The Crush Letter No 71: DEVOUR

. 18 min read

I'm Dish and I write a weekly newsletter about friendship, love, sex and self-care in midlife.  Because midlife is so much cooler than they said it would be.  Hell yes, sign me up for the Dish.

Hello Crush,

If you're living in one of the 28 states that has issued a heatwave warning, as I am, you're in some luck. It's our monthly DEVOUR Letter, so draw the shades down low & dark (like we like it here in CRUSHville) and enjoy watching or reading one of our recommendations below. There's so much good stuff out right now, and Lisa Ellex, co-editor of DEVOUR, and I have picked out the most interesting things for you to do in a cool, dark place.

One thing on the list that you might skim over (as I did when the show was sent to me initially) is How to Build A Sex Room on Netflix. So I'm calling it out up here. Read my short take in DEVOUR below, but to seduce you into it here's my bottom-line (so to speak):  "The show is ultimately about intimacy — our need for it, the importance of staying open-minded and adventurous about it, how playfulness, vulnerability, developing trust and finding boundaries with a partner is really about increasing our connection to them – and most importantly, that making intimacy a priority is a powerful way to nurture ourselves and our relationship." Whether or not you need the host's practical tips on building a sex room, the show offers up an inspiration on attitude, commitment and priorities. And this is something I wish we'd all take to heart: true closeness - whether it is with friends, lovers or spouses – is a commitment, and it needs to be nurtured.

PS: What's not on the DEVOUR list? Netflix's adaptation of Jane Austen's Persuasion starring Dakota Johnson as Anne Elliott, the most composed and mature of Austen's lead heroines. This Anne Elliott is greatly altered and almost unrecognizable: sarcastic, harsh, less kind, hardened.

Enjoy!

PS: If you enjoy this Letter please, please, please forward it to somebody you love! (Or anybody, really, even somebody you really don't like – if you think they'll enjoy it.) Thank you!


If you're new here (welcome!), I'm Dish, the Master of Ceremonies. For more about me and why we're here go here.


In This Letter.   +DEVOUR.  What to do, read, watch, listen to & know about this week.     +On Friendship: Three things you’ll learn from Reading A.K.A. Darla’s The Friendship Files   No girl ever forgets her first gay husband, sometimes secrets save a friendship & more.   +Amplify! Sex With Emily Podcast: {No.8} a process of sustaining arousal so it’s easier for your partner to get you revved up    +Our Song of the Week  You know that no one's making no commitments / to anybody but themselves


DEVOUR {things to do, read, see & have}

Watch. Ethan Hawke's Documentary Series on Joanne Woodward and Paul Newman's Long-term Love. The Last Movie Stars (HBO Max),  just released this past Thursday, is an unsparing and original dive into the long and tenacious marriage between Woodward and Newman, which began while Newman was already married. Among the many revelations, we learn that Newman was emotionally sealed off from everyone - even his immediate family - for most of his life, and that the apparently relaxed and open Newman we saw was in part owing to Woodward. "Joanne gave birth to a sexual being," he says. When they met Woodward was the bigger star and critically acclaimed actress, but over time their relative star power shifted and by the end Woodward couldn't get roles (unless they were attached to Newman projects). There is so much more in this six-hour series, and while it would be easy to compartmentalize it as another lionization of a celebrated Hollywood love story, but that would be an oversight. This is an honest look at a long marriage and what it takes, and it is well-crafted, tender, true and revelatory.

The trailer is a MUST WATCH to understand Ethan Hawke's approach and obstacles to make it.

Watch. There Is A Reason Everybody Is Telling You to Watch This Breakout Show of the Summer. The Bear (FX/hulu) follows a James Beard-winning chef who leaves the haute restaurant scene of New York City to return to working class Chicago to run his late brother's sandwich shop. In the opening scene we see the lead character 'Carmy,' played brilliantly by Jeremy Allen White, releasing a large, menacing bear out of its cage even though the bear appears to be ferocious and dead-aimed at Carmy. Why? Why would someone do something so clearly self-destructive? What demon is Carmy battling? It's a question we spend some time intensely considering, to our benefit. The Bear is many things: a story of guilt and grief, a psychological drama, a family saga, a homecoming story, a heartbreaking dark comedy, a foodie show for those of us still grieving Bourdain, a contest of cultures (between toxic bro and evolved masculine), a love letter to working class Chicago. It moves at a gripping, sometimes exhausting, compulsive pace with lots of yelling and insults, which is a backdrop that serves many of its themes as well as one of its most insistent story lines – the restaurant is in debt and every single day is a fight to keep the lights on. The propulsive cadence could feel like it's too much, but it isn't because The Bear is also emotionally nuanced, touching and the writing is sophisticated.

