Friday, June 23, 2017

Afternoon Tea (6/23/17)

Fun: What It's Like to Have Dinner with Prince Harry (I just read a book that took place in Singapore and it was FASCINATING.)

Hear, hear: Zipping Your Own Dress Shouldn't Be a Problem

NPR has your playlist needs covered: Roséwave: 75 Songs To Kick Off A Faux-Luxe Summer

Amazing: The ABCs of WWI, a British Wartime Alphabet Primer

Ooh! An interactive map of Scottish Clan Battlefields, useful for your Outlander or general historical needs.

Morning Coffee (6/23/17)

FINALLY FRIDAY. Time for our traditional happy links.

Stop rubbing it in, Canada: Justin Trudeau Hugs a Puppet Unicorn in a Beautiful Universe Much Like Our Own

Road trip? The 41 Most Instagram-Worthy Ice Cream Shops in the United States

TRUE: No Chris Week Is Complete Without Nerd Hunk Chris Hayes

Important journalism: The CW All-Stars: Which Actors Have Appeared on the Most Shows?

Jessica at Go Fug Yourself made us an amazing Breton stripes shopping guide.

Aw, here's a firefighter and the kitten he rescued from a chimney.

This is as wacky as you'd expect: Summer solstice at Stonehenge – in pictures

I may need some Crayola nail polish.

Let's buy some beach bags!

Ooh: Vintage Royal Ascot Jewels

Stay Cozy with These Literary Socks

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Afternoon Tea (6/22/17)

The Scandalous Divorce Case that Influenced the Declaration of Independence

This is fascinating: China's Mistress-Dispellers

The Great Uprising: How a Powder Revolutionized Baking

Here is a very useful and important review of the new Transformers movie.

The British Library has a fun post about manuscripts showing how people in cold climates thought others stayed cool in hot weather. It involves the marvelous sentence "Medieval writers also worried about how dragons coped with heat."

Morning Coffee (6/22/17)

The 55 things the White House has promised to get back to us on

Are Russian Operatives Attacking Putin Critics in the U.S.?

Let's check on if things are more stable else- oh. Romania's government collapses as ruling party MPs oust prime minister

Interesting: Work starts to identify Argentinian Falklands war dead

Huh: Excommunicating mobsters? Vatican eyes new legal doctrine

Instagram account Everyday Africa tries to change perceptions

Gaza Dating Site Matches Widows to Men Seeking 2nd (or 3rd) Wife

The neo-fascist philosophy that underpins both the alt-right and Silicon Valley technophiles

Behind a bookcase, a secret passageway leads to a trove of Nazi artifacts in Argentina

This is fascinating. Such a scam! I Went on a Quest for Legit Health Tips at Gwyneth’s Goop Summit

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Afternoon Tea (6/21/17)

This is fascinating (and SUCH PRETTY PICTURES): Is It Possible to Fix the Indian Wedding Business?

ALSO VERY PRETTY: With Acrobats and Cake, a Paris Opera Celebrates Its Rebirth

How A. E. Housman Invented Englishness

Rachel Jackson, the Scandalous Divorcee Who Almost Became First Lady

Huh: How Animals Develop Regional Accents

Book Review: Prince Charles: The Passions & Paradoxes of an Improbable Life

First of all: obviously, a biography will generally only be interesting if the reader is interested in the subject. I know a lot of people are opposed to the modern monarchy or just find royal stuff boring, and that's fine but clearly if you feel that way this is not the book for you! So I'm not going to be trying to litigate any of those questions here. The useful question, I think, is whether, if you are interested in Prince Charles, this is a book you will enjoy. And I think it is!

This biography is very, very detailed, with a ton of information about pretty much every aspect of Charles' life. I'm reasonably well-informed about the royal family, but even so there was so much here I didn't know. Lots about architecture. And sustainable gardening. Charles cares a lot about his pet causes, which is great, but my eyes started to glaze over a TAD during some of that. There was also a lot about royal logistics, which I sincerely find completely fascinating, but again - not exactly a breezy read.

