been down one time, been down two times

on lindsey buckingham, "bad men," and revisionist history

hey, hi, hello. it’s me again.

i wrote most of this in my notes app last night at 1 a.m. after a very generous sippy cup of wine at the lindsey buckingham concert. it was my second concert in close to two years, though the first i wasn’t working at in some capacity, the first i was back to lowering the median age at, the first indoors, first impulse merch purchase, etc. etc. etc. but anyway the reason you’re getting is this is because it was also the first time that i had some thoughts that compelled to write about music in months, and the millionth time i’ve felt compelled to write, once again, about two of its best messy bitches for whom i have a long and complicated love, like a kid caught in between feuding divorced parents. who knows if it works! that sippy cup of wine got to me!

okay great, another very welcoming and promising intro, carrie, way to go!!!

okay thanks sorry love u bye


It’s a Thursday night in New York and I am watching Lindsey Buckingham draw out every syllable of “Never Going Back Again” so much he practically doubles the song’s original jaunty length. It’s a Thursday night in 2021 and we are all—well, save for the group of 40-something bleach blonde women dancing in the front row while the rest of the theater remains stoically seated, but they’re another story—wearing masks and watching him promote a new album while singing a song first made popular in 1977. When Buckingham begins the opening licks, so slow and decided and cautious they would be unrecognizable at first to most casual fans, the crowd erupts in loud cheers—easily the most deafening of the evening thus far—and he looks upwards and I can’t tell if it’s looking for the grace to sing something painful or if it’s an annoyed eye roll caught midway, letting his displeasure show that this is the song they scream loudest for. Lindsey Buckingham has promoted several solo albums in the shadow of Fleetwood Mac, but this might be the one time it looms so large it cannot be ignored. 

“Never Going Back Again” is a sad song that thinks it’s a happy one, which is maybe the most tragic kind of sad song. Maybe in 1977 Buckingham truly believed in the naive rebound lyrics he wrote. Maybe he really believed if he made his fingerpicking delicate enough, made his voice pretty enough, he really was over and done with repeating the same mistakes he’d made before with his (very famous) ex and onto something as bright and promising as the melody he was playing. But songs are just a moment’s feelings captured and preserved in acetate forever. Like any good songwriter still lucky enough to be playing their decades-old work today, Buckingham knows what happened after, not just in the immediate but in the forty years that followed. He knows all the feelings, the endless cycle of fights and reconciliations that have followed, and he does little to hide it.

The “Never Going Back Again” of today is not a pop-y song of triumph, of pulling yourself up and out of a low period and setting out on a new path once and for all, not even close. It’s a song laced with the weight of regrets and faults. Buckingham drags “where I’ve been” to agonizing lengths, lets his voice fade out like a whisper—only for it to rise with righteous anger as he shouts “been down one time, been down two times.” He’s been down several more times than twice, certainly, and there are no happy memories there. Or maybe there are, and that’s why it stings all the more. Every other line then follows softly, sadly, until the resigned sigh of “I’m never going back again.” He has, and would, go back in a heartbeat if asked, and he knows that. It’s almost too bleak for me to watch; it feels wrong to clap at the end. The audience gives it a standing ovation. Buckingham has been on stage for at least an hour. It’s the first of the night.  

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To be a Lindsey Buckingham fan is to hold credible allegations of his being a Bad Man in one hand with the Maybe Not Bad Man he is today in the other. In recent years, I have made easy decisions about artists I’ve disliked and difficult ones about artists I have loved. I’ve welcomed this look back at the past, at the women who have been hurt or harmed to varying degrees by the misogynistic mechanisms of rock and roll. I’ve played a part in it, even. For years now, I have asked myself to revisit and reconsider all the men whose voices fill my headphones—not just the ones undergoing public scrutiny—bracing myself to be heartbroken or angry about their depictions of women, or their stealing from Black artists, or their political views. So why has Lindsey Buckingham escaped the cancel culture of my brain?

Maybe I’m looking for something more, something so damning and unforgivable that could justify breaking my attachment, could give me the unequivocal sign to walk away. When I say I believe women, does that mean I am a hypocrite for still having questions, for finding plot holes in the remembrances of drug-hazy fights? When I say I believe women, why do I half-write off backstage altercations where everyone was high out of their minds as “not okay, but just how it was back then”? Is it wrong for me to question the accuracy of unauthorized biographies written by men with no stake in the game, men who know that salaciousness sells? Memories are not immune to warping facts, but the feelings often remain true; salaciousness is never 100 percent fiction; and drugs aren’t ever an excuse for an adult’s harmful behavior. I know this. I believe women, and I believe in holding people accountable for their actions. But I also have to believe in redemption.

I’m so tired of talking about cancel culture. The thread has slipped away so that even the parts of it that can be good have become muddied, the intention seemingly lost. We’re so quick to cancel these days—which, hey, I get! It’s easy, it’s clean, it feels good. But what gets lost is the more complicated and difficult matter of how we decide who is held accountable for their actions and ultimately forgiven, who is allowed a second chance, and what that looks like.

We make so many exceptions for men we call geniuses, don’t we? They are ones that, most of the time, come with people (often other men) imploring us to separate the art from the artist, to use a brilliant or prolific artistic output as a means to justify looking past personal behavior. I am not one of those people. I don’t believe you can separate art from artist, particularly when it comes to something as deeply personal as songwriting. The clues are right there in the text. Which is why I like to think Buckingham is one of the Better Guys, one of the men who have atoned for their past sins, grown up and gotten themselves on the path to betterhood. I do not think he is guilt-free of any wrongdoings, nor do I think he is a new man; I do not think any person, particularly one with the ego required to become and maintain a stature of celebrity, is capable of fully ridding themselves of their asshole past. (You don’t have to look much further than this press circuit at things he’s said unkindly or unskillfully; even if the petty little passive aggressive digs that come from a place of hurt are not as savage as they would have been in the past, they still leave a bad taste.) There are limitations to being a critic, of course, of not knowing personally all the parties involved; I’ll never know the full story. But I like to think, from the psychobabble he sprinkles in between songs on stage and in interviews and the lyrics of the songs themselves—which in recent years have become full of longings and regrets, vulnerabilities and apologies—that he is one of the few who has done the work. All of which could be performative in some aspect, of course. Maybe Buckingham, like many artists, finds it easier to be vulnerable in public settings, offering up apologies to a room full of strangers instead of privately, directly to the people they are met for. Maybe some smart publicist gave him self help talking points worth repeating in public. Maybe we’re all just suckers for a narrative that has been written long ago and only further committed to as time has moved on.

Maybe Lindsey Buckingham does not deserve my forgiveness. He would not be the first person I offered it to who was not worthy of it. Maybe it is not even my place to offer it to begin with.

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Lindsey Buckingham is promoting a new solo album—a very good one, at that—but there’s still that pesky bit about his famous firing from Fleetwood Mac to address in nearly every interview. It’s been three and a half years, but the aftershocks linger. The joke is that no matter how rapidly and drastically the world changes, the one constant you can count on is that, at any given moment, two members of Fleetwood Mac hate each other. It used to be a lot funnier. Now it’s just—like the two members most often at war—old, and a little bit sad. 

