No Complaints #118: Sleuths, Scams and Sounds

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No Complaints #118
25 August, 2017
Illustration by Isabel Greenberg
Enormous thanks to everyone who subscribed to the new No Complaints zine and its new regular Tuesday email on Patreon! I sent the first dispatch this week - a piece I wrote about the 1999 solar eclipse - and the postcards/physical zines are also in progress. This is a lot of fun, so thank you for making it possible.

If you're wondering what I'm on about, check out the start of last week's letter for a full explanation. And if you'd still like to sign up and get next Tuesday's email (which is going to be a digest of my favourite "back to school" novels) you can do that here.

Things to read

“How does a book with such a low Amazon ranking that’s ‘temporarily out of stock’ suddenly become the most read book in YA? How does something that has next to no organic blogging coverage or even Twitter buzz do this? If the only Twitter gossip for your book is variations of ‘Seriously, has anyone heard of this book?’ you’ve got problems.”

A gripping story of a publishing scam (make sure you read all the updates at the bottom). Email to Pocket.

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“There was never a time when their relationship was wholly private, no time when they belonged only to themselves. When they were first hanging out — not quite dating yet, ‘just talking’ — Walker had an iPhone, and Taylor immediately wore out the battery taking videos and pictures. He wasn’t big into social media back then: ‘I was kind of laid-back, real reserved’. But Taylor had always loved taking pictures and video, and she had a healthy following on Instagram.”

A profile of two social media stars who are famous for their relationship. I would love to read a "ten years on" update of this piece, too. Email to Pocket.

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“It is as if he floated through people's lives leaving nothing for them to recall. One teacher who spent time with him in her classroom every day says that she typically has a good memory, but she apologizes because she really can't remember anything about him. He did absolutely nothing that would trigger any attention except that he compulsively used hand sanitizer. Dylann Roof emptied bottles and bottles of the stuff into his hands, so much so that it became something of a running joke in class that Dylann could not do anything, not even go to lunch, until he had disinfected and scrubbed his hands clean. As if he were aware of some stain or some filth that others did not see.”

Magnificent is really the only word for this piece of writing. Email to Pocket.

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“Wild experimentation is indeed a hallmark of Zimmer’s career. The self-taught composer’s film work is known for its outside-the-box approach to sound: Inception’s oft-mimicked foghorn 'BRAAAMS', for instance, is famously the result of Zimmer hauling a piano into the middle of a church, putting a book on its pedal and having a dozen brass players blare into it. The eerie, frenetic Bane chant from The Dark Knight Rises was crowd-sourced from 100,000 Batman fans who submitted their own voices through a website. ”

I'm not sure I'll be going to the Hans Zimmer live experience any time soon, but I enjoyed reading about it. Email to Pocket.

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“Poirot is a professional, Miss Marple a professional amateur, but I have special affection for Christie’s accidental sleuths. They don’t start out with the presumption of omniscience; they struggle like the rest of us.”

A lovely little essay focusing particularly on Tommy and Tuppence (who appear first in The Secret Adversary). If you ignore the recent and quite strange David Walliams adaptation, you can get a lot of joy out of them. Email to Pocket.

Things to listen to

Millennial, a podcast I have enjoyed very much, has aired its last episode. The host's reasons for ending production - that the show was at its best when it documented her personal struggles to get a job in radio after graduating, and now she's achieved that, the format doesn't really work anymore - make sense to me. I think she's made a brave decision not to try and force more out of the product that made her name, and I'll look forward to what she does next. I will miss it Millennial, though, and if you haven't heard it yet, I highly recommend starting at the beginning.

Things to watch

A list of the films used, in order (it'll drive you mad otherwise).
That sound you can hear is me screaming.
The magical mystery chord.

Things to attend

12 September, London – Anna and I are doing another Game of Thrones quiz! The last one was honestly the most fun I've ever had reading complicated questions about made up genealogy out loud, you should buy a ticket, they're only £3.

17 September, London – My podcast SRSLY is also part of the line-up for the 2017 London Podcast Festival at King's Place. Tickets for our show are already on sale.

Also - at 4pm on the same day I'm doing a workshop entitled "How to Promote Your Podcast on Social Media". You should come - tickets are only £6.50.
Compulsory medieval thingamabob
Girls' night out.
The guest gif
Don't look round.
Did you enjoy this? Hit reply and let me know, or consider supporting me on Patreon.

THE END. See you next time!
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No Complaints #117: All change, please

This looks a bit nicer, doesn't? All thanks to the wonderful Isabel Greenberg, who is responsible for the new design. I've been hinting for a while that I had more plans for this newsletter, and now it's finally time to share them with you.

I've decided to start a zine! Last year, I was interviewed for a medium piece called "email newsletters are the new zines" and I thought, hang on, I'd like to make an actual zine as well as an email that is like a zine.

