Brow Beat
Slate's Culture Blog

March 6 2015 7:30 PM

Google’s New Cocktail Recipes Are Worse Than Useless

We interrupt your Friday happy hour to bring you urgent booze news: Please pause before availing yourself of a new, highly touted Google feature. Check yourself before you wreck some perfectly good liquor.

This week, the tech company announced that both its desktop search engine and its mobile app would automatically serve up recipe cards when presented questions about cocktails. In an email, a company spokeswoman described the thingamajig thusly:

Now, when you ask Google how to make a cocktail, you’ll get step-by-step instructions for preparation and a list of ingredients, along with suggestions for garnish and drinkware. Just press the mic on the Google app on iPhone or Android and ask “Ok Google, how do I make a French 75?” or “Ok, Google, how do I make an Old Pal?”

This feature was greeted with much delight by journalists, a class of people whose enthusiasm for being drunk is not matched by a commensurate ardor for proper drink-making. This feature is, in practice, worse than useless.

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March 6 2015 4:25 PM

Prince Is Doing a “Hit & Run” Tour in the U.S., Could Play Near You at Any Time

If your winter needs a little more purple, you just hit the jackpot: Prince and his band 3rdEyeGirl have announced the start of a U.S. tour. And it’s happening right away.

March 6 2015 2:53 PM

Why Scandals Ferguson-Themed Episode Was So Frustrating

Upon learning that last night’s episode of Scandal, “The Lawn Chair,” would have a subplot echoing the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, my immediate fear was that this would look like a Law & Order episode: A ripped-from-the headlines storyline that lasts just about 42 minutes, hastily covering as many angles of an incredibly fraught and complicated subject through some wooden, on-the-nose dialogue. The guest actors would be hammy and overwrought (think Pablo Schreiber’s several-episode arc as a sociopath out to terrorize Captain Olivia Benson on SVU), and there would inevitably be a tense scene involving a standoff with an armed suspect.

Now that I’ve watched “The Lawn Chair,” I can say that it is and it isn’t a Law & Order episode. It certainly plays like a police procedural, beginning with a teenaged black boy, Brandon, lying dead in the street just a few miles away from the White House, at the hands of a white officer. Then his father, Clarence (Courtney B. Vance) arrives on the scene with a shotgun, demanding to know who shot his son. Olivia Pope must then negotiate with Clarence, a black activist named Marcus, the police chief, and her connections at the White House over the course of about 24 hours, to keep tensions down and Clarence alive.

March 6 2015 1:14 PM

You Should Watch Errol Morris’ New ESPN Shorts, Even if You Don’t Care About Sports

As part of what they’re dubbing “Errol Morris Week,” Grantland and ESPN Films are releasing six new short films by the legendary documentary filmmaker, and you should watch as many as you can right this second. The first few released include all the hallmarks of Morris’ previous projects—warmth, humor, inventive re-enactments, vivid and eccentric characters, a witty soundtrack, and even a bit of politics. They will be enjoyed by anyone who’s a Morris fan—even those who don’t care for sports.

The series is titled, “It’s Not Crazy, It’s Sports,” and it dives much further into the craziness than the sports. For these shorts about people with strange, powerful obsessions, the marketing department could have easily recycled the old tagline from Morris’s Fast, Cheap & Out of Control: “There is a thin line between madness and genius.” Throughout the series, the characters take their various passions to the point where you wonder about their emotional welfare. But as in so many of Morris’ documentaries (and as in so much of sports, for that matter), the madness reveals itself to be the crucial ingredient to creativity.

March 6 2015 8:32 AM

How Do You Pronounce “Karl Ove Knausgaard”?

My Struggle, Karl Ove Knausgaard’s ranging, 3,600-word magnum opus, is an immense work of introspection. But in all that navel-gazing there’s one question that the Norwegian author never answers. It’s the book’s central question: How the devil do I pronounce “Karl Ove Knausgaard”?

Fear not, good readers of Scandinavian tomes. Here’s a quick breakdown of all the phonemes so you can one-up the best of the literati.

March 5 2015 4:41 PM

The Trailer for the Next Gillian Flynn Movie Looks Like Gone Girl Meets Serial

A few years before Gone Girl became a New York Times best-seller and a cultural phenomenon, author Gillian Flynn published Dark PlacesWhile that similarly dark and mysterious novel may have been overshadowed by its followup, it landed on theTimes’ bestseller list, too—and now it’s getting its own big-screen treatment.

March 5 2015 4:11 PM

Elena Ferrante’s Paris Review Interview Finally Convinced Me to Stop Caring Who She Really Is 

At this point, it’s been well-documented that—perhaps more than readers enjoy unpacking the friendship at the heart of Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels—they like speculating about who exactly Elena Ferrante is.Depending on whom you ask, this speculation is either the product of excellent PR on the part of her publisher, or something that drives Ferrante bonkers. The reclusive Italian writer uses a pseudonym that shares a first name with the celebrated novels’ protagonist, Elena, which is one of many indications that the story might be autobiographical. With bits like that, she is practically encouraging readers to draw their own conclusions.

