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While You Were Out: Colin Firth Is Back, Jon Stewart Is Leaving, Grammys Recap, and More


“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.

High Points of the Grammys 

The Grammys are always interesting to watch, but this past Sunday’s Grammys made for a striking evening that was both entertaining and emotional. There was even a cohesiveness to the evening of performances—a nod to songs and styles of years past, with Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett performing “Cheek to Cheek,” Jessie J and Tom Jones performing “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling,” and Rihanna performing her new hit song “FourFiveSeconds” with Beatles legend Paul McCartney (OK, with Kanye too, but more about him later). The best in that theme of cross-generational musical magic, though, was Annie Lennox joining Hozier’s set for a stunning rendition of “I Put A Spell On You.” There are no words… just stunning.

The stirring evening continued with touching solo performances by Ariana Grande, Katy Perry, and Beyoncé—all of whom sang slow-tempo passionate ballads. The most heart-rending may have been Perry’s “By the Grace of God,” which immediately followed emotional words by domestic violence survivor Brooke Axtell about the conversation that saved her life. And one of my favorite voices Sia sang as well, in her own quirky way, with Kristin Wiig joining the singer’s nude-leotard alumni of interpretive dancers.

Even the award recipients trended toward melancholic musicians this year, with Sam Smith winning Best Song for “Stay with With Me” and Beck winning Best Album for Morning Phase—both artists taking home a couple trophies each. It was a magical evening all around, until…

Mary Rose Somarriba

Kanye Pulled a Kanye

Kanye West reprised his role as Master Moment Stealer (his first being at the VMA Awards in 2009 during Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech for Best Female Video) by heading to the stage to interrupt Beck’s acceptance of Album of the Year. While he didn’t physically take Beck’s award from him this time (does he feel that he deserve kudos for progress?), he did succeed in making the moment all about Kanye without saying a word. If only he maintained that silence. Moments after the show, he railed against the Grammy voting system and implored Beck to “respect artistry” and give his award to Beyoncé, who had also been nominated for Album of the Year.

There are many many, many, things wrong with this scenario, and the Internet has had a field day with “respect artistry” memes, but let’s break it down. First of all, whether or not his style is your cup of tea, Beck is an incredibly talented artist who wrote and produced all the songs on his album, and can play at least 12 instruments. So I think he has a handle of the artistry concept. Furthermore, Beck’s classy and humble response to the backlash implies that he also respects artists and art in a way that Kayne should maybe try to emulate. As Shirley Manson of Garbage pointed out, Beyoncé does not need Kayne West to fight her battles for her. So just stop. And finally, every time Kayne pulls a stunt like this, the music industry and fans alike lose respect for him as an artist, which is sad because he is not without talent and passion. So yes, this too shall pass, and Beck will be fine, and heck, even Taylor is letting bygones be bygones and is heading into the studio with West, but come on Kanye. Impulse control. Learn some. I would prefer not to hate-like your music.

Monica Weigel

Happy Valentine’s Day! (Or Not!)

It’s that time of year again… that day you either love or hate. For those recognizing the romantic holiday, we’ve got you covered with date-night ideas, recipes for heart-shaped treats, outfit inspiration using clothes you already own, and love language-inspired gift ideas—although as Zach Brittle shared this week, the best gift you can give to your special someone costs nothing at all.

For those who aren’t celebrating Valentine’s Day, hey, you can always listen to some Sam Smith or Beck!


The Kingsman Film Is Like Whoa

Looking for an exciting film to watch Valentine’s Day weekend? Handsome actors and untraditional storylines? Something you’ll actually feel great after watching? Step aside, Mr. Grey. A jacked-up Mr. Darcy is in the house. And he’s taking names.

Kingsman, an action-packed stunner from the people who brought you Kickass, opens this weekend in theaters. Featuring Colin Firth, Samuel L. Jackson, and newcomer Taron Egerton, Kingsman has been summed up as “Tarantino meets Bond.” But if you ask me, it’s even better. It’s Tarantino meets Bond meets Guardians of the Galaxy, if you can imagine that. It’s crazy comic action, classy gentlemen chic, with laugh-out-loud hilarity that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Yes, it’s violent as all get out, but not gratuitously focused on that. Oh, and did I mention the  truly kick-ass roles of Sofia Boutella and Sophie Cookson?

