Banquettes, Pens, and Justice For the Final Sixth!

This week, Spotify made its annual “Spotify Wrapped” feature available-- the one which packages up the data it’s collected on your listening habits and hands it back to you, in a slick animated summary. It’s usually one of Your Dames’ favorite annual traditions. But this year, it left us feeling VERY Kelly Kapoor about things.

If Mindy Kaling sought to copyright the phrase “How dare you?”, we’d allow it, so iconic has her delivery of it been lo these many years.

Thanks to (it seems) an 8-hour-long hacker hijacking of her account in May of this year, Dame Margaret’s top five songs are, reportedly, songs to which she has never voluntarily listened even once, and MAROON 5 is one of her top five bands of the year.

At least Kacey still got her due.

A normal human could probably manage this disappointment in a reasonable way, but given that Dame Margaret is a human who still considers being counted among the top 1% of Carly Rae Jepsen fans on Spotify in 2016 to be one of her greatest accomplishments to date, she is both bereft and furious. Having her top 100 songs of the year playlist polluted with a bunch of songs she’s never even heard is a small problem, but it really does take a lot of joy out of something that’s typically been a real pleasure. Combined with the psychic stress caused by the initial hacking experience, it’s made her even more annoyed that Spotify does not yet offer two-factor authentication for its accounts. If you feel the same way, consider heading over to Spotify’s support forums and voting in favor of the feature.

Dame Sophie’s complaints are less intense, given that on the whole, her listening habits for the year were correctly represented, but her statistics skepticism antennae were activated when she noticed that neither Ariana Grande’s “thank u, next” nor One Direction’s cruelly underrated, Kelly Clarkson-penned breakup banger “Tell Me A Lie” made her list. These are weird omissions, given that, during a musical bender, she listened to both songs at least 25 times just last week. What gives, Spotify??

I mean, this is not wrong. I just want it to be fully true & correct!

Your Dames thought there could be a cutoff date sometime in late November that would account for the omission of various songs, and indeed, Dame Margaret did inquire. Would you believe that Spotify forgot (or worse, are living in defiance of!) the cardinal rule of music-tallyers here on Beyoncé’s internet, namely: never forget that Beyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter surprised us all by releasing her eponymously-titled album (it was called BEYONCÉ, in case you forgot) on December 13, 2013? For their 2018 year-end lists, Spotify only used data from January 1 - October 31. That’s two full months of data unaccounted for! If this had been the year of BEYONCÉ, there would be no “Partition”, no “Pretty Hurts”, no “XO” on anyone’s automagically generated end-of-year mixes!

RECEIPTS! January 1 to October 31? Spotify is neglecting a full sixth of the year! Justice for the Final Sixth! (Dear Star Wars, if you want to use this as a title for one of your little motion pictures, do be in touch.)

This may sound like a minor issue -- after all, there is plenty of One Direction on Dame Sophie’s Top Songs of 2018 -- but it highlights and contributes to a larger issues, which is the problem of canon. In a music business landscape where artists make fractions of pennies per streaming play, maximizing plays is often a matter of placement on playlists. Songs that are eliminated from millions of listeners’ year-end playlists because we played them most in the last two months of the year are at a structural disadvantage. It’s not an issue for “thank u, next”, because it is, as Ariana herself puts it in the song, a smash, but it sure is for plenty of other artists. Unless Spotify intends to create a Musical Year running from November 1 - October 31 (which they absolutely could do), a whole bunch of artists releasing music in Q4 are being cheated & so are our ears.

Again, we must ask:

Livetweet Reminder: Join us for Belle on Sunday, 12/16

Truly, just to behold Gugu Mbatha-Raw’s face is a profound honor.

Contemplating our upcoming livetweet of Amma Asante’s gorgeous period drama Belle, We Your Dames realized that it makes Gugu Mbatha-Raw our very first two-time livewatch leading lady: we watched her beautiful turn in Beyond the Lights almost exactly two years ago, in November of 2016. When an actor has a face that’s simultaneously this alluring and this expressive, it’s hardly a shock that we find ourselves drawn back to it again and again. Whether you watched Beyond the Lights with us or not, we hope you can join us next weekend!

When: Sunday, December 16th at 7:30 PM EST

How: By renting or borrowing a copy of the movie.

Where: And following the hashtag #BelleDames on Twitter

NEXT WEEK: Best Books and Best Guests!

