Dames for What Ails You

Welcome to 2019, Dames Nationals!

We hope your last weeks of 2018 were restful, refreshing, and full of quality time with some of your very best-loved people. Ours certainly were, and we come to you today to yell about one of the most rewarding couple of hours we spent in late December, being swept away by the greatness and goodness of Spider-man: Into the Spider-Verse.

Watching this scene: the first time either of us ever longed to be a police officer. Because now we know we could use the siren for trolling-with-love reasons!

We can’t yell enthusiastically enough about this movie. It’s visually dazzling, it’s funny and warm, the stakes feel both realistic and high -- no mean feat in a movie where Spider-man dies and all the other Spider-guys (who include two women, a literal black-and-white film noir fella, and...a very confident pig, just go with it, it works) appear, each with their own gently tragic backstory. The relationships among Miles, his exquisitely well-rendered family, his fellow Spider-kin, and his city are deeply touching. And we haven’t even told you about the vocal performances! Which -- surprise! -- are also best described as a parade of delights. This is not just one of the best superhero movies we’ve ever seen (and we’ve seen and loved a fair few), it’s one of our shared favorite stories of 2018 in any format and any genre. If you haven’t seen it yet, do like Miles & take a leap of faith by giving yourself the gift of perfect storytelling this week. If you have seen it, hooray & please come yell with us about it on Twitter.

Dame Margaret’s Post-Holiday Coping Strategies  

For when this Leslie Knope gif is a distressingly accurate assessment of your physical well-being.

  • First off, because it seems like 82% of the people I know came back from the holidays with some kind of lingering cold, may I recommend this very healthy and easy-to-make soup? We put it together in our office a couple weeks ago-- someone brought in their slow cooker and we all brought in ingredients-- and the results were really lovely. Whether you make it for yourself or to bring over to a friend, it’s a quality recipe to have in your back pocket.

  • And, if you are either laid up or diving deep into January chores, may I recommend the coziest possible accompaniment to either? By which I mean BBC radio dramas, almost certainly the squarest thing I profoundly love. But here’s the thing: they’re perfect? I’ve recently been revisiting my Audible copy of The Jane Austen BBC Radio Drama Collection and despite usually hating (1) abridged versions of classics and (2) unabridged full-cast audio productions of classics, for some reason radio plays of classics delight me to no end. For one thing, they are a Who’s Who of British Actors you love-- the BBC’s Mansfield Park, for example, features voice acting from Felicity Jones, Benedict Cumberbatch, and David Tennant! For another, they’re just so well-written and produced! They manage to preserve an astonishing amount of the stories original My lifehack for maximizing your radio drama dollars: download and set up the Library Extension on the adaptable browser of your choice, then page through this list of audio productions created by BBC Digital on Audible (which I find easier to browse by production company than most library catalogs). As you see titles that look interesting, open their individual pages and the Library Extension will tell you whether any libraries to which you have borrowing privileges have the productions in their online catalogs. I have found that Overdrive in Boston has LOADS and thereby listened to many great ones for free. Which made me feel less guilty about buying all three volumes of the BBC’s Lord Peter Wimsey radio drama collection the very moment I realized they existed.

  • If you, too, found yourself absolutely delighted by the sartorial exuberance our brand new class of congresswomen brought to their swearing in ceremony, then you’ll love The Washington Post’s Robin Givhan analyzing the semiotics of Nancy Pelosi and Krysten Sinema’s high-profile embrace of hyper-feminine fashion. Hot pink does not signify now what it used to!

  • And speaking of Nancys and shifting signifiers, one of the few delights of work the last two weeks has diving into the newly reinvigorated Nancy comic strip and Olivia Jaimes, the pseudonymous artist who’s brought it so gloriously into the present. If you’re unfamiliar with the newly au courant Nancy, this quick article on The Ringer explaining how it has arisen, phoenix-like, from the ashes of its former glory should catch you up and prepare you to enjoy this pair of longer articles from Vulture’s Abraham Riesman: one on Jaimes’s incognito appearance at a comic convention, and one an in-depth interview about Jaimes’s creative process. All of which will, best of all, lead to you diving into Jaimes’s backlog of Nancy strips, wherein you will consider if all critical voices are just bots, the lengths to which you’d go to avoid watching an 8-minute YouTube video, and adding the phrase “You hooligans! Be earnest, dang it!” to your everyday lexicon.

