Wednesday, April 23, 2014


Ask Baba Yaga: Can I Do Something Reckless and Selfish Without Suffering the Consequences?

Transcript after the jump. READ MORE


Is This Bolivian Soccer Ghost A Real Ghost Or What

Maybe someone's skateboarding across the stadium rooftop and casting a shadow? Or maybe ghosts just love soccer games in South America. The Daily Mail informs us of a precedent: "Some Venezuelans believe the 'ghost' of their deceased President Hugo Chaves was responsible for saving an otherwise certain goal during an international match against Colombia."


On the Affirmative Action Ban in Michigan

From the New York Times:

In a fractured decision that revealed deep divisions over what role the judiciary should play in protecting racial and ethnic minorities, the Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld a Michigan constitutional amendment that bans affirmative action in admissions to the state’s public universities. The 6-to-2 ruling effectively endorsed similar measures in seven other states. It may also encourage more states to enact measures banning the use of race in admissions or to consider race-neutral alternatives to ensure diversity.

States that forbid affirmative action in higher education, like Florida and California, as well as Michigan, have seen a significant drop in the enrollment of black and Hispanic students in their most selective colleges and universities.

For the past year I've been teaching at University of Michigan and watching students from all backgrounds try to force the school to deal with what it means that black undergraduates are now at 5% of the student body (a number noticeably off from state demographics: 14% of Michiganders are black). All year people have been agitating ferociously for an educational environment where administrators would not immediately sound disingenuous when saying the word "diversity," but the peculiar proto-justice that Jennifer Gratz hath brought upon us shall hold. Gratz, the (white) original plaintiff in the 1996 case, recently challenged a black Detroit high school senior to a public debate over affirmative action and stated, “Should we have a limit on how many Asians we admit? The government should be out of the race issue." She has called the Supreme Court decision a "great victory."

Michigan, whose online "ethnicity reports" are laughably half-assed and whose legacy-preference admissions policies are well intact, has otherwise acknowledged the ongoing protest by pledging to refurbish the multicultural center and consider digitizing some old civil rights documents, which one Huffington Post writer gives as evidence that "the University of Michigan Black Student Union's work for increased tolerance and diversity has paid off." Their work for tolerance! What a word, what a word. READ MORE


Happy 500,000th Birthday to This Siberian Bacteria

Mother Jones has a nice interview up with photographer Rachel Sussman, who has been traveling the world and taking pictures of the oldest things she can find: 2,000-year-old brain coral, an 80,000-year-old colony of trees. Says Sussman:

One thing that is really interesting is that there is no area that deals with longevity across species. For example, dendrochronologists study tree history, and mycologists study fungi. But they don't talk to each other. So there was no list of old organisms. Apart from a lot of Google searches, I would try to find the published scientific research. It might start out with a rumor in a local newspaper—"hey, here is this 100,000-year-old sea grass"—and I then track down some hard facts and contact the researchers, who nine out of 10 times, are so thrilled that someone is interested in their esoteric work.

To the right is the oldest thing she photographed, a lab sample of bacteria that could actually be anywhere between 400,000 and 600,000 years old. Can you imagine an age at which a 200,000-year discrepancy doesn't mean that much? That bacteria is sitting around in the permafrost with its friends all like, "In my day, humans weren't on their goddamn phones all the time because they had the social cognition of a contemporary border collie and lived till age 35." [Mother Jones]


Royksopp & Robyn, "Every Little Thing"

The Röyksopp guys and Robyn collectively have 35 years of varyingly experimental but unwaveringly catchy output between them, so it's seemed impossible to me that their forthcoming collaborative EP/mini-album Do It Again would be anything less than a gift from the Scandiland pop gods. But it's still real nice to hear these two brand-new tracks out in the world: Robyn's laser-sugar charisma building against the loose, looping escalation of "Every Little Thing" and tangled up in the bittersweet house frenetics of "Do It Again."


Boots Feat. Beyoncé, "Dreams"

This is the final cut off of producer Boots' forthcoming mixtape (he also released the track "A Day In The Life Of Jordan Asher" earlier today). "Dreams" is a bit of a slow burner, but know that Boots is donating all of the song's proceeds to a New York City nonprofit "devoted to the issue of teen dating violence." It's available here.


My Strangely Nurturing Afternoon With Shirley Phelps-Roper

I’m pretty sure one of the hate-mongers offered me cookies while I was sitting in their living room, but I was too nervous to eat.

Across from me sat Shirley Phelps-Roper, attorney and de facto spokesperson for the Westboro Baptist Church. Her father, pastor Fred Phelps Sr., had founded the anti-gay empire, and Shirley was the face behind a good chunk of the group’s 52,000 protests. I’d only ever seen her depicted as angry—angry at a picket, angry on the news, angry on the radio.

Angry, but never alone. Shirley was constantly flanked by fellow church members or a few of her 11-kid brood. Today, her daughter Megan—“my right hand”, she called her—sat to her left.

In the next few years, Shirley would lose her father to death and Megan to the outside world. But at that moment in 2010, family was everything.

I’d just moved to Kansas City, and this was my first story in my first job as a reporter. I managed to pick a subject so universally despised by journalists everywhere: Those in Kansas City rolled their eyes at the Phelps family—sick of Shirley’s shit before ever even talking to her—and national reporters hosted an endless depth of outrage at their protests. Even years ago, I knew another Phelps story would be a tough sell.

But at least I wouldn’t screw it up. I neurotically decided to videotape and audio-record the whole conversation, the way some people set four alarms before a job interview. And I wouldn’t cry, even if she was mean. I’d desensitized myself to Angry Shirley by watching clip after YouTube clip of the hatriarch spewing homophobic vitriol in her interviews with news outlets.

I didn’t expect her to be any more pleasant with me. Because I was sitting on her couch next to a gay dude.

Scoops, a minor celebrity DJ on the Kansas City airwaves, had dressed up for the occasion in a spray-painted V-neck reading “Fuck me – I’m Famous”—but at the last minute, he’d covered it with a paisley button-down. Shirley also wore a homemade T-shirt, a hot pink number advertising “GodHatesFags.com.”

Shirley crossed her arms and leaned forward, and smiled. I braced myself for the worst.

This was not Scoops’s first time at the Phelps house.

He’d met Shirley and some of her children over the years while counter-protesting their protests, and for some reason—shock-value, for one—he seemed to bond with some of the Phelps girls. He’d struck up a sort of friendship with Shirley’s 24-year-old daughter, Megan, and they’d sometimes chat on the phone.

So on Easter of 2010, the lapsed Catholic Scoops called up Megan and asked if he could come visit. She asked her mom, and Shirley said yes. We’ll talk to anyone, she told me.  READ MORE


Draw Me Like One of Your Tinder Creeps

I feel like this gets me in trouble a lot, but when someone does something I think is rude, I always want to give them a taste of their own medicine. I’m an artist, and I try to use art as my weapon, even though that sounds so lame. So I thought, “What is something I can do to make me feel the way that they’re making me feel?” Obviously, I couldn’t just send them back a sexy message, because they would love that. They would be like, “Yay, it worked!” So I just started doodling how I would imagine them naked … except sad-naked. It was the most immature thing I could think of, because their pickup lines are the most juvenile, basic things, but also still oddly offensive.

—Slate's Amanda Hess talked to Anna Gensler, the artist behind "Instagrannies" (NSFW!), an Instagram account in which she posts nude portraits of men who come onto her on Tinder with opening lines like, "Bet your tight." And what's your arse like, mate? [Slate]

The Perils of Extreme Pubic Grooming

People drop things on the Internet and run all the time. So we have to ask. In this edition, New York magazine sex columnist Maureen O’Connor tells us more about clitoris threading.

Maureen! So what happened here?

I was Gchatting with my friend Beejoli, when she informed me that a freak hair-removal incident had nearly resulted in her clitoris getting ripped off by a rapidly whirling piece of string.

My exact response:




The Best Time Eve Went Camping



When People Say Funny Things When Animals Attack

I go to CNN.com sometimes in the hopes that something terrible has happened that might provide me with a good excuse to stop working for a moment. I am rarely thus rewarded. That said, I did buy myself a few moments of happiness today with this video of a Maine man being attacked by a moose:

The best part of the video was when the man says, "The only thing that I could think of was what I could put between myself and the moose." Not only did I laugh out loud, I wondered if this line was in fact funnier than the last funny thing I heard after an animal attack. And, yes, I know, this isn't really funny, because someone died.



DIY Crystal Light Lip Balm

Welcome to Just The Tips.

Today: DIY Crystal Light Lip Balm

Previously: The Faux Cross-Stitch Emoji Sweatshirt

Katie is a producer in Texas. Katy is a copywriter in California. They are best friends who met at piano lessons in the early 18th century. In “Just The Tips,” Katy and Katie heed the siren song of “best life” advice in the realms of fashion, makeup, DIY, crafts, and home decor. Their efforts are met with only varying degrees of success; their spirits remain suspiciously undefeated. Follow them on Twitter and Tumblr.


Anthony Lane Profiles James Franco

"Would it be construed as trespass, therefore, to state that Johansson looks tellingly radiant in the flesh? Mind you, she rarely looks unradiant, so it’s hard to say whether her condition [pregnancy] has made a difference." —The New Yorker, March 2014.

Poised on the edge of adulthood, James Franco is somehow all things at once, hard and soft, weathered and barely able to grow a beard, famous but quotidian, like a dumpling. Sitting by the fireplace in the Bowery Hotel and listening to the scruffy actor/ writer/ poet/ teacher/ artist/ intellectual provide meta commentary on his own celebrity, the intense glow on his face accents the sharp cheekbones that have cut so many spaghetti straps on so many camisoles. It’s easy to forget he’s just a child, until he laces up his Keds and bounds across the room to hit on a wispy 16-year-old angling between a pair of six-inch platforms and the oak bar.

It is a good time to be James Franco. He is a working actor in the most traditional sense: He is wearing overalls in Anna D Shapiro's production of Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men. It is honest work, he tells me—his voice like agave syrup, slow and precious—he gets to eat beans out of a can on stage. READ MORE


Warpaint, "Love Is to Die" (Live at KCRW)

Here's Warpaint performing "Love Is To Die," one of the best tracks off of their latest, self-titled album, in a live-studio session that brings to mind their "Billie Holiday" clip from a few years back (embedded after the jump, because it's too good). The ladies released a fun saunter of a music video for "Disco/Very" and "Keep It Healthy" earlier this month. READ MORE


Introducing "The Blood Countess"

What confused the joke, perhaps, was the already existing literature on “clinical vampirism,” a set of symptoms that, if it had not yet been given a catchy, Dracula-informed name (Renfield is the name of the Count’s blood-sucking assistant in Stoker’s novel), had been written about by medical professionals since the late 19th century. Psychiatric reports dating to that period occasionally described patients who derived sexual pleasure from consuming blood, sometimes their own. This behavior, though very infrequently reported, continues to show up in psychological studies, and sometimes in serial killers.

—Hairpin pal Katie Heaney wrote about "clinical vampirism" at Pacific Standard yesterday; be forewarned that reading her piece will likely send you down a Elizabeth Báthory (a.k.a. "The Blood Countess") Wiki-hole: "The exact number of young women tortured and killed by Elizabeth Báthory is unknown, though it is often speculated to be as high as 650, between the years 1585 and 1610." Add it to the list. [Pacific Standard]