On the surface, it’s a little weird that digital culture in 2021 would become suddenly obsessed with 200-year-old folk songs about men on whaling boats. They sound like prehistoric oddities, which is part of the appeal. Simplistic in structure, they are deliberately repetitive and full of ideas and references that feel very, very far from life right now. Aside from the word Wellerman, they’re full of harpoons and pierheads and the specifics of butchering whales; the most recognizable lyrics are lines about “rounding the Cape” and the love of bonny brown-haired lasses.
Sea shanties are also resiliently uncool. They’re songs about whaling and strong winds…
One of my favorite songs ever, all nine verses, is by the late great Canadian folksinger, Stan Rogers, Barrett’s Privateers. Few things are as lovely for me as when I find a gang of fellow Canadians to belt out the words — some of which of course curse Americans!
I know many Broadside readers don’t live in the United States.
Right now, I wish I did as well.
Almost 40,000 Americans died two days ago of Covid.
Almost 10,000 people died in just my (largely affluent) suburban New York county.
The President cheers and laughs and lies and urges his base to wreak even more mayhem.
I won’t waste your time or mine trying to parse the insanity and violence and physical destruction and looting of the Capitol.
I listened this morning to a reporter, and former research librarian Brandy Zadrozny, explaining the utter bullshit these people believe and advocate.
This from a recent NPR interview:
Trump’s referring to – we call it a misinformation pipeline or, really, a feedback loop. And what it is – is, you know, over the last four years, he has built a really impressive machine. And what it does – it’s, you know, made up of social media, of cable news sites like Newsmax and OAN, talk radio and websites on the Internet that are all sort of under his influence. So the president can make some outlandish claims, and then all of these websites and news outlets parrot those claims back and then expand them with more conspiracy theories. And then the president can say, look at all of this proof, look at all of these people that think this, as evidence for his original claims.
Ted is an American college football coach hired to coach AFC Richmond, a British soccer league — with no knowledge of the sport — because the team’s owner has walked out on his wife, and she wants to ruin the team by hiring an incompetent foreigner.
You don’t have to like soccer to enjoy this (although why not?). It’s got fun characters, some interesting plot twists and, for those of us landlocked in the U.S. unable to visit our beloved England, a nice way to travel, if only visually.
As someone who also finds many Americans too sentimental and effusive, Lasso is very much this — to the ongoing consternation of his team, his boss and pretty much everyone British he meets. He is absurdly, relentlessly kind and outgoing and supportive, to a point you think — ugggggh, saccharine.
He also faces some darker moments in his private life, so he’s a character we can identify with and find relatable.
He does have lots of adjusting to do to his adopted home, from different words and meanings for things (relegation?!) to — what is this?!— his immediate dislike of and disdain for tea.
“Hot brown water,” he says. I can’t look at tea the same way now!
There’s a classic WAG, Keeley, whose bubbly exterior conceals a solid heart, the team owner who’s kinder than she first appears and Nathan, the team’s waterboy who’s been utterly overlooked until Ted arrives and starts to offer him chances to show his stuff.
A local pub plays an essential role, and there’s an ongoing conflict between the team’s youngest — Jamie Tartt, who’s 23 and supremely talented and arrogant and team captain Roy Kent who’s probably 35 or so. It all feels pretty realistic, from the many challenges Ted faces of trying to navigate a wholly new culture — being called WANKER! by everyone — while also trying to manage his troubled marriage from across the ocean.
Certainly in a time of relentlessly restricted travel — when the very idea of getting on a plane, let alone crossing the Atlantic — is impossible, it’s been a real treat to visually re-visit Copenhagen with each episode. So many cyclists (none wearing helmets?!) Canals. The fluttering Danish flag.
I was there once, for 10 days, on my amazing European journalism fellowship. I loved it, even though it was so expensive I could barely afford to eat, given the small size of our travel budget and the very high costs of everything.
