Brow Beat
Slate's Culture Blog

Feb. 27 2015 6:52 PM

How Do You Play The Originalist?

Last month, veteran Washington actor Edward Gero sat in on the Supreme Court’s oral arguments, a notepad on his lap. He watched the nine Justices enter the courtroom from behind velvet drapes shortly after 10 a.m. But Gero had his eyes trained on one person in particular: Antonin Scalia. He examined the justice’s expansive gestures and tics and took diligent notes: “Fidgety, heavy brows, blowing through his lips, finger in his mouth, awaits—then pounces from the chair, swings around—launches his questions, his upper body very active, right hand always moving.” Watching Scalia’s every move, Gero was slowly learning how to be him.

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Feb. 27 2015 6:22 PM

Remembering Leonard Nimoy’s Mr. Spock, One of History’s Greatest TV Characters

This article originally appeared in Vulture.

Leonard Nimoy, who died today at 83, had a long, prodigious career as an actor, writer, and director. Despite all his other achievements, he will always be known as Mr. Spock, the half-human, half-Vulcan first officer of Star Trek’s Enterprise, and that’s what I want to focus on here, because the pointy-eared Starfleet officer was one of the great characters in TV history. He was killed off and then resuscitated, not just officially (in the second and third Star Trek films, then in J.J. Abrams reboots, where he appears as young Spock’s grizzled future self) but symbolically, in the form of new Trek characters who at times seemed like prismatic shards of Spock, and who all grappled with feelings of otherness (Geordi La Forge, Worf, Data, Seven of Nine). 

From fairly early in the show’s run, Nimoy seemed to realize the symbolic power invested in Spock, and perhaps to mistrust or fear it. “The network, and a good many fans, would have been happy if the show had been called ‘The Mr. Spock Hour,’” confessed Star Trek writer David Gerrold in his book The Trouble With Tribbles. As a professional who prided himself on his versatility, he resisted being identified too strongly with a single role—it’s the main reason he went on to play Paris, the “master of disguise,” on Mission: Impossible from 1969–71—and it was a long time before he entirely made peace with the legacy he’d done so much to shape.

Feb. 27 2015 4:54 PM

House of Cards Showrunner Beau Willimon on Morality, Netflix Leaks, and Frank Underwood’s Presidency

This article originally appeared in Vulture.

Beau Willimon agreed to speak with Vulture about the third season of House of Cards with just one tiny catch: He was not going to disclose anything about the third season of House of Cards. Willimon artfully avoided giving a direct answer to almost every question he was asked as he spoke by phone while driving through Kentucky, apparently home to our nation’s spottiest cell service. (An accident, or a convenient ploy to drop the call whenever a question forced a too-revealing answer? We may never know.) Frank Underwood would be proud. Still, Willimon had plenty to say about everything but the plot of the new season. Topics discussed include: the nature of power, the Netflix leak, the singularity, what conversations Willimon has with Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright during rehearsal, and whether or not there is such a thing as objective morality.

Feb. 27 2015 4:34 PM

Watch Stephen Colbert Play “Stephen Colbert” One Last Time on Season 3 of House of Cards

This post contains spoilers for the first episode of House of Cards Season 3.

When Stephen Colbert rode off into the night last December with Santa Claus, Abraham Lincoln, and Alex Trebek, he got some of his most famous friends to promise that they would “meet again some sunny day.” Indeed, about 21 minutes into your House of Cards Season 3 binge, instead of a deadly surprise, like last season, viewers will find a surprise bit of nostalgia: when Stephen Colbert, in character, interviews now-President Francis Underwood (Kevin Spacey), who has been in office for six months.

In the too-brief segment, Colbert dings Underwood over the name of his new agenda: America Works, which he shortens to AmWorks, noting the similarity in sound to the alleged pyramid scheme Amway. Colbert does not relent, mocking Underwood for his plans to eliminate unemployment: “Eradicate unemployment the same way you’ve eradicated your approval polls?”

Unfortunately, at this point, Doug Stamper (Michael Kelly), turns off the TV and things go back to looking bleak. 

