This Magpie Edit series has slowly evolved into a journal of the truest form: whatever is percolating in my narrow world at the time. Thank you for accommodating these meanderings! This week, on my mind: I watched several interesting (not always in the way the producers intentioned) things this week that I’ve been itching to unpack.
First, did anyone else catch HBO’s “documentary” “Bama Rush”? I place the word documentary in quotations because it was a disaster and I would argue barely qualifies for the genre. Midway through, the director inexplicably shoehorns her own personal story about living with alopecia into a barely-scratches-the-surface, unsatisfying, flimsily-constructed look at sorority rush at a big Southern school. I’m not sure why HBO published this because it had “gag rule” written all over it in the sense that the film showed virtually none of the actual participants in the sorority rush process and instead followed a couple of individual girls, most of whom ended up not rushing or refusing to film midway through, whose stories felt more idiosyncratic than demonstrative. Their stories were touching and they revealed the relatable identity crises so many of us endured in our late teens, but they did not illuminate the subject matter in any material way. There is so much interesting and disturbing stuff to discuss when it comes to Greek life and the rush process in particular, and we got none of it from the movie. The director’s decision to insert her own narrative into the plot felt not only distracting but inappropriate, self-centered, confused? I’m writing with uncharacteristic critical intensity in part because — well, it’s HBO! I expect more! and this film was saddled with misfires and misdirection — and also because I find the content published about Greek life at Southern schools strangely marred by external, irrelevant drama, and there is a lot to unpack and grapple with! I’m thinking of the scathing Rolling Stones article on the UVA frat scene that ended up having been fabricated by its author, and now this film, which similarly jack-knifed into weird and adjacent areas, too? The movie is only worth watching in the sense that it led to so many questions about how and why it came to be. (Like, was the trailer produced by an entirely different crew? How did the director manage to shepherd this strange film through to the end?)
Second — spoiler alerts! — I’m mourning the end of “Succession.” It needed to end — we’d traveled so many times around the sun watching the siblings rise and fall and scramble all over one another that I was beginning to forget who’d done what to whom, and was finding the siblings interchangeable, like a string of balloons being inflated, deflated, inflated, deflated depending on the episode. “OK, Roman’s showing strength and power and Kendall looks weak. Now Roman’s crying at the funeral and Kendall looks strong. Now Shiv is looking strong aligning herself with Matteson. Now she’s looking weak because he went behind her back, and the other brothers look strong.” It felt like the characters had lost their individuality and were becoming pawns of the script, or perhaps their merging into one another was an intentional effect: their moralities had been so eroded by the nastiness of prior episodes that they seemed like featureless nubs, only distinguishable by their mode of conversation and loose references to their personal lives. Without the gravitas of Logan Roy’s character, their machinations felt as pointless and petty as Connor’s political ambitions — the narrative intent, of course, but it made the show feel as though it was starting to run on helium. He was the ballast we needed! I applaud the producers for ending it while still in the aftershock of Roy’s death. I thoroughly enjoyed the final episode — especially the part where we see the siblings being true siblings in the kitchen at their mom’s spectacular island home. What do we think the “there, there” was with the ending sequence? A reification of the characters’ lust for power? The siblings had already backstabbed one another enough times that it came as no surprise that Shiv would abandon her brother at the last minute. And her decision to stick with Tom in order to stay close to power in spite of her own personal wellbeing felt on-track. In that sense, thematically, it felt like a slow bludgeon that played out over multiple seasons without much variation on the theme. I’ve been reflecting on why Tom would win in the end. Was it because the children were so embroiled in their own finger-pointing and one-up-man-ship that they had forgotten to keep an eye on the circle just outside themselves? Was it somehow suggesting that an outsider — born without the privilege and silver spoons — would be that much more conniving? Would “want it” that much more, would travel to deeper and more clandestine depths to make it happen? Open to theories! All in, such an enjoyable show, with wildly witty repartee, cleverly crafted Shakespearean family drama, eye-popping backdrops, and fantastic acting. I am going to miss this show dearly. In absentia, enjoying all of the clever memes and videos people have been producing in its aftermath. I laughed out loud at this one on TikTok!
Finally, we re-watched “The Great Outdoors” this week — it’s becoming our new kick-off-to-summer tradition. It’s not as good as “Uncle Buck” or “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles” (the other two films starring John Candy and directed by John Hughes), but I adore it. Candy is so lovable in his role as the down-to-earth arbiter of traditional Midwest family values. It’s interesting, the way these movies seem to pit the slick, uppity, rudder-less city folk against the unfussy but earnest and heartfelt uncles and brothers who stayed closer to their roots. In all of these films, Hughes is cautioning us against getting too wrapped up in the material world. The message rings as true now as it did in the 80s. Worth a watch, and the aesthetic is peak nostalgia kitsch: wood-paneled Wagoneers, log cabins with green trim, fly swatters.
