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In a dark corner of my house, where a built-in bookshelf curves out of sight and out of reach, near the ceiling, I keep a couple dozen books that I haven’t brought myself to get rid of but don’t want anyone to see. It’s a connoisseur’s collection of the writing of Ayn Rand and her disciples, assembled by teen-age me a long, long time ago. My first girlfriend, an older woman in her early twenties, introduced me to Rand. I had recently immigrated to the United States from Russia, come out, and dropped out of high school, and somehow Rand’s writing spoke to me, made the world appear simple and conquerable. My Rand phase was relatively brief, but, before it ended, I bluffed my way into my first job in publishing by talking Rand with my future boss, a trailblazing gay publisher who was similarly obsessed with her.

According to a new book, this is normal, sort of. In “Mean Girl: Ayn Rand and the Culture of Greed,” Lisa Duggan, a professor of social and cultural analysis at New York University, notes that, although Rand’s brand of sexual liberation didn’t extend to homosexuality, her female heroines refuse to conform to feminine norms, and her male heroes are all in love with one another. I was certainly not the only queer teen-ager who was seduced by these books, which Duggan calls “conversion machines that run on lust.” The therapeutic value of Duggan’s book goes well beyond freeing me from shame for my teen-age lack of literary taste and political discernment; it also provides an explanation for our current cultural and political moment.

Part of American Studies Now, a series of slim volumes published by the University of California Press, Duggan’s book sums up Rand’s life and philosophy in under ninety pages—an affront to a novelist whose magnum opus, “Atlas Shrugged,” came in at more than ten times that length. “How could a thousand-plus-page novel, featuring cartoonish characters moving through a melodramatic plot peppered with long didactic speeches, attract so many readers and so much attention?” Duggan asks. “Clearly, the fantasies animating the novel struck a deep chord.”

Rand’s novels promised to liberate the reader from everything that he had been taught was right and good. She invited her readers to rejoice in cruelty. Her heroes were superior beings certain of their superiority. They claimed their right to triumph by destroying those who were not as smart, creative, productive, ambitious, physically perfect, selfish, and ruthless as they were. Duggan calls the mood of the books “optimistic cruelty.” They are mean, and they have a happy ending—that is, the superior beings are happy in the end. The novels reverse morality. In them, there is no duty to God or one’s fellow-man, only to self. Sex is plentiful, free of consequence, and rough. Money and other good things come to those who take them. Rand’s plots legitimize the worst effects of capitalism, creating what Duggan calls “a moral economy of inequality to infuse her softly pornographic romance fiction with the political eros that would captivate a mass readership.”

Duggan traces Rand’s influence, both direct and indirect, on American politics and culture. Rand’s fiction was a vehicle for her philosophy, known as Objectivism, which consecrated an extreme form of laissez-faire capitalism and what she called “rational egoism,” or the moral and logical duty of following one’s own self-interest. Later in life, Rand promoted Objectivism through nonfiction books, articles, lectures, and courses offered through an institute that she established, called the Foundation for the New Intellectual. She was closely allied with Ludwig von Mises, an economist and historian who helped shape neoliberal thinking. When Rand was actively publishing fiction—from the nineteen-thirties until 1957, when “Atlas Shrugged” came out—hers was a marginal political perspective. Critics panned her novels, which gained their immense popularity gradually, by word of mouth. Mid-century American political culture was dominated by New Deal thinking, which prized everything that Rand despised: the welfare state, empathy, interdependence. By the nineteen-eighties, however, neoliberal thinking had come to dominate politics. The economist Alan Greenspan, for example, was a disciple of Rand’s who brought her philosophy to his role as chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers under President Gerald Ford and, from 1987 until 2006, as the chairman of the Federal Reserve.

Duggan doesn’t blame Rand for neoliberalism, exactly, but she spotlights the Randian spirit of what she calls the “Neoliberal Theater of Cruelty.” This theatre would include players we don’t necessarily describe as neoliberal. Paul Ryan, the former House Speaker, is a Rand evangelist who gave out copies of “Atlas Shrugged” as Christmas presents to his staff and said that she “did the best job of anybody to build a moral case of capitalism.” When the Tea Party came out in force against the Affordable Care Act, in 2009, some of them carried signs reading “Who Is John Galt?,” a reference to “Atlas Shrugged.” Rand’s spirit is prominent in Silicon Valley, too: the billionaires Peter Thiel, Elon Musk, Travis Kalanick, and others have credited Rand with inspiring them. The image of the American tech entrepreneur could have come from one of her novels. If she were alive today, she would probably adopt the word “disruption.”

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The collapse of the subprime mortgage market and the financial crisis of 2007 and 2008 should have brought about the death of neoliberalism by making plain the human cost of deregulation and privatization; instead, writes Duggan, “zombie neoliberalism” is now stalking the land. And, of course, the spirit of Ayn Rand haunts the White House. Many of Donald Trump’s associates, including the Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, and his predecessor, Rex Tillerson, have paid homage to her ideas, and the President himself has praised her novel “The Fountainhead.” (Trump apparently identifies with its architect hero, Howard Roark, who blows up a housing project he has designed for being insufficiently perfect.) Their version of Randism is stripped of all the elements that might account for my inability to throw out those books: the pretense of intellectualism, the militant atheism, and the explicit advocacy of sexual freedom. From all that Rand offered, these men have taken only the worst: the cruelty. They are not even optimistic. They are just plain mean.

The line for which the Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., is best known is also his ugliest: “Three generations of imbeciles are enough.” He was referring to a woman named Carrie Buck, her mother, and her daughter, in the case of Buck v. Bell, from 1927, which held that it was constitutional for a state to forcibly sterilize Carrie, a poor white woman who was deemed “feeble-minded,” for the greater good of promoting social welfare. Summing up the views of the eugenics movement, an avid cause of progressive reformers and intellectual élites at the time, Holmes explained, “It is better for all the world if, instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind.” The opinion was joined by all of the Justices save for one, Pierce Butler, who was the Court’s lone Catholic at the time. Catholics, a population that many Protestants wished would reproduce less, vocally opposed eugenic sterilization as being an unnatural interference with procreation.