Feb. 27 2015 2:23 PM

The Dress and the Llamas Are Exactly What the Media Should Be Covering

So two llamas and an ugly dress walk into the Internet. The Internet says “Hey, cool, two llamas and an ugly dress!” (The llamas and the dress say nothing, lacking the capacity for speech.) Then, the Internet gets bored with the llamas and the dress, and wonders why it found them cool in the first place. Eventually, the Internet blames the media.

You’ve probably heard that one before. Whenever a meme catches the attention of the mainstream media, the story always ends with lots of people interpreting the media’s coverage of that meme as somehow indicative of declining journalistic standards and an impending idiocracy. Thursday, in which two runaway llamas and a color-shifting dress captivated online newsrooms worldwide, was no exception. Today, my Facebook and Twitter feeds are filled with people bemoaning coverage of “The Dress” as an unadulterated media fail.

Feb. 27 2015 2:16 PM

Listen to Leonard Nimoy Explain the Jewish Origins of His Famous Vulcan Hand Greeting

Leonard Nimoy, who passed away Friday, sat down with the Wexler Oral History Project last year, his impressive Yiddish skills on full display. In the video below, Nimoy describes the origin of his famous Star Trek hand greeting: The Jewish priestly blessing, or duchening. He'd already revealed this in his 1975 autobiography I Am Not Spock, but the video is still delightful. 

Feb. 27 2015 1:58 PM

Just How Viral Is “The Dress”?

By some mixture of luck, psychological insight, and viral witchcraft, the dress above became #TheDress Thursday night. According to a BuzzFeed rep, it “drew more visitors to our site at one time than ever before,” blazing new traffic records by the hour. By 9 p.m., it was the top trending topic on Twitter. At one point in the evening the number of simultaneous readers on BuzzFeed’s main article about the Dress had reached 670,000.

Just how viral was this dress? For comparison, we rounded up a few of BuzzFeed’s most popular hits from the past few years and put them beside this new prince of the web, so you could see just how well The Dress stacks up in the annals of virality.

Feb. 27 2015 1:54 PM

How Leonard Nimoy Left Us With the Best Scene in Star Trek

Star Trek II not only has the honor of the best Star Trek film ever—a tight revenge plot whose special effects hold up today—but it not coincidentally contains the best and most powerful scene in the franchise’s expansive oeuvre, and not least because of the performance of Leonard Nimoy, who came to the end of his long life on Friday. Spock dies. For fans still holding onto the harmless and dreamy experiment in applied liberalism that was the original 1960s series, this was a shock.

Not just a shock because moments before it had you thinking No way a major hero dies, but because of the deft sleight of hand director Nicholas Meyer performs. The slow ratcheting of tension—will they get out of there?—the small, heartbreakingly stoic look Spock gives as he makes his decision to fix the warp core, fatally, by hand; and then, after he bathes himself in its bright poisonous radiation, the cut back to the bridge where we have to wait for William Shatner’s Kirk to find out what happened.

Feb. 27 2015 12:32 PM

How One Dress United the Internet

Yesterday, a pair of llamas escaped from their ranch in Sun City, Arizona. The two domesticated camelids—one white and saucy, the other black and shy—led police and citizens on an adorable high-speed chase through the city streets, evading capture for an hour as a local news helicopter tracked them live and beamed the video across the internet. We watched, we shared, we created content. Looking back now, the whole llama kerfuffle feels a little ominous, like animals scattering before a natural disaster. Soon after the llamas were lassoed, the internet was hit by one of the most viral events of all time: A photograph of a mysterious dress that looked black and blue to some people, and white and gold to others.

Feb. 27 2015 12:28 PM

Who Sees Blue and Black and Who Sees White and Gold—in One Chart

Read more of Slate’s very comprehensive coverage of The Dress.

The Internet erupted into mayhem last night over one seemingly simple question: Is this dress blue and black or white and gold? A line was drawn in the sand, and you were either on one side or the other. (Unless you were one of those weirdos who could see it as both.)

Since it was sometimes hard to keep track of all this chaos, we’ve rounded up some of the most notable people to weigh in and sorted them out in this nifty Venn diagram. Now all we have to do is figure out what separates these two types of people.

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