Welcome to Good Stuff, HuffPost’s weekly recommendation series devoted to the least bad things on and off the internet.
At times, Taylor Swift can seem like a 5-foot-10 piece of capitalist machinery, comprised of various cynical parts that have been welded together by a publicist and a manager to maximize revenue and improve reputational scores. And, who knows, maybe she is! But somewhat out of line with that version of the pop star is Swift, defender of fellow artists ― the Swift who occasionally uses the massive leverage she holds over her industry to try to negotiate better terms for artists with companies like Spotify and Apple. And that Swift came roaring back this week when she announced a new record deal with Universal Music Group and Republic Records.
Per Rolling Stone, the deal includes a provision that could put money in the pockets of artists of all success levels at the company:
As part of her joint contract with the label, UMG must promise to hand over to artists, on a non-recoupable basis, a portion of the windfall from its Spotify shares in the future.
Swift’s deal on Monday specifies that the hypothetical equity sale will result in payments to Universal’s artists regardless of their account status, meaning they’ll receive money even if they’re in the red with the company for unrecovered advances.
This is the best version of Swift. The “labor radical” version, as Matt Bruenig put it. And it deserves to be celebrated, even if it is part of a stealth PR campaign born out of a strategy meeting in which the conclusion was made that solidarity is in. Progress is progress, damn the unknowable reasons why. ― Maxwell Strachan
Sleeping As Much As You Want
I’d love to say the reason that I have nothing to write about today is because it was a short week, but that would be a lie. The real reason is that I slept basically all weekend. I went to bed early Friday. On Saturday I had a family event to attend, and when I got back at around 6 I immediately fell asleep on the couch. At midnight I got up and went to bed, then slept until midday on Sunday. I napped throughout the afternoon, then went to bed at a normal hour and slept straight through until Monday. Not much time in there for watching groundbreaking TV or reading groundbreaking books, you’ll notice!
My sleep schedule is a function of my many privileges. I have a salaried job, no kids and the apparently rare ability to sleep through nearly anything, including multiple loud alarms and my cat’s hysterical pre-meat-chunk morning screeches. But I know a lot of people who also have good jobs and no kids who feel guilt about sleeping this much. I say treat yourself! I don’t always sleep all weekend, but if you can, and you want to, I recommend just letting yourself do it now and then. It gives your body and brain time to heal from the stress of modern living. It nips that creeping head cold in the bud.
Many Americans will have extra time off this weekend. If you’re one of those fortunate souls, use that time to give yourself a little staycation in the land of dreams. ― Claire Fallon
Alfonso Cuarón On Netflix
Netflix keeps a tight grip on its original movies, insisting they hit the streaming service the same day they’re released in theaters (if they’re released in theaters at all). Not so for “Roma,” which opens in New York and Los Angeles this week and then expands to more cities before Dec. 14, when people can press play and ignore it while wrapping Christmas presents. It’s pure strategy on Netflix’s part, an attempt to legitimize the film within this year’s Oscar derby, where it stands a chance at a best picture nomination.
For better or worse, the scheme works to our benefit, at least for those who live in one of the cities that will project this beauty on a big screen. Its director, Alfonso Cuarón, boasts one of the most compelling careers in Hollywood, having made “A Little Princess,” “Y Tu Mamá También,” “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban,” “Children of Men” and “Gravity.”
With “Roma,” he’s crafted another jewel, this time telling the story of a housemaid named Cleo (newcomer Yalitza Aparicio) in early-1970s Mexico City. The movie, shot in luscious black and white, feels like Cleo’s diary. She works for an adoring middle-class family, acting as a surrogate parent when divorce intervenes and larger sociopolitical tensions hover in the background. But what Cuarón reveals in the ever-mild Cleo is a woman with a rich interior life informed by her past and beholden to her present.
“Roma” is personal for Cuarón, inspired by the nanny who helped raise him in the titular neighborhood. But this is hardly “The Help”; the supporting characters are interchangeable, bringing Cleo to the center in a way that underscores their class differences without reading like an upstairs-downstairs morality play. Cuarón finds the elegance of Cleo’s life, as well as the despair, sometimes in the same breath.