Buck v. Bell has never been overturned. In fact, the case was cited approvingly in Roe v. Wade, in 1973, for the proposition that one does not have “an unlimited right to do with one’s body as one pleases,” which meant that a state was constitutionally permitted to put some limits on the right to abortion announced in Roe. For some, the history of states’ forced sterilization of women—and the Supreme Court’s role in permitting it—might seem a sinister precursor to contemporary efforts to control women’s sexual and reproductive freedom by restricting access to abortion. For others, the history of eugenics in America might instead provoke a very different fear: that progressives today, much as in the past, may wish to prevent the unfortunate and disfavored from being born—this time by allowing individuals to abort certain fetuses, and doing so with a discriminatory tilt.

Concurring in an abortion case in May, Justice Clarence Thomas penned a lengthy and lurid polemic, warning that abortion rights are a form of racist eugenics revivalism. The statute at issue, passed in Indiana and signed into law, in 2016, by Mike Pence, the governor at the time, prohibited providers from performing an abortion if they know that it is sought solely because of the fetus’s race, sex, or disability. The Seventh Circuit invalidated the law as unconstitutional, under the Supreme Court’s precedents, because it was an “undue burden” on the abortion right. The Supreme Court declined to take up the case, expressing no view on its merits, and decided instead to wait until other courts of appeals weigh in on a handful of similar laws from other states. Thomas agreed with the Court’s denial of the petition, but he wrote separately to make clear that laws like Indiana’s “promote a State’s compelling interest in preventing abortion from becoming a tool of modern-day eugenics.”

Thomas connected a series of real dots: the “scientific” belief in black inferiority that informed the early-twentieth-century eugenics movement; the eugenicism espoused by Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood; and Sanger’s promotion of birth control in poor black neighborhoods. Some mid-century arguments for legalizing abortion—including those made by Alan Guttmacher, who went on to succeed Sanger as president of Planned Parenthood—made eugenic appeals, saying that abortion was important to controlling the “quality” of the population. Thomas linked those facts to contemporary statistics on abortion. According to the New York Department of Health, in some areas of New York City, “black children are more likely to be aborted than they are to be born alive—and are up to eight times more likely to aborted than white children in the same area.” Thomas even called up the contested assertion, made by the journalist Stephen Dubner and the economist Steven Levitt in their book “Freakonomics,” that Roe v. Wade led, a generation later, to a massive decline in crime, because the availability of legal abortion meant that many people did not have the unwanted babies whose poor circumstances would have led them to grow up to commit crimes. Thomas discerned in all of this an echo of eugenicists’ racially inflected wish for society to be rid of the “unfit.”

While the eugenics and abortion movements may have disquieting intersections, the notion that abortion rights are the direct heir to our history of eugenic sterilization is unfounded. Nobody is advocating forcible abortion, for eugenic or any other reason. A state forcibly sterilizing women from disfavored groups bears little similarity to a state allowing individuals to make decisions to terminate their own pregnancies—even in cases in which they may do so because of the fetus’s race, sex, or disability. The former eliminated a person’s ability to decide whether to reproduce, whereas the latter enables it.

But it is important to understand that the alarm over abortion as eugenics is a decoy of sorts. A deeper, more troubling argument that is now gathering force is tucked more quietly into Thomas’s invocation of legal anti-discrimination norms. If the right to be free of discrimination on the basis of race, sex, or disability can be made relevant to a fetus, then fetuses are figured as entities with anti-discrimination rights—like people. This move imbues the fetus with rights that the pregnant person—and, by extension, the abortion provider—might violate. What is really at stake is an idea of fetal personhood.

It is not coincidental that in the same case, last month, the Court upheld part of the Indiana law, which prohibited abortion providers from disposing of fetal remains as they would surgical waste. Keeping the law in place, the Court reasoned that how fetal remains are disposed of after abortion doesn’t affect access to the abortion itself. But it does transform cultural practices surrounding the treatment of fetuses, through gestures that suggest they are person-like entities, and point at their rights. Indeed, in defending the law, Indiana asserted an interest in the “humane and dignified disposal of human remains.”

Writing in 1990, the constitutional scholar Laurence Tribe called abortion “the clash of absolutes,” referring to the clash between the fetus’s development and the pregnant person’s liberty. On one side, the belief that a fetus is a human being would mean that abortion is a form of murder, which makes the idea that it is a woman’s “choice” callous or nonsensical. On the other side, the belief that the abortion decision belongs in the domain of individual autonomy rests on the assumption that, whatever it is, abortion is not the killing of a human being. Tribe observed that “solutions that split the difference—denying some fetuses life and some women liberty—hardly offer a solution.” But splitting that difference has been our legal solution for half a century. During this time, the interest of neither the fetus nor the pregnant woman has been treated as absolute.

In Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court explicitly refused to “resolve the difficult question of when life begins.” From there, over multiple decisions a scheme emerged of weighing the state’s interest in protecting the fetus against the woman’s limited right to abortion, which lessens through the pregnancy in relation to the fetus’s increasing age. In holding, at different times, that states may not act on the belief that human life begins at conception or plant a “substantial obstacle” in the path of someone who wishes to abort a fetus before “viability”—a line that is constantly shifting along with improvements in medical technology—the Court has discreetly drawn its own limits around the big question it said it wasn’t resolving.

The abortion fight we are gearing up for departs from the realm of uneasy compromise and reëngages the clash of absolutes. For decades, conservatives have sought to overturn Roe. Yet simply getting rid of Roe would leave each state legislature free to choose its own approach to abortion, from liberal abortion access in Northeast states to outright or near-total bans like the “fetal heartbeat” bills recently passed in several states, which ban abortion as early as the sixth week of pregnancy. But, for anti-abortion activists, that goal may no longer be enough. Last month, when the Alabama legislature passed an extreme, near-total ban on abortion, Republican lawmakers explicitly rejected exceptions for victims of rape or incest. If you truly believe that a fetus is a person, then it shouldn’t matter how the fetus was conceived. Its rights as a human being are the same.

