The Crush Letter No 90: DEVOUR

. 11 min read

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

Hello Crush,

Lisa Ellex and I are back with another round of things you might consider doing with December’s DEVOUR. It is one of my very favorite things to do — review my favorite things to share with you.

I'm writing from Paris. Bonjour!

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.   +Social I Loved This Week. By Dish Stanley This personal masturbation booth looks handy.   +Our Song of the Week The wrong turns we made right.

DEVOUR {things to do, watch, see & have

In our monthly DEVOUR column, we share all the things we think you should eat up.

Read.  A British Spy Novel Series That’s A Real Corker Too. Mick Herron’s Slough House Series is a tart and funny look at the MI5 through a cloudy lens. The “slow horses” of the title refer to the British MI5 Agents who are screw-ups. They’ve either done something wrong or pissed off the wrong person. Their punishment? Getting kicked out of the Regent Park headquarters and into a dank building on the wrong side of town where the offices are in a fourth-floor walk-up and the work is administrative drudgery, or worse. They are former winners who made it all the way to MI5, only to end up as players in a misfit squad. Each of them is coping with their downgraded status in his or her own eccentric way.

Herron is a next-generation British spy novelist in the vein of John Le Carre and Graham Greene. Some major dudes think he may be the best spy novelist of his generation, such as Jill Lepore writing for The New Yorker. He is, she posits, “irrefutably the funniest.” I just finished Slow Horses, the first in his “Slough House” thrillers, which I picked up after watching the Slow Horses series on Apple TV last spring. Like the series, after a thrilling start, you have to stay with the novel just a little bit before you get hooked. But then you get entirely hooked. Herron worked an administrative job by day and wrote by night for years before he got a breakthrough. He famously says in many interviews that “people say to write what you know, so I wrote about people who are failures.”

Season 2 of Slow Horses just became available on Apple+! Re-sharing my previously published thoughts after watching the addictively enigmatic Season 1.

Watch the Trailer Here

Watch. Slow Horses Is A British MI5 Spy Series of a Different Sort. (Apple TV+)  Gary Oldman plays Jackson Lamb, a cynical, washed-up former master spy who manages a team of MI5 flunkies in this jaded twist on the British spy thriller. Based on a series of books by British novelist Mick Herron (called by many the finest spy writer since le Carre), it focuses on the underbelly and inner workings (or non-workings as the case may be) of MI5 and--most specifically--the betrayals within the agency as they perform their singular versions of the power grabs we associate more with corporate politics. Oldman's performance as a failed spy is all the richer for having decades earlier played Smiley in the movie adaptation of le Carre's Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. The cast also includes many other outstanding performances, including Kristin Scott Thomas as MI5's head of operations (gunning for the top job). Pro tips: two things you absolutely must do: (i) put subtitles on (some of the accents are indecipherable), and (ii) get to the end of the second episode before making a thumbs up/down call. The first 1 1/2 episodes start slowly (after an initial thrilling chase scene), but boy, I was hooked by the third episode.

See. Physician, heal thyself? Stutz. (Netflix) In this candid conversation with his real-life psychiatrist, Dr. Phil Stutz, actor Jonah Hill shares his own life struggles and the methodology that makes Stutz’s treatment a success. Hill has cleverly directed this riveting documentary, allowing us to witness Stutz guide him through his mental health journey while the practitioner unearths revelations concerning his own past. If you’re a fan of Freud or filmmaking, you won’t want to miss this. For more about Dr. Stutz, visit here

See.  This modern-day version of the 70s/80s series, The Love Boat, The White Lotus. (HBO Max and HULU) The show centers around a chain of luxury resorts that focuses on a new location with each TV season. With season one set in Hawaii and season two set in Sicily, the mega-talented cast includes Jennifer Coolidge, F. Murray Abraham, Michael Imperioli, and some truly fabulous Italian actors. Whether you’re a travel nut or just in need of some yummy brain candy, The White Lotus is a fun way to get lost for a while. Season 2 is both an entertaining and intriguing study of relationships – through the lens of a whodunnit – I'm on the edge of my seat waiting for its conclusion. Watch the trailer here.

