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    Wed. February 3

    Lena Dunham: The Manchurian Girl

    Kyle Smith

    The more Lena Dunham talks, the more she raises the question: Is her entire career and persona an ingenious undercover scheme dreamed up by a GOP operative specifically to discredit Millennials, feminists, and progressives? Is she the Manchurian Girl?

    Dunham’s latest faux pas, or perhaps her latest strategically planned attack on lefty follies, occurred at the Sundance Film Festival, where at a panel discussion on an unrelated topic she offered this directive: “The way that Hillary Clinton’s been talked about in the media is so gendered and rabidly sexist in every single portrayal,” she said. “Whether it’s the attacks on her personal life or the adjectives that are used to describe her clothing, we have to do a full reexamination. Like, I literally want to make a list that we hand to media outlets that says, like, ‘these are the words you can’t use when describing a female candidate: shrill,…

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    Celebrities

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    Wed. February 3

    How Young is Too Young to Become a Viral Video Sensation?

    Acculturated Editor

    In an age of reality TV, YouTube, and Kardashian global domination, it must seem natural for kids to start making their mark as celebrities at ever earlier ages (Kim Kardashian’s daughter North West has already been dubbed a “fashion force to be reckoned with” at the age of two).

    Consider this week’s most recent contender, a 13-month-old girl named Sloan who had just learned to walk when her parents decided to start training her to become . . . a professional snowboarder?

    The girl’s mother has been blogging about her daughter’s “snowboarding journey” since the girl could barely stand on her own two (very tiny) legs. Both parents have said they hope to make her into an Olympic-caliber snowboarder.

    Setting aside the safety issues (she isn’t wearing a helmet; the parents claim they can’t find one that fits her—which might suggest that perhaps she shouldn’t yet be on a…

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    Culture

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    Tue. February 2

    If We’re All So Connected, Why are Our Kids so Lonely?

    Stephanie Cohen

    Heading out on an overnight school trip, my daughter spent 90 minutes each way on the bus with her classmates. Before the trip, the school laid out the electronic use policy—students would be allowed to use iPhones and iPads on the drive to and from their retreat but not during their stay. A few parents questioned the need for devices at all—can’t they talk to each other for 90 minutes?—but the policy stood. I sent my daughter off with a few books, a journal, and pens.

    When she returned, the review was glowing: the place where they stayed was awesome, she loved having roommates (“Maybe we can look at some sleep-away camps this summer?”), the food was yummy, and the classes were fun. Everything was great—except for the bus ride. “I was one of only a few kids who didn’t have an iPhone or iPad,” she told me.…

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    Culture

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    Tue. February 2

    When PBS Costume Dramas Go Bad: ‘Downton Abbey’s’ Gory Dinner Scene

    Mary Rose Somarriba

    Spoiler alert: But you knew that. And it’s probably already been spoiled for you. Trust me, you haven’t missed anything. I only wish I had been tipped off before watching it.

    So allow me to explain: Sunday night on Downton Abbey . . . I could have thrown up. Really. Imagine copious and gratuitous amounts of blood splattering a gorgeously laid dinner table. WTF, PBS? If I want to see formal dinner affairs turned into drawn-out blood vomiting scenes, I’ll tune in to HBO. I expect this shock-value blood and gore from a show like Game of Thrones, not a ITV-created period drama, for goodness’ sake!

    Turns out I wasn’t alone in making this connection. “The period drama pulled a page from Game of Thrones’ playbook,” Vanity Fair noted immediately after the Downton episode aired.

    For those not entirely up-to-date on their Downton backstories: Lord Grantham has been putting…

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    Television

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    Tue. February 2

    Hipster Musicians Endorse Old White Dude for President

    R. J. Moeller

    Frank Sinatra opened for John F. Kennedy during his presidential campaign of 1960. Bruce Springsteen warmed up crowds for John F. Kerry in 2004.

    Meanwhile, Republican candidates since Calvin Coolidge are considered “lucky” and “hip” if Pat Boone’s actual hip doesn’t dislocate on his way to the main stage at the Iowa State Fair in the waning months before caucus season.

    It is a non-negotiable fact that Democrats categorically defeat Republicans when any question of “coolness” enters the political (and cultural) discussion. Of course no one would argue that Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is any cooler than Mitch McConnell (R-KY), but, given the caliber of celebrity that embraces Center-Left leanings, the level of cool-by-association heavily favors those with that “D” before their name.

    Whether or not this matters to tax-paying voters over the age of 45 is debatable. But it clearly matters to Americans between the ages of 18-44—a group (of…

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    Culture

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    Tue. February 2

    Celebrity Overreach: Leonardo DiCaprio edition

    Acculturated Editor

    With the Presidential primary season in full swing, the media is lousy with sightings of that annoying yet ubiquitous species: the celebrity political hack. You can’t throw a brick at a Hillary or Bernie rally without being introduced to a celebrity “special guest” or musical act, and Instagram feeds are clogged with images of “famous” people like former Olympic figure skater Michelle Kwan (pictured next to a dour Chelsea Clinton) making sandwiches for Hillary campaign workers.  Lena Dunham has turned her support for Hillary into a one-woman show (think Vagina Monologues-meets-Veep), while stars like Susan Sarandon and Justin Long have gone radical-chic supporting the Bernie Sanders campaign.

