Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014
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Talking To Brett Gelman About His New Adult Swim Special

Tomorrow night, Adult Swim is airing Dinner with Friends with Brett Gelman and Friends, a new half-hour special starring comedian Brett Gelman and directed by Jason Woliner, who co-wrote the script with Gelman. Beginning as a talk show Gelman hosts over a meal with six Hollywood actors a la Jon Favreau's Dinner for Five, Dinner with Friends with Brett Gelman and Friends quickly takes a turn and descends into an evening of psychological torture. Like Eagleheart, the Adult Swim show Gelman acts on and Woliner is a writer, director, and producer on, Dinner with Friends is fast-paced, funny, and unlike anything else on TV.

I recently talked with Brett Gelman about the special, his past projects with Jason Woliner, and making more stuff with Adult Swim. READ MORE

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"What Will Happen When the Earth’s Magnetic Field Begins to Reverse?"

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I Mean, Come On With This Bear And How Cute It Is


I will refer you to my earlier remarks, the substance of which was essentially that this bear was rather adorable. I see no need to revise that estimation.

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In Defense of Explaining Things

For websites meant to help us understand things, the new Explainer Sites—Vox, FiveThirtyEight, et al—are awfully disorienting. We stare them in the face and we cannot quite describe what we are looking at. Are they publications? Some sort of health food? Are they explaining the news to me, or to someone standing behind me? This is the root of the explainer backlash, to whatever extent there is one: The way these confident, assertive sites, in their quest to make us feel smart, end up making us feel like idiots.

Or wait, in true explainer spirit: Maybe we're just looking at them all wrong? READ MORE

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This Is Not a Metaphor

"Robots allow the cows to set their own hours, lining up for automated milking five or six times a day — turning the predawn and late-afternoon sessions around which dairy farmers long built their lives into a thing of the past. With transponders around their necks, the cows get individualized service. Lasers scan and map their underbellies, and a computer charts each animal’s 'milking speed,' a critical factor in a 24-hour-a-day operation. The robots also monitor the amount and quality of milk produced, the frequency of visits to the machine, how much each cow has eaten, and even the number of steps each cow has taken per day, which can indicate when she is in heat." This is how I would prefer to be milked, if I had to be milked, I guess.

Photo by Morten Just

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Ask Polly: Why Am I Deathly Afraid of Success?

DogDear Polly,

Love your column. Can I throw something at you? Apologies for being vague with certain details.

I'm a 43-year-old woman who has spent my whole life in one industry, got pretty far, and then descended back down the ladder to the place I started from. One day my whole outlook on my career changed and I wanted out. The problem was I didn't know how to do anything else. I was unconsciously sabotaging job after job but without an exit strategy, so it was a rough few years. 

Finally I ended up at the entry level of my industry, hiding my experience and qualifications so I could be a worker bee. In exchange for giving up a great salary and high pressure 24/7 job, I got over a hundred hours of my week back, and for the first time, started to have a life. Materially, it's spartan compared to what I had, but I'm at peace and happy way more often than I was before.

Now that my job is so undemanding and I have a lot more time than I've had, I've gotten back in touch with my childhood dreams and have started to do what I really wanted to do. It's in arts/entertainment. 

This is where my problem comes in: Having any actual success was far from my mind when I started my new work. I was just happy to finally have the time to be doing what I always wanted to do. 

Things rather rapidly became serious with rather serious people and organizations as soon as I focused and treated my new "work" like real work. I got opportunities other people struggle and train for years to get, and sometimes never do. I am COMPLETELY aware of how incredibly fortunate I am. Friends and peers in the same world can't believe my rate of progress. I feel like I'm finally on the right track.

But then I just stopped. Hearing about other people's dreams are the worst, but this dream is my story in a nutshell: I was driving a champagne colored convertible down a gorgeous open highway of gold on my way to Beverly Hills. The road was clear, the sky was blue, I was on my way. Then I just pulled over the car and got out, walked away, and suddenly I was in the bowels of the 42nd Street Subway station. I woke up terrified.

The days are ticking past, and the serious people waiting for me to get on the bus will eventually stop waiting—or else find a replacement.