So, like all fans, hungry for any proof that Ferrante isn’t a figment of my imagination, I was speechless with excitement when the Paris Review revealed they’d be conducting the first-ever in-person interview with her. After all, if there’s any place that could get Ferante to say something—anything!—it’s the Paris Review, master of the longform literary interview. I was ready to call in late to work and read—and reread—the issue looking for clues. Surely there would be some morsels of information to feed my obsession.

March 5 2015 3:41 PM

MoMA’s Björk Disaster

This article originally appeared in Vulture.

Without quite meaning to, I seem to have prereviewed the Museum of Modern Art’s current Björk show. I greeted its June announcement with dismay, writing, “Today the Museum of Modern Art crawled deeper into cravenness, announcing the upcoming ‘full-scale retrospective’ of Björk. Don’t get me wrong: I love Björk and her fabulous amaranth persona, her videos, and her music.” I wrote then that all belong in a museum, but added, “MoMA [is] destroying its credibility ... in its self-suicidal slide into a box-office-driven carnival ... Tilda Swinton sleeping in a glass vitrine, Queen Marina staring at smitten viewers in the atrium, the trashy Tim Burton show, last season’s gee-whiz Rain Room, and of course the wrecking ball Diller Scofidio + Renfro is about to swing.” What made me know back then that the Björk show would likely be another embarrassing pop-programming nadir in a string of embarrassing pop-programming nadirs was the way MoMA—more than any major museum in the world—has gravitated to spectacle almost for its own sake. At the same time, the museum is unable to even commit to going all the way with a show like this by giving it a whole floor, or PS1, or multiple galleries in MoMA itself. By now all of these shows feel like the museum trying to boost its numbers, pandering, and at sea. One other thing raised a big red flag: Its curator being Biesenbach, I reasoned that his fan heart was sure to get in the way of this being done in an erudite, historically-contexualizing way, placing the art and the artist in her own time. Back in June I grumbled about Biesenbach being “predictable” and a “showman,” then whined about MoMA being unable to think of any other living or dead artist for such a show.

I wanted to be surprised and proven wrong about the Björk show. Alas, I haven’t been. Housed in the museum’s atrium in a two-story, black-painted wooden-pavilion thing, you wind through lines (very, very long lines), reading handwritten lyrics in books encased in vitrines, hearing snippets of music, and then donning a headset that leads you through a 40-minute tour of the second floor, album by album. It’s a discombobulated mess. The spoken narrative, written by Icelandic poet Sjón and read by actor Margrét Vilhjálmsdóttir, is a pretty silly fable about a “young girl” who ventures into “kingdoms.” As you walk, signals tell the headset that you’ve moved on, and it begins playing the next chapter of the tale. All the while, video clips play here and there, and we look into alcoves containing some of the fantastic costumes and paraphernalia used in some of the music videos, including those wooly yak-creatures. The halls, where you will spend the vast bulk of your time, are lined with pictures from the albums. There is one pillow-laden theater that screens Björk’s music videos. In another, a ten-minute work commissioned by MoMA is displayed. Unfortunately, this work is not yet up to museum or gallery standards. Biesenbach is no idiot, but the show is “sound and fury, signifying nothing.” Even, I venture, for fans.

March 5 2015 2:15 PM

Are Edible Coffee Cups Really a Good Idea? I Made Some to Find Out.

Last week, KFC won the Internet (or at least tons of free press) by releasing several photographs of theedible “Scoff-ee Cups” it plans to release in U.K. stores later this year. (In the U.K., scoff is slang for to scarf down.) According to the Telegraph, the cups are made of a crunchy wafer-like cookie, “wrapped in sugar paper and then lined with a layer of heat-resistant white chocolate to keep the coffee hot and the cup crispy.” They are also infused with scents intended to improve eaters’ mood, such as “coconut sun cream,” “freshly cut grass,” and “wild flowers.” (The designers of the cup were apparently unaware that the smells of cookies and coffee have also been known to lift one’s mood.)

Is an edible coffee cup a good idea? It’s certainly not a new idea. Italian coffee company Lavazza developed a “Cookie Cup” for espresso in 2003 but never marketed it widely. A Los Angeles coffee shop called Alfred Coffee & Kitchen began serving espresso from chocolate-dipped waffle cones last fall. Although there are many good theoretical reasons to embrace edible dishware—the New York Times and other outlets note that they address “consumer concerns about the environmental impact of packaging”—edible coffee cups haven’t yet become widely available. Why? Safety? (Is this a prudent way to carry around steaming hot liquid?) Hygiene? (Do you really want to put this thing in your cup holder?) Taste? I can’t yet test-drive KFC’s model—no one can, except the model who was cast in the photo shoot—so I decided to try making some to find out.

March 5 2015 2:00 PM

Spoiler Special: House of Cards Season 3

On the Spoiler Special podcast, Slate critics discuss movies, the occasional TV show, and, once in a blue moon, another podcast, in full, spoiler-filled detail. Slate’s Willa Paskin, J. Bryan Lowder, Katy Waldman, and Miriam Krule discuss the entire third season of House of Cards, including the show’s transitioning focus from political drama to relationship drama, Frank’s sexuality, and whether or not that was the best mid-urination international diplomacy ever seen on TV.