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Political historian’s daily letters give helpful—and hopeful—context to today’s politics The organization that helped ban plastic bags in Bali — and beyond A historian accidentally discovered how our history textbooks openly taught white supremacy The organization that helped ban plastic bags in Bali — and beyond The gentle response to Chris Evans’ nude photo leak is how these things should always go down He promised to die ‘broke.’ $8 billion dollars later, the world is a better place for it.

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Heather Cox Richardson didn’t set out to build a fan base when she started her daily “Letters from an American.” The Harvard-educated political historian and Boston College professor had actually just been stung by a yellow-jacket as she was leaving on a trip from her home in Maine to teach in Boston last fall when she wrote her first post.

Since she’s allergic to bees, she decided to stay put and see how badly her body would react. With some extra time on her hands, she decided to write something on her long-neglected Facebook page. It was September of 2019, and Representative Adam Schiff had just sent a letter to the Director of National Intelligence stating that the House knew there was a whistleblower complaint, the DNI wasn’t handing it over, and that wasn’t legal.

“I recognized, because I’m a political historian, that this was the first time that a member of Congress had found a specific law that they were accusing a specific member of the executive branch of violating,” Richardson told Bill Moyers in an interview in July. “So I thought, you know, I oughta put that down, ’cause this is a really important moment. If you knew what you were looking for, it was a big moment. So I wrote it down…”

By the time she got to Boston she has a deluge of questions from people about what she’d written.


“It was clear that the readers wanted to know more,” she said. “They seemed to want to know the answers, so I wrote again…And I’ve written every night since because questions just poured in, and people flooded me with questions about what was going on. And who were the players? And how was this going to play out? And what were the laws, and why should I have any hope that this was gonna turn out in a good way? And this was just something that really was sort of reader-driven, not driven by me at all. And I think that’s probably why it’s had such staying power.”

For a year now, Richardson has synopsized the day’s political news in a way that only a historian can. She places everything into the big picture of American history while also offering facts and details that help readers understand the significance of what’s happening at the moment.

Prior to her letters, Richardson was best known as an academic for the five books she’s written, including “How the South Won the Civil War,” and “To Make Men Free: A History of the Republican Party.” Now, everyday Americans love her for her informative daily Facebook posts.

In an age where people build personal social media brands around being sensational, entertaining, or the loudest voice in the room, Richardson’s concise, historical, fact-based, no-drama posts are an unlikely way to form a following, but here we are. In 2020 there are still a whole lot of us who are desperate for a steady, knowledgeable voice of reason and sanity, and Richardson’s posts have have become lifelines of knowledge and hope for the nearly 600,000 readers who follow her Facebook page.

Part of Richardson’s appeal is her clear love of the topic. “I take our government extraordinarily seriously,” she told Moyers. “I have lived with American politics really since I was about 21, and maybe earlier because I was really first aware of the world during Watergate. And I care deeply about our traditions, about our heritage, about democracy. I’m happy to criticize it, because I always want it to be better, but I take that stuff really seriously.”

Another part of her appeal is that she is able to take the rapid pace of the news cycle, the constant craziness of our political climate, the complex patterns of history, and the way each of those things intertwines, and then condense it down into a 1200-word, easy-to-read “letter” that anyone can digest.

Having a political historian providing context is a huge gift, especially in the era of Donald Trump as president. While he clearly tramples over political and democratic norms—which some love and some hate—it’s not like we haven’t seen politicians like him before. In fact, his tactics are straight out of an autocratic playbook.

“It’s not just that he’s good at reading an audience, and it’s not just that he himself might have a short attention span,” Richardson told Moyers about Trump. “If you continually change the subject, you continually stay one step ahead of the story, you can do a couple of things. First of all, you can control the narrative, because by the time people have fact-checked you, you’re already onto the next story. Wisconsin Senator Joe McCarthy in the 1950s developed that tactic really carefully. Because the media simply couldn’t catch up with the stories, by the time you fact-checked ’em, they were fourth-page news. And there was the first-page story of something else outrageous. So it’s partly to control the narrative, but it’s also something I think more nefarious with this particular president. And that is that, if you, as Steve Bannon said, ‘flood the zone with expletive–’ what you do is, you keep your audience off guard all the time. They never know what the truth is. They never know what’s coming next, and they don’t know how to answer to any of it. And it’s a game of psychological warfare, if you will. But if you keep knocking people around enough, eventually what they will do is simply say, ‘I don’t care. It’s too much for me. Everybody’s lying. I don’t know what’s real. Just make it all go away.’ And when you do that, the way is pretty clearly open for an autocrat to step in.”

