Nat Wolff's story is a familiar one: a former Nickelodeon star attempts to break out in feature film. But in two upcoming performances Wolff demands your attention. On Friday audiences will be able to see Wolff in Palo Alto as Fred, a veritable harbinger of mischief. Next month he'll be seen in The Fault in Our Stars as Isaac, a teen with cancer losing both his eyesight and his girlfriend.
My expectations for Palo Alto were mixed, having long ago grown weary of many of James Franco's antics. But despite his turn as a soccer coach lusting after his teenage players—in which he is never not creepy—the movie feels less like one of Franco's art experiments, than the foundational work of exciting emerging artists. Gia Coppola has clearly inherited some of her aunt Sofia's predisposition for imbuing her work with a dreamlike quality and indie music, but the movie isn't all artifice. Coppola has created an ecosystem of teens that you are actually able to care about despite their horrible behavior. And the Wolff's Fred is the worst of them all.
The movie opens on Fred and his friend Teddy (Jack Kilmer, who is, yes, Val's son) sitting in a car in a parking lot. Out of nowhere, Fred slams the car into a wall. It's the first indication that Fred is something of a Tasmanian Devil, prone to leaving destruction in his wake. He vandalizes a children's book. He chops down a tree with a chainsaw. He pushes a girl's head down, making her give him a blow job, and later taunts her. Wolff portrays Fred as a kid who quite literally can't sit still. His gangly frame is almost constantly bouncing up and down. But what is perhaps most miraculous about his performance is that he actually makes Fred somewhat alluring, even though his behavior is vile and revolting. It makes sense that a teenage girl would find him attractive, or that a boy would hang out with him despite being warned time and time again not too. "Gia told me, I want you to find the fun and the humor and the lightness," Wolff told me at The Fault in Our Stars press junket this past weekend. "The asshole’s already in the script. You don't have to play the asshole. Play the other. That opened me up."
In the short time we chatted it became clear that Wolff—whose first adult breakout role was arguably the 2013 comedy Admission—takes his work seriously. Still, he couched his comments in enough self-deprecation that he didn't come off as pretentious. He said he has realized that each role is going to be "hard" if it's going to be performed well. "It’s become so uncool to say that you’re a method actor," he said. "But I am." It goes way back, he explained his mother—the actress Polly Draper—would do acting exercises with him when he couldn't sleep. He only realized what she was doing once he started going to class. (Draper wrote and directed The Naked Brothers Band: The Movie, which launched the careers of Wolff and his brother Alex, and became a successful Nickelodeon show.)
To prepare for his role in Fault he spent time practicing being blind. "I wore an eye patch for a day, just saw how that made me feel, kind of woozy and stuff," he said. "Then I just closed my eyes and put glasses on and did everything blind. I ended up putting Tiger Balm on my toothbrush accidentally." (He wears contacts that blacked out his eyes in the movie.) For Palo Alto he described the process as a freeing one, having initially told Coppola that he didn't feel like the character he was set to play. "There’s a part of me that’s like that, and it’s a part that I keep so hidden," he said. "So basically that role was almost liberating. It was finding this part of myself that needs a ton of attention that I usually keep hidden and bringing it out to the front."
Isaac and Fred have little in common, but both brim with a sort of nervous, at times angry, energy that makes them magnetic to watch. Fred's anger is nebulous, whereas Isaac's is pointed. He is, after all, a cancer patient. Isaac is also secondary to the story of The Fault in Our Stars, which focuses mostly on the love story between Hazel Grace Lancaster and Augustus Waters (Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort). Wolff will have a bigger role in the next movie based on a John Green book: he's set to play the co-lead in Paper Towns, a book he read on the Fault set at the recommendation of Green. He'll also re-team with Fault director Josh Boone—who used Wolff in his first film, Stuck in Love—for the Stephen King adaptation, The Stand. He thinks of Boone and Coppola as two of his best friends, he told me.