Over the nearly three years I've been doing this newsletter, a lovely community has developed around it. I like choosing things for you, and I love hearing your thoughts about them. Now, I want to make something physical for you to enjoy as well. I've been an editor for a number of years; I'm confident I can make something good.

To make this happen, I've rejigged my Patreon. For just $3 a month, which is the price of the coffee I hope you'd spot me if we met up in real life, you get a second weekly email from me, with extracts from works for the zine.

It could be anything - writing of mine a bit like this or this, or an article by a guest writer, or a drawing by one of my collaborators, or a recipe I've been working on, or a series of thoughts on some books I've read, or an acrostic made of podcast episodes, or anything. And if you pledge a bit more, you'll get a monthly postcard from me too, plus - once a quarter - a physical copy of the zine itself.

How does that sound? If you'd like to get involved in this new phase, go to Patreon and pledge something. If you have any technical difficulties with it or want to use another platform, hit reply and let me know. And if you'd like to appear in the zine or have strong feelings about something we should cover, tell me about that too.

The first zine email will go out on Tuesday. See you there.

Now, back to scheduled programming.

Things to read

“It rained a lot that summer. When I think back to it now, my mind fills with water cascading from overflowing drainpipes, the sloshing of waterlogged pavements beneath my feet, and the gush of flooded drains. The pouring rain, that mixed with filth as it ran in streams along the gutters, left grimy, streaky splatters up the backs of my bare legs. My feet were often sodden, a small hole in the leather by the toe of my right shoe an inlet of watery ingress under constant assault.”

A beautiful essay about being a woman alone in London. Email to Pocket.
 

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“Now - take a long, slow look around you. Is this the home you once envisioned for yourself? Well, maybe that's a bit deep. We are only getting started here.”

Home is a cup of tea, as drawn by the artist Candace Rose Rardon. Email to Pocket.
 

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“The term ‘world music’ has no place – and never had a place – in the world in which we live. It might have been created with the best of intentions but it is not a representative and universal term. It segregates music. Terms such as ‘ethnic music’ are even worse. Just think about the etymology of that combination of words: ethnic music. It tells you all you need to know about what’s wrong with the term ‘world music’ and all its friends and the – probably subconscious – mentality behind it.”

This is all so bang on. Email to Pocket.
 

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“Lanvin, Hermès, Dries van Noten, Lemaire. These are just a few of the luxury fashion houses that have continued an ancient Parisian fashion tradition: obliging guests to watch their shows while seated on a piece of furniture whose design is exquisitely uncomfortable. This antique folding chair has a seat made of five stapled slats of splintery wood and is apparently available in unlimited supply. Rows of them are lashed together with zip-ties to ensure you are intimately acquainted with your neighbours: each chair is a little over 40cm wide. The angle of the chair’s back is even worse: with a pitch of around 125°, you can recline only if you’re prepared to stare at the roof.”

The fashion world is utterly foreign to me, but I am fascinated by it all the same. Email to Pocket.
 

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“Among the affluent classes who already ate a healthier-than-average diet, the Instagram goddesses created a new model of dietary perfection to aim for. For the rest of the population, however, it simply placed the ideal of healthy food ever further out of reach. Behind the shiny covers of the clean-eating books, there is a harsh form of economic exclusion that says that someone who can’t afford wheatgrass or spirulina can never be truly 'well'.”

Bee Wilson is one of my favourite food writers, and this careful examination of why the 'clean eating' fad is so popular is excellent. Also, who knew that avocados now outsell oranges in Britain? Email to Pocket.

Things to listen to

I am completely obsessed with the Switched on Pop podcast at the moment. It examines both music and the industry behind it in a way that I find utterly compelling. Also, the most recent two episodes are about 'Despacito' and Selena Gomez's 'Bad Liar', two songs I can't stop humming but did not understand at all.

+
Bonus: The latest episode of Answer Me This also includes an excellent discussion of the Bieber earworm conundrum.

Things to watch

What on earth is this film, I'm so confused.
All the close ups from Mad Max.
How the sound in Dunkirk works.

Things to attend

12 September, London – Anna and I are doing another Game of Thrones quiz! The last one was honestly the most fun I've ever had reading complicated questions about made up genealogy out loud, you should buy a ticket, they're only £3.

17 September, London – My podcast SRSLY is also part of the line-up for the 2017 London Podcast Festival at King's Place. Tickets for our show are already on sale.
Also - at 4pm on the same day I'm doing a workshop entitled "How to Promote Your Podcast on Social Media". You should come - tickets are only £6.50.

Compulsory medieval thingamabob
The news right now.
The guest gif
This wolf has just been waiting down here for you the entire time.
Did you enjoy this? Hit reply and let me know, or consider supporting me on Patreon.

THE END. See you next time!

