No Complaints #106: Boom, Bats and Backlash

Last week, I spent some time away from the internet, in a place with books, regular meal times and a nearby duckpond. It was as nice as everyone is always saying it is.

Things to read

“By that point, writers, editors, and readers had become suspicious of one another, and the factors that produced the personal-essay boom had started to give way. Some of the online publishers that survive have shifted to video and sponsored posts and Facebook partnerships to shore up revenue. Aggregation and op-eds – the infamous, abundant takes – continue to thrive, although the takes have perhaps cooled a bit. Personal essays have evidently been deemed not worth the trouble. Even those of us who like the genre aren’t generally mourning its sudden disappearance from the mainstream of the internet.”

Is the personal essay over? Or has it just moved to Tinyletter? I am fascinated by this kind of stuff. Email to Pocket.

*

“What made the boy was a polo shirt in the 1950s, a turtleneck in the 1960s, something polyester during the disco era. Gloria Stavers put Jim Morrison in her own fur jacket when she posed him for the cover of the magazine she edited, 16; the designer Bill Whitten put Michael Jackson in sequined jumpsuits that made him seem like light itself. As the teen male physical ideal was reshaped by gym rat practices and creatine, the fashions became simpler, to better show off honed physiques. By the mid-2000s the perfect teen idol outfit was more an ideal than a fashion statement: a white t-shirt, somehow never sullied — the ultimate sign of easeful male privilege. The one Harry Styles most frequently wore as the shaggy-haired main libidinal force in the boy band One Direction was a little loose but definitely clingy, sleeves rolled up so his fresh tattoos peeked through, possibly pulled out of a heap but somehow never wrinkled.”

Of all the excellent Harry Styles takes out there, I think this was my favourite. Email to Pocket.

+ Bonus Harry Styles content: we reviewed his debut solo album on the podcast this week, and talked about my co-host Anna’s three (3!!) irl encounters with him.

*

“They found that people in Argentina and other South American countries do, in general, require less personal space than people from Asia. In some places, strangers were encouraged to stay away, but friends could crowd in close. In Romania, for example, strangers are supposed to keep their distance. But friends can creep close. In Saudi Arabia, people stand farther from their friends than Argentinians do with strangers. Hungarians want loved ones and strangers at arms length, or at least 75 centimetres.”

A study into what “personal space” means around the world. Email to Pocket.

*

“You cannot know what it is like to be a bat by screwing your eyes tight, imagining membranous wings, finding your way through darkness by talking to it in tones that reply to you with the shape of the world. As the philosopher Thomas Nagel explained, the only way to know what it is like to be a bat is to be a bat. But the imagining? The attempt? That is a good and important thing.”

Helen Macdonald on what she learns from animals. Email to Pocket.

*

“The witch aesthetic emerged as a simultaneous evolution from and backlash against the aesthetic of weaponised femininity that rose to prominence in the late aughts and early teens. One parody video would famously sum up the weaponised femininity aesthetic as, ‘You want the wings of your eyeliner to be so sharp they could kill a man, allowing it to drain his blood so you may use it to summon the goddess Athena.’”

Explaining Lorde and the witchy aesthetic that surrounds her. Email to Pocket.

 

Things to listen to

Listening time is a bit limited at the moment (there’s an election on, etc), so today we have a smorgasboard of episodes that I have enjoyed recently.

Gabourey Sidibe on Death Sex and Money

National Sandwich Week on The High Low

The Secret Life of Alex Goldman on Reply All

Perfume Genius on Song Exploder

Emily Dickinson on In Our Time

 

Things to watch


 
 
 

Things to attend

This is where I put details of upcoming IRL things I’m doing:

9 July, London – The next SRSLY pop culture quiz is going to be on this date, subject still TBC, at The Book Club in Shoreditch. If you want to be the first to get tickets, sign up for our podcast email alerts here.

 

Compulsory medieval thingamabob

At the end of manifesto week.


 

The guest gif

On the plus side, new Twin Peaks next week.


If you have a suggestion for something I should look at, hit reply to this email or talk to me on Twitter.

If you like the newsletter or its website and want me to keep doing it, maybe think about giving me some money.

THE END. See you next time!

No Complaints #105: Mandy, Money and Mush

I'm sending this two days late this week; sorry. I've been very busy trying to watch as much of Twin Peaks as possible so as to fine-tune the questions for the quiz I'm hosting on Tuesday - do come along if you are able! Details at srslypod.com/twinpeaks.
 

Things to read

“Think of Mandy Moore’s 'Can-day,' Britney Spears growling 'oh bay-bay bay-bay', Gwen Stefani chanting 'hey bay-bay hey bay-bay HEY'. The trend to turn the 'ee' sound into 'ay' continued for years, maybe most memorably in Gnarls Barkley’s 'Crazy'. (Cray-zay, really.) This isn’t one guy’s vocal quirk: this is a trend, maybe a virus. Why did all these singers change their vowels in that particular way?.”

An excellent question with a very detailed answer. Email to Pocket.

*

“It’s a uniquely modern problem because we don’t grow our jaws long enough to accommodate our teeth. It turns out that nature has selected our jaw length on the basis of what it expects us to be doing during the period of time the jaw is growing. The more frequently you put force on the jaw, the longer the jaw grows. Nature has to guesstimate how long your jaw should be for teeth of a given size. Today we don't achieve that because we’re eating mush as kids.”

Essentially, we are doing teeth wrong. Email to Pocket.

*

“I didn’t put anything aside, ever. Money came in, money went out. I was always a paycheck behind, at least. I usually owed my chef my paycheck: again, cocaine. Like I said, until I was 44, I never even had a savings account. ”

Anthony Bourdain on doing money very wrong, and then doing it right. Email to Pocket.

*

“I'm not afraid of power. And I'm not afraid of money. I like them both. Does that make me sound like an asshole?”

An interview with Jenna Weiss-Berman, one of the biggest players in the US podcast scene. Email to Pocket.

*

“Still, a great deal of the business’s endurance has come from the core customer base in Alaska, primarily made up of older people. Alaska ranks high in disposable income among the states, due to good-paying jobs, exceptionally low taxes and payments from reinvested oil savings.”

Blockbuster survives in Alaska - this piece explains why. Email to Pocket.

 

Things to listen to

I've been completely gripped by the new adaptation of The Handmaid's Tale - we discussed it on the latest episode of my podcast, SRSLY, so I won't go into much more detail here about the show. But, I am really enjoying all of the commentary around it, including The Red Center, a podcast that is following the TV series episode by episode. It's co-hosted by Rose Eveleth of the excellent Flash Forward podcast too - well worth a listen.

 

Things to watch

Happy eagle.

All of The Joy of Painting.

An elderly piano.

 

Things to attend

An upcoming IRL thing I’m doing:

9 May, London – Did I mention there's a Twin Peaks quiz this week? You should come. More details and tickets here.

 

Compulsory medieval thingamabob

Bunny and Clyde.


 

The guest gif

Be honest, we all dream of this happening.


 

If you have a suggestion for something I should look at, hit reply to this email or talk to me on Twitter.

If you like the newsletter or its website and want me to keep doing it, maybe think about giving me some money.

THE END. See you next time!

No Complaints #104: Dictators, Dystopias and Dogs

If you don’t live in the UK and didn’t spend quite a bit of this week having to talk about what a “mugwump” is, then you probably had a better week than me.

Things to read

“Adult children of authoritarians are useful in three ways: first, they tend to be trustworthy confidants in regimes rife with paranoia, as corrupt authoritarian states usually are. Second, they are excellent vessels for laundering money,  creating enough distance that assets stolen from the state are harder to track. Third, they tend to have a warmer public profile which offsets the brutality of the dictator by distracting the population with pictures of their.”

Why a dictator’s daughter can be one of his most powerful weapons. Email to Pocket.

*

“We would need our strength if we were to make it to the Gulf before winter. Luckily, eggs are packed with Omega-3s, selenium and B12. I cracked them with one hand, directly into my mouth, one by one. A trickle of egg white ran down my chin. I saw no reason to wipe it away.”

I’m not sure why, but I found this hilarious. Maybe “dystopian cooking tips” are just my kind of humour now. Email to Pocket.

*

“I found myself becoming hyperaware of who was hanging out with whom in the office – not even who was dating whom (although of course that was interesting too), but who had become friends. I adopted a persona that felt – not haughty exactly, but an ‘I have my own friends anyway so I don’t need to be hanging out with you’ persona. Even though I kind of really wanted to. ”

On trying, and failing, to be a cool boss. Do men have these anxieties? I would be interested to know. Email to Pocket.

*

“By the middle of the nineteenth century, in other words, an ancient myth had mutated into a serious scientific hypothesis: the theory of the open polar sea. The most ardent supporters of that theory believed in a kind of Nordic El Dorado. Beyond the eightieth parallel, they held, the ocean was not merely ice-free but actually warm, leading to a kind of tropical paradise – possibly complete with a lost civilisation – tucked away at the top of the planet.”

Why Victorian literary culture was so obsessed with polar exploration. Email to Pocket.

*

“Over some 65 issues, from 1968 to 1983, the Chronicle became a catalog of abuses, noted in the most sparse, neutral tone possible. It was a painstaking effort to publish information that could never be obtained through the official Soviet media. Here, a citizen could read the details of closed political trials and the stories of what the Chronicle called “extrajudicial persecution,” understand what a K.G.B. search entailed, read secret documents meant only for those in power, learn about the constant religious and cultural persecution and get updates on political prisoners in the East.”

An amazing tale of fake news and journalism under authoritarian rule. Email to Pocket.