“It’s unfortunate that Lindsey has chosen to tell a revisionist history of what transpired in 2018 with Fleetwood Mac,” Stevie Nicks said in a press statement responding to Buckingham’s recent slate of interviews. “His version of events is factually inaccurate, and while I’ve never spoken publicly on the matter, preferring to not air dirty laundry, certainly it feels the time has come to shine a light on the truth.” 

It certainly caught my attention, this accusation of revising history, of spinning the narrative this way, as if they haven’t both been doing that for the past 50 years, as if she hasn’t been guilty herself of doing the same thing. I could (and almost did) write a book about the ways in which their stories have changed and become increasingly sanitized over the past decade. This is not unusual; almost every boomer rock star is doing it in some way. Theirs is the first generation of musicians to contend with and craft their own legacies while they are still living.1 In the quest to self-mythologize, there is a tendency to gloss over the ugliest parts of rock history, all the sex and drugs part of it that grew to be more gore than glamour, to paint yourself as someone who has overcome struggle without detailing the struggle too deeply, because what matters more is that you are now reformed and, above all else, palatable for a wide range of audiences. In the era of standom in which we deify celebrities just as often as we cancel them, we have forgotten that it is possible to be both a fan and a critic, to love someone enough to respectfully disagree with them. If Stevie Nicks and her PR team want to stop airing dirty laundry in favor of fashioning her as the Disney princess of rock and roll, that’s her business. I can’t say it doesn’t make me sad—I find the roughest and most unfiltered parts of her life, the ones she now seeks to minimize to an anecdote or airbrush over, the most compelling and humanizing—but I understand why she wouldn’t want to revisit them in detail, and why we are not entitled to her pain or her shame. We are not even entitled to seeing her truly candid and unpolished. But I can’t help but feel like something gets lost in the revisionist history meant to preserve her legacy in a very specific, controlled light.

Stevie Nicks has every right to falsify her own life, but she has no right to falsify history, which is what happens when the narrative gets revised. It gets easier to fashion yourself as the triumphant survivor, to conveniently leave out parts of stories that don’t fit anymore, the ones that do not absolve you of some bad behavior yourself, to set the scene with a clear villain and a clear victim-turned-hero. But history is not black and white. History is grey matter. History is two people with dueling egos behaving badly, two people finding redemption, and two people (and Irv Azoff) in the trenches of the aftermath together, pulling the puppet strings of public persona with white knuckled grips.

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It’s a Thursday night in New York and the weather is hovering at such a perfect 72 degree mark that when I get off the short train ride home I walk for another half an hour. I am playing a live version of Buckingham’s “Shut Us Down” on repeat and walking aimlessly, circling blocks, thinking about agency and about legacy. 

Loving Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks is exhausting, and I am so tired of making jokes equating being a fan of theirs to being a trapped child of divorce. I’m tired of asking myself if I forgive him, tired of asking myself if I agree with the persona and narrative Stevie Nicks now perpetuates. I’m tired of the teenage dramatics of two people who have known each other since they were teenagers but now in their seventh decade still unable to stop pushing buttons, still unable to bury the hatchet and let their history and the things they love outweigh those which they hate. I wish I could just listen to their music free of any backstory, but no one has ever been able to do that. Not when it was first made, and certainly not now.

They know that they are never going to stop going back again, never going to stop poking at the ashes of their relationship, the still-burning embers of which grow fewer and fewer each time they return. And I will follow them, curious to find out what happens next. We’ll go down one time, two times, and many more, and each time will be a challenge to reassess and readjust what I think. The records will never change, at least not technically, but they will, and so will I. The actions might be repetitive, the narrative might twist, but at least it will never be boring. 

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1

(There was a great piece about this awhile back that I can’t find now; if anyone recalls it and can send it my way, that would be great!)

thoughts you have on big walks through central park while listening to nora ephron audiobooks

"this is about the person who got hit by the bus. it is not about the bus."

hey, hi, hello. it’s me again in your inbox. thanks to those subscribers who have stuck around even as this grows more and more infrequent. for those of you who are new, i ask: “did you even look at the archives to see how inconsistent these are??? these are but one-offs! why are you here? i am going to disappoint you!” but welcome. i am trying my best :’)

okay great intro carrie very encouraging! very welcoming to readers about to get another fucking essay about big walk thoughts that they did not ask for!

okay thanks sorry love u bye


It’s a Tuesday night in July and the sky is holding a shade of blue I’m sure would look great as a pair of jeans—deep and rich, blue but not blue blue, undercut with a hint of grey—that only ever occurs somewhere in summer’s elongated liminal space between day and night. I’m walking through Central Park, cutting across at the reservoir, going against the signed direction of traffic even though I hate when other people do that, and when Nora Ephron says “Whenever someone says the words ‘Our friendship is more important than this,’ watch out, because it almost never is,” I draw in a sharp breath and stop in my tracks. I’ve been listening to Nora Ephron audiobooks for a week straight now; I should know well enough how to manage my reactions to her musings in ways that don’t inconvenience others, ways that don’t draw attention to myself, but I still somehow find myself bowled over by even the most simple of remarks. 

I’ve found myself looking to Nora Ephron a lot this year, especially this summer, returning to her books and essays, playing her films and old interviews on YouTube on repeat, either in desperate search of an explanation or a desperate need of reassurance. Nora was so unfaltering, so set in her opinions about the way the world should operate but very often doesn’t, and her works are like big hugs; even when they’re catty or mean, they still feel comforting. In Nora Ephron’s world, it seemed as if every problem had, if a not a solution, then at least the promise that it could be spun into a funny story. 

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The first thought I had when my best friend revealed, without remorse, that she had been sleeping with a mutual friend, whom she knew I had long harbored feelings for, behind my back and lying to me about it was: “How could she?”

My second thought was: “At least I won’t have to pretend to think his movie looks good anymore.”

When Nora’s life famously fell apart, it took her six months to find the funny. Not to get too competitive about it, but when mine fell apart, it took me about six minutes to start cracking jokes. Maybe six months from now I will feel differently, maybe I’ll even be able to write something far funnier than this about it, but in the immediacy of it, the only way I could survive was to put my head down and charge through it, and the only way I could do that was if I laughed first. I mean, what else are you supposed to do when a man tells you he doesn’t want to ruin your friendship by acting on his feelings for you, only to act on them with your other friend instead? You have to admit that’s kind of funny. 

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I don’t recommend moving twice in the span of four months, much less giving yourself less than two weeks to do it the second time. But I had to find funny the way I looked, hunched over under the weight of Ikea bags I shuttled from one place to another in Ubers, the blue vinyl straining to hold a haphazard assortment of belongings that just months before had been transported by professionals in meticulously organized boxes. I had to find funny going all the way to East Harlem for a U-Haul I had reserved online, only to be told by the man behind the counter, between huffs from a bottle of rubbing alcohol, that they had no vehicles in stock that day. I had to find funny that nothing was going according to plan.