When Republican lawmakers consider the fact of rape or incest irrelevant to a decision to terminate a pregnancy, and when Thomas invokes the spectre of discrimination against a fetus, they are making the same point—that every “unborn child” is entitled to the same dignity as you or me. And, if fetuses are thought to have basic rights as persons do, then a future ruling might reach beyond overturning Roe. It might hold that it is unconstitutional for any state to allow abortions at all. This position—the constitutionalization of abortion abolition—would go far beyond what either liberals and conservatives have imagined possible, but it is where the ambitions of fetal personhood now entering the legal mainstream are headed.

A previous version of this piece incorrectly described the abortion legislation in Alabama.

In a 2001 series called “I Sign; I Exist,” the Taiwanese photographer Annie Wang took pictures of her pregnant belly as she signed and dated it, the way an artist autographs a canvas. The experience of pregnancy, she wrote, in a statement about the series, presented a paradox: her body was performing a great feat of creation, but, in doing so, it was beginning to overshadow the creative identity she’d earned through her work as an artist. In the eyes of the world, pregnancy and motherhood can turn a woman into a mere vessel, subsumed by the sacrifices she makes for her children. In these photos, Wang asserts her active role in the making of another life, reframing motherhood as a grand creative endeavor.

A self-portrait of Wang showing off her signed, swollen belly, also from 2001, is the first photo in her ongoing series “Mother as Creator.” She sits on a bed, alone, wearing only underwear and staring defiantly at the camera. The next photo in the series, taken a year later, shows Wang holding her infant son on her lap with one hand, the camera clicker in the other. On the wall behind her hangs the self-portrait from her pregnancy. In the third image, it is the second photo that hangs behind Wang and her son, now a toddler, who stands beside her with his leg in a cast. His injury isn’t explained, but it hints at his growing ability to move through the world on his own, with all the risks and vulnerabilities that entails. The portrait of Wang’s pregnancy is still visible, as a frame within a frame within a frame, receding into the background. In each successive photo, the viewer is looking down a lengthening “time-tunnel,” as Wang calls it. The past provides a visible anchor of the present, and the present is continually recontextualizing the past.

“Mother as Creator” is in some ways reminiscent of Nicholas Nixon’s famous series “The Brown Sisters,” for which he has taken a portrait of his wife and her three sisters every year without fail for more than four decades. Wang’s series, however, has some temporal gaps. The prints from 2007-09 were damaged during a move. In 2012 and 2013, Wang failed to take pictures because her son had just entered junior high and she was busy opening a new art gallery. “The density of maternal time was not intensive as before,” she told me. In 2015-17, her son was going through puberty and didn’t want his picture taken. Whereas Nixon’s series emphasizes the continuity between the photos, poignantly illustrating the imperceptible creep of time, Wang’s portrays time’s fits and starts—the years that slip away, the shock of realizing that your toddler has become a teen-ager, although you couldn’t quite say how or when.

A parent, Wang writes, in an artist’s statement on the series, is ultimately responsible for monitoring the “fluid matrix of experience” in which her child exists and, particularly, for imagining and reimagining her place in that matrix. Each new entry in the series not only records the physical and circumstantial changes in the lives of Wang and her son; it also presents a new vision of their relationship. Some of the photos are quite casual and could almost be snapshots squeezed into a busy day of work and study. Others are elaborately staged, as in the photo from 2011—a time of many transitions in their lives, Wang told me—where the two appear to be flying through a cartoonish rainstorm, looking ahead with trepidation and holding each other for safety. In each image, what we’re really seeing is Wang stepping back from the hectic grind of parenting and applying her artistic eye to the life she’s building with and for her son. As the photos layer on top of one another, we see the interplay of the unavoidable changes that come with age and the work of a parent and an artist who is making sense of those changes.

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The most recent photo in the series, from 2018, is called “Arguing for Freedom.” Wang’s son, now a teen-ager, is shown sitting at his desk, looking a bit sullen. Wang is staring straight into the camera, with an expression not unlike the one she wore in the first photo, her hand outstretched toward the viewer, as though to say “Stop!” On the wall behind them is the previous picture in the series, from 2014, in which mother and son are exactly the same height. Wang’s son is sitting down on the 2018 photo, but presumably he’s taller than her now. This is the first image in the series that shows mother and son posed in opposition to one another. But what lies underneath this apparent new tension is another shift in their relationship: Wang’s son came up with the concept for this shoot, basing it on a scene from his favorite anime. In that sense, the image marks his first steps into his own creative life, and Wang, who created him, now becomes his collaborator, too.

Please, My Wife, She’s Very Online

June 6, 2019 | News | No Comments

It might have begun with “Borat.” In that Sacha Baron Cohen mockumentary, from 2006, which was subtitled “Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan,” the protagonist has a particular way of saying “my wife,” which, after the film’s release, became an inescapable catchphrase. For a while, it lived alongside Austin Powers one-liners about being horny as a ubiquitous cultural artifact that made most people wince. But then, several years ago, it circled the Möbius strip of asinine humor and landed on the amusing side: “my wife” was somehow funnier than ever. It was funny to imagine Bob Dylan saying “my wife,” or Al Pacino. It was funny to imagine saying “my wife” so many times that your actual wife divorced you. It was funny to insert the phrase “Borat voice my wife” into pop songs. There was something about the word “wife” itself. It seemed perfectly suited to a man like Borat, who named his son “Hooeylewis” and didn’t believe that women should be allowed to drive. (I haven’t watched the movie in years, but I suspect that it would not entirely hold up in, as they say, the current climate.)

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Though I’m a straight woman who has—you hate to see it—organized her life around long-term, monogamous partnerships with men, I’ve always held the word “wife” at a distance. So much so that, though I have been with the same man for the past ten years and hope to spend the rest of my life with him, I do not want to be his wife. (Me? I find myself thinking. A wife? In this economy?) The very word is freighted with a history that I would prefer not to join, one in which women have been asked to conceive of their systemic subservience to men as a pleasure and a calling—to make a badge of honor out of a badge of woe, as the Stanford historian Marilyn Yalom suggests in her book “A History of the Wife,” published in 2001. According to the doctrine of coverture, which developed in the Middle Ages but aspects of which persisted into the twentieth century, “the very . . . existence of the woman is suspended during the marriage, or at least is incorporated and consolidated into that of the husband,” as Sir William Blackstone put it, in 1765. Women responded in part by carving out their own forms of soft power, and thus the word “wife” took on additional valences. Structurally speaking, the wife was controlled by her husband, but, culturally, the joke was that she controlled him. In the nineteen-sixties, a survey reported the most common joking terms used by men to refer to their wives. “Battle-axe,” “boss,” and “ball and chain” were all close to the top.

