Slate's Culture Blog

July 29 2014 5:23 PM

ESPN’s Non-Suspension Suspension of Stephen A. Smith for His “Take” on Domestic Violence

Stephen A. Smith has a lot of opinions about a lot of things—usually sports related.  But when the ESPN First Take panelist dipped his tow into opinionating on the NFL’s suspension of Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice on Friday, things unraveled. Smith’s rambling discourse on domestic violence—after Rice was suspended a paltry two games by the NFL for knocking his now-wife unconscious at an Atlantic City casino—implied women that are victims of domestic violence should make sure they don’t provoke getting knocked unconscious. The remarks, understandably, didn’t go over well. Here’s the gist of what he had to say (you can read his full remarks here).

"But what I’ve tried to employ the female members of my family, some of who you all met and talked to and what have you, is that again, and this what, I’ve done this all my life, let’s make sure we don’t do anything to provoke wrong actions, because if I come, or somebody else come, whether it’s law enforcement officials, your brother or the fellas that you know, if we come after somebody has put their hands on you, it doesn’t negate the fact that they already put their hands on you. So let’s try to make sure that we can do our part in making sure that that doesn’t happen.

On Monday, Smith apologized, which ESPN seemed to accept, saying in a statement: “We will continue to have constructive dialogue on this important topic. Stephen’s comments last Friday do not reflect our company’s point of view. As his apology demonstrates, he recognizes his mistakes and has a deeper appreciation of our company values.” On Tuesday, however, ESPN appeared to retract its acceptance, announcing that Smith will not be on air for a week. “ESPN announced today that Stephen A. Smith will not appear on First Take or ESPN Radio for the next week. He will return to ESPN next Wednesday,” the First Take website reads. The network did not elaborate on the reasons for his removal.

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July 29 2014 5:08 PM

This Video of DMX Losing It on an Amusement Park Ride Might Just Make Your Day

If all you know or remember about DMX is his 2000 hit “Party Up (Up in Here),” or his extensive rap sheet, then this video, like his affectionate “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” freestyle, will likely surprise you.

Today, TMZ posted the footage, which shows the New York rapper riding the Sling Shot at Orlando’s Magical Midway Thrill Park. And while you might expect a stone-cold rapper like DMX to remain composed, hilarious (and typically aggressive) screaming ensues. In his defense, as DMX notes in the video, the Sling Shot does look like “some scary shit.”

July 29 2014 3:59 PM

Why Is Pop Music Obsessed With Names That Start With J?

Just as the spring of 1962 turned to summer, Shelley Fabares’ “Johnny Angel” held strong to its top-ten position on the Billboard Hot 100 chart following its reign in the No. 1 position. Joining it on the Hot 100 for the week May 19, 1962 were the singles “Johnny Jingo,” “The John Birch Society,” “How is Julie,” and “Jane, Jane, Jane.” June 9, four weeks later, some of these songs would drop off the top 100—only to see “Johnny Loves Me” and “Johnny Gets Angry” make a surge into the charts. America’s favorite musical letter is not C (as in C major) or A (as in A minor). It’s J.

Not J in any context, but J as the first letter of names in song titles. John has been a popular name throughout American history, sure. But where are the songs about William, Thomas, and Robert?

I was not aware of pop music’s J craze until I dug into the data myself. I compiled every song that was on the Billboard Hot 100 from 1960 to June 2014, and tallied up each time a song title mentioned a first name. The results, divided by sex, show a clear preference for certain letters.

July 29 2014 3:20 PM

Which Movies Scored (and Whiffed) at Comic-Con 2014? A Recap.

This article originally appeared in Vulture.

It's time to put your Winter Soldier costume on ice until next year, because Comic-Con 2014 has concluded, and with it, the rush of movie announcements and tantalizing trailers must end. Which movie properties came out ahead this past week, and which big-budget blockbuster hopefuls couldn't quite connect with their captive audiences? Here's our rundown of what worked and what didn't at Comic-Con 2014.

