Slate's Culture Blog

Sept. 9 2014 9:19 PM

The Cure Pay Tribute to Paul McCartney With a Fun Cover of “Hello Goodbye”

Paul McCartney is 72 years old, and his place as one of the most influential and best-selling songwriters of all time is set in stone. It’s only appropriate that the tribute albums start appearing, and The Art of McCartney—a sprawling, 42-song ode to the Beatles legend—is an admirable attempt to try and capture the icon’s long, storied career. Our first look at the album is the Cure’s fun, raucous cover of “Hello Goodbye.”

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Sept. 9 2014 12:18 PM

2014: The Year That All-Female Collaborations Ruled the Radio

This article originally appeared in Vulture.

Shortly before 11 p.m. on the first Saturday in August, Beyoncé and Nicki Minaj released a remix of Beyoncé’s “Flawless”—a surprise they’d been plotting for months but that they uploaded that night with the conspiratorial, inside-jokey air of a Vine recorded at a slumber party still in progress. Beyoncé reportedly tapped the Queens-bred rapper to write a verse shortly before kicking off her recent tour, then, when it came time to record, visited a studio in New York to serve as Minaj’s ringside trainer (Nicki recalls Bey’s advice: “Do your thing! Don’t hold back! Go in!”). This brought out the best in Minaj; her “Flawless” verse contains some of the fiercest bars she’s spit since her star-making cameo on Kanye West’s 2010 track “Monster”—on which she famously upstaged West, Rick Ross, and, perhaps most obviously, Beyoncé’s husband.

To collaborate with Minaj is to risk being outshone on your own song, which means this tale of unequivocal encouragement and female camaraderie does not jibe with the ideas a lot of people have about Beyoncé—or, for that matter, Minaj. Although both are self-proclaimed feminists, both have been plagued by assumptions that they cannot share the spotlight with other women (Beyoncé with her revolving-door bandmates in Destiny’s Child, Minaj with her diss-track sparring partner Lil’ Kim or her former American Idol co-host Mariah Carey). Enough of all that, says the “Flawless” remix—watch the Queen of Rap and Queen Bey reign side by side. Menacingly chummy, the track is a corrective to the idea that when two powerful, gloriously egotistical women stand next to each other, they are simply a catfight waiting to happen; Bey and Nicki flash their diamond fangs not at each other but at anyone who fails to recognize that together they are even more flawless than the sum of their already flawless parts. The surprise Saturday-night drop worked for Beyoncé once again, and the “Flawless” remix was all anybody could tweet about the rest of the weekend. When Nicki called in to Hot 97 that Monday morning to debrief, she was asked a pressing but loaded question: “Why do you think it took so long for two of the biggest female artists in the game to be on a track together?”

Sept. 9 2014 9:03 AM

Should You Put Butter in Your Coffee?

I don’t know precisely when I first heard about putting butter in coffee. It’s a practice that’s fluttered around the edge of my consciousness for several months at least, its connotations vaguely Atkins-y, vaguely hippie-ish, vaguely hedonistic. It didn’t seem unappealing, necessarily—butter is delicious, and coffee is necessary, so why not?—but I was pretty happy with my normal routine of dosing my coffee with a splash of milk.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, a colleague sent an email to Slate’s staff with the subject line, “people are putting butter in coffee?” (The body of the message, in its entirety: “This appears to be a thing?”) The email unleashed a torrent of half-baked notions about this custom. “It’s for hangovers,” declared a video producer. “I thought it was a tech community thing?” replied an executive assistant. “I thought it was a weight/Paleo thing,” suggested a Supreme Court reporter. Everyone had heard of it, it seemed, but no one knew what it meant.

This conversation left me intrigued enough to want to try it, so the next morning, I gingerly scooped a teaspoonful of butter into a mug of coffee and stirred until it melted. Floating on the coffee’s surface, the melted butter was iridescent, resembling a miniature puddle of gasoline. I raised the mug to my lips—it smelled strongly of butter—and took a sip. It tasted mostly like black coffee, with a greasy aftertaste. It made the inside of my mouth feel weirdly silky and lubricated. I was, on the whole, repulsed.

Was buttered coffee always this gross, or had I just done it wrong?

Sept. 8 2014 8:38 PM

Meet the Misfit Characters of American Horror Story: Freak Show

Details for American Horror Story: Freak Show, the fourth season of Ryan Murphy’s irreverent anthology series, have been kept close to the chest, with our main source of insight being a handful of frustratingly brief teasers that revealed little besides the fact that the season would, obviously, involve a circus of some sort. Now we have season’s first full-length trailer, which finally sheds some light on the misfits that will populate the freak show tent.

Sept. 8 2014 12:53 PM

Which Foods Can You Cook in a Waffle Iron? Most of Them, Actually.

As Jane Austen famously said, it is a truth universally acknowledged that a food not waffled is a less tasty food.  