Now, decades after the suffrage movement, and women’s lib, and the sexual revolution, the abstract idea of “the wife” still looms large in our cultural imagination—and sanctimony, loyalty, and resentment orbit her like moons. For a stretch, late in the last century and earlier in this one, literary fiction was overrun with titles that featured wives: there was Audrey Niffenegger’s “The Time Traveler’s Wife,” Diane Ackerman’s “The Zookeeper’s Wife,” Amy Tan’s “The Kitchen God’s Wife,” Paula McLain’s “The Paris Wife,” Téa Obreht’s “The Tiger’s Wife,” Anita Shreve’s “The Pilot’s Wife,” and, of course, “The Wife,” by Meg Wolitzer, which was adapted into an Oscar-nominated movie starring Glenn Close. “The Wife” is about Joan Castleman, the long-suffering helpmeet to Joe Castleman, a famous author who builds his legacy by leeching off Joan’s literary ambitions. In public, Joe lavishes praise on Joan as compensation for erasing her. Wife-veneration tastes a bit like imprisonment, even today.

A lot of young people use familial terms non-literally. Around the same time that “my wife” became funny again, teens started calling their favorite celebrities “Mom.” Hot men became “Daddy.” This way of speaking is indebted to queer communities and the informal family structures that ball culture invented and provides. There is, I think, a low-level longing, in this era of atomization and instability, for that kind of kinship. There is also pleasure, often of an ironic sort, in calling someone by a name that connotes indelible connection. The word “wife,” charged with the frisson of a lime-green mankini, quietly exaggerates our dependence on fixed ideas of one another. It highlights a ludicrous aspect of both heterosexuality and our more general desire to possess those we love. And, once you’ve been around it enough, it is fairly irresistible. Four of my wives are coming to see “The Fate of the Furious” with me, I think, selecting a block of seats at the theatre. At a bar, watching a male friend flirt with a stranger, I observe that my cursed father has found himself a bride. Sometimes, out of contextual necessity, I’ll call my boyfriend my partner; more often, in a Borat voice, I call him “my wife.” (The word “husband” has so far proved too stuffy—and the word “hubby” too gross—to really enter the pop-cultural lexicon. There’s never been a wave of husband-based book titles, for instance, although there is a 2016 novel by Jane Corry called “My Husband’s Wife.”)

The figure of the wife has also become an important trope within a specific, baroque type of Internet-based humor, and this isn’t accidental. Like Borat, the online world is profane and disorderly and constantly agitated; the wife, on the other hand, is imagined as sacred, eternal, controlled. When these two things connect, the idea of the wife starts to glitch. It now takes just a minor breeze of Internet attention for a wife to catch fire as a meme. An early example of the phenomenon dates to 2013, when a mysterious photo emerged on the Internet of a suburban garage door on which someone had spray-painted “STOP NOW! don’t e-mail my wife!!!!” (The image is one of the first things cited in an essay by the poet Patricia Lockwood about her experience of the Internet; in a recent piece about “the online wife,” the writer Miles Klee identified it as “patient zero of contemporary wife content.”) Another important wife meme entered the lexicon a few years later, when a man sent a message to a Facebook account shared by a married couple. “—DAVE DO NOT READ THIS—,” it began, and then, after a block of blank space, “Tara…hello.” In 2016, a man tweeted a screenshot of an outrageously confident e-mail he had sent to his “girlfriend’s husband,” insisting that he and this man’s wife had been “bowled over” by “a deep wellspring of powerful emotions” and saying that he was moving to somewhere in their vicinity so that he could be close to her. He added that he hoped she would be able to “grow and explore in other ways that she can share with everyone she loves.” Soon, there were song parodies. (“Is this the real wife / Is this just fantasy,” etc.)

If you want to avoid becoming a meme on the Internet, it is a mistake to display exorbitant possessiveness over a romantic partner. In 2017, a man named Robbie Tripp went viral when he posted a picture on Instagram of himself and his swimsuit-clad wife, which he captioned with two hundred and sixty-eight words that were intended to prove his enlightenment but came off as howlingly sanctimonious. “I love this woman and her curvy body,” he wrote. “As a teenager, I was often teased by my friends for my attraction to girls on the thicker side.” People began attaching the text to any picture whatsoever. In January, a rumor made the rounds on Twitter that there had been a falling-out among a group of men who ran a popular meme account called Da Share Z0ne, one of whom had angrily removed everyone else from the account because another member had been “talking to his wife.” In February, a minor Twitter personality who used a female avatar confessed that he was not a woman but a man pretending to be his own wife, who also happened to be in the process of divorcing him. In May, a popular YouTube gamer announced that he was separating from his wife, a professional elf cosplayer. His wife then tweeted that he had been cheating on her for months with another gamer—and that she had not been able to read whatever announcement he had made, because he had blocked her on Twitter.

It is getting increasingly absurd to observe intimate relationships filtered through the machinery of social media. (Imagine a married couple sitting meekly in therapy, the husband vowing to interact more intentionally with his meme account’s Twitter D.M.s.) Late last month, a Snapchat celebrity who goes by Shonduras earnestly tweeted, “i watched my wife fall off a cliff,” appending a nineteen-plus-minute video in which he and his wife, whose name is Jenny, tearfully discussed the aforementioned fall off a cliff, which can more accurately be described as a tumble down some rocks. Shonduras never stopped filming: he captured her fall and her tears, and put it all on the Internet. On the Internet, Jenny became Cliff Wife and achieved instant memedom. (“It goes like this: the fourth, the fifth, I watched my wife fall off a cliff.”)

