Your Party Conversation Cheat Sheet—10 Stories From February We’re Still Talking About

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    Awards season is finally over (with the exception of a few fallout ripples from last Sunday’s Oscars); the World Wide Web is no longer the Wild West it once was and we’ve finally found someone to explain to us what ISIS really wants. Here are 10 stories to keep the conversation flowing this weekend.

  1. I guess it’s still OK to talk about the Oscars? I dunno. We all endured that brutal NPH lockbox bit, John Travolta’s straight creepin’ and the frankly INEXCUSABLE omission of Joan Rivers from the In Memoriam segment. I feel like all the hot takes on the telecast itself dried up immediately, though, because, in the end, we’re talking about an environment that generates actual conversations about mani cam vs. clutch cam. However, if you’re in the “Boyhood was robbed” camp, you’ll appreciate this Slate piece arguing that by awarding Birdman Best Picture, the Academy screwed up on the level of when it snubbed Citizen Kane or The Graduate. Linklater might get another shot at a gold statue though—rumor has it he’s considering making a sequel.

  1. Michael Pollan’s long read about the rekindling of the medical community’s interest in “trip treatment,” or the use of psychedelic drugs to treat depression, anxiety and other mental health issues, will give you lots of fodder to fall back on when the topic of how cold it is out has been utterly exhausted.

  1. Feb. 2015 was the month of media shakeups, from the death of the beloved David Carr and the announcement that Jon Stewart is leaving The Daily Show later this year to Brian Williams’ humiliating suspension from NBC Nightly News and the earth-shattering discovery that Bill O’Reilly is a self-aggrandizing hypocritical liar (believe me, we’re as surprised as you are). Speculations about who will replace Stewart have shifted to questioning whether the show should continue at all once he leaves, but either way, he seems to be taking off the gloves vis a vis Fox News for his final months, and it’s gonna be an interesting ride. Of course, Bill-O isn’t going anywhere, because for the discovery of his Falklands lies to have any impact, someone somewhere would have to be expecting honesty from him in the first place.

  1. I’m one of the few who will shout my love for Twitter from the rooftops, but even I will admit that the witch-hunt mentality it fosters has probably crossed a line. If you somehow missed the excerpt from Jon Ronson’s forthcoming book about people whose lives have been ruined by social media missteps gone viral, So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed, that ran in the New York Times Magazine a few weeks back, it makes a solid case that everyone needs to dial back their self-righteous indignation. Take it from the self-proclaimed “Patient Zero” of having one’s reputation and future torpedoed by the Internet, Monica Lewinsky, who spoke about her experience at the Forbes 30-Under-30 summit recently.

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  1. This week saw the series finale of Parks and Recreation, the NBC sitcom starring Amy Poehler that never drew huge ratings but was fiercely loved by its fans. Just a few days before the finale aired, Harris Wittels, a co-executive producer, writer, and sometime actor on the show, was found dead in his house of an apparent heroin overdose. Only 30, Wittels was a comic phenom: In addition to Parks, he wrote for Eastbound & Down and the Sarah Silverman Show; coined the term “humblebrag” and literally wrote the book on the phenomenon; was a hilarious fixture on Twitter and an array of comedy podcasts; opened for the likes of Louis CK and Aziz Ansari; and wrote one of the jokes that President Obama told when he appeared on Between Two Ferns. Ansari wrote a widely-circulated, loving tribute to his friend that is worth reading to get a sense of what the comedy world has lost. In November, Wittels himself spoke honestly and at length about his descent into heroin addiction–he had recently gotten out of rehab–on the You Made It Weird podcast, and it is an insane, compelling, darkly funny and very real story that will stick with you long after you’ve stopped listening, and not just because everything ultimately ended so tragically.

  1. Are you itching to change up your social life before summer comes and sucks up all your time with outdoor concerts and BBQs? Check out our own Mel Johnston’s writeup of Groupmuse, a site that lets you attend (or host!) free, BYOB chamber music concerts performed by conservatory-trained musicians.

  1. Supporters of net neutrality had a big win this week when the FCC enacted strict rules requiring broadband providers to treat all Internet content equally, a development that felt unexpected in light of the conventional wisdom that has grown up around the issue. The New Yorker has a concise explanation of what the net neutrality naysayers got wrong and why, but the important thing is that you can now rest easy knowing you can contemplate the dress or watch llamas run from the law to your little heart’s content (unless, of course, you have Time Warner internet, which never works and is the absolute worst).

  1. Are you guys watching The Jinx on HBO? I mean, am I the only one who didn’t know that an NYC millionaire, who is literally the worst liar in the world, killed his wife, then killed his friend, then killed a third person while he was posing as a mute lady in Galveston, Texas, then went on the lam and was caught because he shoplifted a hoagie from a Wegman’s even though he had $500 in his pocket, and, after all that, never got convicted?

  1. Venmo, the super painless app that allows you to pay rent and pay friends back without dealing with checks or PayPal fees, is actually pretty reckless when it comes to risk management. I immediately deleted all my bank info from it after reading this, and you should too.

  1. If you want to know why teenage girls in London and boys from Brooklyn are trying to hop the next plane to Turkey and hightail it to Syria to join the Islamic State—and just how worried you should be about ISIS in general—you should read Graeme Wood’s What ISIS Really Wants in the Atlantic. While our politicians would like us to believe that their brand of Islam is a distortion of the faith, these new jihadis have actually taken a very literal interpretation of the Koran, and are very much concerned with bringing about the apocalypse, too. This doesn’t mean we necessarily need to fear more Al-Qaeda style attacks in the U.S., though, because the two groups don’t share the same ideology. Which is perhaps the only comforting takeaway from this primer on why, as Woods puts it, the Islamic State attracts a “still-steady inflow of foreigners, ready to give up everything at home for a shot at paradise in the worst place on Earth.”–N.D.

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