Weekend Reads #184

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Cotton candy sky over the office building where I work, an early morning this week

Better late than never! It's a tough month, but I'm making it. Maybe a bit delayed, maybe a bit frazzled, but I think that's how we're all getting through January. And we WILL get through it! Here are some interesting reads to get you through this weekend…

Weekend Reads

6 ways fitness instructors can check their anti-fat bias. (Self)

2022 Secretary of State elections: The most important races? (Political Charge)

‘Yellowjackets' star Melanie Lynskey on Shauna, sexism, and more. (Rolling Stone)

New museum exhibit will spotlight Generation X. (USA Today)

Nine top trends from the pre-fall 2022 collections. (Fashionista)

Last year it was all about the feta pasta recipe; this year the viral recipe appears to be this vegan Green Goddess salad. Several friends have made it and say it's fantastic, and a great dip to enjoy with tortilla chips. (Baked by Melissa)

Tracy Oliver on writing Harlem, meeting Whoopi Goldberg, and fighting to tell Black stories. (Elle)

Why do so many TV shows and movies look like they were filmed in a gray wasteland? (Vox)

If you feel you need a bigger or different home, may this one-bedroom apartment inspire you. (New York Magazine's Curbed)

I’m a longtime union organizer. But I had never seen anything like this. (New York Times)

I saw this and HAD to share considering how much flak I get each time I show my living room… Are you bugged when people organize books by color? (Design Mom)

The missed opportunity of ‘And Just Like That’. (Gloria)

What will define fashion retail in 2022? (Fashionista)

Christina Ricci knew the spiky roles were coming. (The New Yorker)

In a memo about body image, a middle school offered shapewear for girls. This mom spoke out. (The Lily)

André Leon Talley became an icon by never losing faith in the glory of fashion. (Washington Post)

“They died for your chicken nuggets”: The human cost of our food supply. (Men Yell at Me)

What happened to America's quarters? (New York Mag's Intelligencer)

I got sober in the pandemic. It saved my life. (Buzzfeed)

Oral CBD prevented COVID-19 infection in real-world patients, study suggests. (Vice)

And with that… I am someone who has consumed oral CBD almost daily since 2018. It helps me stay asleep, reduces inflammation, and much more. I use Equilibria CBD because it is organic (super important considering hemp is a “cleaning” plant that soaks up whatever is in the soil) and a woman-owned company. Through the end of the month, Equilibria is offering 50% off your first month of subscriptions with promo code WARDROBEOXYGEN50 and 30% off one-time orders with my usual code WARDROBEOXYGEN (my code usually only gives 15% off). I am not a doctor or an expert, I just figure if you are considering adding CBD to your routine for sleep, stress, inflammation, or an extra something on top of vaccines and boosters, this is a company I trust and use myself.

Cool Virtual Event!

style your life series uncommon threads

Style Your Life Series: Build a sumptuous charcuterie board, enjoy wine in a whole new way and cultivate a spring herb garden! Treat yourself this winter and in turn, you'll be helping Uncommon Threads style more economically-disadvantaged women. Spend one evening a month with us to learn new skills, ask the experts questions and get creative. It's hands-on or just watch and learn! And if you can't attend a session, recordings will be available to watch at your convenience.

Date and Time: January 26th, February 23rd & March 30th, 7:00 – 8:15 PM ET

  • January 26: Styling the Ultimate Chartucerie Board with Chef Chelcie Ross. Chef Chels is is currently working at Formaggio, one of the best wine and cheese shops in Boston, as well as working as a private chef. In this class you'll learn the basics of how to build a perfect cheese board as well as the different types of cheeses and a bit about how cheese is made. Chelcie will also give some tips on easy entertaining and wines that would pair nicely with a cheese board. A list of ingredients and tools for this session will be emailed to you after you register. Or you can just watch and learn!
  • February 23: Mindful Wine Tasting with The Yogi Sommelier. Chiara Shannon, founder of Mindful Wine™ is Head Sommelier of K&L Wine Merchants in California. She is also an RYT-500 certified yoga professional and MBSR-trained mindfulness practitioner. Chiara will mindfully guide you through a flight of three sustainably grown wines, sharing tasting tips and answering questions along the way. You will learn to navigate your sense memory, discover new pathways of appreciation, and emerge with the language of a professional. All you need for this workshop is to pour a glass of your favorite wine and join! 
  • March 30: Create Your Own Herb Garden with Caitie Dwyer-Huppert. Caitie is the Programs and Education Manager at Green City Growers in Boston. Caitie previously taught science for 15 years. She will cover how to start your own herb garden this spring, whether for a windowsill or an outdoor garden. Caitie will also explain how to best harvest and maintain your herbs in the coming seasons, including storage, preservation, and preparation methods. She will lead a hands-on demo of how to plant herbs from seed in a “mini greenhouse” made from a plastic egg carton or any other recycled containers you have on hand. A list of tools and supplies for this workshop will be emailed to you before the event. You will also have the option to purchase a kit from Green City Growers to be mailed to you before the program. Or you can just watch and learn!