For the life of me, I cannot figure out why I'm so resistant to finishing what I started. Imposter syndrome, fear of success, all of these things hit really close to home, but I can't pinpoint why I'm finding it so difficult to reach out and grab the brass ring in front of my face. 

I don't think it's stage fright necessarily, because though I won't say I don't care what people think, I have an uncanny ability to shut out the world and compartmentalize feelings and memories to the point of amnesia.

Possibly relevant: I grew up in a home where I was invisible when I wasn't being abused, and none of my accomplishments of any kind garnered the slightest notice. I left home as a teenager and haven't had contact with anyone in my family since. Over the years I collected family figure substitutes, but I don't really keep or maintain relationships for very long. The truth is I lack trust in people for anything beyond the superficial. I just think it's easier to limit my exposure to myself, basically.

This is my shot at my new life, exactly as I always wanted it, but I'm not pulling the trigger. I know all kinds of freedoms are waiting for me at the end of this road, but I can't take another step toward it.

My procrastination feels sickening. Yet I'm already letting myself play with the idea of mourning my missed opportunities in the future. The reasonable part of me is horrified. When I try to create new synapses and imagine a happy ending for myself, I can't bear it. 

Got anything for me?

Avoiding The Future

Dear ATF,

Well, you did it. You went and hit me in my own blind spot. READ MORE

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"We are hopping into strangers’ cars (Lyft, Sidecar, Uber), welcoming them into our spare rooms (Airbnb), dropping our dogs off at their houses (DogVacay, Rover), and eating food in their dining rooms (Feastly). We are letting them rent our cars (RelayRides, Getaround), our boats (Boatbound), our houses (HomeAway), and our power tools (Zilok). We are entrusting complete strangers with our most valuable possessions, our personal experiences—and our very lives. In the process, we are entering a new era of Internet-enabled intimacy."

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Courtney Love, "You Know My Name"


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God, we're doomed to keep relitigating the '90s forever, aren't we?

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"Having a good hair day can make you feel like you can take on the world. Scientists believe that a blow dry may affect your mindset far more than previously thought. In fact, seeing yourself as physically attractive can make you to believe you belong in a higher social class. As a result you are also more likely to believe people lower down in a hierarchy are there because they deserve to be, according to researchers at Stanford Graduate School of Business in California."

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Camille Paglia Still Doing Her Camille Paglia Thing

"As a libertarian, I support the decriminalization of marijuana, but there are many problems with pot. From my observation, pot may be great for jazz musicians and Beat poets, but it saps energy and will-power and can produce physiological feminization in men…. Alcohol’s enhancement of direct face-to-face dialogue is precisely what is needed by today’s technologically agile generation, magically interconnected yet strangely isolated by social media. Clumsy hardcore sexting has sadly supplanted simple hanging out over a beer at a buzzing dive. By undermining the art of conversation, the age 21 law has also had a disastrous effect on our arts and letters, with their increasing dullness and mediocrity. This tyrannical infantilizing of young Americans must stop!"
—If I were someone who believed that the drinking age in America should be lowered I would be all, "No, Camille Paglia, please don't help!"

Photo by CREATISTA, via Shutterstock

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"You Won’t Believe How These Experiences are Impacting Your Health" is the headline for an article about the way in which "the connection between early childhood trauma and later health and behavioral problems is stronger than was previously recognized," so I think we can all agree that everything is irredeemably awful and it's the Internet's fault. Go home, everyone.

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'Gold Diggers' 2005/1933


In the summer of 2005 Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans and Kanye West's "Gold Digger" hit the radio waves. I was 14 and didn't know how to help, but I had some money saved so I sent it along. There was a collection box in the school cafeteria the week I started ninth grade, and a big poster board chart on the wall tracked how much the school had raised using columns made of crepe paper. Soon I learned on the national news that the Red Cross wasn't doing much with the money. Nobody had planned for that kind of disaster.

"Gold Digger" was a chart-topper, spending 10 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100. I heard it on the radio, in the hallways, and it was still playing at prom four years later, by which time Katrina and the City of New Orleans had disappeared from the conversation in Worcester, Mass., the city where I grew up. Worcester still believes itself to be very far from the Deep South. Summer is not so hard on us.

Winters are worse, or were then. At school, the classroom windows never seemed to close, and every now and then a ceiling tile would come crashing down in the middle of a lesson. All the girls wore tights under their jeans on the days the temperature dropped below 10 degrees, and I once got frostbite on the mile-long walk to school.