The series — which sounds dull as dishwater — revolves around two worlds, Christiansborg Palace, or Borgen (The Castle), seat of all Danish politics, and TVI and Expressen, a TV station and a “red-top” (tabloid) newspaper. The key characters include Birgitta Nyborg, who becomes prime minister in the first season; Kasper Juul, a troubled press secretary — which they, without irony, call “spin doctor”, Katrine Fonsmark, a tall, blond TV reporter turned spin doctor, other politicians and Birgitta’s husband and two children.
As a journalist, I sure enjoyed the many newsroom scenes and the bossy news director, Torben Friis. As someone who grew up in Canada, a multi-party political system, I enjoyed the endless horse-trading in an eight-party system to gain and hold power.
The show covers a wide range of political and personal issues — the massive invasion of privacy Birgitta’s teenage daughter faces when she goes away for in-patient psychiatric treatment or Birgitta’s breast cancer/radiation (the exact same as mine), the back-and-forth affair between Kasper and Katrina, and so on. There’s an episode about prostitution and one about pig farming. It’s also, if politics or journalism interest you, an pretty good look behind the scenes of how each product is actually made — lots of arguments!
I’m a huge fan of music and film and books and it’s fascinating to consume older media that assumed, rightly, a much longer — and much less distracted — attention span.
Different plot development.
For amusement, I once counted every single image in the introductory credits to the HBO series about journalism — The Newsroom.
The difference between its initial 2012 opening credits — with 53 separate images in 1:29 and the 45 images of the 2015 season, in 1:07 — are striking. The second set are super quick jump shots, much more emotional, much more compelling — with Ron Rosen the editor.
One of my favorite film directors is American Kelly Reichardt, whose films move slowly and beautifully, often through a rural, timeless Oregon landscape.
I keep re-watching the 1968 film “2001”, also intrigued by how slowly some scenes unfold and how very little dialogue it contains.
It demands our sustained, often mystified attention — and amply rewards it.
No doubt our brains were wired very differently before the ’90s when we all started moving online, let alone the daily deluge now on social media.
I find it more challenging than ever now sit still for hours and just read.
I often wonder what it was like to live in the 18th century where domestic amusements were embroidery — slow! — or reading or playing a musical instrument. When a letter sent, sealed with wax, took days or weeks or even months to reach its reader. Then the reply.
What different brain chemistry they must have had!
Living through a pandemic and the useless political “leadership” that’s killed so many is bad enough — add to this grief and anxiety that absolutely rob us of the ability to stay focused and pay attention and retain a damn thing.
I seek out a wide range of lovely gifts, from this year’s lowest price — $15.00 for a quirky deck of playing cards– to the highest, $1,150 for a stunning hand-made ring.
I don’t choose tech, music, books or things for teens/children/seniors.
I’ve carefully chosen almost all of this year’s recommendations from independent makers and retailers, with a very few from larger companies. The list includes two Black makers, one of them British.
I also offer the backstory for each item when I’ve found one. I love knowing more about whose skills and hard work I’m supporting and sharing.
There’s no income for me in this — just the pleasure of curating.
In a year where so many of us can’t safely or legally travel, I’ve also deliberately made this list pretty global and with some specific nods to travel and maps.
Gifts could arrive from places as far-flung as Los Angeles, Stockholm, Philadelphia, Cheltenham, England, Toronto, Ottawa, Sydney, Paris and Manhattan. When I ordered my two gorgeous throw pillows from Svensk Tenn, a divine Stockholm department store, they arrived within days, beautifully wrapped in tissue paper with a note. Presentation matters!
I’ve converted all foreign currencies into U.S. dollars.
From Pippa Small, a Canadian jewelry designer in London, whose rings go up to an eye-watering $26,000.
I discovered this retailer, Alex Mill, when it popped up in my Instagram feed. I really like the witty simplicity of their goods. The company is eight years old, based in Manhattan, run by a son of the American retail legend Mickey Drexler (who used to run J. Crew), Alex Drexler.
A unisex bandana-print wool scarf in navy/white or red/black/white.$95
Nothing beats light, warm soft cashmere on a bitterly cold day — take it from me, a Canadian!
