Brow Beat
Slate's Culture Blog

Oct. 9 2015 4:22 PM

9 Types of People You Meet by Age 30, As Found in Sloane Crosley’s New Novel The Clasp

This article originally appeared in Vulture.

Anyone who’s crossed over the threshold of 30 knows the existential angst of being that age, particularly when trying to navigate friendships, and frenemy-ships, and straight-up hatreds with peers who all seem to have life on lock more than you do. Sloane Crosley, author of two best-selling humor essay collections about her own floundering toward adulthood (2008’s I Was Told There’d Be Cake and 2010’s How Did You Get This Number), is something of an expert when it comes to generational observation—a Lena Dunham for people who experienced college without Facebook or cell phones. And now she’s written her first novel, The Clasp, out today.

The plot centers around three single college friends on the edge of 30 who aren’t even sure they like each other anymore, yet embark on an adventure to find a valuable necklace that is somehow related to Guy de Maupassant’s cautionary short story “The Necklace,” about the dangers of trusting appearances. (It’s really funny, and Amanda Seyfried even blurbed it! Kind of.) The most fun part, though, might be Crosley’s keen observations of certain people you meet at that time in your life, which sound very familiar to anyone who is or has been that age. They’re also told in the very biting wit of three protagonists—disgruntled singleton Kezia, failed screenwriter Nathaniel, and misanthropic kleptomaniac Victor—who are all terrible people. So we pulled some choice descriptions from the book and called up Crosley to discuss her inspirations, and to talk some smack about fictional characters who all sound like someone we know. (Also, not sure if this applies to books, but spoilers ahead.)

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Oct. 9 2015 3:41 PM

Why Did Marvel Move Both Captain Marvel and Black Panther to a Box Office Dead Zone?

Marvel announced its Ant-Man sequel yesterday, and there was a lot of buzz around its title: Ant-Man and the Wasp. As the studio points out, self-congratulatingly, “The sequel will mark the first Marvel Studios film named after its heroine.” The film is set to premiere on July 6, 2018. Although it’s exciting to see a female superhero hypothetically on par with a male one (unlike Captain Marvel, who’s also been a dude, Wasp has only ever been a woman), Marvel’s move might mean trouble for two previously announced upcoming films: Black Panther and Captain Marvel. 

To accommodate Ant-Man and the Wasp, the studio moved Black Panther up six months—from July 8, 2018 to February 16, 2018. Captain Marvel was pushed back from November 2, 2018 to March 8, 2019. It’s an interesting move given that May, June, and July are the traditional months for action flicks. Every single movie in Marvel’s phase one (Iron Man, Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger) came during the summer months, and phase two stuck to the same pattern. (One notable exception is Captain America: Winter Soldier, which was released April 4, but summer movie season gets earlier every year, and the film still made a ton of money.) Other films in phase three are slated for the either the May-July corridor or November, which also sees its share of blockbusters. 


Black Panther and Captain Marvel are the only two movies in Marvel’s entire cinematic universe slated for February and March, respectively. Neither month is historically great for movies. February in particular is known for stinkers and often referred to, along with January, as a cinematic dumping month, and although summer movie season is increasingly amorphous, June and November are still far safer bets than February and March.

Those dates might be strategic—February is black history month and March is women’s history month. But in a way, that's even queasier: It feels like a way for Marvel to signal a willingness to relegate  “black” and “female” movies to black and female audiences, to paint its new releases as an act of appeasement rather than a real investment. And unless Marvel uses its box office heft to singlehandedly reverse February's dismal history, the move is a vote of no confidence in Black Panther. At best this is a marketing ploy, and at worst it's a sign that the studio is already downplaying two of the most symbolically important movies in its arsenal.

Oct. 9 2015 3:20 PM

Rapper Accused of Burglarizing His Own Airbnb Rental

The rapper and producer StefIsDope and his friends couldn’t believe how nice the home they’d rented on Airbnb was. There was a huge backyard out back and a beautiful lawn in front of the suburban Atlanta house. The owner of the property was an interior decorator, and Stef, whose real name is Stefan Grant, could see the evidence of her expertise. There were furs on the beds.

Grant, who is 23 and was born in Jamaica, had flown into Atlanta from Washington DC for the A3C Music Festival & Conference; he was scheduled to play a show  on Friday at Gallery EAV. Four of his friends had driven up, separately, from Miami.


The group spent the morning hanging out and planning their setlist for tonight’s concert. Then, around noon, something happened that was both surprising and not surprising at all: A pair of police officers appeared on the deck, saying that a neighbor had reported a robbery in progress.

“My boy Xali was out on the deck chilling, and then I heard him be like, ‘Yo come to the back!’” Grant told me by phone. “I thought he had rolled a blunt and we were about to go smoke! So I walk out all jolly, but then I see two huge cops standing there.”  

“The cops said, ‘Yeah, we got a call from the neighbors saying you guys were breaking into the house and robbing the place,’” Grant said. “Our eyes all got huge—we were like, ‘No, this is an Airbnb! The owner knows we’re here, we’ve been in contact with her!”

The officers absorbed this information and took in the scene. “They looked around for a bit, they saw everyone was in, you know, cozy clothes, and they figured out, ‘OK, these kids ain’t lying.’”

At that point Grant—whose most recent video is “Errything Lit”, which you can watch here—asked if he could take a selfie with one of the officers and put it on Snapchat, and everyone had a good laugh about it; Grant also tweeted the picture, which has since gone viral.

“It wasn’t totally unexpected,” Grant said. “We’re black kids in this Leave it to Beaver neighborhood, you know?”

Later on, Grant and his friends met the neighbor who had called the police. “The neighbor lady was like, you know, ‘Sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you, but we didn’t know about the Airbnb stuff, and there’ve been a lot of robberies in the neighborhood.’ I guess she had called the lady who owns the house but she didn’t pick up the phone, so that’s when she called the cops.”

Grant reacted to the episode with good humor, posting videos on Twitter featuring the police officers as well as a second neighbor who came to check on the house and walked through the door without asking. “I smile and laugh at everything,” he said. “Not much makes me mad. Or, actually, I shouldn’t say not much makes me mad—I just expect this kind of shit to happen, so I kind of laugh it off.”

He said he is flying back to Washington DC tomorrow; he bought a plane ticket for early in the morning so he’d be back in time to walk in the Million Man March, which will mark the 20th anniversary of the peaceful demonstration held on the National Mall in 1995. 

Oct. 9 2015 1:30 PM

The Martian Is Not “Competence Porn”

The Martian, Ridley Scott’s spry, ABBA-fied take on Andy Weir’s hit novel, stars Matt Damon as Mark Watney, a botanist-astronaut whose jaunt on Mars goes south when he’s impaled by a radio antenna, thought dead by his crewmates, and left to solve a series of puzzle-problems to ensure his safe and timely rescue. The film’s rah-rah nerdery—brand-approved by arbiters like Neil deGrasse Tyson and the folks at XKCD—has charmed critics, who’ve dubbed it a “celebration of human intelligence” and a “brisk, funny piece of competence porn.”

That last description, “competence porn,” has been thrown around by many critics in describing The Martian. John Rogers, creator of erstwhile TNT drama Leverage, coined the term in 2009, when he and his writers realized that viewers were addicted to the show’s pipe-laying, jargon-laden briefing scenes. “Competence porn” is a truly excellent phrase for an old phenomenon; the frisson of watching smart people tackle tasks with freaky aptitude dates as far back as Robinson Crusoe. Liam Neeson, in movies like Taken and The Grey, is the James Deen of competence porn. Benedict Cumberbatch, in Sherlock, takes it to an antisocial extreme. You can even find it in places as unlikely as Man Vs. Wild, where Bear Grylls tailors a wetsuit from a seal carcass, or on MasterChef Jr., where preteens conjure pan-seared steaks and cauliflower couscous from a mystery box of ingredients. And then there’s Aaron Sorkin, the master of the genre himself, whose work is fueled by the romance of virtuosic human intellect and and smoothly functioning systems.

Oct. 9 2015 12:47 PM

The Trailer for the Coen Brothers’ Hail, Caesar! Has Everything We Love About Coens Movies

The Coen Brothers have taken a slightly dryer and more straight-faced approach to their last two or three movies—Inside Llewyn Davis, True Grit, and A Serious Man—but for their next movie, they seem to be returning to full-on screwball comedy. Hail, Caesar!, which stars just about every star in Hollywood, playing what feels like just about every star from Hollywood’s Golden Age, has inspired near-feverish speculation and anticipation from film fans for more than a year now, and today we have the first trailer.

The trailer seems sure to inspire lots of comparisons to previous Coen Brothers movies. The fast-talking period comedy brings to mind another Coens screwball, The Hudsucker Proxy, and Clooney seems to be in full-on Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? mode as a bumbling studio star. To me, the mix of LA noir, a Hollywood hostage plot, and absurdist comedy seems most reminiscent of The Big Lebowski, but of course that’s just, like, my opinion, man.

Oct. 9 2015 12:46 PM

Bikram Yoga Can’t Be Copyrighted, and Also Defeats the Purpose of Yoga

Good news for practitioners of yoga: Bikram Choudhury has encountered another setback in his long quest to prevent competitors from teaching the sequence of 26 postures that characterize Bikram yoga. Choudhury has been suing studios that dare to teach Bikram’s 26 asanas—which Choudhury didn’t invent; he only sequenced them—for more than a decade. Despite repeated denials from courts and the United States Copyright Office, he’s persisted in filing lawsuits. This time, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that Choudhury’s suit against a Florida studio, Evolution Yoga, is baseless.

