Slate's Culture Blog

April 18 2014 1:18 PM

The Most WTF Moments on Last Night’s Scandal Finale

For most television shows, a satisfying season finale manages to bring the open storylines to a conclusion that feels surprising, yet inevitable. Scandal is not most television shows.

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April 18 2014 12:12 PM

Year of No Sugar Reads Like a How-To Manual for an Eating Disorder

Year of No Sugar is one of those book titles that, with its telegram-like urgency, succinctly tells you exactly what to expect beneath the cover. Eve O. Schaub, a Vermont-based writer, became convinced in 2010 that fructose—the simple carbohydrate that makes sugar sweet—was toxic after watching a lecture by childhood obesity researcher Robert Lustig that argues that point. She decided that she, her husband, and her two daughters should swear off added fructose in all its forms (sugar, honey, juice, etc.) for the duration of 2011, and that she should blog about it; the blog resulted in a book deal. “I was a writer, after all, and I had been looking for a new project to focus on,” Schaub explains in the book, which was released earlier this month and is currently number 52 on Amazon’s list of best-selling memoirs.

There are many good reasons to reduce or eliminate added sugars from your diet: Sugar consumption is associated with diabetes and heart disease, and research indicates that sugar messes with your body’s hunger and satiety cues in a way other foods don’t. Sugar may indeed be toxic at a certain level of consumption—the dose makes the poison, as the adage goes—though it’s not yet clear at what consumption level sugar becomes dangerous. Not even sugar’s most vehement opponents, like Lustig, argue that sugar is an acute toxin. Lustig (and Schaub) liken its long-term effects to those of alcohol, a substance that healthy people have been known to use in moderation.

Moderation, though, does not get you a book deal.

April 18 2014 11:58 AM

Clint Eastwood Made a Musical: Watch the Trailer for Jersey Boys

There’s a moment in a 1998 episode of The Simpsons in which Homer and Bart rent and eagerly prepare themselves for “the bloody mayhem and unholy carnage of Joshua Logan’s Paint Your Wagon.” (“With blood, I bet,” Homer predicts.) Bart and his father are then horrified when they discover that the real 1969 movie, which started Clint Eastwood and Lee Marvin, was just a lot of singing and dancing.

Some of Clint Eastwood’s fans might have a similar reaction when they get a load of the director’s next project, the film adaption of the hit Broadway musical Jersey Boys, based on the music of the Four Seasons. But, while we’re far from Iwo Jima and Unforgiven, the choice does make some sense: Eastwood has specialized in period pictures, and the 83-year-old director knows the ’50s and ’60s in a way that many of today’s other directors don’t. Eastwood also knows music: He’s a composer and songwriter himself.

April 18 2014 11:00 AM

Game of Thrones Plus Frozen Equals “Let It Go(T)”

Spoiler alert: This mashup—sung by Gail Folsom and written by Folsom, Joanna Robinson, and Dave Gonzalez, with video editing by David Chen—includes plot details from last week’s momentous episode of Game of Thrones. But if you’re caught up with the show, or you’ve read the books, or you just don’t care about spoilers, enjoy.

April 18 2014 8:01 AM

Why Is Good Friday Called “Good Friday”?

Today is Good Friday, the day on which Christians commemorate the crucifixion and death of Jesus Christ. The name may seem counterintuitive to many Christians and nonbelievers, since the day is typically viewed as a solemn one, often observed with fasting and somber processions. Why is Good Friday called Good Friday?

Probably because good used to mean holy. There are a few theories about why Good Friday is called Good Friday, but only one seems to be supported by linguists and by historical evidence.

The first of these theories is that Good Friday is called Good Friday because, Christians believe, there is something very good about it: It is the anniversary, they say, of Jesus suffering and dying for their sins. “That terrible Friday has been called Good Friday because it led to the Resurrection of Jesus and his victory over death and sin and the celebration of Easter, the very pinnacle of Christian celebrations,” the Huffington Post suggests. Perhaps this logic has helped the name stick—it is certainly how many Christians today understand the name—but it is not where the name originally comes from.

April 17 2014 10:11 PM

Community Contemplates Its Demise Yet Again

Since Season 3, Community’s finales have functioned simultaneously as season and series finales—see “Introduction to Finality,” where Troy struggles with the thought of leaving Greendale for Air Conditioning School (among many other plot lines) and, from Season 4, “Advanced Introduction to Finality,” where Jeff prepares to graduate from Greendale. There’s a good reason for this, of course: The show has consistently been a low ratings draw and is always on the chopping block—the Season 4 renewal, for instance, wasn’t announced until a week before the last episode of Season 3 aired.

The seemingly miraculous Season 5 that saw once-ousted show runner Dan Harmon reinstated has been no different: Tonight was the finale, and we still don’t know whether we’ve seen the last of the Greendale crew or if we’re inching ever closer to “six seasons and a movie.” Dan Harmon seems to think there’s a good chance the study group will reconvene at least one last time, but wisely, he and credited writer Ryan Ridley don’t make any assumptions with “Basic Sandwich.” Jeff and the rest of the gang are as aware as they ever have been that their story hangs in the balance.