And if all that isn't enough, appreciate it for its soundtrack. One of the best things I've read about The Bear is this Uproxx piece Inside the Delightful Dad Rock Soundtrack of 'The Bear' by Steve Hyden. He writes about the power of the "resolutely unhip" soundtrack, which includes Genesis, Pearl Jam, John Cougar Mellenkamp, Counting Crows, Radiohead. "If you watch enough prestige TV ... you no doubt understand what these shows are supposed to sound like. They almost always cater to the sensibilities of of the elite upper-class viewers." The show's "normy" music track is not just refreshing, its subversive. The fact that we recognize - more than recognize, have powerful emotional relationships – with the music adds to the show's impact. Hyden interviews two of the show's lead producers as they share why each song was selected. If you love the show, you'll really appreciate this fresh take on its music. (Below.)

Inside The Delightful Dad Rock Soundtrack Of ’The Bear’
A conversation with two of the creative minds behind the breakout hit TV show, covering Wilco, Pearl Jam, Counting Crows, and other tunes.

Watch the trailer for The Bear below.

Watch. A Small Delight About A Sixty-Something's Sexual Awakening. In Good Luck to You, Leo Grande (hulu), Emma Thompson plays a retired school teacher in her 60's who steps outside her narrow and scripted life to hire a sex worker, Leo, played by Daryl McCormack. It's a much smaller, indie film than the big budget movie Pretty Woman, but in short Leo is a modern, updated and more intellectual version of Vivian Ward (the role played by Julia Roberts) with a heart of gold who educates Nancy, the retired teacher about not just sex, but life (in an ironic, thought-provoking reversal of roles). It unrolls like a play set on a small stage (mostly, the hotel room where the two have three meetings), and like it or not (and sometimes you do and sometimes you don't) the feeling you have as you watch it is that you are sitting right there in the room with them. Which means that you, like them (or either one of them, depending), feel intensely awkward and uncomfortable at times, also upset, annoyed, seduced, relaxed and titillated and relieved. Ultimately, you also feel satiated, but not in a way you thought you would. It is worth watching for many reasons - very fine acting and its revelatory depiction of sex work, as well as its thoughtful look at a subject that does not get considered much, and not at this level of scrutiny - the sexual fulfillment of women of a certain age.

As I wrote last week about Leo Grande I have watched it not once but twice, and will be sharing more thoughts on the movie soon in an upcoming CRUSH Letter. But I have one prediction now, which is that I expect the demand for sex workers will sky rocket, especially among women over 50. Go watch it (on Hulu) so we won't have to worry about Spoiler Alerts ...

Watch. An Eye-Opening Series from Michael Pollan That Will Make You Reconsider Psychedelics as A Self-Care Tool. How to Change Your Mind (Netflix),  is Pollan's television series that builds on his book from 2018 of the same subject. It is on the history and science (and history of the science of) psychedelics. It offers a powerful argument as to why new science shows that using psychedelics can raise our consciousness and help manage depression, anxiety, compulsiveness, fear and addiction. It can also give you a powerful feeling of transcendance that allows you to approach everything with an elevated mindset. Psychedelics can be useful, we learn, for breaking bad habits, setting priorties and spiritual exploration. At this stage I have had enough friends who have reported great relief from using psychedelics in a controlled, safe and responsible way to treat their depression, compulsive behaviors and ptsd, so I was already "psychedelic curious." But the series was utterly convincing.

"To give your ego a rest can be an enormous blessing."