This was not the way things were supposed to work, I thought, and then I laughed. How could I have been so stupid, I thought. I’ve lived my entire life guided by the belief that the moment I let my guard down, the other shoe would drop. I should have known that things were too good, that too many loose ends had tied themselves up in my favor. Life was returning to normal after an unspeakably brutal year, and I felt happy, happy in that way where one day you’re walking around town minding your own business when suddenly you notice that you’re not sad anymore. Or maybe you’re not sad—maybe you were never sad so much as stuck—so much as you feel truly content with your life, and the things that used to keep you up at night no longer upset you so much. The past year has been proof enough that “this is going to be my year” is a cursed statement, but I thought it anyway. I had never felt so sure of it. I stopped looking up. The shoe dropped.

Of course the shoe dropped. The shoe is always going to drop; it cannot stay in the air forever and you cannot plan for when it will come down. There was no new learning there, just a reminder of what I had foolishly forgotten. What I learned instead was that it doesn’t matter whether or not the shoe drops, what matters is how we choose to react when it does. What I learned instead was that you shouldn’t ignore the signs that something is souring until it is fully rotted. What I learned instead was that I was never the supporting character in the fascinating story of someone else’s life. I was the main character of my own story all along. 

But what I was not expecting to learn was that, once the dust settled and the shock wore off, I would get lonely. Not lonely lonely; I made more social plans than ever before, and besides, I have always been good—maybe too good—with my own company. Lonely in a sense that I could now pass an entire day without having a speaking conversation with someone. Lonely in the sense that I was aware of the absence of someone else in the house, someone in a room just down the hall if I needed, or on the other side of the couch. Lonely in the sense that I had come into this newfound loneliness by surprise, and was left with a phantom limb while trying to get my sea legs. Nora was right that a building could rescue you at your lowest moment, but she didn’t mention this.

There’s a meme that goes around every so often that, at its core, is about the fear of abandonment. “Not to be annoying, but could you please confirm that you still like me and have not decided to randomly hate me,” one version of it says. It’s funny because it’s a fear many of us have had, but it’s irrational, implausible, exaggerated. Our friends and loved ones do not simply decide one day to not only no longer like us, but to actively hate us instead. But it’s stickier than that. People may not choose to randomly hate you, but they can choose to not respect you. They can choose to love themselves more. “I’m afraid I care more about other people than they do about me,” I said often to my friend. “I’m afraid if I let anyone get close, they will hurt me.” She always told me it wasn’t true. Then she proved me right. 

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It’s a few Tuesdays later in July and I am downtown drinking with my friend Carlos when I tell him that this is one of the first nights in several that I have not gone for a walk with Nora. 

For years I had considered myself an Ephron completist; I thought I knew all there was to know, thought I had reached the bottom of the finite content pool and had to make due with what I had, even though I selfishly wanted more. This summer, when the internet developed a brief fixation on the joys of Meryl Streep’s narration of Heartburn so intense it landed a New Yorker write-up, I discovered I had a blind spot: the audiobooks.

I started with the much buzzed-about Heartburn, downloading it to my phone on a whim one night as I headed out on a big walk. “I highly recommend having Meryl Streep play you,” Nora once joked. “She plays all of us better than we play ourselves.” And look, sure, people were right—Meryl doing Heartburn was good! Who knew! But I didn’t want Meryl-as-Nora, good as she may be. I wanted the real deal, wanted Nora’s deadpan, her dry drawl that made every comment exist on some spectrum of slightly to incredibly withering, whether or not it was intended to be. I moved on, downloaded her final two essay collections—2006’s I Feel Bad About My Neck and 2010’s I Remember Nothing—and fell into a new routine.

I tell Carlos how after work every night, I walk loops around Central Park and listen to Nora tell stories I have read before, stories I’ve heard before—sometimes as recently as just the day before. Sometimes I laugh out loud. Sometimes I blink back tears, while others I openly gasp at a simple insight I might have skimmed over on the page but cannot ignore when Nora gives it to me straight. Nora became the perfect company to fill up the empty end of the day. The pieces I love most as a reader— “Journalism: A Love Story,” “My Life as an Heiress,” “Moving On,” “The Story of My Life in 3,500 Words or Less,” “Considering the Alternative”—take on a new life. They’re more somber than I remembered them being, a little world weary, even when they all have moments of levity and an undercurrent of optimism.

Going on big walks with Nora, I explain to Carlos, is the closest I feel like I’ll ever be to, well, walking with Nora. As she tells a funny story straight into my ear, I can imagine that she’s right next to me, or maybe across from me at lunch, leaning in conspiratorially to say something biting and shrewd. It’s only in moments where I want to open my mouth and ask a question or reply to something she just said that I remember the conversation exists only in my headphones, only in my brain. None of what I just heard was shared directly with me; it wasn’t a conversation, it was a performance. This relationship is entirely one-sided, and will never be real.

But would real be any better? Carlos muses that maybe it wouldn’t be, that there’s something nice about how some relationships with our heroes are left only to be fantasies, imaginary friends for people old enough to have long since abandoned them. In this imaginary world, there are no stakes. We never have to worry about fucking it up, about being too needy, too grating, too unlikeable, about saying the wrong thing. And we will never have to engage with the rougher edges of the other person, the messy parts that make them a human capable of hurting us just like anybody else. 

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I turned 30 this spring, a milestone that feels both unimaginable and somehow right at the same time. I spent so much of my twenties waiting and wishing desperately for someone to take me under their wing, someone to tell me the things I’m supposed to know. I wanted someone who could make being known not such a mortifying ordeal after all, because I wanted so badly to be seen, really seen, by someone who knew enough that I could trust them when they told me it wouldn’t always be like this. I wanted someone to point me in the right direction to become whoever it is I’m supposed to become, and shape me into that person through their seemingly infinite wisdom, experience, and humor. I wanted someone to give me the answers and tell me all the secrets that I was sure everyone else possessed. 

But no one has all the answers, and thinking they do—and hoping they could give them to you—is the idealistic wish of someone impossibly young, or younger than I now feel, at least. At some point in the recent past, I felt like maybe I was doing okay enough on my own to no longer need that, though that didn’t stop me from still thinking of Nora as a reliable constant to be turned to in the moments I still felt like I was floundering a little. Maybe not everyone has all the answers, but Nora seemed to. She was always so sure of herself, so decisive, so absolutely certain of life, I thought, possessing a fix for any problem you had. But there’s a moment in the final piece of I Feel Bad About My Neck that suggests otherwise. 