"Now I’m sort of getting to the point where I have more control over what I do, but I want to work with really great people and and do stuff that’s good," he said. "That’s been my drive more than being the most successful actor in the world. And I would love to be successful, I love the people who are going to Fault. Nothing against success, obviously. I just mean, it can’t be my number one priority or I think I’ll make the wrong choices."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
When President Obama left, I stayed on at the National Security Council in order to serve my country. I lasted eight days.
In 2011, I was hired, straight out of college, to work at the White House and eventually the National Security Council. My job there was to promote and protect the best of what my country stands for. I am a hijab-wearing Muslim woman––I was the only hijabi in the West Wing––and the Obama administration always made me feel welcome and included.
Like most of my fellow American Muslims, I spent much of 2016 watching with consternation as Donald Trump vilified our community. Despite this––or because of it––I thought I should try to stay on the NSC staff during the Trump Administration, in order to give the new president and his aides a more nuanced view of Islam, and of America's Muslim citizens.
You can tell a lot about a person from how they react to something.
That’s why Facebook’s various “Like” buttons are so powerful. Clicking a reaction icon isn’t just a way to register an emotional response, it’s also a way for Facebook to refine its sense of who you are. So when you “Love” a photo of a friend’s baby, and click “Angry” on an article about the New England Patriots winning the Super Bowl, you’re training Facebook to see you a certain way: You are a person who seems to love babies and hate Tom Brady.
The more you click, the more sophisticated Facebook’s idea of who you are becomes. (Remember: Although the reaction choices seem limited now—Like, Love, Haha, Wow, Sad, or Angry—up until around this time last year, there was only a “Like” button.)
Long after research contradicts common medical practices, patients continue to demand them and physicians continue to deliver. The result is an epidemic of unnecessary and unhelpful treatments.
First, listen to the story with the happy ending: At 61, the executive was in excellent health. His blood pressure was a bit high, but everything else looked good, and he exercised regularly. Then he had a scare. He went for a brisk post-lunch walk on a cool winter day, and his chest began to hurt. Back inside his office, he sat down, and the pain disappeared as quickly as it had come.
That night, he thought more about it: middle-aged man, high blood pressure, stressful job, chest discomfort. The next day, he went to a local emergency department. Doctors determined that the man had not suffered a heart attack and that the electrical activity of his heart was completely normal. All signs suggested that the executive had stable angina—chest pain that occurs when the heart muscle is getting less blood-borne oxygen than it needs, often because an artery is partially blocked.
Since the middle of last year, a group of Filipino reporters, photographers, and cameramen have been at the frontline of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs. They are a different type of war correspondent, and the drug war, a different type of war.
The correspondents work what they call the “night shift,” the unholy hours between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m., when the dead bodies are found. They wait at Manila’s main police station and rush from there to the site of the most recent kill. They keep count of the corpses, talk to witnesses and families, interview the police, attend wakes and funerals. A lot of what the world learned about the carnage, especially in the early months, is due largely to the night shift reporters.
The Bureau has long defended “Judeo-Christianity.” Minority groups have not fared as well.
Historians have looked harshly on the FBI’s legacy in dealing with religious groups. The Bureau famously investigated and threatened Martin Luther King Jr. at the peak of the civil-rights movement. A 1993 standoff with a group called the Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas, ended with a massive fire, killing more than six dozen men, women, and children. And since the terrorist attacks of September 11, the Bureau has repeatedly been accused of illegally surveilling and harassing Muslim Americans.
The story of the FBI and religion is not a series of isolated mishaps, argues a new book of essays edited by Steven Weitzman, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, and Sylvester A. Johnson, a professor at Northwestern University. Over its 109 years of existence, these historians and their colleagues argue, the Bureau has shaped American religious history through targeted investigations and religiously tinged rhetoric about national security.
The preconditions are present in the U.S. today. Here’s the playbook Donald Trump could use to set the country down a path toward illiberalism.
