Thursday, October 26, 2017

Morning Coffee (10/26/17)

Hi! I'm on vacation, which means a. some of these links were stockpiled ahead of time and may not take breaking news into account, and b. morning posts only for a few days. Back to normal on Wednesday!

This is important: Jamelle Bouie on why we should never get used to Trump's lies.

The Trumpification of John Kelly

SIGH: Majority Of White Americans Say They Believe Whites Face Discrimination

Molly Ringwald's take is really worth reading: All the Other Harvey Weinsteins

This headline is extremely 2017: Man Who Dressed as Pikachu to Jump White House Fence Says He Wanted to Be a YouTube Star

One mystery solved: Yup, That's James Comey's Twitter

Wait. What? Michael Bay Is Producing a Live Action Dora the Explorer Film

Oh no! World wine production 'to hit 50-year low'

This is cool but also kind of funny. HERE HAVE SOME SHIPWRECKS seems like a passive-aggressive gift situation. U.K. Offers Famed Arctic Shipwrecks As 'Exceptional Gift' To Canada

Ancient Icelandic Volcanoes May Have Hastened Ice Age Melting

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Afternoon Tea (10/25/17)

Gossip Girl's Prophetic Relationship With Technology

Before There Was Bieber, the Monkees’ ‘Daydream Believer’ Took the Teen World by Storm

Sarah Koenig on the Popularity of Serial and the ‘Dark’ Reaction of Some of Its Fanatic Fans

Jo Nesbø’s 10 Favorite Books

In Memory Training Smackdown, One Method Dominates

Weekly Rec: Viceroy's House

(Weekly Rec posts are made possible by my Patreon supporters. Come join and get even more of my thoughts!)

When I first heard about Viceroy's House - a movie about Lord Mountbatten and the Partition of India, starring Hugh Bonneville and Gillian Anderson as the Mountbattens, I was interested (that cast!) but also a bit worried, as this seemed an opportunity for a huge amount of romanticizing colonialism and generally keeping the British experience central. But! Never fear. The movie is actually directed and co-written by Gurinder Chadha (Bend It Like Beckham), and parts of it are based on her own family's experiences during the Partition. This is, as we say, #ownvoices.

Which is not to say that this movie - or anything - is perfect and unproblematic, of course. But Viceroy's House does a really great job of presenting the story from multiple points of view at the same time, as the months leading up to Indian Independence are followed at, uh, the Viceroy's House, with both the Viceroy (and other Brits) and his staff and their families - who are themselves not a monolith and have conflicting views on what should happen to their country. I knew the outlines of this period of history (I want to say "of course," but many of my fellow audience members had NO IDEA India was partitioned), but this movie definitely made me want to learn more about the intricacies of the politics both leading up to and after independence.

The movie does perhaps go a little easy on the Mountbattens, who are portrayed as well-meaning but in over their heads, manipulated by higher-ups in the British government. But it focuses just as much on both the tragedy and promise this episode of history brought to the Indian people, seen through the stories of a young mixed-faith couple (played beautifully by Manish Dayal and Huma Qureshi) and their families. It's both educational and a piece of thoroughly enjoyable entertainment, with solid writing and acting as well as beautiful sets and locations and period costumes.

Viceroy's House is currently playing in a limited number of theaters - if it's near you, it's definitely worth the watch.

Morning Coffee (10/25/17)

Good morning! You may (or may not) have noticed that this site is at a different URL than it was yesterday! Everything should be redirecting - let me know if you run into problems - but please update your bookmarks to

Why did 4 US troops die in Niger? Even the military doesn’t know.

China's Xi Is Elevated To New Level, With Echoes Of Mao

The Danger of President Pence

The Court Challenge Begins: Is Trump Taking Unconstitutional Emoluments?

Phew: An Undocumented 17-Year-Old in Federal Custody Can Get An Abortion, Court Rules

Well this sounds suspicious: Small Montana firm lands Puerto Rico’s biggest contract to get the power back on

These numbers are mind-boggling: 200 more women share their James Toback stories after 38 accuse director of sexual harassment

When Robert Guillaume Played Aaron Sorkin's First Unforgettable Leader

Pablo Neruda Didn't Die Of Cancer, Experts Say. So What Killed The Poet?

