Breaking Bad: The Greatest TV Drama Turns 10

Breaking Bad

Ten years after the premiere of ‘Breaking Bad,’ it feels like we met Walter White yesterday. Ten years ago a down-on-his-luck high school chemistry teacher donning tighty-whities and a raggedy button-down put a gun to his head in the middle of the desert and pulled the trigger. At that time in his life, nothing was going as planned, so of course he’d forgotten to turn the safety off. In retrospect, that broken man seems almost unrecognizable. Perhaps that’s fitting, though, since in the end Walter White barely recognized himself. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, chances are the name Walter White means something to you. The lead character in Breaking Bad, arguably the greatest television drama of all time, maintained the always exciting identity of the antihero — a protagonist who does a mixture of good and bad things for both dubious and noble reasons. Whether you loathe or        …read more

What’s the Holdup with Legal Marijuana?

legal marijuana

While citizens of a few states now have access to legal marijuana, most of the U.S. isn’t there yet. Over the last few years weed lovers have finally gotten the break they’ve been waiting for. Legislation has gradually been rolled out across the United States decriminalizing and even legalizing cannabis both for medicinal and recreational purposes. And not just for smokers either: plenty of new and creative ideas abound in this thriving young industry. From “Mary Jane massages” to hemp-infused doggy treats, pot is undergoing a nationwide makeover. However, the number of states that have not legalized cannabis far outnumber those that have. Marijuana, along with a wealth of other substances, has a colorful history dating back centuries. But in the last 100 years or so, legal barriers have arisen preventing its free distribution and consumption. Unlike the drugs you can buy at pretty much any grocery store, from aspirin        …read more

‘Drunk History’ Makes the Driest Subject Go Down Smooth

Drunk History

Before season 5 makes history drunk again, revisit the 5 best episodes of ‘Drunk History’ so far. Disclaimer: in the spirit of Drunk History, I am writing this article with a glass of absinthe. In chapter three of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, after growing to nine feet tall, crying and then shrinking again only to find herself in a sea of her own tears, Alice finally comes ashore with a strange assembly of birds and animals. As they’re wondering how to get dry again, the Mouse begins reciting the history of William the Conqueror, the driest thing he knows. History has a bad reputation as a dry subject, full of dates and names to memorize. Despite being a good student, I personally hated history for most of my school years, at least as it was presented in class. Even Derek Waters, creator and host of Drunk History, says,        …read more

A Closer Look at Media Representations of Jewish People

media representation

How Jews have been presented in film and TV, and why media representation matters. In an episode of Master of None, the characters talk about media representation of Indian people and other marginalized groups. Their conclusion is that there have been great strides recently, if you’re Black or gay. Now, growing up Jewish in the Midwest, I spent a good portion of my life looking at how we were represented. That is, not too well. There are three basic problem areas in media representation of marginalized groups: invisibility, conformity and stereotypes. Let’s look at how these have affected Jews through TV and movie history. 1. Invisibility One problem area in media representation is what I call invisibility. This is the erasure, through omission, of a culture or race. The whole point here is to hide something uncomfortable. I remember the hullaballoo created when Ellen had a lesbian kiss. It was        …read more

The Accessibility of Art: Who Gets to Touch Art . . . and Women

A touch art exhibit at the Getty Villa raises concerns in the era of #metoo. There are better ways to make art tactile. In the Getty Villa in Malibu stands a statue just asking to be touched (literally — the sign says Please Touch!). Near the far end of the Outer Peristyle, away from the main part of the museum so people don’t get overly handsy around the original art, the touch art piece is a 20th-century reproduction of Antonio Canova’s Hope Venus (1820) depicting a mostly naked woman turning away from the viewer, attempting to cover up. Her body language suggests she does not want to be looked at or touched, yet the museumgoer is invited to do both. The museum frames the conversation around the display’s benefits to patrons with vision loss, who are often left out of the museum experience. While making art accessible to everyone is crucial,        …read more