“Considering the Alternative” is a tough essay to read, a meditation on aging and mortality, a gently prodding look at how we must face not only our own deaths as we grow older, but the deaths of our friends, and of so many things, for we are dying a little bit every day. It isn’t as funny as her other better-known work, and even though it determinedly ends softly on the bright side, it is still greatly lacking in the hopeful-in-spite-of-it-all tone that we’ve come to expect. It’s an even more difficult listen; there’s no room to gloss over the emotion in her voice, or the knowledge that it was written and recorded at a time when she knew her mortality was no longer a hypothetical but a given. Near the end of it, she shows her hand:

“What is to be done?” she asks. “I don’t know. I hope that’s clear.” It’s a small moment, one that is easy to speed past in reading but in listening packs an entirely different punch. Her voice is a resigned sigh, a wistful admission. She lingers in the uncertainty, let’s you really know that after all that questioning, all that ruminating, she still isn’t sure she has any answer. She’s just as human as the rest of us. When we deify people like Nora Ephron, it’s sometimes easy to forget that. 

I could listen to her dole out assured advice in “What I Wish I’d Known” over and over—wasn’t that what I had often turned to her for, anyway?—but “Considering the Alternative” kept drawing me back in with its somber not-knowing. Sometimes what you want is for someone to tell you everything will be okay, complete with a five point plan showing how, but sometimes what you need is someone acknowledging the very real truth of the matter. There are some things in life we simply cannot fix, cannot plan or negotiate or quip our way out of. Not everything gets to be a funny story. Sometimes all we can do is admit that shit sucks, and try our best to keep moving until the tide turns again. 

+

It’s August now. I hope the people who hurt me know that they hurt me, but I do not wish them ill. I hope they are both happy, and safe, and making the most of their summer together. Someone new is now living in my old bedroom. I commented “I hope you like it!” on their Venmo payment for my share of the deposit and I meant it. It was a good room, but I do not miss it. I am no longer expecting an apology.

It’s August now and I am by myself and I feel okay. I feel good, maybe even great, like I’ve finally exhaled a breath I didn’t know I’d been holding. It’s August and we should be in bad summer now, but somehow it seems like good summer is only now starting. For months, it’s been grey skies and thunderstorms, thick listless air draped over everything like a weighted blanket impossible to climb out from under. But these past few days have been nothing but clear skies and sun, cool breezes rolling through idyllic temperatures, the imagined platonic ideal of summer days.

The blue nights are already beginning to turn, not yet consistently bursting into end of summer sorbet sunsets but working their way up to it. On another park walk, I stop and take a photo of the dusty lilac sky above the lake, grey clouds hanging so low I swear someone with long arms standing on Bow Bridge could reach out and touch them, but when I stare at the final result on my phone, it doesn’t compare. No filter or edit does the real thing justice. In my ear, Nora says: “‘We can’t do everything.’ I have been given the secret of life. Although it’s probably a little late.” I think I know what she means.

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it's always winter in reds

just some disconnected thoughts on warren beatty's hot'n'horny 1981 historical epic

look, maybe this works, maybe it doesn’t. i just felt like i needed to replenish this space with something, so.

It’s always winter in Reds, even when it isn’t. It’s always winter, and someone is always arguing, someone is always plotting, someone is always unhappy—no, someone is always dissatisfied, which is not unlike unhappiness but is not the exact same—someone is always longing, someone is always toiling away against their raging discontent. It’s always winter, and everyone is always in long shirtsleeves, under a shabby jacket or sweater that looks like it could come apart at the seams at any moment or wrapped in a fur coat that has seen better days, lips chapped and eyes tired and skin pale, dull, and dead. 

Reds is, on the most basic level, a movie about history. The passion project of Warren Beatty, who co-wrote, directed, and starred, it is a historical epic about journalist and communist activist John (Jack) Reed, the radical movement in early 20th century America, and his journey to Russia to document the Bolshevik revolution. But it’s also a love story; intertwined is his affair with and marriage to Louise Bryant (Diane Keaton, who is so spectacular in the role that it is infuriating to watch with the knowledge that she is now making movies like Poms), an aspiring—floundering—artist/writer/bohemian who eventually comes to work alongside him as a fellow activist-journalist. Oh, and Jack Nicholson pops in as an incredibly, illegally, hot Eugene O’Neill, just to add a little more drama to the already overflowing pot. 

It is the I hope this email finds you well in these trying times of movies, a movie about people trying to shift the narrative in a positive direction in real time who operate in a state of idealistic denial about just how bad things really are and how much harder they will be to change. But because Reds is a movie not just about history, which is something that has already happened, it is just as much about the way history is remembered. Filtered through the lens of late-70s America where the progressive agenda had failed once again, we already know the outcome of Reds. We have lived through those trying times, have read about those trying times, and have lived through many more that followed. We know that these are real people and not just fictional characters, that the events in the film happened and aren’t just fictional plot points, and yet, we watch anyway, somehow hoping that we’ll get the Hollywood ending we want each time.

The thing about history is that everything is history in some sense, though our present lives are often split into times in which we know we are living through it—it being something big, something monumental, something we know will be chronicled and remembered and studied in the times to come—and the times in which we are willfully ignorant, the times in which we think everything is fine, uneventful, maybe even good. And, of course, this is all a lie, too. Even the perceived good times tell us something about who we are in the ways in which we decide what counts as a good time, the ways in which a good time for one group of people might not be a good time for another. The thing about history—and about Reds, too, as we learn through all the talking heads featured—is that history does not have the benefit of the present tense. It is not the act of standing next to someone and seeing the same thing happen and having a shared understanding of it. History is the past tense, history is memory and interpretation, all the ways in which what we all saw can be misremembered and misconstrued and twisted by each and every one of us, at times in a way that it no longer resembles what we once lived through at all. 

 ---

Reds is like winter in that it is an excessively long movie, stretching across three hours, with no end in sight. We know it will end, of course we do, but we implausibly think it will go on forever. By the time it reaches intermission an hour and 45 minutes in, you wonder how it could possibly wrap up in a succinct second act.

Early in the film, there’s a brief stretch set in summer, but it comes and goes in fiction just as quickly as it does in life, and even then, their white linens aren’t sparkling and crisp so much as dingy and wilting; not even the temporary warmth can solve Jack and Louise’s problems. The little happiness they find while summering on the shore can’t last. It’s fleeting and fading, it won’t even make it through the season, threatened by Jack’s premature departure for political work and the presence of Jack Nicholson’s brooding and bitter Eugene O’Neill. There is no carefree summer fun in Reds, even when it tries at it. The discontent of winter is all consuming. Warren Beatty and Diane Keaton are almost always confined to small, muted spaces, in rooms with low ceilings and too much furniture to feel anything but cramped, working and fighting and fucking with nowhere else to go. Although it was a visual choice by production designer Richard Sylbert intended to show how big their characters were in their world, watching now, I don’t get anything out of it other than claustrophobia. I don’t get any historical symbolism from it, just the cold and unrelenting reflection of present circumstances reflected back.

