Brow Beat
Slate's Culture Blog

Oct. 13 2015 11:30 AM

Colbert Aired Some Very Ridiculous Rejected TED Talks on the Late Show  

TED Talks, the video series in which experts explain complicated ideas in a simple and entertaining way, has amassed more than 1 billion views since it launched in 2006, or, as Stephen Colbert pointed out on The Late Show last night, “roughly half the views of Justin Bieber’s penis.” But the series’ popularity means TED Talks organizers must be selective—of the thousands of applications they receive, only 60 to 70 (about 16 percent) are accepted. 

And now, Colbert wants to create a permanent home for rejected TED Talks on his show. Titled “RejecTED Talks,” the segment—which is thus far very promising as a premise, if not quite yet nailing the execution—will air the talks that didn’t make the cut. Among the talks he rescued Monday night is a lecture by Angus MacDougal, a Scottish gentleman who breaks down the “indisputable” fact that “If you don’t eat your meat, you cannot have any pudding.” In another, a kid named Cayden R. summarizes his summer vacation. These talks might not be good enough for Ted, “whoever he is,” but Colbert welcomes every rejected 18-minute presentation because, “Nothing’s not good enough for me.”

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Oct. 13 2015 8:33 AM

Hash Browns Are Far Superior to Breakfast Potatoes

This post originally appeared on Food52.

At some indeterminate moment in the fairly recent past, the reign of hashbrowns ended, and that of breakfast potatoes began. It was a sweeping replacement: Bougie brunch joints and greasy spoons alike forewent their box graters in favor of roasting pans and delicately sprinkled herbs. Menus were edited and no one looked back. In an instant, morning time tuber consumption was utterly transformed. 

I have to say, I’m not loving it. 

Eating potatoes immediately upon waking is probably inadvisable from a health standpoint, so if we’re going to do it, we should do it. Why are we not always running full-speed toward a butter-laden frying pan and maximizing surface area for crispiness?

Oct. 13 2015 8:03 AM

Jessica Jones Has Hot Sex and Nuanced Sexuality (Especially for a Marvel Show)

This article originally appeared in Vulture.

At a packed-to-the-rafters New York Comic Con panel Saturday night, Marvel fans collectively gasped twice. The first time was when the crowd was told they were about to see a surprise screening of the entire first episode of the upcoming Netflix series Marvel’s Jessica Jones. The second? That would be when the title character got screwed doggy-style.

In fact, the entire episode was shockingly and refreshingly honest in its depiction of sex and sexuality—especially compared to the rest of Marvel’s cinematic and televised output, which tends to be heterosexual and vanilla on the rare occasions when it dares to be sexual at all.

The first episode of Jessica Jones doesn’t go public until Nov. 20th—and though we avoid major spoilers, you should turn back now if you want to go into the series knowing nothing.

Oct. 12 2015 3:39 PM

New Yorkers Have No Idea Who Chris Pratt Is in the Latest Billy On the Street Clip

He’s not Chris Hemsworth, he’s not Chris Evans, and he definitely isn’t Josh Duhamel. In the latest Billy on the Street expedition, an ever-excitable Billy Eichner hits the streets of New York with Jurassic Worldstar Chris Pratt to ask a simple question: “Deadline says he’s the brightest leading man to come along in years. Who is he?” But even with Eichner jumping up and down, gesticulating wildly at Pratt’s strong jawline, neatly groomed scruff, and winning smile, nobody knows the answer. 

“I don’t watch TV,” is one woman’s excuse, and another woman guesses, “Chris Evans?” One guy begins promisingly with, “You’re an actor...” but falls short when he ends with, “Liam?” The best part of the clip is Eichner’s 25-second exchange with a foreign woman in a pink rain jacket. She doesn’t know who Chris Pratt is either, but when Eichner says, “It’s Josh Duhamel! It’s Josh Duhamel!” she bounces so excitedly that her feet almost leave the ground. 

No word yet on how the barrage of wrong answers has affected Pratt’s self-esteem. 

Oct. 12 2015 2:40 PM

Watch 10 of the Best Movie Mistakes That Ended Up in the Final Cut


Blooper reels give us a funny inside look at our favorite movies and a sense of just how many things can go wrong during a film shoot. But some mistakes turn out better than anything a director could have planned—or simply go unnoticed—and thus make it into the final cut. This new video from Screen Rant compiles 10 of the best happy accidents to make it to the big screen.

The video occasionally seems to make assumptions as to why mistakes made it in—like a botched take (apparently one of many) that made it into Spy Kids. But it also provides a fascinating look at the kinds of mistakes and ad libs that can quietly sneak into movies. Some examples, like the ill-timed smoke effect for the Wicked Witch of the West’s exit in The Wizard of Oz, have interesting backstories. (Margaret Hamilton, who played the witch, understandably refused to film another red smoke-filled exit after suffering severe burns on her hand and face during filming.) Other cases, like Arnold Schwarzenegger’s impromptu “I need a vacation” in Terminator 2, and Chris Pratt actually dropping the orb in Guardians of the Galaxy, are endearing looks at how actors can merge with their characters.

And finally, if you doubt whether Mark Hamill really yelled Carrie Fisher’s nameinstead of Leia’s in Star Wars: A New Hope—scroll through this debate among YouTube commenters and know you’re not alone.


