We Deserve This

Hello, Fellow Rapinoe Crush-Sufferers!

Your Dames aren’t really soccer people, but like the rest of America, we were swept away by the unanswerable excellence and unapologetic exuberance of the US National Women’s Soccer Team. Their three-day bender of celebrations after a thrilling win in the World Cup final versus the Netherlands culminated in a ticker-tape parade in Manhattan, and it was everything we could have hoped for: Alex Morgan using her New Yorker tote to transport massive bottles of champagne to a yacht party! US President & Team Co-Captain Megan Rapinoe’s instantly iconic & as yet unsourced oversized red sunglasses! These swagger-filled photos! Rapinoe’s entrance & rousing speech to the crowd before the team received their keys to the city! She deserves this. They deserve this. We deserve this. You— yes, you, specifically, darling Dames Nationals— you deserve this feeling. We have a feeling that these won’t be our only thoughts about the USNWT, but the sheer visual beauty of their victory parade was such that we couldn’t open the newsletter with anything else. If you have any favorite USNWT stories to share, please do NOT hesitate to @ us.

Dame Sophie’s Tunes Talk & More

Up & down the dial all day long! (Image by Vipin Toshniwal)

Darling Friend of The Newsletter Lucas Brown invited me to be on The Math of You, his podcast about the formative media of our respective youths. We had a lovely conversation about radio and magazines & that episode is now up for your listening enjoyment! I am now Preset Listener To An Oldies Station Where Both “Superfreak” and “U Can’t Touch This” Can Be Heard In The Same Weekend Years Old and I kind of love it? 

Bonus: the signature cocktail Lucas invented in my honor, named for the premier literary magazine of my childhood, is one I can’t wait to make a full pitcher of: 

The Cricket: A mix of disparate influences blended into a smooth block with more rock and less talk. Just don’t drink during drive time.

1 ½ oz botanical gin

¾ oz grapefruit juice

½ oz campari

¼ oz elderflower liqueur

Twist of grapefruit peel

Shake all ingredients with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with grapefruit peel.

In other music news, the Glastonbury festival was held a few weeks ago, and because  am too much of a flush toilets & daily showers-loving prissy fussbudget to have ever been a festival person, I am very devoted to all of the performance videos BBC Music shares on their YouTube channel. Lizzo! Noel and/or Liam Gallagher, who I definitely have never been able to tell apart and am not about to now that my brain isn’t what it was in 1996! King Princess! The Killers feat. The Pet Shop Boys! Billie Eilish! These are all great & you should watch them. But you know who won Glastonbury? It was Dave and Alex. Dave is the Ivor Novello Award-winning rapper from South London whose debut album Psychodrama takes the form of an intense session with a therapist. Alex is a 15 year-old fan from Wells (where they shot Hot Fuzz). Dave & Alex had never met before the day they performed Thiago Silva before a crowd of 100,000ish of their best friends

Look at them together. Behold, Alex’s friends making sure Dave saw Alex, held aloft on their shoulders, screaming & pointing wildly at his Thiago Silva jersey! Look at how Dave sweetly gives Alex, visibly nervous, a pep talk and chucks him gently on the cheek, and at how Alex returns the sweet gesture right back. The soft mateyness! They are bonded for life now! Look at how this moment goes from “uh, maybe this will be a mess” to “this is lightning in a bottle, let’s do this!!” Look at how Alex pours his all into this performance, surprising & delighting Dave, the entire crowd, and all of us! Look how much fun they’re both having! 

The follow-up is great, too. When contacted at home by The Guardian, Alex’s mother instructed the reporter to call again later, after Alex had a chance to sleep in and recover before going on the record. I stan this family of sleep hygiene-committed legends. TL;DR: loving things is great & it’s also great to be the creator of a thing people love & then get to create a uniquely special moment with one of those people and the world one perfect evening in the waning summer sunshine.

In yet more news from England, Rihanna attended a Cricket World Cup match between her home team from the West Indies & Sri Lanka. I found this exhibition of deep hometown pride so charming— she schlepped up to Durham to see her schoolmate Carlos Brathwaite play, coached by their former high school PE teacher & mentor Roddy Estwick (the video embedded here will help you imagine having Rihanna in your class, just doing normal student stuff like arriving seconds before the bell, her pen running out of ink, handing in assignments lightly rumpled from the between-class dash & so on)— and so I requested that the Fug Girls write about it. Jessica & Heather came through for us all, bless up, everyone! 