When I started writing this essay, it was the dead of February, the time of year when it seems like it has always been winter and will always be winter and our bodies will never know warmth or sunlight from any source other than our SAD lamps ever again. It’s now spring, or near spring, at least. The fake March spring is just outside my window, a string of 60º days that make me believe everything is fine and normal again, even though nothing is normal right now, even though I know the warmth is just a fluke, just a tease before cooler, more seasonable temperatures yell “syke!” and make their cruel return. But even when spring comes for real, and summer after, I will still be looking over my shoulder, still reminding myself that it can’t last forever, that winter is always coming, that there’s always a catch to anything good.

---

Let’s just state the obvious: Reds is, objectively speaking, the hottest movie ever made. It’s impossibly horny, absolutely saturated with desire that is only made more horny by the fact that there’s not even that much fucking in it. Really, there are only, like, two sex scenes, maybe three, and it’s a stretch to even call them that, just some dim lighting and suggestive advances before cutting away. Instead, the dial is turned up to the highest possible frequency of sexy without showing actual sex and stays there, often leaving our want completely unfulfilled. It’s the promise of fucking that makes it hot. The threat of it, even, the will-they-or-won’t-they of it all. 

All this, too, is history reimagined, history heightened for dramatic purposes. Hollywood is full of beautiful people pretending to play normal people. Virginia Woolf-ing oneself into Oscar bait wasn’t as much of a thing when Reds was produced, and Reds is full of exceedingly hot people not only portraying average-at-best looking people, but acting as though in real life they, too, were unbearably hot. Beatty once explained that he got Nicholson to play the part by first asking him for advice. “I told him I needed someone to play Eugene O’Neill, but it had to be someone who could convincingly take this woman away from me,” he said. Nicholson immediately replied, “There’s only one actor who could do that—me!” None of them look even remotely like their real life counterparts—hey, that’s showbiz, baby—but if they weren’t aggressively attractive, the love triangle would fall flat. In real life, Jack Reed possessed none of the handsome, playboy good looks of Warren Beatty, who even manages to be hot when (spoiler) dying of typhus. Beatty’s Reed may be the beta version of a Hot DSA Fuckboy, but IRL Reed looked more like Baby-faced DSA Virgin, if I’m being completely honest here. He may have, historically, been a playboy, but it’s the real life Eugene—who radiated hot professor energy—who could take me from Jack in a second. Of course they both need to be hot—ridiculously, superhuman hot—on film for any real tension to occur.

In the film, as in real life, Bryant and O’Neill have an affair when Reed leaves to cover the 1916 election, and things get complicated, as things are wont to do in films. He’s a real person, but he’s also, in the frame of the film, a plot point. It’s more appealing to remember the more salacious and exciting parts of someone’s life, but that often means bending the truth of history to fit our desired portrayal of it. In real life, Bryant and Reed considered themselves to be free love intellectuals; her affair with O’Neill was less of a high stakes love triangle and more of a, um, throuple. History is a lot more entertaining when attractive people talk like this, but it’s not actually real. 

---

I think I saw Reds for the first time as a freshman in college. I say think because I don’t really know for certain. A combination of forces at hand—I was a film major, and had the entire campus library and independent video store’s catalogue full of films unavailable through my then-only suppliers (Blockbuster, TCM, and the county library system) that I’d been longing to see for years at my fingertips—meant I watched a lot of movies that year. So many that the ones I can only really remember truly, wholly, vividly are the films that completely bowled me over or the ones I viciously hated. If I really did see Reds then, it must have been met with too much ambivalence for it to fall clearly into either category. I don’t really know if that is the real truth, or if that narrative is what my brain wants me to believe is the truth. I am just as subjected to the failures of memory as the film itself. 

All I know for certain is that I didn’t truly see Reds until Thanksgiving two years ago, over a long weekend I spent holed up inside my apartment alone and finding that the time by myself wasn’t as relaxing as I thought it would be but was instead rather lonely, so I filled up every conscious waking hour with the television on. The longer the movie, the better; Reds seemed like an obvious choice. I was immediately, for lack of a more eloquent way to put it, obsessed. By the time the weekend ended, I had watched it two times more.

In the year 2020, when it was always winter, even when it wasn’t, and I was always in a state of discontent, I watched Reds at least eight times—or, roughly, once a month—that I logged. I’ve written about this before, but I spent more of the past year on comfort films I didn’t have to pay too much attention to than I did with “good” films in the Criterion Collection or profound new genres that would make me think. Somewhere, Reds became the perfect kind of comfort film in that it didn’t make me feel bad about watching yet another comfort film. I don’t know how anyone could call Reds comforting, least of all me. It’s long, it’s brutal, there’s death and despair and a lot of complicated intellectual and political jargon thrown around. But in between all that, there’s the foundation of a modern boy-meets-girl, boy-loses-girl, boy-gets-girl-back, boy-and-girl-find-themselves-swept-up-in-the-1917-Revolution plot at play. That Reds is at once about five different movies made it the best kind of in-between film to watch during These Times; I could think or I could not, simple as that. It could be whatever I wanted it, or needed it, to be. 

---

Early in Reds, there are a string of scenes in which Jack’s intellectual friends ask Louise what it is she does for a living. She’s out of place in their bohemian New York crew, no longer a big fish in a small pond like she was in Portland, no longer special, just average, mediocre, even. “I write,” she answers as they immediately turn away or dismissively say “good for you” before moving on to a new subject, only having asked her out of politeness rather than genuine interest. When people care enough to ask her more, she can’t really explain it. She writes about “everything.” What she’s working on now is “impossible to describe.” I have never so fiercely related to a character more.

I’m working on a book right now—which is why these dispatches are and will be so few and far between—that should be easy to describe, but somehow I find even that simple task a challenge. It’s a biography—but not a stuffy one, I’ve been quick to add. It’s cultural criticism. It’s a mystery and detective story. It’s a love story. It’s history. It’s history reinterpreted. It’s everything. It’s impossible to describe. Just like Reds.

###

If you liked this and want to read more about Reds, I highly recommend Peter Biskind’s lengthy, juicy, delicious Vanity Fair piece on it from 2006, which I have to reread at least once a month to replenish my serotonin levels.

If you have not seen, you can stream Reds on pretty much every major platform.

###

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nice things

or, how high anxiety and, um, a global pandemic made me rethink my materialism

I am my father’s daughter. Which is to say, more specifically: I am the way I am, in large part, because my father played Mel Brooks movies around me a lot, maybe too much—definitely too early—growing up.

If it was a Sunday in our house, the TV remote could only be under his command, and good luck persuading him to put on something you actually wanted to watch. Sunday mornings, I learned, were not the time to invest yourself in some new story; rather, they were a time to slip into the comfort of an old, well-worn favorite. For my father, this more often than not meant something by Mel Brooks. It was rarely a well received choice. My mother always objected loudly the moment the first remotely dirty joke hit: “This is not appropriate,” she’d say, stern, shrill, exasperated, like she had acquired a fourth unruly child to parent. I didn’t always like it, either; often, I only sat down to watch because I was told gruffly that I had to. My protests weren’t so much concerned with propriety (although “why is this okay but MTV is not?” came up plenty) as they were with variety. I wanted something new, wanted one of my favorites for once instead of his. But here’s the thing: No amount of sheer stubborn will to remain unamused could keep me from at least cracking a smile. That’s the undeniable humor of Mel Brooks for you.