  • We have long loved R. Eric Thomas’s columns for Elle Magazine, but it’s been a long time since one made me laugh as hard as his recent column on Queen Elizabeth II’s golden piano, which is maybe the one object in the world he was BORN to write about.  

  • Thanks to Nicole Cliffe, the Only Redditor Who Really Matters, I have recently become aware that Jane Stanford, co-founder of Stanford University, was poisoned with strychnine in 1905 and we still don’t know by whom! As a result, I’m obviously on a tear reading about it, and the two best articles on the subject so far are “Who Killed Jane Stanford?” (from Stanford Magazine) and “In 1905, someone murdered the founder of Stanford University. They've never been caught” (from SFGate). JOIN ME IN ARMCHAIR SLEUTHING THIS ONE OUT! But keep in mind:

Sophie’s Early January Tabs Clear-Out

Emily Gilmore’s storyline was the only good one in the last crop of Gilmore Girls episodes, don’t @ me

Lololollll who am I kidding, I konmari’d* my tabs last week and then again this week and still here they are, 64 strong! I share news of my sickness with you so that you may feel some measure of being seen / superiority over an Internet person! My gifts to you this week are the highly selective bounty of my overflowing tabs situation and the sure knowledge that at least you aren’t as ridiculous of a content packrat as I am. Or are you? Do let me know, I love to dispense compliments (to those tidier than I) and commiseration (to those in the same boat as I).

*Full disclosure, I’m ambivalent about getting rid of things in service to minimalism. That’s not my aesthetic, and I think there’s a lot of class, gender, and misapplied morality tied up in embracing minimalism that needs unpacking. On the other hand: 64 tabs. Get a grip, Brookover.

I could probably get the hang of this. I’ll watch a couple of episodes of her show & see where it takes me.

  • Anyway! Welcome to 2019, where I am coming to a new understanding of grudges, thanks to cleanliness expert Jolie Kerr over in the NYTimes. For a long, long time, I thought holding a grudge meant cutting the offending party out of my life entirely, which has led to me being a pretty unsuccessful grudge-holder. Maybe your grudge-ee is a coworker who you do not have the power to fire. Maybe they are your otherwise-beloved pet or family member. Guess what I learned! A grudge isn’t a one-size fits all situation, and it doesn’t mean the grudge-ee has to be dead to you. In fact, as with most things in life, more nuance, properly applied, leads to better outcomes for everyone. If we think our grudges through and use them to identify & enforce boundaries that let us continue to involve our grudge-ees in our lives in ways that feel safer & better, everyone wins. This piece even has a quiz to help you rate your grudges on a carat scale, as diamond appraisers do. Fancy!

  • I closed out 2018 right by being this week’s guest on Overdue, discussing Vladimir Nabokov’s frequently maddening but surprisingly fun to discuss novel Pale Fire with my gracious host-pals, Andrew & Craig. Here are my Addenda & Corrections of Things I Got Wrong and/or Forgot To Mention:

    • As you’ll hear at the top of the episode, we committed to using an Americanized pronunciation of Vladimir Nabokov, out of a combination of aiming for consistency and our American exceptionalist-imperialist laziness. This would have been a perfect opportunity for me to wow the listening audience with the few Russian phrases at my disposal, acquired one summer when I worked as a lifeguard at an apartment complex full of Russian immigrants. These are, transliterated out of Cyrillic: zapishitis pozholisto (please sign in), arasho (good,/ok), and nye byegie voizlie vadie (don’t run near the water). The cheeky kids who taught me these phrases were unsparing in their correction of my pronunciation errors until I got them right, so I could have even offered these on-air without embarrassing my ancestors, but I forgot until it was too late!

    • At one point in this episode, I claimed that cicadas -- those winged critters with the droning exoskeletons whose summertime song is the shoegaze of the insect world -- are the choristers of their singing insect brethren, communal & harmonious, unlike those rugged individualists, the crickets. You know how many entomology classes I’ve taken in my life? ZERO, one consequence of which is that I was wrong wrong wrong about this so-called fact. It turns out that male cicadas do not sing together in a choral style, they are just pretty much singing constantly to snag a mate during their too-brief lives.  