Cassini's Final Days Produced a Burst of Fresh Science

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Afternoon Tea (10/24/17)

The quirky San Quentin crossword puzzle features prison slang and Solange

In Easter Island DNA, Evidence of Genetic Loneliness

I was wondering recently whether this was still around! Returning to Second Life

Amazing: Home Is Where the Corpse Is—At Least In These Dollhouse Crime Scenes

Fake News and Fervent Nationalism Got a Senator Tarred as a Traitor During WWI

Morning Coffee (10/24/17)

Spain’s prime minister has moved to strip Catalonia of its leadership. It’s an unprecedented act.

Soldier’s Widow Says Trump Struggled to Remember Sgt. La David Johnson’s Name

I wish this had been a bigger story than it was: 3 white supremacists arrested in Florida for shooting at anti-racism protesters

Rigged: How Voter Suppression Threw Wisconsin to Trump

More than 20,000 underage girls marry illegally each day, claims study

Amazing: We Set up a Hotline to Help You Reject Creepy Men

Yay! ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ is returning for a second season

Quite the headline: Infamous Murderer Of Children Can't Be Cremated To Music Of Berlioz, Court Says

Heh: Stephen Hawking's Ph.D Thesis Is Now Crashing Cambridge's Website [Updated]

I just love this line: "Real Madrid could afford him but that would also mean having to end football immediately, for ever."

Monday, October 23, 2017

Afternoon Tea (10/23/17)

The War To Sell You A Mattress Is An Internet Nightmare

This story is amazing: A Catfishing With a Happy Ending

A Senator Speaks Out Against Confederate Monuments… in 1910

Celebrating Henry VIII’s Love Affair With the Humble Recorder

A study shows how ancient Egypt struggled with drastic changes in the climate

You can't have it both ways, pop stars.

I don't assume song lyrics are autobiographical or factually accurate. As with most kinds of writing, they don't need to be, and whether they are doesn't really affect their quality as art. I get annoyed when people assume that every song reflects a specific situation in the singer and/or songwriter's life in documentary detail. I'm fine with rich famous musicians writing and performing from the perspective of "normal" people who worry about jobs and money and whatever else.

But! There's an exception to this! If you are explicitly stating within the lyrics that the song is about you, the rich famous person, you cannot expect us to also believe that you are worrying about money in any normal sort of way.

I am, of course, specifically thinking of current hit "Strip That Down" by Liam Payne, though he is certainly not the only offender. (Here's the video, if you haven't heard it.) I am not a particular fan but, as I said to a friend, I enjoy the song for a certain value of "enjoy"; in this case that more or less means that when it comes on the radio I'm content enough to bop along, but I don't really seek it out and I am making no claims as to its artistic worth. I'm just complaining about the lyrics, because with everything else going on in the world it's refreshing to take a break once in a while and get mad about meaningless pop song lyrics.

This song is coded as autobiographical in the clearest way possible: it literally includes the line "I used to be in 1D." (For those of you who actively avoid hearing anything about pop music: 1D = One Direction, a gigantically famous and successful boy band that is now on indefinite hiatus.) The narrator of the song is clearly Current Famous Millionaire Liam Payne. I suppose if we want to get technical about it, he could be singing this from the perspective of someone else who used to be in 1D, but still: that is five specific people and they are all rich.

So! Since the narrator of the song is, according to the text itself, a rich famous pop star, he has no business making the point in the later lyric "You know I don't need no money / when your love is beside me." ("Beside" seems an odd choice of preposition there, but that is... well. Beside the point.) He doesn't need money because he HAS LOTS OF IT. Her love is irrelevant to this question. I suppose he could be trying to claim that his money doesn't matter to him because of this, but that's easy to say when you don't have to worry about this in the first place.

Oops, my brain just leapt to an argument about how rich people pretending to deeply feel the economic concerns of not-rich people is a lot of what led us to our current mess, but NO. This was something fun and meaningless to get mad about, darn it, so I shall stop here.

Morning Coffee (10/23/17)

Me elsewhere: TV news for the week.

This is important and really worth a read: I’m Done Debating Racism With the Devil

2017! Robert Mugabe removed as WHO goodwill ambassador after outcry

How Harvey Weinstein And Kenneth Cole Covered Up A Shady Deal

The “Fake Melania” conspiracy theory, explained

Trump Has Ruined the Presidential Windbreaker

A New Street Was Meant to Bridge Belfast’s Sectarian Divide. Then the Doorbell Rang.

In Indonesia, the ‘fake news’ that fueled a Cold War massacre is still potent five decades later

‘Don’t brand me’: The Indian women saying no to forced tattoos

Oh, this doesn't sound alarming at all: Google Taught A.I. How to Program More A.I.

Whisper it – Greek theatre's legendary acoustics are a myth

Friday, October 20, 2017

Afternoon Tea (10/20/17)

How Japan’s Bear-Worshipping Indigenous Group Fought Its Way to Cultural Relevance

The 1938 Hurricane That Revived New England’s Fall Colors

How the Real Madame Tussaud Built a Business Out of Beheadings

Leo Tolstoy’s Family Recipe for Mac ‘N’ Cheese

The whimsical world of garden follies

Morning Coffee (10/20/17)

Let's have some happy Friday links to get us through to the weekend!

This is so great: New York City’s Libraries Will Forgive All Children’s Fines

!! LEGO celebrates female scientists with 'Women of NASA' set


Amazing: College kid makes life better by rigging a door to play the Seinfeld theme when opened

The Hogwarts Express Is Real, and It Rescues Children

This is the kind of hard-hitting journalism we need today: An Ode to Royals Playing With Dogs

Really speaking my language here: How to Organize Your Giant Tote Bag

I feel like today might be the kind of day when you need some easy one-bowl brownies.

Ooh, let's go to Downton Abbey: The Exhibition.

42 Halloween-Inspired Nail Looks That Are Cute AF

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Afternoon Tea (10/19/17)

This new bio sounds interesting: Hating on Herbert Hoover

What did neolithic man eat after a hard day at Stonehenge? Sweet pork and rich cheese

How Eleanor Roosevelt and Henrietta Nesbitt Transformed the White House Kitchen

In Defence of Celebrity Gossip

I kinda want to try this: Why are games like Stardew Valley so darn satisfying?

Weekly Rec: Gulliver's Gate

Gulliver's Gate is a new-ish exhibition near Times Square that is basically the world in miniature. It's incredible. There's a mind-boggling amount of detail and extremely impressive craftsmanship. It has a huge section devoted to Manhattan, and then smaller sections for all different cities and countries around the world. (And also an airport and some freestanding landmarks.) You can also take a peek into the workshops where they make the various pieces, which seemed cool but I was there on the Sunday of Columbus Day weekend and it was so busy I couldn't really get close and certainly couldn't talk to any of the people working. (AND there's a place to get a 3D printed version of yourself made!)

I'm having trouble even finding the words to describe how incredible and intricate this is. I could have spent hours and still not noticed everything.

To give you a taste, here's part of the New England section:

They also added all sorts of cultural figures to various sections (some of which made more sense than others, honestly). Here are the tiny Beatles!

It's definitely worth the trip, though the amount of stuff going on was almost overwhelming and it was hard to feel like I was really appreciating the workmanship when the exhibit was crowded. Like so many things, I would have enjoyed it more were other people not allowed. Failing that, I'd recommend trying to go during the week (though maybe then there are lots of field trips?) and certainly not on a holiday weekend as I did.

Morning Coffee (10/19/17)

ICYMI, my first (In)expert Advice column went live yesterday!

I love this: MI6 boss: George Smiley a better role model for agents than James Bond

Oh: Trump voter fraud commission researcher arrested on child pornography charges

A reporter finally asked Trump to just explain his health care plan. His response was a train wreck.

Biden says that FOURTEEN foreign heads of state have contacted him about WTF is going on with Trump.

Donald Trump and the Cheney Doctrine

2017! Congressional Candidate Believes She Was Visited by Aliens

A TV Executive Sexually Assaulted Me: A Critic’s Personal Story

What Really Helps Women Succeed at Work? Access to Birth Control.

