💌 Stuff You Should #17: December 2019

Disney+, kitty accoutrements, merman erotica, and more.

Hi! You're reading a monthly newsletter in which I, copywriter and perpetual opinion-haver Laura Reineke, share with you some Stuff that I endorse. Your mileage may vary.

👋 Know About Me

Hearing someone describe their specific childhood attachment to a Disney movie is as acutely boring as listening to them recount a dream they had. It’s the kind of self-indulgent monologue survivable only on the promise that you’ll get to share one of your own when it’s over. “Oh really? Wow. Mhmm. Cool. Anyway, so for ME,,,” etc.

So when our corporate overlords at the House of Mouse announced that their new Disney+ streaming service would debut in early November, instantly making accessible nearly every title in the company’s massive library, I braced myself for a tsunami of heavily personalized and deeply annoying nostalgia to overtake us. Every adult on the internet was gonna rediscover their formative shit at the same time and feel empowered to honk about it in detail. It was gonna be excruciating.

The night before Disney+ launched, I put my foot down. Collective sentimentality?? It was gonna be a no from me, dawg. To be clear, I was warning myself against nostalgic self-indulgence, too. "No one needs a tweet thread of my thinky thoughts about Bedknobs & Broomsticks," I said. And I meant it.

But then Disney+ went live. I subscribed - against my better judgment - just to see what the fuss was about!! - and immediately my heart fell right out of my butt.

With one click I became a tiny kid again, wrapped up in warm towels fresh out of the dryer on a snow day, watching Pete’s Dragon while Mom irons laundry and sings along to “Candle on the Water.” Another click and I’m crouched on the orange shag carpet in our basement, holding Dad’s audio tape recorder up to the TV speakers to capture songs from Oliver & Company to replay in bed later that night to help me fall asleep. Another click and I’m sitting with my brother in the back of our van en route from Ohio to Florida, rewatching Toy Story for the trillionth time on the combo TV/VHS player that our parents strapped between the two front seats with bungee cords.

And now here I am, sharing the gauzy details of my specific childhood attachment to Disney movies. What an embarrassment! One day I’m telling everyone to keep their emotions to themselves, the next I’m making everything about me like Harry Crane during Don Draper’s pitch of the Kodak circular slide projector. “It’s a time machine,” Draper says of the device, which he’s renamed The Carousel. “It lets us travel the way a child travels. Around and around, and back home again, to a place where we know we are loved.”

Cue Harry running out of the room crying, and cue me writing a whole-ass essay about a thing I specifically intended to avoid. Disney+ is a time machine!!! And as much as it pains me to admit it, I was transported.

For a selection of things I can more sincerely recommend, scroll on.

“Don't you just love New York in the fall? It makes me want to buy school supplies.”

🔗 Read Online

It’s Time to Take Down the Mona Lisa - What should a museum do when one work of art threatens to consume the entire collection? I read the headline and I was like OH COME ON but then I read the piece and I was like ACTuallyyy…yes. (Jason Farago/NYT)

The My Favorite Murder Problem - What we talk about when we podcast about true crime. (Andrea Denhoed/The New Republic)

The Business of ‘Carol’ - Every December, a huge variety of stage productions that adapt, remix, or take inspiration from Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol pop up in communities of all sizes across the country. What do annual live performances of one of our most-told stories still have to offer audiences that attend them and theaters that produce them? (Stuart Miller/American Theatre)

Are Nike’s Vaporfly Running Shoes Too Good? - When patented technological progress becomes a proven competitive advantage, new lines have to be drawn. (Eben Novy-Williams/Bloomberg)

Before the Internet - “Then you’d walk outside and squint at the sky, just you in your body, not tethered to any network, adrift by yourself in a world of strangers in the sunlight.” (Emma Rathbone/The New Yorker)

The Philosophy of SimCity [2013] - Loved this old interview with Stone Librande, the lead designer of the urban-planning simulator game SimCity. Librande talks about how his team researched, categorized, and distilled our modern cities and contemporary living patterns into a playable game, and it is, uhhhh. Way more complicated than I expected. (Geoff Manaugh & Nicola Twilley/The Atlantic)

"Two Friends on the Shore of Long Island," Devin Leonardi. Acrylic on paper, 21x28", 2009.

📖 Read Elsewhere

“The Pisces” by Melissa Broder - idk why I am actually including this book in this newsletter! I did not exactly “like” it, and I don’t think most of y’all would either! But I also can’t stop thinking about it and that’s gotta count for something. The basic premise is, sorry, “merman erotica,” but that’s just the scaffolding around which a kinda funny, often viscerally upsetting exploration of obsession, depression, and recovery is constructed. If you like a challenge, and/or books that make you uncomfortable, by all means give this one a shot, BUT I’m absolving myself of responsibility now if u end up hating it.

🗣️ Quote

“Any claim I might make to ‘originality’ in my fiction is really just the result of this odd background: basically, just me working inefficiently, with flawed tools, in a mode I don’t have sufficient background to really understand. Like if you put a welder to designing dresses.” - George Saunders

💰 Buy

meowbox - I’m a millennial pet parent, so of course it was only a matter of time before I signed up for a subscription box of kitty accoutrements to spoil the wee baby Toast, but this one has so far exceeded my expectations. In addition to being cute enough to grace the floor of my apartment, the themed toys are shockingly well-crafted, and (along with the treats) come from indie North American brands that I feel good supporting. If you decide to give it a try, lemme know so I can send you a discount code!

Rubbermaid Brilliance containers - These are straight-up the only non-glass food containers I’ll buy anymore. They’re light but hella sturdy, and over roughly three years of regular use and routine washings have remained airtight and fully leakproof. And they stack! I use bigger ones for pantry staples like sugar and flour, medium ones for fridge leftovers, and small ones to take my lunch to work.

📺 Watch

The Laundromat (2019) - A deft lil dark comedy about the web of offshore tax evasion revealed in the Panama Papers. It channels the edu-tainment spirit of Adam McKay’s The Big Short, but with better direction (from Steven Soderbergh) and chewy roles for Gary Oldman, Antonio Banderas, and Meryl Streep (whose performance, btw, no spoilers, shocked/delighted the hell out of me).

This TikTok about a missing hamburger patty - There’s so much to appreciate in this minute-long work of art but my current favorite bit is the cameo from the little baby. Excellent #content

✅ Try

This holiday side dish recipe - Brussels sprouts, diced butternut squash, and cranberries roasted til crispy, then tossed in a light dijon vinaigrette. I added walnuts for a lil more crunch when I contributed this to my fam’s Thanksgiving feast. Easy, tasty, seasonal; 10/10 def gonna make again.

🗣️ Quote

“The fellow-man to whom you are yoked is a steer that is ever bolting right the other way.” - Henry David Thoreau, Journal: 1837-1861

🎧 Listen To

Land of the Giants: The Rise of Amazon (Podcast) - Is Amazon’s ubiquity starting to creep you out? Hard same!! This 9-episode series from Vox gave me needed context about the company’s origins and massive growth, plus well-reported insights into the ways its practices are remaking our society faster and more recklessly than ever.

Ologies (Podcast) - Effervescent science correspondent Alie Ward chats up subject-matter experts from every possible niche of the scientific community in this hella charming weekly pod, the mantra of which is “Ask smart people stupid questions.” A sampler platter of standout episodes: saurology (lizards), somnology (sleep), Egyptology (ancient Egypt), and my personal favorite, dendrology (trees).

Toast serving “gritty Miami Vice film adaptation from 2006 starring Colin Farrell” vibes

☀️ My Forecast

Running headlong into my 31st birthday. Pulling the weighted blanket out of storage and tucking myself under it for days at a time, fingers crossed. Still thinking about Mona Lisa unhinging her delicate jaw to devour the entire Louvre.

See y’all in 2020.



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