Bird of the Month: The Swan

Note: In fact, this is the swansong of Bird of the Month, which has reached its first birthday and is going into retirement (birds age faster than humans.) Thank you to all Toast readers for sharing your bird knowledge, enthusiasm and stories in the comments. I’ve loved reading them. For your perusal, previous Birds of the Month can be found here.

W.B. Yeats first visited Coole Park, the Irish estate owned by his friend Lady Gregory, in 1897. He stayed there regularly over the next couple of decades and in 1916 wrote “The Wild Swans at Coole,” a poem in which the speaker, wandering by a lake in the October twilight, sees that

Upon the brimming water among the stones   

Are nine-and-fifty swans.


When he first counted the swans, 19 years ago, he “trod with a lighter tread.” Now, his “heart is sore.” This could be for a number of reasons (World War One, the difficult political situation in Ireland, the recent death of Lady Gregory’s son) but, Yeats being Yeats, it’s a good bet that romantic disappointment is high on the list. 

If you are feeling bad about the state of your love life, swans are not the ideal bird to look at.

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Conversations That Servers in Portugal Might Have Had After Dealing With Me and My Mother

OUR WAITRESS: Thanks for meeting me for a drink, babe. Wow, do I need it after the crazy time I had at the restaurant tonight.


WAITRESS: These two American women came in to be seated. Mother and daughter, they looked like. I tried to seat them in the nice part of the restaurant, but a guy was smoking a cigarette at the table next to them, so they flat-out refused.

BOYFRIEND: That’s dumb. It’s not like they were going to get lung cancer over the course of dinner.

WAITRESS: I know! But I didn’t want to say anything because I was hoping they’d tip me if I was polite. You know how Americans love to tip. Anyway, I finally get them seated, and then the daughter has a million questions about every item on the menu. Like, what kind of vegetables are in the vegetable soup? Is the chicken dark meat or light meat? Is the rice brown or white?

BOYFRIEND: Why does she need to know any of that?

WAITRESS: I have no earthly idea. After I answer all her questions, she proceeds to order the one menu item that she didn’t ask anything about. Her mom orders the California rolls, only—get this—without the shrimp.

BOYFRIEND: That is crazy! The shrimp is the best part.

WAITRESS: Totally. So I bring over the daughter’s order, which she immediately tries to send back, claiming it’s not what she ordered.

BOYFRIEND: Was it what she ordered?

WAITRESS: Of course.

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Cagney & Lacey: A Guide to Female Friendship

Manisha Aggarwal-Schifellite’s past work for The Toast can be found here.

It’s been well-documented (here, here, and here) that on-screen female friendships are sorely lacking in almost all respects. A few scenarios are common: women hate each other but pretend to be friends, they only meet to discuss men and then don’t seem to talk until the next dramatic event, one serves as a sidekick or sounding board to the other, or they’re thrust together and grudgingly begin to tolerate one another. Sometimes these scenarios can be fun, but most of the time they’re unrealistic and uninteresting. 

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A few weeks ago, I got fed up with watching boring and/or unrealistic lady-friendships on TV, and I went looking for something to fill the void. You can only imagine my delight when I found the entirety of Cagney & Lacey on Hulu, just waiting for me to dive right in. Cagney & Lacey stars Tyne Daly as Mary Beth Lacey and Sharon Gless (Seasons 2-7) and Meg Foster (Season 1) as Chris Cagney, two NYPD cops entering a male-dominated precinct in the 1980s. The show was originally produced as a TV movie in 1974 by Barbara Avedon, Barbara Cordray, and Barney Rosenzweig, which the creators were hoping to turn into a hit with a feminist bent. 

In 1982, the TV movie was spun off into the television series, starring Daly and Foster as the title characters. In the first six episodes, Cagney & Lacey covers institutional racism, undocumented workers, and PTSD, all while delivering a showstopper of late 1980s fashion choices, replete with shoulder pads, pointy shoes, and every handbag I have ever dreamed of. During the first season, fears were raised about Cagney appearing “too masculine” and giving the show a whiff of lesbianism. For the second season, the role was recast with Sharon Gless, who was supposed to give Cagney a feminine edge and a more middle-class background, to counterbalance Lacey’s brash, working-class character. This change, as well as a shift away from the overtly Norman Lear-style politics of each episode, was intended to bring in a wider viewership and endear audiences to the show, and it worked—the series lasted for seven seasons, won a number of Emmys, and spawned four TV movies (including one called Cagney & Lacey: The View Through the Glass Ceiling), following its cancellation in 1988.

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How To Dress For Work


thinking linen


wonder jumpsuit


weather tank and tactical water

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science cape

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The Worst Excesses: How to Tell Your French Revolutions Apart

“Then he gets involved in a French Revolution, but not the big famous one, a little later one you thought you didn’t know anything about.” –Forbidden Broadway Vol. 2, “More Miserable.”