How Facebook Outs Sex Workers

A Centuries-Old Frieze, Newly Deciphered, Tells the Story of the End of the Bronze Age

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Afternoon Tea (10/18/17)

Mallory Ortberg, perfect as always: Emails I Have Never Received But Believe I Am Owed

Virtually Explore a World War II Shipwreck in 360 Degrees

The Commodified Country Paradise of the Pioneer Woman

The Nixon Dinners That Taught Americans to Stop Worrying and Love Peking Duck

The forgotten 18th century observatory that marked the rise of modern astronomy in India

(In)expert Advice: Authors and book covers!

Welcome to our first installment of (In)expert Advice, in which I, an avowed non-expert, tell people what to do anyway - and then have an actual expert weigh in on my advice! This column is made possible by my wonderful Patreon supporters. Got a question for us? E-mail me!

Today we've got a question about the world of publishing, so our guest expert is Kate Testerman, lit agent extraordinaire and founder of KT Literary. Follow Kate on Twitter and check out what the agency's up to on Facebook!

(Note: This question originally came from Twitter, so I've paraphrased for clarity and anonymity.)

THE QUESTION: An author just got the proposed cover art for her new book and she likes it, but there's a detail wildly wrong - let's say the main character's dog is the wrong breed. It bothers her a little but she's not too upset. Should she bring it up to her editor? Will readers be mad about it?

MY INEXPERT ADVICE: Okay, I have a few thoughts here. First of all, the straightforward answer to the first question: Sure, mention it. If they're asking for your feedback, I see no harm in saying "It's really cute, but would it be a big hassle to change the dog to xyz to match the text?" Maybe it would and maybe it wouldn't, but you might as well find out.

But then... I'd try to let it go. In a pragmatic sense, it doesn't seem like you care about it enough to make this a hill you want to die on - and I agree that cover art generally shouldn't be, as long as it's not an issue like whitewashing. I am in no way saying that you should let people walk all over you, but as in any business (or personal, really) situation, you want to pick your battles and not make such a big deal over something non-essential that you risk the people you're dealing with gaining a negative impression of you (earned or not). Save that for the things you care about deeply.

And in a larger sense: I think the sooner you can practice letting go of tangential things readers might complain about, the better. Most readers will not care about the cover, or at worst will notice the dog breed is off but not be so rude as to yell at you about it. But there exists a small minority of readers who will always find things to which they object, some of which are mostly or entirely out of your control - the cover, the font, the price, the shipping time. (That might actually be easier to deal with than those who yell at you about things like your plot or characters. That will happen too! People are terrible.)

Interacting with readers is great, but in order to keep that up in a healthy manner as your career progresses, it's useful to create a bit of emotional distance. You don't owe anyone anything beyond what is in the book. If someone asks politely about the cover, you can tell them that authors aren't in charge of covers. Maybe they don't know! If someone is rude about it, you can ignore them. The fact that a person has purchased or read your book does not override your right to basic civility.

But really: Most readers are great and supportive. The rest will find something to be mad about no matter what. It's not your problem. Try not to take it personally. Good luck!

THE EXPERT WEIGHS IN: Kate's response is on the nose, though I will note that there's a couple of other variables that may affect whether or not your editor can do anything about it when you bring up your concerns. First of all, what type of cover is it? If it's an original piece of artwork commissioned for the cover, depending on what stage you see it in, you likely will be able to let the artist know that the dog is the wrong breed, and maybe even send along some reference images to help the artist correct the cover drawing. If the cover was shot for the book, you might have several images to choose from, but you're likely to be constricted by who and what was in the studio when the photos were taken. You can ask perhaps for some Photoshop, but if the publisher has already committed to a photo shoot, they may not want too much digital manipulation. Many covers, however, are some version of stock photos, and in that case, I would suggest doing some googling of your own on various stock image sites to provide further reference photos.

But really, if you can -- let it go. Most readers will understand that the author's responsibility begins and ends with the words on the page, and the cover and the rest of it is the publisher's responsibility.

Good luck!

THE VERDICT: Hey, my answer wasn't terrible! Yay! Thanks again for joining us, Kate!

Have a question for (In)expert Advice? Send it along!

