Slate's Culture Blog

Aug. 26 2014 9:06 AM

How to Chop Vegetables Without Chopping Off Your Fingers

Recently a dissatisfied reader wrote to Slate for the purpose of accusing me of displaying a “wildly dangerous knife technique,” among other sins. I must confess that there’s some truth in this accusation: I didn’t go to culinary school, so no one’s ever forced me to chop onions for hours on end. I don’t habitually use the expert-recommended “claw grip” to hold onto foods I’m cutting, not because I have anything against it, but because muscle memory overrides conscious deliberation every time. I cannot dice to save my life.

And yet I almost never cut myself in the kitchen, a stroke of good fortune I attribute to the fact that I keep my knives sharp. (Dull knives have a tendency to slip around instead of going into the food you want them to penetrate.) Knife sharpening is far simpler than I used to think. For more details on sharpening, for a few bonus knife-related tips, and for footage of my terrible knife technique, see above.

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Aug. 26 2014 1:05 AM

There Were No Disasters at the Emmys. That’s Why They Were So Boring.

The Emmy Awards started with a 30-second countdown, each second a clip from one of the television shows being celebrated at the ceremony. Getting pride of place—the last two seconds in the countdown—was Netflix, which brought the Emmys to liftoff with a kiss from Orange Is the New Black and then a shot of House of Cards’ Frank Underwood. Going into the evening, after all, there was an expectation that Netflix would win many—or at least one—award, marking the continued progression of fancy-shmancy, prestige, quality TV away from the networks and toward not only cable and premium cable but now streaming platforms as well. The night’s host, Seth Meyers, even stuffed his monologue with jokes about exactly this, mocking network TV for “having an awards show and giving all the awards to cable and Netflix.” But someone forgot to tell the voters that the networks weren’t supposed to win anything.

To get the logistics out of the way: Awards shows are too long. If the Emmys lasted two hours, they would be reliably—or at least more than sporadically—enjoyable. Instead, the show lasts three hours, and somewhere in that endless period of time someone is going to get the bright idea to put Sofia Vergara on a rotating dais so we can ogle her body and just for a second not be bored by another self-evidently boring part of an overly long and automatically dull-in-parts award show. And, as I mentioned when the nominations were announced, award shows are no fun if you greet them with calm and equanimity. To be reasonable about the Emmys is just another way of making them boring, and they are already mind-numbing enough. We would all be better off—well, all of us but the famous movie stars who are nominated in the over-stuffed miniseries and movie categories—if they just cut the run time.

And you know what does not help with the boring? The same people winning over and over and over again. It’s impossible to begrudge Julia Louis-Dreyfus or Bryan Cranston or Aaron Paul or Julianna Margulies their awards. Those actors are all excellent in excellent shows. But it is totally possible to begrudge Modern Family beating out, among others Louie, Veep, and Orange Is the New Black for Best Comedy, again. As the night’s awards kept going to people who have won already (all the aforementioned folks, as well as Jim Parsons, Allison Janney, Jessica Lange, Amazing Race—and that was before Modern Family and Breaking Bad started running the table), the show couldn’t help but feel staid, rerun-ish. Awards-wise, the most surprising part of the night came when Sherlock, a TV series, won awards for being a TV movie, and then Fargo started winning, its biggest award coming in a category that included Bonnie and Clyde, the less said about which the better. For True Detective to lose nearly every award to Breaking Bad is a perfectly fair outcome—Breaking Bad was a great show in its final season—but, gosh, wasn’t it refreshing to see a new face in director Cary Joji Fukunaga and his wonderful twin-set man-braids?

The predictable lethargy, the inevitable inertia of the Emmys and the parade of familiar winners obscured what was a very professional and adeptly delivered performance from Seth Meyers. Meyers is not a huge personality, and his opening monologue was a little understated. But many of the bits that followed were sharp. The Billy Eichner on the Street segment was, as with all things Billy, abrasive and great. Poehler and Meyers’ observation that Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson are “two gentleman who seem like they’d be chatty in the sack” rang true. And a famous-people question-and-answer bit with Meyers even righted itself with a good bathroom-key gag.

Meyers’ steady hand and reliable charm was met with equivalent aplomb from the celebrity assembled. Bryan Cranston and Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ repartee and smooch were impeccably delivered (even if Louis-Dreyfus was banking on a win to make the gag possible). Harrelson and McConaughey exhibited exactly the chemistry that made them so riveting on True Detective. Billy Crystal’s Robin Williams appreciation was lovely and not too long or too maudlin. Good speeches were peppered throughout, from Modern Family director Gail Mancuso to Sarah Silverman. If Stephen Colbert’s imaginary friend bit didn’t quite work and Weird Al Yankovic supplied words to theme songs that don’t really exist—if Scandal has a theme song other than the clicking of cameras, it’s the only theme song that never, ever gets played—generally speaking, there were no giant whiffs, Vergara’s rotating aside. The jokes were simultaneously pretty funny and right in the bull’s-eye of completely appropriate.