When I say “I am the way I am,” of course I’m being hyperbolic—but even exaggerations are rooted in truth. When I say “I am the way I am,” I mean that I can point to these Sunday morning movies as very real explanations for the person I am today: Why I lack the ability to skillfully compromise on what to watch; why I have an unhealthy knowledge of pop culture made before I was born; why I favor humor that is a little irreverent and lovingly obsessive; why I have no choice but to make fun of my own anxieties for fear that if I don’t crack a joke, someone else will do so first. 

+

I am my father’s daughter, but I am also a child of the aughts, which is a way of saying I came of age in the time of The Simple Life and My Super Sweet Sixteen; of Juicy Couture tracksuits and Seven for All Mankind jeans paired with tiny rainbow monogrammed Louis Vuitton bags and heart-shaped Return to Tiffany & Co. charm necklaces; of Sex and the City and The Devil Wears Prada. It was a time where designer logo flaunting was considered neither garish nor camp, but stylish and trendy and, above all else, deeply aspirational. “Eat the rich” was not a common refrain back then; we still thought we could be the rich if we really worked hard enough. In the meantime, we could at least dress like them.

As a child of the aughts, there were few jokes in the entirety of Mel Brooks’ canon I loved more than the sight of Madeline Kahn’s Victoria Brisbane, dressed in a monogrammed pantsuit, emerging from a monogrammed car while carrying a monogrammed bag in High Anxiety. (Casual viewing of the film passes this off as Louis Vuitton, but upon closer inspection, the gag is even more detailed: It is not, in fact, intertwining LVs adorning her suit and car; rather, VBs.) Details aside, it’s the final escalation of a running sight gag throughout the film; Kahn’s send-up of a classic Hitchcock blonde is rarely seen without an imitation-Vuitton accessory, be it leather clutch or stuffed animal. The progression of its presence to consume not only her entire outfit, but vehicle, as well is funny in part because it goes completely unacknowledged. 

There are other films by Mel Brooks that we watched more than High Anxiety, ones that are funnier, ones that are simply better, ones that have gone into the time capsule where all great films from the past we have since categorized as classics go. Of course The Producers, Blazing Saddles, and Young Frankenstein are nearly perfect in every way—you don’t need me to tell you that. Be it an old Western or a silent film, Brooks’ satires are often created with the precise, obsessive detail of someone who is a fan first, filmmaker second, and while his best parodies stand on their own, they always hit best when the viewer has some working knowledge of the source material. High Anxiety is no exception, although it never ascended to the same status as Blazing Saddles or Young Frankenstein. Enjoyable as it is, its plot is too reliant on its source, the jokes are too inside baseball. Its attempts to satirize an already witty filmmaker—which, really, how do you do that—devolve instead into a greatest hits mashup of Hitchcock’s best bits. As a kid, I felt this acutely: Many of Brooks’ jokes went over my head, but High Anxiety’s especially so. We owned a VHS box set of Hitchcock’s 1930s films, but I certainly never touched them. I did the viewing in reverse; by the time I got around to the more iconic Hitchcock films, it felt as if I had seen them before. Only then did many of High Anxiety’s cracks really click.

There are funnier sight gags in Brooks’ oeuvre, obviously, there are; funnier gags in High Anxiety, too. But this—this was a joke I got right away without needing it explained to me (which, of course, always immediately makes a joke unfunny). I laughed because I recognized my current culture, not the culture in which it was made. It was a visual gag that has only become more relevant as time has passed and consumerism as grown. (Look no further than Dorit Kemsley wearing a similarly-inspired look on a recent episode of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.) But I also laughed because something told me I needed to learn how to laugh at myself so others’ laughter at the gag didn’t register so much as at me but with me. As a 12 year old, image-obsessed girl waiting impatiently for the day I could grow up and be a “fancy adult lady,” I saw Kahn’s character—who looked like so many other wealthy, glamorous women I knew growing up and wanted to emulate in spite of, or maybe because of, their oblivious privilege—and thought “that is what I’d like to be when I grow up.” But that someone was someone everyone else was laughing at—even me—though I didn’t fully understand why at the time. “Laughter is a strange response,” Madeline Kahn once said. “I mean, what is it? It’s a spasm of some kind! Is that always joy? It’s very often discomfort.” 

+

I am a child of the aughts but I am also an adult of the now. And as an adult today, I am someone who likes nice things, and when I say nice things, I mean beautiful things, and when I say beautiful things, I often mean expensive things, which are not always mutually exclusive, though for a large part of my life I thought so. And although I often jokingly say it’s because I am a Taurus, the real reason is much more complicated than that. It’s more like: I am someone who likes nice things because I am a Taurus, sure, but also because, growing up, the value of well-made nice things was drilled into me and nice things were not so commonplace that I could understand why they were special; because I have learned the hard way as an adult that the not-nice things, the shortcut version of things, often end up being more expensive than nice things in the long run; because the procurement and having of nice things made—make—me feel something, some sort of pleasure that I can’t quite succinctly sum up with words.

Growing up working-middle class in an upper-middle class community—and even now, still decidedly middle class in an upper class workplace—I have known what it is like to want things. I have known the small feeling of pride that comes with buying myself nice things with money I earned, and I have known countless women like Victoria, women for whom nice things have always been and always will be a given, and thus are tossed on without a second thought and discarded just as easily. I have known what is like to assert my own worth in material goods. Never mind if I can really only afford to do so by shopping at consignment stores or the holy trinity that is TJ Maxx, Nordstrom Rack, and Century 21; having the ability to own something well made and with a “name” or a price tag that made me think long and hard or save a little before purchasing made me feel like I was someone really making it in the world. But I have also known the shame of wanting things, for I’ve never gone without. I’ve always had enough, so why do I want more?

+

Every year when my mother asks for my Christmas list, after much protest—I’m an adult now, I make my own money, the things I really want make me feel like a snob—I provide her with a few items like a new pair of Lululemon leggings or a silk blouse from J. Crew, clothes that are certainly not luxury items to some, but pricey to many; nice items that are investments to me, ones I wouldn’t (couldn’t) frequently purchase myself. They are clothes meant to publicly impress, whether at work or at the gym. This year, my list is dowdy wool socks and sweatshirts and clogs. When luxury loungewear appears on one editorial gift guide after another—“Why not feel nice while you’re stuck at home?” they all croon—I put a pack of plain long sleeve Hanes tee shirts on my list instead. I know better.

Once, while standing in the front row of my kindergarten holiday concert, I became so overwhelmed with anxiety that I froze, lifted the hem of my dress—my nice dress—and proceeded to chew a hole in its hem. It’s a stress response I have never been able to shake entirely; this year it came back, violently. Entire necklines of shirts have been destroyed, chewed up beyond recognition. It would be nice to feel nice while stuck at home, but I know enough to know that nice things are only nice if they are kept that way. 