On December 9, 2008, the sky spit rain. I remember because it got dark so early, and I went for a walk anyway. I came home with my collar wet, my neck freezing. The next morning the trees were glazed with ice, and school closed for three weeks. A million people were without power in the Northeast, hundreds were sleeping in temporary Red Cross shelters, and Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick declared a state of emergency, as if it weren't already evident.

READ MORE

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Carlos D. is forty today, and if that means something to you you are probably pretty close to that milestone one way or another yourself. The rest of you should just remain blissfully ignorant, and maybe a little grateful.

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Lily Allen, "Sheezus"


"She also says, at one point, 'Periods. We all get periods.'"

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If you are doing one of those low-carb diets you might want to stay away from the papers today, because it is bread all the way down to the guts.

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The Faulkner Truthers

faulk"I am the best in America, by God," William Faulkner wrote to his editor in 1939, and history has only confirmed that he was not deceived as to the quality of his gift. Faulkner's position in the American literary pantheon is such that his life has been dissected from every possible angle, inside the academy and out—even James Franco had a go at the Old Man, as some Faulkner devotees like to call him. But nobody has yet succeeded in tracing the exact path by which his genius developed.

He dropped out of high school; he dropped out of college. He corresponded with no mentor, belonged to no literary school or circle. How on earth, then, did he manage to develop the weirdly blazing brilliance of his syntactic rhythms, the wild catalogue of his narrative and stylistic innovations, his piercingly accurate sensitivity to human feeling and to the special qualities of life in the South? He didn't have the remotest idea. In a letter written in his mid-fifties to the novelist Joan Williams, with whom he was in love, Faulkner wrote: "[N]ow I realise for the first time what an amazing gift I had: uneducated in every formal sense, without even very literate, let alone literary, companions, yet to have made the things I made. I don't know where it came from."

To make or to find a key to the source of Faulkner's inspiration, then, would be a lifetime achievement for a literary scholar. In the book Ledgers of History: William Faulkner, an Almost Forgotten Friendship, and an Antebellum Plantation Diary, Emory University professor Sally Wolff-King claimed to have found such a key in the person of Edgar Wiggin Francisco III, whose claims that Faulkner based many of his stories on the Francisco home, family, and documents created a sensation on the book's publication in 2010. READ MORE

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New York City, April 21, 2014

★★★★ Light slammed into the little plaza beside the apartment tower, beyond the riotously multicolored tulips. "A little too bright," the six-year-old said. The public was using the seating out there, just off the cross street. The sun got in among the crenellations of a midblock building, pulling the eye up to the previously unnoticed battlements. Down in the subway the trackbed was illuminated, both by direct sunbeams and by an indirect blue glow. A man on a downtown bench balanced two plates of baked goods in one hand, while in the other hand his foamy specialty drink tilted up toward the edge of its wide-mouthed cup. Caught between the warm light and the lingering chill, people wore shorts or cardigans or, for one man aboard the B train, shorts with a cardigan. After the light had left the streets, it was still up in the masonry, or passing through a high glass corner, or glaring through light clouds to make the supports of water towers stretch thin like molten candy.

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Earth Day In The Metropolis

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Adults, kids and corporations alike gather at Union Square to celebrate Earth Day in the only way that remains: with free stuff.

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EarthDay_08 READ MORE

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Talking To Chris Gethard


Chris Gethard has an exciting few months coming up. His debut standup album, entitled My Comedy Album, comes out today, his Comedy Central half-hour special is airing this summer, and he'll soon hear back on whether Comedy Central will be ordering his pilot of The Chris Gethard Show to series or not. He also recently returned to doing weekly episodes of the public access version of The Chris Gethard Show, which will soon be ending whether the Comedy Central version gets picked up or not.

I had the chance to talk with Gethard a few weeks ago about how focus groups reacted to The Chris Gethard Show's Comedy Central pilot, season two of Broad City, and leaving improv behind to focus on standup.

READ MORE

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"The authenticity of the 'Gospel of Jesus's Wife' has been debated since the papyrus was revealed in 2012. Now, new information uncovered by Live Science raises doubts about the origins of the scrap of papyrus."

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