Monday, February 29th, 2016


Oscars, Wild

People who tuned in expecting to see Billy Crystal sing a goofy song were in for a surprise. This year's Oscars were the most political in recent memory. Leo talked about climate change. Lady Gaga (introduced by a sitting vice president) was joined on stage by victims of sexual assault for the night's most moving performance. Sam Smith (who could have done a bit more research) used his win to voice support for gay rights. Best Director Alejandro Iñárritu ignored the play off music to call for an end to the focus on skin color. And of course, the entire event was marked by the absence of black nominees from this year's awards. While that theme might have been hit upon a few too many times, Chris Rock's opening monologue was America's best comedian at the top of his game, and at the right place at the right time. He pulled no punches in explaining why diversity in film hadn't caused protests during previous years: "We were too busy being raped and lynched to care about who won best cinematographer. When your grandmother's swinging from a tree, it's really hard to care about best documentary foreign short!"

+ This wasn't the first time identity-politics and the film industry have been in focus at the Oscars. Last night, Sacheen Littlefeather would have fit right in.

+ Leo DiCaprio took three hours off from having sex to accept his first Oscar in person, Brie Larson won best actress, and Mad Max rode off with a ton of statues. Here's a list of all the winners.

+ As always, there were some snubs and surprises.

+ And the LA Times picks the best and worst dressed. (There were so many celebrities wearing glasses, I thought the event might have been sponsored by Warby Parker.)


See Spotlight Run

Spotlight only won two Oscars last night. But one of them was for best picture. It's an excellent movie, and a timely one. In an era when so many people are running campaigns maligning journalism and the media, it's important to remember the role the institution plays in protecting us. Spotlight is about investigative journalists uncovering Church sex abusers more than a decade ago. Since then, I worry we've gotten rid of more of the former than the latter. Hopefully this movie serves as a reminder of the importance of hard-hitting local journalism. Here's the 2002 Boston Globe piece that broke the story.

+ "The story that inspired the movie serves as a wonderful, wonderful reminder why so many of us got into this business in the first place and why so many stayed despite all the gloom and doom and all the left hooks that landed squarely on our chins along the way." The real Martin Baron reflects on the movie's success.


House United

"The Don Drapers of the world used to marry their secretaries. Now they marry fellow executives, who could very well earn more than they do." From the NYT Upshot, and interesting look at how equality in marriages leads to more division between the classes.


Placed on Hold

Not all parties have signed on to the deal, it doesn't include all of Syria, and there are already reports of some airstrikes, but so far, the Syrian truce has held well enough for the UN to get aid to the first recipients. They hope to target 1.7 million people by the end of March.

+ "It's difficult to view the partial truce as much more than a ratification of the status quo that began when Putin ordered the Russian military intervention." The New Yorker's Dexter Filkins on a truce in Syria.

+ "Known for its nearly carbon-neutral cities, its free health care and university education for all, its bus drivers who are paid like accountants, its robust defense of gay rights and social freedoms, and its vigorous culture of social and political debate, the country has long been envied as a social-democratic success, a place where the state has an improbably durable record of doing good." So why aren't they open to the immigrants? In NYRB, Hugh Eakin on Liberal, Harsh Denmark


We Have Clearance, Clarence

Attendees at today's session at the Supreme Court were treated to unlikeliest sound: The voice of Clarence Thomas. For the first time in a decade, the justice asked a question during oral arguments. The Scalia Effect strikes again.



"Loss of habitat to humans and the clumsy plodding of livestock factored highly. No surprise. But what shocked the report's author was that the largest extinction threat comes from horticulture, specifically the illegal collection and trade." The Atlantic's J. Weston with the story of the undercover agents who busted some notorious cactus smugglers in the American West.


Orange is the New Attack

"There's talk of bad spray tans, sweat and urination. Accusations that a rival has ties to the mob." And now even the comment that one candidate has little hands, "and you know what they say about men with small hands." Following the presidential campaign into the gutter. The campaigns are comedy tours and the debates are dueling roasts. Jeffrey Ross should run for president.


Control Alt Learn

"All were engaged in bespoke activities that had been assigned to them through a playlist." Silicon Valley entrepreneurs tend to think they can solve any problem. But can they solve education? The New Yorker's Rebecca Mead visits Alt School to find out. Learn Different. Welcome to the first classroom where disruption is the goal.

+ Quartz: Teens do better in science when they know Einstein and Curie also struggled.


Cheap Leap Day

NextDraft comes at you commercial-free thanks to the support of my most excellent sponsors at BetaBrand. And today, they're having a killer Leap Year sale. You get 29% off everything by using the code: Leap29. And since this is Feb. 29, you also get free returns for four years. And their stuff, like the content they sponsor, is damn cool.

+ FiveThirtyEight: Lots of parents don't want their kids to be born on Leap Day.


Bottom of the News

"That is the normal way to be great. You've got your fans, you've got your haters ... Stephen Curry is not normal." Slate's Josh Levin explains that this is not the way sports is supposed to work. Stephen Curry Is Not a Human Being. (Curry really is the best family entertainment ever. His only flaw is that we can't get any of the fourth graders on my son's basketball team to stop shooting three-pointers.)

+ Why it took Starbucks 45 years to announce a store in Italy.

+ Wired: I'm part of an elite Facebook club: you have to be on Molly to join. Molly is the perfect Facebook drug. You can feel as happy as your posts make it seem like you are.