Author: Azlyrics

Keith Raniere Sentenced to 120 Years in NXIVM Sex-Cult Case

Brooklyn federal prosecutors said that NXIVM, an Albany-area group that offered costly self-help classes, included a secretive sect called DOS that “operated with levels of women ‘slaves’ headed by ‘masters.’” The NXIVM scandal also implicated several high-profile co-conspirators, such as Seagram’s liquor heiress Clare Bronfman and Smallville actress Allison Mack. She initially didn’t want to comment on the proceedings but passed Vulture a note shortly before the sentencing began. “I have observed in disbelief as my friends have been mischaracterized and dehumanized in the media,” wrote Clyne, an actress on Battlestar Galactica.During an NBC interview that was broadcast on Friday, Raniere said, “I am innocent.”

Raniere recognized that he was the leader of a group that effectively held women as sex prisoners, he said in the jail-based interview, but he insisted the Feds had engaged in misconduct with the case. “The unwanted touch … the horror of hearing his voice in the darkness,” she recalled. Mack also stated that she had obtained “collateral,” damaging info about several women, so they would comply with NXIVM’s demands. Raniere was found guilty of racketeering, racketeering conspiracy, wire-fraud conspiracy, forced-labor conspiracy, sex-trafficking conspiracy, and two counts of sex trafficking on June 19, 2019, following a six-week trial. Photo: Elizabeth Williams/AP/Shutterstock

Keith Raniere, leader of the NXIVM sex cult, was sentenced to 120 years in federal prison on Tuesday. “This is a horrible tragedy with many, many people being hurt,” Raniere told Dateline NBC. He reiterated the argument he made in his second unsuccessful bid for a new trial, claiming the Feds had “scared away” potential defense witnesses. “There is a horrible injustice here. He would tell her to lie naked and wait for him to come for sexual encounters, she said. “‘Everything I do for you is for your own good.’ ‘You’re an entitled little princess’ … ‘You’re good at being a slave.’”

Nicki Clyne, a NXIVM supporter and reportedly Mack’s wife, was present in court. “You stole seven years of my life from me that I’ll never get back,” she said, as she described a disturbing sexual relationship she said was based on Raniere’s coercion. Prosecutors maintained that Raniere and Bronfman had plotted to commit identity fraud by obtaining email login info belonging to “perceived enemies and critics of Raniere in order to monitor their electronic communications.”They also said that Bronfman — who pleaded guilty in April 2019 and was sentenced to 81 months in September 2020 — had enabled Raniere. Bronfman, prosecutors said, “used her extraordinary wealth and social status to fund and promote a criminal enterprise led by her co-defendant, Keith Raniere … She recruited individuals into NXIVM-affiliated organizations and brought them within Raniere’s orbit.”

Fifteen statements were provided by Raniere’s victims, including India Oxenberg, the daughter of Dynasty actress Catherine Oxenberg. And whether you think I’m the Devil or not, the justice process has to be examined.”

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Tags: “I will be a victim of Keith Raniere for the rest of my life,” she said, further claiming, “You’re a sexual predator, and you raped me.”

Oxenberg said that despite not wanting to engage in sex acts with Raniere, she did so out of fear of blackmail as well as “consequences and punishment” from Mack. “I was your human science experiment,” she said, “all because you wanted me to look like I was 12 years old.”

“I still hear your and Allison’s words,” she said. Judge Nicholas Garaufis said the former NXIVM leader “failed to demonstrate remorse” before handing down Raniere’s sentence. The Vow, an HBO docuseries on NXIVM, premiered in August, providing details into the elusive group’s activities. She said Raniere had put her on a restrictive diet for over a year, bringing her weight down to an unhealthy 106 pounds. The feds said Mack worked as a “master” under Raniere to lure slaves and “directly or implicitly required her slaves … to engage in sexual activity with Raniere.” When Mack pleaded guilty to racketeering in relation to her involvement in NXIVM in April 2019, she said, “I was a member of a secret society.” Mack admitted that she had tried recruiting women into DOS.

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Megan Thee Stallion Wants You to Take Her Name Out of Your Mouth in Freestyle

Photo: Rich Fury/Getty Images for Visible

We’re still more hype than ever for a Megan Thee Stallion album, but in the meantime, we could get used to this too. Case in point: “It was the knees for him / The way that it squeeze for him / He done fucked a whole lot of bitches, / But it was the me for him.” Someone call the Pulitzers! Later, she adds, “Bitches love sayin’ my name like it’s clickbait.” The freestyle is also overflowing with the raunchy, boastful Megan lines we love. And Meg even had to laugh at her own situation: “Damn, I must be Olivia Pope / ’Cause y’all keep puttin’ me in all of these scandals,” she raps. Megan posted a new freestyle to social media on October 27 and hinted that it could be part of a new freestyle series, “Megan Mondays,” ahead of her eventual debut album. On Instagram, she wrote, “I was supposed to post this last night live from the studio but I think ima drop these every Monday 🔥🔥🔥,” adding #meganmondays. (Yes, today is Tuesday, but she gets a pass this week.) Over a beat by “Cash Shit” and “Big Ole Freak” producer Lil Ju, Megan reminds us that she’s still not ready to take anyone else’s shit. We just found one reason to look forward to next week. I think ima drop these up until my album drop 😛😛🔥🔥🔥🔥 REAL MF HOT GIRL SHIT— HOT GIRL MEG (@theestallion) October 27, 2020


Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s ‘WAP’ Is Hall of Fame Filth

Tags: “I realized that I was the shit when R&B n- – – – -s wanna start rap beef,” she raps, likely referring to the attention around her alleged shooting by Tory Lanez.

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Uzo Aduba Will Star in HBO’s In Treatment Reboot

Uzo Aduba
Photo: Gregg DeGuire/FilmMagic

Good news: In Treatment is returning for a “reimagined” fourth season, starring Uzo Aduba as “the observant, empathetic Dr. Brooke Lawrence.” Not quite bad, but not great news either: Apparently Mark Wahlberg is one of the executive producers on In Treatment. Related

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Tags: HBO states that the show will begin filming soon: “Production is slated to begin this fall under COVID-19 guidelines, with a debut scheduled for 2021.” It will air on HBO and will also be available to stream on HBO Max. There’s never been a better time for an In Treatment reimagining: It’s easy to film Web Therapy–style socially distanced Zoom-based scenes, and crucially, right now everyone really needs therapy. HBO announced in a press release on October 27 that Aduba will helm the reboot of the half-hour therapy-based drama, which ran for three seasons on HBO from 2008 to 2010.

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I Made Drake’s Nasty Birthday Macaroni and Cheese

My dad called it “delish” and “way better” than just plain mac ’n’ cheese. You know what? Photo: Rebecca Alter

Ruined, just ruined. I’m currently in Drake’s beloved Toronto, so I opted for President’s Choice white cheddar mac ’n’ cheese as a nod to his roots. But the parsley is surprisingly LOUD on the palette and the brininess of the capers and the sweet squishy raisins just. Go. Mixing all of the ingredients together, it looked like a pasta salad for a potluck at the Church of Satan. Raisins in mac ‘n’ cheese? But I was determined to make this as un-gross as possible. This mac was going to have a lot going on, and the white cheddar would be more mellow/complementary than KD’s neon cheese. The white cheddar of the mac pairs nicely with the sun-dried tomatoes. But that didn’t stop the internet from dunking on Drake’s mac, nor did it sate my curiosity: What would that even look like? .@drake did the mac and cheese have sun-dried tomato, capers and raisins or was there a mistake on the menu? It wasn’t worth learning how to make a TikTok for this. No Name brand is kind of a big deal in Canada. President’s Choice is the next most popular Canadian option: It’s the private-label brand for Loblaws, which owns Shopper’s Drug Mart, which famously made a cameo in Drake’s “Started From the Bottom” video (see below). Photo: Rebecca Alter

Once my all’ama6ixiana sauce was all a-sizzle, I defiled an otherwise perfectly gorgeous Le Creuset of mac ’n’ cheese with it. Kraft’s variant — known as Kraft Dinner or KD here — is a Canadian pantry staple on the level of flour and sugar. more fOoD wRiTiNg soon— Rebecca Alter (@ralter) October 27, 2020

It wasn’t. Tags: Sure, who cares. It smelled like burning rubber. And reader, they liked it. Like that, but for food. But no, they just like Drake all-around: his music, his Raptors, his dance moves, his Canadianness, his Jewishness, and apparently, his birthday mac ’n’ cheese. It’s like that AI-generated pic where you’re not sure what it is you’re looking at and your eyes can’t focus on any one thing and it gives you a sense of unease. Alas, my search came up empty. It smelled deceptively amazing on account of the sun-dried tomato pesto. Photo: YouTube

You cannot tell me that the macaroni and cheese description on Drake’s cursed birthday-party menu was either accurate or intentional. It just does not compute. Feed it to your parents, poison your own stomach, but don’t feed it to your dogs. We really need to know now. Like More Life, it’s just trying too many different things at once to really gel. Yes, chef! I threw them back into the saucepan with olive oil, capers, and a couple big glops of a sun-dried tomato pesto of indeterminate origin that I found unopened in the back of a cupboard. Don’t. Photo: Rebecca Alter

I took a big forkful, making sure no ingredient was left behind. Photo: Drake/Vevo

I don’t know how I got it in my head that I needed to “plump the raisins,” but it was imperative that I “plump the raisins.” I felt like that scene in Schitt’s Creek where Moira and David are cooking and yelling about how they don’t know what “fold in the cheese” means; I put the nasty-ass sultanas in a saucepan, brought it to a boil, and immediately took it off the heat to let them “plump” for a few before draining. I’ll say this about Drake’s Famous mac ’n’ cheese: There are lots of strong flavors at play. Mayhap it’s cheating to overwhelm and saucify the capers and raisins in a pre-pesto’d sun-dried tomato mixture, but I was getting into the mindset of a girl in a Drake song where cheating is just part of the drama. Was it some sort of puréed raisin-caper sauce drizzled atop? Also happy birthday— UNIONIZE CONDE, FAST (@tammieetc) October 25, 2020

Capers, sun-dried tomatoes, parsley, and even raisins are not necessarily strangers to pasta; Marcella Hazan, pasta royalty if there were such a thing (is there such a thing?), herself has a recipe for pasta with sultana raisins and pine nuts. The last step was to give that parsley a rough chop and sprinkle it atop. But in a creamy, gooey mac? Lipstick on a pig, as they say. It’s too much at once. Also, PC uses shells, which would add a touch of class and hopefully cup the capers and raisins nicely. Okay, am I a food INFLUENCER now? I didn’t want to fuck with the blender so they were going to have to be full-ass raisins. I put on my 2019 NBA Finals hat and Raptors shirt and got to work … in my parents’ Canadian kitchen. My parents were home — they saw that clerical error of a recipe sitting out on the counter, and they ate it. Besides the vibe being overall very My Super Sweet 16 catering (chicken bolognese and cucumber avocado rolls), an entry on the very bottom stood out: mac ’n’ cheese made with “sun dried tomato, caper, raisin, parsley.” This was obviously, probably, a typo. Shopper’s Drug Mart. Photo: Rebecca Alter

I scoured the internet for photographic evidence of the mac ’n’ cheese at Drake’s birthday; if it really wasn’t a typo and he really did like his mac raisin-studded, I wanted an idea of what that looked like: Were they intact? Before. Canadians love boxed mac ’n’ cheese a disordinate amount. My mom called it “amazing” and said “the raisins give it a nice sweetness.” I said I worried they had COVID because one of the symptoms is lack of taste. Right above the mac ’n’ cheese is a grilled cauliflower with the exact same description; this was probably just a copy-and-paste error. After Drake’s 34th trip around the Sun on October 23, a photo of his soirée dinner menu went viral for its, er … eclecticism. Photo: Rebecca Alter

So, there you have it: Drake’s alleged raisin-studded mac ’n’ cheese. Photo: Rebecca Alter

Featuring parsley. I couldn’t feed it to the dogs because of the raisins, so I left it on the counter and thought that was the end of the story.

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Everything’s Fine Is a Frantic Hour of Hot Potato

It seems like the chief goal of Everything’s Fine is to replicate what it feels to be alive at this moment, and if that’s the case, the feeling of the special is not wrong. Cooper is a comedian; the aim is to be funny, not make sad PSAs. It’s frantic. Some elements seem to run too long (we get it, Fred Armisen, you can’t close the door while wearing your goofy social-distancing suit), while others get cut off too quickly. Everything’s Fine picks up a touch of the speed and fast-change discordant transitions of the ever-refreshing news feed, and it doesn’t seem ideally suited when stretched to the length of an hour. Cooper, now playing herself, strides out onto the course and takes a deep sigh of relief. As the closing-credits music kicks in (lyrics: “It’s so nice to be in hell!”), our last image of Cooper is of her crouching behind a pitifully thin pine tree. Her face gapes in horror. Should Cooper and all these other performers collapse and give in? Clearly the pace of the special is intentionally reflecting a growing sense of panic about the state of the world, but the game of hot potato inside Everything’s Fine also seems designed to let Cooper keep passing that potato to someone else so she never has to hold it for too long. But Cooper has become famous for a form of comedy that largely erases her point of view, and I was left hoping this Netflix special would give me more from Cooper’s own perspective, would give me more of a sense of who she is outside of a substitute for Trump’s face. She is desperately trying to continue everyday life while the world falls apart around her, and she’s good at expressing the alarming cognitive dissonance of that desperation even though there’s a meteor fast approaching. Sarah Cooper in Everything’s Fine. So here she is, doing the comedy version of silly, desperate arm-wheeling sprints around a golf course as a meteor burns its way to the ground, hoping we can all hang in long enough to laugh. Nothing matters and nothing she can do will stop it. The scene cuts a few times, too, so there’s an extra emphasis on the futility of it. It’s funny because the apocalypse is coming! Maya Rudolph’s meteorologist turn works because Rudolph is, as always, an absolutely undeniable screen magnet. What, beyond the dog sitting in a burning room meme, is Cooper trying to reflect here? Beyond frantically running in circles and landing on a Twin Peaks reference, though, I’m not sure what it’s trying to do. It’s a wink back at an earlier moment of the special when Cooper performed a Trump lip sync, promising great plans for the future while futzing around on a golfing green. It is an hour of comedic hot potato, and no one has any room to breathe. As a whole, Everything’s Fine struggles to feel grounded in itself. Aubrey Plaza’s slow descent into QAnon world is as weird and uncomfortable as much of the rest of Everything’s Fine wishes it were. But it feels notable that the most memorable, exciting pieces of Everything’s Fine come from those celebrity appearances and not from moments where Cooper herself is holding the center stage. Cooper then looks up at the sky and sees a meteor hurtling toward Earth, pointed straight at her. There are some moments that feel memorable and sticky and worthwhile. I’m also not sure what I even wanted it to do. She has spent most of the special playing the role of a forced-to-be-cheerful morning news anchor, locked in the downward spiraling nightmare of 2020 but required to declare, as the title suggests, that everything’s fine. Everything’s Fine is painfully aware, at every moment, that things are terribly, terribly bad. Plus, Cooper had to capitalize on the shockingly fast rise to fame she experienced after going viral for lip syncing along with the president. She is a master of eye twitches and lip curls. Perhaps it’s not a comedy special’s job to reflect that awareness. It is a nightmarish, frantic, unstoppable stream of a million different things happening all at once. It’s one of the few moments in Everything’s Fine that approaches the shock of illumination Cooper became famous for, the immediacy and energy of her original Trump lip syncs. Related

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Tags: The mostly slickly made pieces include Jon Hamm as the CEO of MyPillow, touting a pillow that can cure the coronavirus; Maya Rudolph as a meteorologist who loses her grip on decorum while announcing a nightmarish forecast thanks to climate change; and Aubrey Plaza as a home-shopping channel host desperately trying to convince her viewers that she’s not part of QAnon. In a wider frame, that control and animation does not always translate, and her voice doesn’t always succeed in cutting through the broader mayhem of the special. There’s a smorgasbord of celebrity appearances, current-events nods, pop-culture references, and a few bouts of sheer silliness. She starts running, first this way and then that. What the hell is that tiny pine tree going to do to shield her? It’s a privilege that applies only to the people for whom the meteor has not already arrived. There’s a legitimately strange and discomfiting scene where Cooper is joined in the Trump lip-syncing game by none other than Helen Mirren — they’re performing the Access Hollywood bus scene, with Cooper playing Trump and Mirren in the role of Billy Bush. The meteor is coming and she’s just down there on a golf course, running in fruitless circles. It’s full of tight edits and bouncing, helter-skelter slides from one fast thing to the next. Pivot to sincerity? What Cooper does effectively communicate is precisely what the title of the special points at: that feeling of tap dancing over the void. The individual bits are tightly written, and the production values are sky high. The up-close format of her social-media videos lets small nuances of her face play outsize roles in her performance. When it’s all sewn together, though, it feels both over- and underproduced. I’m sure that’s purposeful. Now she’s escaped, and she’s standing on the green, finally free. But that unstoppable stream and the fast-edited, overproduced bits are borrowing from digital rhythms. The whole special feels like those closing moments. Photo: Lacey Terrell/Netflix

In the closing credits of Everything’s Fine, Netflix’s new comedy special featuring Trump lip-sync TikTok sensation Sarah Cooper, Cooper’s standing on a golf course. Mirren’s Bush is so bizarre, and the sight of two people acting out that audio tape while actually inside a bus ogling a leggy beauty is weirdly intense. If Everything’s Fine sometimes feels ungrounded, it’s at least partly because Cooper herself should be at the center, and yet she often gets lost. That kind of cognitive dissonance is a luxury, of course.