No Complaints #116: Diaries, Diets and Departures

I'm baaaack, having done battle with Airbnb and boxed up most of my possessions to move to another city. Also, I've had to move this newsletter onto a new system (we finally outgrew tinyletter, which is nice but also a bit sad) so please bear with me as I learn how to use mailkimp, sorry if it looks a bit ugly at the moment. I don't currently know why everything is sort of centred but not actually in the middle. If you do, please tell me.
Things to read

“As the ideas that sprang from the fat-acceptance movement began to trickle into the mainstream, fat people began to wonder what it might be like to put all this aside and just live their lives. Some asked themselves if they thought they could figure out a way to not want to be thin; some began to ask themselves if they actually liked the way they looked. They began to wonder if there was even a proven and effective way to become and stay thin anyway. They began to ask themselves if they should be dieting at all.”

This is an amazing piece of writing by Taffy Akner - it's partly an essay on her own weight issues and relationship with food, partly a commentary on society's attitude to women's bodies, and part an analysis of how Weight Watchers has struggled in the "clean eating" age, when dieting is taboo. Email to Pocket.

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“Other people are deeply ambivalent about the whole idea. 'Patronage itself has always been an iffy thing. You know, you piss off the Medicis, you get your head chopped off. And now we get that same kind of thing in the virtual world,' says writer and recording artist Mike Errico, a critic of the platform. Errico thinks Patreon can offer a good financial deal for musicians, but he worries that making artists immediately accountable to a loyal audience could discourage them from taking risks. 'You’ve got a boss, but your boss is this cloud of fans.'.”

Now, I use Patreon, because a handful of people over the years have asked me how they can give me money for doing this newsletter and it seemed like a reasonable solution. I'm thinking about doing more with it at some point, so this dig into the pros and cons of it as a funding platform was very interesting to me. Email to Pocket.

*

“I pick up a handful of multicolored stones, blow on them like they’re dice, and hand them to McCann. She blows on them too and recites a blessing that’s rooted in African shamanism. Then she closes her eyes again and meditates.”

Now I've noticed in the last year or so that lots of people on the internet I admire have been talking about crystals and tarot and new agey things like that. Guess what? It's a trend someone's making money from! Email to Pocket.

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“But if you subtract age from the defining characteristics of thin-skinned snowflake millennials, I am also a thin-skinned snowflake millennial, and I want to strongly recommend it as a lifestyle choice. Why? Because it keeps you away from offices, which are places where all sense of time and space evaporate and all connection to your own desires and longings, to your own humanity, to the natural rhythms of existence, steadily erode until your life feels like a shadow, haunting a dim facsimile of what a life is supposed to feel like. (Spoken like a true thin-skinned snowflake, the kind who hasn’t worked in an office for two decades!)”

Obviously, as a just-departed office worker, I found this deeply validating. Email to Pocket.

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“Every five years, she started a new large-format, hardback diary, in which she wrote a page a day before starting on her serious writing. Each day she did about 500 words, so each of her 11 diaries is at least 100,000 words. It is true they are heavily domestic, but she had lied when she said they were not personal. She wrote about her own writing, how her latest novel or biography was going. In real life, she would never talk about her work, and would drop everything if the children came into her room. Until they were late teenagers, I don’t think they properly realised she had a writing career.”

This account of diary keeping gave me so many feelings, especially since the writer, Margaret Forster, died last year and her husband Hunter Davies now has to decide what to do with all the notebooks he's found. Email to Pocket.
 

Things to listen to
Will Young - you know, off Pop Idol! - has a podcast now, and I quite like it. It's called Homo Sapiens, and as it's an interview show focused on LGBTQ issues he gets +100 points for that very obviously punning title. Indeed, I enjoyed the interviews with John Grant and Rebecca Root so much that I'm willing to forgive the fact that the show's first guest was Owen Jones.
 
Things to watch
How horses work.
Ava DuVernay on Roger Ebert.
Radiohead YouTube clickbait is my kind of clickbait.
Things to attend
12 September, London – Anna and I are doing another Game of Thrones quiz! The last one was honestly the most fun I've ever had reading complicated questions about made up genealogy out loud, you should buy a ticket, they're only £3.

17 September, London – My podcast SRSLY is also part of the line-up for the 2017 London Podcast Festival at King's Place. Tickets for our show are already on sale.
 
Compulsory medieval thingamabob
Leaving London like. . .
The guest gif
I'll go now.

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 #115: Salad, Souls and Stacks of Cheese

Hello everybody. Small housekeeping note: I'm going away next week so there will be no newsletter. Struggle on without me until 4 August BUT make sure you've got tickets to come and see Anna and I doing our very first live SRSLY episode at the Shoutout Festival in London on 5 August at midday. There are loads of other great shows performing too - do come along.

Things to read

“A green salad is a great friend to the home cook. Once you’re deep into making dinner, figuring out how to also get a fresh vegetable on the table can seem impossible. Enter the simple green salad. Just a serving of fresh leaves, it doesn’t need much more than a vinaigrette, but if you like the taste and colour that come with a sprinkle of shredded carrots, finely sliced onions or diced tomato, they absolutely belong in your bowl.”

You might think that you know how to make salad, but after you've read this, you will realise that no, you don't. Email to Pocket.

*

“One thing about living for a very short time in a new place where you don’t know anyone and don’t go into an office is that you should definitely feel extremely terrible all the time about not having close friends yet. That’s what I did, and I would recommend it to anyone — it makes you very fun and approachable. When the barista, who wasn’t as instantly warm as other people in the South and therefore the most appropriate target for my friendship, said that she liked my dress, I naturally, normally, and maturely started to picture a life built entirely around it. .”

I am about to move city, so obviously I have been looking at a lot of clothes on the internet to work out what kind of person I will be in my new location (for instance). Email to Pocket.

*

“In 1987, when the program debuted, there was no snopes.com, so your imagination could run wild. From the moment you saw the box the floppy discs came in, with it's friendly and businesslike female figurehead, the narrative seemed to write itself: Mavis seemed to be a professional lady in Reagan's 1980s. She'd risen to such excellence as a speedy and accurate typist — at the UN maybe? — that now it was time for her to pass on her technique to her fellow Americans. ”

I learned to type from this programme, and I'm a bit sad to learn that Mavis Beacon wasn't real. Email to Pocket.

*

“Spotify is currently striving for a never-before-seen level of authority over how music is distributed, discovered, and paid/not-paid for. Its ultimate goal is seemingly to build brand loyalty in the 'magic' of Spotify, to embolden that authority. Playlists are the top tool they are currently employing to expand their platform empire. To interrogate the world of playlists is to interrogate the world of Spotify and its unprecedented grab for power and control in music. ”

Music stats nerds assemble: this is an excellent, very detailed, explainer of how the playlists on Spotify work. (Spoiler: it's all to do with capitalism.) Email to Pocket.

*

“The motif of the stack of cheese, however, also appears with other foods where such associations cannot apply, and in any case is much stranger on the eye than a domestic context would suggest. In the Still Life with Cheeses, Almonds, and Pretzels, the semicircle of Gouda, the wedge of Edam, and the hexagon of sheep’s cheese present an interplay of geometries, in two and three dimensions, made more complex by the facets and fissures caused by the knife. ”

The art history behind paintings of cheese. Email to Pocket.

 

Things to listen to

I wrote a piece about the explosion of Game of Thrones podcasts this week, for which I listened to many, many such shows. My favourite one, after all of that, was Game of Thrones: The Podcast. It had the best balance of host chit-chat, serious show analysis and plot speculaton, and is very nicely produced. Obviously, it's full of spoilers, but that's mostly the point.

 

Things to watch

A condensed video history of Japan.


Hard agree.


It's like they read my mind.


 

Things to attend

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


5 August, London – Anna and I are doing our first ever live SRSLY episode at the ShoutOut Festival - an event dedicated to the celebration and discovery of diverse podcasts. Buy a ticket for the whole day, and see us as well as lots of other great shows like Another Round and Mostly Lit.

17 September, London – We're also part of the line-up for the 2017 London Podcast Festival at King's Place. Tickets for our show are already on sale.
 

Compulsory medieval thingamabob

Got your nose.

The guest gif

I'm off on holiday!


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 #114: Fonts, Faff and Food

Let's just get on with the stuff this week, shall we?

Things to read

“I put the computer on. I won’t look at the news. Just a quick check of the emails then. Shit it. Loads. All wanting fiddly things. The name on my passport? Eimear McBride. Which train do I want to Stansted? The 14.20 would be great, thank you. Are you around this week for an interview with our local paper but they’re not sure when exactly? Yes, probably. Actually they can’t do it this week, can they get back to you? Yes. We’ve had a think about it and decided it’s not convenient to do an event with you at our bookshop but see you some other time, yeah? Yeah.”

Eimear McBride deconstructs the the idea of writing about writing, while writing about writing. Email to Pocket.

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“Over the last six years I have lost my father. Not in one fell swoop which anyone can dispatch a wreath to. No, in tiny incremental steps. His brain gradually eroding. My already tiny family unit retracts hourly. Over these years, the only place my dad has agreed to eat at is the local Wetherspoons, close to his Lake District home. No faff, no fuss. By turn, I am majestically au fait with the big flappy menu. You know where you are with a Wetherspoons. And as time has gone on, I’ve been grateful for the fleeting moments, sat eating Balti on Curry Club Thursday where both of us know where we were. ”

Grace Dent on the reassuring, nuturing quality of a good chain restaurant. Email to Pocket.

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Incredible news from Pakistan, where a dispute about the origin story of a font is threatening to collapse the government. Email to Pocket.