    • I mentioned having an idea about who I think should bring Pale Fire to the silver or small screen, and then didn’t follow up about it at all. I can now exclusively reveal that on the basis that they are already known as inventive and clever visual interpreters of literary texts (O Brother, Where Art Thou?, No Country For Old Men, True Grit, etc.), and have the bleak, misanthropic worldview necessary to successfully adapt a confoundingly complex midcentury Russian-American novel (or is it???) about a delusional fabulist, the brilliant poet he thinks is his friend, and the would-be assassin who makes the whole thing possible.

  • This being the season of resolutions (or goals, intentions, or an annual theme), it was interesting to see this piece on how writing down your goals can lead to meeting them more effectively. This one involves a curriculum in higher ed designed to close the achievement gap for first-generation university students, but I think most of us who’ve created so much as a to do list will see ourselves reflected at least a bit in this. Longtime readers know I’m a pretty steady, very basic bullet journaler, and after completing a decent-enough number of my 2018 Uberlist items (the blogger I linked to takes a briefer & probably more feasible approach than the 100+ items I put on my list last year), I’m creating another one for 2019 on the theory that articulating goals in itself is a worthwhile exercise, and that even making incremental progress on complex aspirations is better than making no progress at all.

  • Excellent Twitter personage Grace Spelman’s cat Pierogi recently underwent emergency surgery & she’s crowdfunding the $16K veterinary bills by making custom playlists (your choice: Spotify or Apple Music) for folks who want to weave together warm-hearted Internet stranger philanthropy with musical discovery. As I link-checked this issue, I noticed that Grace has temporarily closed her Google Form explaining the process and soliciting donors’ musical appeal factors, but she’s planning to re-open it soon, so keep an eye on this space. Based on her deeply encyclopedic knowledge of music, I am really looking forward to listening to my playlist (heavy on the crying on the dance floor and DUN-da-DUN-CHA, please!)

  • Obviously this newsletter loves a list, and a list within a list, even more so. Sarah Edwards’ annotated list of pieces about the late, great Nora Ephron is, for me, a cabinet of precious comforts I plan to dole out to myself over the course of a gray but incrementally improving march towards spring.

  • We opened with some enthusiastic words about a visually and emotionally dazzling movie, and I’m going to close with some words about being dazzled both by the subject and the execution of Caity Weaver’s recent NYTimes piece on glitter. Yes, glitter.

    You may think of glitter purely as a sparkly scourge. To be sure, whenever my daughter brings home an item from school or camp with glitter on it, I mentally add three years to my projected/longed-for Last Date For Glitter In The House/Car/Pool Bag.

    Glitter from at least two years ago routinely turns up in my sunglasses case. Why? Because it’s glitter, and it can. Did I put it in the sunglasses case, this one iridescent mote that somehow begets five more even after I have removed the one and then carefully inspected the case for its colleagues? No, of course not, I like myself too much for that. And yet, didn’t I put it there? By allowing the glitter-festooned item into my car and then my house, I might as well have scooped it directly into my sunglasses case. I have a grudge against glitter, but this is likely a hopeless situation. If glitter isn’t in my sunglasses case, it’s in the soles of my shoes or in the ziplock baggie I use as an ersatz kleenex pack.

    Back to Caity’s piece, though! In a lot of ways, it’s a write-around: of the two glitter factories in the US, only one would consent to let her visit and interview staff members about what glitter is and how it’s made, and even they, the very nice staff of Glitterex, steadfastly resisted answering most of her questions, so she had to spin gold out of the straw they gave her. The piece is also a dizzying catalogue of numbers and elements and processes, and maybe most lastingly for me, a consideration of the ecological dangers of glitter (categorized as microplastics by the Environmental Protection Agency), which are exacerbated by its ubiquity. Basically, if something glitters, that’s because it’s full of glitter. Everything from nail polish to Christmas ornaments to NFL football helmets to those cute boots you bought to your car’s finish is not just covered but suffused with it, on purpose. What kind of monsters are we? Ones who like shiny stuff. I’ve been saying for years that my favorite color is sparkly, and now that I know what that means, I feel a little bit sick. Which is maybe, partly, the point?


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