If ever the corny descriptor “love letter” were applicable, this is it. Whether you catch “Roma” in theaters (highly recommended) or on Netflix (please don’t wrap presents while watching), its grace will wash over you like a majestic ocean. ― Matthew Jacobs
Working From Home In Your Sweatpants
We live in a cruel world, and one of life’s greatest pleasures is pure, lazy comfort. This is one of those great gifts available to anyone who is able to work remotely on a regular basis, or, ya know, those who take a half day during a holiday week like this one. The curmudgeonly 1 percent over at The Wall Street Journal would like you to believe that leaning into this comfort is a bad thing. Instead, you should work remotely wearing $1,400 earrings and $645 loafers. I say, fuck that rich nonsense. Not only is it absurd to assume that anyone’s workwear includes accessories that cost more than a grand, but during these dark times, we all deserve to have our occasional laziness celebrated. Wear your sweatpants with pride, or better yet, wear no pants at all. Who can tell behind your laptop? ― Emma Gray
The Scientists Who Stuffed Balloons Into Dead Wombats To Find Out Why They Poop Cubes
This week, I learned that wombats produce up to 100 cubes of poop each night and use that cube poop to create rank border walls that keep the other near-blind, nocturnal rodents in the neighborhood out of their dens. Scientists were previously unsure of how exactly wombats make these stinky bricks until a team led by Georgia Tech postdoctoral fellow Patricia Yang stuffed some balloons into roadkill to study the irregular pressure exerted by their intestinal walls.
Biomimicry is crazy, folks. ― Katherine Brooks
A New She-Ra
The new She-Ra doesn’t look like the old one. And that’s fine — she’s not made to be a carbon copy of the voluptuous, skimpily dressed 1985 heroine, who was as much a product of her time as the 2018 version is.
The Netflix and DreamWorks reboot of “She-Ra,” which dropped a full first season on Nov. 13, maintains the red cape and flowing mane of our titular heroine while adding some notable changes in appearance. Her superhero uniform covers a bit more — this time around, she has bike shorts instead of a skirt, which seems a dumbfoundingly logical choice — and her build is more athlete than bombshell.
Of course, She-Ra’s appearance isn’t the most important thing about her — but it was a wearying lightning rod when a vocal minority of critics decried early artwork from the series as dumbed-down, sexless and, basically, not hot enough. But She-Ra’s realistic proportions and attire are a testament to the show’s evolved tone, one that speaks to inclusivity and diversity.
The characters in the series are a range of body types, orientations and ethnicities. It’s clearly an intentional move but doesn’t feel forced or stuffily “woke”: Strong women of all sizes and backgrounds is simply an accepted fact of the universe rather than something the series shoves in your face.
The heroine’s origin story remains largely the same: Before she acquires the ability to transform into She-Ra, our main character is simply Adora. She was raised on Etheria by the Evil Horde to fight against the Rebellion, believing that the magical princesses who live in the land’s various kingdoms are terrible beings meant to be stopped at all costs. Antics while on an excursion with her frenemy Catra — one of the series most interesting characters — eventually lead Adora to a magical sword that transforms her into She-Ra.
With this new ability, Adora, along with new friends Glimmer and Bow — a princess who can weaponize sparkles and her expert archer buddy — seeks to reunite the powerful princesses throughout Etheria, strengthening the Rebellion and putting up a fight against the encroaching Horde. Meanwhile, Catra is promoted as Adora’s replacement and continues to receive verbal abuse from Shadoweaver, the shadow-wielding sorceress who raised them both, as she fails to recapture the defected Adora.
One notable absence in the series is He-Man, who was She-Ra’s twin and the one who led her to the sword in the original series. Perhaps it’s because this time around, girls run this world. From the powerful princesses to the Evil Horde members, women fill a majority of the main roles.
The show is a joyful hero’s journey that doesn’t require knowledge of the original in order to appreciate it. Of Adora’s new crew, Bow is a standout character who provides levity and self-aware humor that will be appreciated by viewers beyond the show’s target demo. The strength of She-Ra is that, while its message of empowerment is clear, it doesn’t take itself too seriously. And that makes it a seriously fun series to watch. ― Jillian Capewell
Ralph, He Who Breaks The Internet
Ralph’s about to break the box office. Whether Disney is poking fun at itself for killing off all the moms of its much-loved princesses or taking polite jabs at fans who know a little too much about Marvel, “Wreck-It Ralph 2” is like the perfect subtweet of a movie, which everyone in on the joke can enjoy. Honestly, just the princess scene alone is worth going to see. Does the website product placement seem a little much at times? Sure. But the movie was never hiding that. Ralph’s breaking the internet after all, cut the dude some slack. Plus, a kid in front of me saw Snapchat mentioned and kept saying, “Oh, my God! It’s Snapchat!” Which led me to think, “Oh, my God, someone’s still using Snapchat!” ― Bill Bradley
My pick this week is the movie “Widows,” a film that is as entertaining as it is thought-provoking, stars a black woman in her 50s and is easily better than the last, I don’t know, 15 movies Mark Wahlberg has made, starting with “Instant Family.” ― Zeba Blay