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How Documentary Theater Goes From Interviews to Final Production

Slate

This week, host Isaac Butler talks to documentary theater makers Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen, whose plays include The Exonerated, about the criminal justice system, and Coal Country, about the Upper Big Branch mine disaster in West Virginia. Blank and Jensen explain how documentary theater works, from interviews with subjects to the final product, where actors perform interview excerpts verbatim. After the interview, Isaac and co-host June Thomas discuss why documentary theater is such a great way to communicate important information to an audience. Send your questions about creativity and any other feedback to working@slate.com.


em The Vast of Night /em Is Like a UFO Movie Directed by a Very Talented Alien

Slate

Orson Welles, who knew a thing or two about making movies, reportedly remarked after touring the RKO lot that it was "the biggest electric train set any boy ever had." And yet it is rare to see a feature film that communicates any of that delight, any of the sheer fun of playing around with the possibilities the medium offers. The Vast of Night, the debut feature from director Andrew Patterson and screenwriters James Montague and Craig W. Sanger, arriving on Amazon Prime on May 29, is one of the exceptions: Every scene has been staged and shot with intelligence, intent, inventiveness, and a sense of play. To watch it is to get excited about the billions of different ways you can combine sound and moving images to tell a story. That is not to say that you'll necessarily be astounded by the story The Vast of Night is telling.


Coronavirus: Isolation and Aspiration

Slate

Why has Japan been less affected by the global pandemic than the United States? One theory suggests that the Japanese language has weakly aspirated consonants compared with English. Which might mean that Japanese people are less likely to "spray" while speaking and therefore less likely to transmit the virus. John looks at the linguistic evidence.


France's New Online Hate Speech Law Is Fundamentally Flawed

Slate

The solution to online hate speech seems so simple: Delete harmful content, rinse, repeat. But David Kaye, a law professor at the University of California, Irvine, and the U.N. special rapporteur on freedom of expression, says that while laws to regulate hate speech might seem promising, they often aren't that effective--and, perhaps worse, they can set dangerous precedents. This is why France's new social media law, which follows in Germany's footsteps, is controversial across the political spectrum there and abroad. On May 13, France passed "Lutte contre la haine sur internet" ("Fighting hate on the internet"), a law that requires social media platforms to rapidly take down hateful content. Comments that are discriminatory--based on race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, and religion--or sexually abusive have to be removed within 24 hours of being flagged by users.


Future Tense Newsletter: Fever-Detecting Drones Will Not Save Us

Slate

We love Money Heist, too, but it's probably time for a break from Netflix. So, join us for our upcoming web events on bats' (undeserved?) Wednesday, May 27, 4 p.m. Eastern: Are Bats Really to Blame for the COVID-19 Pandemic? Tuesday, June 2, 4 p.m. Eastern: Free Speech Project: Should We Think Twice Before Limiting Political Advocacy? Earlier this month, Singapore unveiled Spot, a social distancing-enforcing robotic dog that is now "patrolling" a park.


The Apple-Google Contact Tracing System Won't Work. It Still Deserves Praise.

Slate

This article is part of Privacy in the Pandemic, a Future Tense series. In debates over digital privacy, American tech companies are often branded as the villains, with European policymakers cast in the role of savior. Big Tech is out to steal your privacy, but European governments are stepping in to protect it. Or so the narrative goes. But the new exposure notification system released by Google and Apple on Wednesday has turned these roles on their head, albeit in ways that at least some public health authorities say will make their job more difficult.


India's COVID-19 Response Has Been a Disaster, but Some States Have Been Surprisingly Successful

Slate

Despite what you may have heard, from the World Health Organization or World Economic Forum or wherever else, India has not done a good job of containing the coronavirus. According to the country's Ministry of Health and Welfare, India now has over 110,000 cases, having already surpassed the total of the only country with more people, China. The total death toll, as of this writing, stands at about 3,500. In a country of 1.3 billion people, these may seem like small numbers. But they do not actually give a full accounting of the virus's toll.


Fever-Detecting Drones Don't Work

Slate

This article is part of Privacy in the Pandemic, a Future Tense series. Since the pandemic began, authorities in New Delhi, Italy, Oman, Connecticut, and China have begun to experiment with fever-finding drones as a means of mass COVID-19 screening. They're claiming the aircraft can be used to better understand the health of the population at large and even to identify potentially sick individuals, who can then be pulled aside for further diagnostic testing. In Italy, police forces are reportedly using drones to read the temperatures of people who are out and about during quarantine, while officials in India are hoping to use thermal-scanner-equipped drones to search for "temperature anomalies" in people on the ground. A Lithuanian drone pilot even used a thermal-scanning drone to read the temperature of a sick friend who didn't own a thermometer.


Our Indigenous Languages

Slate

Some Native American languages employ a single, albeit very long, word to express an idea that would take English a full-length sentence, while others have complicated noun conjugations not unlike Latin. The indigenous tongues of North America are wonderfully diverse, maddeningly difficult and, unfortunately, mostly dying.


The Joe Biden em Fortnite /em Grand Canyon Hologram Tweet, Explained

Slate

Earlier today, you might have seen this tweet (or some variation of it) make its way across your screen. "Travis Scott's takeover of Fortnite… if we could do that with Joe Biden [for the convention], Joe Biden projected over the Grand Canyon" -- Lis Smith, democratic strategist, on politico live There's a good chance you'll recognize some subset of these words. You'll almost certainly be familiar with Joe Biden and the Grand Canyon, for instance. Maybe you also play Fortnite and listen to Travis Scott. Or perhaps your soul has withered away to the point that you already had Lis Smith's Politico Live appearance circled on your calendar.