In all of these Wife Events, as Tom Whyman termed them, at the Outline, the Wife Guys had actively taken steps to embarrass themselves and their life partners. These stories, in other words, ultimately revolve around the needs and neuroses of men. And yet they are, nonetheless, a gratifying pleasure to behold. The wife as she has historically been understood isn’t made to exist in a world of Wife Events. She will have to change—and she is changing. The online wife is unbiddable, like an escaped llama or a trickster god. She cosplays as an elf; she tweets that her husband blocked her. You can e-mail her if you want to. The wife, as you read this, is gently rolling off a cliff.

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5th Jun 2019

Updated June 5, 2019: Legally Blonde 3 is officially all systems go with Reese Witherspoon confirming to Entertainment Tonight on the red carpet at the Big Little Lies season two premiere that they have a script. “[We have] a script, but we haven’t shot anything yet.”

The actress further shared that she is loving working on Elle’s next adventure. “She’s [Elle Woods] a very beloved character. You just want her to go on a hero’s journey like she does in the first movie, and I’m having a great time working on it.” 

According to Entertainment Tonight the film has a release date of February 14 (Valentine’s Day!), 2020.

June 7, 2018: In news that is sure to make all Gemini vegetarians ecstatic, Legally Blonde 3 is definitely in the works and yes, Reese Witherspoon, who brought Elle Woods to life on the big screen, is involved.

Witherspoon is set to reprise her role as Woods, the pink-loving, and quite frankly, original girl boss, who found law and love in the first Legally Blonde (2001) movie.

Witherspoon took to her Instagram, donning her famous pink sequin swimsuit from the original film, to confirm the news by simply writing, “It’s true…” on a video of herself lounging in the pool!

Karen McCullah, who wrote the first Legally Blonde script as well as 10 Things I Hate About You and She’s The Man, also confirmed the news on her Twitter.

“It’s true!” McCullah told her fans of her involvement and the much needed confirmation that all this news isn’t just Hollywood rumours at play.

While the first movie was set at Harvard Law (What? Like, it’s hard?) and the second, Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde (2003), was set in Washington D.C., there’s no telling where Woods and Bruiser could be over 15 years later. What we do know is that when Witherspoon spoke with , she teased “it’s gonna be so fun!”

“I got to go to a meeting the other day where we talked about all the new plot points and all the characters and some returning characters and some new characters,” she added. “I mean, I got so excited just in the meeting. I was like, ‘This is gonna be good.'”

Of course, there would be children, as Woods married her Harvard Law sweetheart Emmett in the sequel but where would Woods be career-wise? And would Selma Blair’s Vivian Kensington make a cameo? How about everyone’s best friend Paulette, played by Jennifer Coolidge?

With so many possibilities and so much Legally Blonde hope for the future there’s just one question we have right now about Legally Blonde 3: is orange finally the new pink?

 

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Wedding List Co.

June 5, 2019 | News | No Comments

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5th Jun 2019

Planning your dream fairy-tale wedding can be a rewarding, yet rather daunting task. From selecting the flowers, and choosing the cake, to picking out the perfect band and saying yes to the dress – there are countless decisions to be made, and only so much time to make them.

Many of these responsibilities require you and your partner to dedicate a considerable amount of both time and energy to making the right selections. Thankfully, there is one particular part of the process that Wedding List Co. wishes to help you streamline, and it just so happens to be one of the best parts of planning your big day.  

Yes, we’re referring to the task of building the ultimate gift registry, one comprised of all the items you need in order to live happily ever after. On top of assisting you plan your wedding, Australian-based online registry Wedding List Co. is here to help your guests ensure the gifts they give are both meaningful and memorable. What more could you possibly ask for?

Avoid limiting yourselves to one particular store, or inadvertently signing up for more stress than you bargained for by splitting up your wish list across multiple sites, when, instead, you can create an all-inclusive registry with Wedding List Co. Whether you’re after particular presents, a wishing well, or would like to opt for charitable donations, Wedding List Co. has you covered.  

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Enlist the help of a dedicated registry concierge to assist you with everything from how the process works, to selecting products from categories including kitchenware, bed and bath, electronics, fun and outdoor, and travel, and featured brands like Georg Jensen, Iittala, Coco Republic, and Cultiver Linen. It’s really that easy. 

Given that you can also create, update and add gifts to your wish list at any time, there’s no excuse for you not to start building your ideal registry with Wedding List Co. today!

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5th Jun 2019

Picture this: US President Donald Trump is sitting down to a state banquet at Buckingham Palace with Britain’s ruling monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, and Her Majesty points out that the plates used for the dinner are from George IV’s Grand Service. What an honour! Or, maybe not? 

Was there, in fact, a hidden message in that plate choice that very subtly threw shade at the Trump? The Queen and her loyal, long-term palace staff are, after all, masters at graceful international diplomacy; having been the ruling monarch of the United Kingdom since 1953, The Queen has decades of experience. Trump, on the other hand, has been president for just over two years.

Of course, outwardly The Queen and any occasion she hosts are the epitome of grace, manners and decorum, she takes her duty as monarch very seriously and leads by example. However, she and her palace staff are all human with feelings and opinions of their own, which it could be speculated they may very well show by hiding telling messages in say, the choice of plates used during a dinner or drawing attention to a gift it’s highly likely the gift giver will not remember gifting. 

These tiny sleight-of-hand protests are especially important when The Queen and her staff are playing host to someone that is perhaps more of a duty rather than a delight, such as, for example, a person who allegedly hasn’t had kind words to say about a certain member of the royal family. 

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The crockery used during the state banquet held for Trump overnight could be considered one example of this very subtle shade throwing. Reuters reports the dinner service was commissioned by George IV in 1806, consisting of over “4,000 pieces for dining.” It’s an impressive dinner service to say the least, but, where it gets interesting is when you think about the message behind that particular dinner service; Britain was making 4,000-piece dinner services in 1806, whereas the US had only been declared an independent country just over 30 years prior. A historical message perhaps?

