When the stars align, I can tie together the topics I want to write. Brains like patterns and connections and mine is particularly good at finding them.1 Given that, I can’t figure out how these next two topics are related. I tried, tho, and that should count for something.
THING THE FIRST2
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The first grand prix of Formula 1’s 2023 season is on Sunday in Bahrain. I CANNOT WAIT. I am, as my friends in the mountain west say, super stoked. Why does this particular middle-aged white lady care so much about this motorsport? It’s the drama, darlings, and all of the stories that spin out of these carbon fiber machines and the (mostly) men who build them.3
Drive to Survive, the gold standard for the sports doc form, released season five in advance of Bahrain. I’m only a couple of episodes in but they are a light in this sloppy tail end4 of a northeastern winter. As an added bonus, I can’t remember who won or what happened in most of 2022’s races so every plot point feels like a surprise. Like Zhou’s crash, which I audibly gasped at even though I saw it live a year ago.5
Part of the joy I take from F1 comes from other media folk in the wider ecosystem of the sport. The Missed Apex podcast — their tag is “we may be wrong, but we’re first” — approaches F1 with the reverence it deserves.6 Head host Spanners makes sure a diversity of voices make it on air, which includes viewers new to the sport and those who’ve bled British racing green for a half-dozen decades. Missed Apex isn’t just dudes talking about rear wings and tire composition,7 it’s also women and former insiders and fans talking about all that the sport touches.
Speaking of women and F1, Lily Herman’s Engine Failure is one of my favorite F1-adjacent emails. She goes hard8 on everything from driver contracts to WAG9 fashion. Herman’s writing voice is pitched more toward millennials and those younger and her posts veer maximalist but these are features rather than bugs, even if I sometimes have to look up young person lingo. This is, of course, a me problem.
Herman also hosted and produced Choosing Sides: F1, a great podcast that should be required listening for anyone new to the sport.10 In it, she explains the history of F1 in general and of the ten teams on the grid to comedian and former tennis coach Michael Kosta. The conceit: Kosta is noob who will choose a team to follow once he “meets” them all. The episodes are short and fun — and rich with information, as well as moments that you can’t believe actually happened. Like, who thought using magnesium11 in key components of your car was a great idea? 12
Speaking of magnesium, in addition to Missed Apex and Engine Failure, I’ll definitely be reading Elizabeth Blackstock13’s Grand Prix Gastronomy. Her plan is to make a dish from each host country and write a bit about it.14 It’ll be interesting to see how it plays out.15
THING THE SECOND16
Brandon Brooks, the curator at the wonderful Genesse Country Village and Museum,17 gave a talk two weeks ago about how clothing demonstrated gender in the 19th century. Interesting enough, mind, but the parts that stuck in my head were not really what the presentation was about. Like the painting above.
Take a minute and really look at the scene. The man on the right is pushing his wife (presumably) on a swing. The man on the left is gazing adoringly up at her. Now for the history fact:18 women didn't really wear underwear like we think of it in the 18th century. Instead, women wore split drawers19 so that they could attend a call of nature without having to get totally undressed. Knowing that, take a moment and imaging what the man on the left is getting a gander at. See? History is more exciting than you’ve been told.20
Brooks broadened the conversation about gendered clothing in the 1800s by including those who didn’t conform to social norms, like The Public Universal Friend. Their story is one that I’d never heard — and I’ve spent a non-zero amount of time reading about this part of the state during the 19th century, which became known as The Burned-Over District21 because of the number of religious movements and charismatic leaders who rolled through like brushfires.
Much like Fragonard’s painting, the PUF22 proves that what we're doing now is nothing new. We just have new ways to talk about it.
It’s very bad at spatial reasoning and game theory so, you know, balance.
a.k.a Adrienne is still nattering on about this
FWIW - nearly every sport provides all of the drama you could want, from kids playing frisbee in the park to professionals giving themselves concussions on the gridiron. There’s a built-in structure. There are stakes and personalities. But with Formula 1 you add staggering amounts of money and the ever-present specter of violent death. Are you not entertained?
my friend Phoebe’s nickname in high school
To be fair, most of the footage in DtS was new. F1 (rightly) doesn’t do slow-motion replays of the crash itself until it’s clear the driver is OK, which can take a bit. Then, once they get clearance to show the slow-motion replay of the crash, the race is about to restart, which means (rightly) it’s time to show the race again.
which is some reverence but not so much that you can’t also take the piss
there is the occasional all-tech show, which does nothing for me but whatever
“Wives and Girlfriends”
Usually, they are talked about more in soccer but WAG discourse is creeping into all sports. We don’t hear much about HABs. I’ll leave the reasons for this as an exercise for the reader.
It would also be great for those who know the sport, just to get a refresher
You know, one of the main components of fireworks
To be fair, safety was not Job One in F1 until the past few decades. Earlier, it was accepted that a couple of drivers would die during the season. What’s amazing now is how many now survive crashes that look all kinds of fatal. Hooray for engineering!
I can’t wait to see what she chooses for Austin. As a UT alumna (obligatory “hook ‘em” here), I hope it’s not barbecue because that’s so easy to get so wrong.
She just posted machboos, her Bahrain dish. I’ll give it a whirl this Sunday if I can get my hands on the dried limes.
a.k.a. Adrienne has a new thing to natter on about
It’s the living history museum other living history museums want to be when they grow up
Sometimes I’m assigned to give a 19th century clothing demo for school groups. Split drawers are an object that inspire much giggling.
TL;DR Mormons! Spiritualists! The Oneida community! Shakers!