Taking a break from all your worries

Dames Nationals, Please Get Out Your Needlessly Elaborate Planners.

We have a Christmas Witch Party to announce!

The ONLY way to make margaritas, really.

By which we mean! On December 18th, at 7:30 PM EST, with our pals Ally and Amy of the #girlgang empire, will be livetweeting the 90s witch classic PRACTICAL MAGIC! Or, to express it in a more regimented fashion:

What: The last Two Bossy Dames livetweet of 2K16, of PRATICAL MAGIC
When: Sunday, 12/18 at 7:30 PM EST.
Where: Your homes, by way of the magic of Twitter and Netflix (or via personally owned DVD or VHS, depending on your level of dedication to 90s witches).
How: By gathering around the hashtag #BossyMagic

It's going to be ~*magical*~!!!
It might even be LIT.

Ask Two Bossy Dames Incoming!

Do you have some problems you currently lack the words to describe? Well, today’s your lucky day! We’re going to do an Ask Two Bossy Dames issue early in 2017 and we’d love to help you -- we even promise not to get sloppy drunk in the back of your Uber after we advise you! Just drop your query into our Google Form and you MAY be the lucky one showered with our wisdom & sparkling insights!

Dames-Approved Straight White Man: Mike Birbiglia

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Exactly how I feel about 2016, too, Mike.

So, I (Dame Margaret) have been a devoted fan of Mike Birbiglia since the first time I heard him-- like most of upper-middle class white America-- on This American Life, talking about the process of being diagnosed with a COMICALLY EXTREME sleep disorder and the COMICALLY EXTREME things he had to experience before he started treating that sleep disorder seriously. Since then I have been following his career closely and I have only grown to like him better. He single-handedly opened my heart to the power of stand-up comedy-- prior to encountering his specials, I assumed it was mostly coked-out misogynists standing in front of brick walls making disconnected jokes I would pay to avoid. But Mike's specials are nothing like that. They're wildly funny, but also emotionally profound and moving. And they are constructed so thoughtfully that you often don't see how all the anecdotes he's sharing tie together until just when he wants you to, and then they knock you out. If you're unfamiliar with his work, do yourself a big favor and watch the special he has on Netflix, My Girlfriend's Boyfriend, which talks about his dating life in general and how he finally reconciled his distrust of Marriage-The-Institution, and his deep, abiding love for his then girlfriend, now wife, Jen. And then join me in my obsession by listening to his many glorious podcast appearances, detailed as follows:

  • In part to mark the release of his great movie Don't Think Twice-- now available on VOD, streaming, and DVD all of this fine nation!-- Mike wrote a column about "how to make it small" that is some of the best advice about Making Your Thing and being creative that I've read to date. Careful readers might recognize this-- our guest editors from September also shared it, and it came up in my rave about the movie itself (wherein I inaccurately praised Gillian Anderson for Gillian JACOBS'S great performance).

  • Mike isn't just one of our acceptable white men-- he's one of Phoebe Robinson's, too, appearing as her official token white man in episode 10 of her great WNYC podcast, Sooo Many White Guys.

  • He's also really endearing both improvising and giving advice in his two part appearance on Anna Faris's podcast, Anna Faris is Unqualified. Here's part one (featuring the improv), and part two (featuring the advice). I often find Anna's advice goes too hard on the person calling in and too easy on the people the caller has issues with, so I especially like how Mike intervenes graciously to redistribute some of the blame but without ever being overbearing? It's a joy to hear.

  • Mike is beloved over on the Nerdist podcast network. He has appeared three times on Pete Holmes's You Made It Weird (probably my favorite way to get stalker-level dossiers on all the comedians and actors I'm obsessed with), episodes which I maintain are literally the only time you will ever hear Mike Birbiglia be mean: here's round one (2012)round two (2013), and round three (2016). And he's also been on the Nerdist’s flagship podcast FOUR times: round one (2010)round two (2011)round three (2012), and round four (2016).

  • And in closing, for once you’re as smitten with him as I am (which I assume you must be, to have made it this far) : listen to he and his wonderful wife Jen discuss all their (excellent) favorite music from the fall of 2014 on KEXP’s Music That Matters podcast. This is especially important if you, like me, have exactly the same taste that they do, and can thereby begin imagining what good friends you would be with them in real life, and all the great new bands you could help them get into, and vice-versa.  

