“While You Were Out,” is a Friday feature of short notes and commentary from the week. Whether it’s something you’d discuss at the water cooler or at happy hour, you’ll find it on our grid, together with our opinion as to whether it’s praiseworthy or cringeworthy. We’re pleased to bring you the Verily editors’ quick takes on the happenings of this week!
FSU Gunman Stopped Before Killing Anyone
In what appears to be continuing the sad nationwide trend of school violence, a gunman opened fire at Florida State University Thursday. Breaking the trend, however, a quick response ensured the gunman was stopped before anyone was killed. The three injured people are in our prayers, and the campus police get our praiseworthy award of the week.
—Mary Rose Somarriba
Ursula LeGuin’s Remarks at National Book Award
When fiction author Ursula LeGuin received her National Book Award this week, some might have expected a light speech of thanks to those in the room. But instead the 85-year-old writer decided to speak her mind, with no fear—and possibly every intention—of offending many in the audience. LeGuin critiqued how book publishers, following the current of the consumerist culture and in their urgency for profit, are risking the loss of the entire purpose of the enterprise. She rallied the writers in attendance: “I think hard times are coming. We will need writers who can remember freedom….We need writers who know the difference between the production of a commodity and the practice of an art.” Concluding her pithy remarks, LeGuin states, "I've had a good career. Here at the end of it, I really don’t want to watch American literature get sold down the river." BAM.
Azealia Banks' Rise to the Top
In a recent interview, rapper Azealia Banks revealed how, raised in Harlem with a volatile home life, she experienced a rocky start to her career. While shopping her music on MySpace, she found herself at “a low point” desperate to make ends meet and turned to stripping. Looking back, she says, “I was such a chicken in the strip club. It was not my thing at all. I was there for just two weekends, and then I quit.” Shortly after, her song “212” became a hit. Kudos to Banks for getting out of the exploitative sex industry, following her heart, and finding success!
Chris Hemsworth, Family Man
Newsflash: Chris Hemsworth, best known for his role as Thor, is not hard to look at. OK, not exactly a newsflash. But this week People magazine bestowed their annual Sexiest Man Alive title to Hemsworth. Yes, People mag, Hemsworth is rather beautiful—the blue eyes, the accent, the arms that wield Thor's hammer. Kudos to you for noticing. But we're swooning over the often-overlooked things: Hemsworth obviously adores his wife and three children, makes family time back in Australia a priority, and retains a sense of humor about being pretty. Now that is sexy.
Just in Time for the Holidays
Have you seen this year’s latest Christmas carol by Pentatonix? I don't even care that it's a week before Thanksgiving, it's that good. Covering the lesser-known carol “Mary, Did You Know?”—a song written in 1984 by Mark Lowry and Buddy Green—the renowned a cappella group hits another home run. Musically, I almost like this better than last year’s "Drummer Boy," but it's a tough call.
In Other Christmas Season News
I <3 Anna Kendrick, and I <3 Kate Spade, so naturally this commercial is a new fave. The always adorable Kendrick makes getting locked out of her apartment an adventure—drinking Champagne, singing holiday carols, and dressing up her cute dog. All while looking impeccable in a leopard-print coat, chic sunglasses, and the most perfect weekend bag you’ve ever seen, of course. If the mini-drama commercial isn’t enough adorableness for your week, check out this.
OK, Just One More Adorable Vid
Crooner Michael Bublé and Idina Menzel of Frozen fame have teamed to bring us a kid-tastic version of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.” I have to say, there are many pluses to having children lip-syncing the lyrics. For one, it makes for an adorably choreographed music video. For two, it provides a great occasion to make the lyrics less date-rapey. Instead of “say, what’s in this drink” and “maybe just a half a drink more,” we now hear, “say, was that a wink?” and “half a dance more.” My ears thank you.
Hunger Games Opens in Theaters This Weekend!
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1 (the mouthful of a film title otherwise known as Hunger Games 3) is now in theaters! That you get a decent seat in the guaranteed-to-be-full cinemas this weekend, may the odds be ever in your favor.
Speaking of Mobs
Jennifer Lawrence revealed that she’s “scared every time she opens her front door,” thanks to mobs of paparazzi following the Hunger Games star. "I knew the paparazzi were going to be a reality in my life," she said. "But I didn't know that I would feel anxiety every time I open my front door, or that being chased by 10 men you don't know, or being surrounded, feels invasive and makes me feel scared and gets my adrenaline going every day." It certainly doesn’t help one’s anxiety levels, either, to know that your personal files were hacked, does it.
