Slate's Culture Blog

Nov. 26 2014 2:50 PM

Are There Any Plausible Alternative Theories to the Crime on Serial?

There is no new episode of Serial, the investigative podcast from This American Life, arriving tomorrow, thanks to Thanksgiving. So this week on the Serial Spoiler Special we’re discussing things the podcast hasn’t brought up: additional details about the crime and the trial, the latest from the Innocence Project investigation, documents shared by Rabia Chaudry, and more.

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Nov. 26 2014 2:21 PM

Bill Cosby Shows Why We Need Off-Limits Jokes

This article originally appeared in Vulture.

It will be ironic if, in the end, Bill Cosby is brought down by a joke. Not only a joke, of course—it’s the testimony of, at last count (and the depressing fact is, you have to keep Googling “Bill Cosby accuser” to keep up with the latest tally), 19 women who’ve now come forward with allegations of rape and sexual assault against Cosby, according to a long and powerful Washington Post piece published Nov. 22. Not to mention this lurid Daily News account from a now-90-year-old ex-NBC employee of the years he spent as Cosby’s illicit fixer. It’s been a slow accretion, then a quick accumulation, of new and renewed allegations and cultural turning points that have led to the apparent toppling of Cosby’s career. And one of those turning points—maybe not the most important one, but certainly the most ironic—is that a young black stand-up comedian dared to tell a joke.

Here’s how Hannibal Buress put it during a show in mid-October in Philadelphia (Cosby’s home town, no less):

“Bill Cosby has the fucking smuggest old-black-man public persona that I hate. He gets on TV, ‘Pull your pants up, black people, I was on TV in the ’80s. I can talk down to you because I had a successful sitcom.’ Yeah, but you rape women, Bill Cosby, so turn the crazy down a couple notches. ‘I don’t curse onstage.’ Well, yeah, you’re a rapist. I'll take you sayin’ lots of motherfuckers on Bill Cosby: Himself if you weren't a rapist.”

Nov. 26 2014 1:47 PM

Kanye West and Sam Smith Sound Beautiful Together

We have yet to get a proper Kanye West-Sam Smith collaboration, but if and when it comes, it could be truly great. Just listen to this new mashup, “Tell Me I’m the Only One,” in which West’s raps flow beautifully over and in between Smith’s lilting vocals.

Soundcloud user serranocarlos' remix gives “Can’t Tell Me Nothing” a decidedly more plaintive feel, especially when the orchestration of “I’m Not the Only One” swells during the bridge. It’s lovely, and beautifully executed.


Nov. 26 2014 12:31 PM

The Teaser for Game of Thrones Season 5 Is Appropriately Mysterious

HBO has released its Game of Thrones Season 5 teaser, and boy, is it a tease. The video was posted yesterday on the show’s Facebook page, along with a link to a new website where fans are asked to sign up in order to receive “visions of the future”:

The Hollywood Reporter plausibly suggests that, in an example of somewhat complicated marketing, this list could be the way in which the official Season 5 trailer is revealed. In the meantime, the 10-second teaser doesn’t appear to tell us much at all—in fact, it may actually confuse those who are caught up with both the show and the books. (Spoilers ahead.)

Nov. 26 2014 11:49 AM

What Are the Origins of Mockingjay’s Haunting Song “The Hanging Tree”?

This article originally appeared in Vulture.

“I knew she didn't love the idea of singing, but I didn't realize how nervous she was until when we started the first take, and she was in tears, said director Francis Lawrence about his star, Jennifer Lawrence, who sings a song in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part I called “The Hanging Tree.” Katniss wants to show off the singing abilities of the Mockingjays, who could not only mimic Rue's four-note birdcall but have “song voices [that] are different from their whistles.” She sits alongside the film crew who escaped the Capitol to help the rebel efforts of District 13. Pollux, an Avox who cannot speak because the Capitol deemed him a rebel and had his tongue cut out, asks her to sing something to the Mockingjays. She begins:

Nov. 26 2014 8:06 AM

Apple Pie Has No Place at Thanksgiving

In 2013, L.V. Anderson took the somewhat controversial position that apple pie should not be served on Thanksgiving. If you ask Anderson, this remains as true today as it was a year ago. Anderson's argument is reprinted below.

It’s practically a law that in late November, every publication must offer a Thanksgiving guide. This year, I would like to draw your attention to two exceptional ones (other than Slate’s). The first is theOnion’s “11 Steps For Cooking a PERFECT Thanksgiving Turkey,” which is full of hilariously bizarre advice (e.g., “Thaw for two or three days by burying the bird in a deep hole in the backyard”).  The second is “Grub Street’s Very Simple Tips for Thanksgiving Dinner,” which is full of hilariously good advice (e.g., “Serve a lot of alcohol”).

Actually, I should say that Grub Street’s list is mostly full of good advice. Everything’s great up until this part: “Put someone else on pie duty and if they show up with anything other than a pumpkin pie and an apple pie, throw them out of your home immediately.”

This is simply wrong. If someone shows up at your Thanksgiving with an apple pie, you should throw them out of your home immediately. Apple pie has no place at Thanksgiving.

Nov. 25 2014 9:04 PM

The Cut SNL Sketch That Skewers Def Comedy Jam and TED Talks

SNL recently began uploading cut sketches online, an interesting trend that, depending on the sketch in question, provides either fodder for haters or a fun glimpse of the show’s weirder, more experimental material. The latest is “Def TED Talks,” a short written by Michael Che and Bryan Tucker that, as the name suggests, parodies both Def Comedy Jam and TED talks.

Nov. 25 2014 7:10 PM

Birdman Leads the Charge in Independent Spirit Awards

Oscar chat has been buzzing for months, but as Thanksgiving fast approaches, it’s safe to say that we are officially in full-on awards season mode: Recent early screenings ofInto the Woods and Selma have each been widely tagged as having the makings of a front-runner. And today, the Independent Spirit Award nominations are out, giving us a closer look at the playing field.

Birdman has the most nominations—six—including for its star, Michael Keaton, and director, Alejandro Iñárritu. Boyhood, Selma, and Nightcrawler are close behind, with five each. While many of the choices are to be expected—the buzzed-about Dear White People and Whiplash, for instance, garnered nods—there are a couple of surprising acknowledgements as well. 

Nov. 25 2014 5:45 PM

Tink’s “Tell the Children” Is a Haunting Song About Police Brutality

Last night’s announcement that Ferguson, Mo. officer Darren Wilson will not be indicted for killing Michael Brown prompted a number of black musicians to reflect on the state of racial inequality in America. This morning Timbaland protégé and rapper Tink added her voice to the fray, finding resonance between what’s happening in Missouri and the tensions in her native Chicago.

Nov. 25 2014 4:53 PM

Hear Mike Pesca’s Full Interview With Sarah Koenig About Serial

Fans of Serial, the investigative podcast from This American Life, know that host Sarah Koenig and her staff are not releasing an episode this Thursday. To fill the void, we’ve got two special episodes of the Serial Spoiler Special this week.