More U.S. Students Than Ever Take a Gap Year to Travel and Serve

gap year

Many students choose to take a gap year between high school and college to see the world and, often, lend support to worthy causes while they’re at it. As everyone else was heading to Bed, Bath & Beyond to stock up on dorm room supplies last year, Palmer Skudneski was packing his bags for an epic trip across 22 countries. As soon as he graduated from high school, the Denver, Colorado, man took off to climb the mountains of China, search for the Milky Way in the Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia and watch the sun set in Ecuador. Skudneski is one of a growing number of students in the United States choosing to take a year off before college — AKA a gap year — to travel the world, work or have a life experience. Malia Obama made the gap year conversation mainstream when she announced last year she’d        …read more

George Peaslee Invites Us into the 3D Canvas of Virtual Reality

virtual reality

By re-creating Impressionist masterpieces, the sculptor helped introduce the world to the unlimited possibilities of art in virtual reality. An animator and sculptor turned virtual reality (VR) artist, George Peaslee gained recognition with his re-creations of famous paintings including Georges Seurat’s Sunday at La Grande Jatte and Vincent van Gogh’s Starry Night. In these pieces, he used two Impressionist masterpieces, one perhaps the most recognizable painting in the world, to showcase the amazing possibilities of virtual reality. The problem is that viewing the 3D models in Sketchfab or watching the videos of Peaslee creating in VR doesn’t do the works justice. Nothing you see on your computer screen can. Because the VR X factor, as Peaslee calls it, is the complete immersion into the worlds he creates, and for that you need to invest in a HTC Vive ($599.00) or an Oculus Rift ($399.00). (More on that later.) Selected to        …read more

100 Years of Tarzan Movies

Tarzan movies

Based on a literary relic of the early 20th century, Tarzan movies keep coming back. January marks the 100th anniversary of the opening of Tarzan of the Apes, the first of many Tarzan movies that would be produced over the next century. Tarzan. The name brings up images of a loincloth-adorned, super-cut athlete, swinging through the jungle on conveniently placed vines. With his mate, the formerly civilized Jane, and his chimpanzee friend Cheeta by his side, Tarzan communicates with all the animals in the jungle to assist him in overpowering villains. “Me Tarzan. You Jane.” Those four words with which many Americans have been familiar over the decades have never been spoken in any of the Tarzan movies. In fact, in the original books, Tarzan had a far stronger grasp of the language, albeit with a French accent. It was author Edgar Rice Burroughs who created the character in 1912        …read more

Logan Paul Apologized, But We All Feed the Machine

Logan Paul

Oh, Logan Paul…you poor, goofy young man. Now, now, I know everyone is up in arms over how he started 2018, and I’m certainly not saying his recent video in Japan was tasteful or even artful. But Logan Paul is an artist. And as a society, we need to learn from his experience, especially as more and more bright teens aspire to become famous YouTubers. Of course, disrespecting the dead is offensive; but it is important to note that Paul did not commit murder or rape or worse. He simply exhibited very poor judgment based on a certain brand of ignorance that online culture has actively encouraged. And that’s what I’d like to discuss here. First, what did Logan Paul do exactly? He traveled with friends to the Aokigahara forest beneath Japan’s Mount Fuji to go “ghost hunting.” Upon arrival, he and his seemingly vapid, hapless posse came across a man        …read more

33 Winnie the Pooh Quotes for All of Life’s Ups and Downs

Winnie the Pooh quotes

In celebration of A. A. Milne’s birthday January 18, revisit the most beloved Winnie the Pooh quotes. It’s hard to fathom that the first Winnie-the-Pooh book, authored by A. A. Milne, was published in 1926. That’s because its stories, and those that came after, are still read to children around the globe. I can’t imagine my childhood without Pooh Bear and the gang, and the wisdom handed down by these unforgettable characters has stayed with me in adulthood. With the recent release of Goodbye Christopher Robin, viewers learned the origins of the Winnie-the-Pooh books and how Christopher Robin was a real boy — he was inspired by Milne’s son. The New Year and the anniversary of A. A. Milne’s birth on January 18, 1882, mark a perfect moment to revisit the simple yet powerful, life-affirming Winnie the Pooh quotes that have been handed down for generations. You may have seen        …read more