See. It’s time to revisit this 1996 gem, Big Night. (Amazon Prime) Featuring a delicious cast that includes Tony Shalhoub, Stanley Tucci, Isabella Rossellini, and the music of the one-and-only Louis Prima. After the movie, you’ll want to hit the kitchen to attempt the famous Timpano featured in the film. Here’s the secret recipe. Watch the trailer here.

Read. Whether you’re giving or receiving, here are some holiday picks for what to read right now:

Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee by Jerry Seinfeld. If you know anyone who is a fan of the much-loved Seinfeld streaming success of the same name, then this coffee table book is the perfect gift. The little show that began as a web series is now celebrating its 10th year and this book is a beautifully photographed chronicle of its journey. Buckle your seatbelts and take in the cars, the guests, the coffee, the hilarity, and the behind-the-scenes moments that keep viewers coming back for more.

Two Old Broads: Stuff You Need To Know That You Didn’t Know You Needed To Know. by Dr. M.E. Hecht and Whoopi Goldberg
When 93-year-old surgeon and aging expert, Dr. M.E. Hecht conferred with Whoopi Goldberg on the realities of aging, the result was a how-to on the later-in-life issues we weren’t quite expecting – all while maintaining your sense of humor.

The Amazing Baby Name Book: A (Possibly) Helpful and Slightly Amusing Guide from A-Z by Amy Ephron and her daughters Maya Wapnick and Anna Ephron Harari. With post-pandemic babies popping out all over, what better time for this fun book of lists with care and humor (well, what else would you expect from the Ephrons?), the authors collected names you haven’t heard around the playground and included their origins and other little-known facts. Don’t have any friends expecting? People are using this book to name their pets!

Jacque Pepin Art of the Chicken: A Master Chef’s Paintings, Stories, and Recipes of the Humble Bird Why did the chicken cross the road? Why, to get to Jacque Pepin, of course! In this recent New York Times bestseller, Pepin shares with us his “two passions: cooking and painting.” Indeed, this book is brimming with Pepin’s passion, from his dozens of delightful chicken renderings in all colors, shapes, and sizes to his favorite chicken and egg recipes. Find out why Pepin believes, “To cook for someone is the greatest expression of love.”

Something for the kids:

Mr. Pen Gween by Lisa Ellex. When she’s not writing about midlife sex and other salacious stories, our own resident writer, Lisa Ellex is writing children’s books. In this first in her series about an angsty little penguin, kids get some guidance on planning and organization. Geared toward ages 2 to 7, it’ll make the lives of little ones (and their grown-ups) a bit more stress-free. Be on the lookout for book two, Mr. Pen Gween and Jelly Bean, early in 2023.

Who Is (Who Was), The New York Times best-selling series, is a series of illustrated biographies for young readers featuring historical figures, artists, scientists, and world leaders. The 12-book set features Albert Einstein (but that hair!), King Tut (and those mummy curses!) Sacagawea, Claude Monet, Walt Disney, Amelia Earhart, Neil Armstrong, Marco Polo, William Shakespeare, Abraham Lincoln, Mark Twain, and Ronald Reagan. Also available in 10-book sets, these collections are a fountain of knowledge for curious kids as well as a great conversation starter between youth and their elders.

And here are some sounds for a swingin’ season:

Listen. A must for any audiophile or Ella fan, Jukebox Ella: The Complete Verve Singles (Vol. 1) LP Box Set. This Ella Fitzgerald box set of 3 LPs contains every single that Fitzgerald recorded for Verve Records between 1956 and 1965. There are even some Christmas tunes, delivered in the inimitable Ella style. Purchase here