Kingsman may be up against opening weekend competitor Fifty Shades of Grey at the box office, but entertainment-wise, there’s no competition. Not in plot. Not in substance. Not even in the male eye candy category. Imagine Firth with all the charm he brought as Mr. Darcy of Pride and Prejudice, now updated to modern times with superbly crisp suits (“the modern gentleman's armor”). If that weren’t enough, his protégé Egerton provides easily the most attractive image the big screen has seen in a long time—one I sadly can’t seem to find online anywhere—but imagine someone jogging, all boot-camped out in military garb, ready to save the world… and with a little puppy’s head peeking out of his bulletproof vest. Yeah, that’s some serious swoon-factor that will be hard to match for some time.

All of this easily makes Kingsman a flick worth watching, but the screenwriters decided to add character growth and an uplifting storyline as well. In a pivotal moment, Firth quotes Ernest Hemingway: “There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.” Suffice it to say I’ll be munching on that for a few days.

Kingsman is not perfect—there’s a fleeting bedroom scene shoehorned into the final moments that’s almost solely for the purposes of adding sex-appeal to the trailer—but otherwise it’s a seamless film with a positive, pumped-up aftertaste. And, best of all, it’s fun.


#50DollarsNot50Shades Has Gone Viral

And we couldn’t be more psyched. If you haven’t already, read our article this week by Gail Dines on why giving $50 to a domestic violence shelter is better than spending it at the theater.

No seriously. The books are 50 shades of yawn, the film’s getting bad reviews, and the soundtrack isn’t good either. If you do end up at the cinema this weekend, you’re better off seeing Kingsman.


Shadey Stuff at Target

Some consumers have made complaints this week upon seeing Fifty Shades of Grey products sold at local Target stores, alongside commonplace items kids could see. Just another reminder for parents and mentors to read this series on how to talk with kids about 50 shades before they think abusive sex is normal.


Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition Cover…

This week many people got a first glance of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition cover, which not too surprisingly has reached a new low in suggestiveness. The model appears coyly pulling down her bikini bottoms to the point of showing all but genitalia. As Dawn Hawkins for the National Center for Sexual Exploitation told the New York Post, “Sports Illustrated’s 2015 Swimsuit Issue’s cover does not simply feature a beautiful woman in a bikini, it borders obscenity as the focus is specifically on the exposed pubic area.” The Center has requested major outlets cover the exploitative image on newsstands.

I personally wonder what Hannah Davis, the model in the photo, thinks about all this. She allowed the photo to be taken, sure, and she knew it was a shoot for the Swimsuit Edition. But as Sports Illustrated recently revealed, she hadn’t seen what it looked like and didn’t know it was going to be on the cover. The magazine surprised her with the news in an awkward video that overall makes me sad—sad that our society hinges success for a model like Davis on her willingness to bare all. And sad that Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit covers have gotten so pathetically exploitative that they can’t even be forthright with a model that a certain photo of her is going to be on the cover; they just snap it among hundreds, sneak it in, and tell her after the fact. “Surprise!” I imagine SI thinking. “It makes you uncomfortable? Well thank us later for boosting your fame.”


Newsanchor Brian Williams Is Suspended

NBC Nightly News host Brian Williams has been suspended without pay for the next six months. The journalist lied about a life-threatening situation he experienced during the Iraqi invasion of 2003, and understandably, is now under scrutiny regarding other claims he's made.

According to a recent Rasmussen Reports national telephone poll, 40 percent of Americans think that Williams should resign, while 35 percent think he should keep his job. Just another reminder that, especially in a field like journalism, honesty is not just the best, but the only policy.

—Hannah Allen White

Jon Stewart Leaving Daily Show

Only months since Stephen Colbert left Comedy Central’s Colbert Report, Jon Stewart announced this week that he’s planning to leave The Daily Show. “I don’t have any specific plans,” Stewart told viewers. “Got a lot of ideas. I got a lot of things in my head. I’m going to have dinner on a school night with my family, who I have heard from multiple sources are lovely people.” Hearing that the faux-news host is making his move, we can’t help but wonder, is he going to take Brian Williams’ job?


Tragic Shooting in Chapel Hill

Earlier this week, a family of three young Muslims was shot dead in their home in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. A 46-year-old man was arrested, and a police investigation is underway to discern whether or not the shooting was a hate crime. Police said preliminary investigations suggest that the crime was motivated by a dispute over parking, but the women’s father told the North Carolina News & Observer that he believed the motivation was based on racial and religious prejudice. Craig Stephen Hicks, who turned himself over to the police, allegedly called himself an “anti-theist” and regularly criticized and mocked religions on Facebook. Whatever the reason, it’s a tragic reminder that extremism and violence can come from any background or belief system, and our thoughts are with the bereaved families and friends who have suffered this terrible loss.