Price: Tickets are only $95 and this cost covers all three workshops and proceeds benefit Uncommon Threads, an organization I work with and is close to my heart. The cost for the tickets is tax-deductible and can be purchased at this link.

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You can shop Uncommon Closet online and your purchases go directly to help Uncommon Threads. You can also shop the closets of me and several other influencers via Uncommon Influence (will be updated soon with more pieces!).

I donate clothing, money, and time to Uncommon Threads, based in Massachuttes, which focuses on empowering economically-disadvantaged women in that area. Unlike some similar organizations that offer clothing for women to interview for jobs, Uncommon Threads supports all women in all stages of life and needs. This series sounds like a lot of fun and a great way to experience new things and new people from the comfort of your own home!

To learn more about Uncommon Threads click here and to sign up for this series of virtual workshops click this link.


being the ricardos

Do you ever find yourself wasting away Movie Night scrolling through streaming service menus and Googling recommendations and reviews? Us too. So the other night we decided we'd pick a movie that was on the first screen of the platform we haven't visited lately and just go with it. We ended up with Being the Ricardos on Amazon Prime. We didn't finish it. We would have been better entertained spending two hours scrolling through the Netflix menu.

kidman versus ball
Kidman tried. She really tried.

Nicole Kidman has been criticized for having this role because she doesn't look the part (and her frozen forehead doesn't act the part) but honestly, she did okay. However, she is NOT a physical actor and that really was visible the times she had to portray Ball on stage/set. Combine that and a boring yet pretentious script and her portrayal was as convincing as a C-rate actress in a Lifetime movie. Supposedly Cate Blanchett had the role and dropped out; while she too doesn't look too much like Ball at least she can morph and do physical acting better than Kidman.

playing desi arnaz
Oscar Isaac, Javier Bardem, and Desi Arnaz

Javier Bardem was incredibly unconvincing as Desi Arnaz. As someone who watched a LOT of I Love Lucy as a kid and had one of her first crushes on Arnaz, I was confused by the casting. While Bardem is only an inch taller than Arnaz was, his hulking messy primal self which is hella sexy in some situations felt incredibly wrong in this role. And Bardem isn't even Cuban. Do you know who is a talented Cuban actor only an inch shorter than Arnaz? Oscar Isaac. Can't you see him being a better Arnaz?

rocardos chemistry
Oh wow look at all that chemistry.

Maybe if Blanchett was with Bardem, maybe if another man played Arnaz, some other combination would have more realistic chemistry than these two folks. It was so unbelievable, which is even more awful as Ball and Arnaz were known for their chemistry. The relationship was dull, the drama was dull, and even the meticulously crafted sets and costumes were dull. Just like the article above about the lack of color in TV and films these days, Being The Ricardos was dark and gloomy. Even the recreated black and white moments were far darker than I remember on my basement television.

being the ricardos
Just another example of the sad, emotionless humor in this movie.

But the biggest reason we gave up is it was hard to give a damn. It all seemed so stressful and important and what are we going to do now and these are the biggest issues EVER when watching it in 2022 so close to the January 6th anniversary, rapid tests taken that morning in our trashcan, local grocery store shelves bare, Epstein, Weinstein, Squid Game, Tiger King, and Trump back out on the road campaigning for 2024. I can't think of any other movie that made me think that way, compare the issues they're facing to what we're facing now. And because movies should be a form of entertainment and escapism or at least education we noped out.