I just don’t see the point in nice things this year, I told my mother. This year I am not going anywhere. This year I have ruined things I know won’t be seen by anyone outside of my apartment. This year I have no need to impress. I don’t need $100 leggings that make my ass look great; who’s going to see it? The $12 ones from the kids’ section of Target get my workouts done just the same. This year I am content to just be alive, with a warm place to live and a body that can still go through the motions of daily life. This year I don’t need nice things. This year I have only the most basic need to survive. 

+

Mel Brooks makes mocking movies, but he does not make mean movies; there’s a difference. For one, mean movies are not Sunday morning movies. In this hell year, I found myself watching more films I had already seen than not, returning repeatedly to those of the Sunday morning variety, including many of Brooks’. I wanted worn-in comfort food movies, movies that are warm and silly and feel a little stupid even though they’re often deceptively smart. In 2020, I just wanted to turn my brain off for a little bit. In 2020, I just wanted to laugh. 

Brooks never overtly judges Victoria for her materialism; aside from a subtle double take when she emerges from the car, he never even really acknowledges it. The bit itself only lasts about fifteen seconds, just barely long enough for your brain to register it. And it’s funny, the same way all seemingly throwaway bits are funny. It’s a spoof, after all, it doesn’t get that deep. What High Anxiety does is remind us that it’s okay to laugh at these aspects of human behavior, that, really, they’re not hurting anybody, even if they’re kind of silly. Sure, he’s poking fun at her, but he’s not doing so with any cruelty. If he wanted to do that, he would have made her look grotesque, and trust: she looks fucking good, the way so many young girls aspire to look: cool and collected, elegant and chic, with bouncing blonde Barbie doll hair. Maybe, at the end of the day, what Brooks reminds us of is our collective stupid humanity; we’re all just a bunch of smooth brained idiots walking around, every last one of us—no matter how good we look—deserving of some gentle mocking. 

Brooks is a master of jokes, but he doesn’t use them superfluously. If anything, he exercises constraint. Being funny is important, but serving the story comes first. (Never forget he nearly cut the “Puttin’ on the Ritz” scene from Young Frankenstein, concerned it wasn’t doing just this.) Maybe, if we’re lucky, they’ll make us think a little too, but that isn’t always necessary. Victoria’s Vuitton-obsession is a joke, but it’s also an insight into who she is as a person, one that goes deeper than superficiality. Look at her, so together she even coordinates with her car. But she only appears to possess the same kind casual elegance and effortless-seeming confidence as Grace Kelly or Eva Marie Saint. Moments later, she is exasperated: “My life is just all topsy-turvy!” she cries. “I mean, how much more can a girl take? My nerves are cracking! I feel like I’m going to die! I think I am going to explode!” Each word comes out punctuated, a sharp staccato rhythm of anxiety. She takes a breath, lets out a roar. The image is just a facade; underneath her clothes, she’s a neurotic mess, full of all the same insecurities and fears as the rest of us. 

+

It’s not bad to want nice things, of course it isn’t. But how much are nice things a constructive act towards happiness—the if you look good, you’ll feel good mentality—and how much are they flimsy scaffolding giving the appearance of real work despite just barely holding us together? It would be nice to dress up my despair in silks and cashmeres, but it would not change my mood, not really. It would just look like it. Managing your appearance is a way to exert control when it feels like everything else is spinning out, a clever illusion to convince others—and even yourself, sometimes—that you are well and good and fine, even if you aren’t. Clothes are often spoken about as art, and, by extension, a form of self-expression, but they are more than that: they’re a way to create your own narrative.

This is an increasingly visual world, and I am an active participant, posting all those ‘fit pics on Instagram and retweeting jokes about how women don’t dress for men, but for the approval of female colleagues in the work bathroom and buying new clothes I don’t really need to impress a date who I will likely never see again. For a long time, I thought that if I dressed a certain way and looked a certain way, I could change my narrative, I could erase all the feelings of unworthiness or anxiety or fear. Maybe money can’t buy you happiness, but it can buy you the appearance of it. 

I’m not saying it’s frivolous to want nice things, not projecting some faux-piety that I have rid myself of the desire to want more than what is necessary to have. I won’t pretend I don’t lose hours scrolling through online retail, pining for heels and dresses I can wear out one day when this is all over. You can’t erase nearly three decades of materialism that easily, and I am getting tired of the joyless act of just surviving. When we’re through with this, I will put on my most extravagant outfit, my most ridiculously nice, my most overdressed for the function attire, my most Victoria Brisbane-level of extra. I will feel joy. Of course I will feel joy. But I hopefully will have reconsidered my reliance upon nice things to deliver it.  

###

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things to boost your mood in the face of a global pandemic, vol. iii

no one asked for this but

*logs back on after a few months*

Um, okay, hi. I promise I have a good excuse for why these have been lacking as of late and why they will likely continue to be sent sporadically in the future but I, lol, don’t think I’m allowed to actually it until the new year. I do have at least one more of these, maybe even two planned for you, but first:

Things are getting bad again: It’s too cold to spend much time outside (in fact, it snowed, which I guess some people love, but let me ask: At what cost?); but even if it wasn’t, we shouldn’t anyway, at least in close proximity to other people, given the rapidly rising rates and all; there’s a Big Sad encroaching as many of us prepare to spend the holidays alone.

The people have been asking for it (no), so I am back once again with a list of recommendations of tried and tested, medical doctor approved cures (no) for the Winter/Christmastime/Unending Quarantine Big Sad. As always, take what you need and pass it on. (And wear a goddamn fucking mask. And by “wear a goddamn fucking mask” I mean: “Yes, wear a mask when you step out of your apartment into your building hallway to walk 12 feet to take out the garbage. Yes, put your mask on in your car before you step out into the parking lot of the grocery store. Yes, wear a mask when you’re running in a park where there are other people around because, I simply don’t understand why y’all aren’t getting this, but just being outside does not abate you from needing to wear! a! mask! Okay?) 

Woo, felt good to say that. Anyway, as always

thanks sorry love u bye,
Carrie 


Okay, look. If I’m not going home for Christmas this year and forcing my family to watch a movie I like that they have absolutely no interest in, then will at least ONE of you here oblige me? Listen: I have been watching a lot of Not Great films this year. I know some of you have been cranking through obscure Criterion, but my brain is so smooth it can only handle so much stimulation. In the spirit of the holidays, one recommendation, reconsideration, and take: Mixed Nuts (1994) is not that bad! I firmly believe that if you took out the (very 90s) transphobia, cut Adam Sandler, gave Robert Klein more scenes, and set it in New York instead of Venice Beach (Nora Ephron is always at her best when a film is set in New York and, honestly, it’s a far more appropriate setting for the black comedy), it would have been a success. Okay, I realize these seem like major structural changes but I promise you they’re really not. At the very least, this film is ENJOYABLE and a nice break from the usual holiday film suspects. It is on all the major streaming platforms, and if you send me a photo of you watching it, I will… I don’t know what I’ll do. Be happy?