Richardson eloquently explains some of the realities—or alternate realities—that have so many of us baffled in the disinformation age. One of her areas of expertise is how politicians and political parties deliberately construct narratives to create their own reality; it’s something she’s spent a lot of her research time studying.

But the main draw to Richardson’s letters is how well she distills and contextualizes everything the way a history book would—only she does it for us in real time.

Writer Elly Lonon summed it up perfectly:

“Honestly, if democracy were a tv series, Heather Cox Richardson would be that little blurb that runs before the actual show starts. You know, ‘Previously, in Democracy…’ and then the summary so you remember where you left off and what you’re supposed to be paying attention to.”

It is definitely worth a click to follow her on Facebook.

She also hosts fairly frequent Facebook Live History & Politics chats in which she answers reader questions about things in the news. Her video from today addresses the I.C.E. whistleblower complaint about COVID handling and mass hysterectomies in an I.C.E. detention facility, gives some history of eugenics and poverty and wealth in the U.S., and explores whether or not there will likely be another coronavirus stimulus bill. It’s a worthwhile way to spend an hour.

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Justin Bieber gets ‘Holy’ for this new song with Chance the Rapper

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Justin Bieber is feeling the “Holy” spirit.

Dropped on Friday morning, his new single finds the born-again Biebs taking it to church with Chance the Rapper in a gospel-charged song about a righteous romance.

“The way you hold me, hold me, hold me, hold me, hold me/Feels so holy, holy, holy, holy, holy,” sings Bieber about a love that’s got him “runnin’ to the altar like a track star” with a choir behind him.

Chance comes through midway in the song, first crooning a la Bieber and then rapping: “I’m a believer/My heart is fleshy/Life is short with a temper like Joe Pesci…When they get messy/Go lefty, like Lionel Messi.”

“Holy” comes with a cinematic video that is a far cry from his stuck-on-lockdown “Stuck with U” clip.

In the video, Bieber plays a greased-up (but still sweet-faced) oil-rig worker who loses his job due to the pandemic. Meanwhile, his essential-worker boo — played by onetime JB superfan Ryan Destiny, formerly of TV’s “Star” — is a nurse who loses one of her patients.

Although it’s not quite clear how they end up homeless, the down-on-their couple end up getting a helping hand from Wilmer Valderrama — holy “That ‘70s Show” flashback! — who shows up out of nowhere as a returning soldier who offers them a warm, home-cooked meal.

It’s all calculated to pull on your heart strings in this trying 2020, but there’s no doubt that Bieber’s heart is in the right place.

“Holy” arrives just seven months after Bieber released his comeback album “Changes,” and the song continues the roll he’s been on with hits such as “Yummy,” “Intentions” and “Stuck with U.”

And let’s hope the star will be able to hit the road as scheduled next year: His Justin Bieber World Tour is supposed to launch in June 2021.

Perhaps some divine intervention will be needed to make that happen.

Justin Bieber and Chance the Rapper have released a new track, "Holy”.
Justin Bieber and Chance the Rapper have released a new track, “Holy.”Getty Images

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Chrissy Teigen’s Third Baby Is A Boy, According To Her Own Slip-Up On IG

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Chrissy Teigen didn’t wait too long to tell her millions of fans about her third pregnancy. After revealing her baby bump in husband John Legend’s “Wild” music video on Aug. 13, and confirming the couple’s happy news, Teigen has been open on social media about her pregnancy cravings, struggles, and more. On Thursday, Sept. 17, as Teigen was giving her followers an update on all things baby No. 3, she accidentally (and hilariously) revealed the sex of her and Legend’s third child. So if you’ve been wondering, Chrissy Teigen’s 3rd baby is a boy and we got confirmation straight from the mama herself.