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The next night we tried again with a different streaming platform – HBO Max. The first movie recommended on my husband's profile was The Last Duel. This sounded familiar, why hadn't we seen it? It has Villanelle, Darth Vader, Good Will Hunting, and Batman in a movie that looks to take place in Medieval times. We hit play… and we did stick through to the end but this movie has a TON of trigger warnings.

the last duel knight
Let's duel to the death, not because either of us gives a damn about Marguerite but because we have to prove who has the bigger d*ck.

I started listing all the trigger warnings for The Last Duel but I think just listing them would be a trigger to many. This is a movie essentially about a rape that happened in history. It is told from the perspective of three individuals involved – the husband, the alleged rapist, and the woman who says she was raped. The two men's perspectives are based on history and fact, the one of the woman is fiction since back in Medieval France the stories of women weren't often documented.

the last duel scene
Look dude, I know I am a hot mess but taking away my land ain't cool. And maybe showing up at the party celebrating the other person who got my land to complain wasn't the best idea but who ever said I had good ideas?

The acting is fantastic. My husband didn't even recognize Ben Affleck. Jodie Comer can tell a whole story with a simple facial expression, she made me cry and cringe and her expressions are imprinted on my mind. Matt Damon rocked as a jealous prideful knight. Harriet Walter played a bitter, nasty older woman who explained how she ended up that way with such nuance. Adam Driver… played Adam Driver. And when researching the true story the movie was based on, I found he was almost two decades younger than the man he was portraying.

adam driver
Come on girl, nobody can resist Jacques Le Gris, especially when the 50-something man is portrayed by a 38-year-old.

If they had chosen an actor closer to Damon's age (both Jean de Carrouges/Damon's role and Jacques Le Gris/Driver's role were in their 50's when the event took place) I think it would have been clearer that this centuries-long debate as to who was telling the truth was a bunch of patriarchal bullshit. Just as I bitched about with the movie The Dig, playing with the ages of real individuals warps history.

the last duel ben
Whassup bro? Wanna kiss my wife?

This movie was interesting in how it told the same exact story from three perspectives. It's a prime example of how there are three sides to every story, how men think rape is consensual, how someone can look supportive and loving but those intimately involved know otherwise, and how the only reason women have any rights today is because of women like Marguerite de Carrouges who spoke up even when they knew they were risking everything.

If you're okay with really gory violence and incredibly vivid rape scenes, then go ahead and watch this film. But this film is based upon a book, and there is a lot of research about this case that doesn't require experiencing the worst aspects of the story in full-color HD stereo. For a quick primer, here is an article from The Smithsonian. It's an interesting story to research, but it's totally okay to pass on watching it.

yellowjackets reunion

Okay, on a good note, we finished Season 1 of Yellowjackets on Showtime and dang… this show is amazing. You can't even conceive of what happens next, but not in a “this is ridiculous” way but in a “my brain was on this journey but I didn't even see that corridor and now I'm excited to go down it” way.

yellowjackets bear

For those who are like oh yeah, big deal I didn't watch Game of Thrones or The Walking Dead or Dexter or Schitt's Creek (why NOT?!?!?!) or whatever trendy show, I'll live if I don't watch Yellowjackets, I feel you. The only one I mentioned above that I have actually watched myself is Schitt's Creek (and have watched twice since the first round was without my kid who obviously had to see it too). But Yellowjackets is especially good if you're around my age.

yellowjackets van

I graduated from high school in 1993, the folks in this show graduated in 1996. The music, the trends, the priorities, and how they grew up and look now and dress now all add to this show. And this show is about strong women. Complicated, confused, emotional, human, but strong women who make mistakes but also make some damn good decisions in difficult situations.

yellowjackets shauna

The men aren't all jerks; in fact most of the men as you go through the series you find they are pretty okay. They're also human and make mistakes and are confused, complicated, and have emotion. I appreciate entertainment that can show a strong woman without resorting to belittling men. There are no obvious villains or heroes, young and grown women are seen as cool and smart and strong regardless of sexual orientation, appearance, or economic standing. All that and it's an on the edge of your seat thriller that keeps throwing you for a loop.