If you’re still entertaining the idea of working out, might I recommend:
Isaac Boots, who is fun and funny and makes me feel like I’m back in a deliciously gossip-y bougie boutique class in Manhattan that I can only afford because I bought a package with my annual corporate health and fitness allowance. Fortunately for me, and all of us, though, these classes are free, and streaming on Instagram live every day at 11 am. (posts saved to grid to do whenever)

Also, honestly, Jane Fonda was not joking around with her Workout tapes. Doing The Workout started as a bit, but it has since become my main go-to. (The OG is on Amazon Prime. For free on YouTube, I’m not ashamed to say I have done the walking workout for seniors on days I crave steps but it is too cold to go outside; the New Workout — whatever that is — is insane, especially if you’re stupid like me and go straight to the advanced version, but it is also good.) Also recommended: My friend Emmy’s stellar deep dive into the political history of The Workout and why they really do hold up all these years later. 

I cannot in full faith recommend Cher’s Hot Dance workout, nor can I endorse Mary Tyler Moore’s Every Woman Workout (targeted “to women 35 to 60”!), as I have not yet tried either, but I am aware of their existence in my quest to try every workout made during the celebrity workout tape boom, so I think you should be, too.  

Obviously, as an Annie stan practically since birth, the sudden death of Ann Reinking had me revisiting her entire oeuvre and, unfortunately, I am still the half-assed theatre kid I was in my youth. (By which I mean: I exist on the fringes of Theatre Kids: someone who loved performing but was never actually a lead and quit after a handful of chorus parts in middle/high school musicals and plays and a pretty great, actually, performance as Harper in a college workshop of Angels In America (I went method, which is to say I was already anxious and likely depressed) because my instructors told me even though I was talented, I didn’t ~stand out.~ So, of course, performing went the way of basketball, improv, and competitive running, for I simply never grasped the concept of doing something you’re reasonably good at and enjoy if you are not (a) the best or (b) able to make a career of it. I am now learning that’s, um, not totally right, but anyway, I DIGRESS as this is becoming all about me!) This is all to say: I did what I always do when I watch great dancing that looks so effortless (I mean, come on.): I, hopelessly not a good dancer and seemingly unable to follow choreography, took to YouTube and did a slew of Fosse-inspired dance workouts before I gave up in a fit of frustration with the limitations of my own stupid brain and body (oops I have not changed as much as I thought I have!). This one, though, is fairly easy (as in, it is 13 minutes long but it took me 45 to get okay at it and the whole time I thought “oh this feels like i’m back in my high school auditorium holding the rest of the cast from moving forward because I keep getting the steps wrong and the director is clearly pissed! Love this nostalgia for me!”) and a lot of fun and, look, I don’t know. It’s yet another amusing way to pass some time in this hellscape.

Karen Allen’s Instagram account for her textiles store in the Berkshires is……..soothing. The second we get the vaccine, I WILL be road tripping there with my pals, the aforementioned Emmy, and Carrie W., and it will be wonderful. (We really gotta get her a Nancy Meyers movie, folks.)

Deuxmoi! Deuxmoi! Deuxmoi! Call the people behind the private Instagram account (the Facebook group is lame, I do not recommend) “curators of pop culture” (as they call themselves); call them the Louella Parsons our generation deserves. Their collected anonymous tips—sourced and reposted via Instagram stories—have become my nightly bedtime stories, ones I click click click away at in bed at 2 a.m. when I really should be asleep, the pale blue light of the screen lulling me to a state of calm. 

I am an Old Millennial and therefore don’t fully get TikTok so apparently I’m late to this BUT Lili Hayes…...I would take a bullet for this woman.

I’ve gotten very into binging forgotten late 70s-90s sitcoms from comedy stars that are not great (to varying degrees, some worse than others) but entertaining nonetheless. They’re free on YouTube, obviously. We’re talking Madeline Kahn’s short lived series Oh Madeline, her series with George C. Scott Mr. President, Gene Wilder’s Something Wilder, Bonnie Hunt’s Life With Bonnie (also recommend YouTube clips of her short lived talk show), Mary Tyler Moore’s 1985 Mary and 1988 Annie McGuire, and many more. Smooth brain city, no weinkls!

On the topic of television, are you watching the Drew Barrymore Show—a daytime talk show where Drew Barrymore does everything from making cocktails with the Shirley Temple King (a child) in studio while Zooming with a very confused Stanley Tucci to talking about her love of Lexapro and the 2009 comedy Bride Wars to booking a medium to talk to a guest’s dead husband in the A block—every morning, or do you hate yourself?  

Folks, it’s Roberto The Soup season again. (My hack is making this without sausage but double beans and sometimes chickpea pasta, though I recently made a version with double beans and carrot chonks instead of pasta and, folks, the carrots are a great addition.) If anyone has good soup recipes that are relatively simple (and, preferably, don’t require an immersion blender because I don’t want to buy yet another kitchen tool I will use precisely once before relegating it to the back of a junk drawer), you know where to send ‘em. 

While we’re on the topic of food: Did you know Food Network has a dessert competition show that is a life size version of Candy Land (aptly, it is named Candy Land) and it features something called “sugar artists” and is hosted by short legend Kristin Chenoweth?! Yes, it’s true! I watched the two hour pilot and was too overwhelmed to watch any more, but I continue, even in these times, to be a person who has a habit of reading recaps of shows I don’t feel like committing time and energy to watching but want to remain aware of because of ~the discourse.~ Lucky for me, and you, Caitlin Bower has recaps over on her Substack that are funnier and better than the show and make me snort with laughter and choke on my Twizzlers every single week. 

Did you know you can just buy Cool Whip whenever you want, just because you want it? And you can just eat it straight out of the tub with a spoon? It’s great on its own. You know this and I know this. You don’t have to save it to use as a garnish or work into a dessert or anything. (The same goes for canned frosting.) Is it kind of gross? Yes. Are we all going to die one day? Also yes. The way our own stupid inevitable mortality has been forced down our throats this year, I think we all deserve to indulge in some lowkey trash, lowkey gross food things in the privacy of our own homes while we are still living breathing flesh vessels. I don’t have a link to this or anything; the Bewitched (the movie, shh) clip I just watched after drinking two glasses of wine just reminded me that this was something I did this summer and enjoyed. So.

I, personally, would like to see a Pulitzer for Jane Fonda’s blog. That she has given us dispatches on her Christmas tree, the squirrel in her backyard, AND climate change? Hero. 

Speaking of Pulitzers, Helena Fitzgerald’s Griefbacon newsletter is back and I love to cry reading each and every essay she sends out, even the ones that aren’t explicitly sad. 

And finally: Fran Lebowitz hating things YouTube videos. You are welcome. Sometimes it’s nice to not like things. I think we should all do it more! We’re allowed!

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