Empty Tanks, Full Hearts

Hi, friends. This week, the suicides of both Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain have left us a little too emotionally drained to gif. In the coming week, we’ll reckon with our feelings about their passing, and hopefully gather up some of the excellent writing that has been done about their legacies, but for right now, we’ll with these links:

  • This quick introduction-- via the Health & Human Services website-- to the idea of suicide contagion, where exposure to certain kinds of detailed information about suicide can increase the chances that others may follow suit. In the wake of two high-profile deaths, which have been somewhat irresponsibly covered, it’s an important concept for everyone to know.

  • Suicide is so hard to talk about. It’s uncomfortable and heartbreaking, but it turns out that if we think a friend might be suicidal, we should definitely ask them about it. There used to be an assumption that talking about suicide would summon it to our lives, but as with most human experiences we make taboo or shameful, it’s actually way better to address head-on.

  • Everyone, please read Sara Benincasa’s insights on Bourdain, and herself, and what can drive people -- people who seem really pulled together and fun, with wonderful families, and, you know, so much to live for -- to end their own lives.

  • And finally-- a quick reminder that, within the mental health community, the preferred language is that someone died of suicide, and why that phrasing is more humane.

A Small Collection of Nonsense from Dame Margaret

Archived footage of Dame Margaret attempting to tape up boxes last week.

  • I have been on NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast three times in the last few weeks -- first to discuss the Royal Wedding, then for Law & Order (which was also discussed-- at greater length-- in a recent episode of my own podcast, Appointment Television), and-- very best of all!!-- on an episode devoted to the recent Paddington movies, the joys of which I will be proclaiming constantly for the rest of my life. Give a listen and let me know if you track down the Paddington films as a result-- the first movie is free on Netflix! I have so much more joyful shouting I could do about them and would love your company.

  • Speaking of Netflix, as Coco was just released there for streaming, I want to share this superb essay on how the presence of critics of color is vital, one which centers its argument on comparing the cultural impact of Black Panther (which was widely reviewed by black critics) and that of Coco (which did not receive Latinx-authored reviews in much of the mainstream press). It’s an excellent illustration of how we are only as good as our critics, and why it matters so much that said group is diverse.

  • CORVID INTELLIGENCE UPDATE! The results of a complex study were just released and they revealed that (1) ravens can understand the concept of “fair” and “unfair” behavior and (2) that they can remember people who treat them unfairly. Corvids are the best, long live corvids, never cross a corvid.

  • Did you know that every Junior Mint in the world is made in one small factory just around the corner from where Dame Margaret works in Cambridge, MA? Well, it’s true, and the Boston Globe was recently able to tour the facility.

  • As someone who has frequently been known to say everything matches and there’s nothing you can’t pull off, I feel morally obligated to share this excellent and well-reasoned rebuke to my favorite sunny overstatement: “The Self-Defeating Myth of ‘Pulling It Off’” by Amanda Mull, which calls out the real and inherent risk of following this edict in an unruly body. While Mull’s target is less the purposefully exuberant dressing that I encourage in others and more the anti-fashion fashion moment we’re in the midst of currently, where designers appear to ask-- in Mull’s words-- “Are you hot enough to prevail over a garment so heinous that it would make mere mortals look like total idiots?”, her point that rebellion acceptable in a thin body is an invitation to abuse in a fat one remains a meaningful consideration. I am lucky to have a reasonably ruly body, and to derive great joy from dressing in (almost cartoonishly) gender-conforming clothing. For those whose sartorial joy runs contrary to the things permitted and expected for their bodies, the choice to chase it comes at much greater cost. While I will still-- always-- argue in favor of disregarding scolds who tell you not to mix patterns, or that yellow is unflattering, or that you’re too fat or old or male to wear any garment you feel moved to wear, I value this reminder to do so in a way that acknowledges how that those choices feel different in different bodies.

  • In a similar vein, Mull-- who is on fire this week!-- also shared a screed on Dove and the emptiness of corporate “body positivity,” and it is a must-read. Both pieces serve as an important reminder that we must come together collectively and push back against beauty norms rather than placing the responsibility on the women most oppressed by them to bootstrap themselves out from under by sheer force of will.