We’re going to solve this problem right now. 

An Army of Lawyers Cannot Fail: “The French Revolution”

France was in debt, partially from supporting the American Revolution, but also because the nobility and the church were exempt from taxation: a thing which never happens anymore. Louis XVI couldn’t tax the wealthy because the nobility controlled the parlements. So the Revolution began with a revolt of the nobles: the nobility refused to honor the king’s attempts to levy taxes unless the Estates General were called, knowing that they would dominate such a meeting. 

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“The Tennis Court Oath at Versailles” Jacques-Louis David (1791)

Instead, the Third Estate protested the meeting’s structure. On June 20, 1789, they signed the Oath of the Tennis Court, declaring themselves the National Assembly and vowing to draft a constitution.

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“The Marquis de Launay, gouverneur de la Bastille, Foulon….drawn from life” Anne-Louis Girodet (1789)

On July 14, a mob of Parisians stormed the Bastille. Rioters dragged out De Launay, the prison’s governor, and beheaded him, parading his severed head through the city on a pike. Elsewhere, Foulon de Doué, the Controller-General of Finances whose appointment sparked the riots, was lynched and beheaded. Foulon was famous for suggesting “if the people are hungry, let them eat grass,” his death is described in A Tale of Two Cities:

…Foulon who told the starving people they might eat grass! Foulon who told my old father that he might eat grass, when I had no bread to give him! Foulon who told my baby it might suck grass, when these breasts where dry with want! O mother of God, this Foulon! O Heaven our suffering! Hear me, my dead baby and my withered father: I swear on my knees, on these stones, to avenge you on Foulon! Husbands, and brothers, and young men, Give us the blood of Foulon, Give us the head of Foulon, Give us the heart of Foulon, Give us the body and soul of Foulon, Rend Foulon to pieces, and dig him into the ground, that grass may grow from him! With these cries, numbers of the women, lashed into blind frenzy, whirled about, striking and tearing at their own friends until they dropped into a passionate swoon, and were only saved by the men belonging to them from being trampled under foot. [...] Once, he went aloft, and the rope broke, and they caught him shrieking; twice, he went aloft, and the rope broke, and they caught him shrieking; then, the rope was merciful, and held him, and his head was soon upon a pike, with grass enough in the mouth for all Saint Antoine to dance at the sight of.

Résultats: The National Assembly established a constitutional monarchy against the wishes of the king, who tried to flee. Most men over 25 could vote for “electors” by paying a tax; the electors, who paid a higher tax, selected legislative deputies. They also selected bishops and priests. All clergy were required to swear a loyalty oath to the state. 

In popular culture: Everywhere. Hilary Mantel’s A Place of Greater Safety, because politics are better with fraught queer love quadrangles. A Tale of Two Cities is The Woman in White with guillotines. The vampire farce Bite Me! is in print now. The French comic Petit Miracle tells the adventures of Denis, the son of a nun and a decapitated man, who can detach his head from his body. All 40 episodes of cross-dressing shoujo epic The Rose of Versailles are on Hulu. In Farewell, My Queen, one of Marie-Antoinette’s readers takes the place of her supposed lover, Yolande de Polignac, so that the latter may escape to safety.

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Lord Alfred Douglas, Dirtbag

how much do you love me
oh god
are you in prison again?
lol that was like one time in france
it doesn’t count as prison if you’re in france
what are you doing like right now
I’m trying to finish The Importance of Being Earnest
okay well
stop doing that and sue my dad
you should sue my dad
why would I do that?
he’s been telling everyone you’re gay
I am gay
well but he’s being really shitty about it
everyone’s shitty about it
well then just sue him because he sucks and I hate him
that doesn’t seem like much of a basis for a legal case
oh my god
are you going to sue him or not
all I want is a boyfriend who will sue my dad
I really don’t think that’s too much to ask

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Link Roundup!



I hope you all got the chance to read Ezekiel Kweku’s piece from yesterday on Michael Brown and the events in Ferguson, but if you didn’t, why, here it is again.


In case you loved that Mary Beard profile in The New Yorker as much as I did (you didn’t, no one loves as much as I do), please consider reading her piece on rape in the LRB from 2000, which is fabulous, and also contains the following turn of phrase:

I have to admit that I have long been suspicious of any argument that starts with a chimp and ends with a human being; and I may, for this reason alone, be an unsuitably prejudiced commentator on any study in evolutionary biology.


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Loving Phil Hartman

I don’t know anyone who doesn’t love Phil Hartman, and frankly I don’t care to. He finally got his star on the Walk of Fame this week (Nealon and Lovitz were there, bless their graying, aging hearts), and Grantland just published a wonderful analysis of his comedic legacy. You have to read every word of it, right now.

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