What Happened at Slate This Week?

Now Forrest Wickman knows what “freemium” means. And sundry other lessons from his week.

Illustration by Charlie Powell

*Felix Salmon voice* Helloooo!

Thank you for participating in Slate’s experiment in freemium content. I’m Forrest Wickman, and I’m a staff writer in our culture section. I primarily write and edit for Brow Beat, Slate’s culture blog, and I also edit Slate’s music coverage—which means I am the person that let Carl Wilson write 5,000 words about Taylor Swift’s belly button (a decision I don’t regret for a second).

First, a little about me. Like a lot of Slate-sters (and, I’m sure, a lot of loyal Slate readers) I’m a bit of a generalist by nature, and one thing I love about Slate is that it allows me to indulge this widespread curiosity beyond what is reasonable. This means that, in addition to trying to keep a handle on pop culture, I can fancy myself a historian of backpack culture, an emoji translator, a slasher-movie sabermetrician, an etymologist of silly and dirty words, a Bingo game designer, and an explainer of things like why goats really yell like humans. Another thing I love about Slate is that, if you have a crazy idea, your colleagues can make the result far better than you possibly imagined. So, for example, when I had an idea for a video game version of The Great Gatsby, Chris Kirk made my own personal American dream into an 8-bit reality, complete with dinky sound effects.

My love for Slate actually began years before I started here. I’ve loved the magazine since I was an undergrad because I can always trust it to at once entertain me and teach me something useful. (This includes the word freemium I used above, which I learned this week from Slate’s Seth Stevenson.) Among the many things I learned from Slate this week were how a crossword puzzle gets made and that I’ve been chopping onions wrong my whole life.

In the realm of culture, the biggest stories of the past week have included the release of Interstellar and the dominance of Taylor Swift’s 1989, the pop world’s own auteurist blockbuster. Boy have we covered each. Just for Interstellar, you can read music major and sometime film composer J. Bryan Lowder on the score (he also interviewed Hans Zimmer), astronomer Phil Plait on the science, and my own amateur theory on what, exactly, Nolan’s movies are all about. If you’re still puzzling over which of the six possible formats you should see the movie in, the video team made you this handy video guide. If you’ve seen the movie and still have questions—including whether it’s really true that some champion yachtsmen don’t know how to swim—we’ve got that covered, too. This is not to say we only cover pop cultural juggernauts: Another story that’s big for me this week is the return of High Maintenance, TV’s perfect little one-hitter of stoner comedy, and Slate TV critic Willa Paskin’s review of Season 2 pointed out all sorts of connections in the show that I had missed.

Not to be a bummer, man, but I’m almost out of space and I still need to turn to politics, where the news lately can really harsh your mellow. Many democrats are still reeling from “the Great Whupping of 2014,” and that’s why I’m glad Slate has such reliable guides as Dahlia Lithwick, to explain why Obamacare isn’t necessarily doomed, and Jamelle Bouie, to explain why Republicans aren’t going to try to impeach Obama.

And I still haven’t even gotten to threats like climate change, Ebola, and the ever-looming specter of viral hoaxes. In the words of the video team’s supercut, get ahold of yourself! Calm down! Pull yourself together!

And don’t be a SHPOS,