Listen. Verve Records does it again with the release of this collection of Louis Armstrong Christmas songs, Louis Wishes You A Cool Yule. (Available in Red LP, CD, or digital album). Each one of these tracks – featuring Louis and other artists – is a true gem but the bonus here is the previously unheard recording of Louis reading “A Visit From St. Nicholas” with N’orleans pianist Sullivan Fortner (born 15 years after Armstrong’s passing) providing the music bed for Louie’s narration. Listen to it with the kids, but we know you’ll be diggin’ it, too! Listen here

Listen. One of the most versatile singer/songwriters to come along in some time, Nicole Zuraitis. Zuraitis has hit the New York jazz scene at Dizzy’s Jazz Club, Lincoln Center, Birdland (with the Birdland Big Band), and the mecca of New York high society, The Carlyle. Whether in small ensembles, delivering powerhouse performances with the Dan Pugach Nonet, playing more intimate gigs of her original compositions with just voice and keyboard, or crossing over to pop, rock, contemporary, American songbook, and the original pieces performed by her vocal trio, SONICA, Zuraitis kicks ass. Check out this holiday single release of the standard, I’ve Got My Love To Keep Me Warm. Listen here

Listen. Christmas with ChampianPianist-Vocalist. Champian Fulton’s 2017 release, was featured as a holiday pick by Downbeat Magazine, and rightfully so. Here, Fulton plays and sings a program of her favorites, including the Los Panchos & Eydie Gormé hit, Gracias a Dios, a selection inspired by her Mexican heritage, and her original song Merry, Merry Christmas, written as a gift to her fans. Personnel includes Jazz royalty David Williams on bass, Fukushi Tainaka on drums, and features Clark Terry protegé (and Champian's father), Stephen Fulton, on trumpet and flugelhorn giving a stunning rendition of everyone’s favorite, Christmas Time Is Here. Purchase here

Watch. This Jane Austen Film Adaptation Is A Sleeper. Love & Friendship (Prime Video) was a critic’s fave when it came out in 2016, but never really hit the big time. Directed by Whit Stillman, it is based on one of Jane Austen’s lesser-known novellas Lady Susan in which the Lady of the title takes to her in-law’s estate to do what many Austen characters do so convincingly: romantic meddling.

I enjoyed it when it was released but recently re-watched it after reading this appreciation of it written by Guy Lodge for the Guardian. “Love & Friendship … is a delicious rarity: an Austen interpretation taken on by an established, distinctive comic film-maker, bent to his cockeyed sensibility even as it honors the zesty, cutting hilarity of the original text,” writes Lodge. If you found all the other Austen adaptations entertaining and beautiful, but not quite arch enough, you’ll love this one.

Read. A series of useful articles. I can’t say it any better than that. I have recently come across a series of articles that provide useful information for living day-to-day life with others. I’ve gathered them here for you:

How To Get Through To A Defensive Person
Conflict: Your Marriage’s New Best Friend?
The Biggest Wastes Of Time We Regret When We Get Older
How Not to Care When People Don’t Like You

Social I Loved This Week.

David Shrigley's wry art on insta.

Eat already! from Peaceful Barb.

Sent to Dish (but as of yet unattributed). Could be useful if you are stuck at an airport?

Song of the Week

Too Shall Last by Anderson East

Anderson East's 2018 album Encore, it's a hopeful, joyful song about love working out.

This Too Shall Last

Hope you're finding some peace & joy during a hectic month.

Dish Stanley XO,

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

+ What ‘Dead to Me’ Taught Me About Family. By Daisy Foster The recent premiere of the series finale made me think—and feel—a lot about how friends become a part of our hearts.

+ I Am My Own Family. By Evangeline Villa In a world where being alone is shunned upon—what if I’m truly all I ever needed?

+ La Mia Famiglia. By Lisa Ellex Are dogs some of our most loyal family members? For some of us—yes.

+ Love/Sex/Moon Magick: A Series from PrimeCrush’s Resident Wiccan Our resident witch contemplates creating a family wherever you are.

+DEVOUR {things to do, watch, see & have} In our monthly DEVOUR column we share all the things we think you should eat up.  Here are some snacks from the last few months, but to get all of us, subscribe.


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