 

Things to listen to

Perhaps not unsurprisingly, I love a “writers explain how they write” interview. So imagine my joy when I discovered the WMFA Podcast, in which Courtney Balestier interviews a different woman writer in each episode about the practicalities of their job. There have been seven episodes so far, and I've just binged through the lots of them. My favourites are Emily St John Mandel (writer of the excellent Station Eleven) and Esme Weijun Wang (who was just named one of Best Young American Novelists).

 

Things to watch

I challenge you not to cry at this.

I wouldn't use the word fake here, but it's interesting nonetheless.

Robot Marie Antoinette ftw.

 

Things to attend

A couple of upcoming IRL things I’m doing:

2 May, London – A panel with Olly Mann of Answer Me This! and Jason Phipps of the Guardian talking about “how to launch and grow a successful podcast”. More details and tickets here.

9 May, London – The next SRSLY quiz is all about Twin Peaks! Get tickets here.

 

Compulsory medieval thingamabob

Bank holiday swimming!

The guest gif

Done.

If you have a suggestion for something I should look at, hit reply to this email or talk to me on Twitter.

If you like the newsletter or its website and want me to keep doing it, maybe think about giving me some money.

THE END. See you next time!

No Complaints #103: Athill, Auteurs and Animation

The two things that I do on the internet that I enjoy most are this newsletter and my podcast, SRSLY. In both cases, I can hit “publish” on a new edition or episode and know that people who actually want to receive it are on the other end of that click, and that if something I’ve said sparks a thought or question for them, they will write me a nice email or tweet or message and we can discuss it. I don’t have this confidence with other forms of digital publication. It turns out that I’m very far from the only person to feel this way – NC subscriber Helen Thomas wrote a great piece for Stylist last week that interviews lots of other women who find newsletters like this a more joyful way of sharing what they’re thinking and reading and doing. Have a read of it, and if you know someone who might like to join in with all this reading and replying and discussing and enjoying that we’re doing here, forward it to them as well.
 

Things to read

“Now I understood why the tickets were never paid: most of these Lisa Davises had, in some way, disappeared. They had given fake addresses or moved, and they were skirting the law – their own version of justice – however they could. I would never find them.”

I have my own, far less interesting, identity twin, so I was fascinated by this piece. Email to Pocket.

*

“But the NASA video also taps into something that goes beyond scientific discovery or Saturn. The public mourning of Cassini serves as another example of the complicated relationship between humans and machines, and of the tendency of humans to anthropomorphise robots and care about them.”

How do we say goodbye to a space robot? Email to Pocket.

*

“One need only consider Kidman’s vanity-free supporting appearance in last year’s Lion, alight quickly on Moulin Rouge! and The Others and go all the way back to her breakout roles in Dead Calm and Days of Thunder to appreciate the rigour and expressive range of an actress who can easily hold her own with the Meryl Streeps, Viola Davises and Cate Blanchetts of the world but is rarely mentioned in their company.”

Is Nicole Kidman a great, underappreciated auteur? I mean, maybe. Email to Pocket.

*

“There was no sign of that hidden feeling of being a failure, none at all. I was OK. From then on, I was a happy person. It was quite a long time I thought that healing was the only thing that made me write. But if you're writing that kind of thing, there is absolutely no point in doing it unless you try to get it exactly as it really was. That makes you prepared to say anything. People say, ‘How can you admit to things that are so shaming or so upsetting?’ It was no problem at all. I had to do it because that was part of the procedure.”

I love Diana Athill very very much and this is a nice (albeit quite short) interview with her. Email to Pocket.

*

“Here’s the thing: I don’t doubt that Wallace is a genius. And it’s not that I believe there’s no value in self-indulgent works by men. It’s just that I’m not very interested in them. These men seem to think I’m saying the thing they love is bad, when really I’m just saying I don’t care about the thing they love.”

I too have never read Infinite Jest, or indeed any David Foster Wallace, because of the kind of men who incessantly recommend his work. Email to Pocket.

 

Things to listen to

Call Your Girlfriend is one of those podcasts that remains in my permanent rotation, week in, week out, so I probably take it a bit for granted and don’t praise it as much as I should because it’s just so consistently good. But I wanted to break out of this habit for their episode 88 – The Businesswoman Special – and suggest that you all go and listen to it now. If you have even a passing interest in how the money side of podcasts works, or how to take something you do for fun with your friends and turn it into a real business, you’ll really enjoy it.

 

Things to watch

What would a millennial hoarder look like?
 

Umberto Eco’s library.

 

Things to attend

A couple of upcoming IRL things I’m doing:

22 April, Cambridge (tomorrow!) – A talk at the Cambridge Literary Festival with Susan Elderkin and Ella Berthoud to talk about fiction in troubled times and the “novel cure”. Tickets here.

2 May, London – A panel with Olly Mann of Answer Me This! and Jason Phipps of the Guardian talking about “how to launch and grow a successful podcast”. More details and tickets here.

9 May, London – The next SRSLY quiz is in honour of the third series of Twin Peaks, and it’s taking place at The Book Club in Shoreditch. Expect extremely hard questions, good food and possibly log-based costumes. Tickets here.

 

Compulsory medieval thingamabob

Hold your giant grey lion close tonight.


 

The guest gif

This election campaign is going to be awful, I expect. Find your otter(s) and don’t let go.


If you have a suggestion for something I should look at, hit reply to this email or talk to me on Twitter.

If you like the newsletter or its website and want me to keep doing it, maybe think about giving me some money.

THE END. See you next time!

No Complaints #102: Shirley, Students and Snakes

The sun has come out where I am. I hope the same is true for you.

Things to read

“‘Everybody kept telling them, “stop poking your nose where it doesn’t belong,”’ newspaper adviser Emily Smith told the Post. But with the encouragement of the superintendent, the students persisted.”

Nevertheless, these teenagers persisted and got a bad appointment at their school overturned. I really hope someone has already acquired the film rights to this so that we can all enjoy Spotlight: Junior Edition in 2019. Email to Pocket.

*

“One memorable challenge came when I was translating Lord Edgware Dies, which took me 10 years because of one almost impossible hurdle: a particular two-word clue, which to me felt inextricably bound to the English language. The words used in English sounded different in Icelandic, dissolving the clue entirely. In the end I resorted to simply referring to the English words as well, after trying dozens of alternative methods (for those interested in knowing the clue, read chapter 29).”

There is nothing about this that I don’t love. Email to Pocket.

*

“As an adult reader I was concerned: obviously the children can’t find gold, but isn’t this all going to be a massive anti-climax? And there are odd mentions of how Nancy’s view of the world is slightly strange, and that perhaps she can’t go on dividing people into pirates and natives. I’m sure I noticed nothing of this as a child reader, and in fact Ransome sorts it out very nicely and satisfyingly. I think most children will have guessed the secret of Timothy the Armadillo by the end. ”

One of my favourite blogs tackles one of my favourite Arthur Ransome novels. Email to Pocket.

*

“So maybe it was just sad, doughy me, at home stuffing the void with takeout, but it felt like Sad Girl Theory had infiltrated all the biggest moments in pop culture over the past two years. Beyonce’s visual album Lemonade, Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s breakout TV show Fleabag and Rachel Bloom’s My Crazy Ex-Girlfriend each fixated on two things: being sad and being a woman and the connection between both.”

Updating Sad Girl Theory for the year 2017. Email to Pocket.

*

“She showed off her rings, the stacked Victorian snakes that she wears like twin talismans. She was reluctant though to talk about their provenance. ‘That’s a secret,’ she said.”

I want to know the secret of Shirley MacClaine’s rings. Email to Pocket.

 

Things to listen to

This week, I finally listened to Witch, Pleasea podcast about Harry Potter by two Canadian academics. It’s one of those that I’ve been told so many times I’ll love that I just never actually pressed play. Now that I have, I can confirm that I love everything about it, from the old-timey theme music to the detailed analysis of Neville Longbottom’s extended family to the way they say “out”. If you have at any point read a Harry Potter book or watched a Harry Potter film, you will love this show.

 

Things to watch

 
 

 

Things to attend

A couple of upcoming IRL things I’m doing:

22 April, Cambridge – A talk at the Cambridge Literary Festival with Susan Elderkin and Ella Berthoud to talk about fiction in troubled times and the “novel cure”. Tickets here.

2 May, London – A panel with Olly Mann of Answer Me This! and Jason Phipps of the Guardian talking about “how to launch and grow a successful podcast”. More details and tickets here.

ALSO We will be announcing a new podcast live event next week, so make sure you’re on the SRSLY mailing list to be first in line for tickets.

Compulsory medieval thingamabob

Me on a Saturday night.


The guest gif

Come at me, birds.


If you have a suggestion for something I should look at, hit reply to this email or talk to me on Twitter.

If you like the newsletter or its website and want me to keep doing it, maybe think about giving me some money.

THE END. See you next time!

No Complaints #101: Peonies, Peaks and Puffing

Thanks for all your happy one hundredth wishes last week. Here’s to the next hundred. . .

Things to read

“Travel writing is traditionally concerned with the writer’s sense of belonging, or lack thereof – the spectacle of being somewhere new, the sense of displacement one feels. Focus on your own sense of self in a place where questions of belonging are at the heart of local politics and culture, however, and you risk misunderstanding the place entirely. Escaping is not a form of understanding, anyway.”

How does old-school travel writing fare in the internet age, when the people the writer has pronounced on can look up the article online and critique it? Email to Pocket.

*

“When I left Orthodoxy, there was some shock of re-entry into regular society, even though I never really left it. I had negotiated to keep a TV in my mother’s house, and my mother, may God and all the rabbis whose graves she prays over bless her a million times, understood that fundamentalism wasn’t something I could get behind. So I watched ‘Beverly Hills, 90210’, and ‘Twin Peaks’ and ‘A Different World’ to see how regular secular Americans related to one another.”

