Dearest Stalwarts of Dames Nation,
A dark time is upon us. A dark time called #Gloomvember. In the Northern Hemisphere, at least, these are the months which try our souls with terrible weather, early darkness, and germs galore.
Tom understands our pain. Also, Dame S. can't look at this without imagining him saying, “Ok, Guillermo, we need a shot of me looking MAXIMALLY dramatic. Let’s do it for Tumblr.”
TO FIGHT BACK against this encroaching GLOAMING OF THE SOUL, we call upon you to contribute to #punimwatch, our effort to gather and share gifs of all the best thirst traps of every gender & orientation. May their shining faces and effortless charisma be unto us as lights in a dark wood, may they be a hearth at which we warm our collective hands, tiny gleaming candles of comfort and joy. Come! Tweet with us!
(For the curious, "punim" = face in Yiddish.)
See? Don't you feel warmer already!?
Surrender to multicolored pencil hypnosis.
As longtime readers & even casual perusers of our Twitter feed will know, both Dame Margaret & I are very into office supplies. Stationery, pens, notebooks: these things matter to us. A well-balanced writing implement is a thing of beauty and a useful tool.
Gather ‘round, then, friends of Dames Nation, to hear the wonderful tale of Germany’s rival houses of industry & innovation. Yes, we are talking about Faber-Castell vs. Staedtler! These high-quality suppliers of stationers’ shops and art stores everywhere have been cranking out ever-more-specialized and high-performing writing implements since the 1700s. So far, so good. But!
German industry is known for attention to design and detail, and its thriving tradition of family-owned businesses. But did you know that both of these companies are both based in Nuremberg? And that their healthy economic rivalry over things like ink reservoirs, custom-engineered coatings and pigments, and something one Faber-Castell employee earnestly described in a2011 interview with the BBC World Serviceas an ergonomic “no-slip zone” (they knoooow better!) specially designed for their youngest customers, eventually blossomed into an all-out legal drama over which noble company can boast the strongest pencil-making pedigree?
It all comes down to bragging rights. Carpenter Friedrich Staedtler created the first graphite-based wooden pencil in the 1600s, but their existence as a corporation was muddied by various dissolutions & re-formations. Meanwhile, Faber-Castell has been in continuous operation since 1761 and in 1995, won an injunction against Staedtler, who were trying to celebrate their 333rd anniversary. Faber-Castell also commands the luxury pencil market. “In our industry, there is no doubt Faber-Castell is the Mercedes,” -- a thing said with a completely straight face by pocket square-sporting CEO Count Anton-Wolfgang von Faber-Castell, I am not making this up, I swear.
If you have some hot business dirt on a long-simmering rivalry between, say, Dixon-Ticonderoga and Eberhard Faber (absolutely related to Faber-Castell), or Sharpie and Mr. Sketch, please do tell us all about it.
My current favorite Radiotopia podcast is Helen Zaltzman’s The Allusionist, where she recently covered the history of Bic & Biro ball-point pens. This episode tickled some faint memory about the Great Pencil Rivalry and prompted me to go down this little rabbit-hole in the first place. Thanks, Helen!
This NYT profile of Count von Faber-Castell, including a video showing how their pencils are made is pret-ty delightful.
Rad & Hungry: office supplies from around the world (with a subscription box service for the truly obsessed).
Joint Dames Resolution: This Video Is Perfect
Your Dames, have a hit-or-miss relationship with Billy Eichner’s work with BILLY ON THE STREET. On the one hand, we love all his reference points! We’re here for his comic subversion of the game show format! On the other, we are naturally polite people, so we feel a lot of genuine anxiety for the strangers he importunes on the street! Also, he is really shouty! It’s a lot to deal with. All this is by means of saying: his bits don’t always work for us, but this one, where Billy BROS OUT against type in the company of Jason Sudeikis, is WORTH ITS WEIGHT IN GOLD, and should be watched by all and sundry. His sharp critique of bro culture and simultaneous co-opting of the genuine camaraderie & warmth of the best of what homosocial bro-dom has to offer...ugh, we doff our fancy lady-caps to you, sirs.
Dame Margaret's Top 5
Of late, The Toast has been just plain killing it. We’ve shared many of these on Twitter already but, in case you missed them, a few recent highlights:
The Philadelphia Story Sequel Katharine Hepburn Deserves (YESSSSSS to someone FINALLY putting Seth Lord in his place!!! HUZZAH!)