Morning Coffee (10/18/17)

"A deranged animal": Trump’s newest lie about Obama is causing fury inside and outside the military

2 Senators Strike Deal on Health Subsidies That Trump Cut Off

Open Talk of a Military Coup Unsettles Brazil

This new hospital bill project from Vox is good and worthwhile: The problem is the prices

Beutler on the Pence football nonsense: Bottomless Bad Faith

Kate Winslet didn't thank Harvey Weinstein when she won the Oscar. Here's why

Smithsonian Announces Artists For Obamas’ Portraits: See Their Work

What!! MP Douglas Ross misses debate to officiate at Barcelona UCL match

I am cautiously optimistic about all the new European versions of Skam!

Historical Veggies Take Root In D.C. War Garden

Monday, October 16, 2017

Friday, October 13, 2017

Afternoon Tea (10/13/17)

This is very important work: The Presidents of the United States: In Order of Best Eyebrows

EVERYTHING IS A LIE: There Never Were 57 Varieties of Heinz Ketchup

Fascinating: The Sadness of Saturn

Is Your D&D Character Rare?

The Little-Known Friendships of Iconic Women Writers

Weekly Rec: Overcast

Weekly Recs are made possible by my Patreon supporters! Come join us for exclusive content and more.

Several years ago I used to listen to lots of podcasts, and then I just kinda... stopped? For some reason? I'm honestly not sure at this point, but that's neither here nor there. I periodically tried to start up again but was extremely frustrated by the iPhone Podcasts app - it kept deciding to no longer download things because I hadn't listened in a while, or downloading hundreds of things for no apparent reason, and I just gave up.

But then! A few weeks ago it struck me that there exist other podcast apps so maybe I should try them instead. I did a very scientific survey of people I know on Facebook and Twitter and decided to try Overcast. I planned to try others if necessary and pick the best, but I'm happy with Overcast so far so I haven't even bothered to do that. One funny thing: when I started asking for recommendations people immediately started talking about sound quality, which is so low on my list of podcast app priorities that it hadn't even occurred to me as a criterion.

Guys. It's me. All I care about is how I can organize and manipulate the data.

And Overcast pretty much lets me do most of what I want! The interface is simple and functional, search works well, and it's easy to subscribe (or go to a specific episode) via URL if you have that. I can tell what I've heard and easily switch between ordering by newest or oldest depending on whether I'm listening to a show methodically from the beginning or dipping in and out of newer episodes. I haven't done a ton with the playlist functionality yet but it seems pretty user-friendly too. The app downloads what I want it to download, which doesn't sound like a rare feature but apparently is. (There's one feature I want it to have that apparently NO podcast app has so I GUESS I will let it go. [It's showing a list of only unplayed episodes, downloaded or not. Why does no one have this??])

Confession: I also really like the name, because obviously I hate sunshine and happiness.

(Yes, this also means you can recommend podcasts in the comments if you want, since I'm FINALLY paying attention to such things.)

Morning Coffee (10/13/17)

Whew, we definitely need some happy Friday links this week.

Aaaah, Rainbow Rowell book news! I'm so glad she's writing a book taking place in a pumpkin patch. That is the MOST RAINBOW.

And the cover and an excerpt from Sandhya Menon's upcoming From Twinkle, With Love!

And the Toast came back very briefly to tell us Hey Ladies! wrote a book too!

I will continue to be unreservedly excited about new X-Files because we need things to be happy about. Anyway, here's the trailer.

This new podcast sounds cool! British Museum and BBC team up to explore belief through objects

Hey, sometimes bears need pizza too.

11 Shearling Coats to Snuggle Up in This Fall (I am glad shearling is in this year because I am OBSESSED right now.)

Ooh, let's run away to Lego House.

31 Amazing Literary Halloween Costumes

I get annoyed at leaf-peepers in person but I don't mind if you do it VIRTUALLY: Breathtaking Fall Leaves Around the World

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Afternoon Tea (10/12/17)

Nicole Cliffe, great as always: So, Your Kid Found Out About Death

The True Story of the Death of Stalin

The Perils of Parenting as a True Crime Author

A Comfort Food from a Time of Hunger

A spiritual guide for a female recluse

Morning Coffee (10/12/17)

From Aggressive Overtures to Sexual Assault: Harvey Weinstein’s Accusers Tell Their Stories

Underground in Raqqa

Everything is very normal: “I Hate Everyone in the White House!”: Trump Seethes as Advisers Fear the President Is “Unraveling”

This is quite a headline: Trump walks back his pledge that tax reform won't make him richer

Trump just threatened to shut down news outlets critical of him. That's what's happened in Turkey.

