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While You Were Out: J. K. Rowling’s New Project, Janelle Monae’s Awesome Response to Sexist Comment, 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 if it’s praiseworthy or cringeworthy. We’re pleased to bring you the Verily editors’ quick takes on the happenings of this week.

Feel-Good News: Baby Giraffe Born at Dallas Zoo

This Friday’s feel-good news of the week hails from Texas, where a baby giraffe was born at the Dallas Zoo. Sure, countless animals are born every day, but this one received fame for the millions who tuned in to watch its much-anticipated arrival streamed on live video by Animal Planet. After giving birth to a baby weighing 139 pounds and measuring 5 feet 10 inches tall, this mom deserves a vacation. As for her baby’s name, Dallas Zoo has opened it to public vote: Adia (“a gift”), Kanzi (“a treasure”), or Kipenzi (“loved one, precious one”).

Mary Rose Somarriba

Rita Wilson’s Second Opinion

This week actress Rita Wilson told the Today Show that she attributes her health to getting a second opinion. Tom Hanks' wife, who had a double mastectomy after being diagnosed with breast cancer, has decided to come out with her story to encourage other women in the value of getting second opinions from specialists. According to Wilson, it changed the course of her treatment—and her life. She was originally told she did not have cancer, but when she got a second opinion, the tests showed that she did. “I share this to educate others that a second opinion is critical to your health,” she said. “You have nothing to lose if both opinions match up for the good and everything to gain if something that was missed is found, which does happen. Early diagnosis is key.”


The Avengers Film Premiere

Director Joss Whedon called this week's movie premiere of The Avengers: Age of Ultron “a little surreal.” He could have been referring to the star-studded carpet with actors Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Chris Hemsworth, Elizabeth Olsen, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Samuel L. Jackson, Jeremy Renner, Don Cheadle, and Anthony Mackie . . .or he could have just been expressing relief that the filmmaking was over. It's hard to say.

When asked at the premiere about sexism in the Marvel universe (referencing the omission of female hero Captain Marvel from the Avengers films), Whedon responded, “I think Hollywood in general is slow to come around to anything.” I, for one, will miss the director when the third chapter comes around, as this second film is Whedon’s last planned installment for the Avengers series.


Speaking of Women in the Superhero Genre

News came this week that Michelle MacLaren dropped out of directing Wonder Woman, citing creative differences. Word has it Patty Jenkins is now slated to fill the role. While I’m all about opening doors to women to have access to top directorial roles, I can also think of one man who would do a pretty good job in the director's seat: Joss Whedon. Let's not forget this latest Avengers director first came to fame for such females-kicking-ass features as Buffy the Vampire Slayer,Firefly, and Serenity.


First Female Blue Angels Pilot

This week U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Katie Higgins became the first female pilot to join the Blue Angels in the flight team’s 69-year history. Higgins told CBS that she was inspired growing up with a father who was a military pilot. Having had little girls tell her they didn’t know girls could be pilots, Capt. Higgins thinks “seeing a lady on the team shows little girls, and guys, that women can do whatever they put their minds to.”


J. K. Rowling's Latest Offering to Kids

Harry Potter author (and queen of all authors) J. K. Rowling told Matt Lauer that when it comes to expecting another volume to the seven-book Potter series, “never say never, but no.”

What Rowling did talk about was her new and inspiring charity, Lumos. Named for a light-bringing spell in the Potter world, her organization seeks to shed light on the problem of institutionalized orphanages and familial poverty around the world. Her comments are not only touching but also strikingly genuine, which makes the interview well worth the watch and her charity worth adding to your list of favorites. As Rowling so tactfully put it, “This is a solvable problem.”

Hannah Allen White

More on Awesome Charities

Looking for a Mother’s Day gift that will give back to women in need? Check out Sudara’s gorgeous and comfy threads for that woman in your life who needs pampering (and it's OK if it’s you). This week the nonprofit formerly known as the International Princess Project unveiled its new name Sudara, based off the Sanskrit word sundara, meaning “beautiful.” Proceeds from Sudara’s sales go toward “creating pathways to freedom for women escaping the ravages of sex slavery to achieve lives of hope and dignity.” What’s not to lounge in?


Coachella Best Performances

No doubt your social media feeds are full of Coachella clickbait. Well, according to Billboard Magazine,a lot more happened in the California desert than Madonna's kiss, flower crowns, and fringe.

Critics and fans agree that this year's best performance goes to rocker goddess and company Florence + The Machine. The band, which released a few new tracks including “What Kind of Man” prior to the festival, played a fifty-minute set so powerful that it was considered “criminally short.”