It’s 2021, and President Donald Trump will shortly be sworn in for his second term. The 45th president has visibly aged over the past four years. He rests heavily on his daughter Ivanka’s arm during his infrequent public appearances.
Fortunately for him, he did not need to campaign hard for reelection. His has been a popular presidency: Big tax cuts, big spending, and big deficits have worked their familiar expansive magic. Wages have grown strongly in the Trump years, especially for men without a college degree, even if rising inflation is beginning to bite into the gains. The president’s supporters credit his restrictive immigration policies and his TrumpWorks infrastructure program.
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Meet the protesters who tricked conference attendees into waving Russian flags.
Two men made trouble—and stirred up a social-media frenzy—on the third day of the Conservative Political Action Conference by conducting a literal false-flag operation.
Jason Charter, 22, and Ryan Clayton, 36, passed out roughly 1,000 red, white, and blue flags, each bearing a gold-emblazoned “TRUMP” in the center, to an auditorium full of attendees waiting for President Trump to address the conference. Audience members waved the pennants—and took pictures with them—until CPAC staffers realized the trick: They were Russian flags.
The stunt made waves on social media, as journalists covering CPAC noticed the scramble to confiscate the insignia.
“No… it’s a magic potty,” my daughter used to lament, age 3 or so, before refusing to use a public restroom stall with an automatic-flush toilet. As a small person, she was accustomed to the infrared sensor detecting erratic motion at the top of her head and violently flushing beneath her. Better, in her mind, just to delay relief than to subject herself to the magic potty’s dark dealings.
It’s hardly just a problem for small people. What adult hasn’t suffered the pneumatic public toilet’s whirlwind underneath them? Or again when attempting to exit the stall? So many ordinary objects and experiences have become technologized—made dependent on computers, sensors, and other apparatuses meant to improve them—that they have also ceased to work in their usual manner. It’s common to think of such defects as matters of bad design. That’s true, in part. But technology is also more precarious than it once was. Unstable, and unpredictable. At least from the perspective of human users. From the vantage point of technology, if it can be said to have a vantage point, it's evolving separately from human use.
Priming kids to expect rewards for good behavior can harm their social skills in the long term.
After working with thousands of families over my years as a family psychologist, I’ve found that one of the most common predicaments parents face is how to get kids to do what they’re asked. And one of the most common questions parents ask is about tools they can use to help them achieve this goal.
One such tool is the sticker chart, a type of behavior-modification system in which children receive stickers in exchange for desired behaviors like brushing their teeth, cleaning their room, or doing their homework. Kids can later “spend” their accrued stickers on prizes, outings, and treats.
Though data on how widely sticker charts are used (and when and why they became so popular) is difficult to find, anecdotal evidence suggests that these charts have become fairly commonplace in American parenting. Google searches for “sticker chart,” “chore chart,” and “reward chart” collectively return more than 1 million results. Amazon has more than 1,300 combined product results for the same searches. Reddit, too, is teeming with forums for parents asking each other about the merits of the charts and discussing specific strategies.
18-30 grams of protein and a lot of internalized ideas about masculinity per serving
Starting around the time I was 10, my brother took me with him on runs I could barely complete—off our street, across the Brooklyn Bridge, and back. I hated every minute of it. Each time my chest filled with a cold-metal ache that reinforced that this was not for me—to this day I run on treadmills, never outside. After one of the first times I remember eating a slice of bread with cheese—“Really?” he said, “We just went for a run, and you’re going to eat that?” If this is what it was to exercise, I would not, I promised myself, exercise again.
That was easy enough for a while—I went to a math and science high school full of kids taught to treat our bodies as meat casings for our brains. But then I found myself at a private university where some of the meat casings were taller, stronger, and belonged to people who sprinted up hills, did yoga, and rowed boats down rivers. A girl I met bemoaned how she only got to the gym three days a week now, and it left her feeling stressed. Having only ever associated the gym with stress, I was confused.