How Creative Expression Can Help You Heal after Trauma and Loss

After my friend died while in a religious cult, I suffered traumatic grief. That’s when I learned creative expression could help the brain and body heal. On October 30, 2012, I got the phone call no one wants to receive. The sister of my best friend and kindred spirit, Bethany, was on the other end. Bethany had died — and not only had she died, but she’d been murdered in what turned out to be a spiritual community that had slowly turned into an emotionally and spiritually abusive cult. Later it would be concluded that she’d committed suicide, but for a whole year, investigators treated her death like a homicide and everyone who loved her went through the emotional roller coaster of believing she’d been murdered. Ultimately, my friend had married an abusive man, the cult leader, who’d warped her personality, distanced her from friends and family, psychologically tortured her        …read more

How the Jewish Experience Gave Rise to Our Favorite Comic Book Heroes

Jewish Creators

Whether consciously or not on the part of the Jewish creators and innovators, what comes to mind when we think of comics and superheroes comes straight out of troubled times for Jews. Comic books are lifted from the myths, plights and religious teachings of the Jewish people. Let’s start with the framework for comics as we know them. It’s 1933, the heart of the Great Depression, and M.C. Gaines (born Maxwell Ginzberg) needs an idea to make money and provide for his family. One day while reading through old comic strips, he begins to wonder if others would enjoy them too. So he decides to publish a collection of old strips, and the first comic book, Famous Funnies, is born. This is followed by Popular Comics, which includes an original strip called Scribbly about a boy cartoonist, based on its Jewish creator Sheldon Mayer. Realizing this success would be short-lived,        …read more

The World’s First Supernatural Horror Magazine: ‘The Orchid Garden’

horror magazine

Almost 100 years ago, German publishers introduced the world to ‘The Orchid Garden’ and a new art form: the supernatural horror magazine. One of the greatest inventions of all time? Paper. Though its creation is commonly attributed to Cai Lun in the Eastern Han Dynasty, archaeological research suggests paper existed in an earlier time. With the advent of the printing press in 1440, people were able to enjoy all kinds of printed works. In our now-almost-forgotten public libraries, in bookstore aisles and at the grocery checkout counter, we can still find a form of reading material that’s been popular for centuries: the magazine. In 1731 Englishman Edward Cave released The Gentleman’s Magazine, which would go on to enjoy 200 years in publication. Cave’s goal was to create a periodical that would interest the general public, so he included everything from essays and poems to stories and political musings. With the        …read more

We Need a Captain Planet Reboot Now

captain planet

A large majority of Americans support doing 'whatever it takes to protect the environment.' For us, a Captain Planet reboot couldn’t come soon enough. If there’s one thing that could bring new attention to environmental issues in a way that Al Gore can’t, it’s Captain Planet. The inconvenient truth is that what the planet needs right now isn’t scientific consensus; it’s fandom. In the early ’90s, Captain Planet gave environmentalism a superhero makeover with six seasons of action-packed eco-fighting. Five Planeteers of different nationalities possessed rings that gave them the elemental powers of Earth, Wind, Fire, Water and Heart. The Planeteers took on a variety of eco-villains who wanted to destroy, extract and steal from the Earth. With their powers combined, they could summon Captain Planet, a superhero whose only weakness was direct contact with pollution. With a Captain Planet reboot for a contemporary audience, theaters could be filled with people who        …read more

‘The X-Files’ Returns as Pentagon Acknowledges Secret UFO Program

In light of the Pentagon’s UFO investigation program, suddenly ‘The X-Files’ doesn’t seem so far-fetched. In December, I spent a lot of time thinking about UFOs and paranormal activity as I impatiently counted down the days until Fox Mulder and Dana Scully returned to my small screen for season 11 of The X-Files. Then fascinating reports published by The New York Times and Politico confirmed the existence of the AATIP (Advanced Aviation Threat Identification Program), a UFO program that had secretly operated within the Pentagon starting in 2007. Suddenly The X-Files didn’t seem quite so improbable. Much of the exact nature of the AATIP’s work remains shrouded in secrecy. But Luis Elizondo, the military intelligence official who served as the program’s leader until October 2017, confirmed that the team studied UFOs and observed activity that couldn’t be explained by science. As reported by The New York Times, AATIP received government        …read more

