It’s been a week and change since the season finale, but the podcast Serial is still making waves on the internet. This super-cut by The Outs of Serial host and executive producer Sarah Koenig’s signature phrases and kickers. It’s very funny, and not least because, at the end, it all amounts, basically, to “We’ve got nothing.” Hmm…sounds a bit familiar, doesn’t it?
The FDA has announced it will allow gay and bisexual men to donate blood, but the decision is not as much of a triumph over stigma as you might think. Some background: Because of the AIDS epidemic beginning in the late ’70s, men who had sex with men in 1977 or after weren’t permitted to give blood. Now, they can donate…under the condition that they have not had sexual contact for a year prior to the donation date. A year is too long, in my honest opinion, and like this Vox article points out, the rule pretty much rules out men in monogamous relationships. So, you know, slight progress that’s still tempered by prejudice.
One Direction had quite the week. They had their first U.S. network television special, the appropriately titled One Direction: The Television Special, on NBC, just days after they performed on Saturday Night Live. AND the boys sang “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon with Jimmy Fallon and the Roots. I probably don’t have to say much about the clip since you’ve probably watched this at least a million times already, but this is one of the cutest renditions of the Christmas classic I’ve ever seen, like, ever.
BuzzFeed News’s Kelley L. Carter interviewed Ava DuVernay, the director of Selma. DuVernay is the first black woman to be nominated for a “Best Director” Golden Globe, and she’s well aware of the impact that such an honor can have in Hollywood and America in general. In talking about the making of Selma, DuVernay discusses how she wanted to tell the story of the Selma marches in 1965 Alabama from a different perspective—one that didn’t only glorify men or tell “the story of a white savior,” since the film was originally supposed to be about President Lyndon B. Johnson’s role in the civil rights movement. Such an important read, especially as racial tension is still so apparent in this country.
I LOVE Mary Mann’s history of women-only karate classes in New York from the 1970s until October this year. Mann writes about how three women-only studios sprung up amid the constant violence in New York and the second-wave feminist movement. At the end of the piece, Mary tries to find a women-only class in the present day, and when she does, she beautifully describes the scene like this: “The women in front of me in Brooklyn 2014, who’d been through their own versions of hell, [were] fighting each other in complete silence. With their feet they broke their old stories; with their palms they built new stories, block by block.”
Our Own Brittany wrote a powerful piece about black erasure in music this year. Beginning with Azealia Banks’s statement about the tensions underlying discussions of race in the United States—“I feel like, in this country, whenever it comes to our things, like black issues or black politics or black music or whatever, there’s always this undercurrent of kinda like a ‘fuck you'”—Brittany looked at appropriation in pop music and the reluctance of white musicians “copping the language of hip-hop” to speak out as injustice is constantly dealt to the black America they so long to emulate.
Part of my love of sci-fi novels is the awestruck anticipation I feel when reading about the many wondrous, but fictional inventions they describe—for example, time machines or terrifyingly sentient robots. But Wired has put together a slideshow of the craziest sci-fi inventions that got closer to reality this year, including a robot hand inspired by Luke Skywalker’s prosthetic from The Empire Strikes Back and, my favorite, a machine called the Foodini, which can PRINT FOOD. WOWOWOWOWOWOWOWOWWWWWW!!!
Um, this photo of a spiral galaxy called NGC 1398 is simultaneously the most beautiful and kind of creepy (it looks JUST like an eye, right?) thing I’ve ever seen. NGC 1398 is about the same size as the Milky Way, which just blows my mind.
The President joined Michelle Obama as the First Lady sorted toys for the annual US Marines’ Toys for Tots holiday gift program. The “sorting” probably generally means that anything with pink packaging goes in the “girl” bins, and boys are allocated any toys related to sport, science, Ninja Turtles, or adventure. The President wasn’t feeling that this year. He placed sports equipment into the girls’ bin, telling the assembled reporters, “Girls play tee ball, too.” Just to reinforce the message, President Obama plainly said, “Just trying to break down these gender stereotypes.” Toys are one of the tiny tools that reinforce how girls and boys are meant to behave, and what we are meant to show interest in, so for the President to use his voice and his platform to say that girls need toys that encourage them to play and think and learn goes a long way!
You know who always scored at Christmas time? Harry Potter. Despite rarely buying gifts for anyone, he always had new jumpers to wear and homemade treats to eat over the holidays. And he wasn’t alone. On Vulture, Sinead Stubbins cataloged every Christmas gift given to anyone in the Harry Potter universe and ranked them from worst (a box of dog biscuits, Aunt Marge to Harry) to best (the Invisibility Cloak, Albus Dumbledore to Harry) with everything from Harry’s first kiss to a talking diary that says, “Do it today or later you’ll pay!” in between.