Another interesting moment of the Trump visit occurred over a pewter horse. Royal reporter Emily Andrews posted about the encounter on Twitter, noting that as The Queen, Trump and his wife, Melania, were walking together through Buckingham Palace, The Queen pointed out a pewter horse Trump had gifted The Queen during his visit to the UK in 2018, but when asked if he recognised it, he reportedly said “no”. Melania then tried to save the day by saying “I think we gave that to The Queen.” Melanie clearly got the memo about the pewter horse but it seems her husband did not. Another subtle shade throw?

Royal protocol for interacting with The Queen is a minefield of rules and regulations that even the most dedicated of students would find challenging, however The Queen is surely more forgiving of some people and situations than others. For example, could she have acted any differently when Trump reportedly greeted her with some sort of awkward, surely protocol-defying fist bump?

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II shakes hands with US President Donald Trump, Buckingham Palace, June 3, 2019. Image credit: Getty Images

 

The Queen, Kate Middleton and the Duchess of Cornwall wearing white to the state banquet could also be taken as a very subtle message to their guest. Wearing white has become synonymous with female political resistance and dates back to Britain’s suffragettes in the early 20th century. Was it a nod to that movement? We don’t know but we do know that The Queen is a very masterful woman.

Updated June 5, 2019: One further possible shade throwing example has since been unearthed by the internet in the form of the ruby tiara The Queen chose to wear for the state banquet. Read all the details of what Her Majesty’s choice of tiara could mean here.

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5th Jun 2019

“Our journey started with a group of wine industry mates who share a passion for organic wine, sustainable farming, community and the environment,” says Amy Miller, one of the co-creators of Vineful, a brand dedicated to what they call “mindful wine”. Miller says they weren’t able to find a single wine that matched these core values, so instead, they created Vineful. 

The brand is a monthly subscription service where you receive a box of wine that sits within the categories of organic, biodynamic, vegan friendly or preservative free. “We aim to offer a wine experience that reflects our commitment to quality and our core beliefs of being environmentally responsible, collaboration and giving back,” adds Miller. But what does that all mean? We quizzed the co-founder on how to know what impact your Friday night glass of pinot noir has on the environment.

How does Vineful work? 
“A monthly subscription includes free delivery of three bottles of wine that have been mindfully curated for you. Select from red or white wine, or perhaps you prefer a mix – it’s your choice. Every month you will get to discover three seriously good wines, allowing you to explore the mindful wine categories. Mindful wines are wines that are made with the consumer and the environment in mind. We also plant a tree for every wine box sold to help support the environment and future generations to come.”

Can you explain the difference between the types of “mindful” wines?
“Organic wine: the main difference between organic wine and traditional wine is that organic wines are made from grapes grown without artificial and chemical fertilisers, pesticides, fungicides and herbicides, with a focus instead on maintaining a healthy ecosystem. Organic farming is mindful of the environment and [on] minimising any impact on the land. 

Natural wine: a wine is considered natural when the grapes have been handpicked and crushed and nothing is added to tanks during fermentation (acid, sugar, enzymes). This allows the fruit to ferment on its own using the naturally occurring yeast on the grape’s skin. Natural wines are unfiltered, so you’ll often see sediment or ‘cloudiness’ in the bottle. Natural wine may not always be organic.

Biodynamic wine: biodynamic winemaking shares the organic approach of no chemical intervention but adds in practices for enriching the soil, planting, pruning and harvesting based on the moon cycle and astrological signs. All biodynamic wine is organic.

Preservative free wine: wines free of or [containing] no added preservatives. [These wines] are ideal for those sensitive to sulphur. Some preservatives in wine are a natural by-product of the winemaking process, which means that if you are sensitive to sulphur dioxide, look for wines that are labelled ‘free of or no added preservatives’ but know that minimal amounts of sulphur dioxide (SO2) may exist due to the fermenting process. 

Vegan friendly wines: wine is made from grapes, so you might think it’s vegan – however, it’s the things winemakers add during the winemaking process that makes most wines non-vegan. To counteract the cloudiness, winemakers introduce fining agents that act like magnets and attract the molecules winemakers don’t want to keep so they are easier to remove. The most common fining agents in winemaking are casein (a milk protein), albumin (egg whites), gelatin (animal protein from boiling animal parts), chitin (fibre from crustacean shells), blood and bone marrow and isinglass (fish bladder protein). The good news is there are a range of animal-friendly fining agents that can be used to make vegan wine, such as clay (bentonite), limestone and silica gel to name a few.”

You said you plant a tree for every three-bottle box sold. What impact does this actually have?
“Trees play a part in recycling nutrients for agriculture, a necessary element for wine production. That’s why we’ve made a promise to plant a tree for every three-bottle Vineful box that we sell. To do this we’ve teamed up with the wonderful crew at Carbon Neutral and their Plant-a-Tree program. The program plants a mix of more than 50 native species in the Yarra Yarra Biodiversity Corridor. This plays a fundamental role in removing carbon from the atmosphere as well as helping to reduce soil salinity, helping combat wind and water erosion, enhancing biodiversity and restoring habitat for the endangered Carnaby’s black cockatoo, malleefowl and other threatened flora and fauna.” 

What else are you doing to support sustainability?
“We have been mindful in every step of the way, from collaborating with organic and biodynamic farmers and winemakers who champion alternative practices, to our responsible packaging of boxes engineered to eliminate plastic, and giving back to causes that support the environment – all helping you to raise a glass to the world you want.”

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5th Jun 2019

If we didn’t already know how much Sophie Turner and Priyanka Chopra-Jonas stan their husbands, Joe Jonas and Nick Jonas respectively, this red carpet event confirmed it definitively.

Game of Thrones’s Sansa Stark (Turner) and Chopra-Jonas stepped out to support their husbands at the premiere of the Jonas Brothers’ new documentary, Chasing Happiness. And there was so much PDA action on the red carpet, it was almost enough to make onlookers blush.

Both Turner and Chopra-Jonas, who are now coined the “J sisters”, were snapped gazing adoringly at their respective husbands, gazes that were returned right back at them by their gents. Indeed, all three of the Jonas brothers, Joe Jonas, Nick Jonas and Kevin Jonas — who was accompanied by his wife and the third “J sister” Danielle Jonas — looked so loved-up and as if their fan clubs were full, with their wives as their number one fans.