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Gwen Stefani and Blake Shelton Are Engaged Since Apparently They Weren’t Already

Blake and Gwen. On Tuesday, October 27, Gwen Stefani announced that she and boyfriend, Blake Shelton, had gotten engaged, via an Instagram post with the caption, “@blakeshelton yes please! Related

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Tags: In a cover story from December 2019, sources told People magazine that the two had not yet gotten married because “the former No Doubt rocker, who is a practicing Roman Catholic, hopes to have a church ceremony with the country star,” so their former marriages to Gavin Rossdale and Miranda Lambert would have to be annulled. Photo: Amy Sussman/Getty Images for Warner Music

After all that they’ve been through, we know they’re cool. In other words, they had both been around that track, but it’s not just gonna happen like that. 💍🙏🏻 gx.” The Voice co-workers took their engagement photo in what appears to be either a Gothic church attic or an extremely well-appointed Medieval Times location, with Gwen showing off her big ol’ ring and Shelton showing off the fact that he’s wearing a trucker hat.

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J.Lo Won’t Need a Wedding Planner in Shotgun Wedding With Armie Hammer

Now Jennifer Lopez’s only plan seems to be making delightful comedies again. You already knew that. Photo: Getty Images

A planned wedding? As Lionsgate president of production Erin Westerman told Deadline, “Jennifer and Armie’s irresistible magnetism, separately and together, make them the perfect pairing for this action comedy,” adding, “You can’t take your eyes off them.” But you saw Hustlers, right? Lopez and Hammer will play a couple taken hostage ahead of their destination wedding, as if you weren’t already sold. (As for Armie Hammer, well, it couldn’t hurt if J.Lo brought a bit of extra magnetism.)


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Tags: So 2001. The movie will be helmed by Pitch Perfect director Jason Moore and written by New Girl creator Liz Meriwether and Mark Hammer (no relation to Armie, as far as we know). The singer-dancer-actor–Super Bowl–winner is set to star in the action comedy Shotgun Wedding alongside Armie Hammer, Deadline reported.

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Céline Dion Will Be Near, Far, and Wherever Needed in Her Rom-Dram Debut

Pâmoison! Photo: Charles Sykes/Bravo//NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

Given that approximately 75 percent of the songs in Céline Dion’s catalogue include the words love or angel in them, it comes as no surprise to us that the Canadian songstress will be making her acting debut in a romantic drama. However, the number has been reassigned to a “man across town suffering from similar heartbreak” (Heughan), and the two slowly start to fall in love with each other when they decide to meet. Per Deadline, Dion will be starring in the cheekily titled Text for You alongside Sam Heughan and Priyanka Chopra Jonas, which centers around a woman (Chopra Jonas) who, after tragically losing her fiancé, begins to cope by sending “romantic text messages” to his old cell phone. Dion’s role isn’t specified, with Deadline only reporting that her “music and influence gives them the courage to take a chance on love again.” We can only assume this means she’ll be appearing, as herself, as a matchmaker from Quebec. Related

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Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne Will Invent the Platon-Com for Apple TV+

What a twist that’ll be! Seth and Rose. Apple TV+ announced today that the series “explores the inner workings of platonic friendship. They’ll definitely hook up, right? As their friendship becomes more consuming, it destabilizes their lives and causes them to reevaluate their choices.” Platonic will be co-written by Francesca Delbanco and Nick Stoller, and Stoller directed Rogen and Byrne in the Neighbors movies. So what do you think, pals? Probably not, right? Related

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Tags: Probably not platonic at all! Will the show live up to its name? Photo-Illustration: Vulture and Shutterstock

American Pickle boy Seth Rogen and comedic genius Rose Byrne are reuniting to definitely, absolutely, in no uncertain terms, not have any sexual or romantic chemistry whatsoever in the new, ten-episode comedy series Platonic. A pair of former best friends who met in their youth (played by Byrne and Rogen) reconnect as adults and try to mend the rift that led to their falling out.

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Netflix Takes a Stab at Its Own Assassin’s Creed Adaptation

The streaming service announced today that the popular video-game franchise will be adapted into an “epic, genre-bending” live action series, drawing creative parallels to what Amazon is currently doing with Lord of the Rings. A search is currently underway for the showrunner. Photo: Ubisoft

Four years after somehow being able to waste the talents of Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard in a god-awful film adaptation, Assassin’s Creed has set its sights on a new open world: Netflix. Related

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Tags: At least Netflix doesn’t have to worry much about being a box-office bomb. Ubisoft, the publisher of Assassin’s Creed and not a slanket company, will also help “develop content” revolving around the game, as Netflix intends to spearhead several “animated and anime” projects for all of those Order of the Assassins.

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Carly Rae Jepsen Is Gifting Us a New Christmas Song

It’s Not Christmas Till Somebody Cries – out everywhere Friday! But Jepsen is Canadian, and Canadian Thanksgiving happened weeks ago, so just let us have this. On Tuesday, Jepsen tweeted the artwork for the single, in which she is method acting as a very glum looking Christmas tree with sad tinsel and a sad, sad star and some sad, sad, sad little bells and ornaments and lights. Photo: Richard Isaac/Shutterstock

Time for some pop math: Carly Rae Jepsen announced that she is releasing an original Christmas single on Friday, October 30, called “It’s Not Christmas Till Somebody Cries.” I am crying at the news that she is releasing this new music, ipso facto, by Jepsen’s own logic, it’s Christmas. CRJ has already proven herself as a Christmas queen with her own version of “Last Christmas” and a cute underrated track from the pre-EMOTION era called “Mittens.” Some might argue that it’s too soon to release a Christmas song; that it’s not even Halloween yet. Ho ho ho!— Carly Rae Jepsen (@carlyraejepsen) October 27, 2020


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John Corbett Basically Pulled a Heist on the Northern Exposure Set

In what can only be described as an elaborate heist, Corbett also confessed to using a rope, his truck, and proximity to a graveyard to make off with a real taxidermy moose head from the show. So, if you’re looking for that moose head you lost in 1995, it’s in John Corbett’s living room. But it just wasn’t enough for him, apparently. More From This Series

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Tags: Get your tickets to Vulture Festival here to see the full event, catch upcoming events as they air, and rewatch ones you’ve missed, all week long! John Corbett’s house is basically already that. If you just so happen to be looking to open up a museum dedicated to the CBS’s hit television comedy-drama Northern Exposure, well, I have some bad news. But really, who could stay mad at this man? It’s not something the production had planned to part with at the time, as it was rented and claimed to be worth a very chill $20,000. On Monday night, the actor, wearing the same shirt and bandana he wore on the show, joined castmates Rob Morrow, Janine Turner, Barry Corbin, and Cynthia Geary for a reunion that kicked off our first-ever completely virtual Vulture Festival and where we learned some potentially compromising information. Once the show ended, Corbett enthusiastically raided the set with the blessing of production designer Woody Crocker, so he has just about everything from his radio station setup to a wax sculpture of Barry Corbin’s head.

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The Rise of the Politician Podcast

There have been some studies, in addition to her own survey work, and last year for the first time Edison Research released a version of its Infinite Dial research for South Africa. That staging involved subtitles displayed over an assortment of moving images that played as May and Cruz delivered the Spanish narration. Free Trade

Not being a Spanish speaker myself, I don’t get many opportunities to fully enjoy a podcast like Las Raras, the Spanish-language narrative audio project that serves up arthouse-esque documentaries about “people who break the rules and fight for social change” in Latin America. At that point, Rogo realised that podcasting as a medium needed African advocates first, and producers second. Josh Lindgren, a talent agent with CAA, notes that the goals of the two forms are somewhat similar. High risk, high reward.”

And where investment is starting to arrive in African countries, Rogo is concerned that it isn’t putting more money or power in the hands of local podcasters or entrepreneurs. You might recall that Clinton had an “official campaign podcast” back in the infamous 2016 cycle, and it turns out that she’s not the only Clinton with a podcast today: Bill has got one too. So for me, it made sense that podcasting, when it did reach here and when it did pick up here, would do pretty well,” Rogo said. “Like buying someone’s book in bulk. One of the most profound shifts for me has been a new preoccupation with non-fiction from outside the US and the UK — a feeling that comes in part from this enforced stay at home and in part from the desire for variety and difference in a western-centric audio landscape that can feel very homogeneous. “There is just so much more data, knowledge, and experience concentrated in the US podcasting scene, not to mention a much more mature advertising market with brands that ‘get’ the value of podcasts,” said Castro, who has previously pushed for more Spanish-language audience data, in part serving positioning Adonde as a funder of the first U.S. My newfound interest in this show, and others, inevitably lead to a much greater interest in the state of podcasting in Africa, something I feel that I haven’t covered as much as I should have done to date. Perhaps, maybe, probably — one could argue that it could be especially effective for political figures who have a certain cult of personality around them. The episode is essentially broken down into two halves: the first is a chat with Jeffrey Cranor of Welcome to Night Vale and Within the Wires (among many other things!) about the structure and mechanics of scary stories, while the second is an array of voice memos from four different teams that make spooky or spooky-ish podcasts — Unwell’s Eleanor Hyde and Jeffrey Gardner, Mabel’s Becca De La Rosa and Mabel Martin, Here Be Monsters’ Jeff Emtman, and Dead Signals’ Marc Sollinger and Dan Powell — about the different ways in which they think and go about creating a sense of creepiness in their respective podcasts. “And I respect the fact that we are fifty-four, fifty-five countries and I just can’t touch everything. But this emergent swathe of politician podcasts don’t seem all that similar to Crooked Media’s talk radio-style/conversational approach to programming at all. And then, of course, there is The Michelle Obama Podcast, which came out earlier this summer. “It’s our guiding principle… but it’s not enough to stop there. For Castro, the leap into original program development wasn’t exactly part of the plan when she started her company in 2017. We have an oral storytelling tradition already on the continent, so listening to stories, telling stories, sharing information, sharing culture through the ear has always been something that’s common in the continent. In April, the internet favorite candidate Andrew Yang launched an interview show of his own, Yang Speaks, not long after dropping out of the race. It dropped its ninth season last week, which takes the form of a serialized true crime story about the 2006 Río Bank robbery in Buenos Aires.) That

Duolingo relationship would spawn two other podcasts — one for learning French, one for learning English — and tee up Adonde Media to take on a range of other clients: TED, Spotify, Vice News, and Georgetown University. Castro observed that new ones seem to be popping up every month — among them, a venture called Podium Podcast, which is financed by the media conglomerate Grupo Prisa, that has been putting out experimental work since the beginning, including audio science fiction. She hopes to get there, and for Adonde to be a big part of that process. But as Castro told me recently, she ultimately came to the realization that the company couldn’t avoid directly grappling with functions like audience development and monetization head-on if it wanted to achieve its goals, which, as she phrases it, are to “grow the pie for content, audiences, and creators” from a truly global perspective. (Castro herself will now be credited as an executive producer on the show.) Aside from cost-coverage and creative input, Adonde will also be shouldering the responsibilities around promotion, marketing, and exploring monetization opportunities for the podcast. “I think podcasts are at their strongest when they are exploring uncertainty,” said Jody Avirgan, who co-hosts This Day in Esoteric Political History with Hemmer. (This analysis, I think, can be equally applied to Crooked Media, along with various conservative figures who have made their own podcasts as well, like Ted Cruz, making shows that are distinctly within the talk-radio aesthetic.)

She added: “You do have others who operate more in the politics of fear — Michael Savage, Beck again, Alex Jones (if we want to include him as a conservative) — but without the upbeat entertainment, it works less well.”

It’s also worth noting that the political memoir is itself a strange kind of media artifact. I loved what I saw, though, predictably, I found myself thinking about the broader operation, wondering if it was at a place where May and Cruz could continue making their while getting compensated decently to do so. (I’m thinking about Yang, in particular). A podcast is almost always an ongoing set of conversations with different people. The idea that podcasting is a medium with a low barrier to entry is even more of a myth where she works, Rogo went on to say. One of her own initiatives for 2020 was to be the Africa Podfest, a gathering of the continent’s podcast industry in Nairobi slated to happen in early March — but she had to take the difficult decision to cancel it at five days’ notice because of Covid-19. “It sends a signal. That line of contract work brought considerable growth to Adonde, which now boasts ten people on staff and an additional stable of fifteen-plus contractors working across the Americas and Europe. Rather, this new take on the politician podcast feels more like an extension of the political memoir. “That’s what talk radio has done so well — blend entertainment and politics — and the best in the business tend to stay in that register, playing with satire and joviality,” she said, pointing to Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck as archetypes. Many of these companies start out by focusing on branded content work to establish a foundational flow of revenue to set the business up, with the long-term goal being to break into original show creation as it’s increasingly understood that original show portfolios effectively function both as strong brand differentiators and as a collection of intellectual property assets that can produce considerable value over the long run. ➽ Team Coco adds Scam Goddess to its portfolio. And even right now the podcasting landscape is Anglophone heavy. “News and media are rather traditional and corporate in LATAM,” she further explained. And there are interesting things happening in Nigeria and Zimbabwe. She argues that a missing ingredient — one that’s key towards realizing a more vibrant Latin American podcast scene — is the presence of strong audio and radio institutions that can provide producers consistent opportunities for training, experience, and jobs. The parallel isn’t perfect, of course, given that we’re talking about the podcasting context where shows structurally have theoretical access to audiences in America — in addition to every other country plugged into the open internet — by default. “Through their podcast, a politician can speak directly to the public, which allows for nuance, complexity, and gives them a platform to go beyond politics and present a broader picture of themself as a human.”

The historian Nicole Hemmer, who co-hosts This Day in Esoteric Political History and who wrote a great book on conservative talk radio called Messengers of the Right, broadly concurs with that framing. Here’s his Twitter thread announcing the move. Terms & Privacy Notice
By submitting your email, you agree to our Terms and Privacy Notice and to receive email correspondence from us. Some of its findings were interesting if not unexpected — awareness of podcasting stands at 22 per cent, for instance — but even the data there is only partial, since it surveyed “major metro commercial populations.”

This squares with Rogo’s own experiences: an awful lot of people, especially outside the middle classes, are still at the “what is a podcast?” stage, and popular podcasts often draw a substantial part of their audience from the global diaspora rather than those at home. Adonde’s move to distribute the latest season of Las Raras marks the start of its expansion into original content. She also has a theory that the colonial legacy in different parts of the continent still has an influence on the way media develops now — France’s strong radio culture, say, in part explaining why Francophone Africa is “not picking up podcasting as quickly as one would expect.” The most productive read across to other markets, Rogo said, is to Latin America, where many of the impediments to podcasting’s growth are similar, although Spotify was much earlier to push into the region. Spotify is only available in South Africa (although accessible elsewhere with a VPN) and the vast majority of the continent’s smartphones are Android, so Apple Podcasts has limited reach. For instance, during the strictest period of lockdown, the independent anthology feed Sound Africa quickly became one of my regular audio dates, as their Covid in Africa season brought me stories from around the continent that weren’t appearing on any of my other news feeds. This emergence of the Democratic politician podcast isn’t quite unprecedented, but this recent glut is distinct for a number of reasons. And finally, they tend to be distributed by for-profit publishers — iHeartMedia (both Clintons, Buttigieg), Lemonada Media (Castro), Cadence13 (Yang), Kast Media (Williamson), Higher Ground via Spotify (Obama) — as opposed to being released by the political figure independently. A variation of an answer arrived last week when Adonde Media, a globally-minded podcast studio founded by Martina Castro, announced that it will be producing and distributing the fifth season of the show. Photo: Lemonada Media

Another aspect to consider, though, is the money. “If people are interested internationally they’ll go to Asia — India is a big market and I think Africa is just sort of this blob that they’re not sure what to do with and is high risk in many ways. It resumed new drops on Thursday, releasing the previously flagged Kanye West episode on Saturday. ➽ The Audible dealmaking engine continues apace, with new production deals forged with Lebron James’ Spring Hill Entertainment, Kevin Hart, and Charlamagne Tha God. Although traditional sponsorships have been slow to surface, the widespread use of mobile money in the form of M-Pesa and similar has opened some doors. Buttigieg is far from the only Democratic political figure to hit the podcast feeds lately. So a lot of my work is just convincing people that it could be high risk, but there’s opportunities. “What’s really important to me is that when podcasting really does sort of reach that critical capacity, that a lot of ownership is by Africans. This isn’t the first public mention of the company, though — we wrote about the startup last summer as it was beginning to pull together a product. “It’s a weird genre of book that I usually try to avoid because there is not going to be anything interesting in there,” said Laura Miller, Slate’s books and culture columnist. “In many ways, both a memoir and a podcast are about creating a politics of intimacy, inviting readers and listeners into a story that the politician is creating,” she said. “I think Africa is often dismissed by a lot of the world. Castro was quick to cut against the notion that there isn’t a healthy ecosystem for Spanish-language podcasting, in part by pointing to increasing investments by (American) companies like Spotify and Audible in Spanish-language audio shows. “I just realised that there were so many missed opportunities in terms of storytelling and in terms of the kind of humanity that I see on this side of the world that wasn’t reflected in the coverage on that side,” said Rogo when we spoke over Zoom last week. Writing memoirs happen to be a great way for political figures to cash in on their prominence, through both the book deal and the accompanying sales structure. However, to phrase this from a purely American-centric perspective, Podfront UK can be roughly described as an “export” initiative, while Adonde Media, by contrast, seems to be conceptually operating as an “import” initiative with its Las Raras arrangement. Last summer, Stitcher and Wondery partnered up to form Podfront UK, an ad sales entity formed to help both companies monetize the UK listenership within their show portfolio by connecting their inventory with UK advertisers. It’s a big ol’ thematic episode, and we’ll go back to the regular interview format next week, when The Atlantic’s Vann Newkirk II comes on the show to talk about Floodlines. Because data is not something that is strong on the continent, it’s very difficult to convince people that there’s something interesting here,” she said. ➽ Speaking of Spotify: The Joe Rogan Experience briefly paused publishing last week after the show’s producer tested positive for the coronavirus. Sixty percent of Africa’s 1.25 billion people are under age 25, and as yet there are few platforms reaching out to them with on demand audio content. When we were putting together the Podfest, it was a very high bar to convince people that we are a place to take seriously. It has never left. Secondly, they tend to be structured as highly-edited interviews, instead of free-flowing barely edited affairs. ‘This I believe.’ ‘Here’s my answer.’ That’s mismatched to what makes podcasting special, in my opinion, so I’m a little skeptical that politicians can really embrace that more exploratory, curious, perspective. As a whole, Africa sent the most applications into the PRX-Google programme, Rogo noted, just because there are so few alternatives for creators who want to develop their talents and their shows. But there’s an underlying question to all these media machinations, and Miller puts her thumb on it with respect to the political memoir: “The really big mystery is why anyone buys them.”

A related question can be applied to this new breed of politician podcasts, one that determine whether we’ll see the subgenre stick around for the long run: will anybody listen to them? She added: “It makes sense to not only grow a non-US show inside the US, but also to see how we can apply lessons learned here in Latin America.”

When asked to characterize the state of the podcast industry across Latin America, Castro describes a region that’s fractured across various different economic, political, cultural, and social realities within the region. Not just of the content and such, but also of the parts of the ecosystem that make podcasting work. Political memoirs, and political messaging in general, is about certainty. You can find Servant of Pod on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or the great assortment of third-party podcast apps that are hooked up to the open publishing ecosystem. For us to see a robust, thriving podcast scene in Latin America, for example, where we can cultivate the talent we need in order to make those beautiful podcasts in Spanish, those people need to get paid.” This partnership with Las Raras, it seems, is part and parcel of that. It’s a new lane for the company, which is prepping a whole slate of original shows to be rolled out over the next year. “It’s really theirs for the taking.”


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Tags: This new take on the politician podcast is a tricky one to unpack, largely because it’s such a strange media artifact. Training, too, is hard to come by. The podcast is a curious artifact, serving as a kind of patchwork platform for Buttigieg to signal his various interests and introduce more layers to his persona, broadening out his previous characterization as a rigid McKinsey type who gets accused of fixing bread prices. Given how ubiquitous Android devices are, having the Google Podcasts app installed as a default in new operating systems, or seeing some major investment in Africa-specific creator training, would make a world of difference, Rogo explained. May and Cruz, meanwhile, will continue to own the show and its intellectual property. Soundcloud, which offers several hours of free monthly uploads before charges kick in, is still a very popular host. The show, hosted by Laci Mosley, was previously distributed under the Earwolf banner. And I’m starting to see that that ownership is not necessarily happening yet,” she explained. (A common trait in many Spanish-language podcasts that Castro has come across, she notes.)

We’ve seen a form of this type of arrangement before. But the larger point is that access to audiences everywhere isn’t quite the same as access to advertising revenue everywhere, and what Adonde is doing here is to present itself as a broker between American advertisers and Las Raras, whose second largest audience is in the United States. Especially if they buy it directly from the author who gets it from the publisher at a discount.”

However, books aren’t the moneymakers they once were, Miller pointed out, which is partly why, I think, we’re seeing politicians angle towards taking up positions in other additional forms of media, including getting podcast deals with companies like iHeartMedia and Cadence13. “They are the best medium in which to talk about what you don’t know, what you may only half-believe, to be curious and open and honest to admit that you might be wrong or not have it all figured out.”

He added: “Politics is the opposite. “The most critical part is making creative, beautiful work,” she said. Recording equipment is expensive and difficult to source, with import taxes often doubling the price of even the most basic kit — “you can’t just buy a Blue Yeti here” — and studio time is very costly to hire. Firstly, these shows tend to be significantly more polished than its predecessors. It’s never had a dip. “I think that the first thing I did was accept that I won’t be able to keep up,” Rogo said. Share, leave a review, so on. Marianne Williamson, a politician much in the same way that Kanye West is one, is launching her own self-titled podcast as well this week as well. And then also Nairobi had a lot of things happening. The point, rather, is that it’s still early for podcast markets in Latin American countries like Argentina and Spain, which hasn’t quite achieved the “boom” status currently enjoyed by American podcasting. But Rogo, in common with many African podcasters, is still waiting for the elusive “tipping point”, the signal that podcasting as an industry is on the up. “There are very few indie or narrative outlets where one could train in narrative journalism more generally, and even fewer to train in narrative journalism or storytelling in audio specifically.” Which isn’t to say that there aren’t attempts at building new podcast businesses in Latin America. Regardless, there are already rewards to be had for a podcaster in Africa that crafts a hit. ➽ James Purnell, the Director of Radio & Education at the BBC, is leaving the organization. Additionally, writing a memoir “seems to be a way that supporters can funnel money to a candidate or political friend outside of the regulations that apply to political donors,” said Miller. But there is a lane to argue that perhaps podcasting itself might not shake out to be a form that’s ultimately suitable for the political goal of these productions. “I really think it’s been unfortunate how slow Google Podcasts has been to take ownership of the continent,” she concluded. She is personally very well placed to analyse the development of the medium, having grown up in Kenya, moved to the US at the age of 13, qualified and worked as a journalist in America for outlets like Reuters and PBS, before moving back to Kenya to start her own podcasting business. 1.5x Speed: A Weekly Newsletter of Podcast Recommendations and Reviews
Listening notes for the top shows, from Vulture’s critic Nick Quah. However, she argues that there is a huge opportunity for podcasting in Africa, not least because of the relative youth of its population. Desktop listening is also recommended. “I quickly realised that in order for this business venture to even succeed, there are certain aspects of the podcasting ecosystem that were just missing. But the situation with Las Raras is distinct in the sense that (a) the show doesn’t ultimately end up as a piece of intellectual property for Adonde Media and (b) it highlights another type of business opportunity for the globally-minded podcast studio: to serve as a viable bridge between non-American podcasts — whose native podcast industries might not be as robust as America’s just yet — and American monetization opportunities. The Deciding Decade with Pete Buttigieg sees the former South Bend mayor conducting amiable interviews with a variety of guests, including the former ambassador Susan Rice, Trump firee and known podcaster Preet Bharara, and for some reason, Colin Jost. “There is a long tradition of political figures writing books, and I think podcasting is taking on a very similar function,” he told me recently. Furthermore, what’s usually interesting about political memoirs, Miller said, is all the information that can be gleaned that isn’t the information the author is actually trying to convey — the between-the-lines stuff. The arrangement sees Adonde Media fully funding the new season of the project, and serving as a close collaboration with the team on episodes. It’s less about telling a story than creating a persona and a brand — one that might have potential uses even beyond a political career.”

Hemmer also offered a sharp contrast between talk radio and this new type of politician podcast, characterizing the former as being more engaged with the politics of entertainment as opposed to the politics of intimacy. Whatever their numbers end up being, it’s a signal that’s been sent to other media around Africa that, hey, you should be looking at this. (According to a Duolingo rep, that podcast, which was designed to help English-speaking listeners learn Spanish, has garnered over 39 million lifetime downloads since launching in late 2017. Still, just the process of putting together the event was eye opening, she said, in terms of how the rest of the world views African podcasters. Email

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In addition to serving as a bruiser for the Democrats on Fox News and writing a book while “most people were watching Tiger King” (🙄), Pete Buttigieg — the Democratic presidential candidate who flamed out in the last cycle after a strong early showing — has also found the time to record a podcast. That is perhaps the most interesting thing about this story: the way in which the arrangement between Adonde Media and Las Raras feels roughly reminiscent of how non-American films and television programs get signed for stateside distribution, in which those media products are given the opportunity to benefit from the typically larger monetization opportunities of the American market. Legacy media publishers like newspapers and broadcasters have generally been wary of charging into podcasting too, burned by the 2015 era “pivot to video” and facing layoffs in a tough economic climate. Julián Castro recently followed suit, releasing Our America with Julián Castro last month, which happened to be around the same time Hillary Clinton returned for podcasting seconds in the form of You and Me Both with Hillary Clinton. “So to my family’s dismay, I quit and decided to move back home to Kenya and start my own business.”

With her company, Kali Media (now known as Kali Pods), she wanted to create content for younger women in East Africa, but soon found that it was going to be a much more involved process than merely making some great podcasts and putting them out into the world. With an eye to rectifying that, I recently reached out to Paula Rogo, a journalist based in Nairobi, Kenya who runs a podcast network and founded the Africa PodFest, to learn more. Adonde’s expansion into original content — which is to say, non-client contract work — sets the studio down a trajectory that’s become fairly common for podcast production studios over the years. The Chilean duo Catalina May and Martin Cruz have been producing the show independently since 2016, and the one time I got to properly engage with the show was sometime last year, when I was fortunate enough to catch them giving a live performance of one of their stories in Boston last year. It’s easy to engage in the analytical move of connecting these productions to the ongoing effort to create a liberal counterbalance to conservative talk radio using the podcast ecosystem, a push that can be primarily pegged to the ascending Crooked Media, which has spent the past four years building a formidable platform and following. A lot of the big communities in podcasting are in Anglophone areas.”

One of the biggest obstacles in Rogo’s work has been a lack of data about podcast listening on the continent. The one she’s really waiting for, though, is Google. A founding member of Radio Ambulante — the Spanish-language narrative podcast stalwart nowadays distributed by NPR — Castro founded Adonde Media as a client work-oriented production studio focused on making multilingual work with global companies that, as she puts it, “didn’t need to be convinced of the potential of audiences outside the United States who speak languages other than English.”

Adonde’s first client was Duolingo, the digital language learning service, with which it collaborated to create the popular Duolingo Spanish podcast, which Castro produces and hosts. Latino Podcast Listener Report from Edison Research, together with Lantigua Williams & Co, Libsyn, NPR, and Pandora. “Now, what’s different, of course, is that the political memoir is a finished story, a neat narrative printed up and published that readers can buy and read. “Radio is king in Africa. There are exceptions, she noted: Barack Obama’s books, for example, are worthwhile, though they are themselves somewhat atypical for the fact that (a) they’re well-written and (b) they’re actually written by the figure in question, as opposed to being ghostwritten, which is the case for the overwhelming majority of politician memoirs. ➽ ICYMI: a new paid podcast platform, Quake Media, launched last week with $2.5 million in seed funding and an initial focus on political content, Axios reports. What Podcasting Needs in Africa

By Caroline Crampton

Like many other dedicated podcast listeners, I’ve found that my audio habits have changed a good deal over the past year. The BBC World Service’s recent move into Africa-specific podcasting is very encouraging, she said. “There are pockets of communities, such as in South Africa, which has a really strong podcast community. This article first ran in Hot Pod, an industry-leading trade newsletter about podcasting by Nick Quah. In tomorrow’s Servant of Pod… We have a spooOOOky Halloween special in store for ya. “If you can get a decent audience, the influence is pretty insane on this side of the world,” Rogo said. They were just not in place here at all,” she explained. And so my co-founder, Melissa Mbugua, and I thought, OK, in order for me to create Kali Pods, I have to help create the ecosystem for us in order to do the work I want to do, which is actually production.”

Africa, of course, is a very large continent with a sprawling, diverse media ecosystem. Some can, I’m sure, but it may be a challenge and it may come off as at odds with their political persona.”

News, broadly…

➽ Spotify has launched a weekday “morning show” called The Get Up, which seems to mirror morning drive-time radio shows in structure and makes of the new mixed format feature that we talked about last week. You should be considering this because everyone knows BBC World Service, everyone listens to it.” Aside from perhaps YouTube and Netflix, there are few other common media properties consumed across the whole continent, so for better or worse, the BBC’s actions really have an impact.

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We Wouldn’t Have Beyond the Lights Without Alicia Keys

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Tags: For a film as spectacular as Beyond the Lights, the muse visited its creator in a much more appropriately cinematic and romantic fashion. This would begin a journey that would end with Mbatha-Raw in a harness dangling off an actual hotel balcony, in real life, at 4 o’clock in the morning. So, add this to the list of things we need to remember to thank Alicia Keys for the next time we see her. Get your tickets to Vulture Festival here to see the full event, catch upcoming events as they air, and rewatch ones you’ve missed, all week long! “I was sitting at an Alicia Keys concert at the Hollywood Bowl,” Prince-Bythewood said. Prince-Bythewood walked us through the actual moment she got the idea for the movie, in a scene that should probably be in its own movie about a woman writing Beyond the Lights (which we would watch!). Some people get their best ideas in the shower, or on the treadmill, but those ideas are usually tweets. Director Gina Prince-Bythewood and stars Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Minnie Driver came together on the very first night of Vulture Festival to discuss the romantic drama. “And she started to sing the song ‘Diary,’ which is such an epic love song and duet.” While most audience members were probably in the midst of pining for a crush, Prince-Bythewood was suddenly envisioning a woman dangling off a balcony.

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Today at Vulture Festival: Henry Winkler, the New Girl Boys

And finally, we’ll be getting a special screening of the second episode of How to With John Wilson in an event presented by HBO Max, followed by a Q&A with John Wilson himself and executive producer Michael Koman. More From This Series

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Tags: We’re going to learn a lot! Join us, won’t you? First we have The Winkler Method: A Henry Winkler Acting Class, where, you guessed it, Henry Winkler is going to teach us acting by answering questions from real acting students from across the country. hanging out with us. But most importantly, we’re going to have fun. Then, it’s time to crack open a brew (or a seltzer) and kick back for A Night With the New Girl Boys Presented by Roku, which will feature Jake Johnson, Max Greenfield, Lamorne Morris, and Damon Wayans Jr. Assuming, of course, you have an internet connection. Buy your tickets now and catch up on yesterday’s events at And when you’re ready, join us back here for a day that’s all about hanging with the guys and learning some skills. Today’s agenda includes taking a minute for yourself: Do a face mask, unclench your jaw, catch up on any events from last night that you may have missed. The first-ever completely virtual Vulture Festival that basically anyone and everyone can attend. Photo-Illustration: Vulture

Welcome, friends, to day two of Vulture Festival: In the Nest.

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Method Man Became a New, Uh, Man After Acting in The Cobbler

41 on our Adam Sandler movie ranking. But for Method Man, this film means something very different. Method Man discussed playing Leon Ludlow, the first person whose metaphorical (and literal) shoes the titular cobbler steps into. “Nobody ever took the time out to explain to me what acting really is,” he said. More From This Series

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Tags: You might remember 2015’s The Cobbler as being the fantastical tale of a shoe repair man who gains the ability to become anyone he wants by putting on their shoes, or as No. “Or to speak the language that I speak so that I could understand what they mean, and Tom spoke that language.” He continued to describe what seems to have been a real Neo-sees-The-Matrix moment for him, “It’s like when you finally learned how to play Mortal Combat, and you bring all the moves out.” So there you have it, The Cobbler was the moment when Method Man stopped just mashing the buttons of his Sega Genesis controller of acting and started learning how to do fatalities purposefully and with gusto. And it was during this performance that the film’s writer-director Tom McCarthy finally broke the craft of acting down for him. Get your tickets to Vulture Festival here to see the full event, catch upcoming events as they air, and re-watch ones you’ve missed, all week long! He joined Mary J. Blige and 50 Cent at this year’s all virtual Vulture Festival to discuss how the three legends of hip-hop found themselves transitioning into acting, with Blige and Method Man now starring in Power Book II: Ghost on Starz.

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The Below Deck Med Reunion Part Two Finally Clarified the Valium Situation

Can you just pipe down? It was right there.” Then Ferrier asked if White found her Valium the night she had her panic attack, and White replied that she did. “But I followed the manual.” But regardless of her firing, Ferrier added, she didn’t regret returning for the season. (At one point, More’s ex-boyfriend Rob Westergaard, a deckhand, claimed she asked him to throw away her own weed pen on board.)

White later explained that when reporting Ferrier, she went to the show’s production staff before Yawn. Photo: YouTube

Over two months later, the moment Below Deck fans been waiting for is here: the part of the Below Deck Mediterranean reunion where we finally find out what happened with chief stew Hannah Ferrier’s firing. As Yawn explained the maritime law of it all, she said she had to fire Ferrier because she broke her contract, and it went up to the boat’s management company. Cohen then asked Ferrier what should’ve been done differently. “They said, ‘You need to go to Captain Sandy.’ But on their side, on the management’s side, and on the captain’s side, it all got handled the exact same way.” Ferrier replied, “Malia, this isn’t really about you, honey. Ferrier explained to White that her doctor sent a letter to producers 12 hours after she left listing her prescription, and an onscreen note confirmed the letter. After last week’s part one of the reunion found Ferrier defending herself after being away for the back half of season five, the second half of the reunion focused largely on the actual circumstances of her firing for having Valium and a CBD pen on board. White replied, “I didn’t realize that you were taking Valium all the time until I found it in our trash can and on our counter. “You have no idea what you’re talking about,” Yawn told her. “I banked some good coin!” she said. “As I said, I’ve put my hands up, I was in the wrong, I did not register the Valium when I came on board, and you’re making me feel like I’m some druggie or a criminal for having medication!” When Cohen then asked Yawn what she would’ve done differently, she struck a different tone. I’m in a really good place in my life.” Just don’t expect her to name her baby Sandy, she added. Whether her castmates believed her was another question, but the conversation quickly turned to boatswain Malia White’s decision to report Ferrier to Captain Sandy Yawn. We get it, maritime law, don’t take it, we get it, we hear you.”

Cohen later asked the crew to reflect on the situation. “I think it would’ve been nice to have Sandy pull me aside and have a conversation with me,” she said. “That’s why the timing, when you see it on the TV show, it took so long,” White said. Host Andy Cohen teased last week that the manufacturer told Bravo that Ferrier’s model was a THC pen, although Ferrier claimed she used CBD oil in it. Then, Ferrier turned the conversation with a question for White: “If it was not about the cabin arrangements and this wasn’t a revenge thing, when you said to Sandy, ‘Hannah had her freakout last night,’ why did you not bring up then that I’d ask you to go try and find Valium?” she asked. “No you didn’t, you’re such a liar!” Ferrier responded, claiming “it wasn’t on board.” White repeated that Ferrier had Valium wrappers throughout their room, but Ferrier clarified that she had been taking Advil PM — which White said would still be against the rules —and insisted she didn’t take any Valium on board. Related

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Tags: Ferrier, White, and Yawn continued arguing about the Valium and whether the pen was THC, while third stew Jess More tried to butt her way into the discussion and the rest of the exasperated crew cradled their drinks. “So yeah, I leave happy. Or try to, anyway. And was it CBD, anyway? More then jumped back in again, insisting that crew should’ve been made more aware of yachting rules around drugs. “Sometimes, the right decision isn’t the popular decision,” she said.

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The Best, Worst, and Exceptionally French of Phoenix, According to Thomas Mars

There was also a review in a French magazine that compared our music to chemotherapy. A lot of times when we’d start a tour, people are like, “Well, Phoenix, when are you playing Phoenix? We were trying to go there, but the ocean’s being still. We were not ready. There’ll always be the Versailles factor. It didn’t make any sense. It was a good soundtrack, and we were testing that the mix was right. That would be my answer [laughs]: a lot of memories. That one was so bad that it was really good, you know? It’s kind of complex because, being French, the band had this relationship with Italy [where they visited frequently growing up]. Then we go to bed. Superlatives

A Vulture series in which artists judge the best and worst of their own careers. But usually, it’s not what you’d expect. And then he said, “All the lyrics in rock music are like, ‘I’m taking the bus, I’m taking this freight train,’” and he almost said, “Hit me like a freight train.” I realized there’s some truth in [what he was saying]. That was scary. What had happened is that all the cameras that were filming us were showing the footage in France saying, “A tsunami’s coming in Australia,” and our parents saw us on the news, and we were the only kids in the water. We wanted to get away from this because not only was it unpleasant, it was also hurting our creativity. I could feel it was not safe. To be in that beast of American show business with so much pressure, and the fact that we were all working with equipment that we were, like, beta testing. Maybe now it is. Phoenix song that reminds you the most of Versailles

“North” is a song we wrote for [2006’s] It’s Never Been Like That; it’s instrumental. She was so excited that she played “1901” for the entire flight … through the speakers of the flight. “But I don’t know when that will come out.”

Best Phoenix album

That’s hard because we don’t really think [that way]. Mars also confirmed that more new Phoenix music is on the way, eventually: “We’re working on the new album,” says Mars. To bring those two worlds together was satisfying. They were saying, “Okay, there are going to be EDM bands, and there are going to be bands with instruments; there are going to be these two stages.” We were the only band with instruments. You have incredible water, but then it’s a giant mall on the beach. He saw me, and he showed me his iPod. At the time, we were driving, and we were always going back and forth between Versailles and Paris. But I don’t look at it like, “This is a better album.”

Most underrated Phoenix album

Maybe Ti Amo. The only thing you can do there is go to the ocean. Moment you wanted to quit the most

There was a festival we were booked for in Australia called Future Music Festival [in 2014]. It was at the peak of the song [in 2009], and [the stewardess] was so happy. Best place to play in America

America’s made for touring on a tour bus. There’s no one.”

A few of us go into the ocean. Then I’d like them to be free for everybody to do whatever they want with them. Chicago’s always a great crowd. Related

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Tags: The frustration of growing up in Versailles was really strong because nothing great could be done. It was playing “1901.” I kept walking, and I was close to the Apple Store. Every music genre has something like 5 percent of very exciting, new, good music, but the other 95 percent is extremely boring and unexciting. Everybody was always talking about the past, and you couldn’t really play music there unless it was 18th century or classical music. He was playing “1901.”

But I have a better answer. Not because it’s the last one, but I think Ti Amo plays with very specific memories that we have growing up as kids. A tsunami’s coming!”

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. But there are certain subjects, like “Lisztomania,” I’m proud of because it talks about some things that we really wanted to talk about all the time that should be said about reappropriation, and how the city of Versailles is a museum. It was just an inch of a wave. When you’re onstage, for some reason you’re aware of what’s dangerous for others, but not for yourself. We were the only people in the water waiting for the tsunami, and they freaked out. Best use of a Phoenix song in a film

Bill Murray in Lost in Translation dancing to “Too Young.” You can’t really top Bill Murray. Most random use of “1901”

There was one day in New York City where I heard it everywhere. We didn’t rehearse for touring. “It was way more work than I thought,” says Mars, laughing over the phone. It’s definitely not on your résumé if you’re in a band. I stay on the beach like a good Catholic from Versailles. Photo: Andy Willsher/Redferns/Getty Images

The worst thing you could probably say about Phoenix is that they helped define Apple-core (or Tumblr-core) in the late 2000s: The era when skinny-tie-cool indie rock was ubiquitous enough to sell iPods, and songs like “1901” and “Lisztomania” were beloved by critics and a generation of young writers during the golden hour of music blogs. I mean, there are definitely best and worst things, but what we do is sort of quality control between the four of us. This one was so violent. If the four of us agree that there is something to it, then it’s on an album; the four of us agreeing will give it longevity. What is this?” This was as we were descending. It’s all the more impressive when you remember that Phoenix had previously released back-to-basics rock and roll and New Wave tracks, like “Party Time” and “Heatwave,” two years before the first Strokes EP. We’ve had a few of my favorite shows that were in cities that I would never have been to without making music, like Tulsa, Salt Lake City, and Columbus, like where the crowd was really strange. Why put lyrics on music saying what is sung, and usually what is too stupid to be said?” Things like [“Napoleon Says]. And there are cameras filming, waiting for the tsunami to come. It was the peak of EDM. We had a production manager who had his first day with us, so he didn’t want to stop the show because it was his first day. It’s not a plus. It was like ten days traveling with all the DJs. To celebrate over 30 years of Phoenix — the quartet technically formed in the late ’80s when front man Thomas Mars, real name Thomas Pablo Croquet, was a 10-year-old Prince fanatic — the band last year released Liberté, Égalité, Phoenix!, a deep oral history on the Grammy-winning group co-written with music journalist Laura Snapes, whom Mars dubbed an honorary fifth Phoenix member. So, we played with an inch of water onstage. Yet the French band earned their breakthrough with 2009’s Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, an album with infectious melodies, strong deep cuts, and timeless cool that holds up after a decade. It’s designed to go from east to west, and stop in the Midwest, and stop in all these weird places that you would never stop if you weren’t on a tour bus. This was in Australia again, the year after there was a tsunami in Phuket in Thailand [in 2004]. I mean, it’s not beautiful. There was a guy playing guitar. When you come from Versailles, in France, it’s seen as very posh. I was really embarrassed, because almost the whole flight was just like, “What is going on? And we see cameras, and there are people saying that you can’t go swimming there, the tsunami’s coming. It’s definitely not the first record you should hear from us as an introduction to the band. I was getting shocks and stuff. The record was not out. There’s a repetitive pattern that can be very frustrating and annoying. That record is a little bit of a leap of faith. We arrive at the Gold Coast in Australia, which is just beautiful. Some were really intense. But I think it’s also the most underrated because we checked a few boxes that I wanted to check, whether it was what subjects we were talking about, or [the instruments] we were playing with. Best story that didn’t make Liberté, Égalité, Phoenix! I was on a flight to go to Austin, Texas. We had zero out of ten. “I felt like now that the book is done, we can move on.” Earlier this year, Mars shared more from the book with Vulture, and discussed the highs and lows of his band’s history, including their work with Mars’s wife and longtime collaborator, director Sofia Coppola; their partnership includes a new song, “Identical,” for Coppola’s latest film, On the Rocks. We didn’t really want to go back to the studio after feeling uninspired. Most memorable live moment

We’ve played a lot of shows. I would go into a store, in a restaurant, and hear it multiple times during that day. Most unexpected achievement

The first time we played SNL was a big achievement for us, just to be part of it. And you have the best shows there. As much as there is creativity and psychotherapy in lyrics, and there is some truth in the process of writing lyrics, there are a lot of things that would be better unsaid. The French didn’t like us at first. We’re like, “No, no, we want to swim. I’m done with them. Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix was one of them, because there was a lot of drama around the record, and that gave the record a lot of gravitas and emotions. I don’t like your lyrics. The next morning, someone tells me, “Okay, the tsunami came, but it was nothing. So Ti Amo needs a little bit of insight. The writing process was a lot like group therapy. But my friend said, “Did you sleep okay?” Because our parents rang us at night. I had a bunch of very strange, almost life-and-death situations, so we were just happy to not die at some point. To me, it is very boring. It’s all quiet. It felt like it was not going anywhere. Lyrics that make you want to crawl into a ball and weep the most

“Napoleon Says” has a line that I thought I really enjoyed for a while: “Hit me like a freight train.” Then maybe a few months later, I talked to this classical composer who said, “You know, I don’t like rock music. I could feel the electricity. Song you’re most proud of

You know, a song is on the record because it means the four of us are like, “Okay, this is good.” Then once it’s on the record, I don’t relisten to them anymore; that would be extremely narcissistic [laughs], because I listen to them hundreds of thousands of times before in every possible way. I know there were albums that were harder to make than others, so I had better times making certain albums than others. We think about albums more in terms of photo books. She loved that song, she told me on the plane. We were the only band at a DJ festival. Phoenix, that’s going to be great.” But usually, it’s not what you’d expect. And they called us at night in Australia saying, “What are you guys doing on the beach? This was in 2000 [and it was for our debut album, United]. On Bill Murray, not being able to escape “1901,” and over 30 years of his band. The fact that everything went okay was a big achievement. We played in a monsoon in Jakarta. Best criticism you’ve received

The first review we ever had was in a British magazine; I think it was called Mixmag. The songs were not out. So is Austin. We would always listen to that song on that trip — going to Versailles, driving at night, heading toward the capital. If you hated Phoenix, it was probably because you hated hearing Phoenix everywhere. To me, the worst reviews are the ones that are in the middle. I couldn’t really relate. We end up playing in Scottsdale. It’s really random, and it’s never what you’d expect. It totally collapsed overnight.” So it was nothing. She blasted “1901” through the Southwest Airlines speakers. Then I remember crossing Broadway and Prince Street; there was this guy jogging. They’re all reactions to each other. We were not really ready to use all these complicated machines that well. It’s like Reno on the beach.

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Who’s the Saddest on This Is Us?

7. Okay, but is he the saddest?: This ranking could change a whole lot once we get more information but for now, ABJ is doing just fine. 33. Because Olivia Maine is a serious thespian! Oh, and he’s extra sad in the future (and not wearing his wedding ring!), so who knows what tragedies he has left to suffer. But why?: She goes from working an exhausting waitressing job in a diner to falling in love to marrying a man who becomes a super-successful musician and gets to follow her culinary dreams. He’s probably a little bit sad about life because that is family tradition,  and this family is obsessed with tradition. Rebecca Pearson

Is she sad? He loves his daughter, obviously, but that’s tough. William is the kindest, sweetest soul, but after his mother dies he gets involved with drugs and everything falls apart: He never goes back to Memphis to build a music career, his girlfriend dies giving birth to his son, who he then leaves at a fire station, and it takes years before he gets clean. 10. But why?: Lizzie — the woman Kevin meets in a coffee shop and immediately believes is his great love only to learn she’s married and he’s her celebrity hall pass — is a tricky one. Her play is well received, despite that whole opening-night thing, in which the lead runs away to save his brother mere seconds before the show is about to begin. Not with this crew. 52. 50. 32. Yes. Sophie

Is she sad?: Okay, so things took a turn for our dear Sophie and she went from sort-of-used-to-be-sad to yeah, she’s sad now. After everything? But why? Malik’s Parents

Are they sad?: Darnell and Kelly Hodges seem happy now, but carry old sadness with them. No way! But why? Louie the Dog Pearson

Is he sad? But still, he’s one of the most well-adjusted Pearsons we’ve met. But also she sleeps with Kevin and is possibly having feelings for him? 49. He’s clinically depressed and his mother suffers from the same condition. Okay, but are they the saddest?: It took me a while to decide, but no. Okay, but is she the saddest? By all accounts, Jack’s dad is awful until his dying day, but in “Vietnam” we learn that he wasn’t always that way — his own father was also an abusive alcoholic and he followed suit. No. Jae-Won

Is he sad? Toby’s Parents

Are they sad? Alzheimer’s?! And he doesn’t want to live without her! There are no hard and fast rules for deciding this, but maybe “openly weeping in front of your wife’s gravestone” should be one? Nicky Pearson

Is he sad?: Hold me, please. Because for all its egg life, the front of the egg has gotten all the glory! All these good things and she can still find something to be sad about? But why? Okay, but is she the saddest?: No! Dr. But since Deja was adopted and Shauna got her shit together, she is happy and baking upside-down pineapple cakes and learning what pass interference in football is! She’s lonely! 48. News of her death in 2019 hits several people we know very, very hard. Their divorce is awful and they’ve been at each other’s throats ever since. But why? So that, at least, works out. Not continually giving up her bed for other family members, not packing up her life and moving to Philadelphia, not repeatedly watching her father self-implode! Madison

Is she sad?: You get impregnated by a Pearson, you automatically move up at least two spots on this list, I don’t make the rules. Sometimes! Mostly no, because she is an innocent child, but sometimes yes, because she is a Pearson. Lawrence seems to have a pretty good life. Nothing! His children resent him for, like, an enormous amount of time. Okay, but is he the saddest? Look, we know you think you murdered your dad because you were obsessed with your dog and your dad was obsessed with making you happy. Malone treated Janet more like a live-in waitress than a wife, and that’s got to take a toll on a person. Oh, Soph. Abe Clarke

Is he sad? Undoubtedly, there will be more to come with Marc. She’s also seemingly very close with her brother. AT THE VERY LEAST, when we last see her, after becoming friends and AA buddies with Kevin and Nicky, she works up the courage to attempt to fix her family. She’s awful. Adult Tess, although very happy in her dream job as a social worker, is dealing with the impending death of her grandmother (and who knows what else!), so she does have an air of sadness about her in the future as well. Are all of the days Miguel has ahead of him just steeped in tragedy? Okay, but is he the saddest? Obviously all the Pearsons are sad — that’s why we’re here — but Kate really wallows in it. Find me my blanket of sadness, please! If this show tries to make me feel bad for this woman, so help me! 2. (Remember how happy he is to drive Randall’s car? So, yes, a little. He rolls into Jack’s funeral at the age of 90 — having survived a car accident in his 80s, need I remind you — and he’s shacked up with that hot widow from the grocery store, still dispensing life advice. 4. Big time! But why? Lucy the Waitress

Is she sad?: Adult Baby Jack’s baby mama has the general pallor of sadness about her that all characters on this show do, but at this juncture she does not seem very sad. Oh, Marilyn. Abe got a raw deal! When Kevin relapses and lies to her about it, she takes them to couples therapy. When we first meet Jae-Won, all we know is that he is into politics, he lives in the K-town section of Philly, and he’s very nice to his Grandma. Okay, but is he the saddest? 54. 42. Zoe Baker

Is she sad?: Yes, but seems fairly well adjusted considering everything she’s been through. Beth has every reason to sad-sack around town: Her dad — her favorite person and biggest fan — died when she was a teenager; her dreams fell apart; her mother was cold … oh, does this sound like I’m describing Kate Pearson? He has earned a reprieve from a No. Surprisingly, no. Okay, but is he the saddest?: No, but sometimes I worry about him. Okay, but is she the saddest?: Nope. Jessie

Is he sad? Is she on the wrong show? Okay, but is he the saddest? Anyone’s guess. Only a normal amount. His son is born premature and that’s insanely scary. Plus, both of his sons go off to Vietnam and one comes back a complete shell of his former self and the other hates Stanley even more than when he left. 25. Kirby

Is he sad?: Sadness just fuels his acting fire, so probably a little bit. 21. But why?: Rebecca’s dad is your typical misogynist and all-around jerk, but it’s clear he feels some chauvinistic angst when it comes to who his daughter can and cannot marry. Nothing she does is ever good enough for her parents! Okay, but is she the saddest? He’s felt left out and ignored his entire life, which made him a grade-A dick a lot of time, and although his guilt isn’t as pronounced as Kate’s, he still feels at fault for not being home the night of the house fire. Still, that phone call with Randall after William dies? But he’s trying to make the best of things? But why? Randall Pearson

Is he sad?: Randall is tricky because he says things like “A Thanksgiving Dad is a Hot Dad” but he is also King of the Single Tear. Rip out my heart and stomp on it, why don’t you? But why?: We don’t know much about Kate and Toby’s adopted daughter’s childhood yet, but in the future she seems to be very successful in her art gallery job. Did you not see him openly weeping on his one-night stand’s lawn? Look at her go! Okay, but is he the saddest? But why? Okay, but is she the saddest?: She definitely smashed a car with a baseball bat because she was sad, but mostly she’s been on an upswing since season four, turning her sadness into a burgeoning career as a Motivational Speaker For Sad Dads Who Need to Get Their Act Together, and meeting Malik, a very nice boy who takes her for water ice and make her smile. It’s exhausting just writing about it! Okay, but is he the saddest? Lizzie

Is she sad?: Hard to tell with such little information to go on but when in doubt, lean yes. Doesn’t knowing that her mom’s nickname for her was “Tater Tot” just kick you in the shins? Okay, but is she the saddest? I mean, did you see these two sad sacks sitting across from Miguel and Rebecca at the most awkward Thanksgiving dinner on This Is Us? Lawrence. “But why?” is really the only question to ask. He’s probably fine, though. Her marriage is falling apart. Honestly, so sad. Her parents were awful, her singing career never panned out, she lost a son in childbirth, her angel husband died in a horrifyingly tragic way and now she can never eat candy bars ever again, she willingly gave up a chance to hook up with Dave Annable and for what, she kept a secret from her beloved son for 36 years and then had to face the consequences for that, she had to make a tearful apology while wearing a plastic fedora, and oh yes, then she gets diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and it basically/temporarily tears her family apart. Maybe too well-adjusted?? Okay, but is he the saddest? YEESH. Because of all of these things, we know that Jack is much sadder than he lets on, even when he’s voguing. Welcome to the Sadness Vortex. Photo: Ron Batzdorff/NBC

Looking to forget how sad you are and think about how sad other people are? Someone needs to protect Marilyn at all costs, is what I’m saying! Okay, but is he the saddest?: He and Trish are living the good life. If only that were his problem. Well, then she went and slept with Kevin because, get this, she was feeling sad, and wound up pregnant with twins. Pilgrim Rick

Is he sad? This dude’s got it made. Perhaps at one point in his life he would’ve taken the title, but not now. And that he talks to the mailman?) But I still think I need to go lie down in the dark for a while. So ahead of the This Is Us season premiere, Vulture is taking a deep dive into the sadness that is life with the Pearsons to figure out who is just mildly sad, taking the tragedy life (and the writers) has given them and getting on with it, and who is so crippled by the laundry list of terrible things that have happened to them that producing a single tear to delicately fall down their cheek has become akin to breathing. Related

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Tags: The last time we saw him, he and his wife Samantha decided to truly fight for their marriage and for one another, so I feel like things turned around for ol’ Joe. 20. 19. He wasn’t, but then he met the Pearsons, a.k.a. 38. She should add as many Pearsons to her schedule as possible. But why?: He sort of comes off as a jerk when he seemingly refuses to give Cassidy any room to deal with her PTSD, but also you know he’s just trying to protect his son. 46. And let me remind you that this show had a Thanksgiving dinner in which a man confronted his mother about lying to him about his birth father for 36 years, so that’s kind of a big title to carry. The woman has a husband who thinks the perfect movie to take her mind off things is Borat and she gets saddled with Alzheimer’s?! Trish Lawrence

Is she sad?: Wow, not in the least. What a rebound! 28. Based on the flash-forward to Kevin’s 40th birthday, it looks like they stick together but their real relationship status is unknown and let’s be real, probably not long for this world. I’d like an update on his whereabouts in the present, but other than that: Get yours, Mr. But why?: Getting so close to achieving your dreams but not making it is hard. Family tradition, really. But then he was adopted, so that’s nice! Well, she comes out to her family at, like 10, so that’s tough — trying to figure out who you are at any age is hard, but 10? When the conversation about kids comes up, she knows she doesn’t want any and she’s straightforward about it with Kevin, rather than angsting. He goes through a terrible divorce. Miguel’s Kids

Are they sad? Okay, but is he the saddest?: Can this guy just leave us alone? Okay, but is she the saddest? Marilyn Pearson

Is she sad? One would have to assume she’s already spent years dealing with her own crap. So yes, he’s sad. It’s all very complicated! That’s some extremely sad stuff! Her divorce from Miguel in the ’90s was messy, and from the tidbits Miguel drops postdivorce, it doesn’t sound like things ever got easier. She gets sucked into the hellscape that is the Kevin Pearson-Olivia Maine melodrama! Beth Pearson

Is she sad? Janet Malone

Is she sad? Miguel Rivas

Is he sad? 44. But! Poor Louie didn’t ask for any of this! 22. But then he goes and gives that whole speech to Kevin about how he can’t celebrate Cassidy’s service as a Marine because the Marines are what destroyed his favorite person in the world and if he thinks about it for too long he’ll just weep until he can weep no more. No way! But why?: I didn’t think This Is Us could get sadder, and then they told the story of Jack’s not-so-dead younger brother Nicky. But why? Olivia Maine

Is she sad? Okay, but is he the saddest?: No. And yes, of course they’re sad. 43. 24. She doesn’t seem that sad when she and Miguel tell their friends they’re splitting up, but I’d prefer some visual confirmation on her recent level of sadness before making a permanent ruling. But why? Dave Malone

Is he sad?: He would never admit it. On the plus side, he has a great family, has been successful career-wise, does get some precious time with William, and has great abs. 1. But why? But why?: Honestly, other than the aforementioned evidence, Mr. Marc

Is he sad?: THIS GUY. Shelly Rivas

Is she sad? Nicky used to hold the top spot because OF COURSE HE DID, but since then we’ve learned that Nicky does form a bond with Kevin, gets sober, and introduces the tradition of Thanksgiving Shrimp to the Pearsons and the world, which is not nothing. 40. Okay, but is he the saddest?: Obviously there is still time, but this doc seems well-adjusted. Tess also learns that she suffers from the same debilitating anxiety and panic attacks as her father. Her “I’m Finding Myself” Drastic Blonde Bob haircut would like you to think so, but we know better. Joe the Firefighter

Is he sad? It, too, burns up in that fire, but even that crockpot would agree — it got what it deserved. After? On the other hand, she looks to be pretty gloomy about some one-night stand with a movie star. Okay, but is he the saddest? Also, we see Nicky sitting at Ancient Rebecca’s bedside in the future, wearing a wedding ring, which indicates a real turn of events for this endearing curmudgeon. Go cry into a martini at your country club, sir! I was going to ding them for that time they tried to stop Toby from marrying Kate because they had concerns, but honestly, that might just be good parenting. Okay, but is she the saddest?: There is budding potential with two seasons to go. But why? 55. But why? But why?: If this was a list ranking the biggest pieces of shit on this show, Teen Kate’s abusive boyfriend would sail to the front. Doesn’t! McGiggles!). 18. Toby’s CrossFit Group

Are they sad?: You know they’re all secretly sad on the inside. He may be prone to severe anxiety attacks and is the best crier this world has ever known, but he never seems to live in his sadness for too long, unlike some other Pearsons we know. Toby’s mother suffers from depression and Toby’s father isn’t supportive in any way. Don’t think I didn’t consider it! When Jack and Rebecca find him wandering the neighborhood, he looks like he’s had a ruff life. But his human parents are Kate and Toby, which is a real hit-or-miss, depending on the day. But also, he’s been through some things. 31. Unless we eventually get some tragic backstory about her parents being murdered by a karate instructor or something (twist!), which, honestly, I’ve watched each episode of this show several times and I would not be surprised. Audio Pearson-Damon

Is he sad? That’s a cool and fun thing to do, right? For a dying guy he’s pretty positive, and regardless of how sick he got, he never stopped encouraging Beth to pursue her dreams. Or Terrible Towel Onesies, as it were. Finally, it gets its due as the titular character in the Off Broadway production of The Back of an Egg, starring the Manny himself, Kevin Pearson. But why?: Randall’s therapist is extremely good at her job and immediately gets to the root of most of Randall’s problems: His mother. She even comes around on thinking Randall is an acceptable husband for her daughter after all this time. But why? 11. If she’s sad about anything, I don’t want to hear about it. Please see above. His parents, both before and after they divorced, are pretty terrible. But why?: Tossed into some troubling foster care situations, having to see her mother put in prison, spending several nights in her mother’s car, and ultimately learning that her mother gave up her parental rights so that Deja could be adopted by Randall and Beth did not make for an easy childhood. She’s an alcoholic, unemployed, and ends up slapping her son. First of all, it was 1,000 years old when those kindly old neighbors handed it over to new couple on the block Jack and Rebecca. 16. Otherwise, no sadness lives here. But why? But why? She was walking around with a lot of sadness even before marrying Toby, who is A LOT, then has a baby with special needs with a husband who is not the most supportive partner through those struggles AND THEN just as she begins to build a real relationship with her mother, learns that her mother has dementia and is quickly fading away. Alas, it is not. Jack Pearson

Is he sad? Okay, but is he the saddest? Yvette

Is she sad? But why? 30. He’s mostly a monster, but, yes? 35. Well, the love of her life died from lung cancer and she pushed all of her children away with that aforementioned tough-mom act. Frustrated that she continuously has to explain Randall to his own parents? Okay, but is it the saddest?: I can’t believe I’m saying this, but not even close. Deja

Is she sad?: Yes. And then he gets cancer. And that’s like, the least of it. But why?: He’s a divorced, single dad and acting coach who cannot seal the deal with a grieving Rebecca Pearson. So really I don’t see her sadness run ending any time soon. Parents! Okay, but is she the saddest?: I bet her husband is sadder. Kevin Pearson

Is he sad? They are definitely not the saddest, but they might be the cutest? But why? But why?: We’ve yet to see the full extent of how his childhood pans out — Future Kate’s fate is surely entwined with his overall happiness — but we do know that ABJ easily woos and marries a nice waitress, has a cute baby, and although he suffers a bit for his music, he ends up becoming a megastar. Tess Pearson

Is she sad? Okay, but is she the saddest? And, like, moving forward with her life in a healthy way? I base that observation merely on the fact that she can say the phrase, “the juxtaposition of colors, it’s so compelling,” and sound like she knows what she’s talking about. For starters, his cocaine addiction ruined his life. Carol Clarke

Is she sad? Did you see his face that time Kevin told him he wasn’t allowed to be Pilgrim Rick? 39. K’s dear wife Caroline is dead! Okay, but is she the saddest? Oh, and remember that time she was just trying to be a good friend to Kate, who was going into labor prematurely and the Pearson family basically kicked her out? We also have no idea what has happened to him in the future! Not to mention, she already had both body and mommy issues before Jack died. 11. How Pearson of her! But why? We have very little info on Jack’s mom, especially what becomes of her after Jack makes her move out of her abusive husband’s house. Sophie’s Mom

Is she sad?: Her life mantra was “never settle,” of course she’s sad. JAAAAAAAAAACK! She does not reek of sadness one bit. Okay, but is he the saddest? But why?: He’s a junior in high school and is raising his baby daughter with his parents. He is reunited with his son and meets his grandchildren before he dies, and he knows how special that is. 5. Okay, but is she the saddest?: She certainly makes me feel sad, but alas, she is not the saddest on this list. But why? No. They don’t do anything but … is that door open yet again? But before you dive back into a show that could easily be titled Everyone Is Sad because every person on this show is walking around like their dad died thanks to a malfunctioning crock pot — which for many characters is a thing that happened! On top of all of that, she does have a hint of sadness to her. You’ve come to the right place! But why? She just seems pretty together. Okay, but is she the saddest?: We haven’t met Annie in the future yet, so things could change, but for now that little kid is the most free of all of us—nothing seems to bother her! But why? But why?: All they do is go to CrossFit, text about CrossFit, and have weird screen names for themselves in their text group. Jack has also done some shitty things: Hidden his alcoholism from his wife, been dismissive of his wife, gotten insanely possessive of his wife even though that musician guy was in no way a threat (let’s be real), bought a house without asking, ran back into a fire, exchanged a really great mustache for a terrible goatee, etc. Okay, but is he the saddest?: IF ONLY. Okay, but is it the saddest? So, that’s not great. 29. Far from it! Anyway, I’m going to go listen to his song and let a single tear roll down my face and into my coffee, byeeeeee! Rebecca’s mother is overbearing, demanding, impossible, and definitely racist. Nicky spends the rest of his days alone, giving up on everyone in his life, including his one time great love Sally, and not dealing with his crippling addiction or the guilt that has consumed him. Ryan Sharp

Is it sad?: Just thinking about Ryan makes me want to shroud myself in a giant blanket, turn off all the lights in my home, and not speak to a single soul for at least three days. 13. Okay, but is she the saddest?: She is not. Oh, and he almost dies in a fire, is rescued by a very Hot Dad, who then dies, and Louie, being a constant reminder of that death, is rejected by the teenage girl who loved him most. But why?: She’s been burned pretty badly by Kevin, twice: First, when he cheated on her during their marriage and then again when they tried to make things work 12 years later, but he spiraled and blew everything up once again. AND THEN he figures out his mother has dementia, is really sick, he’s harboring lingering anger toward her for her lies about William, and oh yeah, he and his brother have a huge fight in which they both say things it will be hard to come back from. This Is Us, NBC’s weepiest drama to ever weep, returns for its two-part season five premiere tonight, which means soon you can stop crying about real things for an hour so that you can cry about fictional things. K

Is he sad? Wallow! It makes sense that she constantly walks around looking like she wants to curl up in the fetal position and call it a day. His best friend dies, and even after ten years of marriage to Rebecca, the Pearsons don’t fully accept him, and then his wife is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, deteriorates rapidly, and her children don’t seem to allow him any opinion on the matter. William makes me unbelievably sad, but he’d probably be offended by that assessment. But why? Okay, but are they the saddest?: “For you? William Hill

Is he sad? No — he’s the cutest boy in the world! Oh lord, yes. At least in the present-day timeline, he’s trying his hardest not to be. But why?: Madison started out as just an annoying friend in Kate’s weight-loss group, but we learned about her secret sadness: she had an eating disorder and body dysmorphia most of her life. 6. Mason

Is he sad?: What in the world does Madison’s doctor have to be sad about? The Actual Back of an Egg

Is it sad? No. He is not nor ever will be Jack Pearson. Kate Pearson

Is she sad? Okay, but is he the saddest? But why?: She has a certain joie de vivre about her, but that wears thin on her relationship with her daughter. But why?: Randall’s seventh grade teacher’s wife is too fabulous to be sad. But why?: Her father abused her for years, then her mother abandoned her and she lived with Beth’s family, her emotional baggage has ruined many relationships, she’s a little aimless, and she’s constantly bothered by people asking her about her skin care routine, I would assume. Does that count? Like his father, Kevin’s adept at hiding how sad he actually is, but when he can’t hide it any longer, hoooo boy. He deals with intense abandonment issues from being left at a fire station as a baby, leading to debilitating anxiety attacks because he needs to constantly be the best, be on top of everything, make everyone happy, and be worthy. It certainly doesn’t help that his last conversation with his dad was a fight in which Kevin insulted his entire existence. She’s sad, but seems to be confronting her issues pretty head-on? 45. He’s just a man who loves his wife! Okay, but is he the saddest?: Can an adult male who looks that good in a turtleneck ever truly be sad? It’s truly a miracle she isn’t sadder after standing so close to the Sadness Vortex for so long. Miguel was bullied as a kid. 51. But why?: Have you been watching this show? Wow, yes. And then at some point she had to discover that her ex-best friend and ex-husband were getting married, so that’s cool. Real cool, bro. (Looking at you, Randall!) It’s time to figure out who is the saddest on This Is Us. Hailey Damon

Is she sad?: Tentatively, yes. And then it lasted another 17 years, seemingly bringing joy and piping-hot meat concoctions (redundant, I know) to a nice family, only to completely spiral one evening, burning that family’s home and their memories to the ground in a truly gutting montage, ultimately killing the patriarch. 17. Dr. See? AND THEN his nephews and niece come knocking on his trailer door to inform him that his brother died almost 20 years ago and he’ll never get to mend that relationship. Okay, but is he the saddest? Cassidy Sharp

Is she sad?: A Non-Pearson this close to the top? Stanley Pearson

Is he sad? That’ll leave a mark. 37. Okay, but is she the saddest? 36. the Sadness Vortex. Remember when he screamed at Randall that the worst day of his life was the day their parents brought him home? And they were married for like 300 years, I think! Obviously their parents’ contentious divorce did a number on Andy and Amber, and it’s clear that Andy’s anger and disrespect toward Rebecca at the dinner table is a mask for how much he misses his dad. Months! The Vietnam war completely destroys the sensitive, kind Nicky: He’s a shell of a person even before he gets high and accidentally causes an explosion that kills a young Vietnamese boy and forces Jack to cut Nicky out of his life for good. Well, he was left in a dog shelter, so that’s sad. Toby Damon

Is he sad? and that’s no way to live. That’s because the two suffer almost the same fate, but Beth! No, but once we get a little more backstory on them, who knows? He’s at the “My marriage is falling apart so I think stealing a kid to fix it is a good idea” level of sad. We don’t have lots of details, but we can infer they had a tough go of it at one point and Darnell made some poor choices, but they survived it together. Miguel is too good for this world! — you should get reacclimated with the sadness. As much as any millennial playwright trying to get her show produced so she can show up her perfect sister. Okay, now I’m sad. No, but as a relatively new addition to the Sadness Vortex, things are only going to get sadder for him, even if his engagement proposal set to the Foo Fighters’ “Everlong” did go well. It was probably like, Please don’t keep me! We get it. Oh, and his dad dies when he’s 17, then he learns his mom has been lying to him about knowing his birth father for his entire life, AND THEN when he finds his birth father, he only gets a few months with him before he dies of stomach cancer. 34. Nobody wins on This Is Us, not even the audience. Have you met her? Although we haven’t been privy to much of Rebecca’s childhood, we do know that Mr. Annie Pearson

Is she sad? Okay, but is he the saddest?: No, but you know he’s extra-sad when he realizes that Rebecca doesn’t care one tiny bit what her father thinks of Jack and marries the guy anyway. Who could be sad after that double feature? Also, his kids are mean! Mr. 3. Okay, but is she the saddest?: Definitely not. My fingers are crossed that Jack gets her out of that house permanently and she spends the final act of her life knitting terrible onesies. Her parents sound horrible based on her Tales of Maine Thanksgivings, but I have zero sympathy for a person who meets a dying man and 15 minutes later is like “How does it feel to be dying?” What a dick! Okay, but is he the saddest? She’s growing! 47. Sloane Sandberg

Is she sad? Can Miguel ever have anything nice??? You take your pick. He certainly could be, but he sets his sadness and grief aside to constantly help Pearsons of all generations. When she and Beth have their breakthrough chat in “Our Little Island Girl,” things start to change for Carol. Oh, you mean the creepy guy who works at a remote motel in the woods on Thanksgiving and enjoys scaring children by grilling them about the Mayflower while wearing a Pilgrim hat? That moment has completely defined Kate’s life up to the time we meet her in the pilot and has totally derailed any plans she had for her life. 27. Cousin Ricky

Is he sad?: Um, have you heard him sing “We Can Always Come Back to This?” because that song is sadness. 41. Yeah, she’s sad and growing sadder by the trimester. He is not sad (that we can discern), but then he starts working for Randall Pearson, and he’s sighing on the regular. He genuinely loves his life despite some of the things he’s suffered … which in turn makes me sadder than I felt just a minute ago. (We do know she knits onesies for the Big Three, but what else?) But any time we’ve seen her, things have been dire: She’s in a toxic marriage; she’s not able to keep her sons safe from their father; and then there was the whole Nicky-in-Vietnam thing. Sad? All of this has made his attempts to get sober and not totally fuck up his life extra hard. Her life is falling apart. 26. The Crockpot

Is it sad? I felt so sad for him after that because yikes, he will not feel great about that later. 15. But why?: He’s a kindly OB-GYN and owns a bunch of horses. Leigh

Is she sad?: Before taking on Randall as a client? Okay, but are they the saddest? But why? Sure, we get hints that he doesn’t come from the greatest of home situations, but I don’t care, fuck this dude. For someone who has only been on this earth for a short time, she has suffered loss both great (Grandpa William!) and small (Mr. She has one shot to make her playwright dreams come true and they cast the Manny! Also an intense emotional moment on a front lawn? But why? But why? Okay, but is he the saddest?: When Old Ricky and William make amends before William dies, Ricky seems a little sad, but he’s definitely lived a life, you know? 23. Pardon me, I need to go cry while sitting on the shower floor because I don’t even have the strength to stand up anymore. I have seen enough! Okay, but is he the saddest? She’s very patient with Rebecca and Jack and she’s also got great style. Adult Baby Jack

Is he sad?: I know this seems crazy, but I want to say not really. It’s probably because the only two movies he watches all day long are Police Academy 3 and 9 and 1/2 Weeks. Her “I’m a tough but fair principal and a mother who wants her kids to excel” act is a good one, but deep down, she sad. Honestly, what dog isn’t at some point? Okay, but is she the saddest?: No, but she’s likely to pop up again in the future and this whole thing could really go either way. Then things look up because she meets a very nice KINDERGARTEN TEACHER and seems happy. There is some inherent sadness in that very sentence. What a cool and fun thing to look forward to! Although everyone on this show is, in fact, sad, not everyone is the same amount of sad. There are sadder people on this show, but Kevin makes me, personally, feel the saddest out of everyone. No, but honestly if anyone has the right to be, it’s the person who was named after a fan. Okay, but is she the saddest?: Not yet! Dr. The two best things in his life were the person at the beginning and the person at the end, and I’m crying again. Yeah, I’d say there’s a sadness about him. If I had to guess, I’d say, yes, a little. But then her mom dies and all she wants is to be comforted by Kevin. When he says William “was soft armrests for weary souls to lean on?” That’ll give you a “I don’t think I can hold in my emotions anymore, so I go put a dish in the sink so that no one can see my face and briefly let it out before taking a deep breath and heading back to the party” type of cry, you know? And cigarettes! But why?: Cassidy is a Marine who comes home from her latest tour suffering intense PTSD. Sometimes the Pearsons are the worst. 8. But why? I mean, that conversation he has with Kevin about being “Jack Pearson’s son?” I can only watch it if I know I have a gallon of ice cream ready in the freezer. But why? Okay, but is she the saddest?: I want to say yes because her “favorite” “drink” is Fresca mixed with Prosecco, but I’ll say no because she never let much bring her down. 1 ranking … for now. I will only cause you pain! They get along, but are prone to arguments. We should all be more like Abe! Okay, but is she the saddest? But why? Shauna

Is she sad?: Before season four, she would’ve been in the Top 10; by the end of season four, it’s a whole different story

But why?: Shauna had a hard life as a pregnant teenager with awful boyfriends and eventually had her daughter taken away for it. I have a lot of follow-up questions for Lizzie. I’ll give it everything I got” they say. (You get it.) He pees on the carpet a lot, which is usually a sign of some underlying issues. It doesn’t seem like things went smoothly with the mother of his daughter and her family, so that could come back up again. Sure, she got a free, private John Legend concert out of the whole deal, but then she had to explain what a hall pass was to her hall pass and also what does it say about the state of her relationship that she let her date with Kevin get so far? 12. Okay, but is she the saddest? Then late in life he meets his great love in William, who runs off without a word when Randall comes knocking, and when they do finally reconnect, William only has months to live. 53. What does the back get?! No, because he finds joy in unexpected places. Okay, but is she the saddest? Malik Hodges

Is he sad?: What joy this child has brought to the Pearson story! We haven’t seen Shelly in a while, but I’d guess she’s more angry than sad. Lawrence

Is he sad?: Randall’s seventh grade English teacher is sad in the way that it’s sad how much he cares what Randall thinks about him and how hard he tries to outshine Jack. I’m lumping them together because those two deserve to be stuck on a ridiculous list with one another for the rest of eternity. But why? Verdict: A tiny bit sad. Not at the moment, but the mystery surrounding her whereabouts in season three’s flash to the future have me wondering if she’ll be making a last-minute play for the top spot. His marriage is falling apart and he thinks stealing a kid to fix it is a good idea! Is Olivia Maine really sad or is she just acting? She’s also most definitely not overflowing in the friends department. Okay, but is she the saddest?: She managed to stay off the top of this list until now because she’s known great love — twice — but I’m sorry, this Alzheimer’s diagnosis just puts her over the edge. Okay, but is she the saddest?: Sure, she has to watch her husband embarrass himself during a dinner at his student’s house, but that is just temporary sadness. No — Beth’s mom is resilient and also seems open to suggestions as to how to just relax, lady. Okay, but is it the saddest? (Parents on this show are either complete disasters or magical angels — there is no in-between.) His own divorce was not kind to him. But why? Then he meets Deja and falls madly in love, but hi, hello, we know that’s complicated. She maybe laughs, like, once in the time we know her? You don’t have the time to be sad when everyone around you is ugly crying while sliding down a wall. 9. Dr. Okay, but are they the saddest? On his deathbed, William tells Randall that people may think his life is sad, but he doesn’t. This man. Just kidding, I do! This show does love its twists. Mostly, he seems to be doing just fine. Beth’s dad is diagnosed with cancer when Beth’s a teenager — anyone would be sad! Still, do not come at the queen, Andy. But why?: Malik may call his parents cheesy and he may be right, but don’t we all want cheese, ultimately? Jack has had some shitty things happen to him: His dad, all the Nicky stuff, the horrors of Vietnam in general.

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Crystal Kung Minkoff Will Be RHOBH’s First Asian-American Housewife

Photo: Stefanie Keenan/Getty Images for The Pink Ceiling

The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills will welcome its first Asian-American housewife after ten seasons — and one of just a few Asian-American housewives in the entire franchise. Kung Minkoff’s casting is Bravo’s latest effort in making its Housewives series, many of which are majority or exclusively white, better reflect their cities. And The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City, which premieres in early November, will feature the franchise’s first Muslim and first Pacific Islander housewife, Jen Shah. Together, they share two children: an 8-year-old son, Max, and a 5-year-old daughter, Zoe. Recently, Real Housewives of New York City welcomed its first Black housewife after 12 seasons, Eboni K. While Mellencamp said her contract was not renewed, Richards left after being at the center of a story line involving fellow housewife Brandi Glanville’s claims that the two had an affair. Kung Minkoff joins RHOBH after Teddi Mellencamp and Denise Richards both left the series at the end of season ten. Related

The Real Housewives Versus Reality

Tags: RHOBH season ten ended late September, so don’t expect to see Kung Minkoff on your TV screens anytime soon. Crystal Kung Minkoff is joining the series for season 11, according to People. Williams. Inkoff founded the company Real Coco, which sells products made from coconut. She has been married to director Rob Minkoff, known for directing the original Lion King, Stuart Little, and The Haunted Mansion, for 13 years.

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Hope You Cleaned! Vulture Festival Kicks Off in Your Home Today.

Then, Luca Guadagnino will teach us all about film, and I do mean film as in cinema, as in the artistic kind one discusses over wine and ambient lighting, at 7:15 p.m. ET with the cast of Northern Exposure reuniting in full for a look back on life in our favorite Alaskan town. So, buy a ticket, log on, and get ready to have your life enriched culturally and spiritually, and filled with the warmth of John Corbett’s aura. And if you can’t make day one don’t worry, you can access the events after they air on demand all week! Blige, 50 Cent, and Method Man. After that we’ll hear from the cast of Beyond the Lights about what it takes to make a beloved romantic drama. ET. ET with a little music chat between a few people who know a thing or two about it: Mary J. That would be wildly unsafe and prohibitively expensive. Blige, Method Man, and 50 Cent Make Vulture Festival Even More Powerful

Tags: Photo-Illustration: Vulture

Hopefully you spent your weekend getting the house ready for company, because today’s the day we start parading some of your favorite cultural icons right through your very home. Get your tickets now on! I’m kidding, of course. They’ll all be coming to you from, so they don’t need to know you have been sitting and working and sleeping on four weeks’ worth of laundry. It all kicks off tonight at 6 p.m. And finally, we’ll cap the night off at 9:15 p.m. Related

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Mary J.

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Clare Crawley Has Been Liking Tweets About The Bachelorette Forcing Her to Leave

“It didn’t happen like that,” she put it at the time. During her first post-filming media appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, Crawley said it’s “false” that she and her foxy contestant of choice, Dale Moss, depart early together. Things are rosy, and life goes on. However, as first brought to our attention by Entertainment Tonight, Crawley’s recent social-media activity suggests that her exit from the show is far more complex than an Irish good-bye amid a pandemic, and perhaps wasn’t even her idea at all. In a series of tweets that she “liked” on Twitter over the weekend, Crawley gave her silent approval to comments that stated producers “were trying to force her out,” and reports of her misbehavior at the show’s resort were “hard to believe considering how bad she wanted” to be a Bachelorette lead over the past few years. Production knows exactly what they were doing.” As of publishing time, Crawley still “likes” all of these tweets, and they can all be perused here. “They had Tayshia quarantined nine days after Clare started filming. This is the second indication from Crawley that her Bachelorette season unfurls in a different way than what has been heavily reported by gossip and spoiler websites. And I just don’t think it’s fair. Photo: Courtesy of ABC

The common narrative surrounding this season’s historically juicy Bachelorette is that Clare Crawley, after falling in love with a certain contestant, initiates a departure a few episodes in and gets swiftly replaced by franchise alum Tayshia Adams. Related

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Tags: They are feeding into the narrative and the rumors and making it seem like it was Clare’s decision that this ended and I feel like that’s not the case,” another “liked” tweet read. They wanted to remove Clare. “I really feel like they are giving her a bad edit. We, and Reality Steve, must be feeling pretty dumb now.

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Trump Calls Sacha Baron Cohen ‘a Creep’

Let’s talk!— Sacha Baron Cohen (@SachaBaronCohen) October 24, 2020

If Trump doesn’t agree to a collaboration, at least Baron Cohen can use his very convincing Trump costume. 20. I’m always looking for people to play racist buffoons, and you’ll need a job after Jan. Related

The Rudy Giuliani Moment Going Viral Is Good for Borat 2 … Not

Borat Defends His Very Good Friend Rudy Giuliani in Livestream Q&A Event

Tags: I admit, I don’t find you funny either. Dueling ugly suits. Let’s talk!”

Donald—I appreciate the free publicity for Borat! On Friday, October 23, a journalist on Air Force One asked Donald Trump if he had seen the new Borat movie. Photo-Illustration: Vulture, Amazon Studios and Getty Images

Borat Subsequent Moviefilm is an outlandish comedy sequel that brings back the catchphrases and chram jokes that made the character a hit in 2006 while also speaking to the current political moment with its damning footage of Mike Pence downplaying the coronavirus and QAnon conspiracists outlining their theories. One comedy critic who doesn’t appreciate Sacha Baron Cohen’s satire of conservative American politics in 2020, however, is the president. But yet the whole world laughs at you. On Saturday, October 24, Sacha Baron Cohen responded to Trump’s review with mutual feelings, tweeting: “Donald — I appreciate the free publicity for Borat! I admit, I don’t find you funny either. But years ago, you know, he tried to scam me and I was the only one who said no way.” He added, “That’s a phony guy and I don’t find him funny” and “To me, he’s a creep.” The “scam” Trump refers to is most likely a scene from Da Ali G Show in 2003, in which Baron Cohen, in character as Ali G, tries to sell him on his invention, the “ice-cream glove.”

In the clip, Trump humors Ali G for a minute before getting up and leaving the interview, in a move he would replicate years later on 60 Minutes. 20. I’m always looking for people to play racist buffoons, and you’ll need a job after Jan. But yet the whole world laughs at you. According to VOA News White House bureau chief Steve Herman, Trump reportedly answered: “I don’t know what happened.

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Want to Try Iconography? Start Here.

Start Here. (Craighead: “Johnny Depp may be canceled, but he’s so hot in that movie.” Klausner: “I knew so many lesbians who were like, ‘But … Johnny Depp.’”) Only after starting to count how many cheekbones Hairspray star Debbie Harry really has does Klausner finally grasp how far down the rabbit hole she has gone. Ever the fan, Klausner decides to make the ultimate sacrifice: “I will kill … myself and marry both of the other two! Olivia Craighead and Ayo Edebiri. A little present! Now palpably struggling to keep it together, Craighead tries valiantly to describe the article. Want to Try High and Mighty? But just as the show is wrapping up, she becomes struck with self-doubt. We’re yelling. I’m sorry. In each episode, a guest suggests a favorite cultural icon to Edebiri and Craighead, who steadily dissect everything that person has ever made, said, or done. Unlike in the studio episodes, the sound here is distant and echoey, and the room is annoyingly noisy. We have a lot of people where it’s like, ‘Timothée Chalamet, oooh, he’s got a good jaw!’ Or ‘Oh, someone else looks hot.’ Pfft. Start Here. “I do it every day!”

Edebiri then offers to buy into “one of our favorite boys,” Lucas Hedges, the rare celebrity who is actually a normal-seeming human. I’m tired! Klausner tries to explain over the din that sploshing involves actual cream pies, which is why it’s “especially popular with the British.” (Edebiri: “Oh, this rocks.”) Craighead asks Klausner and Edebiri, “If you guys had to be sploshed with any food item, what would it be?” Perhaps inevitably, a male audience member delivers the night’s first heckle: “Baked beans!” “Okay, Benny Hill,” Klausner sneers. At first, she responds with an unabashed yes, given that every “white male comedian” she knows has tried and failed to be “more fucked-up” than Waters. “We had him when we had him,” she moans. But she doesn’t hesitate to “sell” her stock in “the former king of the South,” the artist T.I., after he notoriously claimed he checks his teenage daughter’s hymen on the regular. As a result, while Iconography is never boring, it can take listeners a beat to hook into its idiosyncratic wavelength. “Actually, this is the part where you STOP LAUGHING! Then it’s Klausner who, once and for all, pushes the episode into complete anarchy: “Oh, I know what sploshing is! Should I be funnier?”

The audience titters nervously, so Edebiri rushes in to salvage things with a round of the fan-favorite game “The People’s Court.” “We’re gonna have a little seg, baby!” she announces. (Even though Craighead requests more audience feedback, it’s a nuisance in an audio-only medium and therefore a good reminder that comedy podcasts that can afford it should always transcribe their episodes.)

Nonetheless, the hosts arrive in good spirits to Ben Lapidus’s Carly Rae Jepsen–esque theme song, delivering their signature synchronized “Hello, hello!” with undaunted excitement. “Yeah!” Edebiri snaps decisively. Her biggest mistake is revealing that, in the profile, Waters is reading a book called Splosh! I’m sending my kids up to Exeter.”

In this version, Craighead “buys” personal stock in “the oldest director in Hollywood,” Martin Scorsese — not because of The Irishman, she clarifies (“I have a small bladder”), but because of his then-recent anti-Marvel New York Times screed: “I appreciate anyone who’s like, ‘I said what I fucking said.’” She decides to “hold” her stock on Henry Golding, due to his movie Last Christmas becoming “a notorious flop,” but decides to get rid of her emotional investment in Liam Payne, “former member of One Direction, current maker of bad music,” and a man she describes with audible venom as “dating a girl who is either 18 or 19.” It’s so easy “not to date a teenager,” Craighead says. “Remember when People was a real magazine?” Craighead asks. Although the hosts usually reserve this game for guest-free episodes, they start by playing a special edition of “Celebrity Stock Market,” which, as Edebiri puts it, requires listeners to “understand that celebrities aren’t people — they’re meat and money. The vibe settles just enough after 59 raucous minutes for the comics to discuss whether they’d fuck, marry, or kill Waters’s filmography, his bon vivant persona, or “his teeny-tiny little mustache.” All three instantly agree that they have no choice but to fuck the mustache. But Iconography is never funnier than when it gets fully out of control, as in the life-mirrors-art tour de force energy of its best and only live episode, “LIVE! Edebiri and Craighead are just … themselves, which makes every episode both unpredictable and a little chaotic (chaotic good, though). “Should I have chosen Kylie Minogue?” Klausner asks. “Remember when people used to read?” Edebiri cracks. “Right, because it’s like pubes, and that’s like fucking!” agrees Craighead. It’s the stock market. Edebiri is a fast-rising stand-up with a big break coming via Netflix’s Big Mouth, while Craighead is a pop-culture writer with a millennial-savvy newsletter, so theirs is a match made in comedy heaven. I feel like such a hag.”

Klausner says she presented “a really long list of just white guys” to discuss but ultimately settled on her hero, the self-proclaimed filth elder John Waters. John Waters (w/Julie Klausner).”

This episode was taped on November 9, 2019, at Brooklyn’s Union Hall, a beloved space for live comedy (RIP) but an off-kilter choice for this program. Start Here. Both are also naturally ebullient performers who, lest they be misunderstood as too sunny, enjoy taking detours into delighted (some may say borderline-toxic) savagery. On rare occasions, the volatility threatens to overwhelm an episode, forcing Edebiri to make awkwardly direct segues (“On that note …”) to keep the ship steady. He’s my icon.”

Edebiri and Craighead are fans too, and they instantly launch into a wild 15-minute riff that starts with Terry Gross’s weird obsession with Waters and ultimately passes through Michael Ian Black’s killing it on I Love the ’80s, Patty Hearst’s wealth-flaunting on Instagram, and getting horny to Cry-Baby. Is this … the sexual act?”

At that, the hosts, guest, and audience simultaneously go ballistic. Suddenly, Edebiri pivots to one of her patented overly frank transitions: “That’s too much. Our guest!” Craighead seems dumbfounded at their “incredible get,” the “queen of pop culture” herself, Julie Klausner, whom Craighead names as an inspiration for their podcast. I’m such a bad person.” Edebiri and Craighead excuse her failure to play by their rules and instead offer Klausner the final word on whether she chose her icon wisely. Is this what I’m thinking about? See All

Tags: Do you know? A little set of presents.” “And I think that’s nice,” Craighead says reassuringly. Photo: Courtesy of Forever Dog

Iconography, Ayo Edebiri and Olivia Craighead’s celebrity-obsessed podcast, uses the complicated stardom of others as the flowing well from which grade-A riffing is drawn. “Thank youuuuu,” Edebiri coos back. Want to Try Scam Goddess? “Is this boring? And they share a frankly intimidating artistic intelligence, trading innumerable recommendations and experiences with music, books, comedy, cinema, and travel in every episode. But as Craighead pulls up a mid-’90s profile of Waters trolling the customers at his favorite “horny-gross” bookstore, Baltimore’s Atomic Books, things get even looser. “Our generation doesn’t have enough actors who look like nothing!” Edebiri pleads while the audience giggles. “That mustache is a fuh-reak!” yells Klausner, inspiring a hearty round of applause. … [Hedges] gives me hope that we’re gonna have somebody that looks like Tim Blake Nelson.”

To “hold,” Edebiri selects Kristen Bell while waiting to see how well Frozen 2 does (“What’s up, money?!”). “That would have been funnier.”

More From This Series

Want to Try Couples Therapy? Yet Edebiri and Craighead’s personal cultural tastes remain intriguingly quixotic, and their dynamic is rare for comedy-podcast duos: They are neither each other’s regular antagonist, ready to disagree simply for the sake of argument, nor do they parrot each other’s opinions for the sake of maintaining a united front. Since their July 2019 premiere on the Forever Dog network, the podcast’s creators have become seasoned in the art of brutally funny analysis. We’re in suits. Over the course of revolving segments like “FMK,” in which, instead of objectifying people, one must choose which of the celebrity’s accomplishments or traits to fuck, marry, or kill, and “The People’s Court,” in which Craighead uses her illicit EBSCO access to dredge up surreal People magazine stories about them, so-called icons come under such intense scrutiny that the guests who choose them are often forced to rethink whether they truly are, in fact, icons. “Remember when people used to read People?” Klausner cracks back. But you know what isn’t too much? Craighead swiftly acknowledges that they are “trying to cram two different kinds of episodes into a live thing.” Then Edebiri pipes in: “We want to give you a little treat! No show more cannily deconstructs the problematic parts of a problematic fave than Iconography. Ever since learning about Divine’s “eating dog shit” in Pink Flamingos, Klausner explains, she has adored the filmmaker: “He is enduring, he is an original, and I always was influenced by him. Klausner returns the compliment, noting that Craighead and Edebiri are wearing matching outfits like something out of a 1950s diner: “It’s soooo cute. After 51 episodes, it’s still impossible to guess what each will think about the next week’s icon.

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Breaking Moon News: Oscar Isaac Tapped to Play Marvel’s Moon Knight

Oscar! Photo: Karwai Tang/WireImage/Getty Images

Marvel saw that NASA had a big announcement about the moon coming up and said “hold my lunar water.” Deadline reports that Oscar Isaac “is in negotiations to star as Moon Knight in the Marvel and Disney+ series based on the comic book hero.” Moon Knight will join She-Hulk, Ms. Which one is Moon Knight? We’re excited to see Isaac as some sort of Moon God Man, but it’s getting hard to keep track of all these benchwarmer Marvel characters being added to the MCU roster. Tatiana Maslany Says She Is Not Playing She-Hulk

Tags: Marvel and WandaVision in the upcoming slate of Marvel streaming series debuting on Disney+. Isaac is no stranger to Disney or to outer space, having just finished playing Poe Dameron in the most recent Star Wars trilogy. And Deadline says Umbrella Academy series creator Jeremy Slater has been tapped to lead the writing staff on Moon Knight, so it’s got the comic book adaptation angle down pat. Related

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Kid Cudi Teases Man on the Moon III, a Decade After II

THE TRILOGY CONTINUES… Cudi’s last solo album was 2016’s Passion, Pain & Demon Slayin’. Cudi had been teasing fans about a new album called Entergalactic for over a year now, and it’s unclear whether that project will still be released as well. Photo: Jason Koerner/Getty Images

Looks like Paul McCartney isn’t the only man using 2020 to follow through on a trilogy. Recently, he’s been more generous, joining Kanye West on their collaborative album Kids See Ghosts in 2018 and teasing fans about a collaborative project with Travis Scott as “the Scotts”after their debut single became Cudi’s first No.— The Chosen One (@KidCudi) October 26, 2020

The clip Cudi shared on Twitter doesn’t give many details about the project. 1. Rager in November 2010. 1 While Megan Thee Stallion Cracks Top 10

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Tags: After all that, we’re more than ready to journey back to the moon. “The trilogy continues …,” it teases. “Soon.” Featuring a certain Hollywood fan this time, we wonder? Related

Kid Cudi Gets His First Billboard No. He also released a collaboration with Eminem in July and just featured on Ty Dolla $ign’s new album Featuring Ty Dolla $ign. Cudi released his groundbreaking concept album debut, Man on the Moon: The End of Day, in September 2009, before following up with Man on the Moon II: The Legend of Mr. Kid Cudi posted a video to Twitter on October 26 teasing III, which those of us who’ve spent the past ten years waiting know refers to Man on the Moon III. It just shows a few clips of Cudi including one in which he is smoking a joint underneath a red full moon. Cudi didn’t follow through on Man on the Moon III for nearly a decade, despite releasing the album Satellite Flight: The Journey to Mother Moon, meant to set up the Man on the Moon III story line, in February 2014.

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Bidi Bidi Bom Bom Your Way to Netflix’s Selena: The Series Trailer


Netflix’s Selena TV Show Has Found Its Selena

Tags: “If you stand around and wait for what you want, you’re going to be waiting your while life,” her father, played by Desperate Housewives’s Ricardo Antonio Chavira, tearfully explains. “You have to go and get it.” The series will premiere to her adoring fans on December 4, except for the one who she punches in the trailer. The Queen of Tejano music has arrived. Tight bustiers, big hoops, and boots with the finest cowhide fringe? Selena, which has the full support of the Quintanilla estate, will focus on the Tejano icon’s slow ascent to stardom and the many sacrifices that her family made to get there. Netflix debuted the official trailer for Selena: The Series, which will find The Walking Dead’s Christian Serratos honoring Selena Quintanilla with a coming-of-age story about her life before her tragic murder in 1995.

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U2’s Songs of Innocence Has Been Haunting Me for 6 Years. Until Now.

I don’t think you’ll be stuck with it in ten years. So, every few months, my wife and I take a rental car upstate to find some open, no-one-around-for-miles kinda air. Here’s an edited transcript of the unthinkable conversation that ensued:

Me: [Politely laying out the situation, explaining that I have this album that keeps autoplaying in my car. I wouldn’t know. There was media blowback; Wired described the release as “spam with forced downloads.” Even Bono offered a mea culpa by way of a lactose-inspired analogy for the album’s backfired rollout, speaking to NPR the following month: “We wanted to deliver a pint of milk to people’s porches. We’d hike for hours, returning to our rental car in the late afternoon, looking forward to a relaxing drive back home. It’s possible that the whole album might be a triumph on the level of Abbey Road — Rolling Stone sure thought so — or DAMN. Let me put you in touch with my manager.They forward me on to their supervisor.Apple supervisor: Sorry, but we can’t actually remove that album. After suffering with it for a few years, I found out that you could “hide” albums from iTunes, ensuring that they’re never automatically played. 2: That’s funny! Trips outside of the city had to be carefully choreographed for safety and sanity. Apple’s annual iPhone events had become major cultural gathering points, and to spice this one up, Apple CEO Tim Cook invited U2 to perform a song from their not-yet-released 13th album, Songs of Innocence, on stage. It was in that moment of exasperation that I discovered Apple’s removal tool was no longer functioning. Will the iPhone 22, with its lavender-scented aromavision, revolutionize the ocular cybermod marketplace? Related

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Tags: It appears, unsolicited, to spoil the beauty of the winding roads surrounding Minnewaska State Park. [Laughs.] I’m like, Is this the most annoying thing or what? Forever. You know, like [singing] bingo bingo bingo bah bingo. And due to some quirk in iTunes, it was unkillable. It was a gift.Me: [I’m sorry?] I’m sorry?Apple supervisor: It was a gift. 2: [Laughing at my enthusiasm.] Thank you, Russell, you’re the best. Have a great weekend, okay? What will the world be like in 2030? On a quiet, early morning drive to the farmers’ market, it returns. 2: Oh, I see! [30 seconds later.] Huh, so it’s not actually allowing me to remove it.Me: [Dear God, this will never end.] Oh, huh, that’s weird. But one album remained: Songs of Innocence. And while there were likely U2 fans thrilled to receive a free album from their favorite band, most other iTunes users on the planet were instantly either confused, annoyed, or worried to see an album they didn’t purchase automatically downloading onto their computer or smartphone. Would you like us to do that?Me: [!!!] Oh! Apple tech support person: Which album?Me: Uh … it’s called Songs of Innocence by U2?Apple tech support: Oh … okay, just one minute. A lot of people call in about it, they have a problem with it. Unlike the other albums, there was no way to hide this, and it never appeared in my purchased albums. I was free. I know how tough working tech support can be; I really strive to be as polite as possible in these scenarios. And as much as I love Huey Lewis, “The Heart of Rock & Roll” has its limits. Something I never asked for. It’s a gift that comes with every phone, so you can’t delete it. It saved me from the shame of hearing the first track of the Charlie Brown Christmas album for the 700th time. Any idea why?Apple tech support: I’m not really sure. I just want to remove it from my account so it doesn’t keep syncing with my iPhone.Apple tech support No. I decided I would do everything in my power to remove this album from my life. It got so bad that, at one point, Apple released a (now-defunct) tool so people could manually remove the album from their accounts without having to contact Apple directly. I would come to regret that. Whenever I got into a car and connected my phone, it would automatically play something I had purchased on iTunes: a list of options so small — just nine albums total — it meant I was incessantly hearing the same tracks over and over again. It’s more that it’s sorta forced upon me.Apple supervisor: Yeah, I know what you mean. For those whose memories were spared: On September 9, 2014, Apple hosted an event to debut the iPhone 6, set to launch later that month. For years — I’ve been working here for five years — at the beginning, you used to be able to request to remove it.Me: [I’m doomed.]Apple tech support No. GODDAMN IT!”[Final seven seconds.] Me scrambling for my phone to shut it off. I thanked them for taking the time to help me out before asking how I might remove an album from my iTunes account. Okay! That works great! 2: But now we have the option to just remove it for you. I used to sing that song, “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.” So every time I got in the car, that annoying karaoke version would come on. Is it that U2’s Songs of Innocence album?Me: [Uh-oh.] Yeah, that one.Apple tech support 2: Oh! I think they’ll fix it.Me: [Dejected.] Alright, thanks for your time. It was U2’s Songs of Innocence, back again to terrorize us. I turned to Twitter for help:

Didn’t realize there was a (now deleted) tool to remove this album from my iTunes account and now I’m stuck with it forever. It was like a gifted album.Me: [Traumatic flashbacks.] Yeah, I remember.Apple tech support 2: So we get a lot of calls about it because people thought they were charged for it. Hell yeah, I will. But at least, I thought, I know what I’ll be listening to. It’s hard to say. Every time I get into the car, it’s there. 2: [Reading from her screen.] Yeah, it says “U2’s Songs of Innocence removal queued.” So it should be gone.Me: [Internally screaming.] Awesome!!! [But some] people were like, ‘Hey, I’m dairy-free.’ So, you know, apologies for that.” Meanwhile, Apple’s support lines were flooded with calls from people demanding that the album be removed from their accounts (Apple never officially disclosed how many calls, but more on that later). My wife and I would park our car and go on long hikes through the beautiful Mohonk Preserve, taking in the natural splendor and quiet. Well, thank you so much for your help!!!Apple tech support No. It is legion. I remember the negative reaction at the time but didn’t pay it much attention; I’d already turned off automatic downloads on my various devices to keep my meager hard-drive space free, so Songs of Innocence never found its way onto my phone or computer. After the performance, U2 front man Bono stood in front of a screen depicting the new album’s cover art and, fully rehearsed, turned to Tim Cook, knowingly asking, “How do we get this to as many people as possible?”

Tim Cook, speaking as if he just came up with the idea on the spot, himself, said, “Well, you know, we do have iTunes.” The crowd laughed, apparently digging the cheesy vaudevillian bit. The pandemic was the breaking point for me. The air that doesn’t smell like your own breath being forced back up your nose under a mask on a hasty trip to CVS. Will it be a post-pandemic utopia? Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Living in New York City during a pandemic has made finding safe, people-free outdoor space an even tougher mission than usual. Same thing here, it just comes with the phone.Me: Okay, but what would happen if a kid purchased an inappropriate album on their parents’ account that kept showing up. Bono then responds to Tim Cook, really leaning into the bit: “You would consider putting Songs of Innocence out to over half a billion people, free, in, say, five seconds from now?”


Cook then explained that every one of the then-500 million existing iTunes users would instantly get the album added to their accounts, no action required on their behalf … and definitely no consent. Suddenly, the calm afterglow of an exhausting hike would be dashed by percussion and chanting. 2: Oh … well it’s giving me options on how to do it on the computer, but …Me: [Wait, what? When I heard about the removal tool I cockily thought, Why bother? She can actually remove it?] Oh! It is …

… U2’s 2014 album Songs of Innocence. But on each of these trips, something has followed me no matter where I go. Somewhere in Apple’s database it said that I owned the album, but so long as I never saw or heard it, it may as well have never existed for me. Every minute was scheduled to offer the precise respite I was looking for. Those ten seconds play out the same way every time:

[First two seconds.] “Wait, what’s that noise?”[Third second.] “OH! It is the Highlander of albums. I’ve listened to the first ten seconds of that first track hundreds of times. She’d pull open Google Maps as I started the car and rolled down the windows.— Russ Frushtick (@RussFrushtick) September 9, 2020

Someone suggested I contact Apple support directly, so I steeled myself and called them up. Obviously if it’s not an album you bought and it’s the first thing that pops up on your phone, I get it.So I went ahead and removed it from your account.Me: Oh terrific, so it just won’t show up anymore?Apple tech support No. I think they’ll fix it eventually. 2: But I never really looked into it, so I see where you’re coming from.Me: Yeah, so is there anything that can be done to remove it?Apple tech support No. It was a gift from Tim Cook and Bono. So it became a thing. You know how you can’t delete the Messages app? The albums were constantly syncing to my newer devices because of some iCloud setting somewhere; even deleting them didn’t do the trick, as they’d continue to play over the cloud. [Hope is brimming.] So … under “Library” it says Songs of Innocence and it’s got, like, a cloud arrow pointing down. Even if I delete it, it rises like a phoenix on every new iOS device. Would you be able to remove that?Apple supervisor: Oh, yes, we can remove that no problem.Me: But not this?Apple supervisor: No.Me: I’m concerned ten years is going to go by and I’m still going to be stuck with this album playing in my car.Apple supervisor: That’s funny, I actually really like the album!Me: [Patiently.] Yeah, I’m sure the album is great. In September 2020, upon returning from the latest trip, I hit rock bottom. I’ll never see this thing anyway. Yeah! I used to have CarPlay in my car and I used to sing a lot of karaoke. That’d be terrific!Apple tech support 2: Sorry, I should have asked what song it was, but yeah we have the option on our end. Because I hadn’t purchased it. Me: [Unironically loving this moment.] Yeah, totally!Apple tech support No. I leave out the album name in the hopes that maybe she won’t dismiss me offhand.]Apple tech support No. A few days after writing everything you just read, I decided to give one more call to Apple support, hoping to better understand what exactly was preventing them from removing the album in the first place. Around 2016 or 2017, a couple years after Apple launched its CarPlay service, allowing your vehicle to sync with iOS, I started noticing something odd.

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So That’s What Harry Styles Was Up to in Italy

1 single in August. “Golden” follows the instantly iconic video for “Watermelon Sugar,” which soundtracked our pandemic summers and became Styles’s first No. Fittingly, “Golden” is already certified gold in the U.S., and now this video seems to be what’s going to get us through the cold of winter. Now you, too, can fantasize about frolicking around the Amalfi Coast with Harry Styles by watching his new video for “Golden.” Much of the video for the Fine Line single finds Styles running toward the camera in a barely on white shirt (and now sans mustache), and really, why would we want anything else? Tags: While the rest of us were stuck at home, Harry Styles spent part of the summer living it up in Italy, even growing a mustache for the occasion. In case he hadn’t already made you jealous enough of his getaway, you’ll also get to watch Styles swimming, driving a convertible, and dancing along the coast. Related

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Netflix’s Over the Moon Is Visually Exquisite and (Sometimes) Quite Moving

The story turns out to be not just about those left behind finding a way to move on, but also about those who have departed learning to move on as well. In this lunar setting, light is not reflected but emanates from within, giving almost everyone an unreal, globular glow. But on the Moon, Fei Fei, along with her trusted rabbit sidekick and her adorably annoying stowaway future step-brother Chin (voiced by Robert G. Fei Fei’s world back on Earth is warm and life-sized, filled with activity and chitchat and food (her family owns a moon cake shop), the kind of place from which animated adventures often start. In a bit of telling character dissonance, Fei Fei is a science wiz who also happens to believe fervently in Chang’e, the Chinese moon goddess whose thwarted love for the archer Houyi was one of her mom’s favorite stories. That makes no rational sense, but it makes grief sense; a late scene set in a Lunarian dimension called the Chamber of Exquisite Sadness is, indeed, exquisitely moving (and visually exquisite). Chang’e is alternately decked out in futuristic party skirts and a flowing robe that feels redder and realer than anything I’ve ever seen. Chiu), finds herself in the kingdom of Lunaria, a dream-like land presided over by Chang’e herself (voiced by Philippa Soo), who is not quite the romantic, elegant being of Fei Fei’s dreams but a vain, domineering, colorful rave diva. Whenever these ideas crystallize, Over the Moon becomes overwhelming. The story follows a 12-year-old girl named Fei Fei (voiced by Cathy Ang), who has lost her beloved mother to a terminal illness, as she struggles to reconcile her continuing sorrow with the fact that her father (voiced by John Cho) is considering remarrying. It finds beauty as it whipsaws between wildly different tones and visual styles, working the contrast between the earthly and the celestial, between debilitating grief and gonzo fantasy. But all that might be beside the point. Up until this point, director Glen Keane (the legendary Disney animator responsible for Ariel, Beast, and Aladdin, making his directorial debut here) keeps things mostly grounded. The inspiration here is clearly The Wizard of Oz, but Fei Fei and Chin’s adventures on Lunaria don’t quite have the narrative suspense or clarity of Dorothy’s journey through Oz, and their companions aren’t nearly as distinctive or moving. (“I’m the light every night in your world, eh/You revel to the glory of my beauty/You ready to watch me be legendary?/ Cause I’m ultra-lumi-na-ryyyy,” she sings, in one of the film’s most dazzling musical numbers.) And what started off like a mournful but fairly standard fairy-tale becomes, at least for a while, a candy-colored, throbbing extravaganza. Suddenly, a mysterious beam from the sky catches it, and the rocket is carried to the lunar surface by giant, glowing orbital Chinese imperial guardian lions. The script was written by the late Audrey Wells (The Hate U Give, Under the Tuscan Sun), who passed away in 2018 after a long battle with cancer, which gives the film’s theme of grief and how it powers our hope for a world beyond our own an added depth. (“I would fly beyond the stars to keep my family/If I did, I’d show my father love lasts all eternity,” she sings.) The girl’s homemade ship, cast in a massive paper lantern shell, catapulted by magnets, and powered by what appears to be a thousand firecrackers, shoots into the sky — then begins to fall back to Earth. More Movie Reviews

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Tags: Over the Moon. What comes through, instead, is the girl’s inconsolable longing. It’s a fairy-tale about loss that becomes a boisterous techno-sci-fi extravaganza, and it takes place on two worlds that, at least at first glance, couldn’t be more different. The film connects Fei Fei’s need to believe in Chang’e with her conviction that her mother is still somehow present, and the goddess’s eternal love for Hou Yi with the sense of betrayal Fei Fei feels about her father’s attempts to move on. Photo: Courtesy of Netflix

The latest volley in Netflix’s ongoing efforts to become an animation powerhouse, Over the Moon might be one of the most gorgeous animated films ever made — but it’s gorgeous in strange ways. It’s like you’ve fallen into the world’s biggest, most beautiful lava lamp. Struggling with the fact that the world expects her to move on from both her anguish and her childhood belief in a magic moon queen, Fei Fei gets the bright idea of building a rocket to the Moon, to go meet Chang’e and prove that she exists. The cluttered story and the shifts in form might lose you from time to time, but the film conjures some genuinely powerful emotions. Visually, Lunaria is a marvel — a kaleidoscopic kingdom of surreal floating objects, tiny comet sentries, trippy giant frogs, and Angry Birds riding things that look like the light cycles from TRON: Legacy. This movie is a lot. (The costume design, by Guo Pei, and the production design by Celine Desrumaux are, in a word, stunning.) The catchy, eclectic soundtrack (with songs by Christopher Curtis, Marjorie Duffield, and Helen Park) varies from big melodic ballads to hip hop to techno to orchestral swells.

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