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“Inevitably, Gould’s quirks – mumbling in the background on his albums and playing at tempos that he thought correct, regardless of a composer’s wish or orders – earned him detractors, some of whom assumed he was being intentionally bonkers, possibly for marketing reasons. But Gould believed that 'the only excuse we have for being musicians and for making music in any fashion is to make it differently – to perform it differently, to establish the music’s difference vis-à-vis our own difference', and he hated the fact that he involuntarily hummed along when he played, saying: 'It’s a terrible distraction; I don’t like it. I would resent any artist whose records I bought indulging themselves that way and I don’t see why anyone puts up with it.'”

A clever, lovely look back at the work of the Canadian pianist Glenn Gould. Email to Pocket.

*

“It’s totally cool that you got your whiskey on the rocks, but just so you know, you should really taste it neat first, then maybe add a bit of water. Where was I? Oh. So, when Quentin Tarantino was making The Hateful Eight, the script leaked. He said after that he was going to write it in the form of a novel instead of a movie, and I have to say that was devastating. It turned out fine, though, because he changed his mind. Then they released it on 70-millimeter and that was just, like, a religious experience for me. I know a lot of people don’t care about that sort of thing, but I’m just, like, a purist.”

An Oral History of Quentin Tarantino as Told to Me By Men I’ve Dated. Email to Pocket.

 

Things to listen to

This week, a mixed bag of podcast episodes I've enjoyed recently. (You can get more like this weekly on my Patreon.)

1. Desi Geek Girls - Fansplaining

2. The Kesha Spesha - Unbreak My Chart

3. She's Running - Call Your Girlfriend

4. That Beat, That Beat Right There - Mogul

5. My Brother's Wedding - Not By Accident (this show is back from hiatus, and I'm so happy)

 

Things to watch

Yes, God, Yes, a short film from the co-writer of Obvious Child.


This video made the British internet so angry this week, and it was glorious.

(PS, I have been to the restaurant featured and it was not all that. Their portions are too small for what they charge, imo.)


What does "Kafkaesque" actually mean? Important knowledge in today's news climate.


 

Things to attend

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

5 August, London – Anna and I are doing our first ever live SRSLY episode at the ShoutOut Festival - an event dedicated to the celebration and discovery of diverse podcasts. Buy a ticket for the whole day, and see us as well as lots of other great shows like Another Round and Mostly Lit.

17 September, London – We're also part of the line-up for the 2017 London Podcast Festival at King's Place. Tickets for our show are already on sale.
 

Compulsory medieval thingamabob

Rabbits, besieged.

The guest gif

My idol.


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 #113: Daphne, Discs and Dragons

In case you need a TLDR version of this: just watch the Queen video.

Things to read

“January, 1865. The peace on a regular English train journey from Carnforth to Liverpool is shattered by one man’s deranged laughter and erratic antics. Armed with a gun and attacking the windows to get to the other increasingly frightened passengers, he seems out of control. At the next train stop in Lancaster, the man suddenly becomes calm and serenity is returned. But as the train begins to roll again, his aggression returns. The motion of the train becomes the only means to gauge the man’s behavior. His mood changes from one stop to the next, twisting and turning with the carriage.”

The Victorians believed in an illness called "railway madness". Email to Pocket.

+Related: I recently read V.L. Whitechurch's Thrilling Stories of the Railway, and I can't recommend it highly enough (I like my detective fiction with plenty of precise details about signal boxes).
 

*

“Think about what TV has given — or, if you prefer, done to — the average viewer. When you lose certain, definable patterns, the game has changed. People don't talk about fall premieres or summer programming so much anymore; they talk about the "TV all the time" phenomenon. They are post-season. Because of DVRs and OTT streaming options, they are post-schedule. Because they are overwhelmed, they are, as mentioned, post-premiere. And, consequently, they are post-finale. Many of the old rules just don't apply.”

Put your hand up if you feel overwhelmed by the amount of TV in the world now 🙋. Email to Pocket.

*

“Few writers have watched and captured women with such conspicuous pleasure as du Maurier — the way they walk and wear coats and unscrew their earrings. The way they pin up their hair and stub out their cigarettes; the way they call to their dogs, break horses, comfort children, deceive their husbands and coax plants from flinty soil. Few writers (Elena Ferrante comes to mind) have been so aware of how women excite one another’s imaginations.”

In praise of Daphne du Maurier. Email to Pocket.

*

“The ocean in Moana is an anthropomorphic force that occasionally nudges Moana along the way. Except the ocean character doesn’t have a face. And it doesn’t talk. (In this way, it was a bit like the animated magic carpet in Disney’s Aladdin, Osnat Shurer, the Moana producer told me.) So Disney’s effects specialists and animators were constantly navigating the tension between wanting the water to look and act like actual water—but to be magical at the same time.”