Priyanka Chopra-Jonas and Nick Jonas attend the premiere Amazon Prime Video's Chasing Happiness, June 2019 in Los Angeles, California. Image credit: Getty Images

This is hardly surprising given how freshly minted both Turner and Chopra-Jonas’s marriages are — these four are all still in the honeymoon phase. Chopra-Jonas, 36, married Nick Jonas, 26, in a spectacular multi-event wedding in December 2018 after a whirlwind relationship that is rumoured to have only properly kicked off in May 2018 around Memorial Day weekend.

Turner, 23, and Joe, 29, tied the knot even more recently, staging a surprise wedding in Las Vegas this past May which was officiated over by none other than the Reverend Elvis Presley and live-streamed (possibly without Joe and Turner’s say-so) by Diplo. The couple are currently planning a second wedding, which will reportedly be held in France later this month.

The Jonas Brothers documentary premiere not only gave Turner and Chopra-Jonas the chance to show off their love for their husbands, it also provided the perfect stage for Joe Jonas to show that he might be the best Instagram husband of the whole family. E! News reports that between posing with his brothers, meeting fans and snuggling in with his wife, he also took time out to capture snaps of Turner that we look forward to seeing on her or his Instagram feed or Story later on.

How Dr. Seuss Changed Education in America

June 5, 2019 | News | No Comments

In 1939, at the age of thirty-five, Theodor Seuss Geisel was tinkering with an invention that was doomed to failure. Geisel had published a few books under the name Dr. Seuss, but he was hoping that a device he had patented, the Infantograph, would be a money-maker at the techno-utopian New York World’s Fair, which was opening that year. “If you were to marry the person you are with,” the banner that Geisel designed for his pavilion asked, “what would your children look like? Come in and have your INFANTOGRAPH taken!” In the tent, a couple would sit side by side; a double-lensed camera would blend their features together, then plop a composite mug shot atop an image of a baby’s body. “It was a wonderful idea,” Geisel insisted, but, as a feat of engineering, it was more of an evocation of outlandish, off-kilter Seussian machinery than it was a functional prototype. After much fiddling, he scrapped his plans, admitting, “All the babies tended to look like William Randolph Hearst.”

In “Becoming Dr. Seuss: Theodor Geisel and the Making of an American Imagination,” a new biography by Brian Jay Jones, this anecdote is mostly played for a laugh. But the impulse behind Geisel’s gadget is indicative of deeper concerns. Ever since John Locke articulated his thoughts on education, we have puzzled over what to project upon the blank slate of a child’s mind, remembering the philosopher’s counsel that “the little, and almost insensible impressions on our tender infancies, have very important and lasting consequences.” As Geisel grew into his role as Dr. Seuss, beloved children’s author, he came to represent a distinctly American repurposing of those reflections on childhood. As the mass-media landscape shifted and expanded throughout his life, Geisel eventually came to recognize the vital role of children’s literature. “Children’s reading and children’s thinking are the rock bottom base upon which this country will rise. Or not rise,” he asserted in an editorial, from 1960, in the Los Angeles Times. “In these days of tension and confusion . . . books for children have a greater potential for good or evil, than any other form of literature on earth.”

The path to that realization was a long one, riddled with accidents and detours. The genius of Dr. Seuss was the outcome of a personal and artistic evolution that spanned every decade of the American century, and Geisel wouldn’t fully embrace his profession or achieve his most significant triumphs until midlife and beyond. He began his career as a hired hand, providing cartoons and illustrations for magazines, ads, and other people’s books. Though the ad work was lucrative, he would soon cast about for more meaningful creative outlets, including writing for children. “I’d like to say I got into children’s books because I had a burning passion, a great message to bring to the youth of the world,” he told an interviewer late in life, “but it was because I was going nuts.” As the Second World War loomed, Geisel also threw himself into political cartooning, railing against the pro-fascist, anti-Semitic isolationism of Charles Lindbergh and Father Coughlin. After the United States entered the war, he joined the Army Signal Corps and created propaganda films under Frank Capra’s watch. For a brief period after the war, Hollywood beckoned, but Geisel’s few film projects that saw fruition ranged from disappointing to disastrous.

Throughout this period, Geisel published about a dozen children’s books under the name Dr. Seuss, ranging from his first, “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street,” in 1937, to “If I Ran the Circus,” in 1956, which were generally greeted by enthusiastic reviews but middling-to-decent sales. For the first two decades of his career, Dr. Seuss was hardly a household name. But, as the baby boom was hitting its peak and Sputnik was prompting much hand-wringing about the state of American education, a vigorous debate over literacy was beginning to take shape, and Geisel found himself thrust to the forefront of the battle.

For decades, schoolteachers had been parking their youngest students in front of basal readers or primers, exemplified by the Dick and Jane series. The pedagogical approach underlying these primers assumed that beginning readers learned new words best by associating them with pictures and memorizing them through dutiful repetition. By the middle of the nineteen-fifties, this “whole word” or “look and say” method was just starting to face pushback from proponents of phonics-based instruction, most visibly in Rudolf Flesch’s influential polemic “Why Johnny Can’t Read.”

It didn’t help that Dick and Jane belonged to what many have dubbed the dullest family on earth. The books were plotless, littered with mind-numbing, repetitious quasi-sentences. (“Look, Jane. Look, look. See Dick. See, see. Oh, see. See Dick.”) The illustrations were stodgy and bland. Flesch deemed the series “horrible, stupid, emasculated, pointless.” The author John Hersey, in an article on the literacy debate, for Life magazine, was not much kinder, calling the books “namby-pamby” and “insipid,” and the pictures “terribly literal.” Hersey wondered why primers couldn’t at least feature the talents of gifted children’s-book illustrators, and he listed Dr. Seuss among their ranks.

The head of Houghton Mifflin’s education division took note. He challenged Geisel to write a primer that emerging or reluctant readers would actually enjoy, pleading, “Write me a story that first graders can’t put down!” But for a wordsmith as playful and unconventional as Dr. Seuss—someone fond of phrases such as “howling mad hullaballoo,” who invented animals like the Yuzz-a-ma-Tuzz—there was a big catch: to qualify as a first-grade primer, the text would have to be tightly restricted to a list of three hundred and fifty simple, pre-approved vocabulary words, supplied by the publisher, with a preferred limit of just two hundred and twenty-five words. Could Dr. Seuss deliver a page-turner that contained itself to no more than two hundred and twenty-five real, English, mostly monosyllabic words?