Heart-rending stories, including the writer’s own, about leaving Ultra-Orthodox Judaism. Email to Pocket.

*

“Once the seed was planted in cultural discourse, Mary Sue accusations became impossible to stop –  the toxicity surrounding the term has spread far beyond fanfiction self-inserts. Not long after it was coined, ‘Mary Sue’ became any original female character in fanfiction; for decades, women have been reporting that they stopped writing original female characters, then female characters altogether, for fear of the ‘Mary Sue’ label.”

My friend Elizabeth’s piece about the changing place of the Mary Sue in fanfiction discourse is very good and you should read it. Email to Pocket.

*

“You know you’re going to have to spend about 30% of your income on peonies each year, and keeping that money  –  the money that is rightfully the peonies’ money  –  mingling with your ‘spendable money isn’t going to do you any favors. Set up a separate account and (try to!) dutifully make deposits throughout the year.”

I don’t know why but this piece about peonies really made me laugh. I blame the onset of spring. Email to Pocket.

*

“When we got back to my house, we walked into my bedroom, laughing about something or other. He asked, ‘What’s that number on the wall?’ I hesitated, then decided to tell the truth. ‘That’s how much I weigh.’ I’d been keeping a record ever since the last guy I dated told me I’d gotten too fat for him to reasonably be attracted to.”

I include this mostly as a reminder that there are good people in the world. Email to Pocket.

 

Things to listen to

S-TownI suppose? All the cool kids are talking about the new Serial show. I am not cool and am therefore reserving judgement until I’ve finished all 7 episodes. Meanwhile, please enjoy – as I did this week – June Whitfield as Miss Marple in a BBC radio version of At Bertram’s HotelIncidentally, I am very keen to read some criticism about the portrayal of class and nostalgia in this particular Agatha Christie story, so if you know where some is to be found, send it my way. (No Complaints readers are excellent purveyors of unlikely academic papers, I have learned.)

 

Things to watch

A short documentary about Diane Keaton’s clothes in Annie Hall.

A film about a Syrian refugee making a new home in Tennessee.

A fictive flight above real Mars.
 

Compulsory medieval thingamabob

That was my head first.

The guest gif

Reading the news this week.

If you have a suggestion for something I should look at, hit reply to this email or talk to me on Twitter.

If you like the newsletter or its website and want me to keep doing it, maybe think about giving me some money.

THE END. See you next time!

No Complaints #100: Emails, Ethics and Exorcism

This is the one hundredth time I’ve done this, isn’t that strange? About six issues ago I had all sorts of plans for making this one really fancy and interactive, but then, predictably, I ran out of time so this is just your standard fare, typed in a bit of a hurry quite late at night. If I can be allowed a cheesy Oscars wannabe moment for a second: thank you very much to everyone who has replied with your thoughts and links over the past couple of years, and to everyone who has encouraged friends and followers to sign up. Knowing there are actual people reading makes carving out the time feel like a worthwhile activity.

Things to read

“Being good is a terrible handicap to making good work. Stop it right now. Just pick a few secondary categories, like good friend, or good at karaoke. Be careful, however of categories that take into account the wants and needs of other humans. I find opportunities to prove myself alluring. I spent a long time trying to maintain relationships with people who wanted more than I was capable of giving.”

The headline of this piece promises the bracing pep talk that the article then goes on to deliver: “Do You Want to Be Known For Your Writing, or For Your Swift Email Responses?”. Email to Pocket.

*

“It does require a fairly dystopian strain of doublethink for a company to celebrate how hard and how constantly its employees must work to make a living, given that these companies are themselves setting the terms. And yet this type of faux-inspirational tale has been appearing more lately, both in corporate advertising and in the news.”

Why do we think that Uber, Lyft etc offering platforms where people can work non-stop is a positive step towards labour’s future? Email to Pocket.

*

“‘What’s an exorcism?’ I asked. My mother dropped her berries. I watched her face blanch as the well-coiffed anchorman intoned our family name, Choi, over and over with incriminating flourish. She powered off the TV with trembling hands, then stepped outside, where meat charred on the backyard barbecue. I stared at her from the couch, still waiting for an answer.”

I think of this story as simply “my uncle, the exorcist”. Email to Pocket.

*

“The sad thing about Missing Richard Simmons is that if Richard Simmons finally decided to drop all of those rocks and rest – whatever state he was in when he did – then nothing makes it clearer how he got to that point than someone making a hit out of demanding over and over some kind of explanation. Perhaps he finally drew a boundary. Perhaps he finally put his sneakered toe out and drew that line in the dirt, in which case it's uncomfortable to think the response was, ‘How could you?’”

Like lots of people, I’ve been listening to the Missing Richard Simmons podcast, and like many others I have doubts about its ethical viability as a show. Email to Pocket.

We also talked about this on SRSLY this week.

*

“Doing interviews is weird. I’ve been doing them for a long time now and there is, no question, something vaguely prostitutional about it: there you are, the journalist/client, demanding this far more beautiful person simulate intimacy with you for an hour. Readers seem to get this on some level because one of the most common questions I get asked about my job is if I’ve ever slept with an interviewee, and obviously the answer is no, never even close, partly because I’m too busy worrying if my Dictaphone is working to even think about sex, but mainly because I know both the interviewee and I are just doing our jobs.”

If you’ve ever felt deeply uncomfortable reading an interview with a female celebrity written by a male journalist, you should read this piece. Email to Pocket.

 

Things to listen to

Lots of you enjoyed the Ed Sheeran review I put in last week, so you’re going to love this. The author of that excellent takedown, Laura Snapes, has just started a new music podcast called Unbreak My Chart, and it is super. She and co-host Fraser McAlpine run down the chart for the week, commenting, boosting, dissenting, laughing, and it’s fab. As someone who used to religiously tape the chart off the radio onto a cassette on a Sunday afternoon in my early teens, but who has since become totally disengaged from what ’s up and what’s down, it’s delightful to get back into the old habit with hosts who are unashamedly pro-pop while also being very sceptical and well-informed. Also, if you need an explanation for why Ed Sheeran has all the songs on the charts at the moment, the first episode contains a very good one. (iTunes)

Things to watch

No time this week! Sorry. This section back once I’ve actually watched something.

Things to attend

A couple of upcoming IRL things I’m doing:

22 April, Cambridge – A talk at the Cambridge Literary Festival with Susan Elderkin and Ella Berthoud to talk about fiction in troubled times and the “novel cure”. Tickets here.

2 May, London – A panel with Olly Mann of Answer Me This! and Jason Phipps of the Guardian talking about “how to launch and grow a successful podcast”. More details and tickets here.
 

Compulsory medieval thingamabob

Leonardo lied to us.

The guest gif

Landing in your inbox every Friday like

If you have a suggestion for something I should look at, hit reply to this email or talk to me on Twitter.

If you like the newsletter or its website and want me to keep doing it, maybe think about giving me some money.

THE END. See you next time!

No Complaints #99: Golf, Groove and Greatness

If, like me, you’ve had a fairly angry Friday so far, try this. It’s very soothing. Just call me Mrs Darningshire.

Things to read

“This is not to say that anyone should expect Sheeran – who is popular at weddings and funerals for a reason – to present a nuanced interpretation of gender politics within his songs (though his fans deserve more than depictions of women as angels or traitors). But more than his weak balladry, it's this disingenuous side that rankles.”

This review of Ed Sheeran’s new album by Laura Snapes is 🔥🔥🔥. Email to Pocket.

+ We also talked about this terrible music on the latest episode of the podcast.


*

“More overwhelming than any of this, though, there will be an almighty psychological reckoning for the kingdom that she leaves behind. The Queen is Britain’s last living link with our former greatness – the nation’s id, its problematic self-regard – which is still defined by our victory in the second world war. One leading historian, who like most people I interviewed for this article declined to be named, stressed that the farewell for this country’s longest-serving monarch will be magnificent. ‘Oh, she will get everything,’ he said. ‘We were all told that the funeral of Churchill was the requiem for Britain as a great power. But actually it will really be over when she goes.’”

Every little fact in this long and very well-reported about what happens when the Queen dies is bananas. Eg we have one aristocratic family – the Dukes of Norfolk – whose entire job, as far as I can tell, for centuries has been to run royal funerals. Golf will be banned in the Royal Parks after she is gone. Jeremy Corbyn is eligible to attend the official ceremonial proclamation of King Charles III. They take satire off TV until after the funeral. It’s all bonkers, long live the republic, etc etc. Email to Pocket.

*

“Also perhaps in reaction, The Emperor’s New Groove also has more examples of getting crap past the radar than virtually any other Disney animated feature, including my favorite moment when, if you are paying close attention, the animation spells out ‘D’ ‘A’ ‘M’ ‘N’ as logs fall through the screen. Not to mention the various cheerful moments where the film openly admits that, really, it doesn’t make much sense.”

The weird true story of Disney’s The Emperor’s New Groove. Fun fact: most of the songs were originally due to be by Sting. Email to Pocket.

*

“Even friends of mine – people I love – wrote, ‘why yes, we kind of agree, but why call it feminist? It’s just common sense.’ And I’m like no, it’s feminist,” Ms. Adichie said. “Or, oh it’s just humanism. Or someone said, ‘these are just democratic ideals.’ And I thought, what? It’s everything but to acknowledge the fact that gender is a problem.”

You can never read too many interviews with Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Email to Pocket.

*

“But agreeing on names that do a bird justice and leap off the field guide page is no easier than species classification. A great many birds are named for conspicuous features, like the Red-winged Blackbird’s brilliant red wing patch. The Striolated Puffbird itself belonged to this school of naming thought; ‘striolated’ means ‘striped’. Unfortunately for SACC, the low-hanging fruits have pretty much all been picked.”