Also on Billboard's top ten were guitar genius Jack White, the soulful Alabama Shakes, and crowd favorite Tame Impala.


Tribeca Film Festival

The Tribeca Film Festival takes place in New York City this week, giving us a glimpse of films to come. I’m most excited to see the SNL documentary Live From New York! and Song of Lahore, codirected by Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, who is up for consideration for the Nora Ephron Prize. The film tells the story of “a group of Pakistani musicians trying to keep alive traditional Pakistani music from its densely populated cultural capital of Lahore in the Punjab province.”


Rex Manning Day Recap

Rex Manning Day is a day that will be familiar to those who know and love the cult classic film Empire Records. When the film turned 20 this year, theaters and small establishments all over the country held screenings, causing actor Ethan Embry (“Marc with a c” from the film) to take notice, and the rest is history.

Don't know who Rex Manning is? Add Empire Records to your summer bucket list. It's a testament to a time before the digital revolution of the music world, as well as the debut of actresses Liv Tyler and Renée Zellweger.


Blind Fans Get Heard by Netflix

This week, a vocal contingent of blind fans succeeded in petitioning a change from Netflix and bringing greater attention to how the entertainment industry can better cater to those with a visual handicap. When fans noticed that the Netflix series Daredevil, which features a blind hero, didn’t provide audio description for the visually impaired, they petitioned the company to raise its bar to a higher level of quality. What’s remarkable is how quickly Netflix listened and acquiesced to the requests. Bravo to all involved—to those who spoke up and to those who listened. After all, while it’s great to have a visually impaired character as a hero, it’s even better if the visually impaired can enjoy it.


Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard in Couples Therapy

“I don't mind advertising a healthy marriage,” actress Kristen Bell said in a Good Housekeeping interview this week. “I'm trying, just like everyone else.” Hollywood power couple Bell and Dax Shepard opened up about what makes their marriage work—the key, they said, is couples therapy. “You do better in the gym with a trainer; you don't figure out how to cook without reading a recipe,” Bell said. “Therapy is not something to be embarrassed about.”

Unfortunately there is a stigma that can come with bringing a professional mediator into your marriage or your life—the snap judgment is that something must be terribly wrong if a couple has resorted to counseling. But after reading Bell and Shepard's perspective, one might reconsider the merits of therapy. The two came from vastly different backgrounds but recognized that they'd found something special in each other and decided to figure out how to tackle those incompatibilities up front rather than down the line. “There may be something that really hurt your feelings that you're scared to bring up,” Bell said. “Go talk about it with a therapist who can mediate. You'll walk out of the room feeling like you're [on the same] team.” Wise advice any way you look at it!


Louie Shows the Sad Way People Treat Surrogates

Louie C.K. may not be the comedian many look to for sensitivity to women’s issues, but in his season premiere of Louie on FX, he painted a striking if pithy portrait of an issue that affects women greatly but gets little scrutiny. A pregnant surrogate, portrayed impressively by actress Celia Keenan-Bolger, is sadly treated like the property of the egg donors throughout the episode. When one person asks to touch her belly, for instance, the donor responds on her behalf before going on to explain how the baby will be born without meds at a natural birthing center. She’s paying, so she calls the shots. While a stark and brief picture, it’s a good reminder of the risks of using people—one that the depressed and lonely Louie can certainly relate to.


Pink Preaches on Healthy Body Image

It's hard to believe that anyone would feel the need to criticize and judge someone else's body, let alone the body of a beautiful and healthy woman like Pink, but then again it's a crazy world we're living in. The singer took to Twitter over the weekend to respond to unpleasant comments about her weight after the release of pictures of her wearing a black dress to a charity benefit. As one fan wrote, “Twitter is better when Pink is shutting down the haters.”

In a message via her Twitter account, Pink wrote, “While I admit that the dress didn't photograph as well as it did in my kitchen, I will also admit that I felt very pretty. In fact, I feel beautiful. So, my good and concerned peoples, please don't worry about [me]. I'm not worried about me . . . I'm perfectly fine, perfectly happy, and my healthy, voluptuous and crazy strong body is having some much deserved time off. Thanks for your concern. Love, cheesecake.”

What an awesome lady. She gets it.

Sophie Caldecott

And Janelle Monae Preaches on Not Being “Sexy” for Others

In other news, 29-year-old singer Janelle Monae fiercely responded to a rowdy fan this week who called for her to stop wearing her iconic suits and to “stop being so soulful, and be sexy.” In seven words he’s silenced: “Sit down. I’m not for male consumption.” BAM. Let’s hear some more of that!


This article has been updated from its original version.