For Your Entertainment

ethel cain

If you want to quickly summarize the music of Ethel Cain it is like Lana Del Rey for the rural south. Dreamy sounding nostalgia but also tackling very difficult and all too real subjects. Born Hayden Silas Anhedönia in 1998, the singer-songwriter with the stage name Ethel Cain was born in Tallahassee, Florida, currently lives in Enterprise, Alabama, and writes about poverty, substance abuse, transgenerational trauma, and living in the South. Raised in a Southern Baptist community, she left the church at age 16 when ostracized for being gay. Anhedönia a few years later came out as a transgender woman and has used music and art to express herself and her past.

As for the stage presence Ethel Cain, Hayden Anhedönia shared this in an interview with Pitchfork: “Ethel is not a separate character as much as a chunk of my life that I cut off to make her own entity, because it was getting to a point where she was taking me over,” Anhedönia explains. “But she’s also my role model in a way, because she’s what I want to be.”

A woman with curly hair wearing a plaid blazer holds a green fur coat over her shoulder on a city street.

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  1. I don’t (currently) organize books by color, but also don’t understand the dislike. The book jacket is artwork. It is not the writing, a different art. Displaying the cover like artwork makes sense. On the other hand, you don’t even really need it – there are some books that I’ve jettisoned the cover of because it was so horrible it actually took away from my overall experience.

    Anyway, the way you display one piece of the art (the cover) has little to do with whether or not you appreciate the other piece (the writing).

  2. I also loved Yellowjackets. I can’t decide who is the scariest character, but most of the time, I lean towards Melanie Lynskey’s character. Over the weekend, I binged on a series on Amazon Prime called “As We See It.” It is about three roommates who have known each other since preschool, and who all have autism. Each roommate’s autism is manifested in completely different ways. I think each of the actors playing the main characters actually do have autism, which makes the show very compelling. It was a really good show–I recommend it.

  3. I worked for 30 years in a law library, where the different types of treatises have different colored covers. Students always asked for “the green book on…,” and one library even had a section of its catalog organized by book color, so you’re in good company! I say as long as you actually have books on your shelves, who cares how they’re organized.

  4. Love you Alison and was excited to watch Yellowjackets, but I kind of hated it except for Melanie Lynskey and her teenage counterpart and Tawny Cypress and her counterpart. The sexuality with the teens feels more like college kids and has a little too much male gaze for me. Jackie’s character seemed like an 80’s movie character. Juliette Lewis is 10 years older than everyone else, Christina Ricci’s wig is OTT. Honestly, if it was just Melanie Lynskey and Tawny Cypress’ characters, I might have stuck with it, but I am just baffled by the critical acclaim. I really wanted to like it because I love those kind of twisty mysteries, but too many things irked me. And I’m not surprised they talked to Melanie Lynskey about her weight because the show definitely has a male gaze aspect to it. Sorry to be so grumpy about it!

    I think Nicole Kidman is a great actress. Javier Bardem is a great actor. But, not as Lucy and Ricky. Was a pass for me. And so was The Duel because I get really tired of the rape narrative. It’s everywhere. Mostly in shows written by men.

    Lastly, so important to vote for your Secretary of State, Attorney General, and judges on the ballot. Don’t forget your school board unless you want books banned! These are treacherous times, but I am hopeful we will overcome. In the meantime, I continue donating, calling, texting and writing postcards to voters!

    Thanks for your work and great writing!

  5. “It has Villanelle, Darth Vader, Good Will Hunting, and Batman in a movie that looks to take place in Medieval times.” This is the line that will have me laughing for a long time. Thank you!

  6. I truly hope Debra Messing gets to play Lucille Ball at some stage of her life! She’s a great physical actor, just like Lucy.

    Are you watching Achive81? So scary! I can’t remember if you can do horror. BUT, the fashions and hair styles seem so wrong for the ’90s portion of the story. I hate anachronisms in film and TV. The ’90s were rough for me so I didn’t get to buy a lot of clothing then, but I do know that ’93 and ’94 were not boot leg pants wearing times.

    It’s getting worse because as I age, there are more shows about the past coming up and I lived through them and I remember what people wore. Why don’t they just ask us? I’m also seeing big mashups with styles of the ’70s mixed in with the ’80s and they were so distinct from each other.