Of course, in among all those details, there's plenty of juicy stuff about Charles' life, including his relationships with Diana and Camilla, his kids, his parents, everyone else. This is not an authorized biography, but Smith clearly had a lot of access and cooperation from people in Charles' life, and she's clearly sympathetic to him. But it's interesting to read while keeping her sources very much in mind - this is what his friends say about xyz, this is what his staff says, etc. There were a lot of details about his relationships that I hadn't read before, and it seems clearer than ever that his marriage to Diana was a complete disaster from the day one - and ever before that - and that they could never have been happy together. It's terribly sad, these two incompatible people who were incapable of giving each other what they needed, and I'm happy that Charles has found happiness with Camilla now.

Camilla sounds pretty awesome here, actually, and given Diana's popularity and Camilla's unpopularity, it was striking to note how Camilla seems much better suited for her public role than Diana ever was. I hadn't realized that during her marriage Diana refused to get involved in causes and resisted public appearances, and only became an advocate later, while Camilla seems to be genuinely comfortable with traveling around promoting good causes and admiring people's prize turnips and such. (In fact, Camilla and Kate seem more naturally suited to this royal role than any of the men, which I suppose makes sense given that they were the ones who had some choice about whether to take it up.) Also, a friend of Camilla's describes her sitting room as "crammed with books and knitting," so obviously we should hang out.

I know the traditions of the monarchy often seem archaic, but one thing this book really brought home was how much thought and effort current members of the royal family, especially the Queen and Prince Charles, have been putting into modernizing it - both politically and economically, as far as revising the way the finances work and coming up with new income streams, as well as culturally, using social media. (At one point they also quoted Prince Harry as basically saying "OMG you guys, JUST TEXT LIKE NORMAL PEOPLE," which was hilarious.)

One thing this book could have really used were some genealogical tables. I mean, I love those in general, but especially in a book like this with so many generations of intermarried families - it would have been useful to easily trace how people were related. (Not the royals - I know who they are - but all the other miscellaneous aristocrats and distant relatives who keep popping up.)

Also! If you're kind of interested but not enough to read 500 pages about architecture and logistics, I'd recommend just reading the highlights from Go Fug Yourself. Their summary is delightful.

And the one thing you really REALLY need to know is that apparently Prince Charles and Mark Rylance correspond about crop circles. Yes, really.

(Book reviews are made possible by my awesome Patreon patrons. Join us!)

Morning Coffee (6/21/17)

The New Face of Russian Resistance

This is an amazing story of a doctor in Dakar: The Soul of a Feminist

Why the Supreme Court’s decision to review Wisconsin’s gerrymandering is such a big deal

Behind the Democrats’ Emoluments Lawsuit Against Trump

He broke ground in stem-cell research. Now he’s running for Congress.

How The New York Times moderates 12,000 comments a day

Why Do Men Harass Women? New Study Sheds Light On Motivations

An ancient Islamic city has been found under an Ethiopian town where local lore spoke of giants

This is so cool: The History of Movable Paper in One Massive, 9,000-Book Collection

Whyyyyy: ‘Sherlock’ Team Reuniting for New ‘Dracula’ Series

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Afternoon Tea (6/20/17)

The Thrilling Tale of How Robert Smalls Seized a Confederate Ship and Sailed it to Freedom

The best TV adaptations aren’t direct translations. They’re windows into worlds.

People Used to Be So Scared of Coffee That Bach Wrote a Cantata About It

How Pasteur’s Artistic Insight Changed Chemistry

The Artful Propaganda of Soviet Children’s Literature

Morning Coffee (6/20/17)

This is a funny and useful refresher: Hey, Remember That Congressional Election in Georgia? It’s Finally Happening!

"France is back." Macron's En Marche party just swept the French parliament.

ISIS says it carried out an attack in Jerusalem, but Hamas claims it did. Here’s why that matters.

Let's not pretend leaks and hacking are a problem for just one party: GOP Data Firm Accidentally Leaks Personal Details of Nearly 200 Million American Voters

Who in the White House Will Turn Against Donald Trump?

Important: The Link Between Domestic Violence and Mass Shootings

‘You Can’t Rattle Her’: Katy Tur on the Rise

Yay, we've got a Star Trek: Discovery premiere date!

I'm reading the first of these books now and it's fascinating: With Rich People Problems, the Crazy Rich Asians Series Goes Global

Revealed in Israel, a 2,600-Year-Old Request for Wine