The McConnaisance
May 19, 2014

The setup is great: Two of the world's biggest movie stars, Matthew McConaughey and Brad Pitt, discover they are in balconied New Orleans hotel rooms on opposite sides of a gawker-filled street. Pitt throws a beer across the street, and McConaughey catches it and pops it open, all with camera-toting tourists and paparazzi snapping away below. It looks pretty serendipitously awesome in still photos, curated BuzzFeed-style.

But then watch the video. Maybe it's the street commentary, or the fact that Pitt is pretty clearly playing to the crowd, or maybe just that we expect these guys to be closely edited and professionally filmed — or at least carefully curated, BuzzFeed-style — but the moment looks decidedly less "epic" in the garish light of smartphone video. Swap any two non-famous men for McConaughey and Pitt and it's less a "special moment" between "two of the most handsome men to grace the cover of People magazine," as The Times-Picayune says, and more what goes on every weekend in the French Quarter. --Peter Weber

last night on late night
4:06 a.m. ET

Somebody at The Late Late Show is a dedicated Taylor Swift fan, and it might just be host James Corden. On Monday's show, Corden performed the fairly impressive feat of acting out a soap opera scene using only (mostly) Taylor Swift lyrics. He had some help from Julianne Moore and John Stamos, and while Moore is a fine actress, Stamos clearly has the daytime soap thing down cold. If you don't appreciate smashed vases, Corden as a greaser, and the wisdom of Taylor Swift, well, haters gonna hate (hate hate hate). Peter Weber

colbert nation
3:50 a.m. ET

Stephen Colbert was going over Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) résumé on Monday's Late Show when McCain stopped him at mention of being the Republican Party's 2008 presidential candidate. "Thanks for bringing that up," he said sarcastically, before softening the line with a joke: "After I lost, I slept like a baby: Sleep two hours, wake up and cry, sleep two hours, wake up and cry." Lest you think there were no hard feelings, McCain followed it up with another zinger. "If you'd won..." Colbert started, and McCain finished: "I wouldn't be on this show." Still, if you think about what could have been, the senior senator from Arizona continued, you'll just needlessly drive yourself crazy. And then McCain had one more quip, which you can watch below. Peter Weber

A little piece of history
2:09 a.m. ET

When Abraham Lincoln Salomon tucked the first-class lunch menu into his jacket pocket on April 14, 1912, he had no idea that 103 years later, the yellowed piece of paper would sell at auction for $88,000.

Salomon was a first-class passenger aboard the Titanic, who survived the shipwreck by securing a spot on Lifeboat No. 1, dubbed the "Money Boat" because it sailed off with only 12 people aboard instead of the 40 it could fit (rumors later circulated that the wealthy passengers bribed crew members to row away from the ship instead of letting more people climb aboard). The menu was expected to bring in $50,000 when it went up for auction Sept. 30, but an anonymous buyer — who may be a relative of a Titanic survivor — shelled out $88,000 for the keepsake, Live Science reports.

During their last lunch aboard the ill-fated ship, first-class passengers enjoyed such dishes as corned ox tongue, fillets of brill, grilled mutton chops, and cockie leekie. Salomon also escaped with his ticket from the ship's Turkish baths, which recorded how much he weighed and was inscribed with the names of three of his fellow lifeboat passengers: Miss Laura Mabel Francatelli, Sir Cosmo Duff-Gordon, and Lady Lucy Duff-Gordon. That tiny piece of history sold at auction for $11,000. Catherine Garcia

1:32 a.m. ET
Alex Wong/Getty Images

Facing allegations that the House Select Committee on Benghazi is little more than a long, expensive witch hunt to wreck Hillary Clinton's political future, House Republicans are now accusing panel Democrats of politicizing the hearings. House Democrats sent a letter to committee chairman Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) on Monday saying they will release transcripts of closed-door interviews, beginning with Cheryl Mills (pictured), a top Clinton aide. "Despite claims that the Committee would be run with integrity," they wrote, "Republicans have engaged in a series of selective leaks of inaccurate and incomplete information in an effort to attack Secretary Clinton." Committee Democrats gave their Republican colleagues five days to tell them any sections of the Mills transcripts that should be "withheld from the American people," then they will release the rest of the interview.

