Slate's Culture Blog

Sept. 23 2014 8:38 PM

“No One in This World” Is One of Kutiman’s Best, Most Impressive Songs

We’ve previously highlighted the music and method of Kutiman, the Tel Aviv-based producer who masterfully threads together obscure YouTube clips into catchy and cohesive songs. His latest track, “No One In This World,” is particularly good, a jazzy ballad that’s all the more brilliant for being composed of more than a dozen random videos.

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Sept. 23 2014 4:45 PM

Why Is Autumn the Only Season With Two Names?

It’s the first week of fall—or perhaps I should say “autumn.” How did autumn become the only season with two names?

Before it was autumn and fall, it was harvest. While the modern names of winter and summer have been around for more than 1000 years, the names of fall and spring are more recent—and less constant. This is partly because the two seasons were long viewed as secondary to summer and winter. As late as the 18th century, English speakers were less likely to think of the year as having four seasons, focusing instead on the coldest and warmest portions of the year. Even when they spoke of fall, they couldn’t agree when, exactly, it took place. In the 17th and 18th centuries, dictionaries by both Thomas Blount and Samuel Johnson noted that some thought that fall began in August and ended in November, while others contested that it began in September (at the equinox) and ended in December (with the solstice).

Sept. 23 2014 4:33 PM

Stop Throwing Your Vegetable Trimmings Away

If you always compost your food scraps, you can ignore the above public service announcement. Ditto if you are the blasé type of person who’s never felt a twinge of guilt throwing great heaps of onion skin and celery trimmings away.

But if you’re somewhere in the middle—you feel guilty, but not guilty enough to compost—there is another way to make use of your vegetable remnants. Most are still culinarily useful, and taking advantage of their flavor requires very little effort.

Sept. 23 2014 4:09 PM

Vince Vaughn Will Star in True Detective Season 2

Just two days after Colin Farrell confirmed that he will star in True Detective’s eagerly awaited second season, HBO announced today that Vince Vaughn has also been cast in a starring role on the show. This comes as no surprise: As early as last month, both Farrell and Vaughn were widely rumored to be in serious talks with HBO to join Nic Pizzolatto’s acclaimed series as one half of the season’s four reported leads.

In addition to the casting news, HBO has also confirmed several plot details for Season 2.

Sept. 23 2014 3:29 PM

Kern Your Enthusiasm: The Curious Case of the Typeface in Savannah

You recognize Savannah from movies or travel photography: antebellum architecture, moss-draped oaks, shady downtown squares. All true. But escape the horse-drawn carriage circuit and you’ll learn there’s more to the local aesthetic: gloriously dilapidated buildings, odd small businesses (barbecue joint + car wash, etc.), and, best of all, hand-painted signage.

Shortly after moving here, my wife and I became mildly obsessed with a particular sign-lettering style that recurred all around town. Gritty and elegant, bold strokes connected by delicate lines, it was the visual equivalent of a seductive but unplaceable accent. Was one person responsible for this style? Or was it a lettering vernacular that never crossed the Talmadge Bridge?

Sept. 23 2014 2:31 PM

3 Simpsons Showrunners Reflect on New Fans and the “Classic Era” Myth

This article originally appeared in Vulture.

Simpsons episodes are written. Yes, every episode of every show that has ever aired has been written. But with scripts nearly double the length of those of sitcom standards, The Simpsons is different and the show’s writing staff aspires to squeeze as many jokes, character moments, and story into 22 minutes as possible. (Just look at the signs, store names, and billboards in any episode to get a sense.) Al Jean was one of the show’s original writers. He went on to co-run the show during seasons three and four. After taking a diminished role to work on other projects, Jean took over as showrunner again in season 13 and has stayed in that job ever since. David Mirkin came to The Simpsons as an outsider with a great reputation. Yet his two seasons in charge—seasons five and six—still go down as the show’s apex. Matt Selman is arguably the greatest Simpsons writer of the latter seasons, and many of the newer episodes on our list of the 100 best were written or co-showrun by him. The three sat down to talk about “Simpsons World,” which will allow fans to stream the entire series for the first time, writing episodes that mess with the traditional structure, and the myth of the “classic era.”

Sept. 23 2014 11:48 AM

Punky Brewster, the Feminist Punk Icon Who Wasn’t

When I think of Punky Brewster, I think of a fearless fashion icon, a magnet for mischief, and a model of plucky individualism for girls of the ’80s and ’90s. And I know I’m not alone in this. A tribute by HelloGiggles to the actress who played Punky oozes with admiration, and more than a hint of envy: “We all wanted to be her, but Soleil Moon Frye actually was her.” Moon Frye herself reflects, “She was old school before old school was old school! She was hip-hop! She’s all about expressing individuality.” She’s inspired a modest catalog of fanfiction and a seemingly infinite scroll of Pinterest results.

It’s been 30 years since Punky Brewster premiered—the show debuted on Sept. 18, 1984, just a couple of days before The Cosby Show brought us one of TV’s great feminists—and I decided to mark the occasion by revisiting the character that inspired well-behaved younger me to dream a little more boldly. Brewster, I thought, embodied punk values, albeit ones that were packaged for a family-friendly audience. She fought the establishment (specifically, the Department of Child and Family Services) and embodied non-conformity (mismatched shoes!). Her signature phrase, “Punky Power,” invokes “girl power,” a term that, a few years after her arrival, became popular among feminist punks before going mainstream. Punky Brewster was a feminist icon. Right?

Sept. 23 2014 9:42 AM

Listen to the Surprising New Single From Kendrick Lamar

After the instant classic good kid m.A.A.d city and his game-changing verse on “Control,” Kendrick Lamar’s new single could hardly have been more hyped, so it’s not surprising that on his return he’s heralded almost like a prophet: “He’s not a rapper, he’s a writer,” the opening of “i” proclaims. “And if you read between the lines, we’ll learn how to love one another.”

The big surprise is what follows, as Lamar seems to turns his sights from his onetime competitors—the infamous list of rappers he came after on “Control”—to pop radio. Over a sample of the Isley Brothers’ 1973 classic “That Lady” (courtesy of “Black Boy Fly” producer Rahki), Lamar delivers a sunny inspirational anthem, the most upbeat of his career, and a sort of rap game “Happy.” Even his rapping is not what you expect, with Lamar rising up into a high register, but Lamar seems unconcerned with looking tough in the eyes of his fellow MCs: “Peace to fashion police, I wear my heart/ On my sleeve, let the runway start,” he raps on the first verse.

Sept. 23 2014 8:46 AM

How Men Talk About Relationships in Rom-Coms: While Playing Sports

How do you have your male lead express his feelings about relationships without him looking like a total softy? Have him do it while playing sports. This is the line of thinking romantic comedies have followed again and again, letting men share their feelings only while reassuring us about their masculinity. These men and their best bros don’t talk about relationships while perusing the aisles of the bookstore, trying on clothes, or enjoying wine with a view of the water—that’s for the female lead to do, with her best friend. Instead, the male love interest retreats into traditionally male spaces to discuss his romantic troubles between jumpshots and swings of the bat. Call it recsposition.

Sept. 22 2014 9:17 PM

Trent Reznor’s Gone Girl Soundtrack Sounds Like an Eerie, Innovative Success

Trent Reznor and David Fincher have a good thing going. Gone Girl marks the third soundtrack Reznor and collaborator Atticus Ross have done for the director, and the relationship has borne some serious fruit—the duo picked up an Oscar and a Golden Globe nomination, respectively, for their work on The Social Network and The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Based on “The Way He Looks At Me,” our first peek at the Gone Girl soundtrack, that success seems likely to continue.