But all of this—accomplished professionalism from accomplished professionals!—only contributes to the show’s overall air of boring boring boringness. Let there be disaster! Let there be controversy! Let there be other winners we can scoff at as endlessly as Modern Family! Instead, by the end of the night, the networks and basic cable had tied in their number of awards—11—while premium cable had taken home just four and Netflix none. (The streaming site did win a few Creative Arts Emmys, which were handed out on Sunday.) All in all, that’s a pretty fair allotment of prizes. But who wants to watch fair?

Aug. 25 2014 11:18 PM

Watch Billy Crystal’s Touching Tribute to Robin Williams at the Emmys

Read more on Robin Williams.

Two weeks have passed, and it’s still hard to believe that Robin Williams is gone. The many tributes from peers and fans alike continue to flow, and at the Emmy Awards ceremony this evening, the entertainer was given yet another touching remembrance, by his good friend Billy Crystal.

Crystal summed it up wonderfully and succinctly: “It’s very hard to talk about him in the past, because he was so present in all of our lives. For almost 40 years, he was the brightest star in the comedy galaxy.”

Aug. 25 2014 11:04 PM

Breaking Bad, Modern Family Win at the Emmys. Here Is the Complete List of Winners.

We'll have a recap of tonight's Emmys later. In the meantime, here is the complete list of winners:

Aug. 25 2014 9:33 PM

Billy Eichner and Seth Meyers Realize Just How Little People Know About Television

One of the funnier bits of the Emmys was Billy Eichner's uproarious bit, in which he hit the streets with Seth Meyers to quiz the general populace about television. The verdict: people know nothing about television.

Eichner's manic questioning and over-opinionated personality are put to good use here, making it as funny as any Billy on the Street episode. You can watch an extended version below.

Aug. 25 2014 3:25 PM

What Other Shows Past Their Prime Can Learn From True Blood’s Final Season

True Blood should’ve ended after Season 3. Anyone who labored through the HBO show’s insufferable fourth-season witch-coven blunder will likely tell you that. What began as a promising and nuanced take on vampire-human relations as a loose allegory for gay rights in America lost its way midway through the series, becoming an overcrowded mess of supernatural beings with little real substance. And on Sunday night, the series finally met its long overdue True Death, ending after six years on the air.  

But unlike other once-beloved shows that also carried on past their prime (Gilmore Girls, Dexter, Lost) and then underwhelmed us with their conclusions, True Blood managed to salvage its last days with a final season that surprisingly got it right—right up until the sadly forgettable series finale.

Aug. 25 2014 1:49 PM

Deans Losing It: The Supercut

It’s back-to-school time, and this got us thinking about one of the more amusing tropes from the movies and television: short-tempered college (and grad school) deans getting unreasonably (and sometimes reasonably) angry at the students in their charge.

We compiled our favorite such scenes in this supercut. Enjoy.

Aug. 25 2014 12:18 PM

Prince Addresses the Social Media Age on New Song, From One of Two New Albums

Ending his longest-ever break between albums, Prince announced this morning that he is coming back soon with not one but two full-lengths. One is titled Plectrum Electrum, which was recorded with new band 3rd Eye Girl and will feature a few previously shared tracks, including “Fixurlifeup.” The other is a solo album called Art Official Age, and it will include “The Breakdown” and “Breakfast Can Wait.” Both are due on Sept. 30.

He’s also just shared another new song from the solo LP, and—in keeping with the album’s title—it comments on the age of reality TV and social media. Perhaps inspired by his recent activity on Twitter, Prince ponders a “brand new age” with “all of our lives a stage.” And as in St. Vincent’s great “Digital Witness” from earlier this year, the lyrics have the singer pondering questions like, “Does it really even matter if it ain’t on the stage?”

Aug. 25 2014 11:59 AM

Watch John Oliver Talk About Internet Headlines and Then Hit a Piñata With a Stick

John Oliver usually uses his series Last Week Tonight as a platform to discuss serious issues: the American prison systempredatory lendingthe militarization of policeincome inequality. But in a brief bit published to the Web on Sunday, he shifted his focus to a far less insidious threat: piñatas. More specifically, Oliver used what he calls “the Trojan donkeys of diabetes” to illustrate the silliness of the hyperbolic headlines Internet writers often employ to describe his weekly segments.

Aug. 25 2014 11:35 AM

Will This New Bike Solve All Your Bike-Thief Problems? Maybe.

Bike locks are the worst. They’re clunky and heavy and you often need more than one if you want to properly secure your wheels and seat. Also, they don’t always work—bike thieves can be ruthless. But what if your bike was the lock?