Tag Archives: Slate

Vibranium v Unobtanium: A Slate Investigation

Most of Black Panther is set in the imaginary African nation of Wakanda, a technological utopia whose monarchs have for centuries observed a strict policy of isolationism, keeping would-be colonizers at bay by hiding their nation’s wealth and scientific advancement from the outside world. We’re told in the movie’s very first minute that Wakanda’s prosperity derives from its abundance of Vibranium, and that this bounty was delivered via meteorite long before humans walked the Earth.

And for a resource they’re trying to keep secret, the Wakandans sure talk about it a lot.

Even more than the characters in Avatar (Remember Avatar? Nominated for nine Oscars including Best Picture and Best Director for my boy James Cameron? Still the highest-grossing movie in the history of movies?) speak the much-derided name of that movie’s extraterrestrial miracle metal, Unobtanium.

A lot more.

For this Slate piece, I did the transcription. And the math.

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Talkin’ Yulejams on Word of Mouth


Thanks to Virgina Prescott and Word of Mouth for having me back on yesterday to talk about the dearth of new Christmas songs and make a few recommendations of less-familiar old ones. They were awfully nice about it when the battery in the borrowed phone I was using died mid-interview.

You can listen to the segment here.

Last Christmas? Wherein I Wonder Where the New Christmas Songs At

Remember Children of Men, Alfonso Cuaron‘s brilliant dystopian sci-fi movie about a worldwide pandemic of absolute infertility, wherein the youngest person on Earth is 19 years old?

Well, the youngest Christmas song to be promoted the rarefied rank of a standard — Mariah Carey‘s “All I Want for Christmas Is You” — turns 19 this year. If you think Hollywood has a remake problem, take a look at the holiday charts on Billboard or iTunes. Our pop stars still write new Christmas songs, but we’re not embracing them.

In a new essay for Slate, I scratch my chin over when and how the secular seasonal songbook, a living document until a couple a decades ago, came to be locked down tighter than Santa’s workshop.

Where Do I Start with Lou Reed?


Lou Reed was one the greatest American artists in any medium. Slate invited me to compile a playlist of 10 of his post-Velvet Underground songs as way for newcomers to sample his 40-year solo catalog. I was honored. You can read that here.

When Rolling Stone reported Lou’s death at the age of 71 yesterday morning — it’s not like I knew him personally, but something about his songwriting, especially on The Blue Mask album from 1982 and everything afterward, makes me feel first-name intimacy with him — I started tweeting my recollections as a longtime admirer. I was introduced to his work and his wry worldview by New York in 1989. I heard the single, “Dirty Blvd.,” on the radio, and I got the CD from the Columbia House mail-order club.

Years later, I took a beach trip to South Carolina for a week with a bunch of friends right after we all graduated from high school. It was my first overnight trip sans adult supervision. I didn’t do any drugs because I just wasn’t interested, but I did buy Reed’s Between Thought and Expression boxed set at a record shop in Charleston during that trip.

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What Gravity Should’ve Learned from ALIENS

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Admittedly, ALIENS is a film I’ve loved unconditionally since I was a kid. I need very little prompting to think about it, and only a little more prompting than that to write about it. But a deleted scene from that 27-year-old movie highlights what is, to me, the sole flaw in Alfonso Curaon’s still-fantastic new space movie Gravity, and how audience expectations have changed in the generation since ALIENS. This is the subject of my first piece for Slate, which you can read here.