New series: The Have You? List
Whenever I think of this newsletter, I feel vaguely guilty for not updating it with more interesting stuff, more frequently.
The other day I was putting together a massive and slightly unhinged email to a new friend, with whom I had just gone on a long and very fun “get to know you” park+dinner excursion. It was a version of the massive and slightly unhinged email I always end up sending to people after a good conversation. My students have received this kind of email, as have friends old and new, and random people at parties. It is the email of “have you read/seen/heard of/watched/tasted/traveled to/etcetera’d,” drafted from the list of random free associated things you haphazardly kept track of on your phone or in your notebook as you chatted.
And as I wrote it, I realized, oh. This wouldn’t be a bad format for a monthly newsletter.
“Monthly” here is purely aspirational. We’ll see how November goes.
WATCHING (the high life)
-No Time To Die: I mean, naturally. In this house, we are Bond stans. But like, ironic, horny Bond stans. We own the incredibly bizarre soundtrack for Thunderball on vinyl (I cannot take credit for that; Eliot brought it home). Our New Years day activity this year was a double feature of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and From Russia With Love. Then I think the next week we watched The Living Daylights, which I perpetually mix up with On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, presumably because they both have ski chase scenes in them. Our Apple TV is now named Blofeld’s Eyeball. I am currently trying to convince Eliot that we should record + produce a James Bond podcast, because roughly half of our dinner table conversation is about James Bond, and if we set up a dang mic maybe we could get some sweet luxury brand sponsorships.
The point is, we have been waiting for No Time To Die for AGES, because its release was RUDELY interrupted by COVID, like so many other things. So when it finally came out we dressed up swank and saw it in an old Vaudeville theatre on the lower east side. And apparently everyone else in the theatre also talks about James Bond at dinner every night, because they cheered and gasped and sobbed along with us and it was GREAT.
Spoiler free thoughts are:
1. Ana de Armas.
2. The plot made zero sense, really, but what Bond plot does? The cool thing was that I didn’t care (or even notice, until we were picking it apart over Cocchi vespers at Pouring Ribbons after the show), because the character work was really compelling (not something you can say for all of these movies!). Daniel Craig’s final Bond really feels like a really damaged human person with wants, needs, fears, and emotions!
3. Sometimes it didn’t even feel like a Bond movie; it felt more like Die Hard or Taken: a story about a loving but very pissed off dad(dy). The jokes also landed in this movie in a way they haven’t realllly landed in some other Craig movies, I think precisely because it had those Die Hard vibes. At times it even felt a little goofy in a Pierce Brosnan-era way!
4. It reminded me a lot of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (and they knew it too; there are nods throughout the script and cinematography and soundtrack). It ALSO reminded me of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service because it had a very similar chaotic bisexual energy. Incidentally, I googled “on her majesty’s secret service chaotic bisexual energy” the other day to see if I was the only person who felt these vibes, and from this internet adventure I learned that George Lazenby found out they were casting for Bond during a sexual assignation with his best bro and a mysterious lady unnamed by history (at least in the sources I could find in my admittedly less-than-exhaustive research). Make of that what you will.
-Whit Stilman’s Barcelona: or really, just the whole Whit Stilman trilogy. But Barcelona is the one we watched this month. Metropolitan is maybe still my favorite (I just bought the French poster, because it’s beautiful and reminiscent of an Edward Gorey drawing). These films are (mostly) really relaxing to watch because nothing super bad ever happens to any of the wealthy, beautiful, privileged people therein (even when they are literally shot in the head!!!) except a sort of soft, pervading sadness. And even that manages to be funny most of the time! The dialogue is stellar. If you like Gosford Park you are probably going to like Whit Stilman. If you young Rupert Everett at his saucy, snappy best, you are going to love Chris Eigeman in these.
One thing to note is that even though the films are a loose trilogy and share many actors (like Chris Eigeman!) the actors don’t usually play the same characters, contributing even further to the dreamy unreality of the world, so that the films feel more like a set of one act plays performed by a repertory company.
READING (the dirt life)
-Hothouse Solutions: This climate activist/optimist newsletter has honestly kept me sane since the IPCC report came out. It’s an excellent reminder that people ARE working on the issues of climate change mitigation, adaptation, and resiliency. And it’s given me some great ideas about job hunting, house hunting, dining out, and…my own funeral. Really. Turns out the carbon footprint of your average funeral is pretty nuts! Just wrap me in a sheet and chuck me in a hole, tbh. Plant a native tree on top. On a cheerier note, my favorite piece of theirs recently was this one on oysters as carbon sinks!
-Braiding Sweetgrass: I am a chronically unserious person who is like…constitutionally incapable of any form of earnest emotional expression in conversation. I am allergic to sincerity in social interaction. I want everyone to laugh at my jokes! Funny, sparkle, hah hah! Life’s a stage, let’s put on a show!
But I’m going to try to (grits teeth, checks notes) honestly express myself here and say that I really, truly care about the things this book is all about: the harmony and resilience of the natural world, the turn of the seasons, the interconnected web of existence of which we are a part, etcetera. I really do think it is amazing—maybe even a kind of miracle—that each animal has just enough brains in its skull to tan its own hide.
I am obviously fascinated with glitter and glitz and wealth and opulence. (You’re probably reading this newsletter because you read my naughty spy novels about nouveau-riche crime kingpins and the tear-jerking trials of old money!! And even if you haven’t read them, you did just read me gushing about Whit Stilman.) But in real life…I just want to put my hands in the dirt and make the world a better place.
That’s it for October, unless I encounter something particularly ! between now and Halloween, I guess.
Now, the best thing about sending these “Have You?” emails is that usually the other person has been keeping a list as well, and they send you something back. So I’d love to hear what kind of stuff YOU have been enjoying lately, or things that this list reminds you of, or just random things that have been on you mind that you think everyone should know about.