12 Times We Set Aside Differences and Showed Human Decency in 2017

human decency

Last year, division dominated our newsfeeds. But there was so much human decency to be found. Take a look. The year 2017 was turbulent both in America and abroad. After the most divisive election in modern history, our newsfeeds were dominated by heated (and often hostile) debates about everything from economics to social issues. As the year came to a close, it was easy to feel disheartened because it seemed we were divided beyond repair. But not so fast! Although these divisions were deep and painful, there were multiple occasions in 2017 that people of all backgrounds, races and political leanings came together to display extraordinary acts of kindness and respect. Here’s a look back at some of the most beautiful, inspiring displays of human decency and unity in 2017. 1. Joe Biden comforted Meghan McCain, whose dad is battling brain cancer. Former Vice President Joe Biden lost his        …read more

Human Trafficking: 5 Important Things You Should Know

human trafficking

January 11 is National Human Trafficking Awareness Day. Here’s what you should know and how to help victims. National Human Trafficking Awareness Day is the ideal opportunity to educate ourselves on an issue that receives far too little attention. Globally human trafficking is a $150 billion industry. But what many people don’t know is how widespread it is in America. In February 2017 the FBI partnered with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in Operation Cross Country XI. Eighty-four children were rescued in cities including Denver, Detroit and Tulsa. The youngest victim was just three months old. I spoke to three experts in the field: Dr. John DeGarmo, leading foster care expert and director of The Foster Care Institute; Melissa Breger, professor at Albany Law School; and Matt Pinsker, lawyer and adjunct professor at Virginia Commonwealth University. DeGarmo, Breger and Pinsker addressed the most common (and harmful) misconceptions        …read more

5 Reasons We Love Julia Louis-Dreyfus — On Her Birthday & Every Day

Julia Louis-Dreyfus

From ‘Seinfeld’ to ‘Veep’ to her hilarious acceptance speeches and beyond, we can’t get enough of Julia Louis-Dreyfus. On September 17, 2017, Julia Louis-Dreyfus made Emmy history when she collected her sixth consecutive award for Outstanding Actress in a Comedy Series for her role as the narcissistic, neurotic VP-turned-president on HBO’s Veep. The following day Louis-Dreyfus was diagnosed with breast cancer. Nearly two weeks later she took to social media to share the news with her fans in the form of a note: “1 in 8 women get breast cancer. Today, I’m the one,” Louis-Dreyfus wrote on September 28. “The good news is that I have the most glorious group of supportive and caring family and friends, and fantastic insurance through my union. The bad news is that not all women are so lucky, so let’s fight all cancers and make universal health care a reality. Not many people who        …read more

Does Fido Have a Sixth Sense? What Animal Communication Reveals

animal communication

From earthquakes to paranormal activity, our furry friends may sense much more than we do. What does animal communication research reveal about their extrasensory perception? The phenomenon is sometimes reported by pet owners: dogs gazing at the ceiling or wagging their tails as if someone is petting them, though there’s no one in sight; cats staring intently at nothing, purring and playing with what appears to be thin air. Animal Planet even has a series called The Haunted, depicting unexplained experiences between dogs and their owners, like that of a Pennsylvania family who rehabbed an old house, only to hear mysterious noises, such as invisible balls bouncing and heavy work boots clomping around, and their dog barking ferociously at an invisible intruder. The show features various teams of paranormal investigators, which adds a lot of fun drama but not necessarily legitimate research. That’s not to say legit paranormal studies don’t        …read more

Did Our Favorite Indie Comics Grow Up or Sell Out?

indie comics

How did indie comics ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ and ‘The Tick’ rise from cult followings to franchises, and what did they give up for mass appeal? When I saw that a new version of The Tick was coming out — from creator Ben Edlund, no less — I was ecstatic. However, the pilot was not the laugh riot I expected. I was leery of the dark, serious tone and the direction it was taking. An odd approach, if you remember the original indie comics. When I was a kid, comic books were my be-all and end-all. While other kids dressed up as athletes or in occupational garb, year after year I dressed up as superheroes and — I likely should be embarrassed to write this — still do every Halloween. So imagine my delight when, as a young teen, I ran into two indie comics: The Tick and Teenage Mutant        …read more

