There are no guarantees those same things will go right this time around.
Watching a President Fall: Slate’s Slow Burn podcast
No, not this presidential slow burn, but one that rings eerily similar: Nixon’s Watergate scandal. Slate’s newest podcast Slow Burn is a deep dive into the makings of Watergate and what it was like for the nation to watch as the scandal grew from a “curious burglary to a national obsession.” The eight-episode mini-series tells the story through a Serial-like combination of careful, thorough research, archival recordings, and new interviews with famous players. The premiere episode, “Martha,” is a standout, telling the story of Martha Mitchell, the wife of Nixon’s attorney general. In the days after the break-in, she was forcibly held in a California hotel room so that she wouldn’t tell reporters what she knew. It’s obviously a story left out of the history books and reveals a compelling bit of intel into the makings of the nation’s most notorious scandal – so far.
It’s almost impossible to listen to Slow Burn and not make comparisons to our current political climate, but the show smartly stays away from announcing those connections: the parallels are apparent enough on their own. But they clearly influenced the making of the show. Slow Burn producer/host Leon Neyfakh explains that, “the similarity that’s most striking is that people who lived through Watergate had no idea what was going to happen from one day to the next, or how it was all going to end. I recognize that feeling.” Maybe we have our own Marthas living today, who are being silenced (in fact, I’m quite sure we do). Maybe there will be a podcast about the Trump administration one day (although, as Nicholas Quah pessimistically points out in Vulture: “That answer is contingent on whether we survive this.”) Until then, Neyfakh’s vision is to highlight just how long the Watergate scandal took to break, and perhaps offer a bit of hope that if “the nation made it through Watergate, we’re going to be fine too.” It might be too much of a rose-tinted view (Quah observes that “so many things had to go right for Nixon to leave office, there are no guarantees those same things will go right this time around”), but still, I can’t deny the strange comfort that listening to Slow Burn delivers.
“You also read books!” SNL and the #MeToo Movement
Saturday Night Live has had a solid season, thanks mostly to Alec Baldwin’s impeccable Trump impersonation, a strong, fresh cast, and the fact that satire basically creates itself these days. SNL’s January opener, hosted by Sam Rockwell, was fine overall: some well-executed sketches, a few others that missed their target, and one really bad digital short. But one sketch I found exceptional was “Fashion Panel,” in which nervous E! hosts attempt to recap the fashion on display at the Golden Globes.
The Golden Globes this year famously had an all-black dress code in support of the Time’s Up initiative among Hollywood women. The sketch portrayed manically cautious E! panelists (memorably Kenan Thompson as a fashion guru named “Angelo Dolphintuna”) attempting to still do their job of discussing women’s fashion while also trying to be woke. The punchlines read like a slew of trendy Twitter posts, with the panelists calling the women “empowered” or looking like they “went to college.” Also, Kate McKinnon comes out to play actress Frances McDormand in a spot-on impression that escalates the sketch from just some amusing commentary to the thing that SNL does best: insight into our cultural climate, well-executed delivery, and some good old-fashioned impressions.
Titenic, not Titanic
Last week I was at an event called Awesome Games Done Quick, a charity speedrunning marathon event that I that I wrote about last summer. While there’s always much to say about the event, there’s one breakout run this year that is quickly going viral. It’s a run of a game called Titenic (yes, Titenic). Titenic is a Taiwanese bootleg game made for the NES that tells the story of Jack and Rose from 1997’s Titanic movie. It is just as bad as you’d think. On top of the ridiculous gameplay, silly boss fights, and ninja-like reflexes of Jack and Rose, there’s hilariously poor broken English in the cutscenes, made even better by the reading from the game’s commentator. This video will be the best 10 minutes of crying-laughing of your week, I promise. Also, there’s a clever sensor for a particular scene in which Rose is wearing the Heart of the Ocean necklace (and only the necklace). I’m happy games like this exist, and events like this to showcase it. (PS – the gameplay starts around the 9:00 minute mark).
header image: "1968 campaign," ollie atkins / wikimedia commons