How to animate the ocean. Email to Pocket.

*

“'I always wanted a video shop but in 1998 DVDs came out and sort of ruined me. I was like: well that’s the end of that dream,' he says. Still, he kept collecting, and is happy with his videos, which are arranged like a shop on shelves from old rental stores. 'I hate them,' he says of DVDs, 'I call them "soulless discs of hate".'”

My colleague Amelia is back with another weird internet story - this time, she meets the mysterious men who still trade VHS tapes over the internet, including one who goes by 'The Mayor'. Email to Pocket.

 

Things to listen to

Have I mentioned that I really like the Rookie podcast? I really like the Rookie podcast. Particularly good guests have included Lorde, Alia Shawkat, George Saunders and Roxane Gay.

 

Things to watch

Moose vs golfer.


Code yourself!



Queen have still got it.


 

Things to attend

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

LAST CHANCE 9 July, London – The next SRSLY pop culture quiz is all about Game of Thrones, and is already sold out. HOWEVER, there is a waiting list you can join here and if there's enough demand we'll add another date.

5 August, London – Anna and I are doing our first ever live SRSLY episode at the ShoutOut Festival - an event dedicated to the celebration and discovery of diverse podcasts. Buy a ticket for the whole day, and see us as well as lots of other great shows like Another Round and Mostly Lit.

17 September, London – We're also part of the line-up for the 2017 London Podcast Festival at King's Place. Tickets for our show are already on sale.

 

Compulsory medieval thingamabob

Here be dragons (with natty little hats).

The guest gif

You made it to the end!

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 #112: Snails, Skipping and a Stitch Up

I made a big change this week - yesterday was my last day at the magazine that I've worked for full-time for the last five years. I'll still be making podcasts for them, but I'll be a freelancer with (I hope) lots of other projects on the go too. I'm also writing a book. It wasn't really goodbye, but it was still hard to say goodbye to the people I've shared an office with every day for so long.

I'm also thinking of making some changes to this newsletter, to build it out beyond just a list of links and clips to share some more substantial writing, both by me and those I admire (any thoughts on this appreciated, hit reply and tell me who you'd like to hear from! Basically, I want to start my own zine). I'll have more details on this in a few weeks, but if you'd like to be involved in the meantime, the best thing you can do is head over to my Patreon - in exchange for a few dollars a month, I send you extra article and podcast recommendations. Thanks for reading this far!
 

Things to read

“Despite my support of active wellness, I loathe the self-care-industrial complex, which has invented countless problems to make women hate ourselves so that we buy more argan oil. Still, it’s hard to feel bad for the women who have been conned into buying the quackery and Moon Juice that Goop peddles.”

I've enjoyed various takes about Gwyneth Paltrow's Goop conference (don't judge me, this is how I relax), but this was my favourite. Email to Pocket.

+Related: The author, Claire Carusillo, also writes one of my top five favourite newsletters of all time and you can sign up for it here.
 

*

“Whatever it sounds like in The Paris Review, writers don’t lie around in open fields all day. Writers dig tunnels through mountains of gravel, using their bare hands. And sometimes the gravel gives them a bad rash, and they cry and then call their friends and say, 'I’ll bet that fucking button-eyed fucker never gets a rash, ever.'.”

An excellent Ask Polly column about professional envy, particularly for writers. Email to Pocket.

*

Nothing cheered me up this week like reading the @LRBbookshop Twitter account’s theory that the Griffin Poetry Prize is a stitch up perpetrated by people linked (however tangentially) to gentle ITV detective drama Midsomer Murders. Email to Pocket.

*

“It can all be traced back to a series of small, inadvertent errors. At the same time, Daly’s scrambled legacy reflects a century and a half of systematic gender discrimination in the art world. 'Even contemporary galleries have a hard time giving equal representation to female artists and artists of color. It’s still mainly a white male industry,”'Matthie said.”

The story of how a woman's art was misattributed to a man with a similar name, and then how the mistake was rectified. Email to Pocket.

*

“So what is lectureporn? It is the media spectacle of a lecture whose audience is the opponent of the lecture’s intended target. Jon Stewart, Trevor Noah, Samantha Bee, Keith Olberman, Rachel Maddow (again, friend of Roger Ailes), Aaron Sorkin, and a whole host of others have built their careers on this form. Lectureporn pulls off an amazing trick: it simultaneously delivers both elements of narcissistic supply. You sit and watch someone ingratiate themselves to you while they eviscerate someone you don’t like who is, in turn, unlikely to watch said lecture. ”

A provocative but somewhat persuasive piece about the confirmation bias problem of things like The Newsroom and Last Week Tonight. (I still like The Newsroom though but I do know that it's a fake liberal fantasy about a kind of journalism that isn't real.) Email to Pocket.