Oxford Dictionary Names "Vape" 2014 Word of the Year
To vape, or not to vape, that is the question. But my real question is—what is vaping in the first place? According to the Oxford Dictionary, which named "vape" their 2014 Word of the Year, the word (a verb) means "to inhale or exhale the vapour produced by an electronic cigarette or similar device. Apparently, the marketing and usage of e-cigarettes has risen to such prominence this year that "vape" beat out contenders such as "bae," defined as "a term of endearment for one's partner" and "slaktivism," which occurs when people take the lazy activist route and use the Internet to spread a message instead of actually going out and doing something about it. Oh boy. I get it. People invent words. Shakespeare invented thousands of them. But if these are the top new words of 2014, I think we need to spend less time vaping (e-cigarette or not, it's still not great for your health!) and more time on vocabulary flashcards.
Interview with Time Travelers
Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith’s children, Willow and Jaden, understandably have had a unique upbringing as one of the nation’s most famous celebrity families. But you might not have guessed exactly how out of touch they are with the rest of society. In a New York Times interview on the occasion of their dual musical releases, Jaden, 16, remarks, “kids who go to normal school are so teenagery, so angsty.” To which Willow, 14, adds, “they never want to do anything, they’re so tired.” Hm… maybe it’d be wise not to alienate your whole generation of peers in one sweep?
As the interview went on, however, one gets the sense that when it comes to understanding others, Willow and Jaden couldn’t be more on the same wavelength—even if no one else is on it with them.
On the subject of time, Willow says “I mean, time for me, I can make it go slow or fast, however I please, and that’s how I know it doesn’t exist.” Jaden adds, “It’s proven that how time moves for you depends on where you are in the universe. It’s relative to beings and other places. But on the level of being here on earth, if you are aware in a moment, one second can last a year. And if you are unaware, your whole childhood, your whole life can pass by in six seconds. But it’s also such a thing that you can get lost in.”
Right—maybe that’s what’s happened to their childhoods.
But really. This interview could be read as a look into future geniuses, or it could be read as an exploitation of confused kids whose famous parents have overexposed them to subjects beyond their depth! These kids are exceptionally insightful, that’s for sure, but we won’t know until they grow up whether or not they’ll appreciate this permanent record of their wandering thoughts. I for one am glad there’s no record of mine.
Barbie Books Say Girls Can’t Code
A mother reading a Barbie book to her daughter the other day discovered that something a little fishy was going on in Mattel world. Mattel published a Barbie storybook that shows Barbie being a computer engineer —cool, right? But before you celebrate, read on. Barbie is about to create a website, but then she quickly punts the job to Steven because, as the book puts it, Barbie only knows how to do the design, but BOYS HAVE TO BE THE ONES TO CODE. Is this a joke, you ask? Nope. See for yourself.
After immediate public backlash this week, Mattel quickly pulled the book off Amazon. That’s right, Mattel; maybe next time rethink telling girls they need a man to do the hard work. Or that whole idea about how girls just do pretty outward-appearances stuff, nothing challenging. In that case, maybe rethink Barbie altogether.
Rape Scandal at UVA
Rolling Stone’s latest issue features a report on the ongoing scandal at the University of Virginia. The rape and sexual abuse charges that still haven’t seen justice at UVA are absolutely incomprehensible. The importance of this piece is beyond words; especially as it reminds us that assaulted women need support of everyone now more than ever. The article looks at hard evidence as to just how many rapes have gone on—most of which are of freshmen girls who unknowingly walk into trat traps, get drugged or drunk, and are gang-raped in hazing rituals like it’s no big thing. I have had many friends attend the college of UVA and I have heard an inconsolable horror story for each one.
If the rape scandal was not sickening enough, once victims decide to speak up, they are silenced. Silenced by the administration, because obviously it will make the school look bad. Silenced by friends who don’t want to be associated with the girl who ratted out the fraternity brothers—everyone downplaying the painful encounter, with remarks like “are you sure you weren’t just really drunk” or “OK well whatever he was cute let’s not be dramatic.”
Not to mention we’re talking about a school where kids are expelled for cheating or handing in assignments late. But when rape allegations come up, we have the panel discussion first, then a decision-making process, and all this after being discouraged by administration to press charges to begin with.
This has got to stop. When is rape going to be taken as seriously as every other crime? When will people stop victim-blaming, quieting the assaulted, and realizing that this is an issue that needs to end right now? We need light shed on what really happens on campus, including those that cost a pretty penny like UVA, who brush everything under the rug in order to keep their reputation high. So let’s share this Rolling Stone article and pray that greater awareness will help bring justice to the women who have been so mistreated.
Swinger Couple Publishes Book “A Modern Marriage”
A couple recently released their memoir telling how they can base their marriage’s success on being swingers—that is, sleeping with other people at organized events. Nevermind the heartbreak and jealousy they recounted in the process. “We do this together,” the wife says. “I don’t need to cheat on him or go outside the marriage.” Her husband concurs. “If all couples did this, there would be less infidelity in the world. I have an outlet if I need it. There’s no reason to cheat.” Yeah, sort of like how, if you join Netflix, you don’t have to pay to rent movies. Or if you order a bedroom set with your credit card, then you don’t have to pay for it. Wait a minute…