All the good names for birds are taken, and everyone is quite cross about it. Email to Pocket.

 

Things to listen to

The month of #trypod is well under way. Here are the shows that I’ve recommended to people so far:

Pod Save America, Criminal, Nocturne, The Heart, Another Round, The High Low, Speed Dial, Song Exploder.

And here are the shows that I’m trying myself:

Embedded, Missing Richard Simmons, The Inquiry, Why Oh Why, The Dinner Party Download.

Hit reply and tell me what you’re trying, or if you have an idea for something I should listen to!

 

Things to watch

What a murmuration.

We’ve all been here.

Oh, Bridget.

 

Compulsory medieval thingamabob

“I can explain everything.”


The guest gif

Sometimes, staying still is making progress.



 

If you have a suggestion for something I should look at, hit reply to this email or talk to me on Twitter.

If you like the newsletter or its website and want me to keep doing it, maybe think about giving me some money.

THE END. See you next time!

No Complaints #98: Molly, Morse and Moles

Welcome to new subscribers! You can find out more about what this is all about here.

Things to read

“Naturally, certain mottoes and slogans from the civil rights and Black Power movements have fallen out of fashion, but the raised fist remains a hugely popular visual signal of defiance and solidarity. The co-optation of the raised fist as a patriotic symbol, winking cultural reference, and even totem of irony show that it is just as much about how we perform protest in the 21st century as it is about communicating resistance.”

What does the raised fist mean as a political symbol now that Donald Trump is doing it? Email to Pocket.

*

“‘I reckon there are three,’ Chapman said at last. She gave Page a quote for the work: £80 for the first mole with the price dropping to £60 a mole for two or more. She couldn’t promise to dispatch them on the first visit or even the second one. It could take weeks, but he didn’t have to pay a penny if she wasn’t successful. ‘No mole, no fee,’ they call it in the business. ‘You’ve already tried to catch them, and they might have got wily,’ she warned.”

Things I learned from this piece: moles are wily, nobody knows what to do about them, and there is a real person who works under the name “Lady Mole Catcher of Norwich”. Email to Pocket.

*

“Some children were handed over to men travelling alone, as when a US businessman left, after a brief visit to Ireland in 1949, with two toddlers from the Braemar home in Cork. The New York Times called it ‘a surprise for the wife’. The same year a US airman was given two children to take home by the Sacred Heart nuns at Manor House mother-and-baby home, in Castlepollard. This was reported in three US newspapers.”

Heart-wrenching details of Ireland’s 1950s black market in babies. Email to Pocket.

*

“If he sounds like a prince and our relationship seems like a fairy tale, it’s not too far off, except for all of the regular stuff that comes from two and a half decades of playing house together. And the part about me getting cancer. Blech. ”

A dying woman makes the case for why you should marry her husband. That sound you can hear is my sobbing. Email to Pocket.
 

+ This is another piece that I found via The Lunch Read, a Wednesday afternoon links email I’ve been really enjoying. You can sign up here.

*

“Since Trump’s election, Ginsburg’s continued survival has become a matter of severe anxiety for liberals, many of whom pressured her in vain to resign during the Obama years to ensure that a Democrat appointed her successor. On Thursday night, during an appearance at George Washington University, she vowed, ‘I will do this job as long as I can do it full steam.’ Worried about just how long that will be, people have been offering to send her kale or donate blood or clad her in protective padding, and it’s not entirely clear they are joking.”

A man does the 83-year-old Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s workout, and really struggles. I would not be surprised if she outlives Donald Trump, to be honest. I mean, can he do even one pushup? Email to Pocket.

 

Things to listen to

Here is a little smorgasbord of things I have enjoyed recently.

Mahershala Ali and his wife Amatus on Death, Sex and Money

+ All of the Lady Molly of Scotland Yard stories

+ The Allusionist explains why medieval wrongdoers liked to live near churches

+ Terrible Thanks for Asking on making a career-ruining mistake

+ Tokyo Hotel continues to be excellent and weird

 

Things to watch

I am the five-year-old in this scenario.
 

Tripping with Stravinsky.

The Morse Youtube hole is a good one to fall down.


Compulsory medieval thingamabob

Snails rampant = #coatofarmsgoals


 

The guest gif

I dare you to show me a better way to end the week.

If you have a suggestion for something I should look at, hit reply to this email or talk to me on Twitter.

If you like the newsletter or its website and want me to keep doing it, maybe think about giving me some money.


THE END. See you next time!

No Complaints #97: Sparrows, Sculpture and Smile

Why, hello.

Things to read

“The best times are when it comes unexpectedly, which is remarkable when I remember that you’re an actor, and so almost every time I see you smile it’s not truly unexpected, at least not from your side, you know what I’m saying? You know you’re about to smile that way because you’ve read the script, so you know a smile is called for there, and yet still: It always feels like you had no idea it was coming. Being able to summon genuine surprise  –  it’s just  – I just  –  when you really think about it  –  if there was a way –  it’s a great smile, is what I’m saying.”

How Mahershala Ali makes us feel. And since this piece was written he won an Academy Award. Everything is not awful. Email to Pocket.

*

“Female characters are often pictured as writing their own lives, in real time. Some of cinema’s most recognisable young female characters are diarists: Bridget Jones, Heathers’ Veronica, Amy in Gone Girl. It’s a trope of young adult film and TV: from the The Princess Diaries to My Mad Fat Diary to As Told by Ginger. But these retrospective “I should write about this!” reveals, as in the final episodes of Roseanne, function differently.”

My podcast pal Anna has written a great piece here about the portrayals of women writers on TV today, in the likes of Gilmore Girls and Girls. (Also, listen to Anna in action on the whole Oscars farrago.) Email to Pocket.

*

“Don’t pretend your eyes don’t hover, at least for a moment, over the delicately sculpted penises on classical nude statues. While it may not sound like the most erudite subject, art historians haven’t completely ignored ancient Greek genitalia either. After all, sculptors put as much work into penises as the rest of their artwork, and it turns out there’s a well-developed ideology behind those rather small penises.”

Don’t pretend that you haven’t always wanted to know this. Email to Pocket.

*

“‘This bird acts like it has four sexes,’ says Christopher Balakrishnan, an evolutionary biologist at East Carolina University in Greenville, North Carolina, who worked with Tuttle and Gonser. ‘One individual can only mate with one-quarter of the population. There are very few sexual systems with more than two sexes.’”

Birds, man. Birds are amazing. Email to Pocket.

*

“Like most of my fellow American Muslims, I spent much of 2016 watching with consternation as Donald Trump vilified our community. Despite this – or because of it – I thought I should try to stay on the NSC staff during the Trump Administration, in order to give the new president and his aides a more nuanced view of Islam, and of America's Muslim citizens. I lasted eight days.”

You can’t do better than the headline for this piece: “I Was a Muslim in Trump’s White House”. Email to Pocket.

+ I came across this piece via The Lunch Read, a Wednesday afternoon links email I’ve been really enjoying. You can sign up here.
 

Things to listen to

I’ve started listening to Containers this week, a podcast by Fusion’s Alexis Madrigal about the shipping industry. So far, I’ve learned some new things about logistics, the Bay Area and the Vietnam War, but the show itself is also a new departure in podcast advertising, which I also find interesting. It’s sponsored by a company called FlexPort, which is a freight startup, and obviously works in the very industry that the podcast it has sponsored is covering. This Wired piece is very good on the possible ethical issues this raises.

 

Things to watch


Things to attend

A few upcoming IRL things I’m doing:

14 March, London – Another SRSLY Harry Potter Quiz! It is now sold out, but there is a waiting list for tickets if you want to come.

22 April, Cambridge – A talk at the Cambridge Literary Festival with Susan Elderkin and Ella Berthoud to talk about fiction in troubled times and the “novel cure”. Tickets here.

2 May, London – A panel with Olly Mann of Answer Me This! and Jason Phipps of the Guardian talking about “how to launch and grow a successful podcast”. More details and tickets here


Compulsory medieval thingamabob

Togas are so last season.


 

The guest gif

Me too, tiny wolf.

If you have a suggestion for something I should look at, hit reply to this email or talk to me on Twitter.

If you like the newsletter or its website and want me to keep doing it, maybe think about giving me some money.

THE END. See you next time!

No Complaints #96: Care, Contraband and Cabbage

Here we go again.

Things to read

“I'm not bitter. Look, life goes on. It's a dangerous world. But one of the new tokens you could vote on was one of those record players with the big horn things on it, you know? Like teenagers are listening to those. I'm way less obsolete than that. And there's a hashtag! And that's not a thing! We were things. Dog. Shoe. Iron. Wheelbarrow. How do you put a hashtag in jail? A smiley face can't build a hotel! You can't rent from a poop emoji!.”

They’re retiring the thimble from the game of Monopoly, and this is its exit interview. Email to Pocket.

*

“I had confused consuming with care-taking, and while purchases can be a part of a self-care routine, they aren’t necessary to practice it. And the things I bought rarely made me happy; more than once, they made me ill. I once spent $30 on a fancy body scrub full of exotic ingredients that made my entire body break out in hives and turn into a scaly carapace that took weeks of antihistamines to heal. Another time, trying to experiment with healthy tonics, I spent $50 on a Himalayan primordial mineral powder that made me sick to my stomach the first – and only – time I consumed it.”

On the increasingly fraught relationship between capitalism and self-care. Email to Pocket.

*

“In 1992 he had a madcap idea to flood Pittsburgh, where he lived then, with $1m in Boggs Bills, and see if they could get through five transactions (handlers would put thumbprints on the back). The Secret Service warned the city and raided his studio, seizing more than 1,000 pieces of work. They never returned them. The courts solemnly debated whether the drawings were closer to pornography – which might be censored, but also allowed as free speech – or evil non-returnable contraband, like drugs.”

A man who liked to draw bank notes and then try and pay for things with them has died. Email to Pocket.

*

“When we lose something, our first reaction, naturally enough, is to want to know where it is. But behind that question about location lurks a question about causality: What happened to it? What agent or force made it disappear? Such questions matter because they can help direct our search. You will act differently if you think you left your coat in a taxi or believe you boxed it up and put it in the basement. Just as important, the answers can provide us with that much coveted condition known as closure. It is good to get your keys back, better still to understand how they wound up in your neighbour’s recycling bin.”

A beautiful reflection on the many meanings of “loss”. Email to Pocket.

*

“According to former ‘gentleman bookseller’ Steerforth, whole shelves of Nabokov used to disappear from his Richmond shop. One thief, the notorious curmudgeon Roy Faith, who specialised in high-end art books, ensured so much business for store detectives that one firm sent a rep to his funeral. Another wore a specially adapted raincoat to lift copies of the Times atlas – £75 a pop – two at a time.”

We just don’t steal books like we used to. Email to Pocket.

 

Things to listen to

I’ve been really enjoying the “Women Who Score” playlist on Spotify this week, which is full of great film music by women composers, and the work of Rachel Portman in general. (I only learned today that Portman was the first woman to win an Oscar for Best Original Score, for Emma in 1996. So that’s another good reason to rewatch Jeremy Northam’s turn as Mr Knightley, then.)


 

Things to watch




Compulsory medieval thingamabob

❤️️ you.


 

The guest gif

Here is an excellent set of gifs to help you learn American Sign Language.

If you have a suggestion for something I should look at, hit reply to this email or talk to me on Twitter.

If you like the newsletter or its website and want me to keep doing it, maybe think about giving me some money.

THE END. See you next time!

No Complaints #95: Ham, Hamilton and Hanks

At the risk of sounding like an obnoxious YouTuber who keeps talking about their “secret projects”, I will hopefully be able to explain very soon why this newsletter has been a bit intermittent/unpredictable over the past few weeks.

In the meantime, to everyone who has emailed me to so kindly check, be reassured – I’m not stopping doing it! (If you’d like to make a contribution towards its continued existence or guilt-trip me into sending it more promptly, forward it to a friend or make a donation.)

Things to read

“In 2015, after consulting an obscure set of notes Elgar wrote about the Variations, Padgett believed he finally found the right counterpoint, the one Elgar intended. It’s a mashup of the three famous renditions of the hymn: the 16th century Martin Luther version, the 18th century Bach version, and the 19th century Mendelssohn version. Played backwards.”

This story is bananas, for the following reasons: one, Elgar hid a secret coded tune in the Enigma Variations; two, he never told anyone what it was and it’s been driving academics nuts ever since; three, a creationist from Texas now thinks he’s worked it out. Email to Pocket.

*

“When communities secretary Sajid Javid delivered his white paper aimed at fixing the UK’s housing crisis in the House of Commons this week, he spoke of ‘young people, faces pressed against the estate agent’s window, trying and failing to find a home they can afford’. Maybe he doesn’t even realise the torment of a Rightmove trawl; he doesn’t know that you can take that disappointment home with you, see it relayed on a glowing iPhone screen, as you limit yourself to a sensible sum – four and a half times your combined household salary, say – and watch the website announce that ‘your search has returned 0 results’.”

Great piece about the sickening horror of the UK housing market, and the “bad luck and good luck” that allowed the writer a bit of wriggle room in it. Email to Pocket.

*

“ROBERT: (Pause.) I remember ham . . . lots of ham.
OPERATOR: In a sandwich?
ROBERT: No. No sandwich. Just ham pieces. (Pause.) There were also some . . . spoonfuls of chocolate frosting, two or three . . . green peppers, I think, and yogurt. A large tub of yogurt. Peach.
OPERATOR: OK, Robert, you understand that what you just described isn’t really lunch, right?
ROBERT: It is lunch. When there are no rules, it is lunch, Cherise!
OPERATOR: Did you at any point dip the green peppers in the peach yogurt?
ROBERT: Probably. Sorry.”

I don't work from home, but I know this would be me if I did. Email to Pocket.

*

“And here Hiddleston does a brief impression of Tom Hanks (he does very good impressions of everyone, including me after a day) that is hard to describe, except to say that it summons Tom Hanks in a very profound way. Its only flaw is also part of its charm: While he does the impression, he’s also looking at you to see how much you’re enjoying it, and then he can’t stop smiling when he sees that you are, so ultimately what you get is an impression of Tom Hiddleston enjoying himself doing a Tom Hanks impression. ”

This profile of Tom Hiddleston is so quotable, it was hard to pick this bit. Also, it’s such a good bit of sustained in-the-moment feature writing you should read it even if you don’t want to see lots of pictures of a handsome man in a series of nice brown suits. Email to Pocket.

*

“In orchestral music, trumpets tend to sit at rest for hundreds of bars, and then leap in with a loud, high pitched riff. In an irony repeated endlessly in life, the more confident you are, the more likely you were to hit those high notes, which needed a quick, perfectly pitched blast of air. It is not for the faint-hearted.”

This is excellent column about what being a women who plays the trumpet can teach you about confidence. Email to Pocket.

 

Things to listen to

Do you like Hamilton? I really like Hamilton. I also really like podcasts about Hamilton, particularly The Room Where It’s Happening and The HamilcastThe former is a really slick interview show that has had some really great guests like Rachel Bloom and Alex Lacamoire, and the latter is a lovely, informal chatty podcast, which is completely open and unashamed about how deeply they love this musical.

(I wrote a bit more about Hamilton podcasts here.)

+ Also: I was on the 21st Century Life podcast talking about doing a podcast and this newsletter (my interview starts three minutes in).

 

Things to watch

I liked Megan Tan's Ted talk.


Can't wait for the new Anne of Green Gables adaptation.


Best of luck with the wall.


Things to attend

14 March, 7pm, The Book Club, Shoreditch

My podcast co-host, Anna, and I are doing another SRSLY Harry Potter Quiz! It goes on sale at midday on 15 February, and this is the link you need for tickets. (Just an fyi, the last one of these we did sold out in 10 minutes, so if you want to go make sure your team is poised to book!)
 

Compulsory medieval thingamabob

“Now, be a good lion and hold my book for me quietly. NO ROARING.”


The guest gif

Keep smiling.


If you have a suggestion for something I should look at, hit reply to this email or talk to me on Twitter.

If you like the newsletter or its website and want me to keep doing it, maybe think about giving me some money.

THE END. See you next time!

No Complaints #94: Macaulay, Merkel and Meg

Slightly truncated edition today, because I am in A Rush. If only the news would just stop for a little bit. . . No, actually, let's not go down that road right now.

Things to read

“A few days earlier, I had debated spending $200 on a marabou feather robe to swaddle myself in luxury as a way to feel loved and cared for, but, after talking to Coco, I decided to hold off on the purchase. The next day, I walked to a grocery store and bought one piece of every citrus that looked to be in season. I walked home with a perfect Meyer lemon, a tangelo, a cara cara orange, and a grapefruit. Over the next few days, I slowly peeled a piece of pretty fruit and ate it, or I sliced it and added it to a glass of water, which I drank while getting dressed in the morning. The savoring became a comfort and felt extravagant in a way I hadn’t anticipated.”

Excellent, and very timely, piece about materialism and that so-disputed term “self-care”. There was also a good discussion about this in Emily Reynolds' newsletter today – I recommend that you sign upEmail to Pocket.

*

“Reflecting upon the city from its highest point is a jarring experience, inflicting in me a kind of motion- or sea-sickness even though we are on solid land. Steam rises from vacant hot tubs. Wind whips against both sides of our faces. Mist crowds the protective barrier and leaves the city opaque, our only clear sight the dark blanket of sky around us. After a few moments, the expansive view begins to feel stifling, like I might choke on all the atmosphere, or suffocate from a lack of oxygen. We are at the top of the world, but we are alone. We can see everyone, but no one can see us.”

I once spent seven hours in Dubai while they were building the Burj Khalifa. It’s a really, really weird structure. Email to Pocket.

*

“Looking at baby Dwayne – the actual boy on the cover of Hot Boyz’ 1997 album Get It How You Live! — few could have predicted the chain of events that would lead us to Carter III. At the time, I compared its unlikeliness to Macaulay Culkin somehow becoming the greatest actor of his generation. But it’s appropriate a child star would blaze a me-first path only a kid at heart could understand. Wayne created a new paradigm for an internet age, championing first-thought, best-thought frequency and data dumps of content. ”

Absolutely superb piece about Lil Wayne. Email to Pocket.

*

“For months I have been looking, again and again, at a single video. On July 15, 2015, Chancellor Merkel visited the Paul Friedrich Scheel school in Rostock. The visit is famous for a conversation the chancellor had with a fourteen-year-old girl, Reem Sahwil, whose family migrated, in 2011, from Lebanon. Reem’s first language is Arabic. Her German is fluent. At a certain point, the girl, who has been living in Germany for four years, begins to cry. She has always felt welcome in Rostock, she says, but she cannot feel certain of her future. She wants to stay, like her classmates and friends, in Germany. ‘I understand that,’ Merkel says. The chancellor goes on, to a careful, gentle, serious, explanation of what must be considered. Not everyone can stay, she says. Germany cannot accommodate all the people in the world who are in the direst straits. There are many problems. Between six thousand and seven thousand children have arrived, for instance, unaccompanied by family. Decisions will have to be made. Suddenly, the chancellor stops – interrupting herself in midsentence. ‘Ach, Gott,’ she says. (Or ‘Ach, komm.’ The sound is not that clear.) Then the camera, which has been on Merkel, follows her as she walks straight to the girl and leans over her to comfort her. Discussion in the classroom resumes.”