 

Things to listen to

I'm just going to put a big old plug here, and you can't stop me. We've just published the 100th episode of our podcast, SRSLY, and it's a bumper Harry Potter special that involved lots of my wonderful colleagues and even includes a dramatic fanfiction reading. Please have a listen, we had a great time making it.

 

Things to watch

How samurai swords are made.

Cinematic New York.

Bears, swimming.

 

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 all about Game of Thrones, and is already sold out. HOWEVER, there is a waiting list you can join here and if there's enough demand we'll add another date.

5 August, London – Anna and I are doing our first ever live SRSLY episode at the ShoutOut Festival - an event dedicated to the celebration and discovery of diverse podcasts. Buy a ticket for the whole day, and see us as well as lots of other great shows like Another Round and Mostly Lit.

17 September, London – We're also part of the line-up for the 2017 London Podcast Festival at King's Place. Tickets for our show are already on sale.
 

Compulsory medieval thingamabob

Snails on a mission.


Thank you very much to the people who responded to my “wtf did all the knights hate snails?” question last week. I was sent several informative articles about it – read this one and this one. But ultimately, nobody really knows:

“Other scholars have variously described the ‘knight v snail’ motif as a representation of the struggles of the poor against an oppressive aristocracy, a straightforward statement of the snail’s troublesome reputation as a garden pest, a commentary on social climbers, or even as a saucy symbol of female sexuality.” 
 
¯\_(ツ)_/¯  

The guest gif

Me, skipping into my new work life like a happy Voldemort.

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 #111: Montage, Marriage and Mossad

Lots of good things this week! Where else could you find some Zadie Smith AND something about butterfly copulation, eh?

Things to read

“So then Naomi Watts goes to the treehouse to kill Hank from Breaking Bad at a great distance with a sniper rifle, because she listened to a 90-minute tape from her dead son and now she's in the Mossad. The plan is that she will do a little yoo-hoo whistle into one walkie-talkie, and the other walkie-talkie will be right at the spot on the bridge where Hank needs to stand so he can be shot. Hank is in his study, and he hears a faint yoo-hoo whistle off in the distance, so of course he goes right out to investigate, with his handgun. (Rifle fire: not worth checking out. A whistle in the middle of the woods, which is presumably full of birds: investigate at once.) Naomi Watts aims. Henry is still in her earbuds, giving her motivational messages. But then she slips and activates one of Henry's Rube Goldberg things, which ends up lowering a bunch of Polaroids of Henry from the ceiling. And she looks at those pictures, really looks at them, and it hits her: ‘I can't do this. Henry, you're a child.’ So then she runs back to her car, with her sniper rifle in her hands, and this is fine with everyone.”

Sometimes, I really love a furious review of a bad film, and this one of inexplicable child-genius drama The Book of Henry did not disappoint. Email to Pocket.

*

“Yu, a gentle-looking man in his early forties, with the placid demeanor of a yoga instructor, works as a mistress dispeller, a job that barely existed a decade ago but is becoming common in major Chinese cities. His clients are women who hope to preserve their marriages by fending off what is known in Chinese as a xiao san, or ‘Little Third’ – a term that encompasses everything from a partner in a casual affair to a long-term ‘kept woman’.”

Mistress dispelling is becoming big business in China – fascinating story. Email to Pocket.

*

“Peele has found a concrete metaphor for the ultimate unspoken fear: that to be oppressed is not so much to be hated as obscenely loved. Disgust and passion are intertwined. Our antipathies are simultaneously a record of our desires, our sublimated wishes, our deepest envies. The capacity to give birth or to make food from one’s body; perceived intellectual, physical, or sexual superiority; perceived intimacy with the natural world, animals, and plants; perceived self-sufficiency in a faith or in a community. There are few qualities in others that we cannot transform into a form of fear and loathing in ourselves.”

Zadie Smith writing about Get Out. Need I say more? Email to Pocket.

*

“It can take a while to get into your stride, but walking soon becomes natural – the knack is to treat your stick like an extra leg, rather like this scene from Delicatessen, albeit without maracas. It is also teaching me a lot about people. My walking stick is a visible declaration that I am weaker than others, which occasionally makes me feel vulnerable – but I also enjoy quiet fantasies of being a cyborg with an additional metal leg.”

What it’s like to get used to needing a walking stick. Email to Pocket.

*

“A cabbage white’s ejaculate is very different from a human’s. Rather than a blob of white gunk, it’s a complex solid package called a spermatophore, which consists of a hard outer shell, soft nutritious innards, and a ball of sperm at the base. The male deposits this into a pouch within the female reproductive tract called the bursa copulatrix. Once inside, the sperm swim off into a second pouch – the female will later use these to fertilise her eggs.”

I will never look at a cabbage white butterfly the same way again. Email to Pocket.