“Explaining what’s going on with my poopy placenta on my stories if you’re interested,” Teigen captioned an Instagram video. “Apologies for all the missed commitments in the next few weeks.”

In the clip, Teigen is laying in bed explaining some complications she’s been having that have left her on bed rest. Speaking directly about her baby, she says despite what’s going on with her body, he’s “very, very healthy” and “he’s getting big.” After dropping the “he” multiple times, Teigen finally realized she had just spilled the beans. Watch the video — and her comical reaction — below.

Fans, of course, were thrilled to be let in on the secret that Teigen and Legend’s daughter, Luna, and son, Miles, are getting a baby brother. Teigen didn’t seem to be too upset with herself for letting out the news, either.

“Hahahahaha might as well tell you,” Teigen wrote alongside the same clip of herself on her Stories. “I’m stupid,” she said in the next Story, laughing at herself.

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We Wigged Out With Emmy-Nominated Hairstylist Ana Sorys From ‘Schitt’s Creek’

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When the Emmys air this weekend, there might be a bit more attention paid to the Contemporary Hairstyling category than in years past. You can thank Schitt’s Creek’s Moira Rose for that. Or really, you can thank hairstylist Ana Sorys, who joined the show in its third season and was the mastermind behind some of star Catherine O’Hara’s most iconic looks. The two managed to usher in a sort of Wig-aissance with a line-up of over-the-top extensions, colorful coifs, and scene-stealing postiche that felt as eclectic and unique as the character’s definingly winsome vernacular.

It’s not hyperbole to say the show changed the way we look at hair and its relationship to our own identities, although that does feel like the kind of grandiose endorsement daytime’s brightest star would appreciate. So we chatted with Sorys about the legacy of the show, the mind-blowing looks of its final season, and if we’ll ever see the wig wall again.

You joined the show in season three. Did you want to change anything in terms of the wigs Catherine had been wearing?

What I learned about Catherine — what I learned about Moira — was that she used her wigs as more of a mood and a feeling as opposed to what she looked like. She never knew what type of wig she was going to put on. It was always a last-minute thing. So when I came on the show, I decided that I was going to have a lot of wigs prepared, so if she had an idea in her mind of how she wanted to feel, I had it available. It was a lot of doing hair on the fly.

So how did that process of finding the right wig for the right scene work then?

Sometimes we’d do a wig fitting, and it’s not even a scheduled wig fitting. It’s the end of the day and it’s time to go home, and Catherine would always come into the trailer to say goodnight, and then we would just, she would try on a wig backward, or she would go through my bins and just have fun. I remember we spent, it must’ve been an hour and a half trying on wigs one night just cracking up. I think that was more of how the process went.

Moira goes on a journey in the finale season. How do her wigs reflect that?

In season five, a lot of the wigs were dark. We had a dark green wig; we had the black wig for cabaret; we had the crow that was black. I shop all year round and research, and I figured, season six, I wanted it to be a little lighter. I thought I just wanted to brighten things up. For instance, in season six, episode one where she’s coming out of the closet and she has this crazy white poodle wig that I bought in New York. She put it on backward, and it just looked like, I mean, “What the heck was that?” If we had put a dark wig on her in a dark time, in a dark closet, it just wouldn’t have felt the same.

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And in the last episode, for instance, when she and Alexis are in the room together, she has the short wig on. That’s actually from Judi Cooper-Sealy, who was her hairstylist since her SCTV years. She had passed away and Catherine brought this wig with her from California. She said, “I know this isn’t Moira, but I’d like to incorporate this wig somewhere as an ode to Judi.” So, we decided that it would be a good time to do it during that scene. And to make it more Moira, I said, “I’m going to sew some colorful pieces into this wig.” We did that literally at the last minute, while she was in rehearsals. So we still have an ode to her old hairstylist and some color.

We can’t talk about specific looks without talking about her Viking Priestess get-up from David and Patrick’s wedding. I’m guessing that wasn’t done on the fly?