A very thoughtful essay about immigration and refugees in Germany. Email to Pocket.

*

“Literally no one’s favourite ‘little woman’ is Meg. This is because Meg is the most womanly of the little women, and no one actually likes women. Meg is mom jeans. Meg is minivans. Meg is Hillary Clinton.”

I actually quite want to be Meg now. Email to Pocket.

 

Things to listen to

I have found the US call-in show Indivisible thought-provoking this week, and Pod Save America actually made me laugh. I wrote about why here.

 

Things to watch

This section will be back next week when I have time to watch some things.
 

Compulsory medieval thingamabob

I see you.


The guest gif

There's definitely enough time left.

If you have a suggestion for something I should look at, hit reply to this email or talk to me on Twitter.

If you like the newsletter or its website and want me to keep doing it, maybe think about giving me some money.

THE END. See you next time!

No Complaints #93: Sisters, Saki and Scolds

Apologies for the unscheduled lack of email last week. I was parted from my laptop for a few days, which caused moderate chaos and meant a temporary cessation of NC services. New subscribers since last time - hi! You can find out more about what this is here.

Things to read

“You have lived through the unbelievable pressure of the White House. You have listened to harsh criticism of your parents by people who had never even met them. You stood by as your precious parents were reduced to headlines. Your parents, who put you first and who not only showed you but gave you the world. As always, they will be rooting for you as you begin your next chapter. And so will we.”

The Bush sisters write to the Obama sisters, offering their advice on how to navigate life as former First Children. No, there's something in YOUR eye. Email to Pocket.

*

“'After all,' said the Duchess vaguely, 'there are certain things you can't get away from. Right and wrong, good conduct and moral rectitude, have certain well-defined limits.'

'So, for the matter of that,' replied Reginald, 'has the Russian Empire. The trouble is that the limits are not always in the same place.'

Reginald and the Duchess regarded each other with mutual distrust, tempered by a scientific interest.”

I've been rereading the short stories of Saki - aka H.H. Munro - recently. This one, "Reginald at the Theatre", is one of my favourites. Email to Pocket.

*

“On the screened-in porch of her weathered grey wooden house in Massachusetts, Janet Malcolm has laid a table for lunch. She is almost 80 now – small, contained and gentle in her bearing. The food is delicious, and spread out on about five times the number of plates as there are people. Malcolm is unstintingly solicitous. ‘Would you like another piece of chicken?’ she asks. ‘Would you like another plate?’”

There are few things I would find more stressful than trying to eat lunch with Janet Malcolm at a table full of empty plates. She would definitely be able to discern all of my bad writing habits in the way I dished myself salad. Email to Pocket.

*

“When researchers stood near the food with dead crows or hawks, nearby crows would 'scold' loudly in front of their fellow crows; sometimes they would even attack the masked volunteer. Even when researchers returned multiple times afterwards with no dead birds in hand, the crows would still re-up their warning cry, suggesting they retained knowledge of potential threats.”

Probably the best thing about this study is that we now have scientific proof that crows really couldn't care less about pigeons. Email to Pocket.

*

“Before I had cancer, I could pretend 'poverty' was performance art. My clothes mostly used to belong to other people: an old man's plaid bathrobe, a silly mom sweater embroidered with chessmen. My gaudy dishes came from garage sales and antique stores. The couch came from the returned-or-irregular section of Ikea. Money seemed like such a silly thing until I needed it.”

A story of having cancer while poor. Email to Pocket.

 

Things to listen to

I've spent a lot of time with the Speed Dial podcast in the last week or so (because we were reviewing it on our own podcast, podception anyone?). It's a really excellent, unflinching, funny take on the world as it is now - they're on a hiatus until February, but I recommend starting with their final episode of 2016 and working your way back from there.

 

Things to watch




Compulsory medieval thingamabob

Love each other as much as these snails do.


 

The guest gif

Mood:

If you have a suggestion for something I should look at, hit reply to this email or talk to me on Twitter.

If you like the newsletter or its website and want me to keep doing it, maybe think about giving me some money.

THE END. See you next time!

No Complaints #92: Colman's, Copying and Closure

I hope you had a nice week off from getting my newsletter. Hello to the new people who signed up while I was away. I expect you have questions about wtf this is: I have tried to answer them here.

Things to read

“You look like you’re managing things that would floor other people, sensible people. Though nothing could be further from the truth. You become a person for whom it is second nature to find courage or aggression in yourself because you are frightened and vulnerable. Or you resort to passive-aggression, which is often my miserable chosen defence. Anything to avoid addressing the fact that you are terrified.”

Deborah Orr, being magnificent about how she is acknowledging and tackling her mental health problems. Email to Pocket.

*

“The drawing of her invention in her patent submission looks pretty similar to kitchen tongs. In a small black and white line drawing, the straightener has two handles that hinge in the center so that the user can clamp the irons together. Because this was 1893, there was no plug for the iron; it would have been heated over a fire or on a stove. ”

The story of the forgotten woman who invented the hair straightener. Email to Pocket.

*

“Even with all of the cool and not at all alarming stuff happening this past year, I was able to divert my attention to a personal goal of trying to figure out how much Diet Pepsi I consumed in 12 months.”

I found this amusing. I don't dare count how often I do bad things. Email to Pocket.

*

“Usually about 75 per cent of all gym memberships are taken out in the month of January. Not only this, but the economics of the industry absolutely depend on the fact that a very great proportion of January joiners will not visit more than three or four times in total before their membership comes to a floundering flop of weight not lost at the end of the year. The founder of Colman’s Mustard used to claim that his fortune was based on the bit of mustard that everyone left behind on their plate, but gym memberships have really pushed things to the limit when it comes to this model of making people pay for a lot more of the product than they have any likelihood of using.”

Your gym is a giant scam, basically. Email to Pocket.

*

“I don’t really – not really-really – know anything until I’ve copied it out, by hand, with pen and paper. Note-taking helps me to memorise the most useful, interesting, beautiful or aggravating parts of a book. It also means that whenever I want to retrieve a reference from something I’ve read, I can find it in my notebook. Not marked with a torn-up train ticket and then replaced on a bookshelf but I’ve forgotten which bookshelf, or given to a charity shop in the hopeful belief I’d never need to think about it again; but in my notebook, with a page number, marked on the contents page.”

I peer pressured my friend Sarah into writing this post about her awesome system of note-taking while she reads, so you all have to read it now. Doing this is a new thing I'm going to try this year, incidentally - ask me in 12 months how it's gone. Email to Pocket.

 

Things to listen to

Have I recommended On Being with Krista Tippett before? I can't remember. Anyway, it's good enough to justify a second go - it's a show about what it means to be human, told through conversations with interesting people. I find it simultaneously soothing and motivating. Start with this interview with Rebecca Solnit, and then try this one with a therapist who says there's no such thing as closure. This chat with Maria Popova from the most recent episode was also very good.

+ My podcast column this week was about ways that podcasts can improve you.

 

Things to watch

In the most recent episode of SRSLY, we picked the pop culture things coming up in 2017 that we are most excited about. So I watched a lot of trailers this week, and I wanted to share a few of them here.

The Worst Witch

La La Land

The Handmaid's Tale (bit of a cheat, this one, but I'm excited so...).

A Series of Unfortunate Events

 

Compulsory medieval thingamabob

Someone has to keep the illuminated lawn looking nice.


 

The guest gif

Up high.


 

If you have a suggestion for something I should look at, hit reply to this email or talk to me on Twitter.

If you like the newsletter or its website and want me to keep doing it, maybe think about giving me some money.

THE END. See you next time!

No Complaints #91: Christmas, Cheer and Charms

This is the third Christmas that I am sending this newsletter (special wave to anyone who was here in 2014, doesn't that seem like a long time ago, etc). Unlike last year, this is going out before Christmas Eve so that if you've got time left at work these links can still be of use to you to pass the time. There's a mixture here - some of my favourites from previous editions, plus some new stuff I read/watched/heard this week. I hope you enjoy it.

If you've had fun reading these things and chatting to me about them this year, consider supporting the continued existence of this newsletter. I have some expansion plans for 2017 that I'm pondering! 

Note I'm taking next week off, so the next edition will be with you on 6 January.
 

Things to read

“If any man ever hit you, if anyone ever sexually harassed you, you’d tell him to fuck right off. You want to be, no, you will be the kind of woman who can tell anyone to fuck off if a fuck off is deserved, so naturally you start a Fuck Off Fund.”

This is probably the piece that I have had the most conversations about with subscribers, and it most certainly bears rereading (originally in NC#53). Email to Pocket.

*

“Imagine if you woke up this morning and Disney’s 1998 animation A Bug’s Life did not exist. After endlessly scouring the internet, you’d come up with nothing, despite your own distinct memories of a bunch of ants going on wild hijinks through the undergrowth. You’d turn to your best friend, your brother, your mum, and say, “Hey, remember A Bug’s Life? It was about ants”, and your friend/brother/mum would turn to you and says: 'No, darling. You’re thinking about Antz.'”

My colleague Amelia has written some outstanding stuff this year (follow her, follow her now) but just before she left to go away for Christmas this week she pulled off a real mic-drop of a piece. It's about a film from the Nineties that half the internet thinks exists but actually doesn't, and the terrifying effects of collective memory. Email to Pocket.