Important! How to Get a Cheap or Free Flu Shot, With or Without Insurance

At Frankfurt Book Fair, Politics Loom Large

Why the BBC’s Star Political Reporter Now Needs a Bodyguard

Early Human Migrants Likely Formed Mating Networks to Avoid Inbreeding

The Fight to Bring Home the Headdress of an Aztec Emperor

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Afternoon Tea (10/11/17)

How Skam’s Isak and Even revolutionized teen TV

This book sounds really interesting: Wearing the Veil: What It Means to Wear the Hijab (Or Not)

I had no idea about the United Order of Tents until I read this: Secrets of the South

‘The Dragon Lady’: How Madame Nhu helped escalate the Vietnam War

The Existential Horror Created by the First X-Ray Images

Who wants some (in)expert advice?

The other day, a Twitter pal asked for advice on something going on in her professional life, and I told her that I wasn't an expert in her area but then proceeded to tell her what to do anyway, because there is nothing I love so much as telling people what to do. She seemed to like my advice, so I joked that I should start an Inexpert Advice column on the blog and people seemed to like the idea, so... hey, let's try it.

But since I'm not an expert, I'm adding a bit of a twist to this - in each (In)expert Advice post, I'll answer a question but then call in an expert (or the closest I can find) to judge whether my advice was correct. If questions are about a certain field (publishing, medicine, law, etc.) I'll try to get a bona fide professional. If they're more general family/romantic/interpersonal things, I'll ask a smart friend who has dealt with something similar or who generally gives good advice in that area.

This will start in a week or two - I'm at work on the first question (and need to rope in an expert). It'll probably appear about once a month, depending on how many questions I get. Have something going on in your life about which you'd like some potentially questionable advice? Send it my way!

Morning Coffee (10/11/17)

The Kurds of County Leitrim: Refugees Call an Irish Town Home

The Intrepid Teachers Bringing Internet Access To Women In Rural India

Nearly Half Of All Abortions Unsafe In Developing Countries

He's exactly as terrible as you think he is, but this is still worth a read: Stephen Miller, the Powerful Survivor on the President’s Right Flank

Awww, this story: A survivalist filled his massive basement with food — then decided Puerto Ricans needed it more

An important project: Mapping Hate

Sigh: Guess Whether These Headlines Came From Breitbart or 1920s KKK Newspapers

Of... of course: My Immortal memoir canceled: Author says she's been 'branded a liar'

Belgian ‘Indiana Jones’ Tries to Solve Mystery of a WWI Submarine

A 1775 Map Reveals the Extent of Human Impact on Florida’s Coral Reefs

Monday, October 9, 2017

Afternoon Tea (10/9/17)

This had never occurred to me but it's terrible: The Disturbing Rise of Cyberattacks Against Abortion Clinics

Romance publishing has a major diversity problem, according to new report

Christ in the Garden of Endless Breadsticks

Ancient Viruses Are Buried in Your DNA

Colonial Postcards and Women as Props for War-Making

Morning Coffee (10/9/17)

This is powerful and important: "I Carry My Grief In A Visible Bump" — Don't Ban Abortion For Women Like Me

So is this: On American Identity, the Election, and Family Members Who Support Trump

How Fake News Turned a Small Town Upside Down

Why gun violence research has been shut down for 20 years

GOOD QUESTION: How is there always a tweet?

Two Confessions and Claims of Misconduct in Murder Case

68 Things You Cannot Say on China’s Internet

Obviously I am also joyless, because I said OH GOOD: Joyless Feds Order Bakery to Stop Pretending ‘Love’ Is a Real Granola Ingredient

Have Turkish Archaeologists Found the Final Resting Place of Saint Nick?

Read Like a Clinton: A Round Up of Literary References in WHAT HAPPENED

Friday, October 6, 2017

Afternoon Tea (10/6/17)

Donuts And Apple Cider: An Autumn Marriage Made By Autos And Automation

The Error in Baseball and the Moral Dimension to American Life

I've never been impressed by the Rupi Kaur hubbub so this profile in which it's clear she doesn't care about reading was satisfying, because I'm petty.

Archaeology and blockchain: a social science data revolution?

I Tried the 36 Questions to Fall In Love on a Random Tinder Date and It Was a Disaster

Let's not pretend a female author could get away with this.

I love the Times' Carry-On column, in which they talk to some prominent person about what they pack for (usually frequent) travel. And Stephen King came across as pretty delightful in his; nothing I'm saying here is a criticism of him and I just wanted to make that clear up front.

But. But! In this he talks about how he just wears jeans and t-shirts on book tour, and doesn't pack any toiletries, just uses whatever his hotel provides. (Or motel. Apparently he prefers the Motel 6, which I guess is the sort of charming low-brow taste it's cool to have when you have enough money to stay wherever you want. I will promise you right now that no matter how much money I ever make, I will never ever prefer the Motel 6 over a nice hotel. BUT I DIGRESS.) But seriously, that's all fine! I'm glad he has a system that works for him. I wish Stephen King no ill.

What is less fine is the reaction to this I saw around the Internet, a chorus of "Oh, he's so normal and down-to-earth and only cares about his WORK, not like all those shallow lady authors who care about their APPEARANCE!" (I'm exaggerating, but only very slightly.) And I would like to tell you that this is sexist nonsense. Do you think there aren't a whole lot of female authors who would love to not worry about how they look on book tour? Of course they are. But they're not granted that luxury.*

I know a fair number of authors and have heard stories from and about many more. And I'm, you know, on Twitter, where we all get a firsthand look at how people respond to women who are public figures in any way. You can see on social media how any time a woman speaks out - especially the most successful; say J.K. Rowling - people rush in to call her ugly and criticize her appearance and evaluate her sexual attractiveness in all sorts of gross ways. If she decided to only ever appear in t-shirts and use generic motel shampoo, I promise the result would not be that people would stop talking about her appearance. It would only become more of a distraction.

And it's not just social media, where we have all (for good or ill) learned to expect people to be terrible. Before they do book signings or appear on panels, the authors I know all think carefully about what they're going to wear; a lot of them get their hair done or their nails done or plan out their makeup. They have to cart around hair and skin products with them on book tour. Exactly zero of them do this because they are shallow and care more about their looks than their work. Some of them genuinely enjoy and are interested in fashion and makeup and that's great! But some, many, of them do this primarily because it is what is expected of a woman who dares to speak in public.

These issues don't just randomly start with events after an author has been published, of course. As in pretty much every industry in our historically patriarchal, sexist society, this is baked in to the publishing industry. Publishers know that it's easier to sell books by young, conventionally attractive (white) authors, and this affects who gets book deals in the first place, who gets marketing budgets, who gets sent on tour.

So: I'm glad Stephen King can wear his jeans. I wish more people could wear what makes them comfortable without worrying about external standards. But let's not take this as a sign of King's virtue, the purity of his dedication to his work. He's a white man who makes a lot of people a lot of money, so he is given this freedom.

* And I'll say - even among male authors, obviously Stephen King can get away with a lot more than someone less wildly successful or someone new trying to make a good impression. But in general, this is all harder for women and their appearance is more heavily scrutinized.

Morning Coffee (10/6/17)

HAPPY FRIDAY. Okay, some more pleasant links to celebrate.

AWWWWWWWW: 'Tonight Show's' Female Writers Pen Thank You Notes to Hillary Clinton

Awesome: 75 Percent of the National Book Award Finalists Are Women

Heh: Siri says the national anthem of Bulgaria is 'Despacito'

New York Today: Javier Muñoz of ‘Hamilton’ on Acting

With everything else terrible that's happening in 2017, I'm very glad PIE BARS are now a trend.

Let's ogle some cozy slippers.

