7:00 PM There’s Going to Be a Live-Action Tetris Movie for Some Reason
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 30 2014 11:51 PM Should You Freeze Your Eggs? An egg freezing party is not a great place to find answers to this or other questions.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 30 2014 5:54 PM Goodbye, Tough Guy It’s time for Michigan to fire its toughness-obsessed coach, Brady Hoke.