Sophie Caldecott

Give Harper Lee a Break

As we reported last week, the literary world has been a-buzz with the news that Harper Lee will be releasing a sequel to her only published novel, To Kill a Mockingbird. The Pulitzer Prize-winning work has made global sales of more than 40 million copies in the 55 years since its publication, and following the recent announcement that Lee’s new novel Go Set a Watchman will be published this July 14, the flood of pre-orders has already made it a bestseller on Amazon.

None of that is at all surprising, given the popularity of To Kill a Mockingbird; what is surprising, however, is the frenzy of speculation that has been going on over the past week, with people calling into question whether the famously reclusive and fiercely private 88-year-old author is able to make decisions about her literary estate. Lee's lawyer and personal friend has released statements over the past weekend stating that Lee is “extremely hurt and humiliated” by the rumors and saying that Lee “is a very strong, independent, and wise woman who should be enjoying the discovery of her long lost novel… Instead, she is having to defend her own credibility and decision-making.” This sentiment has been backed up by others closest to Lee, including her nurse, who shared that the author “seems excited about it, and it has given her something to focus on since her sister died.” She went on to describe Lee as being “sharp as a tack.”

If you ask me, the gossip is a sad response to the offer of another work by one of America's most beloved (if enigmatic) living authors. As The New Yorker wrote on Tuesday, “The outcry, from people who have not even set eyes on the sequel, seems wildly out of proportion to the impending event.”


Foodie Fiction for Your February

When it’s cold outside, there is only one thing better than a warm, hearty, satisfying meal, and that’s reading about one. Take the long weekend to curl up with these four pieces of foodie fiction—guaranteed to satisfy the hungry reader’s soul.

Lizzy & Jane by Katherine Reay (2014), is named after two of Jane Austen’s famous characters and features sisters Elizabeth and Jane, who have a tense relationship. When Elizabeth hits a wall at the New York restaurant she’s been running for years, she ventures across the country to Seattle to reluctantly confront her sister’s health crisis. It’s no easy journey, but in the end, Austen’s books and the food in them become the means of bringing the sisters back together.

If French cuisine is more to your taste, try The Ingredients of Love by Nicolas Barreau (2012). Food meets publishing meets Paris in this story of a very missed connection that’s as messy as your post-feast kitchen. Nearly as delicious is How to Eat a Cupcake by Meg Donohue (2012), a story about childhood friends who, after a falling out in high school, unexpectedly find themselves in a shared business venture. As relationships build, break, and change, we see how much vulnerability is required to heal, but how worthwhile it can be. With a mystery of minor crimes woven in, this one will have you spellbound until the last crumb.

Lastly, there’s the story of Angelina’s Bachelors: A Novel with Food by Brian O’Reilly (2011). A woman widowed too young opens her heart to healing by cooking for a motley bunch of men in town. O’Reilly, who has two cookbooks under his belt, includes recipes that are tantalizingly complex.

As protagonist Lizzy reflects in Lizzy & Jane, the best writers “never used food as an object. Instead it was a medium, a catalyst to mend hearts, to break down barriers, to build relationships.” In each of these scrumptious books, there is much more than food at stake, but it’s the communal value of the table that makes them so palatable.

—Lindsay Schlegel

Powerball Hype

This week, for many, is a time of major Powerball fever. We all have those days when we just want to buy a lottery ticket. It's only $2, right? Maybe you're in dire financial straights and can't see how you're going to catch up. Maybe you can somehow hear the Italian Riviera or Greece calling your name. Maybe your car breaks down and nothing would be more lovely than driving a new Mercedes off the lot while you're looking at a Toyota Camry budget at best.

We've all had those moments where the glitter of that jackpot could solve all our problems.

It may come as no surprise to us, even if we're having that day today, that such large amounts of unearned money can create as many problems as we think it can solve. Many lottery-winners of years past have lost not only their funds but their most-valued relationships after mismanagement of their newfound wealth. Many have ended up far worse off in crushing debt. What could have lasted a lifetime, it turns out, is easily spent in a few years of lavish living.

It's interesting that in the end, the money we earn, even meager or modest earnings, are somehow worth more to us than money handed to us. And it turns out we’re better off taking that $2 and instead buying an ice-cold Coca-Cola, or a "just because" card to mail to a sweetheart's office, or one of those gas station red roses to give thanks for the present moment and everything we have today.


On a Happier Note...

Yes, an Instagram feed of “hot dudes reading” is a thing. And yes it’s gone viral this week. I'm not about objectification of either sex, for the record, but the captions are laugh-out-loud funny, and it's always nice to see that brains and beauty do go hand in hand.

Kara Eschbach