Democracy is great and whatever but aw: 70th wedding anniversary coin created for the Queen and Prince Philip

Found: A Giant Bronze Arm From the Antikythera Shipwreck

10 of the best railway stations in Britain

Hee! Saber-Toothed Kittens Were Really, Really Strong

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Afternoon Tea (10/5/17)

In India, a Ghost Town and a Mythological Bridge

What 30 Rock's move from Netflix to Hulu can tell us about the future of streaming

That Time #Ramona Made Everyone Smile For A Few Minutes

Food writing in "flyover country"

This Licentious Republic: Maritime Skirmishes in Narragansett Bay 1763-1769

Morning Coffee (10/5/17)

He is SO TERRIBLE: In bizarre visit, Donald Trump compares Puerto Rico to ‘a real catastrophe like Katrina’ — and congratulates himself

Oh, the headlines we see these days: Tillerson Denies Wanting to Resign, But Doesn’t Deny Calling Trump a ‘Moron’

This has made barely a blip, given everything, but all this stuff is important: How Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump, Jr., Avoided a Criminal Indictment

This is a powerful piece about children in Ukraine: Learning to Fight

There Is No “Hope” With Mass Shootings

Interesting: How Every NFL Team’s Fans Lean Politically

Kazuo Ishiguro Awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature (Maybe I'll finally read him! No, seriously, I've been meaning to for years.)

I am so excited about Crooked Media's expansion, and Brian Beutler is a great hire.

!!! Google's New Earbuds Instantly Translate 40 Languages

Archaeologists home in on Homeric clues as Turkey declares year of Troy

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Afternoon Tea (10/4/17)

Even in Death, the Spy Kim Philby Serves the Kremlin’s Purposes

Nicole Cliffe and Mallory Ortberg are perfect as usual: It’s Not a Problem When Cashiers Say “No Problem” to You

This is quite a read: How Essential Oils Became the Cure for Our Age of Anxiety

The Man Who Live-Tweets World War II

The Notorious Oyster Pirates of Chesapeake Bay

Weekly Rec: Dan Snow's History Hit

I listened to podcasts a lot several years ago, and then I just sort of stopped for a variety of reasons, and I've only gotten back into it in the past few weeks. (Part of that was finding an app I liked better than the iPhone Podcast app - that might be my Weekly Rec NEXT week.) I don't tend to like a lot of the history podcasts people recommend - I'd rather read a book by a historian than listen to some guy talk about whatever period of history. I just don't absorb facts well that way, and I like to know and vet sources.

But! I do like history podcasts that are more along the lines of a historian talking to other historians about their work and areas of expertise, and Dan Snow's History Hit is a great example of that. He's the son of TV presenter/historian Peter Snow, with whom he did the show Battlefield Britain, which BY THE WAY I also recommend. Dan's own work centers mostly around military history, but he covers a wide range of topics on the podcast, and it's always interesting, even if I think I'm not particularly into a certain subject going in. He's expanded the network to have a few other podcasts, now, too, which I have to check out.

You can see the podcasts and all the rest of Dan Snow's work at the History Hit site - there's now video, too, and a few articles, and promises of a "full site" to come. (Snow's Instagram and Twitter accounts are also fun, especially when he's on research trips.)

Weekly Rec posts are made possible by my Patreon patrons. Join now and help us get to the next goal - guest posts and interviews!

Morning Coffee (10/4/17)

Me elsewhere: Marvel's Inhumans is really terrible.

The time to politicize a tragedy is now

This is a hard, important read: When ‘Not Guilty’ Is a Life Sentence

Wow: Oxfam criticizes US government response in Puerto Rico That is... not normal, for them to have to get involved in a crisis in a wealthy country.

What a shock: “Pro-Life” Congressman Caught Telling His Extramarital Boo to Get an Abortion

The View From Pyongyang: An Exclusive Look at the World’s Most Secretive Nation

Zoe Quinn: after Gamergate, don't 'cede the internet to whoever screams the loudest'

The Most Cathartic Obamacare Repeal Failures, Ranked

Adam Silvera and Becky Albertalli are writing a book together! Can't wait.

Ooh: Neolithic Orkney rivalries detailed in new study

I really hope this comes to the US: Welsh-English bilingual drama seeks to replicate success of Scandi noir