And now, a round-up of things that aren’t thematically linked that I am going to share with you, anyway. 

You know how you spent your whole life wanting to see something but you don’t even have a name for it until suddenly there it is? That’s how I felt seeing the live-action Mulan trailer. I know, I shouldn’t get so excited about a Disney remake. Their track record is...not great, shall we say? And it’s not as if the trope of a secret female warrior is new to me; I loved Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and have read all of Tamora Pierce’s Alanna books! I think I’m just really hungry for fictional & real-life depictions of women being unapologetically ultra-competent in fields of endeavor they’re not supposed to participate in. See above, re: the US Women’s National Team. 

I felt both seen and attacked by this NYTimes Smarter Living piece on knowing when to stop tinkering and just declare some work finished. Done Is Good is the finals week motto at my alma mater and it’s a life lesson I have to keep re-learning. Not worrying about perfection in favor of just getting your work done, competently and on time, is enormously appealing, but it often bedevils me, a person who really likes to be A-average good at things. The more time I give myself to do a thing, the more the thing will expand to fill the time I’ve given it. Which is why I’m giving myself a very stern, loving talking-to about using 15-minute timers to get intimidating and/or squishily-deadlined tasks done and off my plate a little bit faster. Setting a timer to focus on a single thing for a brief block isn’t new at all, it’s the foundation of the Pomodoro Technique, but I’m writing this as a reminder to myself that it’s a helpful tool I have at my disposal. I love to do this with others, sort of a coworking via Twitter thing, and will be using #15minutetimer next week to keep myself accountable. If you wanna join in, please do! 

And finally, a summer reading check-in (or winter, if you’re a Southern Hemispherical Dame). I want to hear all about what you’re reading and loving this season! My most recent titles, devoured poolside (and sometimes in the pool itself, more on that in a moment) are Taffy Brodesser-Akner’s Fleishman Is In Trouble and Linda Holmes’ Evvie Drake Starts Over. (I’ve been leaning way into the Pop Culture Powerhouses authors whose event you can view & enjoy right here.) I actively avoided learning anything about either of them apart from premise-y stuff in advance of reading them and that was a good choice in this case. I’m now reading Ocean Vuong’s On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous (tearing my heart to shreds, in a good way) and re-listening to the audiobook of From The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, as part of my Summer of Rereading E.L. Konigsburg. It is a perfect book and if you have access to the audiobook, Jill Clayburgh’s narration is equally perfect. 

My favorite poolside reading strategy is to park myself in a corner of the shallow end of the pool, preferably during adult swim, with the cool water up to my bust, reading quietly for 15-30 mins, then stroll back to my chair in the shade. It is exactly as refreshing & lovely as you’re imagining. A little pool water & sunscreen gets on some of the pages, so I only recommend this for books you own. Old & busted paperbacks are pretty ideal, unless you are super-sentimental about them. I like books to show a bit of wear, because it reminds me that I did actually read them and was sufficiently engrossed to risk taking them in the pool. What are your favorite seasonal reading strategies?

Dame Margaret on Hadestown, Anais Mitchell, Being Back on her Blendo Bullshit, and Other Subjects As Needed

All hail Amber Gray, Our Lady of the Underground

Ever since it took home its slew of Tony Awards in early June, I have been meaning to write up a primer on both Hadestown and its composer-playwright Anaïs Mitchell, both long-standing favorites of mine. As it just put a new batch of tickets on sale (now booking through July of 2020!), this week seemed like a good time to do it!

As noted in this solid review of the show from Vox, an unusual degree of Hadestown’s evolution from concept album to Broadway musical has happened in public, and I have been witness to… a ton of it. As I have been obsessed with Greek mythology since roughly 1994 and a fan of Anaïs’s music since 2007, when she combined the two in the original Hadestown concept album, I was obviously over the moon. From the ad hoc concerts she would put on with local folk musicians back then to the 2016 New York Theatre Workshop production to the National Theater production in London this fall, I have been there! The only thing I missed was the show’s run in Edmonton— and, technically, its actual Broadway run, as I’m not going to that until August 3rd. THAT MEANS two things: (1) there is a lot of ephemera out there related to this show that you can enjoy and (2) I can provide some pretty quality annotations upon said ephemera!