Next week, We Your Dames are hightailing it out of this joint and leaving you with some of the worst people in the world: Laura Koenig and Maggie Levine, two of the best children’s librarians the Boston Public Library has to offer. They will be providing those of you among us with children to spoil this holiday season with the best books recommendation your tax dollars can provide, and we can’t wait to see what they pick. And, if you want something to tide you over in the meantime, you can peruse Dame Margaret’s contributions to NPR’s 2018 Book Concierge and the Best of YA list she produced for The Boston Globe in tandem with librarian, accomplished podcaster, and longtime #Damespal Renata Sancken. See if you can figure out who wrote which blurbs.

Dame Margaret’s List of Lists

Live footage of the output of basically every publication of note at this time of year.

IT’S LIST SEASON, Y’ALL! Prior to my comically extreme distress over my inaccurate end-of-the-year playlist on Spotify, I was experiencing comically extreme distress over the Strategist’s ranking MY VERY FAVORITE pen (the uni-ball Jetstream RT, the praises of which I sang in our subscriber-only guide to our favorite things) at NINETY EIGHT on their recent list of the 100 Best Pens. Under MULTIPLE TRASH STICK PENS that NO person of taste or distinction would sully their hands with. My DARLING thus slighted for groundless reasons like, I guess, not looking as nice as some other pens, or failing to be recommended by Curtis Sittenfeld. Even worse, I still fell for their schtick and bought one of their highest-ranked ballpoint pens, using an affiliate link no less!!!, even if I did so chiefly in the hope of learning that it was NOT AS GOOD as my favorite (it wasn’t) (but it IS very pretty). It was a source of real and lasting annoyance for me-- annoyance eased by two important findings this week:

  1. the Wirecutter, MY TRUE FAVORITE HIPSTER CONSUMER REPORTS SITE, deemed the uni-ball Jetstream 2018’s best pen for most people, thereby validating my taste in both pens and product recommendation websites and

  2. I discovered that a podcast called The Pen Addict had dedicated an entire episode to detailing all of flaws of the Strategist’s list of pens and, lo, it was a joy to listen to.

Tragically, visiting the Pen Addict’s website reminded me of the existence of, a review hub/online shopping site for dyed-in-the-wool stationery obsessives I have to forget exists for the safety of my both my bank account and my ability to think about things OTHER than pens. However, if ever a season existed for remembering great places to buy normal things that are 50% nicer and 20% more expensive than anything a person would buy themselves (i.e. the perfect gift for fellow adults), winter gift-giving season is it, and JetPen’s extensive gift guides might be a good place to start. And if that means I have to heroically battle my own (searingly incorrect) conviction that I need a 20-color bundle of well-reviewed gel pens, at least I know my hard work ain’t been in vain for nothing.

Not all of New York Magazine’s year-end lists have left me similarly disgruntled. I am, in fact, quite smitten with their list of the 10 best podcasts of 2018. It’s the perfect list, simultaneously validating my preexisting preferences (Slow Burn is Number One!!!! Slow Burn is Number One!) and show I had never previously heard of that sound just great-- an outcome which is perhaps unsurprising given how great I’ve found their “This Week in True Crime Podcasts” column every time I read it. The first new podcast this list prompted me to check out was the CBC’s Personal Best, wherein two Canadian public radio reporters work to help regular folks make changes in their lives. Based on the show’s bright pink logo, I assumed it would be hosted by women, and was a bit let-down to discover nope, it’s led by two white dudes like… 89% of all podcasts ever. However, from its Breakmaster Cylinder theme music to the hosts’ charmingly doofy dynamic, their first episode-- on helping a woman who, like yours truly, cannot get herself out of bed without hitting her snooze button for sometimes hours-- was similar enough to ReplyAll’s Super Tech Support segment that I’m definitely going to keep listening. And it reminded me of another charming NY Magazine article, from my eternal beloved Kelly Conaboy, on how to find alarm sounds on your iPhone that aren’t reprehensibly bad.

Of less general interest, but such irresistible specificity that I could not help but share it, is Boston Magazine’s list of the 15 Best Restaurant Bathrooms in Boston. I do not agree with all the rankings (here’s looking at you, Citrus & Salt with your tacky/condescending word art and Bleacher Bar, which only offers amenities to its urinal-using patrons) but am so smitten with the Snoop and Martha portrait in Fool’s Errand that said restaurant has leapt to the top of my to-visit list. And it just so happened that this list is the perfect excuse to share CityLab’s incredibly interesting article on the gendered history of the ornate and endangered women’s restroom lounge, which illustrates so perfectly the gilded cage of white, wealthy femininity. It has perks, like literal public lounges being thought necessary for your basic functioning! But they’re typically tied to deeply toxic assumptions about your fragility and general uselessness. As a semi-professional napper, I mourn a time when public couches were understood to be as essential to a long day of shopping as I still know them to be. I only hope that we can reintroduce them and make them accessible to shoppers of all genders.  

