Hello Slate Plus members, and thank you for supporting what we do. I hope we’ve lived up to your lofty standards this week.
First, a confession. I haven’t read a single piece this week (or last week either, as far as I can remember) about Ebola. On Monday and Wednesday mornings Slate editors have a conference call about the big stories in the news—what we have planned and what we should assign and so on. From listening to science editor Laura Helmuth in those meetings I have gathered that I do not personally need to worry about Ebola. And so I do not plan to read about it. I would trust Laura Helmuth with my life, in other words—which is why I’m sure the ample Slate coverage of Ebola is great, even though, like I said, I haven’t read it.
Now on to some things I have read. I’m a senior editor at Slate on the culture side. More specifically, I run our culture blog, Brow Beat, along with my colleague Forrest Wickman, and I also edit our TV coverage, our Good Word column, and help Dan Kois and Katy Waldman with the Slate Book Review. I’ve been a Slate staffer for three years, but my first piece in the magazine ran eight years ago. (I was a freelancer. It was about Jimmy Stewart.) I’ve written two Frescas, one about an excommunicated Mormon historian and another about an exiled NBA point guard.
My favorite TV critic, not just at Slate but anywhere, is Willa Paskin, and I really enjoyed her review of Jane the Virgin, which she situated in the long history of the CW and described as “more emotional, more garish, and more gonzo than so much on television.” I also love the series that the reliably astute Chris Molanphy writes for us, “Why Is This Song No. 1?” This week he tackled Meghan Trainor’s “All About That Bass,” which is, somewhat mysteriously, still on top after a month and a half. (A little backstory: Chris was in Paris—on a pretty momentous trip—when this one first hit the top spot, which is why he didn’t write about it then. We thought he might skip it, and then it just hung on week after week after week.) Chris acknowledges the catchiness of the song, but says that you can’t understand its staying power without recognizing how the song, like many hits before it, is “protest lite.”
One piece that went up last Saturday that I would highly recommend is Forrest Wickman’s Brow Beat post about the movie Whiplash. Forrest enjoyed the movie, but he was bothered by its apparent ideas about genius—and then he learned that the story it tells (several times) about Charlie Parker, which seems to support those ideas, was all wrong. Forrest explains the real story in detail, going on to argue that, contrary to what the movie suggests, “creative genius is more than discipline and how-fast-can-you-play athleticism.”
Katy Waldman is herself a creative genius, in my opinion, and this week I loved her amusing reflection on whether it is possible to write a good “Sexiest Woman Alive” profile. Her conclusion: “Perhaps, but it’s not easy, and I can’t point to anyone who is doing it well.” Katy’s own prose is a delight as usual, but the post also makes devastating use of terrible quotations. To wit: “Those liquid lips, those pearly ankles, those Boulder shoulders—Jessica Biel is a woman of many parts. … Now, at last, she is whole. Behold.” Or, perhaps, don’t.
You’ve probably already read Seth Stevenson’s great piece about “ghosting,” which was published more than a year ago. But it was fun to see that piece pop up again this week, catching afire on Facebook, not for the first time. Seth first mentioned the subject ages ago at an editorial meeting, and I nudged him a few times before he at last sat down and wrote his elegant and, to my mind, persuasive argument that, at parties of more than 15 or so people, you shouldn’t bother to say goodbye—you should just ghost. Coincidentally, I ghosted a gathering just this week. And, of course, I thought of Seth.
P.S. In other related news, Slate’s Culture Gabfest will be in Boston this upcoming Monday, on Oct. 20, at the Wilbur Theatre. So get your tickets if you haven’t already done so—Slate Plus members get 30 percent off tickets!
P.P.S. And if you’re in New York, Slate is hosting our very first movie party in a week, and we’d love to see you there! It’ll be an evening of horror movie clips, trivia, discussion, and drinks with Slate staff and friends, hosted by our very own movie critic and Culture Gabfest host Dana Stevens! And Slate Plus members get free tickets. More details here.