  • The original concept album: beyond the obvious appeal of hearing where the project began, the best things on here are Anaïs singing the part of Eurydice and Greg Brown singing the part of Hades, for interestingly opposite reasons—because Brown’s vocals are the smoothest rendition of Hades while Mitchell’s are the most textured Eurydice. It is rare to have a Broadway musical anchored around a female performer with a “cracked-vessel voice” like Mitchell’s and equally rare— as Natalie Walker noted for a score to task its male performers with “absolute lunatic expectations” in the way Hadestown undoubtedly does, which makes Brown’s ability to smoothly hit all of Hades’ notes quite remarkable. Bon Iver applying his signature vocal layering technique to Orpheus’s part is interesting, but it doesn’t hold a candle to...

  • Damon Daunno’s performance as Orpheus in the 2016 New York Theatre Workshop production, the only male vocalist of the five I have seen who could perfectly sing this nearly impossible part and, moreover, embody the character of Orpheus (who, as written, is a bit of a fuckboi) with enough magnetism that you understand why Eurydice would risk starvation to be with him. A magnetism that’s presently being put to great use in the Tony Award-winning revival of Rogers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma!, often colloquially referred to as “Oklaheauxma” or “the Oklahoma that fucks” for reasons that the show’s rendition of “People Will Say We’re In Love” should make entirely evident. This recording is also the first to feature Amber Gray as Eurydice giving what is, without question, the definitive rendition of the part. Interestingly, before appearing in this staging of Hadestown, the two starred opposite each other in one of the earliest incarnations of the present Oklahoma revival (Gray as Laurie to Daunno’s Curly), at a Bard College summer festival, a bittersweet star-crossing they got to discuss in a great joint interview with The New York Times.  

  •  And finally, there’s Hadestown’s Original Broadway Cast Recording. When it’s released in full on July 26th, the album will contain 40 songs and clock in at just over two hours. But Instead for forcing us to wait until the album can spring into the world fully formed (like Athena out of Zeus’s head), the OBCR is being released gradually, in thematically linked partial drops, all of which are being collected on a chronologically ordered Spotify playlist. As of today, 27 of the songs are available. While both Eve Noblezada and Reeve Carney do strong work as Eurydice and Orpheus, the true revelation of this incarnation of Hadestown is André De Shields as Hermes, the show’s genteel narrator and, as with Gray’s Peresphone, the definitive rendition of the part. To understand it perfectly, you need to see the show, but this wonderful New York Times profile of De Shields will give you some idea of his unique quality. 

  • While you cannot exactly hear her work in the cast recording, the influence of director Rachel Chavkin in taking Hadestown from concept album to Broadway show is undeniable— and it can also be sensed in her previous Broadway show, Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812. If you’re susceptible to Hadestown, but haven’t tried The Great Comet, you could leave this here newsletter with two musical obsessions for the price of one. 

  • And finally! Completely independent from her work as a Broadway composer, Anaïs Mitchell is a remarkable performer and musician. While The Brightness, her first album on Ani DiFranco’s Righteous Babe records, was my entry point into her work and still serves as a great one (containing both a break-up song nearly as essential as “I Can’t Make You Love Me” and the earliest recorded piece of Hadestown— “Hades & Peresephone”), Young Man in America, her first album on her own record label, is a perfect album. Throw either on and try her out, I bet you will come away impressed. This fall, Anaïs will be touring extensively, playing reasonably small venues. If she is coming close to you, you owe it to yourself to see her live. She is someone I never pass up a chance to see— whether she’s covering Robyn or one of Child’s ballads, she makes it her own, and produces something magnetically compelling.  

Outside of Hadestown, only a few things have held my attention. They are as follows:

  • First among them: the fact that Keds has expanded its collection of Betty & Veronica-themed shoes thereby creating a perfect sneaker that is leopard print with l’il Betty and Veronica silhouettes hidden throughout. Although I am not the Riverdale obsessive that Dame Sophie is, I am not made of stone, and I do need these sneakers.

  • Likewise, I think we all need a vintage chip and dip set wherein the dip container is attached to the chip container so that it elegantly floats above it. I have been tweeting accordingly and hope one among the selection I highlighted holds some appeal to you. 

  • AND FINALLY: last night, the lovely Miranda Popkey made these cold sesame noodles for me and the other women in our Smart Women Pasta Dinner group, I have thought of LITTLE BEYOND making more of them for myself and myself alone since. HOPEFULLY on Sunday, I will manage it. Thankfully, it is a Mark Bittman recipe, so it’s extremely straight-forward, uses very easy-to-find ingredients, and even I, rookie cook that I am, feel confident that I’ll be able to successfully replicate it.

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