  • And finally, let me share one piece of beautiful, petty nonsense: a Reddit thread dedicated to people sharing the BIG DRAMA dominating the small, esoteric communities they’re part of, from a woman within the rock painting community who won’t share the secret behind her special shellac to an old leaked Pokemon game which presented possibilities that have made “the whole community berserk.” Drama like this is what keeps my hair shiny and smooth, and I cannot express enough gratitude to Nicole Cliffe for bringing it to my attention.

Dame Sophie Has Nothing In The Tank

But she does have this lovely gif of floating lanterns from Tangled & that’s not nothing

Hi, friends. As noted above, I’m super fucked-up over Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain’s deaths this week. It’s so sad, and unfair, and wretched to lose people we care about, whether we know them personally or not. This is not a searing or fresh insight at all, but it both leads to and flows from my next topic, which is: I’m so damn tired. The last few months at work have been a deeply distressing slog, and although I keep seeing some fleeting brightness around the corner, I never quite make it around the ding-dang corner! I feel like Marianne Dashwood, all “there is some blue sky, let us chase it!” and then plummeting directly down the hill because I was wearing inappropriately supportive footwear. Marianne never had access to orthotics, did she? Poor girl.

But I digress. Things are kind of rotten, and I know it’s going to be that way for a while, so I’m going to level with you about a thing I figured out about myself this week: sometimes, I just don’t have the capacity to write incisive, sprightly commentary about pop culture. Sometimes, the best I can do here is create a slightly fancied-up copy & paste job of a particularly good thread about The Americans that I started on Facebook. That’s what I’ve got for you this week: not much, because I need to refill the tank.

Past Sophie knew this was coming, so she did Present Sophie a solid by scheduling some excellent weekends ahead. I’m going to the pool tonight, and tomorrow, I’m going with one high school bestie, to see another high school bestie star in a play -- the work of many years, come to life Off-Broadway! -- that she co-wrote.

Here’s to next week, and to The Americans, which I am rewatching in its entirety already.

May you find a partner in all your endeavors who is as funny to you as Matthew Rhys is to Keri Russell

  • Obviously, start with this oral history of the series finale. Keep your hankie close at hand.

  • A round-up of who got the saddest ending in the finale. My verdict: Paige, whose greatest fear was being alone, and who finds the prospect of fleeing to Moscow with her parents so impossible that she chooses to be alone. She had no way of knowing Stan would protect her with his silence, and even if he is doing that, wouldn’t she be questioned by the FBI? Could she maybe have gone to a country without an extradition treaty with the US, just to be on the safe side? I’m very worried about her! Obviously, her choice to return was a gut-level, lol nothing matters-type decision, but I feel like this is a thing that Philip & Elizabeth might have maybe discussed in advance with her? Just, a casual training convo, like, “say, what happens if we have to make a run for Canada or Mexico? What’s Step 2 in this plan?”  

  • Is Renée a spy? Absolutely, there’s no question in my mind. NEXT.  

  • Oh, my god the musical cues in this episode. MY EMOTIONS. I actually yelled aloud “Are you kidding me?!” when the opening notes of With Or Without You rang out.

  • How I wish we’d gotten a Behind The Scenes With Philip & Elizabeth episode or two where we just see the everyday work that went into establishing and maintaining their aliases! Renting safehouses, haggling (in disguise!) over cash payments for used cars, placing ads in the classifieds, selecting locations for dead drops, buying clothes for disguises, ordering wigs, hairpins, spirit gum, and so on. I think the closest we’ll get (which is quite wonderful) is this reminiscence by costume designer Katie Irish about how she did some of that work.

  • Per usual, Emily Nussbaum’s analysis of what the creators and performers of The Americans gave us and withheld from us in the finale, is perfect and worth of multiple rereads. It pairs beautifully with Linda Holmes’ thoughts on how identity, particularly for people who spend their lives lying to everyone but telling themselves they’re always true to their cause, is a slippery old bastard.

  • Masha Gessen, a noted expert on totalitarianism, has also been the English-to-Russian translator for Seasons 3-6 of The Americans. It’s a job she was pretty much born to do, due to having moved from the USSR to the US in 1981 and having grown up speaking the very specific Russian of the 1970s and 80s.

  • And finally, Beloved DamesPal and Literal TV Doctor Kathryn VanArendonk made a quiz: Who Said it: Philip & Elizabeth Jennings or Philip Mountbatten & Elizabeth Windsor?

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