April 17 2014 9:30 PM

What Gabriel García Márquez Means to His Fellow Colombians

At the age of 14, I pulled Cien años de soledad out of my family’s typical Colombian middle-class family library. It was a battered old copy of the 1982 paperback, from the year he won the Nobel Prize. The book took over my life, as it has that of so many teens in Colombia, the country where Gabriel García Márquez was born 87 years ago. For a couple of weeks, all I did was read, sleep, eat, and repeat. Later I experienced the obligatory García Márquez backlash that is part of every Colombian’s coming of age, where for a period of time you move from the self-pitying triteness of thinking he is the best and only worthy thing to come out of Colombia, to the petulant triteness of thinking he was just a very good note-taker who plagiarized his grandmother. Eventually you rediscover him in early adulthood, and he’s as wonderful as you always feared him to be.

But I’ve never been able to figure out how he won the Nobel Prize, or why non-Spanish speakers would like him at all. There are certainly Americans for whom his works mean a lot, but I’ve also heard from friends and colleagues that, as much as they wanted to understand and love Cien años, they found it confusing and clunky. The English translations I’ve encountered were painful to read: convoluted and awkward, even bland, when in Spanish he's everything but. What is it like to read García Márquez in Spanish, as a Colombian? I've tried many times to express this to non-Spanish speakers, but explaining the beauty of one language in another language is no easy task. As García Márquez said in his Nobel Prize acceptance speech: "Interpreting our reality through a foreign framework only contributes to making us more unknown, less free, more alone."

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Cien años is particularly rich in Colombianisms, making it even more inaccessible. Here is but one example from the first lines of the first page: "Todo el mundo se espantó al ver que los calderos, las pailas ... se caían de su sitio​." My American edition translates the line: “Everybody was amazed to see pots, pans … tumble down from their places.” But calderos and pailas are not exactly pots and pans—the alliteration is nice, yes, but you lost the cauldronlike wizardry of calderos and casual grandmotherly grime of a paila. (Paila is so resolutely Colombian that quite inexplicably it is now a one-word code for "Damn—that's messed up.")

García Márquez would choose a word over another because it was close and familiar, or wildly improbable, or deadpan and irrefutable. It’s nearly impossible to recreate this in another language because A) we’re not Nobel laureates, and B) the history, music, or emotion words carry is wrapped up in the context from which they are delivered. García Márquez captured Colombian reality from the inside out, with the precision of a journalist, and the clarity of vision of a poet. “I dare to think that it is this colossal, roaring reality, and not just its literary expression, that this year merited the attention of the Swedish Academy,” he said in that Nobel acceptance speech. “All creatures of that boundless, frenzied reality have had to ask but little of imagination, for our crucial problem has been a lack of conventional means to render our lives believable. This, my friends, is the crux of our solitude.”

García Márquez’s was a life that was lived to be told, as he said, complete with dictator friends and lifelong literary foes. He lived to tell the tale of Colombia, of Latin America, to tell it back to us like his grandmother did and like our grandmothers still do, while they can. He explained it to us and to the rest of the world, and for a moment they listened—but few understood, and I don’t blame them. It was Colombians, in the end, he was writing for; he told us our own stories back to us in the language and the music of our mothers, lovers, and friends, and we felt less alone because we had our own solitude to turn to.

April 17 2014 3:54 PM

“Tuition” Turns a Beyoncé Hit Into a Plea for Student Loan Forgiveness

There's no shortage of Beyoncé "Partition" parodies on the web, but one recent entry into the canon hits particularly close to home for many: "Tuition," a plea to Sallie Mallie about forgiving student loan debt. Chanel Carroll's re-written lyrics are clever ("Senior year I was "Flawless," couldn't touch my crown/ Now I'm going under trying not to drown"), and while the video production leaves much to be desired, that's likely the point--her character probably can't afford anything newer than Windows '98, what with all those loans.

And for further proof of the issue's relevance, here's yet another "Partition" parody tackling the same theme:

(Via Jezebel.)

April 17 2014 3:32 PM

Why Tina Belcher Is a Folk Hero for Anxious Young People

There’s a wonderful scene in season three of Bob’s Burgers, in which the eponymous restaurateur lets his 13-year-old daughter Tina drive the family’s car in a nearly-empty lot. “Let’s make this kitty purr,” Tina monotones, glancing nervously at her dad from the driver’s seat. She pulls out of the parking space at a snail’s pace, and starts to groan with anxiety. Bob talks over the groan, calmly reassuring Tina, his voice rising as she sets them on a glacial collision course with the only other car.

“OK, Tina, you’re kinda headed toward the only other car in the lot,” he says. “You have plenty of time to turn, Tina, so just go ahead, turn one way or the other.” Tina’s groan intensifies. “You’re just swerving back and forth,” Bob says, now alarmed. “Turn one way and stick with it, Tina. Tina for the love of God, turn away or stop! The brakes, Tina, the brakes!”

Needless to say, Tina totals the car.

April 17 2014 3:00 PM

Gateway Episodes: Parenthood

The first thing you need to know about Parenthood is that you will cry. You will cry early, you will cry often, and, for some reason, you will love it. The second thing you need to know about Parenthood is that almost nothing happens. (Think Seinfeld, if Seinfeld were a highly dramatic show about an unnaturally close family in California.) For some reason, you will also love this. Fans of Friday Night Lights will recognize the show’s style thanks to shared executive producer Jason Katims—the shaky camera moves that signify realism and the improvised-sounding dialogue that does the same. Even if you’ve never seen Friday Night Lights (go do that), this too you will love.

All this makes it easy to jump right in with an episode well into the series, even if you haven’t spent the last five years of Thursday nights singing along to the show’s catchy opening credits cover of “Forever Young.” Specifically, you should start with Episode 5 of Season 3, called “Nora.” And since tonight marks the show’s Season 5 finale, and with a Season 6 renewal uncertain, now is as good a time as ever to get hooked.

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