Did you watch anything interesting this week?
A few other highlights from the week…
I made my Grandma Carm’s Ranch Crackers (recipe here) with my son. My grandmother and my mother used to mix up enormous batches of these and we’d steal them by the handful as children. I associate them with slow afternoons during which my mother and grandmother would play cards while we’d splash in the inflatable pool in my grandparents’ backyard. They’re also harbingers of party: my mother only made these when we were having guests over, and so they always make me feel celebratory. I prepared this batch to serve the adult guests at my son’s birthday party, and watching my son mix in the seasonings was yet another reminder of the way in which our lives become mosaics of the people we love. Such a small thing, but it felt good to remember my grandmother in this very direct way. Also, a little commotion for my son’s milk mustache? Oh, darlin, don’t you ever grow up…
Above, I’m blending in with the Mrs. Alice tablecloth in my Marea dress. Also, if you don’t have one, you really need one of these ginormous Vollrath mixing bowls (8 quart size). Truly one of our favorite kitchen tools. Great for tossing salads, marinating meats, whipping up big batches of snack mix, etc.
This week was a big one for my boy. He celebrated his fourth birthday and “graduated” from Montessori. Sure, why not layer in a couple of enormous milestones for this emotional mama to digest? I’ve written about this before, but these reversible “first day / last day” flags are clutch. I’ve seen other sets that designate the school year / class, but these can be used for all years/grades, and the front says “First Day” and the back says “Last Day.” Nice to only have to purchase one.
My son’s two favorite gifts were his Bruder crane truck and his Brio crane. He’d asked for a “construction site” for his birthday, so we came at it from a few angles. He loves all of the moving/functioning parts on these toys — doors that open, cranes that reel in and out, hidden chambers to stow gear, etc. He also has Bruder’s skid steer, Mack truck, and Cat excavator.
On the dining front, Mr. Magpie made Publican Chicken this week — you really must try this chicken if you haven’t. It’s the end-all, be-all for grilled chicken. So flavorful and moist. We have a hard time making chicken any other way during the summer! We first discovered this dish at the restaurant, Publican, in Chicago, and were thrilled when we were able to recreate at home. In true Midwest style, it’s served with garlic-laced sausage and potatoes. Absolutely delicious. Mr. Magpie complemented it with grilled asparagus dressed with calabrian chile. If you have questions about food/grilling, email me at email@example.com — I’m going to try to put together a “Ask Mr. Magpie” post with him answering them. He’s so knowledgable on all things food, grilling, gardening, cooking. I received a few questions about what grill he uses, and below, you can see his exact Weber kettle. I know he has preferences on wood chips and all that stuff so feel free to send a note if you want his input!
I also mixed us up some Hemingway daiquiris this week. If you can find Flor de Cana Extra Seco White rum, it will make the best daiq you’ve ever tasted. It has this great, light, fruity flavor to it that changes the game. We’re drinking out of my favorite coupes and you can see our mini hi-soft cutting board above. I wrote about the virtues of this cutting surface in this post, but it really is excellent and strangely pleasant to cut on. Also above: my new little woven cocktail napkin holder. This is a small snap of our bar area. We’ve been talking on and off about one day redoing this area so that it has an ice maker and a mini fridge, too. (It currently has a sink and lots of storage for glassware, liquor, etc.) I think the previous owners must have used it more for gardening purposes, as it’s off the mud room, and right by the side entrance to our home, and they were enormously talented gardeners. I could imagine the station having been useful for cut flowers and cleaning out pots and that sort of thing. We’re grateful just to have the nook, of course, but are always scheming about different home improvement possibilities.
On the fashion front, I wore both of my new Hill House dresses over Memorial Day — this little cover-up to the pool and this striped maxi to a BBQ. The latter is ultra-flattering! It creates one long, lean line. J’adore. The pool tote below is Paravel, which I found on sale (!) here for 30% off! I’ve never seen it so heavily discounted; it’s been around for multiple seasons now. But if you want it monogrammed, you need to go straight to the source.
This embroidered Zara dress also arrived this week and it is a delight — super loose-fitting, soft, easy to throw on. One Magpie asked whether it was from Julia Amory when I share on Instagram. It really does have that vibe! I love this one and this one from her collection.
Hope you’re having a great weekend!
P.P.S. A tiny mercy.
P.P.P.S. So many great Zara finds out right now.