Slate's Culture Blog

Sept. 21 2014 2:00 PM

Colin Farrell Will Star in True Detective’s Second Season

Looks like some truth finally popped out of the ever-churning True Detective rumor mill: Colin Farrell has confirmed that he will star in the show’s second season.

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Sept. 21 2014 12:43 PM

Watch Rachel Dratch and Tina Fey Do a Second City Sketch in 1997

One of my favorite online projects is Splitsider’s Second City Archives, which unearths clips of today’s comedy stars when they were young, brimming with potential, and still honing their skills at Chicago’s iconic comedy club.  The series’ latest find is a charming skit from 1997, “Grandma’s Records,” which stars Rachel Dratch as a manic nun and Tina Fey as some musical accompaniment.

Sept. 20 2014 3:21 PM

“The More You Know (About Black People)” Uses Very Funny PSAs to Condemn Black Stereotypes

Dear White People, Justin Simien’s forthcoming satire on black student experiences in a predominantly white college, is expected to be a sharp and stimulating exploration of racial dynamics. Now the team behind the movie has released a series of comedic PSAs called “The More You Know (About Black People)” that fulfills a similar purpose: the series is comprised of a handful of clips—ten in all—that hilariously tackle some common stereotypes about black people. 

Sept. 20 2014 1:52 PM

Julian Casablancas’ New Album Sounds Like the Furthest Thing From the Strokes

Julian Casablancas has kept busy since his underrated solo debut, Phrazes for the Young—he’s reunited with the Strokes, teamed up with Daft Punk, and founded his own record label. Now his new band, the Voidz, has released their wildly ambitious debut album, Tyranny, which is available for streaming.

Sept. 19 2014 4:48 PM

You Should Be Listening to Sbtrkt

On Tuesday, Sept. 22, Sbtrkt will release his much awaited sophomore album, Wonder Where We Land. If that name (which he styles SBTRKT) doesn’t immediately call to mind any of his work, now is the best time to get familiar with the masked London producer who’s received praise from the likes of Thom Yorke, Diplo, and Drake. Because if the reception of his second album is anything like the reaction to his 2011 self-titled debut, Sbtrkt seems likely to earn a place alongside the best of his generation of British electronic artists, with acts like James Blake, Jamie xx, and Disclosure.

Though Aaron Jerome (the man behind the Sbtrkt mask) got his start as a nu-jazz artist, prior to 2010 he was a virtual unknown outside of a small corner of SoundCloud. It was on his SoundCloud page that he uploaded “Timeless,” an ethereal mash-up of two Goldie songs that, along with subsequent remixes, soon attracted the attention of BBC radio DJ Mary Anne Hobbs, who invited him on her show for an impressive 16-minute guest mix. It was around that time that Jerome started to develop his chameleonic sound and construct Sbtrkt’s elusive persona: He recruited A Hidden Place to design his artwork and the tribal masks with which he’s so firmly associated himself. At the same time, he began working on tracks with DJ Graeme Sinden (of The Count & Sinden) as well as his future Young Turks labelmate Sampha, then an up-and-coming vocalist and producer (Sampha is now best known for his work with Drake).

Sept. 19 2014 4:03 PM

Kern Your Enthusiasm: The Ubiquity of Gotham

This is the third in a series of posts analyzing and celebrating typefaces. These posts were originally published by HiLobrow.

GOTHAM | TOBIAS FRERE-JONES | 2000

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Sans-serif type generates a lot of passion among graphic designers. While serif faces are defined by ornamentation, sans-serifs are specifically defined by what they are not. They aren’t serifed. They aren’t rooted in traditional ideas of lettering and calligraphic flourish. They are exercises in minimalism with nuanced turns and terminals. At its most histrionic, a sans face might have a lone bar (or “ear”) protruding from the lowercase “g” or a particularly unconventional question mark.

The sans as we know it has been around since the very late 18th century and the first forms were dubbed “grotesk” or “grotesque,” an appellation which reveals what people popularly thought of this homely new idea in letterforms. But with time many sans-serifs have become associated with major modernist movements in graphic design—most importantly, the 1920s Bauhaus aligning with the Geometric typeface Futura and the 1950s Swiss school with the Neo-Grotesque typeface Helvetica. There have been many hundreds of sans-serif families created, all revolving around this simplified framework and some dozen tend to be the same ones favorited by any given typesetter.