Republicans responded that none of the interview should be released before the committee is done with its work. In a statement, committee spokesman Jamal Ware said that "by selectively leaking and spinning" the Mills transcript, "Democrats have shown their nakedly political motivation, willingness to violate the letter and spirit of House Rules, and their desire to defend Secretary Clinton without regard for the integrity of the investigation." He added, "Serious investigations hear from all witnesses and the testimony of each witness should be viewed in the context of all available information." And that's something the Democrats on the committee would probably agree with. Peter Weber

1:31 a.m. ET

Animals like elk, wild boar, red deer, and roe deer are flourishing in an unlikely place — Chernobyl.

It has been nearly 30 years since the 1986 Soviet nuclear disaster in Ukraine, and scientists wrote in a study published Monday in the journal Current Biology that radiation contamination is not keeping wildlife from thriving in the 1,600-square-mile Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, where people cannot live. "When humans are removed, nature flourishes — even in the wake of the world's worst nuclear accident," said Jim Smith, a specialist in earth and environmental sciences at Britain's University of Portsmouth. "It's very likely that wildlife numbers at Chernobyl are now much higher than they were before the accident."

Earlier studies conducted in the zone showed major radiation effects and a decrease in wildlife populations, Reuters reports, but Smith and his fellow researchers found that now, the population rates of elk, roe deer, red deer, and wild boar were close to those in four uncontaminated nature reserves in the area. The team also discovered that the number of wolves living in and around the site is more than seven times greater than in similar nature reserves. "These unique data showing a wide range of animals thriving within miles of a major nuclear accident illustrate the resilience of wildlife populations when freed from the pressures of human habitation," said study co-leader Jim Beasley of the University of Georgia. The researchers said looking at Chernobyl might provide insight into the long-term impact on wildlife following the Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan. Catherine Garcia

Late Night Antics
12:59 a.m. ET

"You're looking at me so disappointed, Alex," Jimmy Fallon told Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek, after shoving him in a phone booth with NBA giant Shaquille O'Neal on Monday's Late Night. "You're looking at me, like, 'This is a game show?'" It is, called "Phone Booth," and it's probably a lot more fun to watch than play. Now, you'd think having Trebek in your booth would be a big plus — and it was — but it didn't save the Shaq booth from losing a round over the Spice Girls. Fitting O'Neal in the phone booth by himself was enough of a stretch, and by the end things got a little silly. Watch below, and feel a special pang of sympathy for Blacklist star Megan Boone. Peter Weber

hollywood 411
12:26 a.m. ET

Goodbye River Heights, hello New York City: CBS is developing a new series on everyone's favorite titian-haired girl detective, except now Nancy Drew is in her 30s and working for the NYPD.

Grey's Anatomy writers and executive producers Tony Phelan and Joan Rater, with Dan Jinks, are working on the show, Entertainment Weekly reports, describing it as a "contemporary take on the character from the iconic book series." In her role as an NYPD detective, Nancy "investigates and solves crimes using her uncanny observational skills, all while navigating the complexities of life in a modern world." If the show gets picked up, it won't be Nancy's first time on the small screen — ABC aired The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries in the late 1970s, and a 2002 made-for-TV movie about the girl detective starred Maggie Lawson.

Full disclosure: I am a hardcore fan of the Nancy Drew series, who read every single book as a kid and was brainwashed into thinking all houses have secret passages and spooky secrets. Because of my devotion, there are several things I think this new show needs to have (are you listening, producers?). First, Nancy's family, friends, and blue roadster must make appearances; I especially want to see her lawyer father Carson Drew, housekeeper Hannah Gruen, and "special friend" Ned Nickerson (and while we're at it, make sure he doesn't stray from how he's described in the books — handsome, smart, and willing to do whatever Nancy says without asking any questions). Also, keep the paranormal element, as Nancy thrived when she was investigating a haunting or going to a seance. Finally, don't strip Nancy of the spunk and spirit that makes her so enchanting — she's going to need it in the big city. Catherine Garcia

See More Speed Reads