Yeah, for that scene, we did do a little bit of planning. When we got the script, I went to Catherine and I said, “I know you’re going to be wearing this headpiece and this very long robe. What were you thinking for your hair?” And I showed her reference of this huge donut hairpiece that I thought would look good around the hat. So we drew a sketch of it, and we measured her head and measured the hat. And for weeks, I had worked on this piece. The crew would watch me walk around with this stuffed pantyhose that I was trying to figure out how I would wrap the hair around it, so it would stay clean and endure the whole day.

I tried sewing it. I tried doing all these things, and I just couldn’t figure out how it was going to work. Dan came to me the night before, and he said, “You’ve been working on this for so long.” He’s like, “You don’t have to have it. This is something extra, so don’t worry about it.” And I was like, “No way! We are doing this.” I found my glue that I used to put my tiles down in my kitchen and I used tile glue, and it worked perfectly. It didn’t change the color of the hair. It tucked it in place, it didn’t darken it. And her hair, we started out with, I think it was 40 inches. And two days later I said to Dan, “You know what? I think that hair should be longer.” So I added an extra 22 inches to it. In the end, it was 62 inches of hair.

And no one saw it until the day of?

Right. We didn’t tell the crew what she was going to look like. We wanted it to be a surprise and when she walked onto set, it’s a moment in my career where I watched everybody’s face, especially Dan’s face… they could not believe it. Everybody started clapping. It was so worth it.

When did you realize Moira’s wig collection had become something bigger than just a running joke on the show?

It was when we started seeing people dressed up as Moira in drag. That’s when we were like, “Oh my God, this is a thing now.”

It’s so markedly different than how any other TV series would use a hairpiece or wig, even other comedy series.

I think that people are starting to realize that it’s okay to wear a wig just for fun; not to change the way you look, but change the way you feel. Most people wear hairpieces and extensions, and it’s more about wanting to look like other people. A Moira wig is more about expressing yourself and how you feel. It’s about wanting to be different and it not being an issue.

Can you even compare what you guys did on the show with the other work you’re nominated against at the Emmys this year?

It’s interesting because I’ve had people ask me, “So, what do you think of your chances of winning an Emmy?” I made a decision not to look at any of the other work, and not to compare myself as an artist for the work that I did on the show. We did this very organically, and we had a lot of fun with it, and it was more about how we made the fans feel. You know? At the end of the day, I think the only thing that matters is how you make people feel when they’re watching TV and watching your work.

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The wigs became such a big part of Moira’s storyline. They were part of the comedy. Jokes were written in the script about them. Who came up with their names and backstories?

Well, for instance, in season six, episode one, where she’s calling out the names of her wigs because she’s worried that they’re going to burn in the fire. So the wigs, the names of the wigs are the names her best friends. They were Catherine’s best friends in real life. And when that episode premiered on TV, she invited those specific friends to her house to watch the episode, and those friends saw her call out their names on the show. She didn’t tell her friends that she was going to do that.

Which cast members went home with which wigs?

So, Catherine, she took the pink wig with her and she has the Sunrise Bay look. There was this one wig that I got from Japan. It was like a Harajuku blue wig, an anime, wig. We didn’t end up using it, but Dan said, ‘I want to take that one.’

And you have the rest?

I have them all packed away and labeled by episode, scene numbers, and seasons. I am pretty much in charge of what happens to them now, which is nothing. I didn’t want them to go into a production closet. Who knows if we’re ever going to need them again? So I just want to make sure that they’re in a safe place.

For an exhibition at The Met maybe?

That would be amazing. Yeah, we have to talk to Dan about that. He’ll love it.

Or you could just create a line of wigs. I’m sure fans would open their wallets for that.

Yeah, I’ve had women who were going through chemo contact me and ask me about wigs. They say, since they’ve seen Moira’s hair on TV, they’re having fun with wearing wigs as opposed to just wanting to blend into society. They’re actually wearing a pink wig or wearing a green wig, and it brightens their day. Who knows? Maybe there might be a Moira wig collection that you could buy in the future.

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