Songs From A Mountain Goats Album In Which Cicero Is Not Mentioned And Everybody's Marriages Work Out (Although, frankly, the entire “Albums In Which” series is well worth your attention.)
In honor of Halloween, Perennial #Damesfave Taffy Brodesser-Akner teamed up with another Perennial #Damesfave Atlas Obscura to write about Clinton Road, New Jersey’s infamous haunted highway. The results are predictably top-notch.
Food writer Tamar E. Adler looked into the garish, gelatin-riddled world of Betty Crocker’s Atomic-Age Recipe Cards, which reminded Dame M. of Wendy McClure’s collection of 1970s Weight Watchers recipe cards, truly one of the scariest things on the entire internet.
"Convenience Fish" really is a strangely terrifying phrase.
And SPEAKING of the 1970s, what does the old-school "fern bar" have to do with a bar in Brooklyn with a TARDIS for a toilet? Let Jessica Zimmermanrelate the tale of her search for Douglas Adams’s fictional cocktail, the Pan-Galactic Gargle Blaster and tell you all about it.
And finally, one more relic of the 1970s that lasted much, much longer than you would have thought: the practice whereby gay couples, unable to marry one another, instead adopted their adult partners to create a legally binding, state-recognized relationship, which persisted into the LATE 1990s!!! This piece is [100 emoji] because not only does it include the fascinating details of this arcane legal workaround, it also has four gay couples telling the completely adorable stories of how they first met! Like an LBGTQIA+ friendly version of When Harry Met Sally!!!
DID we include this whole section just to use this gif? Maaaaaaybe.
Dame S:my dearest Dame M, was music the first thing we bonded over way back when? I suspect so.
Dame M:It definitely was! I promised to send you all of Stephen Thompson’s BEST OF THE YEAR mixes and then, like the garbage fire I am, never actually followed through.
Dame S:Ha! I had totally forgotten about that, so: all’s well that ends well! Let’s share some delicious musical treats with the people, shall we?
Sparked by a couple of songs that Dame M. has shared over on Twitter, we’ve made you a whole YouTube playlist of autumnal music, "Marching Like a Grandfather Clock". Wrap yourself in flannel, pour yourself a bourbon (or a cider!), and listen away.
This history of Dirty Mind captures Prince at his restless, Rick James-feuding, shrewd businessman best.
Carrie Brownstein’s new memoir has been excerpted in The New Yorker & whooooooa it is a bracing cup of self-and-family-examination in the vein of Fun Home. You can also listen to her Fresh Air interview with the great Terry Gross (with whom Dame S once shared a dermatologist, because Philadelphia).
Dame M. feels like all you really need to do is read the phrase "1-800-PUGLINEBLING" and you'll know immediately if you need to click through and watch the Vine so named 8,672 times or if you can skip it and carry on with your day. (H/T #Damespal Willa!)
This Week in Hamilton
We are Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Fallon is us.
As strong believers in Service Journalism, we’re just going to keep doing this til the well runs dry or we get bored.
The Parks and Recreation/Hamilton mash-up we all needed is here. Everything is beautiful and nothing hurts, and thanks to our chum Syazwina, you don’t even need to look at Twitter to glory in #ParksandHam. (Late-breaking update! Dame M. was highlighted in BuzzFeed The International Meme Paper of Record’s #ParksandHam round-up!)
Some generous, enterprising fan created a a multi-camera version of last Saturday’s Internet-breaking gender-bent #Ham4Ham performance of “The Schuyler Sisters”. An infinite row of emoji praise-hands to you, friend we haven’t met yet!
We are DEFINITELY not crying at the thought of 20,000 NYC-area high schoolers falling in love with American History thanks to being able to attend special $10 performances of Hamilton, no, sirree, bob!
Beyonce complimented Jonathan Groff on his singular King George III strut& we all died happy.
Tangentially related but delightful: in the I Made America webseries, Franklin, Hamilton, Jefferson, Washington, Madison & Adams are time-kidnapped to 2012 Chicago and have to make their way. It’s shaggy & charming.
Everyone, give it up for America’s favorite fighting French bread: LARGE BAGUETTE! (Via Melissa, a fellow member of the obsessive Hamilton discussion group Dame S belongs to on FB)
New subscriber? Want links to past Hamil-updates without pawing through your inbox? We got you. Board the Hamiltrain here. Transfer to the bus here. Your ferry awaits here. We put these link round-ups at the end of most issues to keep them from truly pissing off the silent fraction of readers who don’t give a rat’s patoot about Hamilton. Enjoy!