These neck gaiters are also beautifully unisex in navy, black, red and gray. $65
I love this boiled wool hoodie, which comes in yellow, dark green and black.$160
Farrow & Ball’s brilliant yellow is called Babouche, of course! They’re actually backless unisex leather slippers worn in Morocco and these come in two delicious colors — pale coral and pale blue. $45
Poor New York City! It has been so hard hit by the pandemic, losing millions of tourists who helped sustain Broadway, hotels, restaurants and other attractions. Since you’re unlikely to get here for a long time, enjoy some edible icons in delicious chocolate, from a New York company in business since 1923, Li-Lac Chocolates.
This package includes a train car, a Statue of Liberty and an edible Empire State Building. $160
This six-year-old business, Meeka Fine Jewelry, owned and run by Philadelphia businesswoman Monika Krol, offers the kind of jewelry I really love: minimal, unusual and using lots of semi-precious stones. This isn’t a site for rubies, diamonds, emeralds or bling-y settings, but understated elegance. Here are just a few of her many, many offerings. Roam around!
Oxidized silver and prehnite stud earrings (the pale green of seawater) $150
A ring of Montana agate (clear with black speckles) set in 18k gold. I’ve asked Jose for this!$1150
John Derian is a much admired retail shop owner whose quirky style is terrific — he’s best known for glass decoupage dishes and platters. His East Village NYC store is crammed with lovely discoveries. In a time when the world feels so so distant, when even going to the grocery store feels scary, here’s a soft, sensuous way to experience the globe
A silk scarf with the globe printed on it.$175
I love everything offered by Stockholm design store Svenskt Tenn. There’s fantastic-but-spendy printed linen, sold by the meter, home goods, furniture. I’ve chosen to highlight only two item, but look around. So much beauty! The placemats are of the same linen print of the two sofa throw pillowswe bought from them.
This Paris site is also swoon-worthy, if you love textiles and an 18th c aesthetic as much as I do, from Antoinette Poisson.
Throw cushion in black and cream $112
I hate most of the phone cases I see. But these, by Stringberry, come in a really wide array of designs. I bought one and love its design and its rugged, smooth-but-matte finish.
Phone case, $33.
Phone case, moon and stars design$33
I’m a huge fan of adding candlelight whenever possible, especially for those long, cold dark winter nights. I love the gleaming reflective brass of this two-taper design. I’d put it bedside or even in a small bathroom: 11 inches wide, 22 inches high. From a small-town British indie retailer.
Rainbow-hued massive wool cowl/hood, made by a Black woman creator, Chasten Harmon, in L.A. $265
Kingsley Thompson is another Black designer, working in small leather goods, Cheltenham, England.
Leather bookmark $27.59
Is there anything as tedious as ALL THAT hand-washing? Make it a sensual pleasure with Caswell-Massey soap. Fantastic quality, American made. The sandalwood is so nice!
A full year of soap, in three woody scents $98
OK, wait….Monet and VANS sneakers? Only from my favorite Canadian retailer with the weirdest damn name ever, Gravity Pope. I make sure to drop in every time I’m back in Toronto and always leave with a great pair of shoes or boots.
Yes, for guys, Monet paintings for your kicks. $90
And I really want these simple pale gray suede boots. $475
We met the creator of Effin Birds, Aaron Reynolds, in Ontario at an annual conference up north and even shared an unheated cabin with him.His merch is very swear-y — but so much fun! There are pins and stickers and hockey jerseys and T-shirts, too.
Effin’ Birds pack of Playing cards $15
There’s nothing nicer for the most basic table than a pretty print tablecloth (add a padded liner beneath.) Like this one, from Paris shop Simrane.
Along the same lines, there’s nothing nicer than a fragrant neck to kiss. Here’s a crisp option.
Lime cologne. $50
OK, I caved — here’s an amazing blanket from one of my favorite major retailers, Anthropologie.It fits my 2020 theme of, if we can’t visit a place in person, we can still dream and enjoy some version of it!
I am oddly mesmerized by this dress, which also comes as a T-shirt and mock turtleneck. I love a stretchy dress I can throw a sweater on top of. I like a bold print. I really enjoy being stylish and comfortable. And this NYC site, Wray.com, has a wild range of sizes and prints, all the way to 3XL. It’s never easy to find stylish, fashion-forward clothing for larger women — and this site offers plenty of it; check out their Neighborhood dress and Quinn dress.