July 29 2014 1:08 PM

Jessie J, Ariana Grande, and Nicki Minaj Team Up for the Catchy “Bang Bang”

There’s been a lot of talk about what the song of summer is, and what it might have been.  For those tired of “Fancy” and less than thrilled about “Rude,” English songstress Jessie J has teamed up with Ariana Grande and Nicki Minaj to give us our mid-summer jam, “Bang Bang.” Piling one catchy hook on top of another, the single is as likely to crawl up the charts as it is to get stuck in your head.

July 29 2014 8:32 AM

Why You Should Be Making Pickles With Your Kids

This column has tried to make the point that kids often eat things we don’t think kids eat. It has made this point with the subtlety of a cleaver. Anchovies, for example. Also, sometimes: liver.

We tend to think of children as shy eaters. But a lot of the time children like things with an extravagance of taste. (Not all children, and not all the time; my children may or may not be currently eating sticks of butter for snack.) To the list above—anchovies and liver, not to mention sardines and miso—we should add: Things That Are Pickled. 

You can buy pickles, obviously. But I am here to encourage you to make them yourself, and not with vinegar: to make lacto-fermented green beans, with nothing but salt and time and some friendly microscopic volunteers. 

If this sounds like the sort of thing that only people who forage in their alley make, let’s go through the reasons why this makes sense for non-alley-foraging folk:

Reason  No. 1: Fermented green beans are delicious—crisp, sharp, addictive—and dead simple. They’re among the easiest fermented foods you can make, which makes them extremely easy, because even the hardest fermented foods aren’t hard. 

Reason  No. 2: Salt is cheap. Pickles are expensive.

July 28 2014 9:29 PM

Peter Jackson’s Time on Middle-Earth Ends With The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

Peter Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy, while not as critically acclaimed as his Lord of the Rings films, has nonetheless yielded huge box-office numbers. The third and final installment, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, released its first trailer today, and it looks like another crowd-pleaser: Bilbo and his gang are back to fight a fittingly epic battle that will, predictably, determine the fate of Middle-earth.

July 28 2014 4:40 PM

Stream Spoon’s New Album, They Want My Soul

So far, long-admired indie rockers Spoon have wowed us with recent offerings from their new album,They Want My Soul—their first since 2010’s Transference. We’ve already heard the rocker “Rent I Pay,” the breezy summer jam “Do You,” and the more psychedelic “Inside Out,” which frontman Britt Daniel described as “the most beautiful thing we’ve done.” Though the album isn’t officially out until Aug. 5, you can stream it now in its entirety at the link below.

Stream Spoon’s new album They Want My Soul here, via iTunes Radio.

July 28 2014 4:03 PM

Tom Hardy Is the New Road Warrior in the Trailer for Mad Max: Fury Road

Following more than a decade of gestation and interruptions and coming nearly 40 years after the original film, the latest installment of George Miller’s apocalyptic action series Mad Max will finally see the light of day. At Comic-Con over this past weekend, audience members got a first look at Mad Max: Fury Road, starring Tom Hardy (taking over Mel Gibson’s role in the original films) and Charlize Theron. And the trailer, in all of its high-speed, adrenaline-pumping glory, is now online.

July 28 2014 12:24 PM

Karen O Returns to Lo-Fi Bedroom Vibes With New Single “Rapt”

This morning, Karen O released the first single and accompanying video from her debut solo album,Crush Songs. “Rapt,” a woozy love song clocking in at just under two minutes, is one of several “lo-fi bedroom songs” she wrote back in 2006 and 2007.

In the video, O floats tranquilly underwater, decked out in red sequins and lipstick to match; the dreamy cinematography evokes the helpless euphoria of falling for a new love, a feeling she describes at first with reluctance (“It’s gonna leave me blue”) and then with wistful resignation (“It’s gonna feel like new”). A quiet acoustic tune, “Rapt” is less reminiscent of her work with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and more similar to her Oscar-nominated “The Moon Song,” recorded with Vampire Weekend’s Ezra Koenig for the soundtrack to Her.

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