If you want a stronger sense of whether the series is worth your time, you can get a glimpse into it by listening to Scott Galloway's The Prof G Pod podcast episode 179. It is a short, intense, interesting and very smart introduction to psychedelics. (The Pollan conversation starts at about 15:15)

"Psychedelics can break those patterns, they can soften the voice of the punishing ego, and give people a chance to give up destructive narratives, and perhaps write some new ones," Pollan on Prof G.

Watch. You Don't Think You Need to Know This, But You Do. How to Build a Sex Room (Netflix) is a series about sex, love, intimacy and marriage constructed as a home-makeover show. The show’s host Melanie Rose is a British interior designer who creates “sacred rooms” (eg, sex rooms) for a diverse range of clients (bankers, teachers, queer couples, a recently divorced 50-something). In order to create the spaces that are just right for her clients, Rose does what any good designer would do, she asks about how they are going to use it which, in Rose’s case, means getting them to talk about their sex lives. “Tell me about your intimacies. What do you think is missing?” In addition to the usual props a designer brings, like a tape measure, Rose carries a wide range of sex toys. She demonstrated how to use a flogger in the first episode. The show is fun and sex-positive and age-inclusive, but of course it is much more than that. It is ultimately about intimacy — our need for it, how to stay open-minded and adventurous about it, that playfulness, vulnerability, developing trust and finding boundaries with a partner is really about increasing our connection to them – and most importantly, that making intimacy a priority is a powerful way to nurture ourselves and our relationship. For Rose and her clients' that means building a uniquely outfitted space, but for the rest of us (like those of us living in small urban spaces) maybe the point is just setting aside a sacred time and then finding a soft (or hard) tuft to do it on.

Watch the trailer here.

Read. “Dear Dick…” If you’ve seen one, you’ve seen ‘em all. Ever wonder how to
properly respond to all those pesky dick pics? Well, a clever Brit sister has done the
work for you. When Sarah-Louise Jordan became one of many recipients of an
anonymous dick pic, she composed and sent the following “Dear Dick” letter (feel free to archive this for your future needs). For an extra giggle, watch everyone’s favorite Queen, Olivia Coleman, deliver a reading of the letter at a 2020 International Women’s Day celebration  (cue at 38:18).

Read. Want a Tour of Human Emotions? Brene Brown’s Atlas of the Heart. Brene Brown became famous for popularizing the concept (that so many have picked up on) that vulnerability brings you closer to others. I remember listening to her TED Talk The Power of Vulnerability in 2011.

Brown's Atlas of the Heart came out a decade later, in 2021. Having heard so much from her on the Tim Ferris podcast (and everywhere) I OD'd on Brown and initially passed over it. But CRUSH Reader "Steph" sent me a note about all the useful information in Atlas, and I finally dove in. Brown has mapped out 87 different emotions and experiences that are of part of being human. Identifying and naming these gives us the ability to recognize in very pointed, practical ways what we’ve gone through as a step toward processing, and moving through and beyond.

One of the things Steph (our CRUSH Reader) pointed out was Brown picking up the Buddhist concept of “near enemies” and “far enemies.” “‘Near enemy’ … refer(s) to a state of mind that appears similar to the desired state—hence it is near— but actually undermines it, which is why it’s an enemy … eg, pity is the near enemy of compassion; cruelty might be the far enemy of compassion.

Steph also sent me this snapshot from the book as an example of how it can often help immensely to gain a more nuanced and particular understanding of your feelings behind certain emotional reactions ... {Thanks so much Steph!}

Read. ‘You’re the Object Of My Desire, The #1 Earthly Reason For My Existence’. Who Wrote The Most Romantic Letter Of All Time? What to get the woman who has everything? The most romantic love letter of all time, of course! On the occasion of June Carter’s 64th birthday, husband Johnny Cash composed what some consider to be the most romantic love letter of all time. Read it and weep. When you’re done reading, you can watch the sparks fly between Mrs. Cash and The Man in Black in this live performance of “Help Me Make It Through The Night.”

Watch. Mormon No More (hulu). What happens in Utah stays in Utah? What to do when you’re in the midst of creating the perfect Mormon family and you fall in love with your new Latter-day Saints friend? To find the answer, watch Mormon No More, Hulu’s four episode docu-series that follows Mormon/ex-Mormon/LGBTQ+ life and a variety of people who actually left the church. Premiered June 24.