Geisel agreed to give it a shot. For months, he pored over the word list, at times moaning and thrashing about on the couch, awaiting inspiration. According to one telling, Geisel “finally gave it one more chance and said, ‘If I find two words that rhyme and make sense to me, that’s the title.’ ” He was on the verge of giving up when “cat” and “hat” caught his eye. Several more months of excruciating writing and rewriting followed, as he wrested a coherent story from the restrictive word list. (His editor, Saxe Commins, who’d worked with the likes of Sinclair Lewis and William Faulkner, took the project every bit as seriously as adult literature—“he’d spend an hour talking about three or four lines,” Geisel recalled.) When Geisel went to deliver the final manuscript of “The Cat in the Hat,” Jones writes, “he knew he had something new and very different in his hands.”

Further Reading

More in this series on the power and pleasures of children’s books.

In Jones’s summation, “With its likable and somewhat subversive main character, galloping verse, and deliberate sense of humor, ‘The Cat in the Hat’ was everything that ‘Dick and Jane’ was not.” And yet Geisel had not exactly flouted the prevailing pedagogical approach; he’d turned some of its defects into merits. The stultifying repetitions of the typical primer had been replaced with joyously musical ones. Some of the cat’s most comically absurd escapades are entirely consistent with the look-and-say method, minus the terrible literalness that Hersey decried. What child hasn’t marvelled at the delightfully drawn and boldly hued books, and cup, and cake, and rake, and little toy ship and little toy man, and red fan, and fish, and milk on a dish (all plucked from that word list) as they teeter on the cat’s extremities? On the other hand, with its reliance on memorable rhyming pairs and word families, “The Cat in the Hat,” beginning with its catchy title, accentuated for early readers how sound and symbol correspond. The book served as a gateway to the phonics-based approach, which eventually supplanted the whole-word pedagogy.

In addition to stirring up a revolution in reading instruction, “The Cat in the Hat” was an immediate commercial sensation. “By some accounts,” Jones writes, “ ‘The Cat in the Hat’ was selling more than a thousand copies per day, on its way to selling 250,000 copies by Christmas of 1957, and more than three million copies within three years.”

The success of the book finally turned being Dr. Seuss into a day job for Geisel. Assured of the value of children’s literature, Geisel worked tirelessly at it for the next three decades. With the demand for well-crafted alternatives to traditional primers established, he expanded his duties, co-founding the imprint Beginner Books. He worked with a talented roster of children’s authors and illustrators, and he published some of his own most memorable works, which were specifically for the youngest segment of his audience. “Hop on Pop,” “One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish”, and “Green Eggs and Ham”—which was born out of a bet that Geisel couldn’t pare down his vocabulary to just fifty unique words—were all published by Beginner Books.

But alongside this monumental achievement on behalf of little readers lies the other, equally significant portion of Geisel’s legacy: the Cat in the Hat and Sam-I-Am have taught generations of children to read, but the likes of the Grinch and the Lorax have guided their thinking and feeling. For, even as the Beginner Books publications proliferated, Geisel continued to produce these “big books,” as he called them, a number of which have cemented their status as classic fables for the modern age.

Although it might be tempting to bestow a kind of secular sainthood upon Dr. Seuss, the persona, Jones resists such a simplified portrayal of Geisel, the man. “Becoming Dr. Seuss” is more compelling than mere pop hagiography; it is sweeping in scope, unstinting in detail, and willing to criticize or contextualize when needed. One of the most affecting sections in Jones’s biography examines Geisel’s moral evolution, demonstrating how an artist could answer to his conscience independently, if imperfectly, decades before the advent of cancel culture. Jones doesn’t shy away from confronting some ugly stains from early in Geisel’s career, including misogynistic humor and stereotypical depictions of foreigners. Most shamefully, Geisel drew some viciously anti-Japanese cartoons during the war. While he trained his ire on the leaders and militaries of Germany and Italy, many of his comics broadly vilified the Japanese people, relying on crass visual signifiers and other racist cheap shots. One comic cast suspicion upon the loyalties of Japanese-Americans just days before President Roosevelt authorized their internment. A decade later, on an assignment for Life magazine, Geisel visited Kyoto, Osaka, and Kobe, touring schools to observe “how the Japanese child’s thinking had changed” under American occupation. Geisel was delighted, and perhaps chastened, when he saw drawings the children had made of their aspirations. Though one teacher conceded, “If we had given them this assignment ten years ago, every boy in Japan would have drawn himself as a general,” Geisel recounted that “Most had visions of themselves working for a better world.”

Jones paints Geisel’s piece for Life as perhaps the start of a penance, one that many believe culminated in “Horton Hears a Who!” (which Geisel dedicated to the professor who hosted him in Kyoto, calling him a “great friend”). In Jones’s eyes, this book “marked the first time [Geisel] had deliberately written a book with an ethical point of view.” It’s hard not to interpret the book, in which a big-hearted elephant vows to protect the microscopic inhabitants of a speck of dust, as an apology for his earlier prejudice. “A person’s a person, no matter how small”—or far away, or foreign—is Horton’s motto.

At the end of “Horton Hears a Who!,” a young kangaroo and his mother agree to protect the vulnerable beings whom they had previously refused to acknowledge. Geisel also concluded his two most overtly ideological books—”The Lorax,” a plea for conservation, and “The Butter Battle Book,” an allegory about the nuclear-arms race—with scenes of a child reckoning with the behavior of adults. In the tense final scene of “Butter Battle,” a frightened youngster looks on as his grandfather and his grandfather’s nemesis threaten each other with mutually assured destruction. On the last page of “The Lorax,” all we see of the child are two outstretched arms, ready to catch the seed that might replenish a world devastated by grownups’ greed and recklessness. Geisel reminds us that this is what we most long to see when we wonder what a child of ours would look like: someone who might receive the lessons that we were too late to learn.

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