Brow Beat
Slate's Culture Blog

April 24 2017 9:54 AM

Funny or Die Eavesdrops on Fox News’ Human Resources Hotline

As details quickly came in last week about the nature of sexual harassment complaints made against Bill O’Reilly, the inevitable response for many was what else could be out there—what we still didn’t know. In a new “exclusive,” Funny or Die has a new video that should satisfy that hunger: recordings of various calls into the Fox News human resources hotline.

Various network faves call in to get some things off their chest: a smarmy and opportunistic Tucker Carlson looking for his next promotion, the now-departed Glenn Beck offering a blanket apology for his (cash-costing) behavior, O’Reilly himself angrily recounting a woman’s rejection of his advances. But below them, Funny or Die provides a window into the toxic culture at the network. One man, unharassed, alleges “reverse sexism.”  And in the case of another employee, this one a victim, let’s hope she hasn’t been reading the news too closely. “I don’t know if this phone call will help anything,” one caller admitted after reporting  mistreatment by a “prominent figure.” “But at least I know it won’t lead to him getting even more money. That would be crazy!”

April 24 2017 9:38 AM

John Oliver Warns Liberals Not to Trust Ivanka Trump: “The Apple Does Not Fall Far From the Orange”

Donald Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, and her husband, Jared Kushner, are now both major players in Trump’s White House, for better or worse—and John Oliver’s money is on worse. Jared and Ivanka are frequently referred to as moderating influences on the president, but on Sunday night, Oliver took away yet another reason for liberals to sleep soundly at night by questioning that very assumption. And lest you think this is an evisceration, Oliver points out that we really don't even know enough about the couple for a proper takedown.

As Oliver explains it, people tend to think of Trump’s children as the only thing between us and nuclear annihilation: “Basically, if Trump is thinking about pressing a button labelled Nuke Earth, they will, on behalf of all of us, guide his hand toward the button labelled Maybe Don’t.” Now that Ivanka has taken an unpaid position as assistant to the president of the United States and Jared Kushner is doing, well, everything, it’s worth reexamining that assumption that they are merely two good people trying to keep the president in check. Casting aside their potential conflicts of interest over business ties, Oliver focuses on just two simple questions: “Is Ivanka really the moderating influence that people claim? And what is in Jared Kushner’s background that justifies such a gigantic White House portfolio?”

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When it comes to Ivanka, the assumption that she disagrees with her father on any issue isn’t based on much actual proof. In fact, in a recent interview with Gayle King, Ivanka avoided taking a stance on any specific issues, instead saying that her influence over time “most people won’t actually know about.”

“Oh, that’s convenient,” noted Oliver. “So we should just give her credit when good stuff happens and then blame others when bad stuff happens.” That answer lets us project whatever views we want onto Ivanka, regardless of evidence—something Ivanka herself may be encouraging.

Meanwhile, Ivanka’s husband has been put in charge of achieving peace in the Middle East, fixing the opioid epidemic, and revamping the federal government. Surely he must be incredibly an incredibly qualified individual, right? While Kushner did go to Harvard, he may have had a helping hand in the admissions process from his father’s $2.5 million donation, since his SAT scores and high school GPA reportedly did not suggest that kind of academic excellence.

When it comes right down to it, though, Jared and Ivanka’s best qualities seem to be that they aren’t Steve Bannon, which is a very low bar to clear. “If they are the reason you are sleeping at night, you should probably still be awake.”

April 24 2017 9:33 AM

Why Are All the Gays Still Obsessed With Big Little Lies?

“You’re such a Renata.”

Depending on where your allegiances lie on The Great Cultural Moment that was HBO’s Big Little Lies, that’s either an insult or a compliment. All I’ll admit on my part is that I was sitting alone in a restaurant when I heard a young gay waiter shriek this description at one of his fellow servers. She hadn’t yet seen the show, so the meaning was lost on her. Still, it provoked a conversation among the staff and us solo-dining patrons, all of us strangers, whisper-shouting into our Negronis about how “iconic” Laura Dern and the female executive she played on Big Little Lies remains. The female bartender in front of us told us that she thought her other colleague was incorrect about their third colleague. And that, well, Renata was kind of a bitch.