Watch. A Love Not Meant For Me (The Moth). If this doesn’t bring you to tears, please check your pulse. For over 25 years, The Moth has celebrated the human experience through live storytelling. They’ve brought us some brilliant moments but this one from back in 2019 is undoubtedly among their most moving pieces. Here, storyteller Aryana Rose offers “A Love Not Meant For Me,” her stunning account of her May-December romance and its stomach-punch finale.

Read. Katalog, a monumental and immersive exhibit of Iweins personal belongings that can be experienced at the Rencontres d'Arles photo festival until Sep. 25, 2022.Are you lonesome tonight? When it’s time to dull the ache of a breakup, we all have our drug of choice. Some of us watch old movies, while some of us dramatically sing along with Amy Winehouse. But when Belgian photographer Barbara Iweins found herself alone and in the throes of divorce, she photographed every single item – 12,795, to be exact – in her home. The result was truly stunning! Can’t get to France? An accompanying book published by Delpire & Co is available for purchase here

KATALOG

See. Marcel the Shell with Shoes On. Put on your trainers and run to see Youtube sensation, Marcel (voiced by Jenny Slate) but lucky for us he’s now on the big screen, this time to find his long-lost family. With the encouragement of his
Grandma Connie (deliciously played by Isabella Rossellini) search leads to a variety of experiences, most notably an interview on 60 Minutes with Leslie Stahl. Created by Jenny Slate and Dean Fleischer-Camp (they are also the writers along with Nick Paley), this charming documentary-style feature (directed by Fleischer Camp) is what the world needs right now. Watch here

Read. Queer Ducks (And Other Animals): The Natural World of Animal Sexuality. Birds Do It, Bees Do It… But do they have orgies? In his young adult book, author Eliot Schrefer examines the naturally non-binary sexual behavior of several animal species, including the notoriously promiscuous bonobos who use sex as a way to avoid conflict and smooth over feelings after a conflict (sound familiar?). The book also includes interviews with scientists who have studied queer behavior in animals. Says Schrefer, “We can no longer argue that humans are alone in their queerness or LGBTQ identities.” Bonus: You can listen to Schrefer’s interview with NPR’s Sacha Pfeiffer here.

More Fire Over Forty

Who: Diane Warren
What: Songwriter/Hitmaker extraordinaire, musician, record producer
Why: Living proof that really hard work really pays off
Content: Industry news, audio clips of her new releases, personal photos, and videos.

If she only ever wrote “I Don’t Wanna Miss A Thing” for Aerosmith, she’d be highly
accomplished, but Diane Warren has written more than 720 songs of which nine were number one hits (including “Un-break My Heart” for Toni Braxton and “Because You Loved Me” for Celine Dion) and 32 were in the top ten (including “If I Could Turn Back Time” for Cher and “How Do I Live” for LeAnn Rimes). Considered our most prolific contemporary songwriter, Warren is the first songwriter in the history of Billboard magazine to have seven hits – all by different artists – on the singles chart at the same time. An inductee in the Songwriters Hall of Fame, she’s been honored with a Grammy Award, an Emmy Award, two Golden Globe Awards, and three consecutive Billboard Music Awards for Songwriter of the Year. After being nominated for thirteen Academy Awards but never taking one home, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences awarded her with an honorary Oscar in November 2021. Needless to say, there’s a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame with her name on it.

On Friendship.

Three Things You'll Learn from Reading A.K.A. Darla's The Friendship Files

Got a friendship story?  I'd love to hear it.  Reach out to me at aka@primecrush.com and your story could be shared here.  Cheers, A.K.A.

  1. The richness of life comes from having real, true friends. The ones who will go through the good, the bad and the ugly with you. And by ugly, we’re talking matching bff tattoos at a group discount. Ouch.
  2. No girl ever forgets her first gay husband. And decades later, he may talk you into adventures you didn’t know you needed but you really actually did (possibly even in queer-friendly nudist parks?).
  3. Sometimes the best thing you can do for your friend is to keep a secret from them. There are truths that sometimes your friend can't listen to, won’t believe and sharing will have only one outcome - to forever diminish your friendship.