On Tuesday night, 18-year-old Antonio Martin was shot by an unidentified police officer in Berkeley, Missouri, only a few miles from Ferguson, after police checked in on a reported theft at a gas station. Though the police officer had been given a body camera, they were not wearing it at the time of the shooting—likewise, the police car’s dashboard camera was off. St. Louis County Police have released security footage of the encounter between the teenager and police officers that cuts off moments before the shooting itself. Police allege Martin pulled a gun, and a gun was later recovered from the scene, but the footage is very grainy and shot from a distance; it’s difficult to see what is happening. Keanna Brown, Martin’s girlfriend, said responders hung up on her call to emergency medical services, and that police did not allow her to comfort him while he lay bleeding on the concrete.
Emily Yoshida wrote a brilliant summation of why the recent controversy over The Interview, a film starring Seth Rogen and James Franco, centered around the idea of two bros assassinating the leader of North Korea, is absolutely ridiculous. During the buildup to the release of the movie, Sony was hacked—an incident that led to debate about whether the film should be released, as the FBI believed North Korea itself was behind the attack. Could the release of the film increase tensions between the United States and North Korea? Should Sony give in to the hackers’ attempts to restrict freedom of speech? The film was released anyway, in a small number of theaters and online. Turns out, according to Yoshida, the least problematic part of The Interview is the plot of the film—unsurprisingly, it’s a “dumb, racist, homophobic, misogynistic comedy that also happens to depict the fiery death of a sitting political leader.” Yoshida directly refutes claims that releasing and viewing The Interview is some sort of revolutionary act in defense of free speech, bald eagles, ’Merika, et cetera—“More than anything,” she writes, “watching the same bros make jokes about gay anal sex for fun and profit actually kinda sounds like business as usual.”
Also from the files of “Hollywood Favors Shitty Dudes”: Manohla Dargis has penned a fantastic investigation into why so few Hollywood films are directed by women. Dargis interviewed the actor and director Jodie Foster, who thinks that when companies take a risk on unknown directors, they’re likely to hire the most trustworthy risk they can find, which often means someone who looks like them—and the people doing the hiring used to be mostly dudes. She questioned Amy Pascal, the co-chairwoman of Sony Pictures Entertainment and chairman of Sony Pictures Motion Picture Group, about why she didn’t hire more women and Pascal simply said, “I try to.”. This reinforces the idea, according to Dargis, that “women in power, often the beneficiaries of male munificence, tend to be treated harshly when they betray that gift by failing. That may help explain why female executives as a group are not better advocates for female directors.” Thankfully, she reports, the American Civil Liberties Union is compiling female directors’ stories in an attempt to begin repairing the gap.
I was alone in my parents’ house this week, so I celebrated holiday solitude by abusing their Amazon Prime account to watch all of Transparent in one sitting. I loved the show not just because it was funny and well-written, but because it did an amazing job of showing how identity cannot be dictated or fixed: There is no “natural” or “unnatural” way of being, only the way of life that feels true to the person who lives it.
A lot of homophobic and transphobic rhetoric focuses on that natural/unnatural dichotomy, without taking into account just how multivarious the natural world really is. If you want some beautiful proof, look up “gynandromorphs,” organisms that manifest both male and female characteristics, like this super rad cardinal spotted by scientists in the woods of Illinois. In a paper published this month in The Wilson Journal of Ornithology, the spotters reported that in over 40 days of watching, they never heard the bird sing nor saw it have contact with a mate. The headline of one article about the cardinal describes the bird’s “rough life,” but I think that’s unfair. It’s not bad that it’s not like other birds!!! I really love this special birdie and the cosmos of infinite possibilities it suggests.
The New York Times put together a slideshow of the past year in 100 photos, which includes ballet dancers arranged into the shape of an eye, mourners at a funeral in Ukraine, and a horde of other captivating pictures. The photo series took me through a varying range of emotions, as I remembered all the heavy, cruel, beautiful, scary [insert a full list of conflicting adjectives here] events and protests and people that took place this year. It was a condensed collection of some of the horrors we saw in 2014, but victories as well, such as the lifting of a ban on same-sex marriage in Pennsylvania. While the photo series did include images of a few of the major international events of 2014, I did feel that many of the countries outside of the United States were represented in this photo series mostly through their wars, deaths, and murders. If you like to be reminded of a few of the world’s major events at the end of each year, flip through it to see for yourself, and have one of those “I can’t believe what a 2014 it’s been/can’t believe it’s almost 2015” moments. ♦