*

“Quills are not styluses! Seriously people, how hard of a concept is it? I’m sure you’re all thinking that they could technically be used as a stylus , which is all well and good, except when the Charms Professor barges into my office with ink covering the screen of his tablet wondering why he can’t access Youtube.”

Still love the Muggle IT guy at Hogwarts (originally in NC#56). Email to Pocket.

*

“Personal productivity presents itself as an antidote to busyness when it might better be understood as yet another form of busyness. And as such, it serves the same psychological role that busyness has always served: to keep us sufficiently distracted that we don’t have to ask ourselves potentially terrifying questions about how we are spending our days.”

The whole concept of time management - and inbox zero etc - is all about avoiding thinking about death. Email to Pocket.

*

“Do I actually take a long time to put on my shoes? Until recently, I would have said no; it’s just that my girlfriend is short, and therefore closer to the ground, which means gravity has a stronger pull on her, which warps her perception of time. I would never have imagined that ‘my boyfriend takes a long time to put his shoes on’ was a common refrain.”

Men! Why does it take you so long to put on your shoes? (originally in NC#66). Email to Pocket.
 

*

“Henry’s workshop is five steps below street level, in the basement of the Congregation Sons of Moses synagogue. There are no windows and yet it’s a cheerful place, primarily because of Henry, but also because of the instruments he uses—the oversewing machine with its web of thread, the presses that are tightened by wheel crank, the hand guillotine and the foot guillotine. Some are wickedly efficient, others possessed of a Rube Goldberg charm. Grease is needed to keep these machines in working order, and there’s a sweetness in the air, from the lubricant oils, the leather polish and Elmer’s glue, all of it underlined by the nutty scent of paper recently cut.Do I actually take a long time to put on my shoes? Until recently, I would have said no; it’s just that my girlfriend is short, and therefore closer to the ground, which means gravity has a stronger pull on her, which warps her perception of time. I would never have imagined that ‘my boyfriend takes a long time to put his shoes on’ was a common refrain.”

The last bookbinder on the Lower East Side. Related: I stuck the spine of a decades-old and very well beloved book together with tape this week, and I did not make a good job of it. Email to Pocket.
 

*


“She’ll stick around for a few months because you been together a long, long time. Because you’ve gone through so much together – her father’s death, your tenure madness, her bar exam (passed on the third attempt). And because love, real love, is not so easily shed. Over a tortured six-month period you fly together to the D.R., to Mexico (for the funeral of a friend), to New Zealand. You walk the beach where they filmed The Piano, something she’s always wanted to do, and now, in penitent desperation, you give it to her. She is immensely sad on that beach and she walks up and down the shining sand alone, her bare feet in the freezing water, and when you try to hug her she says, Don’t. She stares at the rocks jutting out of the water, the wind carrying her hair straight back. On the ride out to the hotel, up through those wild steeps, you pick up a pair of hitchhikers, a couple so giddy with love that you almost throw them out of the car. She says nothing. Later, in the hotel, she cries.”

Oh, Junot Diaz. I could read you forever. (originally in NC#68). Email to Pocket.
 

*

“During episode three of Chewing Gum, the British comedy created, written by, and starring 29-year-old Michaela Coel, her protagonist Tracy Gordon crashes a party and accidentally takes too much MDMA. Rolling, she meanders home to a council estate in east London that’s suddenly bursting with color. 'It’s like a palace,' she enthuses, as neighbors grin and wave.”

I am so happy that Michaela Coel is in this piece - her show Chewing Gum, which we discussed on the podcast, is still one of the best things I've watched in a long time. Email to Pocket.
*
 

“There is a wonderful exchange near the beginning of the book when Rose reveals dramatically that she would consider selling herself on the streets, only to be told that this is unlikely to work in deepest Suffolk. Rose bursts into tears, with Cassandra speculating it’s because she has lost faith in ever meeting any marriageable men, ‘even hideous, poverty-stricken ones’. We’re left in no doubt that this is a story with sex and money at its heart.”

I Capture The Castle is still one of the best books ever (originally in NC#80). Email to Pocket.
 

 

Things to listen to

This is my summary of a year of listening - go download it all.

 

Things to watch

Toxic vs O Come All Ye Faithful is still the best.

Starlings, why do you do this?

Alan Rickman in a pot.

 

Compulsory medieval thingamabob

Me heading into 2017 like


The guest gif

Still the greatest gif ever made.


If you have a suggestion for something I should look at, hit reply to this email or talk to me on Twitter.

If you like the newsletter or its website and want me to keep doing it, maybe think about giving me some money.

THE END. See you next time!

No Complaints #90: Fawkes, Frosty and Friends

Hey look, I sent a newsletter on a Friday for once! 

Thank you to everyone who replied to my plea last week for end of year suggestions. The consensus seems to be a regular edition this week, some kind of 2016 round up next week, and then who knows? Maybe I will have a week off.

Things to read

“Sandy Fawkes, who died on December 26 aged 75, was found as a baby in the Grand Union Canal and later narrowly escaped death at the hands of a serial killer; she seemed a fixture in the public houses of Soho, but found time to follow careers as a journalist and author.”

What a start to an obituary. Email to Pocket.

*

“‘Baby, It’s Cold Outside’ – freezing temperatures are optimal circumstances for holding the object of your desire captive in your home. ‘Frosty the Snowman’ – no amount of magic can prevent your dearly beloved friends from dying.”

What you should learn from popular Christmas songs. Email to Pocket.

*

“One of the most recent, and most comprehensive, mathematical analyses of human-vampire interaction came in the form of ‘Mathematical Models of Interactions between Species: Peaceful Co-existence of Vampires and Humans Based on the Models Derived from Fiction Literature and Films’, published in Applied Mathematical Sciences in 2013. Drawing on a wide range of pop-cultural depictions, authors Wadim Strielkowski, Evgeny Lisin, and Emily Welkins defined and analyzed three models of vampire-human co-existence.”

Who knew that mathematicians have spent so much time modelling the effects of a vampire apocalypse on the human population of Earth. Email to Pocket.

*

“In that light, what has happened to like is that it has morphed into a modal marker – actually, one that functions as a protean indicator of the human mind at work in conversation. There are actually two modal marker likes – that is, to be fluent in modern American English is to have subconsciously internalised not one but two instances of grammar involving like. ”

Funny story: a man once edited a segment of my podcast that he felt contained too many instance of the word “like” and sent the audio file back to us along with his complaint. If only that man had done some more reading about language evolution. Email to Pocket.

*

“Oh, very well, if you must know, Little Lilibet was a compulsive obsessive, Margaret Rose was a screaming creative talent who was crushed by the demands of respectability and the mauve mother and father floated around in some other ether, incapable of making decisions on behalf of their children. And what of old Queen Mary, who wore gloves when toasting muffins on the fire with a silver toasting-fork, because she never allowed food to touch her bare hands? They are the modern royals in the making, and much as Crawfie paints sunshine over the canvas, the clouds are discernible.”

Jenny Diski reviews a memoir by Marion Crawford, nanny to the Queen and Princess Margaret. Excellent accompaniment to The Crown on Netflix, which I am watching at the moment. Email to Pocket.

 

Things to listen to

I wrote about podcasts that break down a TV show episode by episode in my column this week, and I have been gorging myself on these ever since. My personal top five are:

1. The West Wing Weekly.

2. Best of Friends.

3. Storywonk – both the Dusted and The Scot and the Sassenach strands.

4. Navigating the Newsroom (I really like Aaron Sorkin shows, OK?)

5. Gilmore Guys.

 

Things to watch

I think Bruno Mars might be the most adorable human alive.

Here he is as a tiny Elvis.

Honestly, listen to him cover Michael Jackson.


Compulsory medieval thingamabob

Good thing I brought my cauldron AND my sword today!


 

The guest gif

Have a good weekend!


 

If you have a suggestion for something I should look at, hit reply to this email or talk to me on Twitter.

If you like the newsletter or its website and want me to keep doing it, maybe think about giving me some money.

THE END. See you next time!

No Complaints #89: Couples, Critics and Cobalt

Yes, this is still a Friday afternoon newsletter, despite the fact that the past two editions have gone out on Sunday nights... What can I say, December is a very busy work month for me. I'm also starting to think about what to do for the end of the year, and I would value your thoughts, NC readers - would you rather have a "best of" 2016 mega-list of links, or some kind of summing-up essay, or a Q&A about how I put this together, or something else? Hit reply and let me know!

Note NC reader Naomi kindly alerted me on Twitter to the fact that I put the wrong link in for the hygge conspiracy piece in last week's edition. Sorry, it's here!
 

Things to read

“What will your field look like twenty-five years from now?

Quite literally littered with the corpses of all those critics who think women writers were at their best in a corset. I’ll be turning forty soon so, with any luck, I’ll still be around to laugh triumphantly as their life’s work molders into the obscurity it deserves.”

Eimear McBride is the best. Related: I read her book The Lesser Bohemians for the podcast earlier this year and I am still thinking about it. Email to Pocket.

*

“Maybe the biggest thing we should have known was to not trust the polls or data so much in the first place, although it’s hard to remember that when the numbers seem so sure of themselves after a few election cycles of making the right prediction. But we’ve been here before.”

This is a nice clear answer to the "why were all the US election forecasts wrong" question. Email to Pocket.

*

“By 1900, there were over fifty Societies, swapping species everywhere from Algiers to Tasmania. Think of a rampant colonial power, and chances are that people there were meeting regularly to scheme about how to spread different creatures to their colonies, and bring others back.”

In the 19th century, people were actively trying to spread animal populations to places they don't occur naturally, eg hippos in France. This is mad. Email to Pocket.