Oct. 12 2015 1:37 PM

Deconstructing Michelle Obama’s Bizarre and Amazing Playlist for International Day of the Girl

Even though no one buys iPods anymore, a famous person’s customized playlist remains one of our favorite ways to feel as though we’re getting a glimpse into the depths of their soul—or at least as though we can judge them on how good or bad their musical tastes are. We know that Bill Clinton and George W. Bush are Boomers through and through, and that Barack Obama’s summer playlists are full of soul. And as of this week, we know that Michelle Obama (and/or a focus group commissioned by her staff) likes her female empowerment to be both old-school and totally hip. In honor of International Day of the Girl, the First Lady has dropped an eclectic Spotify playlist:

What to make of this potpourri of inspirational jams? For one thing, it’s overwhelmingly black, not unlike her husband’s recent playlists. And secondly, it’s equal parts on point and incredibly bizarre. It opens, unsurprisingly, with a track from one of her famous friends, “Run the World (Girls)” by Beyoncé. (Neither this, nor the uber-repetitive Destiny’s Child hit “Survivor,” which shows up later, are the Queen B’s best girl-power anthems by any stretch of the imagination—whither “Flawless,” or “Independent Women”?—but such crowd-pleasing choices are understandable.) Obligatory female icons like Mary J. Blige and Diana Ross make appearances, though with less conspicuous song choices. And the playlist concludes with Aretha Franklin’s “Respect,” because, duh. (Ditto re “Doo Wop (That Thing).”)

Oct. 12 2015 12:39 PM

President Obama Talks Faith and Politics With Marilynne Robinson in a Just-Released NYRB Feature

If President Obama has made inroads among the young and hip by appearing on Marc Maron’s WTF podcast and Jon Stewart’s Daily Show (RIP), he is tapping a slightly different demographic today, as the New York Review of Books publishes the first part of his conversation with Pulitzer Prize–winning author Marilynne Robinson. (The second part will run next week.) Obama met Robinson when he awarded her the National Humanities Medal in 2013, but he’d been a fan before that: Campaigning in Iowa in 2008, he soaked up Gilead, Robinson’s tale of an elderly pastor reliving his past in letters to his 7-year-old son.

The NYRB dialogue wanders into “the challenges of Christianity and their shared sense of the values and virtues of small-town America,” according to a press release. In the section released Monday, we encounter a lovely meshing of two like sensibilities: Obama, a creature of grassroots politicking, has a touch of Gilead protagonist Jonathan Ames’ serenity, his preference for the simple and the true. “There’s all this goodness and decency and common sense on the ground, and somehow it gets translated into rigid, dogmatic, often mean-spirited politics,” he tells Robinson. She, meanwhile, in her musings on faith, channels a blend of idealism and realism that feels distinctly Obamian:

Oct. 12 2015 12:30 PM

Hail, Old Hollywood! All the MGM References in the New Coen Brothers Trailer, Annotated

Coen Brothers fans have been speculating about the real-life inspirations behind their new movieHail, Caesar!, for months now, but the release of the first trailer on Friday morning cleared up a lot—while raising a whole batch of new questions.

Some inspirations appear to be pretty clear. Channing Tatum seems to be channeling MGM star Gene Kelly, who was known to bust a move or two while wearing a sailor suit. Scarlett Johansson is definitely channeling swimmer and MGM star Esther Williams. And, as MGM studio exec and “fixer” Eddie Mannix, Josh Brolin seems to be channeling ... MGM studio exec and “fixer” Eddie Mannix. Similarly, a glance at the credits on IMDb reveals you were right if you thought Tilda Swinton’s Hollywood gossip columnist seemed reminiscent of real-life Hollywood gossip columnist Hedda Hopper. But what about George Clooney’s bumbling star? Ralph Fiennes’ foppish director? We break it all down, as best we can, in the video below.

Oct. 12 2015 11:38 AM

The Weeknd Remixes “The Hills” With Nicki Minaj and Eminem, Makes Depravity Sound Amazing

Just before he performed “The Hills” on Saturday Night Live, The Weeknd (a.k.a. Abel Tesfaye) released two remixes of his chart-topping banger: one with Nicki Minaj, and the other with Eminem. The original song isn’t exactly shy (“I only fuck you when it’s half past five...), and Em’s and Nicki’s verses add intensity to its steamy lyrics.

Nicki Minaj only has one verse in her remix, but she owns the track with an opening line that’s impossible to forget: “Remember that time I showed up with just panties under my coat?” As for Eminem, his remix contains two much-longer verses with characteristically caustic lyrics: “But tonight we don’t need those pills, just the effects of each other, but we gon’ film ‘cause I want your ex to see...” The song’s ominous, slow-build backbeat supports both guest artists well, and Tesfaye’s stirring chorus compliments them both. 

Minaj even joined The Weeknd on SNL for a guest performance that ends with him (fittingly) bowing down to her; watch the full video below. 

Oct. 12 2015 10:44 AM

Celebrating “Lisa the Vegetarian,” the Simpsons Episode That Changed the Image of Vegetarians on TV

When Paul and Linda McCartney agreed to appear on The Simpsons, showrunner David Mirkin decided to buy the proud vegetarians a gift. Before flying to England to record the couple’s lines for their cameo, Mirkin, who’d recently stopped eating meat due to his love of animals and health and environmental concerns, stopped at a New York City health food store and picked up a container of his favorite turkey substitute.

This was the mid-1990s. Such products weren’t as prevalent as they are now. Mirkin guessed that the McCartneys would enjoy trying something they might not be able to find in the United Kingdom. After checking into his hotel in London, then taking a 90-minute car ride to Paul and Linda’s estate in Sussex, Mirkin gave them the present.

“I figured they would very carefully try it,” said Mirkin, a “dangerously obsessive” Beatles fan, “and I turn around and the two of them are eating it directly out of the container, shoving it into their mouths and shoving it into each other’s mouths because they loved it so much.” This would’ve caused him to swell with joy if he wasn’t so worried that in transit the turkey alternative had spoiled. His immediate thought, Mirkin remembered, was: I might’ve just killed Paul and Linda McCartney.