I should mention that this was a nearly a week after the first season of Big Little Lies concluded. It’s only been longer now—and yet the show still comes up near daily in my life, not just among friends and co-workers and people at restaurants I like, but in overheard discussions at coffee shops and subway stations and gay bars and all the other places where nervous, chatty city people let their private opinions become public. The passing of time has only seemed to strengthen the attachment people feel. As the sheer volume of television renders most shows obsolete as soon as their finale airs­­­—if not before—it’s impressive that Big Little Lies has remained such a Thing.

April 24 2017 1:35 AM

Here Are Some More Terrible Things Uber Has Been Doing

Silicon Valley and its enablers have mostly stood by (when they weren’t actively cheering) while ride-haling service Uber waged their long war against unions, local governments, the press, women, the police, and the very concept of employment. But, as New York Times reporter Mike Isaac revealed in a gangbusters profile of Uber CEO Travis Kalanick on Sunday, the company may have finally done something to shock the conscience of even the most enthusiastic tech overlords: they violated Apple’s Terms of Service.

Early in 2015, Isaac reports, Kalanick was called in to meet with Apple CEO Tim Cook after Cook discovered that Uber was keeping permanent identifying information about iPhones that had the Uber app installed, even after Uber was uninstalled or the device was wiped entirely clean. Not only was this not a bug or an oversight, but, in an echo of the company’s former practice of “greyballing” (serving local authorities fake data to protect drivers from sting operations in places where Uber was illegal), Kalanick reportedly personally set up an elaborate espionage operation to deceive Apple about how the app functioned:

April 23 2017 10:53 PM

Bow-tie–Wearing Dog Vigorously Contests Mark Halperin’s Version of Events

Charlie, the adorable bow-tie-wearing dog who landed at the center of a national controversy on Friday night when Double Down: Game Change 2012 co-author Mark Halperin tweeted a photo that implied he was less than pleased to be seated next to a dog, has reached out to his former seatmate on Twitter with a conciliatory message (and a new bow-tie):

But the exact circumstances under which Charlie and Halperin met are still a matter of vigorous debate. In the days since Halperin inadvertently provoked the ire of dog-loving Americans everywhere, he has attempted to clarify precisely what was going on. First Halperin wrote that the point he intended to make by tweeting a photo of an adorable dog in a bow-tie captioned “Seriously, @delta??!?” was that, in his words “on long flt Delta sat dog apart from its owner,” despite the fact that the dog was clearly sharing a seat with another person. After explaining that the unidentified knees in the photo were “the owner briefly w/ his dog to try to get him settled in dog’s own seat pre moving across aisle, where he was inexplicably assigned,” Halperin added that he offered to switch seats with dog’s owner as soon as he realized what had happened:

April 23 2017 4:38 PM

Erin Moran, Star of Happy Days and Joanie Loves Chachi, Has Died at 56

Erin Moran, who rose to fame in the role of Joanie Cunningham on Happy Days, has died at the age of 56, The New York Times reports. She was found dead on Saturday by EMTs answering a report of an unresponsive female, according to TMZ, which first broke the news.

Moran, a native of Burbank, appeared in commercials and films before being cast at the age of 12 in Happy Days, Garry Marshall’s 1950s-nostalgia sitcom that ran for a decade beginning in 1974. Moran played the younger sister of star Ron Howard, and over the course of Happy Days’ run, grew up on national television. She later recounted pressure from the show’s producers to lose weight and dress more revealingly during her teenage years. Late in the series, Moran’s character was paired romantically with Chachi Arcola, a musician played by Scott Baio, which led to Joanie Loves Chachi, a quickly-cancelled spinoff that pulled Moran off Happy Days during its 10th season. She returned for the final season after Joanie Loves Chachi was over.

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When Happy Days finally went off the air in 1984, Moran’s career fizzled; the actress, suffering from depression, left Los Angeles, eventually ending up in Indiana. She never had another leading role, although she made guest appearances on The Love Boat, Murder, She Wrote, and Diagnosis Murder, and appeared as herself in David Spade vehicle Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star. Her last appearance was in Not Another B-Movie in 2010.

Her Happy Days co-stars Ron Howard, Henry Winkler, and Scott Baio all memorialized Moran on Twitter:

The cause of Moran’s death has not been announced.