  7. Thanks for the article “André Leon Talley became an icon by never losing faith in the glory of fashion.” IMO, Robin Givhan is one of the best Wash Post writers and I look forward to reading whatever she pens. With that said, I feel I haven’t yet read a Talley farewell that reveals the man in his entirety. Each article has a piece of the puzzle, but is incomplete. Even in the Post, the three articles I read each omitted various important aspects of his life, including one that described him as a young black man arriving in NYC from North Carolina, but neglected to mention he’d been at Brown Univ earning degrees in French Lit and History. Another completely omitted the fact that he was gay and a prominent LGBTQ activist. Etc.

  8. For a *much* lighter movie plot told (twice) from different perspectives, check out the oldie Kevin Bacon flick He Said, She Said. It’s an old fave. And stick around for the credits!

  9. Hahaha what to do with the books in our homes?!! I am glad we still have books! Currently mine are boxed (damn they were heavy boxes!) as we are having some work done and who needs construction dust on the pages? I had great custom bookshelves built in the late 1990’s, when books and bookshelves were still a thing. When all the dust is gone, I will bring them back out. I once read a great organizational article about what to do with all the books? The advice, which worked for me, was: 1) Only keep titles I may consult, reread, or would pass along to a friend. 2) Categorize them. I don’t remember if they suggested it, or I just did it combining my search for what to do with them, but I color coded them within categories. It’s not over the top and visually interesting on my shelves. I can still land on the title I am searching because of the categories that work for me. In YOUR colorful home and style, I think they look awesome! For me a more subtle expression of self. So just like body shape, we all have a different thing going with our books. We have to do our thing with it. 🙂

  10. Please be careful of criticizing “frozen foreheads.” For some of us with chronic migraines Botox has been a lifesaver. The ultra smooth forehead that results is an unfortunate side effect, but truly worth the relief it brings.

  11. The organizing-books-by-color piece had an interesting point, which was basically “to each her own” and that visual organization systems might not work for everyone. With that said, my personal preference is to NOT organize by color. Even if I can remember what the cover of my favorite book looks like, I have absolutely no idea what color the spine is. It doesn’t make sense to organize them visually. What’s even worse, though, is turning the spines around so all you can see is a wall of blank beige pages. It amuses me in Ikea, but it drives me insane in real homes.

  12. Here in Michigan, we have three strong women Democrats at the top of our government (governor, attorney general & sec of state). The people listed as running on this link are all Republicans, so I expect those are primary candidates. I can’t imagine Jocelyn Benson is ready to step away after one term. At least I hope not!

    Of course, as everyone knows, it’s a challenge running this state with all the crazy anti-vaxxers and gun toting nuts that stormed the capitol in a threatening way, and the infamous plot to kidnap our governor. This year’s elections are SO important.

  13. A small nerd correction: Adam Driver played Kylo Ren/Ben Solo, not Darth Vader.

    Oscar Isaac has chemistry with everyone and would undoubtedly have killed it as Arnaz. I’m looking forward to him in Moon Knight. No idea what Moon Knight’s deal is, but him being in it is enough for me. I think he’s one of the best actors working in his age group right now.

    1. Absolutely. I always liked him, but his recent Scenes from a Marriage performance made it full admiration and love. Chastain was very good too. And Dune didn’t hurt either.

  14. Well, this is very interesting. Thanks to the link, I just learned VA (where I reside) is one of 4 states/commonwealths where the Secretary of State is appointed by the governor. The other 3 are Texas, Oklahoma, and Florida. :/

  15. Hi Alison,
    You hit it out of the park with the film reviews. I have seen neither movie, and you articulated my reservations. A movie about the Ricardos: a dreary plot and miscasting, for sure. I’d vote for Oscar Isaac and Debra Messing and a rewrite, at least today.

    With the Last Duel, your suggestion to read the source book is interesting. I have thought about seeing it just to economically reward Damon and Affleck for bringing a woman in to write the part done from a woman’s perspective, or heck, just for including the woman’s perspective. I watched one interview that revealed that Affleck was originally going to play the Adam Driver part. Which underscores your point about age and casting.

    I’m not crazy about color coding book covers either. Unless you are ambitious and do something like all fiction are blue, poetry green etc. Dewey was an improvement. But thought provoking and interesting sources as usual!

  16. I have all the respect for you, Alison, but I haaaaaaaate when books are organized by color. 🙂 Thanks for the reads!

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