Regular readers of my blog, and this list, know I loooove a well-dressed man. And I love elegant touches like a great pocket square. I really like this indie American website, Sid Mashburn (and the partner site for women, a 10-year-old Atlanta store with some great stuff, Ann Mashburn) — classic but not boring menswear and womenswear.
A decade ago my mother had to suddenly sell all her belongings and go into a nursing home, and into a small room. She was able to take a few pieces of art but lost a lot of it to auction.
I shipped home, across a border and country, a pair of her early textiles, framed. I have no idea where she bought them or when or if my grandmother had owned them. I wish I’d asked when we were still cordial, but of course I didn’t.
I’m a massive fan of textiles, old and new, and always wondered what these two pieces were — and I follow a serious antique textiles dealer in Britain on Instagram. I recently asked her if these were what I suspected — 17th century Italian.
I’m now wildly fantasizing who used them, and when and where and for what purpose. They are velvet and gold thread and the centerpiece, I believe, is linen.
Italy in the 1600s was quite the place…1.7 million Italians died of plague in the first years of that century. In 1656 around 300,000 people in Naples, this was half the population of Naples at that time….Good God, why is this so awfully familiar?!
We own a few other quite old objects, which have been gifts or bought at auction or antique stores or shows. I know some people have zero interest in old stuff or owning old stuff, but I really love living with, enjoying and using lovely and material bits of history.
I find it extraordinary to tap away on a laptop on top of a gate-leg oak table, probably British, someone made in the 18th century. Ours looks almost exactly like this one, without a drawer.
The craftsmanship is amazing — finely curved edges, smoothly fitted leaves and legs. My father gave it to us a few years ago and I love it. It easily seats four, six at a pinch.
Then there’s a tiny teacup, hand-painted. I love its designs — also very unusual, and someone said, maybe made for the Islamic market. I’ve studied ceramics and silver and furniture and textiles because they fascinate me, so when I spot something potentially that’s very early (for me, anything 18th or 17th century) — and undervalued — I know what it is!
Like this 18th century teapot, missing a lid — $3.50 in an upstate NY junk shop; if it had a lid, it would sell for about $1,000.
The teapot on the table…
If I could own something really ancient, it might be a piece of Greek, Roman or Middle Eastern sculpture or art.
This is a smart and powerful argument why the Democratic party needs to wise up fast — with mid-term elections within two years for both Senate and House seats.
Their abysmal failure to speak intelligently to — and listen carefully to — millions of Hispanic/Latino voters cost them a state they expected to sweep and didn’t, Florida.
As a white middle-class Canadian who grew up in two of the most racially and ethnically diverse cities — Toronto and Montreal — these persistent blind spots are both annoying as hell and depressingly consistent in American politics, at least at the federal level.
Expecting a wildly heterogeneous group — whose birthplace or ancestry maybe as disparate as Chile, Mexico (whose many regions are also wildly different from one another), Argentina, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic or even Spain — to somehow share aspirations, beliefs, education and other values is naive at best, desperately ignorant at worst.
There is tremendous racism (thanks to millions of undocumented Hispanics in the U.S.) and wilful ignorance, a toxic combination when formulating intelligent policy and trying to win votes.
I’ve seen it firsthand in a few terrible moments with my husband — a Pulitzer Prize winning photojournalist mistaken for (of course!) a day laborer.
Both are important jobs but never ever ever assume who anyone is based on the color of their skin!
Journalists and pundits who have spent some time in Latin America or interviewed a few Spanish speakers (and now fancy themselves experts) have suggested that machismo, and a desire to be closer to whiteness, is what drove these voters to support the man who promised to build a wall to keep caravans of Spanish-speaking brown people out. That may be true, but it’s far from the whole story.
It may sound ridiculous, but some of those voters are genuinely afraid of socialism, and he leaned into that. “We will never have a socialist country,” he promised. He understood that for Cubans and Venezuelans, the word is a reminder of the dysfunctional governments they left behind.
I know this firsthand because I live it — as a partner of 20 years with Jose Lopez, born in New Mexico and whose father was born in Mexico. Jose worked for 31 years as a photographer and photo editor and teacher within a bastion of American media power, The New York Times, where a former very senior colleague once said — to his face — “A preppy Mexican!” — when Jose wore khakis, the dull-but-safe East Coast uniform.
It was decades ago….but really?
Nor does Jose speak Spanish, which I do fluently enough to have worked in it.
Nor is he Catholic — his father was a Baptist minister and he is Buddhist, his sister Baha’i and one sister Catholic. Yes, even within one family, diversity. All three siblings married non-Hispanics. One has lived and worked all over the world.
I lived briefly in Mexico as a teenager and have been back many times, although not recently. I’ve also visited Peru, Colombia, Nicaragua, Cost Rica, Venezuela, and Spain.
It’s pretty obvious none of these countries resemble one another beyond a shared language — and even then, not really! I learned to be very careful with local idioms; the verb “coger” can mean quite different things!
I want to see — demand to see — a much much smarter parsing of what it really means to live and work and pay taxes and vote in the United States as someone of Latino or Hispanic heritage.
This isn’t an issue I’ve read a lot about, but here it is….
If you, as I have, have spent time with a narcissist, subject to their twisted and exhausting manipulations and rage and gaslighting, the past four years of Trump’s presidency have been very very triggering.
That experience leaves you with a sort of PTSD. I cannot tolerate being shouted at or verbally abused — very rare now, but has happened a few times in recent years from others — and will shake for hours afterward when it happens.
To have that toxic piece of filth, and his lying, cold, grifting family GONE?
And a woman of color as our Vice-President!
I can breathe.
I can breathe.
So can millions and millions of relieved Americans.
Here is a powerful clip of commentator Van Jones, on CNN.
There are only two places I’ve been, so far, where I was surrounded by utter silence — inside the Grand Canyon and on a friend’s ranch in New Mexico, a place so quiet I could hear myself digesting.
Some cultures revere silence and know how much we all need it. The United States isn’t one! People love to talktalktalktalktalktalk and will spill what sound like the most intimate secrets in a quick conversation with a stranger. It’s exhausting and disorienting if you come to the country from a more discreet, reticent culture.
Jose and I did a seven day silent Buddhist retreat in the summer of 2011 a month or so before we married. There were 75 people of all ages and it was fascinating to be surrounded by people with whom not a word was exchanged until the final Saturday evening, when we “broke silence” and found out, verbally, who everyone was.
I admit, we had whispered occasionally in our shared monastic bedroom but mostly relied on Post-It notes to communicate.
I was shocked to see participants walking through the woods — on their cellphones — or leaving in their cars to head into town for…talking?
I blogged about it every day and found the experience healing and insightful. Talking and listening is really really tiring! If you actually pay attention to others, this consumes a lot of energy.
Not talking is very freeing.
Silence imposes discipline.
It forces you into your own head, a place many prefer to avoid.
I was fascinated, when I tell people I did seven days without speaking, (we could ask questions of the teachers once a day), they all said: “I could never do that!”
Eating in silence is an ancient practice with roots in many monastic communities. “Buddhists, Celtic Mystics, Sufis, Vedic Mystics,” said Ginny Wholley, a teacher at the UMass Memorial Health Care Center for Mindfulness. “Everyone has a component of silence that is an inherent part of the practice.”
Jon Kabat-Zinn founded the center where Ms. Wholley teaches in 1979 as a way to promote and study the benefits of practices like these in a secular setting — in part because it’s challenging. The concept for silent breakfast is simple enough: focus on your food, quietly, and deal with whatever thoughts come up. But it’s more difficult than it seems.
….“One of the funny things about starting a mindfulness practice is that when you quiet the external noise, you start to hear more of the internal noise. If you’re not used to this, it can be incredibly unpleasant,” said Ravi Kudesia, a mindfulness researcher and assistant professor at Temple University’s Fox School of Business. “The key idea here is that it’s better to notice the whispers before they become screams.”