To read all of the articles we’ve published in The Crush Letter from The Friendship Files series slap this link.

AMPLIFY!  The 12 Sex With Emily Podcast Episodes CRUSH Readers Can't Miss.  By Dish Stanley

This series highlights the best episodes from our favorite podcasts. One of them is Sex With Emily hosted by Sex Expert Dr. Emily Morse.  Every one is worth a serious listen, but I have picked out the {12} invaluable episodes that CRUSH Readers who want to be good in bed really.can't.miss.

Amplify! Sex With Emily Podcast: {No.8}  Married Sex, But Better

Episode Date: November 15, 2016 (61 Minutes)

Having good sex in long-term relationships isn’t easy, and no one understands this better than Pam Costa, whose marriage nearly ended due to her and her husband’s different sexual desire levels. She went through a phenomenon that countless other women had experienced, too. And she has devoted her life to solving it.

Room for Improvement

After the medical community told Pam there was nothing they could do to help, Pam left her blossoming tech career at Apple to search for her own answers.

She always thought that sex was something she did for her husband. She grew up believing that sexual desire was something she shouldn’t have until marriage—and yet, she was surprised when it didn’t magically appear after she got married.

Pam and Emily discuss how to have a sensual awakening in the most literal sense—reconnecting with your senses so that you are more turned on. Pam learned to feel her body again, to notice her fantasies, and “keep her pilot light on”—a process of sustaining arousal so it’s easier for your partner to get you revved up.

Best lines:

22:28, Pam, “The first year of my journey was a lot of internal connection with my sexuality—and it benefitted my husband because I was hornier and more interested in trying things.”

Continue reading here.

Song of the Week

Saint Dominic's Preview By Van Morrison (It's Too Late to Stop Now live version)

Saint Domic's Preview is the title song to Van Morrison's sixth album. Released in 1972 when his hometown of Belfast was a war zone and Van Morrison was safely touring the United States, in an interview Van Morrison shared that while in San Francisco he had picked up a newspaper and read that there was a peace vigil for Belfast at Saint Dominic's church. The song is in a "stream of consciousness" style laden with imagery of Van Morrison's personal life, weaving scenes from his childhood in Ireland with his adult life as a rock star. It's a lovely song.

This live version of Saint Dominic's is featured in episode 2 of The Bear. Below is an excerpt from Steve Hyden's article Inside the Delightful Dad Rock Soundtrack of 'The Bear' in which he gets two of the lead producers of the show to share why specific songs were put into the soundtrack:

Josh Senior (executive producer): I remember you [CS, below] and I were talking about how Van Morrison makes people happy. It's happy music. He's this "cool dad music" guy, that everyone's Dad has played.

Christopher Storer (creator/co-showrunner/executive producer/writer/director): We were like, "Dude, it's that weird time, 4:45, before the dinner rush really kicks in and things are kind of chill. And it's the first time the kitchen's semi-quiet." And we were like, "Someone's probably playing a Van Morrison live album."

J Senior: We did the music for the show on Saturdays ... And we got on this Van Morrison kick. At first, it was "Brown-Eyed Girl" and more well-known cuts. And then Chris found a few live songs, and what was so cool about them was the applause at the end and aslo hearing the crowd inside of the restaurant. It felt like the live performance of that song was the right bridge to get you through the three big emotional beats that happened in that episode.

Listen to it here.

Doing the DEVOUR Letters for you is one of my favorite things! Can you tell? If you enjoyed it please, please, please forward it to somebody you love! (Or anybody, really, even somebody you really don't like – if you think they'll enjoy it.) Thank you!

Dish Stanley XO,
Dish

If you love me as much as I love you (and I really do love you!), then please help me grow by forwarding this {love} Letter to a friend!  And I'd love to have you join us on instagram, facebook & twitter.

You Won't Want to Miss A Thing. Here Are Links to Some Favorites.

+PrimeCrush & Chill: Movies Worth A Re-Watch

+SIGHS & moans. By Ralph Greco

+Love/Sex/Moon Magick: A Series from PrimeCrush’s Resident Wiccan

+DEVOUR {things to do, watch, see & have}










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