Very few faces become so ubiquitous as to define an era. Gotham is defining ours now. The most remarkable, flexible sans-serif family to be released in at least a generation, it has never aimed to align with lofty ideas. Although nostalgic, it is a sans-serif free of historical baggage. First appearing on newsstands as a commissioned font for Esquire magazine, it was introduced with A-list celebrity. It was later influential to the election of Barack Obama as the official typeface in his 2008 run (most notably set in blue at the bottom of Shepard Fairey’s “HOPE” poster), then reborn in a slab-serif for the 2012 election. And currently it feeds your Twitter page. You see it every time you watch a movie trailer.

With its variety of weights and families Gotham is practically peerless. Notably, it has narrower widths that allow for better legibility when set as text, taking it out of the realm of headline-only typefaces. (See Paul Rand’s “dogshit” comment about Helvetica care of Kyle Cooper.) It has a powerful presence yet it is approachable and even friendly, sharing similar roots to Futura. It manages the Futurists’ love of assertiveness and yet, too, the humanity of faces like Gill Sans without the bogus compromise of Humanism. (A typeset sans is not the domain of the calligraphic, for god’s sake.)

Certainly Gotham is overused and now inescapable but that only speaks to the rarity and strength of its character. Gotham’s creator, Tobias Frere-Jones, is an avatar of the creative type who blindly follows his muse; he will forever be tied to this accomplishment. His sad story of falling out with his longtime business partner only underscores the contemporary resonance of Gotham: These are grotesque times.

Sept. 19 2014 3:33 PM

Drinking Fancy Cocktails at Denny’s

Denny’s—“America’s diner”—operates 1,700 restaurants, but beyond the oxygenated oasis of Las Vegas, only one of those outposts serves cocktails. A few weeks ago, the chain opened its first Manhattan location at the corner of Nassau and Spruce Streets, a site at once prominent and secreted—across from City Hall and hard by the approach to the Brooklyn Bridge, yet concealed behind the tuchus of Benjamin Franklin. With its drinks menu, the restaurant attaches an intriguing footnote to the story of booze in America.

Sept. 19 2014 2:44 PM

Where Do I Start With Mystery Science Theater 3000?

This week, Vimeo made 80 episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000 newly available for rental or purchase. On the show—which found a home, variously, at Comedy Central and the Sci Fi Channel during the ’90s—Joel, Mike, Crow, and Tom watched terrible movies and made jokes about them, so that the bad movies became not only bearable but belly-shakingly hilarious. With their sly pop culture references, outright mockery, and general good humor, the MST3K crew were the best movie-watching buddies you never had.

Because of rights issues, making the show available on DVD and streaming has sometimes been tricky. Some episodes are available on Netflix, and some on Amazon, and now you can buy these 80 episodes for $9.99, or $300 for all 80. If you’re a MSTie on a budget, you can rent episodes for $2.99 each.

Diehards surely have their own favorites already picked out, but what if you’re new to the show? Which of these 80 episodes are most worth your money and your time? Below, I’ve selected the 10 that you should start with.

Sept. 19 2014 1:39 PM

Shonda Rhimes Is Not an “Angry Black Woman,” New York Times

The New York Times TV critic Alessandra Stanley just published an essay that begins, “When Shonda Rhimes writes her autobiography, it should be called How to Get Away With Being an Angry Black Woman,” a flame-throwing start if there ever was one. The piece argues—admiringly—that Rhimes, the creator of Grey's Anatomy and Scandal, and an executive producer of the forthcoming How to Get Away with Murder, and a singularly powerful figure—black or white, male or female—in the TV universe, has “embraced the trite but persistent caricature of the Angry Black Woman, recast it in her own image and made it enviable … single-handedly trampled a taboo even Michelle Obama couldn’t break.”

Sept. 19 2014 12:10 PM

Watch the Trailer for Big Eyes, a Tim Burton Movie About People With Normal-Sized Eyes

Judging from the trailer, there’s never been a Tim Burton movie that’s looked less like a Tim Burton movie than his new movie Big Eyes. That’s surprising given the subject: Walter Keane and his wife Margaret, a real-life artist who became famous for her paintings of children with cartoonishly large eyes. Burton is famous for his own big-eyed creations (which have distinctively smaller pupils), but this movie appears to have a more staid look: no spirals, no candy stripes, not even any Johnny Depp.

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