This raises a couple of questions: Why did Jane Austen hate pancakes? And how did she know about waffling everything before Will It Waffle? was published?

I should explain. I have a friend, Daniel Shumski, who a few years ago, while completely sober, began sticking foods in a waffle iron to see what would waffle. (I assume everyone has a friend like this.) It turned out that Jane Austen was right. For example: Bibimbap: good. Waffled bibimbap: better. Or: S’mores: good. S’moreffles: better.

I trust you are no longer sitting down.

Sept. 8 2014 12:09 PM

They’re Letting Kenneth Lonergan Make a New Movie

We don’t often write about new movies before they even go into production, but a new movie from Kenneth Lonergan—especially after his last movie spent a half decade in post-production limbo—is worth noting. In his 15-year career in film, Lonergan has directed only two movies, 2000’s You Can Count on Me and 2011’s Margaret, but each has been highly acclaimed and an event in its own way. After Margaret got tied up for more than 5 years in multiple lawsuits and battles over the final cut, it seemed uncertain whether Lonergan would ever get to make a movie again, even after critics rallied around the movie.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, the new movie is set to pair Lonergan once again with Matt Damon, who also starred in Margaret, and may go into production as soon as this fall. Lonergan also wrote the screenplay for the drama, which is titled Manchester-by-the-Sea, after the Massachusetts town. Here’s the plot summary, via THR:

Sept. 8 2014 11:10 AM

Seven Steps to Living a Bill Murray Life, by Bill Murray

This article originally appeared in Vulture.

Step one to being more like Bill Murray: Sing. And really be into it.
Murray is not his ironic Saturday Night Live lounge singer and he is not his Lost in Translation actor abroad, singing a half-asleep version of “More Than This.” He sings when the mood strikes him, and when it does, he means it. As he walked out onstage on Friday night at the Toronto Film Festival to the sounds of Prince’s “Raspberry Beret,” Murray grabbed a microphone and sang a few verses of the song. He would repeat the performance (sans mike) at an after-party later that night, where he would also lead a dance party, as he has been known to do in the past.

Friday was “Bill Murray Day” at the festival, and it consisted of screenings of Murray classics Stripes, Ghostbusters, and Groundhog Day, and the world premiere of his new film, St. Vincent, in which he plays a grumpy old man tasked with watching the child of his neighbor, played by Melissa McCarthy. During the Q&A, moderated by Scrooged screenwriter Mitch Glazer, and featuring Ghostbusters director Ivan Reitman, Murray dropped so many pieces of life wisdom that it seemed only right to gather it into a Bill Murray Guide to Life.

Step two: Just be honest.
The St. Vincent role came about, said Murray, “because they couldn’t get Jack Nicholson.” After the audience roared in laughter, he continued, “No really. It’s well-documented.”

Sept. 8 2014 10:07 AM

John Oliver Talks Student Debt and Goes After For-Profit Colleges

John Oliver’s main story on Sunday’s Last Week Tonight focused on student debt—and Oliver spent much of the segment going after for-profit colleges, which, as Jordan Weissmann and Tressie McMillan Cottom have noted in Slate, target potential students who will “have little hope of graduating in order to collect their tuition checks.”

Sept. 8 2014 9:15 AM

How Design Tells the Story on Masters of Sex

Mad Men has trained a generation of TV watchers to become eagle-eyed connoisseurs of Saarinen furniture, IBM Selectric Typewriters, and Western Electric Model 500 telephones, raising the bar for set designers who are acutely aware that accuracy counts. But designers also know that television sets are not museum installations: The verisimilitude of physical details must work in tandem with aesthetic choices that help us understand who characters are.

Showtime’s Masters of Sex, which centers on real-life sex researchers William Masters and Virginia Johnson, grapples with this new TV reality as much or more than any other series currently on the air. The series takes place in St. Louis in the 1950s, and its set design is a skillful blend of historical accuracy and poetic liberty. The Eisenhower-era milieu is carefully recreated in every detail, from the glass bottles and syringes used in medical scenes to the nipped-in silhouettes of the female characters’ wardrobes. The design of “Ulysses,” the evocatively named device that Masters and Johnson use to record sexual responses in their female subjects, was inspired by actual descriptions of the camera. The result looks like something Norman Bel Geddes might have created if the “World of Tomorrow” exhibition at the 1939 World’s Fair had had an adults-only section.

Sept. 7 2014 12:30 PM

FKA Twigs Does an Eerie, Entrancing Cover of Sam Smith’s “Stay With Me”

If you haven’t yet joined the FKA Twigs bandwagon, now would be a good time. The British singer is a singular talent whose trip-hop sound and eerie aesthetic blow up all conventions. She’s perhaps the best new artist to emerge this year, and now she’s covered one of the best songs of the summer—Sam Smith’s “Stay With Me.”