Stuff You Should #2


Weekday morning bodega vibes on Second Ave.

Weekday morning bodega vibes on Second Ave.

Autumn so far this year has just been me saying "I LOVE FALL" through gritted teeth while sweating through too many layers in unseasonably warm weather and trying not to have anxiety attacks about the election while riding public transportation, but still, it really is my favorite time of year. I get to benefit from the fresh feeling of new-school-year optimism without, you know, school stuff! And I get to transition back into cozy hot toddies instead of iced teas that leave condensation rings on my countertop. The encroaching darkness of winter is gonna start to grate on me in, ehhhhhh, six weeks? But until then I'm gonna pop on my rotation of fall movies (IT'S STEPMOM TIME, SUCKAS), climb under the frankly enormous knit blanket my mama sent me, and appreciate every crunchy leaf n gusty breeze.


The White Flight of Derek Black - On one hand, I'm not sure there's a need for sympathetic deep-dives into the thoughts 'n feels of white supremacists; on the other hand, this chronicle of a man's emergence from a youth of racial zealotry to an adulthood of curiosity, education, and acceptance is, dare I say it, inspiring.

The Reckoning - Texas Monthly's brilliant Pamela Colloff profiles Claire Wilson, who as a pregnant 18-year-old was critically wounded during the mass shooting at the University of Texas in 1966 - the first massacre of its kind.

Princess for a Day, Disney Bride for Life - Carlye Wisel meets the detail-oriented sisterhood of women who are proudly obsessed with the elaborate made-to-order magical world of Disney Weddings. I love fond explorations of niche fandoms!!! (Racked has been killing it on the editorial side this year, btw; I also liked their recent dissection of the "boyfriend" clothes phenomenon.)

Men Explain "Lolita" to Me [2015] - "It is a fact universally acknowledged that a woman in possession of an opinion must be in want of a correction."

Are Malls Over? [2014] - Short answer: Yeah. The real question: Why the hell didn’t anyone catch on sooner to the fact that people don’t want to shop in windowless maze-like boxes that smell like Sbarro?

Exposition is a very Windexed window.
— Heather McHugh


"Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory" by Caitlin Doughty - Mortician Caitlin Doughty's memoir of her early years as a crematory operator in San Francisco offers a macabre but refreshingly straightforward (and funny!) behind-the-scenes tour of the death industry and our places in it, along with a manifesto of her ideas for the reformation of Western funeral industry practices. She pulls no punches - I now know the order in which the parts of cremated bodies disintegrate! - but if you can stomach the gory details, this is a fast and hugely informative read. Buy it on Amazon or via your favorite local indie bookseller.

I went full Daria Morgendorffer for Halloween this year. Nah nah NAH nah nah.

I went full Daria Morgendorffer for Halloween this year. Nah nah NAH nah nah.


The Barkley Marathons (2014) - I was THOROUGHLY charmed by this delightful documentary about a batshit crazy 100-mile ultramarathon in Tennessee, the fools who attempt it, and the bearded mountain man who conceived it. It's subtitled The Race That Eats Its Young but it should really be Find Your Bliss. Whatever makes u crazy white folks happy!! Such a fun lil film, you gotta check it out. It's streaming on Netflix now.

Black Jeopardy (Saturday Night Live, Season 42, Episode 4) - Tom Hanks guest stars in the sharpest social satire SNL has put forward in ages. (Slate's Jamelle Bouie has got your hot take about what makes this sketch so perfect here.)

Happy Valley (2014) - I feel like I've already recommended this excellent British crime drama to everyone who'll listen, but in case you haven't yet heard my impassioned plea, take note! Sarah Lancashire plays a no-bullshit police sergeant in West Yorkshire whose life, carefully rebuilt after her daughter's death, is upended by a murder plot and unwelcome ghosts from her family's past. It's sharp as hell and FULL of gloriously well-drawn female characters. Of all the imported crime shows on Netflix these days - Broadchurch, Top of the Lake, The Fall - this one's my favorite. Seasons 1 and 2 are streaming on Netflix now.

NOTE: BE SURE NOT TO GET IT CONFUSED with Amir Bar-Lev's documentary by the same name, which is about Penn State football and what happens when iconic institutions must reckon with the sins of their figureheads. It's good, too, but in a much more sobering way.

We cross our bridges when we come to them and burn them behind us, with nothing to show for our progress except a memory of the smell of smoke, and a presumption that once our eyes watered.
— Tom Stoppard, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead


Mystery Show, Episode 5: "Source Code" - Seeing Jake Gyllenhaal in New York City Center's gorgeous concert production of Sunday in the Park with George this month reminded me of maybe the most engaging podcast episode I've ever heard. In "Source Code," the fifth ep of her show about life's small mysteries, Starlee Kine tries to help her friend David solve a perplexing case involving camera trickery, online forums, restaurant creeping, and the star of the 1999 American biographical gem October Sky and other films, Mr. Jake Gyllenhaal. Y'know who, in addition to having a beautiful expressive face AND Oscar-nominated talent AND the guts to sing Sondheim to sold-out NYC audiences, is ALSO so stupidly charming I had to pause while listening to this podcast to screech aloud with glee? Jake goddamn Gyllenhaal. You can stream the ep (and the rest of Mystery Show) here, but if audio ain't your thing you can read the transcript instead.

My October mixtape - My 10 most-played jams this month, from Banks, Your Boy Tony Braxton, Death Cab, Ruby the RabbitFoot, and more. Stream it on 8tracks here.

And for those who missed my initial announcement: I'm co-hosting Lifetime's official Project Runway Recap Podcast with my pal and coworker Danielle. We recap/riff on each episode of the show's 15th season and tell dumb jokes to make each other laugh. It's fun! I promise!! You can listen here or subscribe on iTunes here.

Disclosure: I work for Lifetime's parent company, A+E Networks. They didn't ask me to plug the podcast, though - I did that on my own because #vanity.


Has anything on this garbage Internet been more consistently life-affirming than Vine? For real, note how you feel before and after watching any best-of compilation of bite-size repetitive videos (this one's good) and tell me there's not a marked improvement in your mood. Is the platform's impending doom a punishment for our innumerable sins as a species? Will future generations "get it" or will it be seen as a pointless bridge between technologies, like those old Geocities web rings we used as a means to connect before social networks and Google search? Is Vine gonna be the kind of thing around which kooky college professors design a whole pass/fail course that has like, a bizarre list of pre-reqs, and only takes place on Monday nights during the fall semester? #RIPVine. You were the true MVP of mid-2010s Internet culture, but nothing gold can stay.

Working on my pin game. Look at bitty baby Sondheim!

Working on my pin game. Look at bitty baby Sondheim!

Forecast for November:

Falling back for Daylight Savings [praise hands emoji], voting for the first female president of the United States, taking a couple quick trips outta NYC, and eating a big ol' slice of pumpkin pie with a dollop of whipped cream on top. Maybe two.

Until then,

xo Laura