Poetic Kinetics Transforms the View with Giant Hovering Sculptures

Poetic Kinetics

They’ll tell you to go big or go home. At Poetic Kinetics, they opt for enormous. If you’ve never been to Pershing Square in Los Angeles, you can run a quick Google search on the park and learn, first, that it was dedicated as a public space in 1866; second, that it’s run by the Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks; and third, that it merits headlines like “How Los Angeles Got a Pershing Square Everyone Hates.” That last bit is courtesy of Curbed Los Angeles in an account of the park’s jarring original design scheme. The writer cites the LA Times in a perfect explanation of what went wrong with Pershing Square: “The square’s dramatic architecture is so harsh in its efforts to discourage the homeless and drug dealers that other people feel uncomfortable there too.” The irony is that the park ended up deterring everyone except the        …read more

A Brief History of Sperm Facts . . . and Fiction

sperm facts

From pants-wearing frogs to artificial insemination, the human race has come a long way in our understanding of sperm facts. People have been fascinated by sperm for a very long time. And luckily or unluckily, as a queer woman who used donor sperm to conceive, I find I get to talk about sperm facts quite a lot. When I told my mother I didn’t plan to keep my child’s origins a secret, she responded, “Well, yeah, but you wouldn’t use the word sperm with a toddler!” Obviously, she hadn’t read Cory Silverberg’s brilliant children’s book, What Makes A Baby. The book (one of my toddler’s favorite bedtime stories) states simply, “When grown-ups want to make a baby, they need to get an egg from one body and a sperm from another body.” Thinking back on my own reproductive education, my understanding of egg and sperm facts was never so tidy. In fact,        …read more

5 Historical Cases of Mass Hysteria That Will Shock You

mass hysteria

For centuries, cases of mass hysteria have been reported all over the world, and hundreds of such incidents occur annually in the U.S. Mass hysteria is a term used to describe the situation in which a particular physical or psychological symptom occurs throughout a community. Below are five of the most bizarre and disturbing cases ever reported. 1. St. John’s Dance, or the Dancing Plague (1374) On June 24, 1374, a strange phenomenon occurred in the German city of Aachen that resulted in thousands of citizens dancing hysterically through the streets. According to reports, victims chanted and foamed at the mouth, experienced spasmodic ravings and epileptic convulsions and were haunted by strange religious visions. Often victims fell to the ground panting and laboring for breath, collapsed from exhaustion — in many cases, dying from heart attacks or strokes. In a matter of weeks, the strange phenomenon had spread to the        …read more

Pop Culture to the Rescue: 40 Reasons to Get Excited for 2018

pop culture

2018 is going to be a great year of pop culture thanks to these movies, albums, TV shows and books! It’s time to turn our gaze to a new year and everything that comes with it. No, I’m not talking about weight-loss resolutions or new gym memberships. I’m thinking of something much more fun: new pop culture releases. Whatever else 2018 has in store, we can at least rest assured that we have plenty of excellent new movies, TV shows, books and music to enjoy in the upcoming year. Read on to learn about some of the most exciting new releases coming out in 2018. Movies 1. A Wrinkle in Time Fans who grew up with Madeleine L’Engle’s 1962 sci-fi/fantasy novel are eagerly anticipating the March 9 release of the film adaptation. Directed by Ava DuVernay and starring a refreshingly diverse cast of Mindy Kaling, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Storm Reid,        …read more

2017: The Year in Pop Culture — A Look Back

pop culture

13 pop culture moments that brought us to our feet last year. For many of us — and for the country — 2017 was a tumultuous year, one often marked by a corrosive divisiveness. In this current climate, common ground is something that is more often mentioned than practiced or achieved, but thankfully pop culture serves as the steady bridge beneath our wheels — call it neutral territory. But while a barrage of headlines flooded our news feeds describing catastrophes, disparities, calamities and other problems, the pulse of pop culture never ceased. Indeed, at times it brought us together to a collective place of wonder, galaxies far, far away, homecomings, discovery and hope. In many ways, pop culture served as the well-needed pause button that gave us all time to reflect on our shared experiences. So, in celebration of this, let’s take a look back at the best that pop        …read more

‘You’ll Never Make It’ & More Motivation from Comedian Emma Willmann

comedian Emma Willmann

Comedian Emma Willmann shares the trouble with ‘making it’ and other lessons she’s learned the hard way. It’s no secret that the life of a standup comedian is tough. First, there’s the audience: a bunch of eyeballs staring up at you from cabaret seating, arms crossed, daring you to make them laugh. Then there’s the pressure. You’ve got to write fresh material that will kill, every time — and competition is fierce. Finally, there’s the lifestyle of late nights, bad food, constant travel and budding relationships that can slip through your fingers like sand. And even if you do become a success, the problems only increase. What’s next after the best joke you’ve ever written? How can you hit the gym when you already need to be in a million places at once? Why should you have to choose between a relationship and writing new material, the very lifeblood of        …read more

Wanderlust: 8 Beautiful Spots to Add to Your Bucket List Now

bucket list

You’ll want to start checking these photogenic locations off your bucket list immediately. For those of us with a serious case of wanderlust, it’s hard to keep track of all the places we want to visit. Traveling to an exotic location, especially one that’s a little off the beaten path, allows us to immerse ourselves in a culture that’s completely different from our own. If you can’t get enough of art museums during your travels, think outside the box when it’s time to update your bucket list — because certain beautifully decorated communities and villages are works of art themselves. From Europe to Asia to Africa to South America, these eight sites have earned a place on the ultimate travel bucket list for people who love being immersed in beauty. 1. Tunnel of Love (between the villages of Obreja and Glimboca, Romania) This hidden European gem of tree canopies is        …read more

She Retired before 35 to Go on a Nomad Adventure — Here’s How

nomad adventure

Anita Dhake takes ‘carpe diem’ to the next level, taking her dream nomad adventure now rather than later. Anita Dhake retired about two years ago. Like most retirees, she spends her time reading, traveling and meeting friends for relaxed lunches. Unlike most retirees, she can fit nearly all of her possessions into a suitcase and she has no single place she calls home. She’s 35 years old, and she spent the first part of her adult life working hard as a lawyer, saving her money and investing it before selling everything she owned two years ago so she could retire and be free to embark on a nomad adventure for the rest of her life. “I really love my life,” Dhake says. “I’m so happy I don’t have to get dressed and go in to work. There’s just so much in life to see and do, and people to talk        …read more

The Power of an ‘I Am’ Poem: How and Why to Write One

I am poem

Who are you, and what do you want out of life? You don’t have to be a poet to experience the empowering effects of writing an ‘I am’ poem. I am not a poet, but I recently glimpsed the cadenced magic while attending a retreat based on Brené Brown’s Rising Strong. There’s a reason several of Brené’s TED Talks have gone viral. Her research on using vulnerability to overcome shame is life-altering. The four-day retreat I attended focused on owning and rumbling with our stories to create brave, new endings. One of the most powerful exercises involved writing an “I am” poem. What is an “I am” poem? I like to think of it as an idyllic snapshot of your life: factual bio meets dramatic manifesto. Few of us take the time to ask ourselves who we are. An “I am” poem empowers us to paint the picture of ourselves        …read more

The True Story of the Stanley Hotel, Inspiration for ‘The Shining’

Stanley Hotel

How F.O. Stanley and Stephen King made the Stanley Hotel the stuff of legend. At the turn of the 20th century, Estes Park in Colorado was little more than a rustic outpost for hunters and naturalists who wanted to live in the wilderness of the Rocky Mountains. Much of the land had already been purchased by an Irish aristocrat by the name of Lord Dunraven, who wanted to make the valley a hunting playground for the wealthy. However, the area remained undeveloped. There was no electricity, and the valley itself was difficult to access due to insufficient transportation options and poorly made roads. There were few jobs in the area and even fewer visitors. Over the last century, however, two men from Maine — both respected for their creative prowess — slowly transformed Estes Park into the famous location we know today. The first was an inventor and musician by        …read more

7 Places to Take a Polar Bear Plunge for Charity on New Year’s Day

polar bear plunge

There’s no better way to fight a hangover on New Year’s Day than with an icy polar bear plunge, especially when freezing your tail off means supporting a good cause. On New Year’s Day, you can curl up in a ball chasing the hair of the dog, or you could partake in an alternative hangover cure: a polar bear plunge. It will require great fortitude and a strong heart because you’ll be jumping into a cold body of water — on purpose. The shock your system receives will surely make it forget how the room was spinning when you woke up. Granted, a polar bear plunge sounds like something reserved for masochists, but for the sake of charity, people — young, old and in between — do it on New Year’s Day. And they’re not all suffering from a hangover. Just in case “it’s for charity” isn’t enough to convince        …read more