April 22 2017 8:23 PM

John Waters Summer Camp Offers Opportunity to Celebrate John Waters, Summer, Camp

Pink Flamingos and Hairspray director John Waters is moving from the Susan Sontag kind of camp to the Allan Sherman kind, according to Variety. He’s hosting a weekend-long adult summer camp in Kent, Connecticut from Sept. 22–24—a real camp, like with cabins around a lake, marshmallows over a fire, and hook-handed killers lurking in the woods! (But also with booze, air-conditioning, and elaborate meals, not to mention John Waters: adult summer camp.)

At a starting price of $499 plus alcohol, Camp John Waters is not for casual Waters fans (unless they are also really dedicated summer camp fans). But it looks like the 300 lucky campers who pony up are in for a much more hands-on experience than you’d get at Kamp Krusty. While some of the activities—the burlesque lessons, say or the bungee trampoline—are more about the spirit and/or corporate endorsement of Mr. Waters, many of them explicitly involve John Waters actually being there: “John Waters Performing a One-Man Show,” “John Waters Reading a John Waters Book,” and even “A John Waters Costume Contest – Judged by John Waters.” So if your budget line item for “Meet John Waters and get a signed copy of his book Make Trouble” is $500 or more this year, this is exactly the event for you. Just hope Waters lets someone else plan the menu.

April 22 2017 6:38 PM

Kendrick Lamar’s Mom Likes Kendrick Lamar’s Album

Kendrick Lamar’s new album Damn has already received nearly unanimous critical acclaim: Slate’s Carl Wilson, for example, praised its “thematic weight and structural intricacy” and called it “an urgent sermon for a troubling time.” But probably no review meant more to Lamar himself than the one he tweeted out on Saturday:

It’s true that this seems like the sort of text any mother might send her child after an artistic endeavor, regardless of its quality. But it’s also true that this case, Lamar’s mother’s assessment of Damn as “bomb bomb bomb bomb! 💯💯💯” places her squarely in the critical mainstream. Doting mother or shrewd music critic? There’s only one way to know for sure: We need more emoji-filled record reviews from Kendrick Lamar’s mother!

April 22 2017 5:14 PM

Mark Halperin Flies Around in Airplanes with Dogs Wearing Bow Ties, Is Somehow Not Delighted

Adversity reveals character, they say, and as United Airlines has been reminding us recently, if you want your character revealed, there’s no quicker way than buying an airline ticket. But in air travel as in life, the kind of adversity you’re likely to encounter varies greatly depending on how much money you have. (Similarly, the kind of character you’re likely to reveal varies greatly depending on how much money you have, and what you did to get it.) So while people in the cheap seats get “re-accommodated” until the blood streams down their faces, the Mark Halperins of the world have slightly less relatable problems. Take, for example, this tweet Halperin sent late Friday night, apparently believing it spoke for itself:

April 21 2017 6:22 PM

Neil Young Announces a New Streaming Service, Stole Its Name From Empire

It’s been about three years since Neil Young first announced PonoMusic, the proprietary audio player and music store which has been met with plenty of scorn for its high-cost offerings, save for the occasional audiophile. In July of last year, the service essentially went offline, leading to speculation as to what exactly was in store for Young’s once-hyped endeavor. And after hinting at a shift toward hi-fi streaming some months back, Young has now confirmed this new direction for his company via a new post on the Pono community website.

The project is Xstream, a high-resolution streaming service co-created by Orastream of Singapore. It’s an “adaptive streaming service that changes with available bandwidth [for] complete high-resolution playback.” In other words, Young’s battle against the popularity of lower-resolution music has gone from “Old Man Yells at Cloud” to “Old Man Launches Cloud-Based Service.”

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You might notice that the company’s name is quite familiar: It’s the fictional service trumpeted on Empire, the hit Fox series. Whether Young came across the hilariously generic, if already popularized, term for a streaming platform on his own remains to be seen—as does whether it’ll cause as many headaches for him as it has for Lucious Lyon and company. Indeed, it goes without saying that Young has already run into some difficulties in the space.

“I’m still trying to make the case for bringing you the best music possible, at a reasonable price, the same message we brought to you five years ago,” Young wrote to his fans. “I don’t know whether we will succeed, but it's still as important to us as it ever was.”

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