*

“We never think twice about who pays what. We just, I dunno, whoever pays the bill pays the bill, and whoever buys something buys something, but we never consult. I don’t even know how much money Meghan has in her bank account. She never knows how much is in mine. I don’t know why we’ve never combined bank accounts.”

A fascinating series of short interviews about how couples in very different financial situations handle money, income inequality, unpaid household labour, and so on. Plus a bonus interview at the end with a law firm that specialises in financial planning for polyamorous people. Email to Pocket.

*

“Empathy depends on your ability to overcome your own perspective, appreciate someone else’s, and step into their shoes. Self-control is essentially the same skill, except that those other shoes belong to your future self—a removed and hypothetical entity who might as well be a different person. So think of self-control as a kind of temporal selflessness. It’s Present You taking a hit to help out Future You.”

I can't remember if I've mentioned this in the newsletter before, but I bloody love Ed Yong's science writing for the Atlantic. This piece is a great example of him taking a complicated scientific theory and relating it to the stuff of everyday life, and explaining it so clearly that I feel like I do actually understand the underlying concepts too. He has his own tinyletter, which is a really good way of keeping up with his work. Email to Pocket.

 

Things to listen to

This week I have been bingeing through The Receipts like it's going out of style - it's a new British comedy/lifestyle podcast that I absolutely adore. Four women from London get together and have the most viscerally honest conversations I've ever heard recorded about love and sex and the times men have cheated on them. The audio quality is improving every episode, and I can't recommend enough that you get stuck into it straight away.

+ My podcast column this week was about diversity in podcasting and how we improve it - have a read and let me know your thoughts.

 

Things to watch





Things to attend

My podcast, SRSLY, is running a Harry Potter quiz in January. The first date sold out before I could mention it in a newsletter, but we've added another one that will go on sale at midday on Wednesday 14 December. This is the link you need to bookmark if you want to grab a ticket. It's taking place on 4 January at The Book Club in Shoreditch, east London, from 7pm, and I will be hosting it alongside my podcast partner Anna. Warning: the quiz will be really hard (because otherwise where's the fun?) so start revising now.


Compulsory medieval thingamabob

Have I ever told you that you're my best friend?



The guest gif

See ya.


If you have a suggestion for something I should look at, hit reply to this email or talk to me on Twitter.

If you like the newsletter or its website and want me to keep doing it, maybe think about giving me some money.


THE END. See you next time!

No Complaints #88: Songs, Solitaire and Second-Best

This time of year, everything starts to feel squeezed. I think of the last day of December as the edge of a cliff I'm about to fall off, so that as much as possible must be fitted in before I arrive there. Which is to say: I'm sorry this newsletter isn't coming to you on Friday as normal - I got busy.
 

Things to read

“The intention was that Solitaire would get a generation of computer users still most familiar with a command-line input to teach themselves how to drag and drop, without even realising that's what they were doing. The fact that we're still dragging and dropping today suggests that it worked rather well.”

Maybe you thought you were just having fun, playing Solitaire and Minesweeper on your early Windows PC. Well, you weren't - you were secretly being taught how to use a computer. Email to Pocket.

*

“If we're really honest here, you probably know who Rosamund Pike is, but you wouldn't exactly cross the street to get a selfie with Rosamund Pike. This is in no way a diss. This is, actually, a massive compliment: Rosamund Pike has been given every opportunity to be Kate Winslet, but has politely declined the invitation. She is beautiful and posh and talented. She has been a Bond Girl. She has worked with David Fincher. The very top rung on the ladder has been calling out to her years, screaming at her to push a little higher, to reach a little further, to be the British Hollywood It Girl that I'm sure her publicity team would love her to be. Instead, she pops up every now and then when she has a film she wants to promote, and then goes back to enjoying her life and her two children. Kate Winslet, meanwhile, gets torn apart every time she puts a foot wrong in an interview. ”

Is there glory in being second best? I don't know. Discuss. Email to Pocket.

*

“The nurse lovingly cared for Athena, hand-feeding her, training her to bow and curtsy, and tucking her safely in the pocket of her apron. Athena responded with a fierce loyalty. On occasion, a little too fierce. Athena was not fond of people she found intrusive to her human and often used her impressive beak to peck at those who dared to get within reach.”

Florence Nightingale had a pet owl who used to peck her enemies for her. Email to Pocket.

*

“When we first meet her again, Paris is wearing a white cowl neck shirt under a black, slightly metallic collarless jacket reminiscent of the Nina McLemore suiting favored by women in Washington. It’s slim and impeccably tailored, with sleeves that end just below the elbow for a “getting to work” vibe — a look that works equally well if you’re Elizabeth Warren or just leaning across your glass top desk to pitch a potential client on her fertility options.”

Decoding Paris Geller's wardrobe in the Gilmore Girls revival. Email to Pocket.

*

“The lightly encoded thought process, then, is that if hygge is uniquely Danish, and hygge can only be enjoyed by insiders, then migrants and outsiders will destroy the nation’s hyggelig atmosphere, and therefore effectively destroy Denmark. Lotte Folke Kaarsholm, an editor on the newspaper Information, said, 'Of course hygge excludes. The whole problem with Scandinavia is that these countries can only really work if you shut the borders. You have all these ideals of kindness on the inside, but for our solidarity to function, you need pretty tall walls.'”

Every please stop talking about hygge immediately. It is a right-wing nativist conspiracy designed to tamp down political dissent and sell you furry rugs you don't need, apparently. (This piece also contains some fascinating insights into  British publishing, eg the whole hygge book fad was basically started by one post on the BBC website.) Email to Pocket.

 

Things to listen to

This week I wrote about music podcasts, and as a result I've been listening to a lot of different ones. My favourite discovery while doing this column was Sodajerker on Songwriting, a Liverpool-based interview show with lots of great songwriters. They've had a lot of excellent guests, but my personal picks are Neil Hannon of The Divine Comedy, Alicia Keys and Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, who wrote the music for Frozen.

 

Things to watch





 

Compulsory medieval thingamabob

I. Said. Not. Now.


 

The guest gif

See you at the other end of the week!


 

If you have a suggestion for something I should look at, hit reply to this email or talk to me on Twitter.

If you like the newsletter or its website and want me to keep doing it, maybe think about giving me some money.

THE END. See you next time!

No Complaints #87: Scissors, Spreadsheets and Signal Flags

Well, that was a week. 

Things to read

“There are many reasons to love kitchen scissors. There is – hooray! – no board to wash up. You are closer to the ingredients, because you are handling them. Each snip feels like a delicate decision. When chopping herbs, scissors do less damage to the cell walls, keeping more of the brightness. But the real joy of scissors is the way the cutting motion feels like an extension of your own hand muscles. Maybe you are doing nothing more than chopping mint for a salad, but for a moment, you are Wolverine.”

In praise of kitchen scissors. Email to Pocket.

*

“Planning is a way to consolidate your power. Setting down what you want to do and the path you’ll take to get there is like dropping an anchor into a stormy sea. It fixes your attention, and the most important resource you have is your attention. Find your focus, commit your time, and amazing things can happen.”

I love making a new spreadsheet more than almost everything else, so this piece about how a well-designed one can help you change the world made me very happy. Email to Pocket.

*

“Harmonics are also important. To be perceived as urgent, an alarm needs to have two or more notes rather than being a pure tone, ‘otherwise it can sound almost angelic and soothing,’ says Baldwin. ‘It needs to be more complex and kind of harsh.’ An example of this harshness is the alarm sound that plays on TVs across the U.S. as part of the Emergency Alert System. The discordant noise is synonymous with impending doom.”

How the hierarchy of alarm noises is constructed from “get up for work now” to “this plane is about to crash into the sea”. Email to Pocket.

*

“The poetry of the signal flags is obvious: it’s the poetry of code. Meaning: it says that which means this. What a marvel. How does it do that, make that this? We all just agree that it does, so it does. The arbitrary magic behind all language and currency. Poetry as code demands a key made of life, rhythm, feeling—you match what you know, what you’ve brought, with the text, arranged as it is, and you see if anything’s been deciphered at the end.”

As someone who grew up partly on a sailing boat, it seems obvious to me that a yellow and black chequered flag stands for the letter Q, and also indicates that a boat is now disease-free. But I've never really thought about why the lexicon of flags is as it is. Email to Pocket.

*

“One recent Sunday morning, Kate McKinnon was leaning over the remnants of a sliced banana and trying not to cry. The banana was to help with the bruising she'd gotten on the set of a bachelorette-party-gone-wrong film, tentatively titled Rock That Body. "It's with Scarlett Johansson. Do you know of her?" McKinnon deadpans. "I've been doing some pratfalls." The crying was because I'd just innocently mentioned that, God willing, come January, she may very well be the first woman in Saturday Night Live's history to play the president of the United States.”

Reading this pre-election interview with Kate McKinnon is quite something, now. Email to Pocket.


 

Things to listen to

I did quite a lot of relistening this week. I went back through some of my favourite episodes of Nocturne (especially this one about conquering a fear of the dark). I’m still busy on my complete relisten of Song ExploderAnd I listened to this episode of Another Round again, twice. 

PS This week’s podcast column is an interview with Sarah Brown, political activist and wife of the former prime minister of the UK, Gordon Brown. 


 

Things to watch



 


 

Compulsory medieval thingamabob

Know how you feel, C.


(This week’s thingamabob was sent in by long-time NC reader Graeme. Thanks!)
 

The guest gif

May your dream-sheep this weekend have sprightly little legs like this.

If you have a suggestion for something I should look at, hit reply to this email or talk to me on Twitter.

If you like the newsletter or its website and want me to keep doing it, maybe think about giving me some money.

THE END. See you next time!