Finally, were I to make a list of the best cultural events of 2018, Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s wedding would be a strong contender for the #1 spot, and I am unironically invested in their (mostly her) happiness. Therefore, I have been following-- with a mix of salacious glee and American affront-- the high-calibre drama that’s been afflicting the Windsor family for the last few weeks. The princes are splitting their courts and everyone is in an uproar speculating about why. Kate and Meghan hate each other! Prince William envies Prince Harry’s easy charm! Both princes are lazy-- Prince Charles is the real hero! Etc. Etc. It’s been a delicious tumult! To get a handle on it all, I did as I always do when I want celebrity gossip coverage that’s sharp, analytical, and insightful instead of merely diverting: I turned to Lainey Gossip. If you want to join me in both eat the Royal Gossip Sausage and contemplating with a master chef just how it got made, you should avail yourself of her “Royal Smut” posts, starting with the October 29th entry on reports that the Princes were considering splitting their courts. Each article from that point forward is just riveting.

Yes, I am embedding the Kingdom Choir’s performance of “Stand By Me” from the aforementioned royal wedding, because we all deserve to have our spirits refreshed by both their angelic voices and their utterly fire outfits.

Dame Sophie, Literal Crabby Patty

As she scuttled away from the scene, Dame Sophie, in her astrologically accurate crustacean form, was heard to yelp, “En garde! Have at you! No, YOU’RE running away!”

This week’s links, presented in a zippy cavalcade of allusions, comes to you courtesy of my being extremely over this week. I urge to to do as I do and pour yourself your generously portioned and strongly flavored, caffeinated, and/or boozy beverage of choice and put on your stretchy pants as soon as possible. Now, preferably. Go on, this bit of the newsletter can wait for you to get comfy!

Ok, are we back? In the immortal words of Ronan Farrow’s longtime golf buddy Jon Lovett, AND WE’RE BACK!

Rev your engines! Fire up your GoodReads shelves! Get ready to place holds at libraries and/or pre-order at your book emporium of choice! It’s time for some Book Announcements of Joy! Featuring! Jia Tolentino’s collection of essays, Trick Mirror! Taffy Brodesser-Akner’s debut novel, Fleishman is in Trouble! Jasmine Guillory’s third delightful romance, The Wedding Party! And Kate Washington’s memoir about caregiving, Already Toast, isn’t yet available for pre-order but that’s only because it’s sale to Beacon Press has just been announced! Which is great timing, as she’s also just published a searing, beautiful essay about how she turned to the rigors of candy-making as a way to regulate the emotional temperature of a tempestuous household during her teen years. I’ve never felt so emotional about marzipan. (You could also read Kate’s guest-edited issue of this very newsletter, and Jasmine’s, too!) It’s a little bit dangerous that I’m this psyched for four 2019-2020 titles in the first full week of December, but I like to live on the edge.

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is back for its second season and though I have yet to watch any of the new episodes, I understand the costumes are even more amazing than last season. My favorite Maisel-related content is a real mish-mash of praise and criticism, but you absolutely cannot understand this show without first understanding the stereotypes of the Jewish American Princess and the Jewish Mother. A double-serving of critical thinking about the show comes to us from Marjorie Ingall, writing for Town and Country (I know!!!), and Jamie Lauren Keiles, writing a deeply-researched piece all about the JAP stereotype. For even more historical contextualization, I recommend all of this live episode of UnOrthodox, especially Tovah Feldshuh’s very thoughtful schooling of everyone in attendance that evening. Because I like to balance the sweet(ish) with the tart, check out this fascinating thread on Midge’s parents’ heritage. Boy, intra-Judaic ethnic prejudice is a trip!

I keep seeing this piece make the rounds, about how & why restaurants are now a tinnitus-inducing, echo-laden hellscape of hearing damage, so I finally read it and wow, I feel so seen. Get off my lawn, loud restaurants! My ears are decaying & you know what’s luxurious? Peace & quiet! Gently muffled sounds! Being able to hear and participate in conversation with my fellow diners! Let’s have some justice for carpets & banquettes, please.

This is what I’m talking about!

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