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The term “competence porn” was coined by TV and film critic John Rogers to describe the thrill of realistic drama centered around conflict resolution and problem solving. Well, if Borgen is competence porn, then sign me up, because I am ready to be turned on by some good civic governance. Now streaming on Netflix, the show follows Denmark’s first female prime minister, Birgitte Nyborg. It’s The West Wing but with universal health care and fewer long, Sorkin-esque speeches. The show also stars the radiant Sidse Babett Knudsen as the Danish leader—a girl crush for the ages. ( —Daisy Alioto



The good people at the new stationery brand Maurèle are making traditional handwritten cards more beautiful than ever. Founders Nick D’Urbano and Cece de la Montagne are partners in both art and life, and their Montreal atelier specializes in customizable note cards and letter papers in stunning fonts inspired by the stationery of John Steinbeck, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Salvador Dalí. I’m partial to the striking Taliesin design, which has generated admiring responses from those who have been on the receiving end of my correspondence. If there was ever a time to foster analog connections, it is now. ( —Ashley Baker



Tinned fish are unsung pantry heroes. I need something that I can buy, forget about, and lean on when I realize the remaining items in my fridge are bread, olives, and some wilting lettuce. Suddenly, the saddest lunch ever is positively zippy. Becca Millstein and Caroline Goldfarb launched Fishwife to ethically source your preserved-seafood needs. Their albacore tuna is caught off of Northern California and smoked and canned in Oregon. Enjoy a nice Nicoise or make yourself a tuna sandwich just like Eve Babitz likes it, “with chopped celery and lemon juice on whole-wheat bread, nothing else.” ($15, —Daisy Alioto


The Outermost House

In September 1926, a World War I veteran named Henry Beston moved into a cottage in the dunes of Eastham, on Cape Cod. He lived there for a year, watching “the four walls of the world” through his 10 windows. Beston wrote an account of his solitary adventure, The Outermost House, published in 1928. It is a quiet book, consisting mostly of observations about birds, shifting sands, starlight, and the unending rumble of the sea. I discovered this nature-writing classic quite by accident, and was startled by its elemental sentences. Like this passage on animals: “They are not brethren, they are not underlings; they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendour and travail of the earth.” The cottage is gone, washed out to sea in a blizzard in 1978. But we still have the book, which would make a fine gift for the nature-minded or readers of Annie Dillard. ($17, —Ian Stevenson

Issue No. 75
December 19, 2020
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Issue No. 75
December 19, 2020