Dame Sophie’s Cultural Life Rafts
accurate hedgehog is accurate 
Friends, how are you? I hope you’re ok. I am intermittently ok, but honestly, not ok enough to write at length here, though I would love to.

Here’s a list of things I can do right now. Maybe it looks familiar to you:
I can tweet & text my friends. I can remind my friends & family that I love them & am here for them. I can write some emails & place some phone calls to elected representatives. I can get up in the morning and force myself to walk on the treadmill we bought on Craigslist over the summer. I don’t do that as often as I should, but I do it some days & that’s better than doing it zero days, and also I like the lived experience of literally putting one foot in front of another while listening to disco. (Disco is great for heart rate-elevating walking.) I can read books, which is something that was beyond me for most of last month. I can make it through the day without crying, most days. I can show up. So that’s what I’m doing.

Here’s a list of some things helping me do those things. I would love to hear about the things that are bringing a smile to your face and/or fortifying your set jaw & grimly determined spinal function.I have a bunch of favorite political things helping me stay on track right now, including but not limited to: Jamelle Bouie’s newsletterPost Trump.Help (once again the current post is super-relevant) & Wall of Us (daily acts of resistance, delivered to your inbox).You may know Jonny Sun from Twitter, where he is smart & funny & warm & incisive & silly & great. He also co-runs a literal ray of sunshine for your inbox with some of his pals, Bouncy Castle. And because he has great ideas all the damn time, he also produced this self-care bot, which shares hourly friendly reminders to do things like stand up, get some fresh air, and drink your water.I talk a lot about self-care in these here pixel pages. What do you do, though, if you’re doing all the things you can and should do to keep your oxygen mask on, but it’s still not enough? This is the reality of a long-term caregiver, which my friend Kate Washington explores with a delicacy, frankness, and degree of Lucy Maud Montgomery incorporation I salute with my snappiest, most upright posture. This is not a cozy, comforting essay, it’s a bracing cup of coffee with a shot of whiskey as a chaser. We won’t all be as we were, but we will be.Great British Bake-Off Master Class: thanks to my Mom, who called me last week specifically to inform me of the presence of this spin-off of everyone’s favorite cozy AF competition show, in which Mary Berry & Paul Hollywood bake a bunch  of the challenges from each season of GBBO. We’re watching it on the PBS app & episodes are available on the main PBS site, too.Call the Midwife. I unintentionally slept on this show for years but my husband and I are watching at least one episode a night now and it is just exactly what I need. Set in a still bombed-out East London in the 1950s, this show tracks the lives of nurse-midwives (some lay nurses, some sisters of the fictional Order of St. Raymond Nonnatus [a real saint, the order is what’s fictional], standing in for the Sisters of St. John the Divine) as they attend to their patients, social change writ large & small, and their own lives and relationships. Four seasons are available on Netflix and I saw recently that the BBC have ordered the production of three more seasons. I can’t wait, though while I am waiting, I’m looking forward to doing some reading on the immigration of people from the Caribbean to England in the 1950s & 60s, which is something the show touches on very slightly. Come to me, used copy of a highly regarded book!Some essential multiple-viewing videos for joy top-ups:the BBC’s Christmas Programming preview (though it does also provoke seething levels of envy. Why is their holiday programming so good & ours so crap?)Yid Life Crisis’ Guide to the Holiday Classics, in which Jamie & Eli translate famous Christmas songs (many written by Jews) into Yiddish & make them rhyme hilariously in two languages. Mirth-tears are so sustaining to me, and this entire series (which I have hollered about previously) serves them up by the bucketload.Wes Anderson’s very extremely Wes Andersonian Christmas ad for H&M, starring Adrien Brody & an underused Peter Serafinowicz. He really loves to film things on trains employing outdated telecommunications devices, doesn’t he? GOOD. I eat it up with a spoon & ask for seconds.Graphic Content is NPR’s new FB Live Show all about comics & graphic novels is one episode in & I am all about it. Goooo, Glen & Petra!All the best of 2016 lists! I love lists (“you don’t say, Sophie!” I know, you are shocked). Some people get stressed out by a to-read/watch/listen list that stretches out forever. Not me. A cultural consumption list without end is a promise of possibility & abundance. If I were to pray for anything, besides the obvious good choices of world peace and true understanding among humans, it would be for the eternal development of the arts, which sustain my vestigial soul every day. You all know I rely heavily on NPR for both books & music recommendations. I also review YA for Kirkus (the sharpest, most vinegary reviewers on planet Earth), whose year-end lists have never steered me wrong in the gift-selecting department. The Millions publishes a series of The Year In Reading essays from authors each December that are always very good. Current favorites include Jacqueline Woodson & Megan Abbott. Matthew Perpetua’s annual survey mixes are a good way to get caught up on some of the best music of the year (though if I’m honest, my days of being up-to-date even in genres I love with all my heart are pretty much over. I just splash around happily in the shallow end of the pool now). In movies, I’m looking forward to Mark Kermode’s Best & Worst Films of 2016 on YouTube. And I’m always looking for a good year-end list, so if you see one you think I’d love, sling it my way!Of course, what’s funny (in a hahahaboohoo kind of way, ™ my friend Joanne) about the above is that I did wind up writing quite a bit, after all. Don’t worry, I’m self-applying an eyeroll right now. Yes, even now. Basically at all times.
perfectly reasonable stress response Dame Margaret’s Lack of Focus Leads Chiefly To Self Promotion!
Much like Dame Sophie, I am not functioning at anywhere near full capacity. SO, I'm falling back on what comes most naturally to me: self promotion!! 

  • If, like me, you’re still working through your feelings about Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, I have  two essential gifts for you. First, there’s this week’s episode of my TV podcast, Appointment Television, which dedicates a full hour to discussing the show's narrative and psychological problems in almost exhaustive depth! And second, there’s my favorite essay about the series to date -- and it’s a stiff competition!! -- Bridget Callahan’s hilarious piece “All the Gilmore Girls Spoilers in One Convenient Spot” (found via #damespal Meryl Williams and her kickass newsletter)

  • If, unlike 32-year-old Rory, you still enjoy reading, then NPR and I have a gift for you: their annual Book Concierge (unintentional jinx, Soph!) has been released, and contains NINE reviews written by yrs trly! I truly love the format of this Best Of list, which allows you to sort the books by both type (kid’s book) and content (“For History Lovers,” “Love Stories,” “Ladies First,” etc), erasing the distinction between books that are “literary” v. “popular” and just advocating for great stories of all levels and styles. I am so honored that I get to contribute to it. All nine of the titles I recommended are worth reading, but four of particular interest to Dames Nation are:

    • Lucy & Linh by Alice Pung, which I picked up because one Dame Sophie adored it, and feel proud to have quite ACCURATELY described as “what might happen if Zadie Smith set out to retell Mean Girls.”

    • Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston (another co-Sophie approved title), a book about sexual assault where every single character is as comforting to encounter as Olivia Benson is on Special Victim’s Unit.

    • Rose Lerner’s Listen to the Moon, the third book from her extremely addictive (and great for holiday reading!!!) Lively St. Lemeston series,

    • And, not recommended by me, but pertinent to everyone’s interest just the same: former Dames' Guest Editor Katrina Goldsaito’s masterful picture book, The Sound of Silence.

  • I've been doing a thing over on Spotify where, on a whim, I pick 5 albums I'm really enjoying at a given moment, and put them all on a playlist for people to try out. Some might be "new" (like the Allison Weiss record from 2015 that starts off this iteration of the list) but many might be old (like the four Canadian albums from 2007-2012 that round out the list). But they'll all be stuff I love, and maybe things you won't know. So, if that sounds like a fun thing, and you've got a Spotify, follow up! If you want this, but shorter, I also put my favorite song from each album included in this iteration of the list into a Wistful Friday Quintet playlist. And if you want this, but ALSO more, I’m keeping an archival list of all the albums I feature this way, because it makes both me AND Sophie happier, and what more could I ever ask?

  • The December 7th, 2016 episode of Code Switch, featuring the exquisite Audie Cornish discussing her experience with busing as a Boston-area public school student in the 80s, and the history of busing to desegregate urban schools, was particularly fascinating for me, as a Boston native and the child of a man who taught in the public schools at the height of the busing riots here. But I imagine it will be interesting to you all, too, even if you have neither my historical crush on Audie Cornish NOR my parochial fascination with all things Boston.

  • This is the first week I’ve felt up to being back on Twitter all day like I was before the election. It’s still a lot, and I’m still easing into it, but I was rewarded with three extremely delightful pieces of ephemera that really highlight just way I love this dumb platform so much: