Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Afternoon Tea (1/31/18)

I love Aciman's take on this experience almost as intensely as I love both the book and the film: “I Couldn’t Write Silence”: Call Me by Your Name Author André Aciman on the Oscar-Nominated Film Adaptation of His Novel

This is great and I'm SO excited to read Jasmine's book: How This Lawyer Learned to Call Herself a Writer

Indian Slavery Once Thrived in New Mexico. Latinos Are Finding Family Ties to It.

Obviously I need to try THIS: The Cult Skin-Care Brand Whose Secret Ingredient Is Being Dirt Cheap

So interesting: Photos from a Slowly Modernizing Bhutan

Oscar Project 2018: The Post

Movie: The Post

The Post was exactly my kind of movie - a bunch of actors I like playing smart characters fighting for good at an interesting moment in history - and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It also, of course, felt VERY timely, not least because I saw it literally during this year's State of the Union address. I expected the (much-appreciated) main theme to be about the importance of the free press in a democracy, but I was very happy to find that it also had strong feminist themes dealing with Katharine Graham's life and career and her work to be taken seriously as publisher of the Washington Post after her husband's death. This was definitely a feel-good movie for liberals right now, but . . . you know, sure, we kinda need it.

Availability: In basically all theaters right now.

Nominated In:
Best Picture: Not QUITE. This was very good but not great. That said, I wouldn't be angry or anything if it won.

Actress in a Leading Role: Meryl Streep is obviously always great, and she is here. I'm not sure she'd be my first choice, but I wouldn't say she doesn't deserve it.

Catch up on all my Oscar Project posts.

Morning Coffee (1/31/18)

ICYMI, yesterday's Oscar post: The Shape of Water

A FARC Rebel Commander Runs For President. Many Colombians Aren't Ready To Forgive

Donald Trump’s immigration crackdown is a recipe for national decline

2018 State of the Union Fact-Check

There’s a Typo on Tickets for Trump’s First State of the Union. Obviously.

The worker behind Hawaii’s missile scare thought there was a real missile

You have to read the details, because it's weirder and stupider than you think: they valued the property WAY LOWER than he said (of course) but he's suing because the taxes based on that LOWER figure are, he claims, too high: Trump sues over property tax bill for Florida golf club

Hmmmm: Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JP Morgan Chase join forces to tackle employees’ health-care costs

I finally had a chance to read the Times' expose on buying Twitter followers; as someone who pays attention to social media stuff this wasn't surprising, but the details are interesting: The Follower Factory

This is horrifying: Toronto police charge landscaper as serial killer, find human remains in flower pots

A D-Day Plane Lost for Years Is About to Fly Again

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Afternoon Tea (1/30/18)

This is wild: The Literary Intrigues of Putin’s Puppet Master

Well, I'm now a fan: Jamaica Has Never Had Olympic Synchronized Swimmers. These Girls Want to Change That.

How I, Tonya’s effects crew captured the film’s impossible skating shot

How ghee, turmeric and aloe vera became India’s new instruments of soft power

Some of this photography is gorgeous, which is weird to say about the subject, but you know what I mean: A century of cities at war – in pictures

Oscar Project 2018: The Shape of Water

Movie: The Shape of Water

I think this one is just . . . not my thing. But I was more convinced of that when I thought I didn't like Guillermo Del Toro in general - and then I remembered that he did Crimson Peak and I loved that. So I'm vacillating: either this was effective in doing what it set out to do and I'm just not into what it set out to do, or I could have been convinced but was not, at all. There were a lot of elements about this movie that were interesting, but it left me entirely cold and never got me to buy into its world at all. I don't have much patience for this kind of storytelling. That said, the acting was good, and if you like this kind of thing I think you will love this? Helpful, I know.

That said, with all the nominations here, I'd have thought it deserved a Visual Effects nomination. Any Film People reading this want to explain why what I'm thinking of as Visual Effects actually isn't what that category is about, or something?

Availability: It's in pretty much all the theaters right now. Easy to find!

Nominated In:
Best Picture: Nah. It did some interesting things but there were so many better movies this year.

Actor in a Supporting Role: Richard Jenkins was fine but did not particularly strike me as award-worthy. I wouldn't be FURIOUS, but not my choice.

Actress in a Leading Role: Sure. I didn't like everything she was given to do, but Sally Hawkins was amazing here.

Actress in a Supporting Role: Sure...? Definitely not the strongest in this set of nominees, but Octavia Spencer was very good here.

Cinematography: Not particularly striking.

Costume Design: Sure, fine, I guess.

Directing: Uh... well, the directing was very DISTINCTIVE, but it did not win me over to its argument or way of seeing things.

Film Editing: Sure. That was good.

Music (Original Score): I get what it was trying to do (I think) but it didn't work for me - instead of adding to the whole fairy tale/old movie atmosphere I THINK they were going for, it just added to the tweeness for me.

Production Design: Yes! Sure. Everything was so precise and a perfect blend of history with this fantasy element.

Sound Editing: I guess.

Sound Mixing: Yes! This one is deserved.

Writing (Original Screenplay): Noooo. For writing to be effective, I need to not only recognize what it's trying to do, but also actually be convinced or buy in to some extent, and that did not work for me here at all. There was also a bunch of stuff that I felt was extraneous and should have been cut but Del Toro would probably say was an ESSENTIAL PART OF HIS VISION.

Catch up on all my Oscar Project posts.

Morning Coffee (1/30/18)

ICYMI, here's my Ferdinand post, and I made you a running index of my Oscar posts by title and category. Remember, if you want to read my diary of this project, come join me on Patreon for as little as a dollar per month!

Important, from Ezra Klein: Trump Is Winning

Masha Gessen, my must-read: At Davos—and Always—Donald Trump Can Only Think in the Present Tense

Secret Memo Hints at a New Republican Target: Rod Rosenstein

Jeff Sessions Is Betraying His Own DOJ

Good for them: Curators at Museum of Natural History Object to a Trustee

This failed, but it's important to understand the junk science behind it: The Senate is voting on a 20-week abortion ban. Opponents say it's “basically relying on junk science.”

Egypt election: sole challenger to Sisi registers at last minute

Huh! Keurig to Take Control of Dr Pepper in $18.7 Billion Deal

Whoa: In Cave in Israel, Scientists Find Jawbone Fossil From Oldest Modern Human Out of Africa

Aw, can you imagine getting THAT HAIR: The Duchess of Cambridge donates her hair to wigs for children under cancer treatment

Monday, January 29, 2018

Afternoon Tea (1/29/18)

I was DELIGHTED to find out who was behind this: The Creator of Twitter's Emo Kylo Ren Takes Off the Mask (And Eyeliner)

Interesting: Suite on the Set: Film Editors Increasingly Work Alongside Directors During Shoots

The Toxic Rise of the California Strawberry

Ferry across the memories: all aboard the Mersey crossing – in pictures

The Dinner Party That Served Up 50,000-Year-Old Bison Stew

Oscar Project 2018: Ferdinand

Movie: Ferdinand

I'm not the biggest animated movie fan, but - actually, I have a caveat on this one: My friend Tim was one of the writers! So obviously I am thrilled for him and would like his movie to win and probably would have seen this regardless. BUT ANYWAY, I was about to say that I don't see a lot of animated movies and don't necessarily expect them to be my thing. But Ferdinand was a pleasant surprise! I was afraid it would gloss over the horrors of bullfighting but it did not, to the point that it was actually pretty stressful to watch, and the "be yourself" message wasn't too heavy-handed. The writing was clever and funny, I liked the art, and the voice cast was great.

Availability: Still in a few theaters, but go soon if you want to catch it!

Nominated In:
Animated Feature Film: Sure! It was very well-executed, and had a great blend of fun animal hijinks with a compelling story and genuinely moving themes.

Catch up on all my Oscar Project posts.

Morning Coffee (1/29/18)

Me elsewhere: TV news for the week.

Alexei Navalny detained at anti-Putin protest in Moscow

Shocker: Republicans Show Little Urgency on Legislation to Protect Mueller

Uh, this seems not great: Fitness tracking app Strava gives away location of secret US army bases

Wow, good: Ireland Prime Minister Says He Will Campaign to Repeal Abortion Ban

Camels banned from Saudi beauty contest over Botox

I didn't watch the Grammys but I saw this headline when I woke up and aw, yay: Carrie Fisher wins Grammy posthumously

Yeah, YOU'D THINK: Nielsen Social Content Ratings Will Now Include Instagram

I was skeptical of this whole enterprise but then I saw TONY KUSHNER is involved?! Steven Spielberg and Tony Kushner’s ‘West Side Story’ Is Casting

The Death of Stalin looks fun. (Er, you know what I mean.)

The map for Maureen Johnson's Truly Devious is SO GORGEOUS. I want to hang it on my wall or embroider it on a tapestry or SOMETHING.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Afternoon Tea (1/26/18)

Whoa: 2018 Oscar movies as The Good Place screenshots

All Good Magazines Go to Heaven

This photo and story are both SO COOL: David Yarrow's best photograph: a wolf on the prowl in a wild west saloon

So interesting: Why Italian football does not make sense in the English language

I'd never heard of this author before yesterday but now I absolutely want to read him: In Praise of Evan S. Connell

Morning Coffee (1/26/18)

This week seemed very long. Time for some happy Friday links!

ICYMI: my Oscar Project post on Wonder.

GOOD: Octavia Spencer Says Jessica Chastain Helped Her Get a Significant Pay Raise on Their New Film

This is EXTREMELY EXCITING but I'm disappointed there's not a Meg doll too: A Wrinkle in Time getting its own Barbie dolls

Your Friday morning may need Dylan O'Brien frolicking with puppies. I don't know your life.

While we're talking about actors and puppies: Tom Hardy Has Been Helping To Rehome Dogs That Were Found Abandoned In A Park

Ooh: These Two Favorite Skincare Brands Are Now Available At Target

Who is your Good Place moral soul mate? (I got Chidi but obviously don't deserve him.)

I'm wary of the new Muppet Babies but aw, penguin!

These Vibrant Maps Reveal the World’s Hidden Geographies

Whoa: New Etsy shop will build a detailed Lego model of your home

Watch the Wondrous Costco Pizza Sauce Dispenser in Action

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Afternoon Tea (1/25/18)

The Rise of Brazilian Evangelicals

“The Dark Knight is a punk score”: Hans Zimmer on his collaborative composing process

I don't agree with all their picks but the Fug Girls' Oscar nominations feature is fun.

Is There A Ticking Time Bomb Under The Arctic?

The First Ice Skates Weren’t For Jumps and Twirls—They Were For Getting Around

Oscar Project 2018: Wonder

Movie: Wonder

I'm not the biggest fan of heartwarming family movies, but this one, about a boy with facial deformities starting school, had its genuinely touching moments and did some things I liked, especially around the story of the main character's older sister. Unfortunately, its good points were subsumed by it falling into the too-common trap of making it seem a person with health problems or disabilities exists primarily to inspire the people around him and make them better. BLEH. I will say that the child actors were all impressive here, and that I had no idea Daveed Diggs and Ali Liebert would be popping up as teachers, so that was a delightful surprise.

Availability: On its way out of theaters, so if you want to see it you should go ASAP.

Nominated In:
Makeup & Hairstyling: Sure, I guess.

Morning Coffee (1/25/18)

ICYMI, I wrote about my favorite movie of the year.

In Davos, Merkel Warns Against 'Poison' Of Right-Wing Populism

Also: In a first, only women will lead Davos — an elite meeting of mostly men

THIS IS NOT NORMAL: Trump asked the acting FBI director how he voted during Oval Office meeting

Female journalists kept at back of Pence’s visit to Western Wall

GOOD: Larry Nassar Sentencing: ‘I Just Signed Your Death Warrant’

An important read: I Was Tortured in Gay Conversion Therapy. And It’s Still Legal in 41 States.

Pro-Trump Maine Town Manager Fired After Touting ‘White Civil Rights’ Views

How Russia’s Hilarious, Homoerotic “Satisfaction” Became a Nationwide Meme of Solidarity

Chinese Scientists Clone Monkeys Using Method That Created Dolly The Sheep

Ooh: Collection of Sylvia Plath's possessions to be sold at auction

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Afternoon Tea (1/24/18)

This was so interesting and I cannot even IMAGINE having to deal with Waugh as a person: 'Brideshead' Revisited & Revised

Star Wars: Episode IX can fill Leia’s absence by embracing its forgotten queen

How a Misfit Group of Computer Geeks and English Majors Transformed Wall Street

I read her book in Italian last year, and this was a neat interview: Jhumpa Lahiri on Writing in Italian

Putting Ancient Recipes on the Plate

Oscar Project 2018: Call Me By Your Name

(A general note as we start this: If I say a movie is worthy in a certain category, that just means on its own merits in a vacuum, not that it's necessarily my pick for the category. So I may say yes to a bunch of Actors in a Leading Role or whatever and then at the end you'll get my actual pick for each category.)

Movie: Call Me By Your Name

I'm having trouble even articulating how much I loved this movie (and how good I thought it was - those don't always go together). I'd usually be hesitant to say a movie was the best of the year before seeing at least all the Best Picture nominees, but I would be ASTONISHED if anything but this ends up as my pick. I haven't felt this strongly about a movie in... years, at least. I've barely been able to think about anything else since I saw it, but at the same time it's made me want to learn and read and play music and write things - saying something is "inspirational" is often so cheesy, but this really was, for me. Obviously the central romance is getting most of the attention around this movie, but for me what made it so great was the way that romance was completely intertwined with the characters' feelings about art and music and history and literature. This is the only movie I can think of that really portrayed the way it feels to be a teenager as I remember it.

In addition to its four nominations, I think this should have also been nominated at LEAST in Actor in a Supporting Role (preferably twice over but CERTAINLY Armie Hammer, who had a difficult, subtle role I honestly wasn't sure he'd pull off), Directing, and Cinematography, and I'd probably also put it in a bunch of other places like Editing and Production Design and Music (Original Score). Give this movie all the awards.

Availability: It's in limited release but widening, so you SHOULD be able to find it if you're willing to drive a bit. Hopefully these nominations will increase the availability in coming weeks.

Nominated In:
Best Picture: Yes yes yes. As I said, I feel ridiculously strongly about this movie - both in that I loved it but also that I thought it was a great film. I don't think it will win but it SHOULD.

Actor in a Leading Role: Yes. The audience is in Timothee Chalamet's character's head for the entire movie and he carries it admirably, especially given how young he is. (And he's PERFECT at making the character feel like a real teenager who is old for his years in some ways, rather than just an adult.)

Music (Original Song): This is for "Mystery of Love" by Sufjan Stevens; you can see the music video (with footage from the film) here. I might actually prefer his other song for the film, "Visions of Gideon," but that's a very small quibble; both songs are great and he absolutely deserves the award.

Writing (Adapted Screenplay): YES YES YES. As I mentioned above, I really love the novel, but as I read it I was thinking about how hard it would be to get an adaptation right, for two main reasons: a lot of why it's so great is the writing itself, which can be hard to translate on screen, and it's very interior and I was afraid of lots of awful voiceovers to compensate for that inner monologue. But the script was PERFECT and I can't believe James Ivory has never won an Oscar and he better win this one.

Morning Coffee (1/24/18)

ICYMI, my Oscar Project is underway! I'll be posting about nominated movies several times a week, so that will take the place of Weekly Recs and other posts for the next six weeks or so. Check back later today for my first movie post, about my favorite movie of the year.

The first Cabinet member... Sessions Is Questioned as Russia Inquiry Focuses on Obstruction

Congratulations, and wow, what a milestone for women: Tammy Duckworth is pregnant; will be 1st senator to give birth

Uh... Trump to address annual RNC meeting at his D.C. hotel

As Trump announces tariffs, Trudeau unveils Canada’s new trade deal with Asia

Sad news: Ursula K. Le Guin, Acclaimed for Her Fantasy Fiction, Is Dead at 88

Women are now a majority of entering medical students nationwide

Oscars introduce new rules to prevent another envelope mix-up

Found: A Rare, 1,000-Year-Old Copper Arrowhead

Jazz and Classical Pianists Use Their Brains Differently

Dear Stock Photographers, Have You Ever Seen a Shopping Bag?

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Afternoon Tea (1/23/18)

I finally watched this over the weekend, and the Fug Girls' recap is good if you missed it: XXIII Things We Learned (And One We Corrected) From ‘The Coronation’

Why a Radical 1970s Science Group Is More Relevant Than Ever

Fun: ‘The Alienist’ and the Gilded Age: A History in Headlines

The Lost Giant of American Literature

The Painstaking Process Behind Those Wild WWI Naval Paint Jobs

Oscar Project 2018 Begins!

Oscar nominations are out! (That's the official site, and it includes a handy printable checklist.) As usual, I'll be trying to see as many nominated movies as I can, and between now and Oscar night I'll write you a post about each movie, with a few general thoughts as well as my assessment of it in each category in which it's nominated. Then at the end I'll tell you my pick for each category as well as my predictions for what will actually win. As I've mentioned, this year I'm doing an exclusive Oscar Project Diary for my Patreon patrons as well - just $1 a month to get those posts.

So where are we starting? Let's look at the numbers. A total of 59 movies were nominated this year, for a total of 122 individual nominations. I've done slightly better than usual, before the nominations - I've already seen 13 movies that comprise 48 nominations, or almost 40%. And a lot of the ones I haven't seen are pretty easily accessible, so FINGERS CROSSED. As always, it will probably come down to documentaries, foreign language, and animated that I have trouble finishing.

My very quick takes on the nominations: there weren't many cases where I was mad at specific things getting nominated, but I was mad about a lot of things that were missed. This will come up more but off the top of my head:
  • Wind River was completely snubbed and I thought it was definitely in the top ten movies of the year; I'd give it at least Original Screenplay and Cinematography nominations.
  • Call Me By Your Name got four nominations but I thought it deserved at least six more.
  • I really thought The Florida Project would be nominated much more. I'm less surprised about All the Money in the World but it deserved more.
  • Very happy to see both a woman and a person of color on the Directing list.
Come back for my first movie post tomorrow!

Morning Coffee (1/23/18)

Happy Oscar nomination day! Check back here this afternoon for the official start of my Oscar Project 2018. And if you'd like to follow along behind the scenes with my exclusive Oscar Project Diary, join me on Patreon!

This was a really great, important read: There’s Nothing More to Learn About Trump

Senate Democrats’ decision to reopen the government, explained (If nothing else, I'm glad we can stop worrying about CHIP in all this.)

Good. Keep it up: Pennsylvania supreme court rejects GOP-drawn congressional districts

...of course: Trump Researcher Arrested for Child Porn Also Made Mysterious Request for Latino Voter Info

Watchdog group files complaint against Trump campaign over reported payout to Stormy Daniels

What's Scary About Shutting Down the C.D.C.

Ooh: Roxane Gay, Masha Gessen among 2017 National Book Critics Circle finalists

Progress? Thinx Has a New CEO and, Finally, an HR Department

Bitcoin’s Success Is Drawing More Attention to the Shadiest Parts of the Cryptocurrency World

I AGREE: Stephen King wants Dick Wolf to make a Law & Order show with vampires

Monday, January 22, 2018

Afternoon Tea (1/22/18)

Fascinating: How Do You Rebuild Your Life After Leaving A Polygamous Sect?

‘The Good Place’ Asks How a Good Person Dresses

Secret Tunnel in Berlin Is an Echo From the Cold War

The Woman Who Transformed How We Teach Geography

From Helping Shut-Ins to Sisterly Advice, Mail-Order Magazines Did More Than Just Sell Things

Morning Coffee (1/22/18)

Me elsewhere: TV news for the week.

Good for them: Union Is Formed at Los Angeles Times and Publisher Put on Leave

I thought we already knew this but I'm glad to see research and attention being given to it: Repeated Head Hits, Not Just Concussions, May Lead To A Type Of Chronic Brain Damage

Important in understanding everything: Trump’s Debt to Ron Paul’s Paranoid Style

Comrade, meet Cupid: China’s Communist Party plays matchmaker to millennials

This story is terrifying: Almost 35 years ago, she let a stranger hold her newborn. It has haunted her ever since.

Cursed are the cheesemakers: Spain and Mexico locked in manchego dispute

Can Philippe Jaroussky Help Fix Classical Music’s Diversity Problem?

I can't believe he's OLD enough, we're all going to die: Logan Lerman in Talks to Play Dan Rather in JFK Drama ‘Newsflash’

Hmm: Legends of Tomorrow Eyeing Episode About Young Barack Obama

Ooh: Possible Remains of ‘Lost’ Monastery Discovered in Scotland

Friday, January 19, 2018

Afternoon Tea (1/19/18)

This is AMAZING and made me want to start watching Grey's again and also anything she ever produces: Ellen Pompeo, TV's $20 Million Woman, Reveals Her Behind-the-Scenes Fight for "What I Deserve"

Could an algorithm help find the right place to resettle refugees?

Fun! How Olympic Figure Skating Costumes Have Changed Through the Years

This column can sometimes lead to terrible disappoint, but this one is A DELIGHT: Simon Sebag Montefiore: By the Book

The Election That Defined What ‘Real Americans’ Ate and Drank

Oscar Project 2018: New SECRET DIARY just for patrons!

As usual for mid-January, I am currently gearing up for my Oscar Project, in which I slowly drive myself insane trying to see all the Oscar-nominated movies for no REAL reason other than that I enjoy self-inflicted stress and recreational spreadsheets. As I do every year, I'll be posting about each movie and my picks for each category here on the blog, free for everyone to read.

But! This year I'm adding a special component just for Patreon. Patrons - all levels, starting at just $1 a month - will get my daily diary of the project - short messages every day from now through Oscar night. This will include things like:
  • My process hunting down the various movies and deciding what to see when
  • My adventures driving to and exploring various faraway theaters
  • Informal thoughts and my TRUE FEELINGS on the movies that didn't make it into my review posts (i.e. if you want to know which actors I think are hot, this is probably the place)
  • Thoughts on how the various races are developing and interesting related reading
  • Probably a lot of ranting about poorly behaved audiences
  • Q&As if you guys have any thoughts or questions as I go!
  • And for your convenience, links to all my Oscar-related blog posts so you have it all in one place
If you're thinking of joining in just for this - welcome! Patreon is month-by-month, so if you're just here for movies, you can quit after the Oscars with no hard feelings, though obviously I'll be delighted if you decide you like the other stuff I'm doing and want to stick around! (And if you're seeing this after I've already started, don't worry, if you sign up now you can read all the archives!)

To come along with me on this crazy journey, join me on Patreon!

Morning Coffee (1/19/18)

We survived the week! Time for some happy Friday links.

Oh interesting! Elena Ferrante to become Guardian Weekend's new columnist

I AM EXCITED ABOUT THIS: Harry Potter Role-Playing Game Trailer, New Details Released

This is amazing: See an Entire Northern Ireland Village Knitted Out of Wool

!! Meet Phelps the swimming hedgehog from Alness

Whoa: This Futuristic Suitcase Will Automatically Follow Its Owner Through the Airport

How Do You Keep an Elephant Warm? Knit a Giant Blanket

It's a WEDDING CAKE made out of CHEESE.

Speaking of, I am happy to support this important effort: New Campaign To Appreciate Imported Cheese

This Map Shows Every Adorably Named Salt Truck in Scotland

This sounds like what I need to get through my Friday: The New Croissant At Starbucks Tastes Like An Everything Bagel

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Afternoon Tea (1/18/18)

This is WILD: From Nazi Germany to Australia: The Incredible True Story of History’s Longest Kayak Journey

Maureen Johnson talks ‘Truly Devious,’ Agatha Christie, and more

On Riverdale: "The characters aren’t mourning the loss of a place; they’re mourning the loss of placelessness, because with placelessness comes unaccountability. When a town can be anything the characters want, they are free to engage in corruption, classism, or any number of moral evils without fear of retribution."

The New York Times food section has a whole issue about Canada and it's very interesting, and now I need to make some butter tarts IMMEDIATELY.

I've always rolled my eyes at this whole episode, but the story IS interesting: Rebuilding on the Beatles, an Ashram in India Hopes for Revival

Morning Coffee (1/18/18)

Life After ISIS: One Sister Wants To Rebuild. The Other Can't Wait To Leave

Just evil: US border patrol routinely sabotages water left for migrants, report says

Donald Trump’s alleged porn star affair and hush money scandal, explained

Citing ‘Inexcusable’ Treatment, Advisers Quit National Parks Panel

I don't know how I'd be handling this presidency without Masha Gessen: How Donald Trump Degrades Us All

"The notion of affirmative consent did not fall from space in October 2017 to confound well-meaning but bumbling men; it was built, loudly and painstakingly and in public, at great personal cost to its proponents, over decades."

In case you, too, vaguely heard something about "California splitting" and didn't realize it was an actual news story, here you go. (I mean, they talk about this all the time and it's not going to happen, but for a day I thought it was just a random Twitter joke and not people Declaring Things this week.)

Shocker: Percentage of Women Working Behind the Scenes in Film Hasn't Increased in 2 Decades

Whoa! After 950 Years, the Bayeux Tapestry Is Set to Be Displayed in Britain

Water Might Be Easier to Find on Mars Than We Thought

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Afternoon Tea (1/17/18)

When Barbie Went to War with Bratz

Jasmine Guillory's piece about becoming online friends with Amy Spalding is a DELIGHT: Words With Friends

Wow: How I Learned to Look Believable

How Do We Bury the Writing of the Dead?

A New Clue to the Mystery Disease That Once Killed Most of Mexico

Weekly Rec: Truly Devious

Okay, I'm not going to pretend I'm neutral and objective about Maureen Johnson or her work; I've worked for and with her for several years now and we've become friends. However! As I always say, I would never tell you I liked something if I didn't. And I certainly wouldn't be as enthusiastic as I'm about to be here . . .

Because Maureen's new book Truly Devious is SO GOOD. I've liked all of her books but this is my favorite, by far. And that's not that surprising, because this is a mystery novel and those are my favorites. But! This one has two different mysteries! Both among my favorite kinds! There's a 1920s rich people country house murder, AND a contemporary boarding school murder. I am approximately 77% sure that Maureen wrote this book JUST FOR ME.

I sometimes have trouble with YA mysteries because it's not always plausible for a teen to be investigating something - I'm always yelling "Call the police! Call your mom! Call someone!" - but Maureen gets around that issue nicely here, and her main character Stevie is a skilled detective and also a completely believable teen girl. I loved her. As an alumna of a Weird School In New England, I also loved the portrayal of Ellingham Academy, both in its original 1920s incarnation and its current form.

In addition to all the lovely murder, Truly Devious does great things with themes of figuring out your identity and how to present yourself, with learning who to trust and how to navigate the world when you leave home, with questions of politics and celebrity and friendship and identity. And it tackles a few delightful Northern New England topics, like the truly baffling quantity of maple products and whether moose are real. (They're not.)

Truly Devious just came out this week and it's the PERFECT twisty engrossing mystery for a winter day when you want to stay inside with blankets and a variety of hot beverages. Enjoy!

Morning Coffee (1/17/18)

Whoa: Koreas to carry single Olympic flag

Bannon Is Subpoenaed in Mueller’s Russia Investigation

Ex-C.I.A. Officer Suspected of Compromising Chinese Informants Is Arrested

140 Women Have Accused Larry Nassar Of Abuse. His Victims Think We Don’t Care.

How horrifying: The Emoji Movie is the first film publicly screened by Saudi Arabia in 35 years

Nicole Cliffe and Carvell Wallace have a new parenting advice column at Slate!

I still need to read that book about the Lucan case: Lady Lucan leaves fortune to housing charity Shelter

Brontë Society Roiled Again, This Time By Controversy Over Supermodel Lily Cole

Dippin' Dots launches cryogenics company, and we know where your mind is going, the answer is no

Interesting: ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ Spinoff Brings Gender Equality To Firefighting

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Afternoon Tea (1/16/18)

Tonya Harding Would Like Her Apology Now

I want to read this: Balzac’s Novel of Female Friendship

A fun piece about working at American Girl Place: Not Safe for Work

Across Indonesia’s Capital, a Legacy of Soviet-Inspired Design

A Search for a Lost Hammer Led to the Largest Cache of Roman Treasure Ever Found in Britain

Morning Coffee (1/16/18)

This is a wonderful step: 'A great milestone': Somaliland adopts legislation outlawing rape

Jamelle Bouie, great as always: Donald Trump Is a Racist

Fighting Fake News Is Not the Solution

This is horrifying: 13 Siblings, Some Shackled to Beds, Were Held Captive by Parents, Police Say

WHAT A SHOCK: Nearly three out of four women in computer-related jobs report discrimination in the workplace

Yoga, basketball and a test kitchen: Obama’s presidential library plans


Hilarious: Russian Embassy Criticizes BBC Drama 'McMafia'

This saga is wild: Vegas Golden Knights, Named to Avoid Trademark Dispute, Face Trademark Dispute

16th-Century Child Mummy Had Oldest Known Case of Hepatitis B

Monday, January 15, 2018

Afternoon Tea (1/15/18)

A year after ISIS left, a battered Libyan city struggles to resurrect itself

Fascinating: Scanning an Ancient Biblical Text That Humans Fear to Open

How Latin Became The Romance Languages

Why Target Is Gambling on the Tricky Task of Making Jeans for Women

The Mystery of Italy's Saltless Bread

Morning Coffee (1/15/18)

Me elsewhere: TV news for the week.

Greece Scraps Compulsory Shariah for Muslim Minority (I hadn't realized they had that - and had for almost a century! - and I'm so glad it will now be optional.)

Donald Trump and the Rule of Law

What to say instead of “Bernie’s not a Democrat”

Google's Martin Luther King, Jr. Day doodle is so pretty!

Wow: New York City police solve 1994 rape case that newspaper called a hoax

It Is Silly Season in the Land of Cryptocurrency

Quite a story: Anna Mae Hays, 97, U.S. Military’s First Female General, Dies

A Woman Now Leads the Vatican Museums. And She’s Shaking Things Up.

DRAMA: Queen's bra fitter Rigby & Peller loses royal warrant (But seriously, OF COURSE, what did they expect?)

Whoa: HBO Hosts "Hogwarts House Challenges" in Atlanta, Boston, and Denver!

Friday, January 12, 2018

Afternoon Tea (1/12/18)

This profile is good but a. lol the title and b. of COURSE the man with the famous name is getting more attention than the women who broke the story (though I don't blame Farrow himself that, obviously): Ronan Farrow, the Hollywood Prince Who Torched the Castle

The Adults Who Love Disney

How Ancient Roman Ruins Ended Up 2,000 Miles Away in a British Garden

Coming of age ceremony in Yokohama – in pictures

A Brief History of Airport Chapels

Morning Coffee (1/12/18)

Time for some happy Friday links! Don't worry, I have plenty of alarming stuff bookmarked for tomorrow already.

Oooh: This Picturesque Japanese Village Is One of the Snowiest Places on the Planet

Princess Charlotte started nursery school and it was EXTREMELY ADORABLE.

I will admit that I am excited to try the new Diet Coke flavors.

The Fug Girls have a fun write-up of the figure skating national championships, which were FULL of drama.

Good news: The Shirtless Tongan Olympic Flag-Bearer Is Now A Cross-Country Skier

Live Out Your Game of Thrones Dreams in This Game of Thrones Ice Hotel

I need to try this: Lemon Spaghetti: Bright, Fresh, Fast, and Perfect for a Winter Night

Also this: Why spaetzle is the winter noodle to rule them all

These Cake Purses Are the Cutest Thing You'll See Today

'Haunted' castle put up for sale by administrators LET'S GO.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Afternoon Tea (1/11/18)

This is an important read: How First Nations are fighting back against the foster care system

Fascinating: Greece’s old gods are ready for your sacrifice

Han Kang and the Complexity of Translation

Dorie Greenspan is always a delight: How Rice Pudding Gave Me Courage

These Letters Tell the Inside Story of Mary, Queen of Scots’ Imprisonment

Weekly Rec: Met Opera Radio

Okay, so this is sort of a niche recommendation this week. I suppose many of you aren't interested in opera. (Though maybe try it? You might like it! I don't know!) If you ARE at all interested in trying opera AND have SiriusXM radio, I highly recommend Met Opera Radio, which I'd sort of forgotten about for a while until I recently started listening a lot. They broadcast live performances from the Metropolitan Opera in New York, as well as a ton of archival performances, all the way back into the 1940s at least. This comes out to six or seven full operas a day, played from beginning to end, and in between they run an interesting assortment of shorter vocal pieces - arias, art songs, and the like. And their hosts are quite good at providing enough information at the beginning and at breaks so you have some idea what's going on in the story, without it being so much that it gets annoying or takes away from the music.

Plus, turning it on in the car in the morning makes me feel like I'm in Morse's Oxford, and I arrive at work very ready to solve some murders. (Which is, ah, not my job. Alas.)

Morning Coffee (1/11/18)

In a first, Burmese military admits that soldiers killed Rohingya found in mass grave

Awful: Measure to Ban Discredited ‘Conversion Therapy’ Fails in New Hampshire

Tuesday’s DACA negotiation stunt showed how dangerously we’ve lowered the bar for Trump

A bit of good news: Partisan gerrymandering: Republican map of North Carolina ruled illegal

Moira Donegan is very brave: I Started the Media Men List

Women Say a Rigged System Allows Wall Street to Hide Its Sexual-Harassment Problem

I mean... Remember Dogecoin? The joke currency soared to $2 billion this weekend

Whoa: Indian Jewels Swiped From Venice Museum in “Movie-Worthy” Heist

Quite a life: Horace Ashenfelter, Olympic Victor of a Cold War Showdown, Dies at 94

Huh: A French startup made a wine gadget that’s supposed to decant for hours in an instant

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Afternoon Tea (1/10/18)

Retired From the Brutal Streets of Mexico, Sex Workers Find a Haven

This cultural history of the color was FASCINATING: All the Whites You Cannot Name

What's an Ancient Roman Temple Doing in Armenia?

Betty Crocker and the Joy of Children's Cookbooks

The First Scientist to Study Dinosaur Footprints Thought Giant Birds Made Them

Stop the Oprah madness!

Oprah's Golden Globes speech was GREAT. I 100% agree with that. It was timely and timeless and inspirational and well-delivered. I hope many children and young people - especially young black girls but everyone else too - saw it and saw themselves in it and were inspired to go after their dreams and to do good in the world. I hope she continues to speak out and inspire people for a long time. She's very good at it.

But I absolutely do not think we should support her theoretical bid for the presidency, and I've been horrified this week to see so many people I thought generally reasonable and rational get swept up in this nonsense.

