Brow Beat
Slate's Culture Blog

May 22 2015 8:32 AM

I’ve Given Up on Healthy Desserts. Now I Make My Kids Cookies That Taste Like Candy.

This post originally appeared on Food52.

In the beginning of this column about cooking for children, with children, and despite children, there were no desserts. Because if you gave a child dessert, he might like it. And then where would you be? That was followed by a thaw, in which there were child-friendly desserts, and by child-friendly desserts I mean an apple and maybe a raisin if you were good. Of course not! I mean desserts that were mostly low on sugar, if not mostly low on fat, and even though there was nothing obviously child-friendly about said desserts, a conscientious parent called to account could justify each individual ingredient. They weren’t wholesome desserts, because wholesome desserts are terrible, but they were respectful and never raucous, and you could let your daughter date them, if your daughter was into that sort of thing.

We have now reached the land of adult-friendly desserts. And sweet lord is it good to be here.

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May 22 2015 8:02 AM

Someone Mashed Up Mad Max and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Because Females Are Strong As Hell

You’ve undoubtedly heard by now that Mad Max: Fury Road is a gloriously feminist movie that follows abused women throughout their escape from captivity and eventual triumph. But the movie doesn’t just deliver an ass-kicking message—it’s also very funny. If all of this sounds familiar, it might be because Tina Fey created a similar story—except hers is titled Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, and instead of escaping a patriarchy obsessed with riding eternal, shiny, and chrome, her characters escape a cult leader fixated on the end of the world. And, Fey being Fey, the show also manages to be hilarious. Sure, the two are stylistic opposites and come from different genres, but this mashup shows just how well their central points align.

May 21 2015 4:57 PM

How David Letterman Changed Comedy, According to Comedy Bang! Bang!’s Scott Aukerman

This article originally appeared in Vulture.

Beyond changing late night, David Letterman shifted what America found funny. With him saying good-bye tonight, Vulture asked Scott Aukerman, host of the Comedy Bang! Bang! TV show and podcast, to say a few words about his comedy idol. Dan Reilly spoke with Aukerman for this as-told-to piece.

I remember when David Letterman first had an impact on me. It was 1984. He had already been doing the show for a couple years, and I was in high school, trying to figure out my own personality and where I fit in. What I had learned up to that point was that people didn't like the person who was out there trying really hard. They didn't like theater geeks. They didn't like the people who put on a show. And I remember seeing his show and really responding to it because up until that point, show business was very much about the pageantry of show business. Carson's show was very much ensconced in that, where it had "show-business tradition" written all over it. "You're in safe hands. Please don't change the channel."

With Letterman, it was interesting to see a guy who, No. 1, didn't look like he should be in show business. He didn't look like a guy who cared as much about the way he looked as much as other people did. He didn't have a million-dollar smile—in fact, his smile looked like he maybe owed his dentist a million dollars. But also, he didn't seem to be trying that hard, and he didn't seem to care whether you changed the channel or not, or whether you thought this show was too weird. If you thought the show was too weird, maybe you should change the channel and find something that was more up your alley. There was nothing else on at the time, so if you changed the channel, it was pretty much that you were going to turn off the TV and never watch him again. And if he got kicked off the air, he would probably say, "Oh, well. Who cares? I'll go back to the Midwest."

Here was a guy who was being sarcastic about everything and showing you that these show-business traditions were bullshit, and that everything I had grown up with and been shown on television was stupid. I was a young teenager and I looked at it and said, "Yeah, he's right! I do hate everything!" For a teenager to realize there was a guy out there who also hated everything was really powerful to me. So, I embraced my personality as a guy who was super sarcastic about everything and started acting like Letterman all the time. I would sarcastically embrace the cheesiness of things and treat everything like it was a big joke.

May 21 2015 2:16 PM

The Only Literary Award That Really Matters? The Man Booker International Prize.    

When Hungarian author László Krasznahorkai won the Man Booker International Prize this week, he did not accommodate himself to the genteel conventions of prizewinners. He described his work to the Guardian: “Letters; then from letters, words; then from these words, some short sentences; then more sentences that are longer, and in the main very long sentences, for the duration of 35 years. Beauty in language. Fun in hell.” Krasznahorkai, whose work (as I’ve written elsewhere) focuses on the human struggle to make beauty (occasionally a success) and meaning (always a failure), is one of the greatest living writers, heir to the dark European tradition of Kleist and Kafka. Yet if not for Colm Tóibín, whose small press imprint Tuskar Rock published Krasznahorkai’s Seiobo There Below in 2014, that novel might not have even appeared in the UK. With this year’s eclectic shortlist, the biennial International prize, awarded to Krasznahorkai and his able translators George Szirtes and Ottilie Mulzet, is coming to perform a greater service to literature than the English-language Booker Prize itself.

May 21 2015 1:49 PM

Amy Schumer Spoofs Self-Righteous Rescue Dog Owners    

Dogs might be man’s best friend, but some owners take things too far. This week’s Inside Amy Schumer poked fun at self-righteous rescue dog owners who care about their pets as much as people—or perhaps even more.

May 21 2015 1:11 PM

Why You Should Stop Throwing Out Your Pickle Brine

This post originally appeared on Food52.

Dill pickle brine’s chief function is to preserve cucumbers into infinity. Its reason for being is utility; its food class: byproduct. When it escapes the jar, it’s most often served on the side of a cheap shot of whiskey

So I don’t blame you if you tend eat all the pickles and then throw the juice away—at least, not until right now I didn’t.

Maybe nobody told you that tossing pickle brine is just like tipping a perfectly good bottle of vinegar or fish sauce or Worcestershire down the drain. Maybe you never heard that you could cook with brine, not just use it as a bracing, salty slap to chase your sorrows. Or maybe you assumed that brine would always take over, setting its vinegar and salt and spice on top of everything else. You might even have slipped some pickle juice into potato salad or Bloody Marys, where blandness signals a crushing defeat.

But as I learned from Stuart Brioza, chef-owner of State Bird Provisions in San Francisco, brine could be doing so much more. He splashes dill pickle brine into buttery sautéed mushrooms—refined, seasonal, expensive mushrooms. And it makes them even better.

May 21 2015 12:47 PM

A Brief History of David Letterman’s Love for the Foo Fighters

At the end of last night’s Late Show finale, the Foo Fighters played “Everlong” over a touching montage of old Letterman clips. The late-night legend and the rock band might seem like an unlikely pair, but they have a long, colorful history together. Ever since Letterman gave them their TV debut back in 1995, he and the Fighters of Foo, as he calls them, have been close friends.

May 21 2015 12:17 PM

Matthew Weiner Opens Up About What That Don Draper Hug—and That Coke Ad—Really Meant

On Wednesday, Mad Men showrunner Matthew Weiner—who is often loathe to unpack the meaning of his work—took time to unpack the meaning of the show’s hotly debated finale. In a conversation with novelist A.M. Homes at New York Public Library, Weiner dug into Peggy and Stan, Joan’s evolution into a single-mother feminist, and more. Many of the highlights have been noted elsewhere and are worth reading, but what will likely most interest longtime fans is Weiner’s interpretation of that ending: Coke ad and all.

For one, Leonard (Evan Arnold) is representative of a feeling of "invisibility," a culmination of years of political and cultural tensions that have isolated people like himself, Don included. Of that monumental hug between Leonard and Don, Weiner said, “I hope the audience would feel either that [Don] was embracing a part of himself, or maybe them, and that they were heard … I liked the idea where he'd come to this place, and it'd be about other people and a moment of recognition.”

May 21 2015 10:30 AM

The Mountain Goats’ New Music Video Is a Goofy, Wonderful Tribute to ’70s Pro Wrestling

When the Mountain Goats released their first single from Beat the Champ, “The Legend of Chavo Guerrero,” back in January, I called it “deceptively cheerful.” But there’s nothing deceptive about the cheerfulness in the newly released music video for “Chavo Guerrero”—it’s pure, nostalgic fun.

Rob Corddry guest stars in this madcap tribute to the manufactured drama of 1970s televised professional wrestling, which also features a cameo from the real Chavo Guerrero. Everyone in this video is clearly having a great time, but even if you’re immune to the actors’ goofy antics, you’ll surely crack a smile when Darnielle points at Guerrero and proudly sings, “He was my hero back when I was a kid.”

May 21 2015 10:18 AM

Squirrel Girl Is Not the Hero We Deserved. She’s the One We Needed.

Do you like superheroes, but not superhero hype? Do you worry that super-serious superhero films, packed with super-expensive CGI effects and even more expensive actors making sexist PR gaffes, have squashed all the fun out of what ought to be a fun genre—one forever linked to comic books as a medium, or else linked to what were once Saturday morning cartoons? Do you mourn the demise of Saturday morning cartoons, even while recognizing that most of their scripts were terrible? Do you wonder whether the ever-more-elaborate set of Marvel universes, with their infinitely expanding set of Infinity Stones and their cross-platform crossovers, can make fun of itself? Would you like to see a superhero story that entertains ten-year-old readers, their parents, and their unashamed college-age cousins, maybe even for the same reasons? Did you like Felicity? Do you like squirrels?

If you answered “no” to all of those questions, you probably won’t like Marvel’s new comics series The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl. If you answered “yes” to every single one, chances are you’ve already discovered it: Now in its fifth issue (there’s a trade paperback coming this fall), Squirrel Girl has been embraced by savvy readers, and it ought to be a breakout hit. Squirrel Girl herself, created in 1992 by Will Murray and Steve Ditko (co-creator of Spider-Man), but given her very own comic book only this year, is Doreen Green: a chubby-cheeked, awkward, yet preternaturally confident first-year studying computer science at a college that looks a lot like NYU. She “secretly has all the powers of both squirrel and girl.” For example, she has a tail, and talks to squirrels, and they talk back. Doreen’s favorite pet squirrel, Tippy-Toe, came with her to college, though squirrels aren’t allowed in the dorms; Tippy-Toe lives in a nearby tree and gives Squirrel Girl advice.

For example, in Squirrel Girl Number 2, Tippy-Toe warns Squirrel Girl that she’s going to have to travel into space and save the world. “That thing in space!” Tippy-Toe chirps. “It’s gotten closer! Squirrels around the world have been sneaking into observatories to look at it!” Tippy-Toe then pulls out one of Doreen’s collectible Supervillain Trading Cards in order to explain who’s coming: “Galactus the Devourer of Worlds,” who wears a big purple helmet and, yes, eats planets. Earth is now on the menu.