“Vape” Until You Feel “Cultured”: Links You Need to See

Oxford Dictionaries called dibs on “vape” a while back (yet my computer still vehemently wants to autocorrect it to “cape”), so it was obviously a challenge for Merriam-Webster to find their own word of the year within the sea of useless verbiage that encompasses every word in this shit language of ours— with the exception, of course, of the elegant, inimitable “vape.” But finally, today, Merriam-Webster picked their word: it’s “culture.” You might be assuming we culture writers are all rejoicing: but what, really, is a word of the year, especially when said word is so distinctly indistinct? For, similarly, what is “culture?” Though everyone’s answer might be different (some answers might be about yogurt, other might be about Bertolucci), I find this a perfect place, as it is, after all, a links roundup, to regurgitate some “cultural” stories from the day, and hope, that in the puddle of bilious chunks, the word of the year will somehow become more defined. … Read More

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What Amazon’s Bestsellers Say About American Culture in 2014

Amazon’s list of its best-selling books in 2014 reveals an American culture gritting its teeth, biding its time, immersing itself in serial narratives. If Amazon’s 2013 list aired out the dying gasp of a “can-do” spirit — with books like (#1) Tom Rath’s Strength Finder, (#2) Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In, and (#17) Gary D. Chapman’s The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts  — the 2014 list bails on that ethos entirely. Many of the basic social, cultural, and economic pieties that have guided Americans into and through the 21st century are missing from the best-selling books of 2014. … Read More

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Nicki Minaj’s ‘The Pinkprint’ Is Her Very Own ‘808s & Heartbreak’

The final song on the deluxe — but not the deluxe iTunes or Target — version of The Pinkprint, Nicki Minaj’s third album, tells you everything you need to know about the Queens-bred rapper’s mental state at this point in time. Onika steps up to the plate and swings like she has nothing to prove but everything on the line: “You bitches can’t get my spot ’til I’m raising some children.” “Not that I don’t have good vision, but I don’t see competition/ They want me to come and help them, but I am not a magician.” “Don’t make me expose you, bitch, I’m busy.” With a title like “Win Again,” it would be easy to mistake this for your standard Nicki brag track, not unlike “I Am Your Leader” or “Grindin.” But by the end of the song, she’s out for blood with far less of it running through her flow. “I won,” Minaj coos in her most defeated-by-love pop-singer voice, “Kill-kill everything in my way.” Her brain is well trained, but her heart sounds tired. Yours would be too after writing an album like The Pinkprint. … Read More

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‘Black Messiah': Tracking D’Angelo’s 15-Year Absence, With a Little Help From Questlove

When D’Angelo’s new album, Black Messiah, was released this morning, it capped off 14 — let’s be honest, more like 15 — years of waiting for a follow-up to his classic soul album, 2000’s Voodoo. That is so much time. The world has changed completely. After all the rumors, the silence, and the reclusive genius staying (somewhat) reclusive, Black Messiah delivers on two great promises: D’Angelo’s talent, and his buddy Questlove’s constant assurances that an album is coming and it’s going to be great. … Read More

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Alternate-Universe Space Thriller ‘Ascension’ Proves Syfy Is More Than Just ‘Sharknado’

It’s impossible to talk about Syfy’s miniseries Ascension without talking about the network’s current predicament. Syfy has been stuck in limbo, swerving constantly between two extremes as it tries to figure out what it wants to be. On one side, Syfy is struggling to be taken seriously with original (and sometimes underrated) science-fiction programs; on the other, Syfy knows that it will always be able to find viewers for its ridiculous made-for-television movies (see: Sharknado) and will thus keep putting those out until the end of time. Syfy is making an admirable attempt to find balance: a TV version of 12 Monkeys is in the works, as well as adaptations of The Magicians (!) and 3001: The Final Odyssey; meanwhile, Saturday will bring the premiere Christmas Icetastrophe, wherein an asteroid triggers a wave of deadly ice crystals. But if Ascension is any indication, Syfy’s original programming might actually become a force to be reckoned with. … Read More

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25 Women Who Drove the Culture in 2014

A thousand and one Internet blowups punctuated 2014, a long and eventful year full of triumph and tragedy for women and and trans folks in American culture. Yet before we look forward to the next frontier, we ought to celebrate the year’s many, many heroines. Whether they sent us into a collective tizzy with their scandalous album covers or had us pumping our fists in favor of their truthful testimony, these 25 women (plus a few honorable mentions at the end) were the ones who got us talking, thinking, re-thinking, and maybe, just maybe, planning a revolution of our… Read More

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Aaron Sorkin Mansplained the Sony Hack for You

Last Friday, The Daily Beast discovered yet another bombshell deep in the gigabytes of documents unearthed in the hacking of Sony Pictures by the so-called “Guardians of Peace.” The topic was the “points” (back-end compensation, bonus money if a film clears a profit) distributed among the marquee talent for last year’s Oscar nominee American Hustle, a breakdown that went thus: Director David O. Russell and stars Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, and Jeremy Renner each received nine percent, while stars Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence each received seven percent. Hmmmm. What makes those seven-percenters different from the nine-percenters? … Read More

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‘The Taylor Swift Experience': Does a 25-Year-Old Pop Star Deserve a Museum Retrospective?

The line was huge, stretching a city block in downtown Los Angeles, and made up of fewer teens than expected. No Taylor Swift tees or handmade signs could be seen among the crowd, where Hobbit totes belonging to the middle-aged predominated.

I asked a pair at the front of the line, “Are you excited about the Taylor Swift exhibit?”

“No,” one replied. “We’re waiting to see Night at the Museum.” … Read More

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‘The Interview': Not Serious, Yet Suddenly Important

You wouldn’t think that a movie whose plot hinges on a “sharting” incident would become one of the year’s most controversial and incendiary pictures, but what can I tell you, it’s an odd cultural moment. The film in question is The Interview, a broad, dumb, (mostly) funny comedy about dopey American buddies getting into hot water abroad — Road to North Korea, if you will. But because the objective of their mission is the assassination of a dictator not exactly known for his good-sport sense of humor, The Interview has become a cause célèbre, resulting in one of the most thorough, invasive, and scary data breaches in history. In the midst of a flood of private emails, salary spreadsheets, and outright threats, there’s an undeniable feeling of “All that over this?” while watching Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s comedy. But like it or not, logically or not, The Interview is now deeply, surprisingly important. … Read More

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Melville House to Publish CIA Torture Report: An Interview with Publisher Dennis Johnson

In what must be considered a watershed moment in contemporary publishing, Brooklyn-based independent publisher Melville House will release the Senate Intelligence Committee’s executive summary of a government report — “Study of the Central Intelligence Agency’s Detention and Interrogation Program” — that is said to detail the monstrous torture methods employed by the Central Intelligence Agency in its counter-terrorism efforts.

Melville House’s co-publisher and co-founder Dennis Johnson has called the report “probably the most important government document of our generation, even one of the most significant in the history of our democracy.” … Read More

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