For one thing, I agree with everything the always-great Dahlia Lithwick says here about how people calling for Oprah's candidacy are missing Oprah's own point, her call to action for everyone. She, like Obama always did and obviously unlike the current president, is talking about the need for citizen action and the limits of top-down power.
"It is one of the great sins of this celebrity age that we continue to misread this message as a call to turn anyone who tries to deliver it into our savior. When someone tells you 'I alone can fix it,' you should run screaming for the emergency exits. When someone tells you to get off your ass and fix it yourself, you should think first about running for office yourself."
(Or take other concrete action! Obviously running for office isn't for everyone. But I digress.)

But even more important, to me, is the fact that WE HAVE ZERO EVIDENCE THAT OPRAH WOULD BE A GOOD PRESIDENT. Making inspiration speeches is - or SHOULD be - a very small part of the job. She hasn't articulated any policy positions, but even if she came up with some great ones, she doesn't have the experience to enact them or to effectively run an administration. Would she be better at it than Trump? Sure! Most people would be! That CANNOT be our standard, that lowest of bars. Even aside from the evil Trump is deliberately doing, we're seeing the damage an unqualified president does as far as positions left open and things going undone, and especially after this presidency, we will need someone very efficient and experienced to clean things up and right the ship as much as possible. Another political neophyte, however well-intentioned, would likely only compound the problem.

I refuse to accept that one year into Trump's presidency, we have decided to just ping-pong between unqualified celebrity cult figures and hope for one who will magically save us or at least do the least amount of damage. We deserve better than that. The country deserves better than that. We deserve serious politicians of deep policy and procedure knowledge and experience to get in there and do the work. And so that means that WE need to get in there and do the work of getting them elected, rather than putting our faith in a fairy godmother.

Morning Coffee (1/10/18)

Oh good: Trump Must Keep DACA Protections for Now, Judge Says

We got a glimpse of Trump negotiating today. It … didn’t go well.

The Increasing Unfitness of Donald Trump

Gross: Wahlberg got $1.5M for 'All the Money' reshoot, Williams paid less than $1,000

Nicole Cliffe is doing a great thing here: Harper’s Magazine May Try To Dox A Whistleblower–And Media Twitter Is Pissed

This is VERY EXCITING NEWS: John Dickerson Replacing Charlie Rose on 'CBS This Morning'

My gosh, look at the cast for the new Les Mis miniseries.

Ooh: Looted Antiques Seized From Billionaire’s Home, Prosecutors Say

Obviously my first thought was "What will Poirot do?!?!" Belgium Ends Telegram Service After 171 Years

Stone age hunter-gatherers' 'paradise' discovered next to major Israeli road

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Afternoon Tea (1/9/18)

Are Gummy Bear Flavors Just Fooling Our Brains?

Le gold rush: why a tiny French village is a magnet for treasure hunters

Walter Minton on the House “Lolita” Built

The Forgotten Origins of Politics in Sports

The Fight Over Andrew Johnson’s Impeachment Was a Fight for the Future of the United States

Morning Coffee (1/9/18)

This is awful: U.S. Ends El Salvador's Protected Status, Affecting 200,000 Residents

AS IS THIS: It’s been 100 days since CHIP funding expired

Belgian government at risk of collapse over Sudan migrants scandal

British cabinet shake-up notable for who stays, not who goes

A man scooped something from the ground in Stockholm. It exploded in his hand.

Can these two North Korean ice skaters help bring about a diplomatic thaw?

The Neo-Nazis of the Daily Stormer Wander the Digital Wilderness

!!! Man Booker prize to accept books published in Ireland for the first time

Whoa: A Tenn. Man Recently Discovered The Largest Prime Number Known To Humankind

I... what. Puppy Bowl Canines Get Tinder Profiles

Monday, January 8, 2018

Afternoon Tea (1/8/18)

The Redemption Of Figure Skater Mirai Nagasu (I am SO THRILLED for her.)

This is insane: How Fans Invented #Hannie, the Ultimate Social Media Supercouple

Wow, I'd never heard of this book: How a Fictional Racist Plot Made the Headlines and Revealed an American Truth

The people of the whale

A Field Guide to the Musical Leitmotifs of “Star Wars”

Morning Coffee (1/8/18)

Me elsewhere: TV news for the week.

Hmmm: Initial talks underway about Trump interview in Mueller Russia probe

How U.S. Intelligence Agencies Underestimated North Korea

Masha Gessen on the Michael Wolff book is of course VERY good: “Fire and Fury” Is a Book All Too Worthy of the President

China's Ban On Its Domestic Ivory Trade Takes Effect

Oprah's speech at the Golden Globes last night is worth a watch.

As I said yesterday, I don't like the selection system they use for figure skating, but this is still worth celebrating: Adam Rippon becomes first openly gay U.S. athlete to qualify for Winter Olympics

The U.S. Hockey Team’s Mystery Men

BBC's China editor resigns in protest over gender pay gap

Ooh: Harry Potter: A History of Magic exhibit sets U.S. dates

This show is NUTTY and of course Todd writes about it well: 9-1-1 takes the case-of-the-week show and cranks it up to 500