Choudhury has had his share of legal woes in recent years. As you might recall, several women have accused Choudhury of sexual assaulting and harassing themmost of their civil lawsuits are pending in California court. On top of those five-figure teacher-training sessions, Choudhury charges hefty franchising fees to any studio that uses his name. He’s also made outlandish claims of having magical healing powers.

Does Choudhury deserve any credit for popularizing the calming, beneficial practice of yoga among Americans? I don’t think so. I’ve practiced yoga for about 14 years, attending classes at dozens of studios around the country and globe, and I’m far from the only person to conclude that Bikram yoga is yoga in name only.

Oct. 9 2015 12:28 PM

Here’s Our First Glimpse of Don Cheadle as Miles Davis

After many years of starts and stops and a successful Indiegogo campaign, Don Cheadle’s Miles Davis feature film is finally making its way to theatres, just in time for awards season. And ahead of the world premiere of Miles Ahead, which closes out the New York Film Festival on Sunday, we have our first glimpse of what the actor—in his directorial debut—will be like as the cool jazz icon.

It’s just a brief clip, but Cheadle’s got Davis’ husky speaking voice down pat, and the trumpet lessons he took in preparation for the role seem to have paid off. The conceit of the film is also promising—instead of a consummate biopic, Miles Ahead focuses primarily on Davis’ reemergence on the music scene following a five-year period in the late ’70s when he virtually withdrew from the public eye. Ewan McGregor co-stars as a Rolling Stone reporter and Emayatzy Corinealdi (Middle of Nowhere) plays Frances Taylor, his first wife.

Sony Pictures Classics has yet to announce a theatrical release date.

Oct. 9 2015 11:00 AM

Who’s Dead and Who’s Alive on The Walking Dead? A Quiz.

The sixth season of AMC’s The Walking Dead premieres Sunday, and, with it, the promise of regular head-smashing, gut-bursting, face-eating gore. Once again, Rick, Carol, Tyreese, and crew will battle the zombie horde while defending themselves against their fellow survivors. Wait, Tyreese is still alive, right? Honestly, through all of the carnage of this show, I don’t even remember what happened to him. Wasn’t Carol supposed to be taking care of those two little girls? That one dude killed Glenn, right? Wasn’t there a baby? Test your knowledge with our quiz!

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Oct. 9 2015 10:14 AM

Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood Announces New LP, Shares PT Anderson-Directed Video for “Roked”

In August, we learned that Paul Thomas Anderson was bringing a new documentary, Junun, to New York Film Festival. The doc follows frequent Anderson collaborator Jonny Greenwood (of Radiohead fame), as he travels to India to record a new album with Israeli composer Shye Ben Tzur, and screened to largely positive reviews. The movie will stream on Mubi for one month starting Friday.

Now, Greenwood has announced the title for his new LP, also Junun, and shared an Anderson-directed album trailer featuring one of the tracks, “Roked.” The trailer gives us an inside look at how the music was made, and also follows one of the musicians into Jodphur, India, as he takes his instrument in to be tuned. The album is due out Nov. 13.

Oct. 9 2015 9:17 AM

The Week in Culture, “You Are in Heaven” Edition

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What would your version of culture heaven look like? This week’s roundup offers several possibilities.


On a trip to Japan, Slate movie critic Dana Stevens visited the bathhouse said to have inspired Miyazaki’s Spirited Away, where messages on the tile walls read, “YOU ARE IN HEAVEN.” Is Japan heaven for cinephiles? Dana sought answers at the Studio Ghibli Museum, Toho Studios, and the hotel from Lost in Translation.

For Steve Jobs, heaven probably meant an equal mix of capitalism and techno-utopianism. With the release of the Aaron Sorkin–written biopic, Will Oremus reveals what the movie gets wrong about the man. (Aisha Harris thinks Seth Rogen might earn an Oscar nod for the movie.)

Or perhaps your version of heaven is a little more freaky, in which case American Horror Story: Hotel might be the show for you. Willa Paskin says its new season could be a return to form after two years of lackluster serial-killing clowns and witches.

And for book lovers, heaven is a new issue of the Slate Book Review! The October collection features Molly Fischer charting Elizabeth Gilbert’s divine rise from magazine writer to spiritual guru; Laura Miller investigating both pickup artist Neil Strauss and do-gooders via Larissa MacFarquhar’s Strangers Drowning; Katy Waldman on Sloane Crosley’s sparkling The Clasp; and Lydia Kiesling on the elegant bigotry of Michel Houellebecq. And more!

A few more stories that had us looking heavenward this week: