Shared posts

17 Nov 14:43

Nutritious Additions to Our Elementary School Lunch Menu That Are Definitely Not Just More Pizza

by Nick Morgan and Tom Ellison

Topless Calzone is the name of my Frank Sinatra cover band

Cheesy Flatbread Bolognese

Parmesan Toast Rippers

Italian Tostada

Mozzarella Sauce Cruster

Open-Faced Pepperoni Sandwich

Four Cheese Marinara Burrito, Unrolled

Topless Calzone

Mexican Pizza (Italian-Style)

Deep Dish Pinwheel o’ Cheddar

Wet ’n’ Starchy Caprese Salad

Detroit Style Discus Margheritus

The Papa John Special

Dehydrated Cheesy Gazpacho

Reconstructed Pizza Casserole

Busted Panini

Cheesy Beanless Chili on Bread Plate

Reppeponi Zippa

Donatello’s Surprise

Eese-Chay Izza-Pay

11 Jun 17:36

What Celebrity Sightings Have You Had?

by Joanna Goddard

Two come to mind: Cillian Murphy at a tiny sushi restaurant here in Buffalo (he was filming a movie in town) and Scott Cohen (Max on Gilmore Girls) at a wedding welcome event where we carved pumpkins together.

Oh I also had perfect blink-and-you-miss-em P-town celeb sightings - John Waters and Steven Tyler, both getting in/out of cars on Commercial Street.

tina fey Oprah

On this Wednesday afternoon, let’s talk about something fun: celeb sightings! When have you spotted famous people out in the world? Apparently, this week, Timothée Chalamet and Martin Scorsese rode the subway together, and people lost their collective minds.… Read more

The post What Celebrity Sightings Have You Had? appeared first on Cup of Jo.

24 May 19:36

Think we’ll get L to the OG performed in a minor key next week?


lol a bit late but... FINALE COMING SOOOOON


Think we’ll get L to the OG performed in a minor key next week?

05 May 17:02

Welcome to The Stopgap

by The Stopgap


Meet your editors.

Welcome to The Stopgap

Jo Livingstone: Hi! You’re here. I’m so happy to see you.

Danny Lavery: I’m so happy to be here with you! I should mention that I’m eating a really tremendous sandwich with the leftover bread from my earlier experiment with housemaid’s coffee. This is what’s known in the industry as a callback.

JL: Extraordinary timing, because I’m eating a bodega BLT. Good for us. Now, if we were on television, this would be the moment where we cease talking to each other from club chairs on the stage and turn to the cameras to say, oh, hello, thank you for joining us.

DL: I should begin with a correction—since this is running before the housemaid’s coffee piece, it can’t be a callback at all, only foreshadowing. At any rate, I’m enjoying my usual 5.15 PM dinner, which is the best time for dinner. Spirits and the sun are still running high, so you capture something of the remaining momentum of the day, and it also frees up the rest of your night to do whatever you like instead of cleaning up after dinner. Everybody ought to eat dinner at 5.15 PM. This is the sort of cheerful, earthy wisdom readers can expect from The Stopgap, and at no additional cost to them, the consumers.

JL: I eat dinner at 7.30 PM. But I agree with you that no consumer will be put out by reading The Stopgap. It’s a blog! It’s free, a person navigates to its URL to read, that’s the long and short of it. But if by any chance somebody comes to this site who has never seen a blog before, but has read this far, they know what it is now. We can just type anything and nobody can do a thing about it.

DL: You’ve always been a cultured, cosmopolitan person in that respect. I should say that while I personally believe it is the moral duty of every citizen to eat dinner at 5.15 PM, I have no quarrel with your type. In many ways I believe you are my superior. It is the 8 PM-or-later crowd that is the real blight. I do not know if they can be corrected or if we should simply drain them for nutrients, liquids, protective eyewear, et cetera. I am open to discussion on that front; I am not a closed-minded man. Is it closed-minded? Or close-minded? I don’t know anything about sentences, I should say. I never learned what an adverb is, or diagrammed a sentence, or anything like that. Which is why I have a tendency to glom onto sophisticates like yourself, to balance out the gaps in my education, and why I’m very excited to be working on a website with you after a six- or seven-year hiatus. Seven years, almost, I think, since my last website!

JL: It’s not my fault I’m European. Here’s a Google ngram demonstrating how it changed to mostly “closed” from “close."

Welcome to The Stopgap

Danny, the thing is, I’ve got sentence diagrams crushed but I’ve never tried to make anything with popular appeal before. It’s a lot easier to be a critic than a guy who is smart and stylish and everyone loves, because if you’re a critic and people hate you it means you’re doing the job properly. This stuff? I don’t know. Frankly, you’re a living content legend and one of our era’s best writers despite having not even interned for ten years at a dust-encrusted literary magazine run by baby Mussolini which is how I thought you had to do it. I’m a bit nervous.

DL: “Love him or hate him, you’ve got to admit, that boy can blog”! Perhaps somewhere between professional criticism and trying to be the guy everyone loves there is a field where we might flourish together. Shall we talk a little bit about what we’d like to write about, what readers might expect from the Stopgap in the coming months, and what we’re hoping to do? You go first.

JL: I don’t think you’re trying to be the guy everybody loves, you just are. And of course there’s a middle ground—we’re standing on it right now.

Here’s what I want from this blog: Amateurism and enjoyment. Nothing good comes of professionalization in writing in its current form, I think, except sometimes better editors. And only sometimes!

I hope that older internet citizens will recognize this format from their sprightlier years, and want to try it out again, and that younger readers who missed Blog 1.0 can get a taste of what it felt to put anything you pleased onto the internet with no apology and no appeals to the uninterested.

Readers will soon be able to sign up for an account that lets them leave comments, but that's it for bells and whistles. Readers will also be able to tip guest writers directly, but we’re not paying ourselves or anybody else. My hope is that this setup will let the blog morph and rumble and spit out surprises, and somewhere in there we’re going to meet a real new writer. We have at least one iconic musician signed up to write—I love crossovers. You can’t stop me posting my little drawings. Maybe I'll blog my whittling tips. There’s no downside. What could be better?

DL: I’m not sure what my opinion is about professionalization in writing, but I do value amateurism (as distinct from amateurishness) and enjoyment immensely, and share your sense that they’re worth championing. We’ve talked about this in a few interviews, so I don’t want to belabor the point, but after seeing so many websites disappear/fold/lay staff off over the last few years, I’ve found the internet a more dispiriting, less interesting place than it had been. And for all its problems, I’ve liked the internet very much, and built almost all of my career here.

I didn’t even know that you could draw! I can’t wait to see them. And I’m glad you brought up that part about our not making any money from this, because in a recent interview someone asked us why we weren’t paying writers, and I was briefly horrified that anyone else might, if only for a second, think we were paying ourselves and not anybody else. I don’t know how to make money from a website! It’s a relief to simply throw up my hands and not even bother trying, instead blogging for the sheer love of the game.

I don’t think we’ve ever decided on a formal, final number of posts we’re running in a particular week. What sounds good to you? Twice a day? Thrice?

JL: What if we had a baseline of one proper piece a day, then if we miss one or have a bunch more it’s just a fun surprise?

DL: I love it. In which case we’ve already gone over for the next few days. What a wonderful surprise! I do love clearing a bar. We can save our biographical rundowns for when we attempt to interview one another a little later on. Do you have any final thoughts or words of welcome for anyone joining us today?

JL: I guess I want to say thank you to our computer friends Joe Bernardi and Daniel Shannon, who helped us to see that enough stuff has changed in this sector that we can get a lot done for free that used to be very overpriced. And thank you to you—as you know I’ve been unemployed for a while and this is the kind of, gosh, you might call it a stopgap, that gets a person through.

To our readers: Viva blogs, death to shitty media corporations. We all deserve better.

Danny, any parting sentiments?

DL: I do like that we started a site with ourselves. A Daniel and Jo(e) in every pot!

JL: Doppels get an unfairly bad rap.

DL: Merely unseelie! Not necessarily portentous. I hope people will email us with any little scraps or detritus that interests them, or that they’d like us to talk about; I hope our business plan of “make it 2009 again through science or magic” works out in the long run, and I hope to have another sandwich as good as this one again soon.

31 Oct 16:26

A Big, Juicy Round Up of Fall Recommendations

by Joanna Goddard

Who watched Bad Sisters???

If you haven't, run, don't walk to binge the whole damn thing. SO GOOD.

This season, my two goals are: a) enjoy the unbearable cuteness of toddlers on Halloween and b) consume the top-shelf movies, books, clothes, etc. that always come out in the fall.… Read more

The post A Big, Juicy Round Up of Fall Recommendations appeared first on Cup of Jo.

24 Oct 18:22

‘House of the Dragon’ Episode 8 Discussion and Thoughts

by Dave Gonzales

I only sporadically listen to the Ringer because I love Joanna Robinson, but just wanted to check in as we're deep in the season - are we loving HoD? Tolerating it? Already hatewatching for the wigs?

I think it's been really strong so far and loved the latest two eps especially.

HBO/Ringer illustration

Dave, Joanna, and Neil answer some listener questions before talking about this week’s poll: Which character would you least want to make your enemy?

This week, Dave, Neil, and Joanna discuss House of the Dragon Episode 8, “The Lord of the Tides.” They start by talking through their overall thoughts on the episode (1:36). Then, they answer some listener questions (12:19) before talking about this week’s poll: Which character would you least want to make your enemy (42:52)? Later they head into The Storm, where they discuss—in book-spoiling detail—what’s to come in the final two episodes of the season and how future seasons could play out (58:15).

Be sure to vote in this week’s poll! Which character would you least want to make your enemy? You can vote for the winner at, on The Ringer’s Twitter feed, and in the Spotify app, where you’ll find Trial by Content. The winner will be announced next week! Also, send your House of the Dragon questions to

Hosts: Dave Gonzales, Joanna Robinson, and Neil Miller
Associate Producer: Carlos Chiriboga
Additional Production Supervision: Arjuna Ramgopal

Subscribe: Spotify

10 Oct 15:56

"Don't spy on a privacy lab" (and other career advice for university provosts)


H/T Cary - this is a great story



This is a wild and hopeful story: grad students at Northeastern successfully pushed back against invasive digital surveillance in their workplace, through solidarity, fearlessness, and the bright light of publicity. It’s a tale of hand-to-hand, victorious combat with the “shitty technology adoption curve.”

What’s the “shitty tech adoption curve?” It’s the process by which oppressive technologies are normalized and spread. If you want to do something awful with tech — say, spy on people with a camera 24/7 — you need to start with the people who have the least social capital, the people whose objections are easily silenced or overridden.

That’s why all our worst technologies are first imposed on refugees -> prisoners -> kids -> mental patients -> poor people, etc. Then, these technologies climb the privilege gradient: blue collar workers -> white collar workers -> everyone. Following this pathway lets shitty tech peddlers knock the rough edges off their wares, inuring us all to their shock and offense.

20 years ago, if you ate dinner under the unblinking eye of a CCTV, it was because you were housed in a supermax prison. Today, it’s because you were unwise enough to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars for “home automation” from Google, Apple, Amazon or another “luxury surveillance” vendor.

Northeastern’s Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Complex (ISEC) is home to the “Cybersecurity and Privacy Institute,” where grad students study the harms of surveillance and the means by which they may be reversed. If there’s one group of people who are prepared to stand athwart the shitty tech adoption curve, it is the CPI grad students.

Which makes it genuinely baffling that Northeastern Senior Vice Provost for Research David Luzzi decided to install under-desk heat sensors throughout ISEC, overnight, without notice or consultation. Luzzi signed the paperwork that brought the privacy institute into being.

Students throughout ISEC were alarmed by this move, but especially students on the sixth floor, home to the Privacy Institute. When they demanded an explanation, they were told that the university was conducting a study on “desk usage.” This rang hollow: students at the Privacy Institute have assigned desks, and they badge into each room when they enter it.

As Privacy Institute PhD candidate Max von Hippel wrote, “Reader, we have assigned desks, and we use a key-card to get into the room, so, they already know how and when we use our desks.”

So why was the university suddenly so interested in gathering fine-grained data on desk usage? I asked von Hippel and he told me: “They are proposing that grad students share desks, taking turns with a scheduling web-app, so administrators can take over some of the space currently used by grad students. Because as you know, research always works best when you have to schedule your thinking time.”

That’s von Hippel’s theory, and I’m going to go with it, because Luzzi didn’t offer a better one in the flurry of memos and “listening sessions” that took place after the ISEC students arrived at work one morning to discover sensors under their desks.

This is documented in often hilarious detail in von Hippel’s thread on the scandal, in which the university administrators commit a series of unforced errors and the grad students run circles around them, in a comedy of errors straight out of “Animal House.”

After the sensors were discovered, the students wrote to the administrators demanding their removal, on the grounds that there was no scientific purpose for them, that they intimidated students, that they were unnecessary, and that the university had failed to follow its own rules and ask the Institutional Review Board (IRB) to review the move as a human-subjects experiment.

The letter was delivered to Luzzi, who offered “an impromptu listening session” in which he alienated students by saying that if they trusted the university to “give” them a degree, they should trust it to surveil them. The students bristled at this characterization, noting that students deliver research (and grant money) to “make it tick.”


[Image ID: Sensors arrayed around a kitchen table at ISEC]

The students, believing Luzzi was not taking them seriously, unilaterally removed all the sensors, and stuck them to their kitchen table, annotating and decorating them with Sharpie. This prompted a second, scheduled “listening session” with Luzzi, but this session, while open to all students, was only announced to their professors (“Beware of the leopard”).

The students got wind of this, printed up fliers and made sure everyone knew about it. The meeting was packed. Luzzi explained to students that he didn’t need IRB approval for his sensors because they weren’t “monitoring people.” A student countered, what was being monitored, “if not people?” Luzzi replied that he was monitoring “heat sources.”

Remember, these are grad students. They asked the obvious question: which heat sources are under desks, if not humans (von Hippel: “rats or kangaroos?”). Luzzi fumbled for a while (“a service animal or something”) before admitting, “I guess, yeah, it’s a human.”

Having yielded the point, Luzzi pivoted, insisting that there was no privacy interest in the data, because “no individual data goes back to the server.” But these aren’t just grad students — they’re grad students who specialize in digital privacy. Few people on earth are better equipped to understand re-identification and de-aggregation attacks.


[Image ID: A window with a phrase written in marker, ‘We are not doing science here’ -Luzzi.]

A student told Luzzi, “This doesn’t matter. You are monitoring us, and collecting data for science.” Luzzi shot back, “we are not doing science here.” This ill-considered remark turned into an on-campus meme. I’m sure it was just blurted in the heat of the moment, but wow, was that the wrong thing to tell a bunch of angry scientists.

From the transcript, it’s clear that this is where Luzzi lost the crowd. He accused the students of “feeling emotion” and explaining that the data would be used for “different kinds of research. We want to see how students move around the lab.”

Now, as it happens, ISEC has an IoT lab where they take these kinds of measurements. When they do those experiments, students are required to go through IRB, get informed consent, all the stuff that Luzzi had bypassed. When this is pointed out, Luzzi says that they had been given an IRB waiver by the university’s Human Research Protection Program (HRPP).

Now a prof gets in on the action, asking, pointedly: “Is the only reason it doesn’t fall under IRB is that the data will not be published?” A student followed up by asking how the university could justify blowing $50,000 on surveillance gear when that money would have paid for a whole grad student stipend with money left over.

Luzzi’s answers veer into the surreal here. He points out that if he had to hire someone to monitor the students’ use of their desks, it would cost more than $50k, implying that the bill for the sensors represents a cost-savings. A student replies with the obvious rejoinder — just don’t monitor desk usage, then.

Finally, Luzzi started to hint at the underlying rationale for the sensors, discussing the cost of the facility to the university and dangling the possibility of improving utilization of “research assets.” A student replies, “If you want to understand how research is done, don’t piss off everyone in this building.”

Now that they have at least a vague explanation for what research question Luzzi is trying to answer, the students tear into his study design, explaining why he won’t learn what he’s hoping to learn. It’s really quite a good experimental design critique — these are good students! Within a few volleys, they’re pointing out how these sensors could be used to stalk researchers and put them in physical danger.

Luzzi turns the session over to an outside expert via a buggy Zoom connection that didn’t work. Finally, a student asks whether it’s possible that this meeting could lead to them having a desk without a sensor under it. Luzzi points out that their desk currently doesn’t have a sensor (remember, the students ripped them out). The student says, “I assume you’ll put one back.”


[Image ID: A ‘public art piece’ in the ISEC lobby — a table covered in sensors spelling out ‘NO!,’ surrounded by Sharpie annotations decrying the program.]

They run out of time and the meeting breaks up. Following this, the students arrange the sensors into a “public art piece” in the lobby — a table covered in sensors spelling out “NO!,” surrounded by Sharpie annotations decrying the program.

Meanwhile, students are still furious. It’s not just that the sensors are invasive, nor that they are scientifically incoherent, nor that they cost more than a year’s salary — they also emit lots of RF noise that interferes with the students’ own research. The discussion spills onto Reddit:

Yesterday, Luzzi capitulated, circulating a memo saying they would pull “all the desk occupancy sensors from the building,” due to “concerns voiced by a population of graduate students.”

The shitty technology adoption curve is relentless, but you can’t skip a step! Jumping straight to grad students (in a privacy lab) without first normalizing them by sticking them on the desks of poor kids in underfunded schools (perhaps after first laying off a computer science teacher to free up the budget!) was a huge tactical error.

A more tactically sound version of this is currently unfolding at CMU Computer Science, where grad students have found their offices bugged with sensors that detect movement and collect sound:

The CMU administration has wisely blamed the presence of these devices on the need to discipline low-waged cleaning staff by checking whether they’re really vacuuming the offices.

While it’s easier to put cleaners under digital surveillance than computer scientists, trying to do both at once is definitely a boss-level challenge. You might run into a scholar like David Gray Widder, who, observing that “this seems like algorithmic management of lowly paid employees to me,” unplugged the sensor in his office.

This is the kind of full-stack Luddism this present moment needs. These researchers aren’t opposed to sensors — they’re challenging the social relations of sensors, who gets sensed and who does the sensing.

[Image ID: A flier inviting ISEC grad students to attend an unadvertised ‘listening session’ with vice-provost David Luzzi. It is surmounted with a sensor that has been removed from beneath a desk and annotated in Sharpie to read: ‘If found by David Luzzi suck it.’]

22 Aug 15:45

You Can’t Wait

by swissmiss

“You can’t wait until life’s not hard anymore before you decide to be happy.”

21 Jul 15:06

AI versus corporate logos

by Janelle Shane

Tel Beclo Baco

AI versus corporate logos

I recently started playing with DALL-E 2, which will attempt to generate an image to go with whatever text prompt you give it. Like its predecessor DALL-E, it uses CLIP, which OpenAI trained on a huge collection of internet images and nearby text. I've experimented with a few methods based on CLIP, but DALL-E generates particularly clear, coherent images.

So of course I decided to use it to mess up corporate logos.

AI versus corporate logos
"The local Waffle House" - generated by DALL-E2

Literally all I had to do was ask DALL-E to generate "The local Waffle House". (as opposed to the local haunted waffle house, which is also a thing I've used AI to generate) Or, below, "The Pizza Hut logo".

AI versus corporate logos
The Pizza Hut logo - generated by DALL-E2

Or the Jeep logo.

AI versus corporate logos
The Jeep logo - generated by DALL-E2

It gets some of these correct enough that it MUST have gotten them from information online. Like, it knew that the NASA logo involves an orb with a partial ring. But it has transformed that into a full-on Saturn which, admittedly, is pretty cool-looking.

AI versus corporate logos
The NASA logo - generated by DALL-E2

Or in the case of Applebees it seems to have decided that the logo would be better if it contained actual bees.

AI versus corporate logos
The Applebees logo - generated by DALL-E2

It seems to have picked up on the general shape of the Snickers logo. But apparently decided sometimes to add sneakers as well.

AI versus corporate logos
The Snickers logo - generated by DALL-E2

And it's clear that the Burger King logo definitely needs a crown on the burger.

AI versus corporate logos
The Burger King logo - generated by DALL-E2

I'd be lying if I said the spelling wasn't hilarious. The spelling is pretty hilarious.

AI versus corporate logos
Logo for Dr. Pepper - generated by DALL-E2
AI versus corporate logos
A sign for Taco Bell - generated by DALL-E2

Even for a simple sign like "Arbys", it somehow manages to get the middle letters wrong 10 out of 10 tries.

AI versus corporate logos
A sign for Arbys with the cowboy hat logo - generated by DALL-E2

This one might be my favorite.

AI versus corporate logos
The logo for dunkin donuts - generated by DALL-E2

It has more trouble with longer text, such as its near-unrecognizable renditions of Tim Hortons.

AI versus corporate logos
A sign for tim hortons - generated by DALL-E2

It also apparently has trouble with vertical text, like on the original cans of Irn Bru.

AI versus corporate logos
A can of Irn Bru - generated by DALL-E2

But note that In-N-Out, a California fast food brand, has palm trees and sunny skies in the background, whereas many of the Tim Hortons signs have grey skies. There's information being used on many levels, to get the shading right and the lettering consistent.

AI versus corporate logos
A sign for In-N-Out, viewed from a distance - generated by DALL-E2

Just not the spelling.

Bonus content: More brands, including an unexpected photorealistic goat-turtle.

19 Jul 17:29

Tater Tots Cake

by Natasha Pickowicz


Tater Tots Cake by Natasha

The night my boyfriend turned the big 4-0, I walked into his living room holding a cake in my hands, while all our friends sang “Happy Birthday.”… Read more

The post Tater Tots Cake appeared first on Cup of Jo.

18 Jul 15:22

companies offering to pay for abortion travel: genuine help or performative stunt?

by Ask a Manager

It's already insane that so many of us are dependent on our employment status to grant us health insurance access instead of, ya know, granted it as a basic human right. I cringe at the thought of a nation where that link is even more tangled. I don't want employers to have such power over workers' health care statuses.

This post, companies offering to pay for abortion travel: genuine help or performative stunt? , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

I’m sure you’ve seen the policy releases from large companies promising employees and their dependents reimbursement if they are in a state that has banned abortion and they need to travel out of state to obtain one.

How do you see the impact on this in terms of medical privacy? On the one hand, hooray for these companies for doing the right thing and protecting this right. On the other hand, I’m trying to imagine telling a supervisor or accounts department that you need this money reimbursed (along with asking for the time off). Even assuming that the management in question shares corporate’s belief in a woman’s right to choose, it’s awkward and oversharing and something painfully personal to reveal to coworkers. And what if they don’t share it? What if the local manager/authority figure is staunchly anti-choice? It all just got so much worse.

Is there a way that this can be navigated by employees without them having to wander through a landmine in an already overwhelming time? Or is this an example of something that makes a company look good, but that’s likely to never be taken advantage of by employees for a dizzying range of reasons? I really want to stand up and cheer, and I do admire them for taking a stand publicly, but is this a stunt that they’re assuming they’ll rarely have to pay out on?

I think less than being a stunt that they figure they’ll never have to pay out on, it reflects a lack of understanding from overwhelmingly male and privileged corporate decision-makers about real people’s lives.

As you point out, how many employees are going to feel comfortable telling their employer that they or their partner need an abortion? People want and deserve privacy in medical care, particularly around something as personal as abortion.

Moreover, flying out of state for an abortion isn’t always realistic, even with the costs covered. Some abortions are emergency care, like with an ectopic pregnancy that can quickly turn deadly without immediate treatment.

And it’s not clear how employers will reconcile these policies with laws that criminalize helping someone receive an abortion across state lines.

Ultimately, if employers want to protect their employees, they need to take their business out of states that are removing bodily autonomy for half their population.

06 Jun 17:24

governor yanked telework for state employees and my office is in chaos

by Ask a Manager

this sounds like an utter nightmare

This post, governor yanked telework for state employees and my office is in chaos , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

I work for the state government in Virginia, and I oversee a division of 15+ people. We’ve all been teleworking for over two years with great success. The governor took over the state’s telework policy enforcement and required employees to come back by July 5 unless there’s an approved telework request for each employee. It’s a huge mess.

The deadlines must be met. If a telework policy doesn’t exist by a June deadline, employees who don’t have one will be expected to work a five-day week in person.

I’m facing some serious, possibly legal, challenges of my own:

• The bulk of my staff never had office space. Empty office space was rare pre-pandemic, but we expanded our workforce during COVID-19. Now, there’s no space left. Leadership continues to insist that we need to consider bringing office-less people back anyway “even if it’s for part of the week.” My question as to where they’re supposed to work remains unanswered.

• There is a category for ADA and other medical conditions. Leadership asked my staff and me to produce explicit details from doctors as to what medical conditions would put us at risk for in-person work. Although I produced it, my agency head unliterally decided my husband’s potential death wasn’t enough of a justification. I am now uncomfortable this man knows so much information about me as I never would have volunteered it otherwise. Is he bound by confidentiality?

• I feel extremely uncomfortable asking my direct reports for doctor’s notes that will explicitly reveal medical information about them or family members.

• The flowchart that explains the policy and telework categories would make an MBA cry. I spend most of my day trying to interpret and explain it, but the caveats change by the day. I’m sure I’ve misinterpreted some of the information, which will put my employees’ requests at risk.

• Multiple emails have gone out with “additional guidance” that is confusing and causing hundreds of employees to redo their forms. (I’ve redone my form seven times.)

• Field/remote workers are supposedly exempt from the new policy, but it’s not being enforced consistently. There is growing resentment because my field staff will get permanent telework but others won’t, according to their supervisors’ interpretation.

• Leadership is having a hard time “agreeing” with many of the legitimate reasons on these telework forms, such as health conditions and lack of office space, so they’re rejecting the requests. (Rejecting the forms will allow for the deadline to pass, forcing those employees to come back full-time on July 5.)

• We don’t get any notice as to whether our forms have been approved or denied, and we won’t be told the reason for a rejection. We’re beholden to our supervisors to tell us our application status. If we’re denied, we’re supposed to keep reapplying, citing new reasons.

Here’s my question: what do I do if my staff are required to come back even though no office space exists, no parking is available, and/or leadership ignores severe health issues? How much risk am I carrying now that my employees have turned over private medical information against their will? I literally cannot enforce this policy even if I wanted to.

Yeah, this is a clusterfudge created by someone who’s making a political point without any apparent interest in how it will play out in real life.

Bringing people back without any plan for where to put them is absurd. Denying medical exemptions without any interactive dialogue to find workable accommodations is more than absurd; it’s illegal under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

As for what to do … government employment can be very much its own world. It’s not one I have expertise in and so you might get more targeted advice by talking to someone with government experience. But off the top of my head, my thoughts are:

* Write up the exact office space needs for your employees, being specific about numbers, desks, computers, phones, and other equipment, and ask by what date those things will be in place. Consider including a line saying, “Obviously we will not be able to comply with the July 5 return date without space and equipment in place; please let me know what date we can plan around instead. I assume I should put my team’s return plans on hold until we have an approved date for space and equipment.”

* Realistically, what will happen if you all return on July 5 with no work spaces? Are you going to have people milling around the lobby, unable to work? And if so, might it be worth just letting that happen to see if the point is made and it spurs some sort of action? (This doesn’t address the issue of people with medical reasons for why they can’t safely return. It may be your only option anyway.)

* Take some of this to local and state media. (I already forwarded it to a few reporters with your permission.) “Governor yanks telework and demands state employees return with no office space” is an interesting and provocative story that someone will be interested in covering.

* Consider educating your employees about the ADA’s requirement for an interactive dialogue with employees who request medical accommodations, since it sounds like the state is currently violating that part of the law. (Speaking of which, the ADA also requires that employers that gather medical information keep it confidential, so in response to your question about confidentiality — by law they must keep protected medical information separately from regular personnel records and treat it as confidential. They can share info with managers who need info about restrictions on someone’s work duties or info about reasonable accommodations, but those managers are subject to the same confidentiality restrictions. But it sure doesn’t inspire confidence that they haven’t told you, a manager receiving that info, about that requirement.)

* Point out to someone above you that the current lack of interactive dialogue on medical accommodations is violating the law, and ask what to say to employees who point that out themselves.

* If your employees have a union: this is their moment.

But yes, this is ridiculous.

13 May 16:32

26 Famous People on Their Favorite Scented Candles

by Zoë Sessums

famous people's favorite candles. i gotta say, smelling the voluspa scents at anthro is a favorite pastime.

Welcome to our series Famous People On, in which we crowdsource the best stuff to buy by turning to the on-the-record favorites of celebrities. This week, it’s celebrities on their favorite scented candles (and if you’re looking for something nice and affordable, this one’s our favorite.)

Ellen DeGeneres
“My favorite is Petite Cherie, a lovely aroma that I use in my home and office.” — Elle Decor, August 2014

Annick Goutal Petite Cherie Perfumed Candle $65, Neiman Marcus

Selena Gomez
“Before I lived in my own house, I’d have a bunch of candles for my room in my parents’ house, and they would last forever. But now that I have this whole house, every room must have a scent! And I want them to be lit every night, because it just feels so good — I’ll light them in the piano room where we always have jam sessions or even during the daytime when I’m doing my makeup. My favorite scents are Voluspa Mokara and Voluspa Saijo Persimmon, neither of them are too expensive. I was into Le Labo for a while, but only in my room, because they’re expensive. I’ll save that for my tour bus now.” — Into the Gloss, October 2014

Voluspa Mokara $25, Amazon

Voluspa Maison Blanc Saijo Persimmon 2-Wick Candle Tin $25, Amazon

Simon Doonan
“Okay, this is slightly cheating, but I really just adore my husband’s tomato candle. It smells like your granny’s tomato plants, but in a good way. Gorgeous in the summer, but also festive and ever-so-slightly freaky for the wintertime.” — the Strategist, January 2017

Jonathan Adler Tomato Pop Candle $34, Amazon

“Vanilla. Warm and sweet. I have a lot of Diptyque candles around the house. Even when I’m away, I have someone burn them. I like having the scent in my pillows.” — InStyle, December 2007

Diptyque Vanille Candle $64, Barneys New York

Kylie Jenner
“I love candles that smell like the holidays.” — People, September 2015

Le Labo Cade 26 Candle $150, The Gramercy Park Hotel

Lea Michele
“So obsessed with my new @murchisonhume candles! So perfect for this cozy rainy day … ❤️❤️❤️❤️” — Instagram, December 2014

Murchison-Hume Soy-Blend Candle in South African Gooseberry $32, Etsy

Karen Elson
“First, I have to have Jo Malone Red Roses, it’s my favorite candle. It smells heavenly, and I’m an English rose! I like anything with a rose scent. In my bathtub in Nashville you walk into my bedroom and the whole thing smells like red roses.” — Into the Gloss, April 2017

Jo Malone Red Roses Candle $65, Nordstrom

Baies for my office, Gardenia for home.” — Elle Decor, February 2014

Diptyque Baies Candle $64, Neiman Marcus

Mariska Hargitay
“It makes my home smell so warm and welcoming.” — Shape

Jo Malone Pine & Eucalyptus Candle $65, Saks Fifth Avenue

Blake Lively
“These [Le Labo Santal 26] are my favorite candles because you can personalize the labels, so they make good gifts.” — Marie Claire, August 2013

Le Labo Santal 26 Vintage Candle $65, Barneys New York

Linda Rodin
“I’m not a big candle person, but I’ll use my own and this one from D.S. & Durga (they make my perfumes, too). It’s fresh and heavenly. I keep it in my bedroom.” — the Strategist, March 2017

D.S. & Durga Spirit Lamp Candle $65, Barneys New York

Alexander Wang
“I discovered their shop when I was in Paris, and they just opened a little shop in ABC Home here in New York. Their scents were amazing, and all the candle holders are hand-blown glass. My favorite scent is called Mantes La Jolie. It’s so fresh, minty, and crisp. I love it.” — GQ

Astier de Villatte Mantes La Jolie Candle $120, ABC Home

Abby Elliott
“It’s a great alternative to smoking pot. It doesn’t necessarily smell like pot, but it’s nice and smoky, especially in the winter. It doesn’t get you high, unfortunately, but the little container is really cute, and we keep that after the candle’s out as a container for the apartment.” — the Strategist, July 2017

Jonathan Adler Hashish Candle $68, Amazon

Poppy Delevingne
“My home is overflowing with Jo Malone London candles and I scented my wedding with Orange Blossom, which still gives me butterflies.” — Vogue, April 2015

Jo Malone London Orange Blossom Candle $65, Sephora

Carole Radziwill
“I’ve always had candles in the apartment, but I was so nervous about the kittens and kitty litter that I started burning candles 24/7. I found these Nest candles in the Sicilian Tangerine that I just love. That and the Grapefruit are my favorites. It just has this great smell that’s not perfumey, but a little like fresh laundry. You wake up and smell it, and think, It’s going to be a good day. I like the way they burn, too. Some candles are $40, and you burn them for two days and they’re done. These burn long and evenly. It’s like life. Slow and steady wins the race.” — the Strategist, April 2017

Nest Fragrances Sicilian Tangerine Candle $40, Amazon

Taylor Swift
“Byredo … Tree House. That is it.” — xoJane, April 2016

Byredo Tree House Candle $80, Barneys New York

Sarah Jessica Parker
“There’s nothing better than a blue Rigaud candle.” — InStyle, December 2007

Rigaud Paris Chevrefeuille Scented Candle $99, Neiman Marcus

“I’ve wanted to do a candle for many years, just because I’ve always used them. This is the perfect candle because the orange-ginger scent is very subtle and easy to live with — that’s really the main criteria for candles to me. I’m actually burning one right now. There’s something ritualistic about it. I’m not practicing, but I do have a Catholic background, so that must explain it.” — the Strategist, March 2017

RuPaul Essential Candle $30, Sweet Los Angeles

Nicole Richie
“I really love the relaxed vibe of friends sitting on the floor, D.L. & Co. candles burning, and listening to music.” — Elle Decor, November 2013

D.L. & CO White Soleil Candle $55, Spring

Kendall Jenner
“When I know I need a ‘me’ day, I’ll take a long, hot bath with my favorite Byredo candle burning.” — US Weekly, August 2016

Byredo Bibliothèque Candle $80, Barneys New York

Amanda Seyfried
“I love those Yankee candles [in] Buttercream Frosting or Angel Food Cake. I mean, who doesn’t put a vanilla-scented candle out in their kitchen? [Those scents] relate to the child in me, which will live on forever. That’s also probably the pregnancy talking; I’ll blame it on that.” — Refinery29, July 2017

Yankee Candle Buttercream Medium Jar Candles $25, Amazon

Jennifer Connelly
“And I love the smell of Cire Trudon’s Abd El Kader candle. That’s what I burn at home.” — Vogue, July 2013

Cire Trudon Abd el Kader $95, Net-a-Porter

Oprah Winfrey
“These soy candles are the next best thing to being outdoors, transporting me to a forest of pine, cedar and cypress.” — New Beauty, November 2016

The Village Common Essential Oil Candle $24, The Village Common

Sarah Michelle Gellar
“I like to give nice candles, as they are a gift for the entire house. Archipelago makes some of my favorite scents.” — the New Potato, November 2015

Archipelago Botancials Excursion Glass Jar Candle $19, Nordstrom

Kirsten Dunst
“A.P.C. candles are reasonably priced in the world of high-end candles and they last a long time.” — WhoWhatWear, November 2011

A.P.C. Scented Candle in Jasmin Vert $50, Need Supply

Miranda Kerr
“These candles are based on themes like vitality, strength, and love.” — Harper’s Bazaar, August 2016

Matter & Home scented candles $65, Net-a-Porter

The Strategist is designed to surface the most useful, expert recommendations for things to buy across the vast e-commerce landscape. Some of our latest conquests include the best women’s jeans, rolling luggage, bed sheets, coffee makers, and bath towels. We update links when possible, but note that deals can expire and all prices are subject to change.

Every editorial product is independently selected. If you buy something through our links, New York may earn an affiliate commission.

11 May 18:54

32% Agree This Was The Best Star Trek: The Next Generation Character – Do We Agree?

by Witney Seibold

Or is it 1) Riker, 2) Riker, 3) Riker, 4) Wesley's sweaters 5) Crusher's hair

(Welcome to Survey Says, a feature where we conduct a movie-related survey for a random group of people and explain why they're completely right, completely wrong, or somewhere in-between.)

Representatives from /Film have just returned from the distant future, and, dear readers, it is bleak. In the 27th century, the galaxy is in turmoil after the disappearance of the Tox Uthat, a unique quantum phase inhibitor, and the galaxy's preeminent scientist Kal Dano, inventor of the Tox Uthat. None of the citizens of the Federation/Andromeda alliance can agree as to an appropriate course of action, and hopelessness has gripped the souls of quadrillions of people. And while diplomatic arrangements were underway to work on a path forward, the alliance dramatically octofurcated into eight warring factions. 

Each of the factions has fallen into the thrall of one of the Elders of the Enterprise, a cadre scholars of the distant past: In the 21st century, you may know the Elders better as the eight main characters from the TV series "Star Trek: The Next Generation." 

I have traced the origin of this 27th century schism to this very point in the year 2022. A distant future of war and turmoil all began with the following poll, casually conducted among a random assortment of film and TV fans, asking them their favorite "Star Trek: The Next Generation" character. Me must study this closely, dear readers. The fate of several galaxies depend on it. Enough scrutiny may alter our views and save us from unending strife. 

The Winner Is...

The stern, intelligent, diplomatic Captain Jean-Luc Picard was the most popular in the poll, garnering 32.31% of the votes tallied. 

Picard was the first character in "Star Trek" history to have an entire TV series named after them (although Khan and Spock beat him to movie titles), and Patrick Stewart, a classically trained actor, has now lent the character his signature intelligence and tough-love compassion for decades. When "Next Generation" was in its heyday in the early '90s, the most common arguments among Trekkies was whether Kirk was a superior captain to Picard. And while Kirk was more judicious a character than his pop reputation as a reckless, horny cowboy would have you believe, Picard was still the more professionally poised of the two. Kirk was more generally militaristic, quick to make a decision, but open to the crew's input. Picard was far more protocol-oriented, careful to give his crew a voice, often holding meetings in the conference room, and overseeing it all with an open mind. 

If "Star Trek" is to be seen as a workplace drama -- which it is -- Kirk was the boss you kind of wanted to be friends with, while Picard was the boss you were eternally afraid of disappointing. Personally, were I a Federation citizen living on the Enterprise-D (I would certainly not hack it as an officer of any stripe), I would feel a lot more comfortable with Picard in the captain's chair than Kirk. Additionally, if Picard stepped away, we'd get Data, Riker, George La Forge, or even Dr. Crusher to take his place, and all of them are preferable to the hot-headed, trigger-happy Montgomery Scott. 

The Rest Of The Crew

Coming in second was Commander Riker (Jonathan Frakes) with 15.85% of the vote. Riker, while often quick-thinking and able to make sound command decisions in the spur of the moment, could also be a little too reckless at times. It was Riker, after all, who had a healthy fling with someone he met on vacation, only to carry a brainwashing virtual reality game back to the Enterprise where everyone got addicted ... and became susceptible to manipulation. As far as I know, Riker was never disciplined for that. He also seems to have escaped discipline when he was caught covering up the existence of a unique cloak/phase technology that killed everyone aboard his previous ship, the U.S.S. Pegasus. I suppose in that instance, everyone was distracted by the presence of Terry O'Quinn, so much more clearly the episode's bad guy. But when it comes to bosses I want to hang out with, I'd much rather play poker with Riker than with Kirk. 

Following at a very close third on this incredibly historically significant poll was Lt. Comm. Data (Brent Spiner) with 15.35% of the vote. Data, an android, was a largely emotionless being whose curiosity about humanity led to an abiding aspiration to become more and more human. Data's "outsider" perspective on humanity allowed viewers to examine themselves a bit more closely, attempting to articulate in plan English how to define an emotional state, or why a joke is funny. Every good Trekkie has a conversational plan should they ever meet Data in person. 

Fourth is Wourth. Er, Worf (Michael Dorn), the Enterprise's security chief (a position he took up after the death of Tasha Yar in season 1). Worf is one of the show's funniest characters specifically because of how unfunny he is; Worf's lack of sense of humor stresses his outsider status. But Worf is poised and honorable, concerned with respecting those who warrant it; he is no bully. An interesting piece of trivia: Because Worf would eventually move to "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine," Michael Dorn holds the record for most "Star Trek" appearances. This includes Patrick Stewart's involvement in "Star Trek: Picard." 

The Lower Decks

Fifth on the list was Dr. Beverly Crusher (Gates McFadden) the relentlessly moral chief medical officer on the Enterprise, who captured 6.95% of the vote. While the other characters often floated practical ideas as to how to overcome the crisis of the week, it was Crusher who had the wherewithal to mention what was the correct path. She seemed to be the most sophisticated character outside of Picard. 

Rounding out the list, Geordi La Forge (LeVar Burton) and Counselor Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis) tied for sixth, with 5.01% of the vote apiece, and bringing up the rear is the Enterprise's own teenage narc, Wesley Crusher (Wil Wheaton) with 4.68%. The poor nerdy engineer was ignored, and the sensitive counselor was not visited. And sorry, Wes, no one likes a narc. 

Counselor Troi may be the most underwritten character on "Next Generation." She was a trained diplomat, present on the show to give personal advice but also talk the captain through difficult situations. She likely had multiple psychology degrees, and was responsible for the mental health of an entire military battalion. She should have been given more scenes wherein she could display her intelligence, insight, and diplomatic powers. More often, she was merely given lines of dialogue along the lines of "I sense he's hiding something." "Star Trek" is often very much about multiculturalism and empathy, and Troi is a literal empath who can feel the emotions of others. There was so much, much more that could have been done. 

With these opinions bubbling in your brain, move into the future cautiously. We cannot allow our disdain for one another grow into a full-blown diplomatic breakdown. We must live in peace. Do you like Worf the best? That is fine. And remember that Geordi or Troi fans are just as correct as you. Please, Riker fans, the lives of quadrillions of people depend on it.

Read this next: The 15 Worst Sci-Fi Movies Of The 21st Century (So Far)

The post 32% Agree This Was the Best Star Trek: The Next Generation Character – Do We Agree? appeared first on /Film.

10 May 13:42

Labor Department had been negotiating overtime issues with Somerville restaurant; lawsuit came out of left field and is full of lies, especially the part about killing a cook's family, lawyer says

by adamg

Whoa, Sound Bites dramz.

I only ever went a couple of times because I hate waiting in line.

A lawyer for Sound Bites owner Yasser Mirza today denied allegations his client has threatened workers over a Department of Labor overtime investigation, at a hearing at which a federal judge told department lawyers they need to file affidavits or have workers testify on pain of perjury about what's been going on at the Ball Square restaurant best known as a breakfast nook.

Both Mirza's attorney, Brian Rogal, and US District Court Judge Patti Saris questioned the way the Labor Department filed a suit and request for a temporary restraining order against Mirza late on Friday afternoon.

Rogal denied that Mirza had threatened a long-time cook in particular that he could have the man arrested or have the man's family killed, or that he had also threatened other workers to make them lie to federal investigators. The cook himself had filed his own overtime lawsuit against Mirza last year.

Rogal questioned the supposed details of interaction between Mirza, the cook and another worker named in the suit, because they speak mainly Spanish and little English, while Mirza speaks no Spanish at all. Also, Rogal said, the cook still works at the restaurant and had settled his suit with Mirza. Plus, he said, Mirza has been sick and no longer even goes into the restaurant.

He said that both he and Mirza thought they were close to settling a year-long Labor Department's investigation into overtime issues - workers who were getting paid regular wages instead of time and a half. He said Sound Bites is now in full compliance with the law - workers get time and a half if they work more than 40 hours week - and that he was awaiting calculations from the department on how much workers should get paid for past overtime.

So the suit came completely out of left field, he said: "I'm very surprised at this."

Saris denied the government's request to order Mirza to stop threatening workers immediately, saying that all she had in front of her at this point were hearsay allegations from Labor Department investigators. She said she is particularly concerned about alleged death and other threats the cook, according to the lawsuit, started getting earlier this year from anonymous callers who demanded he tell the feds to back off, but that without sworn testimony or documentation, she's in no position to issue any sort of ruling.

"I can't order the defendant not to make death threats if there's no evidence he made death threats," Saris said.

She instead set a May 24 hearing on the question.

Joseph Michalakes, a Labor Department investigator, said he could supply affidavits from the cook and the other worker named in the suit or have them testify at the May 24th hearing. He said the department could provide affidavits from other restaurant workers, but without their names, to protect them from the pressure to lie to investigators, which he said is continuing to this day.

Saris asked Michalakes why he felt he had to file the request for a temporary restraining order late on a Friday.

"Was it the death threats?" she asked.

That, and the fact that workers were still being told to lie to investigators, Michalakes said.

Michalakes said the demands to lie were coming directly from Mirza. Rogal denied that.

05 May 20:37

updates: the filmed pregnancy announcement, the dress code, and more

by Ask a Manager

Oooooh #1 is juicy

This post, updates: the filmed pregnancy announcement, the dress code, and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Here are three updates from past letter-writers.

1. My coworker tried to film her pregnancy announcement and now there is chaos

I have a kind of wonderful update. Abby knew I wrote in, so she feels very supported and extends thanks to you all for having her back.

For some clarity: all our management team/onsite HR staff are older men in their 50s or so (the rest of the office is early 20s-30s) and despite being required to report to their respective corporate managers, they tend to sweep things under the rug like interpersonal conflict, bullying, harassment, and sexism (shocker), and apparently, this was the final straw. HR and corporate came down for an investigation. The guy yelling the loudest that we owed Jessie an apology and ignored reports about Abby being bullied? Jessie’s baby daddy. It shouldn’t have surprised me but it did.

I don’t know a lot, but I know that some management was moved to different offices/locations, offered severances, or transfers to our parent company. I also was home after testing positive for Covid (I didn’t throw my positive test at anyone, and I’m feeling much better) so I missed the primary upheaval but the consensus is that the management shakeup was really necessary and our office vibe is back to being chill and fun.

2. I’m non-binary at an office with a highly binary dress code (#2 at the link)

I took your advice and spoke to the HR rep again. One commenter suggested they might have meant I should feel free to pick from both sides of the dress code list, and I asked her for clarification. The HR rep was supportive, but wasn’t able to give me a concrete answer. She thanked me for bringing the issue to her attention and said she’d have to raise it with her manager, as it sounded like the dress codes might need updating. She also said she’d handle it personally if anyone put in any complaints about my clothing in the meantime. It was a positive experience!

I wasn’t expecting to hear back straight away, as my company had always been pretty slow to change on everything (I work in a conservative industry and my company had a history of paying more lip service than taking action on progressive changes), but I was feeling more optimistic about coming into work.

I never did get an answer, however. The company made me redundant shortly after this, which was its own whole can of worms. Suffice to say: I was one of thirty people let go and the company handled it terribly (waited until there was a Zoom presentation from the CEO thanking us for all our hard work during covid, called everyone on thier ‘shortlist’ into a secret zoom meeting afterwards to tell us all we were being let go and swore us all to secrecy. I’ll let you guess how that went down).

Was my being nonbinary a factor? We’ll never know. After seeing how they handled the redundancies, I wouldn’t have wanted to stay regardless. I took a couple of weeks off and found a new job doing the same role for a competitor. The culture is much nicer and the company is much more flexible on working from home. Most importantly, the dress code here is gender neutral and the only comment I’ve had from a colleague on my skirts is how impressed she was I’d taken the time to sew in giant pockets. All in all, it worked out for the best.

3. I don’t want my coworker talking about my religion (#5 at the link)

First of all, thank you Alison for taking time to read and answer my question, and thank you to people in the comments for chiming in as well—I found the comments about making sure to have less positive body language when I am uncomfortable especially helpful.

A lot of speculation happened in the comments about my religion, and I’m not LDS —- I’m actually Roman Catholic. The topic of religion came up when my coworker asked me what I did over the weekend and I told her that I went on a hike and went to Mass for Palm Sunday. I’m not sure when we talked about our husbands, although we both chatted about that and how long we had been married. It was five days after I mentioned my religion that she started the conversation that prompted me to email and ask for advice.

I have stopped chatting so much with this particular coworker. I am still polite to her of course, but after hearing her comments talking down towards my religion and marriage, I’m not super comfortable being closer than we have to be. I have been job searching anyways, so I hope not to be in my current position for much longer. I will also hesitate to share information about my religion and my marriage with other new hires, in case they dislike either one.

This made me realize how much I am afraid of being too harsh at work. It’s something I struggled with in the past, so I was worried I was being over-sensitive. Now I will trust my gut, and if I feel uncomfortable with a comment anyone makes, I will be more likely to speak up.

18 Apr 16:45

‘Girls’ Deserved What It Got. But It Also Deserved Better.

by Alison Herman

Ok interesting Girls retrospective but they've buried the lede...

Dunham is directing a film version of my favorite childhood book: Catherine, Called Birdy. FEATURING BABY LADY MORMONT

HBO/Getty Images/Ringer illustration

Ten years ago today, ‘Girls’ premiered on HBO and catapulted Lena Dunham to fame, for better or for worse. Is it time to separate the creator from the project and start appreciating the show on its own terms?

Hindsight may be the best thing that ever happened to Girls. When the HBO series first premiered, 10 years ago to the day, the pilot marked the crest of a tsunami of hype. The furor had been building for over two years after creator Lena Dunham’s film Tiny Furniture earned her a Best Narrative Feature prize from the South by Southwest film festival. Then came the most symbolic accolade of all for an artist on the rise: a profile in The New Yorker, written when Girls was still known as “Untitled Lena Dunham Project.”

Once the show had a name and a release date, the buzz went from merely loud to deafening. There was a cover story in New York magazine, including a photo shoot by future Emma director Autumn de Wilde. There were enthusiastic raves, praising Girls for its offbeat humor and unvarnished style. Finally, as required by the laws of physics, there was the equal-and-opposite backlash, a volley of complaints lodged for reasons both valid (the lack of diversity) and not (comparing Dunham’s tattoos to “self-mutilation”). One could barely make out the show itself through all the chaos surrounding it.

Many of the critiques performed the same rhetorical sleight of hand, conflating Dunham not just with her Girls character—the clueless, impulsive, underemployed Hannah Horvath—but an entire production with hundreds of collaborators, including executive producer Judd Apatow and co-showrunner Jenni Konner. “To understand Girls … we must first talk about Lena Dunham,” read a review in Tablet.

The equation of Dunham with her show was understandable; a 25-year-old with a premium cable show is already media catnip, let alone one who writes, directs, and stars in it. But the blurred line also made it hard to separate analysis of Girls from Dunham’s own status as a cultural lightning rod, prone to making the kind of ignorant comments that necessitate citing “a ‘delusional girl’ persona I often inhabit” in her subsequent apology. In the same statement, from 2016, even Dunham seemed to collapse art and life, admitting of said persona, “That’s what my TV show is, too.”

Such discourse ebbed somewhat after Girls ended its run in 2017. In the half-decade since, it’s become easier to separate Dunham from the project that made her a household name. Dunham has moved on, putting distance between herself and Hannah. She’s gotten married and shared her experience with chronic illness. In her professional life, she’s ended her partnership with Konner, stepped behind the camera for directing and producing roles on shows like Industry and Genera+ion, and returned to features. Dunham has two coming out this year: Sharp Stick, a Sundance indie about a 26-year-old virgin having an affair with a much older man, and Catherine, Called Birdy, a medieval comedy based on a children’s book. She’s certainly in a different place than where we last saw Hannah, adjusting to academia and single motherhood in a spacious house upstate.

As its creator has evolved, Girls has stayed in place. The further we get from its award-winning, controversial run, the easier the show is to appreciate on its own terms. At the time, thanks to the breathless praise and a title that suggested ambitions to be more universal than the series ever truly was, Girls was asked to stand for a lot more than just itself. (To be fair, White Millennial Upper-Middle-Class Girls in Brooklyn doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue.) In 2022, Girls can be both more and less than what it was held up to be in 2012. To paraphrase Hannah’s most memorable line from the pilot, if she isn’t the voice of a generation, she can at least be a voice of a generation. And when Girls no longer bears the burden of being the show of the moment, it can be admired as a show that contributed to a turning point in its medium—starting with that first episode.

The principal irony of Girls was always that its strongest bits of satire were often interpreted as unintentional acts of telling on itself. Hence a show that faced frequent accusations of nepotism, with all four lead actresses having at least one parent employed in media or the arts, opening with the ultimate act of filial entitlement: When Hannah’s parents gently inform her they’ll no longer be paying her rent, she spitefully refuses to see them again. “I am busy,” she hisses, “trying to become who I am.” Dunham’s actual parents, the photographer Laurie Simmons and painter Carroll Dunham, were fine artists only vaguely adjacent to Hollywood. (Simmons has a cameo in Girls and played the mother of Dunham’s character in Tiny Furniture, shot in the family’s Tribeca loft.) But their daughter so convincingly played a woman grown used to two full years of parental largesse that many assumed she was speaking from experience—which she was, if not so directly.

The plot of Girls’ initial outing could’ve been ripped from any number of concern-trolling headlines about hookup culture and post-recession malaise. Hannah unsuccessfully attempts to turn her unpaid internship into a job, ends up unemployed, and freaks out in her parents’ hotel room, pausing her downward spiral only for an awkward, unsatisfying encounter with her noncommittal boy-something. But even as its story could be studiously contemporary, the show always wore its influences on its thrifted sleeves. Motormouth Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet) greets her nonplussed cousin Jessa (Jemima Kirke) with a slew of Sex and the City references, a parallel driven home by the massive poster on Shoshanna’s exposed-brick wall. Yet when Hannah wakes up in bed spooning with her best friend and roommate Marnie (Allison Williams), by far the episode’s most sincere display of true intimacy, we learn they fell asleep bingeing a less frequently cited forebear: The Mary Tyler Moore Show, another comedy about a woman scrambling to keep pace with modern life.

Dunham was careful to cite her sources. But much of Girls remains strikingly original—especially its treatment of sex, a third rail that would go on to ignite some of the show’s biggest firestorms. Hannah’s on-again, off-again love interest is played by, of course, Adam Driver. He’s shirtless when we first meet him, as he would often remain, and while clearly not yet in Kylo Ren shape, he’s still ripped in a more naturalistic way. When Hannah all but shows up on his doorstep unannounced, Adam lets her in almost begrudgingly. After some stilted banter, the two start to make out, and you can spot the precise moment when any other show would cut away and let the viewer imagine what happens next. Instead, Dunham’s camera keeps rolling, directing herself lying ass-up on the couch as Adam gets up to find a condom and requests they “play the quiet game.”

Now freed from contemporaries’ assumption that Dunham is speaking for all women her age and the sex they may or may not be having, Girls still stands out for its embrace of the gray area between empowering and abysmal. Hannah’s liaison with Adam plays out with disarming candor, with every stammer and grunt allowed to linger unaccompanied by music, framed in largely static shots—no blurry handheld shots of unidentifiable limbs to obscure what’s really going on. “Disarming candor” was, in effect, Girls’ de facto motto, applying equally to its portrayals of sex, a shabby New York cleansed of unrealistic opulence, and its own characters’ glaring flaws. Dunham refused to cut away from debasing scenes like Hannah’s meltdown in front of an aghast Peter Scolari, excellent as her closeted father, Tad. The discomfort was entirely intentional, though it also proved too much for some detractors to bear.

Girls arrived at a time when TV was experiencing a kind of behind-the-scenes revolution. Two years before, comedian Louis C.K. had one-upped legendary showrunners like David Chase and Matthew Weiner by not only writing his FX sitcom Louie, but also starring, directing, and editing as well, all on a shoestring budget. The Louie model helped catalyze an influx of career filmmakers into television, from heavyweights like David Fincher to indie trailblazers like Karyn Kusama. Girls was often compared to Louie, though the former’s portrait of oblivious young womanhood anchors a very different perspective than the latter’s divorced father of two. But because television remains Dunham’s most visible platform, she’s rarely cited as an example of the ensuing auteur boom. The evidence is still there, if you care to look. Dunham began her career in features, and has since returned to them.

In the years to come, Girls would peak with relatively stand-alone episodes that didn’t have to serve a larger story. Before “One Man’s Trash” or “American Bitch,” however, there was the pilot—a half hour that contains everything that keeps Girls in the conversation, a full decade after it started.

14 Apr 16:06

The Northman Trailer: Robert Eggers Promises Brutal Karmic Vengeance

by Lex Briscuso

Skarsgard autoshare.

This is the first I'm hearing of this movie... the cast sounds wild!
(But from the trailer it looks like one of those inscrutably dark and murky films where I'm squinting the whole time to figure out what's happening. Boo.)

Prepare yourself: there's a new trailer for "The Northman" in our midst. The upcoming viking revenge epic will be in theaters before we know it, but now we have some new footage to marinate on. 

The new trailer takes us on lead actor Alexander Skarsgård's journey to enact revenge on those who have wronged him. There are several enticing fight sequences, an eerie but tone-setting voiceover, and some intense chanting that will probably remind you of writer-director Robert Eggers' first feature film, "The Witch." We also get a solid glimpse of Eggers' all-star cast, including Nicole Kidman, Anya Taylor-Joy, Ethan Hawke, and Willem Dafoe. Singer Björk does not make an appearance in this trailer, but we do know she has a stellar part in the revenge tale.

Just for good measure, /Film's own Max Evry is also quoted in the trailer, calling the film  "a stone-cold masterpiece," which is high praise. You can see for yourself in the trailer below.

The Larger-Than-Life World Of The Northman

Eggers has been working on this large-scale project since the early days of the pandemic, when the sheer size of this film made him unsure of how to proceed as normal in the midst of a Hollywood shut-down. He told IndieWire back in April 2020:

"There's many locations in the film, so we were constantly going on scouts to find places or reassess places that we have found and we're building sets there. We're designing all these worlds, building these villages, we're making thousands of costumes and props, training the horses the things they'll need to do, designing the shots of the films. There's a lot more storyboarding. Generally I only storyboard the scenes that have visual effects or animals and stunts, things where all the departments need to be on the same page for it to work out. But this movie there is rarely a scene that isn't on a boat or doesn't have a lot of extras. We're storyboarding most of the film, which is taking a lot of time and we're continuing to do that now on this hiatus."

The filmmaker added that this approach was quite different to how he handled his work on both "The Witch" and "The Lighthouse," Eggers' second feature. "The scale is so huge and there are so many more locations and things that I couldn't do everything or know every prop myself," he told the outlet. "That's been a challenge with the new movie."

Now, it's time to see if he pulled it off. Spoiler alert: it looks like he nailed it.

"The Northman" arrives in theaters on April 22, 2022.

Read this next: The 20 Greatest War Films Of All Time

The post The Northman Trailer: Robert Eggers Promises Brutal Karmic Vengeance appeared first on /Film.

08 Apr 16:48

the flosser, the disrobers, and other Zoom mishaps: share your stories

by Ask a Manager

Looking forward to this one... from the comments:

"On a conference call with the execs in another country so fairly high level. Somehow the household system heard a discussion of accounts payable as ‘Alexa, pull my finger’ and started making loud farting noises."

This post, the flosser, the disrobers, and other Zoom mishaps: share your stories , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

More than two years into the pandemic and a lot of us still are committing gaffes on video calls — from the person flossing on video, to the kid who screamed “I’m naked and you can’t do anything about it,” to so so many incidents of disrobing. In the comment section today, let’s hear about the weirdest, most embarrassing, or funniest video call mishaps you’ve witnessed (or committed personally).

13 Mar 17:52

Take Me To Church

by swissmiss

09 Feb 19:16

the new hire who showed up is not the same person we interviewed

by Ask a Manager


This post, the new hire who showed up is not the same person we interviewed , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

This is a situation currently unfolding at my husband’s office so I’m a very amused bystander and thought I’d get your opinion on this craziness.

My husband works in IT and is on the leadership team at a midsized private company. He was part of a panel that recently interviewed a number of folks for an open position on his team. They are entirely remote. They had a few candidates for a first and second round, and had one make it to a third final round before an offer. “John” accepted the offer and started last week!

Except … it’s not the John my husband remembers. My husband was confused and said the following things were odd:

– John has different hair and now wears glasses.

– John is talking extensively about working in a garage because his three children and wife are home. In the interview, he made references to being single and was visibly in an indoor desk area.

– John can’t answer a number of questions that they previously discussed in the interview, things pretty pivotal to the position.

– Husband describes John as being aloof and pretty timid whereas John was confident and articulate when they interviewed him.

He is convinced this is not the person they hired. I agreed that all those things taken together make this very odd but each one could have a valid explanation. I told him the most likely explanation is the hiring committee simply mixed up the candidates (or HR did) and the wrong John was offered and accepted. He agreed but said since only one candidate made it to the third round, that is really unlikely (other candidates had already been sent rejections before the third round even occurred). He’s confident they couldn’t have been mixed up.

All of this is a bit moot as my husband is in his notice period and will be moving to a new company in a few weeks … but he feels like he is going crazy. So my question is … is this a thing?! In a now mostly virtual world, are people perhaps paying people to conduct interviews for them?!?

The situation is actively unfolding so I’m sure I’ll have updates. The less mature side of me wants him to start planting fake references to the interview conversations they had to see if John bites, but I digress.

After receiving this letter, I got updates. Many updates (probably because I greeted each one enthusiastically and requested more)! So let’s do those first and then get to the question.

Update 1

11:57 am

A very quick update!

My husband just came out of his office and said he has a text from his boss “Holly” on his personal cell because she didn’t want it on the company network. She wants to know if he thinks John is acting a lot different than the John they hired. He responded and told her all of his suspicions with the caveat that he didn’t want to accuse him of anything but something is very off. She too thinks it’s unlikely candidates were mixed up because she has his resume and John claims all the same work history/credentials as the John they interviewed.

They are on a call with HR as I type this. Unclear if they are working out an error by the hiring committee /HR or unraveling fraud. More to come.

Alas, my planting fake call-backs idea had no time to come to fruition.

Update 2

12:25 pm

Husband just got off a call with Holly, their HR business partner, and the internal recruiter who sent the offer. They confirmed the right candidate was offered a job and agreed many things were odd. (Another oddity revealed on that phone call … John didn’t know who Holly was; she had to reintroduce herself and he asked about her role … Holly was on two of three rounds of interviews and they extensively reviewed their org chart and her role.)

They are currently speaking with their legal team to discuss options and when to bring John into the mix to try to explain.

Update 3

1:43 pm

It’s definitely been a crazy morning! They are waiting to hear back from legal — I think they are weighing whether they confront John and let him try to explain or let him go anyway. He either lied about his identity or lied about his experience since he’s unable to speak about the basics of the job now so regardless it seems like he will be gone. I will keep you updated on what he learns next!

Husband in a rabbit hole of research now and apparently this fake interviewing is a thing (the job in question is a mulesoft architect). Bizarre!

Update 4

3:13 pm

They heard back from legal … who are less than thrilled about the situation! They approved HR to have a conversation with John regarding what has been reported (more in the vein of “there’s been some concerns about performance and you overselling abilities” and less of the We Think You Are a Liar route).

In the meantime, legal approved security to put a trace on John’s computer to review if there have been outside messages or if his work is being completed with outside help or on a different computer altogether. My husband said the general consensus among the group on the call is that the talk with HR is going to send up a quick red flag and John is likely to resign claiming a poor fit rather than get caught committing or admitting fraud.

Hopefully another fun update soon! My husband is getting sick of me sitting against his office door eavesdropping :)

Update 5

5:07 pm

I think my last update for a while: as soon as HR got on the call with him, before they could get through their first question, John said the words “I quit” and hung up the calls. He has since been unreachable!!

So good riddance John. Their security teams are trying to discover what all he downloaded, if they’ll be able to get their equipment back, is John really his real name, etc. !!

Incredibly bizarre situation. Hoping it was a failed case of trying to get a job and not trying to steal company info but who knows — they may never!

First, thank you for this saga, which I found highly diverting.

So yeah, in response to whether this is a thing … as your husband found, the internet claims it’s a thing, particularly in IT jobs and largely because of the increase in virtual interviewing. The idea is that one person interviews and another takes the job, or one person interviews while another person feeds them answers. You could short-circuit the first category by having people show I.D. at the start of virtual interviews, but the second category is harder and you’d need to address it by being forthright and direct if the person you hire doesn’t seem to have the skills they appeared to have in the interview … which is something good managers should do regardless, but it’s easy to fall into thinking maybe the person is just still adjusting to the role and then suddenly you’re two months in with someone who was never going to be able to do the job because they Cyrano de Bergerac’d their interview.

31 Jan 17:34

‘Beforeigners’ Trailer: What Happens When Vikings and Citizens from the Stone Age Suddenly Appear in Modern Day Society?

by Ben Pearson

Anyone else watch Beforeigners? Highly recommend! I searched my feed and this was the only thing I could find on it and I'm curious to know if others love it like we do.

The trailer here makes some of it seem silly but there's a lot of interesting exploration of identity politics and Krista Kosonen is both a badass and hilarious.

Beforeigners trailer

If you find yourself getting bored by the TV shows you’re watching, here’s one with a fascinating twist that seems worth checking out. It’s called Beforeigners, and it’s a show that imagines a scenario in which people from the Viking era, the Stone Age, and the late 1800s suddenly flash into existence in modern day Norway with no explanation. Watch the trailer below.

Beforeigners Trailer

The six-part series hails from Eilif Skodvin and Anne Bjørnstad, the creators of Lillyhammer, which was one of the first shows that was available to U.S. audiences exclusively on Netflix in the days before House of Cards and Orange is the New Black became burgeoning hits. Now they’re back with a Beforeigners, which has a science fiction premise baked into a police procedural format.

Skodvin and Bjørnstad were apparently inspired by things like District 9, True Love, The Leftovers, Brave New World, and 1984 when they were cooking this one up, and while it definitely seems to have some familiar elements to it, this is a great trailer that makes me very curious to see how the showrunners tackle this concept. Dressing up real-world commentary on refugees in a sci-fi or fantasy premise isn’t anything particularly new: Fox did it in 1988 with Alien Nation, Netflix did it with Bright a couple of years ago, and Amazon did it with the fantasy series Carnival Row just last year. But still, it’s all about the execution of the ideas at play, and I’m intrigued enough to want to check this out. How would a modern society respond to an event like this? What kinds of conflicts and problems would arise from incorporating people from different eras in the same city? It’s a cool concept, and I’m into it.

The show, which is directed by Jens Lien and stars Nicolai Cleve Broch and Krista Kosonen as the pair of mismatched cops, premiered on HBO Europe last August, but is now streaming in the United States on HBO Now and HBO Go.

Here’s the official synopsis:

Set in the near future, Beforeigners is a sci-fi crime drama where time traveling refugees from three past eras – The Stone Age, The Viking era, and the late 19th century – have settled in Oslo, Norway.

The post ‘Beforeigners’ Trailer: What Happens When Vikings and Citizens from the Stone Age Suddenly Appear in Modern Day Society? appeared first on /Film.

26 Jan 15:22

Simon Giertz | Puzzle Table

by swissmiss


This made me smile.

25 Jan 21:13

How Two Boys Stowed Away on a 747 from London to NYC

by Jason Kottke


Ahh, the 80s — when children were given much more freedom than today, an autonomy that two Irish boys used in 1985 to travel from their house in a Dublin suburb all the way to New York City — via two trains, a ferry, and then stowing away on a JFK-bound 747, with nothing more than a few coins in their pockets.

When the boys arrived at John F. Kennedy International Airport, in New York, they tried to bypass a security checkpoint with a sly bit of street smarts, saying to the officer, “Our ma’s just behind us.” It aroused suspicion, but the pair ran when the airport official turned his head away. They then spent a few hours in the airport before wandering outside, astounded by yellow cabs and lofty skyscrapers. A policeman, Kenneth White, stopped them and asked where they were headed. After they lied to White about how they were meeting their mother at the center of town, White pressed further, and Byrne and Murray admitted that they were alone. White radioed for a supervisor, and Sergeant Carl Harrison came to assist him. After more questioning, the two boys were placed in the back of an N.Y.P.D. car and driven to a precinct, where they were held in a room for several hours — they eventually confessed what they had done. After calling other overseas jurisdictions and the boys’ parents, the police officers fed the boys chips and soda, and unloaded their own guns and let the boys play with the firearms. Air India put Byrne and Murray up in a gigantic suite at a five-star hotel and plied them with McDonald’s and movies. “I was never in a hotel before, so it was brilliant,” Murray says. The next day, the security guards who were tasked with supervising the boys asked them why they had come. Byrne and Murray told the officials that they wanted to meet the character B. A. Baracus from “The A-Team.” The guards then brought the boys on sightseeing tours throughout the boroughs, gave them some cash, and bought them “I Love New York” T-shirts.

What a story! It’s wonderful to hear the two men talk about their now long-ago adventures with a mischievous twinkle in their eye — and the old footage of Dublin, Heathrow, and NYC is a great accompaniment.

Tags: crime   NYC   travel   video
20 Dec 21:20

Why The Dyson Airwrap Styler Is Worth Every Penny

by Mary Orton

I bought the airwrap in spring of 2020 and am still on the fence about it. There's a major learning curve to using the airwrap attachments, but the dryer part and brushes are pretty nice. Any other users find the knack to using it?

While the Dyson Airwrap you see in these photos is a new special navy edition for this holiday season, I’ve had the grey and pink version of the exact same tool for over three years and can confidently say it is an exceptionally effective feat of modern engineering and an excellent investment. Why? Well, in short, it’s faster than any other tools on the market and better for your hair.

You’ve heard of this product while eavesdropping at nail salons, you’ve gathered information about its superiority at brunch from raving girlfriends. It’s time to stop wasting time, money, and poorly styled strands on anything else. The Dyson Airwrap is a multi-attachment styling tool that’s been engineered to work perfectly on multiple hair types while saving time and leaving hair damage-free. It comes with barrels to curl and wave as well as brushes to control, smooth, or add volume. It’s your hair styling all-in-one, period. Instead of spending time drying your hair with a blow dryer before beginning the entirely separate step of straightening or curling your hair, this tool does it all simultaneously—drying and styling at the same time and cutting your morning routine in half (or more). Even more amazingly, it somehow does all of this without using the damaging extreme heat of other hair dryers and hot tools.

Dyson’s technology and engineering combines the moisture from your damp hair with powerful airflow and controlled (not extreme) heat to style and dry your strands at the same time. It’s all due to something called the Coanda effect—a term that you’ll only run into if you’re designing aircraft, or, in this case, looking for a more efficient, less-damaging hair styling tool. Basically, the Coanda effect refers to the phenomenon in which fast-moving air attaches itself to a nearby surface and maintains its attachment to that surface even when that surface curves away from the original direction of airflow. This Coanda effect allows strands of damp hair to wrap against the Dyson attachments without any clamping mechanisms or use of heat-protectant gloves. The high-speed air causes the strands of hair to dry and be smoothed, straightened and/or curled, depending on the attachment you’re using. In the end, you have a damage-free, professional-quality blow-out. 

Recently, when discussing this glorious tool with my friend Hilary via text, she said, and I quote, “It’s easier than anything else, fast, and all of the attachments actually work.” She has naturally wavy hair and further emphasized, “If all of the attachments don’t work, you are doing it wrong and need to watch a YouTube.” If that isn’t an add-to-cart endorsement I don’t know what is. She’s referring to the multitude of attachments that come with the Airwrap styler including a pre-styling dryer, two 1.2 inch barrels (there are two so you have the option of curling or waving in both directions), 1.6 inch barrels, a firm smoothing brush head, a soft smoothing brush head, and a round volumizing brush. Whether you want bouncy, voluminous curls or sleek straight tresses, you’ve got it all right there and ready to go.

As Hilary alluded to, it does take a few tries to get it down and learn exactly how best to hold the barrel, etc. I recommend going into the process expecting to need at least three tries before you get the hang of it. But, once you do, it’s INCREDIBLE.  

What I personally love about the Dyson Airwrap is how well it smooths my hair. Lots of tools blow dry your hair, but how many can actually leave you happy with the results with no further styling required? As someone with a lot of postpartum hair breakage (in really visible places along my hairline and part), this product has been such a sigh of relief. It smooths all those little baby and/or broken hairs completely, while other items I’ve used just left my hair looking damaged and frizzy. 

The Dyson Airwrap is definitely an investment piece, but when you think about the fact that you’re getting a product that cuts your styling time significantly down, comes with a complete set of attachments for all the styles you could ever possibly want, and the results are gorgeous without damaging your hair, it’s an investment worth making. Particularly when you review your mental archives for all the money you’ve spent on salon blowouts or products you’re no longer using because they simply weren’t this effective. 

A big difference with Dyson, apart from all the actual science, is the practicality. You don’t have to choose between drying your hair and styling your hair when you’re short on time—because it does both simultaneously. You also don’t have to choose between styled hair or damage-free hair, because the Dyson Airwrap is one tool that isn’t harmful. Should we add speed to the list of pros? Let’s! Because nothing is faster at drying and styling your hair, and anyone currently juggling a busy holiday schedule can certainly use as many precious minutes back as possible.

Whatever your hair texture (my curly-haired friends have confirmed!) and however you’d like to style your hair, you’re getting the best-quality style at home by using the Dyson Airwrap and all of its incredibly effective attachments. There’s nothing better on the market. Feel free to send this post to your significant other and then immediately say, “oh, sorry, I meant to text this to myself.” I can pretty much guarantee you’ll find it under the tree on Christmas morning. 

Thanks to Dyson and ShopStyle Collective for partnering on this post!

15 Dec 22:20

“Of Course”: Tom and Greg, the Only Pure Relationship on ‘Succession’

by Shea Serrano

Warning: Succession spoilers.

LOVED this scene. So good!

HBO/Ringer illustration

Tom Wambsgans has metaphorically kicked his wife down the stairs. Now, it is time for him to realize the potential of his partnership with his once-whipping boy, Cousin Greg.

A couple of months ago, Brian Cox joined Cameo. As soon as I saw the news alert that he was on there, I downloaded the app and submitted a request in hopes of receiving a video from him.

And listen: Brian Cox is a dazzling actor with more than 230 acting credits across film and television. Throughout his career, he’s been in a great number of things, from Unquestionable Masterpieces (Zodiac) to Cult Classics (Super Troopers) to Blockbuster Smashes (Rise of the Planet of the Apes) to Pop Culture Institutions (The Simpsons) to Movies Where Brad Pitt Has Long Hair (Troy). But I didn’t mention any of those in my request. Because none of those were relevant to my particular interests at that particular moment.

My wife is an especially big fan of Succession. She, like so many of us, finds it to be a sharp, dramatic, brilliant, often darkly hilarious show. And Logan Roy, Brian Cox’s character and the father of the family at the center of the series, is one of her favorite people in it. Which is why I made the request on Cameo. I thought it would be a neat little gift (her birthday was only a week or so away at the time). Specifically, I thought it would be neat for Brian Cox, if at all possible, to end whatever message he felt like sending her with some version of the phrase “fuck off.” (He did, and she was very happy about it.)

“Fuck off” is the defining expression (and also the defining ethos, probably) of Succession. It informs everything, both as a statement and as a feeling. A person you’re negotiating with presents you with an option that you feel is less than ideal? Fuck off. A meeting is over and you want everyone to leave? Fuck off. One of your children expresses a very candid set of emotions in your direction? Fuck off. It always works. And it always fits. So it’s always said.

However, it was a different two-word phrase muttered during the Season 3 finale of Succession that somehow felt even more magical, and more perfect, and more profound, even if only in a fleeting sense (possibly because it was in a fleeting sense). In the 52nd minute of the episode, after Kendall and Shiv and Roman have decided to leave their mother’s wedding and use a loophole in their parents’ divorce agreement to finally force Logan out of power at Waystar, Shiv calls Tom, her husband and also the person in charge of the news branch of the family’s multibillion-dollar company. She tells him about their plan, then tells him she wants him involved (to use the news channels to spread the news as fast as possible), and then hangs up. Tom stands in silent consideration for a few moments, weighing and calculating everything he’s just heard.

As he stands there, Greg, a 10-foot-tall gingerbread man and also Tom’s accidental best friend, approaches. Before Tom can say anything, Greg begins telling Tom about how he and a woman a few steps removed from royalty have hit it off. Tom lets Greg talk, but he’s only half-listening because he’s still rolling around in his head the information that Shiv has just given him. When Greg is finished, Tom has a realization, and pivots away from the talk of Greg potentially becoming the king of Luxembourg via a countess. “Greg, listen,” he says, and then he pulls out two chairs from a nearby table while looking around to make sure nobody is within earshot.

Greg sits. He can tell that something serious is going on, so he very earnestly asks, “What’s up?” Tom, speaking in extremely and purposely vague terms, lays out a proposition for Greg: He tells Greg that a series of events are about to take place, and he implies that they will affect Tom in one way or another. Then he leans in a little bit, looks Greg in the eyes, and with total sincerity, asks, “So, umm, do you wanna come with me?” Then he waits a beat.

Greg rightfully asks for more information, but Tom denies him that. Tom won’t say what’s happening. Tom can’t say. Greg hesitates, saying he has other options that might be better, if only because he at least knows what those options actually are. And so Tom leans in further and, again with total sincerity, asks, “Who has ever looked after you in this fucking family?” It’s a statement that resonates with Greg, who has watched from afar as Father Roy and Siblings Roy have attempted again and again to rip the arms and legs off of one another during their power battle for the steering wheel of the family company.

Greg and Tom continue the back-and-forth—Tom never divulging any information and Greg begging for whatever clarity he can get. At the very end of it, after Tom’s finished laying out his argument (which is essentially “just trust me with your entire life”), when he can feel Greg beginning to nibble on the line, he sets the hook: “Listen,” he says, glancing down at his watch, but not in a way that feels like he’s being dismissive of Greg, but instead in a way that feels like he desperately wants for Greg to say yes. “I have things to do. Umm, do you want … a deal … with … the devil?”

Greg hesitates again. He thinks on it for a second. He puts his hand on his head, takes a breath, then looks at Tom: “What am I gonna do with a soul anyways?” He’s in.

Relief spreads across Tom’s face. “Souls are boring,” says Greg, smiling free and beautiful, an expression immediately reciprocated by Tom. Greg puts both of his massive hands on Tom’s shoulders, looks at him, then playfully says, “Boo souls.” Tom bursts into a laugh, and Greg laughs, and it’s beautiful and heartwarming. And that’s when Greg says the two words: Sitting back in his chair, he gives Tom his most heartfelt look and says, simply but with great meaning, “Of course.”

The “of course” there is a lightning bolt. Everyone on Succession is always scheming and plotting and backstabbing and conniving and leery of each other no matter their relationship. It’s as nasty and ruthless and emotionally venomous of a psychological environment as can be had (among billionaires, anyway). And so in this very pivotal moment, Greg responding to Tom’s wholly informationless pitch with an OBVIOUSLY I’M GONNA BE BY YOUR SIDE, YOU DIDN’T EVEN HAVE TO ASK kind of tone and smile is just massively gorgeous. It’s a lighthouse in a storm. It’s that feeling of THANK GOD after you finally pluck an impossible and uncompromising days-old splinter from your foot.

Let’s watch it again, this time just from the “Of course” moment:

It’s perfect; the warmth of Greg’s voice, the way Tom laughs a small laugh to keep from crying, the way they shake hands and then stare at each other for a second before wordlessly deciding that it’s not enough and they must stand up and hug. Perfect.

It’s the payoff of a friendship that began back in the first episode of the first season when Tom razzed Greg at a private and impromptu softball game and has now stretched across a heavy roster of bonding moments that includes the two being trapped in a room together during an active shooter threat, the two being humiliated while Logan tried to smoke out a potential rat on the team, and the two facing possible prison time for destroying evidence of various and awful illegalities committed on a cruise ship. It’s the payoff of an in-plain-sight promise (that we all missed at the time) that, if the time ever came, Tom would choose protecting Greg over protecting his own wife.

Greg telling Tom “Of course” is the exact opposite of the majority of the other conversations on the show, wherein no pure vulnerability is ever sincerely shown and no pure sympathy is ever sincerely offered.

Or, said differently: It is the exact opposite of “Fuck off.”

And that Succession can pull off both of things equally well is why Succession is Succession.

14 Dec 22:38

The Unbearable Weight Of Massive Talent Trailer: Nicolas Cage Meets His Biggest Fan

by Lex Briscuso

Have no fear, Nicky is here, y'all — and it's not like he really ever went anywhere, OK? That's Nicolas Cage's mentality in the new red-band trailer for his upcoming meta-comedy, "The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent," and we're ready to see how this version of the Academy Award winner (named Nick Cage, with a K) handles being hard up for attention and fame in a dwindling point in his career.

You see, in the visual, we learn that Cage is struggling in his work and with being the movie star he was once known to be. The trailer opens with him contemplating this struggle alongside actor Neil Patrick Harris (seemingly playing Cage's agent) while hanging out poolside together. He's been living in a hotel for a year, and he owes them half-a-mil — so he's not in the best place at the start of this film. NPH reveals there is an offer on the table for Cage to attend a billionaire superfan's birthday party for a $1 million paycheck, which he agrees to after hearing the price tag.

It turns out the superfan in question — a man named Javi, played by Pedro Pascal — is a drug kingpin, according to the film's official synopsis, so it seems things will undoubtedly get more complicated for Cage. In the trailer, we see him and Pascal's Javi getting into all sorts of ridiculous hijinks during Cage's time at his party, all of which is pretty funny, but we don't see much about that second side of the film that is revealed in the synopsis. Guess we'll just have to wait to see how the movie shakes down when it releases on April 22, 2022.

The movie also stars Sharon Horgan as Cage's ex-wife, newcomer Lily Sheen as Cage's daughter, and comedian Tiffany Haddish as a CIA agent who enlists Cage into a scheme involving the superfan.

"Tiffany factors into the story once Nic has gotten to Mallorca, where the birthday party takes place," director Tom Gormican recently told Entertainment Weekly of the film's raucous plot. "She ropes Nic into a CIA operation, and the plot [proceeds] from there." Yeah, who knows what's going to happen in this movie, y'all.

The Most Nicolas Cage Movie Ever? Seems Like It

The movie, written by Gormican and Kevin Etten, appears to have all manner of twists and turns in its meta container — but it seems to have always been sure about one thing: its unwavering dedication to Nicolas Cage. In fact, Gorman revealed to Entertainment Weekly that it was having Cage in the film or bust.

"It was written for Nic. He was not attached to this movie. This was a shot in the dark that we would end up getting him. If Nic said he did not want to do the movie, it was just a pile of garbage. It was very specifically for him. As a pure business decision, as a writer-director, it was probably the stupidest thing we could have done, but we just really, really believed in this particular story. I think it took a lot of courage for Nic to embrace this type of role where you're playing yourself, but it's a character who's not in a great place."

The movie also seems to analyze the celebrity/fan dynamic, which is something I personally find incredibly fascinating and furthermore would be interesting to see explored through two men. "Javi has a wax statue of Nic and you think, 'Oh, it might be awkward between a film star and a fan,'" Cage told EW. "But they're both cinephiles, so they're having wonderful conversations about 'The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari' and 'Paddington 2.'"

Needless to say, I'm beyond ready to discover the ins and outs of this film, a movie the trailer calls the "most Nicolas Cage movie ever." If it lives up to that phrase, it's bound to be one of the best of 2022. Fingers crossed.

Read this next: 14 Awesome Comedies That Never Got Sequels

The post The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent Trailer: Nicolas Cage Meets His Biggest Fan appeared first on /Film.

27 Oct 14:45

when the red flags are even more ominous than you know…

by Ask a Manager

Bullet dodged.

This post, when the red flags are even more ominous than you know… , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

In 2014, I received this letter. I get more mail than I can answer, and this one didn’t end up getting published. But read on, because there’s a twist coming.

After following your cover letter and resume advice, I landed an interview for a position I would love to have. It is similar to my current work but would allow me to be more proactive and have greater ownership over the work.

My issue is with the prospective company’s hiring practices. I would like to question them in the interview to gain some insight in their company culture and structure, but I don’t want to come across as overly critical. After two in-person interviews, one phone interview and one skype interview, the company is flying me out to their headquarters in California to interview with an unnamed “panel” (the actual job is in Arizona.) The scheduler keeps moving my interview date every few days and it’s been pushed back 6 times now, including 3 plane tickets. I’m also concerned that they don’t trust their Arizona team with this hire, when it seems from the conversations I’ve had, I would have little interaction with the California team. How do I approach the question of the constant rescheduling and the trust issues? Or do you think that both are non-issues?

Back to 2021. The writer of this letter recently emailed me about something else and included this note:

I noticed a question I submitted back in 2014 about some warning signs from an interview process I was embedded with at the time — and it was for a position at THERANOS! It was the craziest, most disorganized, lengthy hiring process I’ve ever experienced. I’m really thankful I didn’t pass the final interview.

I asked the letter-writer if she’d share more details and she obliged:

I had completely forgotten that I reached out for advice, and reading it over now with SO much hindsight, I should have said “no thank you” based on their constant rescheduling! It was an incredibly stressful process because I would schedule a day off from work to fly to California, and then have to reach back out to my supervisor and change the request- six times. A total red flag for my current job, but they didn’t seem to notice. At the time, Theranos had JUST emerged to the national scene and were in Walgreens test stores in Arizona, with a full board of directors including several high-profile military leaders, so I thought it would be a good opportunity and there was only glowing, credible press about their mission and future. They provided a voucher to go through the nanotainer collection process at a local Walgreens, but I didn’t have a chance — and I’m glad now since it’s been revealed that false positives were abundant in their testing.

On the interview day, I flew to Palo Alto into the last step of a three-month process (my fifth interview), and they had this weird stipulation that if you took a taxi, you wouldn’t be reimbursed for travel, only if you took public transportation or rental car/shuttle service — but with the timing of landing to interview time (they determined both), there was no time for any of the reimbursable options. The building was super secure and I had to wait in a stark lobby behind multiple security doors for at least an hour, but that was actually the fun part of the day, chatting about the Chicago Bulls with the security guards. When someone finally arrived, I was led to a smaller lobby, where, after another half hour (now 1.5 hours later than originally scheduled), I had an extremely abrupt, short, cold interview with one person from HR. We didn’t vibe at all, so I wasn’t shocked that I didn’t get the job, but I WAS surprised that after all of the effort on both of our sides, I received a generic email form letter signed “Kind Regards, Theranos Human Resources.”

Another part of the interview process that I’ll never forget was the Skype interview with Sunny Balwani. He looked absolutely miserable, stressed, and rushed. Like he had been sleeping at his desk for weeks and was just absolutely hating that he had to talk with me. I’ve heard in the meantime that Elizabeth Holmes’ defense was going to portray him as a conniving Svengali, which didn’t match at all what I saw back then!

My lesson learned from this experience was that red flags are called red for a reason, and I just kept ignoring them. Rescheduling an out-of-state interview six times to meet with one person should have clued me in that this would not be a great place to work! I think we all make excuses because we’re so wrapped up in the process and start imagining ourselves out of our current situation without detecting dysfunction in the future opportunity. I’m glad I was spared that job, because a year and a half later, the Wall Street Journal started exposing the company, ultimately leading to them liquidating. But boy, that year and a half would be full of stories I’d never forget, probably!!

I want to just give 2014 me a hug that she was trying SO HARD to impress people at this incredibly dysfunctional, toxic workplace.

But three companies later, I am happy and well-adjusted. Thanks again for all your great advice over the years!

27 Oct 14:35

Dune Star Stellan Skarsgård Kept Demanding More Nude Scenes

by Kaylee Dugan

dune/skarsgard intersection autoshare

The "Dune" news keeps on rolling in -- and like a ravenous sand worm that consumes everything put before it, we just can't stop writing, reading, and thinking about this movie. Everything we've learned about Denis Villeneuve's sci-fi epic makes us appreciate the pure passion and talent that made the film possible even more than we did before. From Zendaya only being on set for seven days to the "Star Wars" inspiration, there was clearly a lot happening on behind the scenes of the "Dune" set, but no news has delighted us more than Stellan Skarsgård's devotion to his craft and his character.

Skarsgård -- who plays one of the big baddies in "Dune," the abominable Baron Vladimir Harkonnen -- apparently had a lot to say on set about his terrifying take on the character. According to makeup artist Donald Mowat, who was interviewed by The Wrap, Skarsgård was practically begging for more nude scenes, which is only surprising because he was nude in most of the scenes that made it into the final cut of the film anyway. Skarsgård is nude (although, with some very serious makeup on) all over this movie and I'm thrilled at the idea that he couldn't get enough.

As Mowat explains in the interview, "Stellan just loved being naked as the Baron ... We all used to kill ourselves laughing when Stellan would ask for more nude scenes. He felt, quite correctly, that the Baron appeared more frightening and dangerous unclothed than cloaked in robes or armor. So he was always asking for more nudity."

Nude In Dune

Skarsgård's take on the Baron is pretty different from the Harkonnen introduced in Frank Herbert's novels. In the books, Harkonnen is essentially a scheming oligarch with a penchant for child abuse, but in the films he comes off more monster than man. 

By stripping him down, literally and figuratively, to a foreboding character whose motivations beyond pure greed and violence are unclear, Skarsgård makes the Baron seem even more frightening. The Baron is obviously so comfortable with his choices, so filled with hate, that he's confident being completely nude on one of the most demanding and vicious places in the "Dune" universe, his home planet Geidi Prime.

Considering how much time went into transforming Skarsgård into the Baron, it's incredible that he wanted more. According to Mowat: 

"It took five people about four hours to apply Stellan's makeup ... And that was when the Baron was wearing a costume. Naked, it took six-and-a-half or seven hours. That's a huge difference in the day, but it was worth it." 

If anything, this proves that Skarsgård is a true professional who is willing to do whatever it takes.

"Dune" is in theaters and on HBO Max now.

Read this next: The 14 Greatest Science Fiction Movies Of The 21st Century

The post Dune Star Stellan Skarsgård Kept Demanding More Nude Scenes appeared first on /Film.

20 Oct 16:28

Parquet Courts – “Homo Sapien”

by Stereogum

Pooneh Ghana

In a few days, New York rockers Parquet Courts will release Sympathy For Life, the new album that they recorded with producers Rodaidh McDonald and John Parish. I have heard this LP, and I can assure you that it goes hard. Today, you can hear some further evidence of this news.