Killers of the Flower Moon, Margaret Atwood on being in "Death's gazebo" and some delectable Cruel Intentions trivia
I must confess that I have the most intense brain fog at the moment and cannot summon the cognitive resources to write Part 2b of my mini series for the time-poor and limited attention spanned, which was (will be!) about novellas. It will come along in the next newsletter, and if you want to read the first two parts, here’s the edition on essay collections and the one on non-fiction mini books. [Sidenote: I use the term ‘brain fog’ as an alternative to ‘baby brain’.]
Instead - with apology - lots of BITS today.
I’ve recommended The Rewatchables podcast before, but the Cruel Intentions episode from 2019 is SO GOOD it deserves a special mention. Trivia includes: Reese Witherspoon’s real name is Laura; Ryan Phillippe’s surname is pronounced “filler-pee” (rather than the French version of Philip); and 10% of the film’s entire budget was spent on Bittersweet Sympathy by Verve. TBF it’s a belter. There’s also some thoughtful discussion of the film’s homophobia.
My friend has a theory that 90% of the time when someone says “I read about that”, what they actually mean IS, “I saw a video on TikTok”. That isn’t a diss - for many people right now social media is key to their literal survival - but what it is categorically not great for, what we are absolutely losing from our media literacy, is the ability to deep-read and slow-think. This FT piece, ‘Skimming, scanning, scrolling - the age of deep-reading is over’ via the SYSCA newsletter is food for thought. (If you sign up for an FT sub btw, I believe you get several free reads a month.) While we are talking about responsible/ intentional news consumption, I’m also going to upvote my own piece for The Guardian several years ago on how to engage meaningfully with the news. For most of us, that’s a work in progress - but I think it’s worth thinking about.
I love a long-read on bums. They are like catnip to me. So please also enjoy, ‘Butts: A Backstory’ on Culture Study with the author of a new book, Heather Radke.
“You can’t see your own butt, you are always seeing it through reflection, photography, or other people’s gaze… And yet their symbolic meaning is so complex and layered. They are deeply tied up with notions of race, femininity, and even hard work (think of the phrases like “work your butt off”). But those associations are ones we have projected onto the butt, and they are always changing.”
Every time I Google search something at the moment I am besieged with results from Temu. But who are Temu? The Guardian delivered with their read on the Chinese-owned Amazon rival’s meteoric growth where a tent costs under £2, men’s running trainers cost under £5 and an avocado sliver costs just 89p. The website encourages consumers to “shop like a billionaire” while a whopping 30% of all small packages coming into the US were now from Shein and Temu. Riveting, terrifying stuff.
An interview on The Cut with the Gredes, the mega-marketers behind the billion-dollar Kardashian brands: Skims (Kim), Good American (Chloe), Safely (Kris) and now, Khy (Kylie). The formula is winning: come up with a innovative brand idea (nude Spanx that are actually nude for every skin tone/ fashionable jeans that fit over a size 16), slap a competitive price tag on it and then yoink a Kardashian over to front it.
“Back in the day, when we put Justin Bieber in Calvin Klein or Beyoncé in H&M — I do the same thing today, but today we build businesses around them,” says Jens, who calls celebrity “the only hack” in the consumer economy. “It’s the only cheat code. If you gave me a billion dollars to put in ads, I wouldn’t have half the brand recognition that Dwayne Johnson has for his tequila.
If you’re interested in the evolving partnership of celebrity and consumerism, you’ll find this piece - and this power couple - fascinating.
I laughed reading Margaret Atwood’s recent newsletter addressing the rumour of her death. She is not dead, she says, she is “merely in Death’s gazebo”. I’d heard of death’s waiting room, but that is much better. She’s so much cheekier than I think people would imagine the author of The Handmaid’s Tale to be.
A heart-breaking and beautifully written piece by Jenisha Watts for The Atlantic about her mother’s life-long drug addiction: ‘I Never Called Her Momma’.
“When I asked people in my family why their lives had gone so off track, they all seemed to point to the same thing: this void where a mother’s love was supposed to be.
“You try to close that void, but it never happens,” Walter said. “At least it hasn’t happened for me.”
This week I learned about glass gem corn. Actual real corn! Cultivated in the 1940s by Carl Barnes, a part-Cherokee farmer living in Oklahoma who crossed several different Native American corn varieties, it didn’t make its internet debut till 2012. Can someone please grow me some?
Another newsletter I’ve been really enjoying is Embedded, about internet culture. I love this kind of super-specific analysis and writer Kate Lindsay’s observation is so on point. I recommend this one on the mono-cadence of online video creators and this one on millennial meme-marketing.
Can someone tell me if Apple is playing silly buggars with its autocorrect at the moment? My phone regularly changes ‘Sophie’ to ‘Socks’, my own name to ‘Pampers’ and my son’s name to ‘Claude’ but at the very last moment, so that I ended up emailing someone today with the opener: “Dear Doggie”. The brain fog does not appreciate this, Apple.
At the grand old age of 36, I am tentatively exploring TikTok’s beauty hits. (As ever, without actually going on the app.) I have found the Kosas eyebrows pencil to be transformative for weedy eyebrows, am a firm fan of Rhode’s lip peptide, rely heavily on Dior’s apricot nail strengthener, but cannot countenance spending £75 on Merit’s Flush Balm Cream Blush. (The only beauty product I will spend more than £50 on is scent.) I am, however, chuffed with this Pixi dupe. Please share any of your own fun finds! Am like a teenager discovering blue eyeshadow right now.
I went to see Killers of the Flower Moon and while I agree with the masses that it was far too long, I found the story about the Osage nation in Oklahoma - the richest people per capita in the world in the 1920s, they were systematically murdered by white people after their oil ‘headrights’ - both horrendous and fascinating. Lily Gladstone as real-life survivor Mollie Burkhart is stunning: she truly embodies the phrase “still waters run deep”. (I also enjoyed Scorsese’s cameo.) I’d love to read the 2017 non-fiction book it was based on at some point.
Reading around it after (always) this Vogue interview with di Caprio and Gladstone by Afua Hirsch is really good (there are 560 federally recognised nations in Indian country in the USA and hundreds more that aren’t recognised, says Gladstone, who grew up on the Blackfeet reservation) and I loved this insightful interview with Gladstone (particularly the bit on her “in-community building” with the Osage people) for Interview magazine. She’s just as captivating on the page as she is on screen.
And last recc - because my Googling of this movie, led me here - this piece on Vanity Fair titled “Why Are Movies Sooooo Long?” (A debate that’s seemingly been raging since the 90s.)
Thanks for bearing with. More soon,.