Slate's Culture Blog

July 30 2014 9:36 PM

Chance the Rapper Has Made the Arthur Theme Song a Rousing, Soulful Anthem

Chance the Rapper has been keeping a lovely number in his back pocket during recent performances: a cover of the Arthur theme song. To repeat: Chance the Rapper has been covering the theme song for a beloved PBS series, which was adapted from a beloved book series, which features everyone's favorite aardvark and his ragtag crew. Now he’s gone into the studio and given the track a produced polish, with Wyclef Jean and Jessie Ware joining the fun for good measure.

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July 30 2014 3:35 PM

New Trailer for Interstellar Finally Takes Us Through the Wormhole

The marketing for Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar has thus far been remarkably restrained—coy, even. We’ve known for over a year now that the movie would follow its heroes through a wormhole to distant reaches of space, but the marketing for the movie, which will finally come out in November, has taken its time in getting to the intergalactic fireworks factory.

That changes somewhat with the new trailer, which finally shows us life on the other side of the wormhole, where an astronaut (Matthew McConaughey) and the rest of his crew (played by Anne Hathaway and Wes Bentley, among others) are seeking a way to save Earth.

July 30 2014 11:56 AM

McDonald’s Should Bring Its Tofu McNuggets to the USA

As my colleague Alison Griswold noted Tuesday, McDonald’s Japan has introduced a new product: tofu nuggets. In the wake of the scandalous revelation that a Chinese supplier has been selling McDonald’s expired meat, it’s tempting to see Tofu Shinjo Nuggets as the fast food chain’s attempt to distance itself from animal products until the tempest dies down. The Christian Science Monitor’s headline about the tofu nuggets suggested just that: “Tofu McNuggets? McDonald’s Japan goes vegetarian amid expired meat scare.”

But as it turns out, the tofu nuggets aren’t vegetarian—they contain minced fish along with tofu and vegetables. They are, however, a great idea, expired meat scandal or no expired meat scandal, and one that McDonald’s should import to its home country.

July 30 2014 11:16 AM

You’re Doing It Wrong: Pea Soup

If you are not blessed with a suitable outdoor space, hosting a dinner party at the height of summer can be a sticky proposition. I do not mean to suggest you are a messy cook; rather, it is the heat and humidity shellacking one’s skin with sweat that concern me. Given that in certain climes this unpleasantness can form within seconds after you’ve left the immediate vicinity of the air conditioner, the thought of firing up a few burners—God forbid the oven—inside the house can be enough to induce the social equivalent of aestivation.

But what a shame that would be! I am here to tell you that it is possible to offer your friends an indoor summer dinner party without it turning into a sweat lodge. The trick is to avoid heat-based cooking as much as possible, and instead opt for recipes that serve the season’s bounty with as little processing as possible—creative capreses and citrusy ceviches come to mind, as do salty cold meats and bright grain salads. Most of these require no flame, and others—like, say, a spice-crusted pork loin roast—can be cooked the day before (in the dead of night, if you like), allowing plenty of time for the heat to dissipate. For my money, though, the only way to start a summer meal on the right, comfortingly cool foot is with a cold soup.

July 30 2014 8:03 AM

Watch a Supercut of Samuel L. Jackson Saying His Favorite Word

By now it’s common knowledge that Samuel L. Jackson’s favorite curse word is the mother of them all. In fact, it’s his favorite word, period, and one he’s infamously spelled more than 150 different ways in his tweets. But Jackson’s obsession with “motherfucker” goes beyond just a fondness for the expletive: Last year, he revealed that repeating the word actually helps him overcome a stutter he’s had since childhood. The word has since become synonymous with Jackson’s characters—most memorably, in Pulp Fiction (“I’m a mushroom-cloud-laying motherfucker, motherfucker!”) and Snakes on a Plane (do I even need to quote it?).

July 29 2014 10:28 PM

Sufjan Stevens Does a Great, Quirky Cover of Arthur Russell’s “A Little Lost”

Sufjan Stevens has eclectic tastes, so his musical choices—whether it’s making a Christmas album or singing the national anthem—are always surprising. His latest venture is no different: Stevens today released a glitchy, intricate rendition of Arthur Russell’s “A Little Lost.”

July 29 2014 5:39 PM

There Is Only One Good Reason to Drink Coconut Water

When it comes to explaining what’s in packaged food, no one’s better than Salt Sugar Fat author Michael Moss. The New York Times’ multimedia department has been putting Moss’ expertise (and sonorous voice) to good use lately in a video series called “What’s in It,” in which Moss has deconstructed pumpkin spice lattes, Cookie Dough Oreos, and Doritos Locos Tacos, among other tempting foodstuffs. The reporter’s latest target is coconut water, the costly, savory, ubiquitous liquid refreshment that’s become a $400-million-per-year industry.

If you sip Vita Coco after Bikram class because you think it’s especially rehydrating, steel yourself: Coconut water’s ostensible health benefits have been repeatedly disproven.

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Moss makes the point that coconut water is likely no better for you than plain old tap water. Which means that no matter what kind of health claims you’ve seen on bottles, there’s really only one solid reason to drink coconut water: taste.

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.
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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.

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.

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