    All of this celebrity cross-pollination suggests we need a new category to define such activity: celebrity overreach, or, when famous wealthy people who spend most of their lives in fantasy worlds suddenly decide that the democratic masses really need their help. Celebrity overreach…

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    Celebrities

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    Mon. February 1

    Feminists Try to Rebrand Rainy Day Funds as F**k Off Funds

    Ashley E. McGuire

    Are you a woman? If so, do you have a F*** Off Fund set up yet? If not, you need to get on that, stat.

    That’s the latest message to today’s modern woman, brought to you by Paulette Perhach over at The Billfold. Her piece, “A Story of a F*** Off Fund,” tells a tale that is probably all-too common: Young woman moves to a big city after graduating college, begins working at a low-paying job for a sexually harassing jerk of a boss and ends up living with (and off of) her scummy boyfriend.

    In Perhach’s telling, the leading lady gets sexually harassed by her boss and reacts like this:

    You know what to do. You’re just shocked to find you’re not doing it. You are not telling him to fuck off. You are not storming out. All you’re doing is math. You have $159 in…

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    Culture

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    Mon. February 1

    Zach Galifianakis’ ‘Baskets': A Show about Purpose, by Way of Clown College

    Amy Anderson

    “Being a clown is the most important thing in the world to me,” an earnest Chip Baskets tells his professor at the prestigious Academie de Clown Francais in Paris. Unfortunately, the aspiring clown is struggling to comprehend the lectures in clown-theory class: “I don’t speak French . . . at all,” he explains. The professor mocks him as a “Ronnalld Macdonalddd.”

    Welcome to the first episode of Baskets, a delightfully off-kilter new series on FX, created by the alt-comedy dream team of Louis CK (Louie), Jonathan Krisel (Portlandia, Tim and Eric), and Zach Galifianakis (Between Two Ferns and The Hangover), who stars as Chip.

    Down but not out after his failure at the clown academy, Chip moves back home to Bakersfield, California, with his sultry French girlfriend Penelope (Sabine Sciubba) in tow. “I don’t love you, I don’t find you attractive,” she tells Chip matter-of-factly, but she agrees to marry him for…

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    Television

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    Mon. February 1

    Why Not Just Give Barbie Cankles?

    Katrina Trinko

    When is Barbie going to get cankles already?

    That’s my question after hearing that Mattel has expanded the Barbie line to include tall, curvy, and short dolls.

    And when is she going to get a large butt or small breasts or ugly toes?

    That last thing—along with the cankles—was the focus of our most recent pop culture example of America’s body image obsession, courtesy of The Bachelor contestant Olivia.

    “Do I have bad toes? Yeah,” says Olivia. (This is all on camera, in case you’re wondering.) Later, she tells bachelor Ben Higgins, “I hate my legs” and “Blogs have been written about my cankles. It’s really hard.”

    Sure, most of us wouldn’t ‘fess up to this on national TV. And we certainly wouldn’t do it, as Olivia does with the cankles confession, after Ben announces he’s dealing with the death of people close to…

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    Culture

  • SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA - JANUARY 29:  In this handout photo released by the COEX Aquarium, Sand tiger shark with a Banded hound shark in its mouth at COEX Aquarium on January 29, 2016 in Seoul, South Korea. The female sand tiger shark measuring 7.2 ft, ate a male banded hound shark 3.9 ft at the COEX Aquarium. According to the statement by the aquarium PR, sharks sometimes bite other sharks out of astonishment when they bump into them in their own territory.  (Photo by COEX Aquarium via Getty Images)

    Mon. February 1

    OMG a Shark! The “Near Miss” Effect on YouTube

    Acculturated Editor

    For some reason, we love reminders of our own mortality — vicarious reminders, that is. The Internet provides an endless number of these, most of which involve videos of extreme weather, traffic accidents, or shark attacks.

    Here’s Australian surfer Mick Fanning competing in South Africa last summer; a shark attacked him as he lined up for a wave. He escaped uninjured.

    This should not be confused with last week’s viral video of a female shark devouring an annoying male tank mate in a Seoul, South Korea aquarium; she took a ladylike 21 hours to finish swallowing him (#mindfuleating):

    Dashcam videos (most of which seem to originate in Russia) are all over YouTube, featuring drivers barely escaping death and destruction. Near-miss weather incidents are also easy to find.

    Our strange fixation on watching near-miss moments might be traced to the 1990s FOX TV show When Animals Attack!, which ushered in the era…

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    Culture