 

Things to listen to

Sometimes, scrolling through the categories of the BBC Radio iPlayer app in order of how likely they are to contain programmes worth listening to*, you come across an unlikely gem. And so it was the other night, when I found a repeated edition of The Verb, which contained an in-depth interview with the recently-deceased author Helen Dunmore. She reads some of her poems, and talks about why she's obsessed with the sea, and explains how she arranged her bookshelves. It's wonderful.

*For those who are interested, it goes Drama>Crime; Drama>Classic & Period; Factual>Life Stories and then everything else mostly at random until you get to Comedy>Impressionists, which is the worst category of all and mostly just contains old episodes of Dead Ringers.

 

Things to watch

Nelson’s column is very tall.


Chokers: they were a thing long before the nineties.


The Soviet Theory of Montage.
 

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 all about Game of Thrones, and is already sold out. HOWEVER, there is a waiting list you can join here and if there's enough demand we'll add another date.

5 August, London – Anna and I are doing our first ever live SRSLY episode at the ShoutOut Festival - an event dedicated to the celebration and discovery of diverse podcasts. Buy a ticket for the whole day, and see us as well as lots of other great shows like Another Round and Mostly Lit.

17 September, London – We're also part of the line-up for the 2017 London Podcast Festival at King's Place. Tickets for our show are already on sale.
 

Compulsory medieval thingamabob

Take that, snail.


(Please can someone explain to me why everyone in the past hated snails.)

 

The guest gif

This cat is worried for you.

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 #110: Peggy, Pubs and Pools

I got a lot of very nice replies last week from people saying how much they appreciated links to things that weren't related to All The Bad News. I'm glad to have helped in some way; here's some more.
 

Things to read

“On weeks when I wasn’t working, I went to a Wetherspoons near my house to apply for jobs. Limitless refill coffee saw me through to lunchtime, and then a soup and half baguette for £2.30. The pub had the atmosphere of a barely-maintained care home mid-morning. I stared in appalled awe at the elderly Irish men who congregated each day, faces livid with booze. I remembered stories my dad had told me about men in his hometown who had moved to London and failed to find regular work. They lived in abject poverty in shared bedsits, but when they came home for a visit to Ireland would scrape together enough to buy drinks for everyone at the bar – they so badly wanted to pretend they had made it. What was going to happen to me?”

A beautiful essay about Ireland and London and love and Wetherspoons. Email to Pocket.

*

“Our interview is one of her last publicity commitments for the show and it's been a long day already, but Moss is energetic and emphatically, almost comically, kind. She asks if I'm sure it's okay that I'm buying her a drink (a Moscow Mule with Grey Goose; I have another Campari, heavy on the soda) and she positions my recorder carefully to make sure it's capturing our interview, checking several times to make sure it's still working. Eventually, she insists on holding it on her lap. ”

Elisabeth Moss: kindest interviewee ever? Email to Pocket.

*

“I have another part-time job that nobody knows about. It doesn’t pay very well because … well, technically my ‘boss’ doesn’t actually know I hired myself to do the job. But whenever he decides he needs me, I’m certainly ready and waiting. You see, when it comes to the aesthetics of Wes Anderson movies, ol’ Wes and I are like two peas in a pod.”

Just hire this woman, Wes Anderson, she is great at this job already. Email to Pocket.

*

“Swimming pools serve as a repository of symbolic meaning in the movie world. A glamorous but attainable status symbol, their popularity at home soared in the second half of the 20th century. So too did their appearance on cinema screens. A year after The Graduate forever connected the swimming pool to the malaise of the well-off, Frank Perry’s The Swimmer, a deeply eccentric adaptation of John Cheever’s short story, was released. In it, a spry Burt Lancaster (always brilliant at corn-fed American masculinity gone slightly to seed) challenges himself to swim across a series of his neighbours’ backyard pools. He thinks they form their own sort of ‘river’ on his way to his house.”

This is the kind of film trend piece that I exclaimed "YES I've noticed that too" all the way through. Email to Pocket.

*

“Fetishisation of “teen girl” cultural value has led to an unnerving and ever-increasing sense that a teen girl is somebody an adult woman might want to be. Mirroring this insult to teen girls’ experience is the implication that adult women cannot ever become full adults. This insults all of us, suggesting that personhood for women lies in some fantasy infantile state: never a child, never an adult.”

I feel a bit “hmmmm” about this piece (I used to be a teenage girl, and I don't want to be one again) but it's interesting none the less. Email to Pocket.

 

Things to listen to



Lorde’s new album!
This is the only thing I want to listen to at the moment. My thoughts are not very fully formed right now, but I just know it's music I'll be listening to ten years from now. Also – craven plug alert – we're going to talk about it in detail on the next episode of SRSLY so subscribe now.

+ Podcast-related reading: Helen Zaltzman did an interview describing her desk/software setup, and it's delightful.

 

Things to watch

Fingering.


Studio Ghibli in real life.


Inside an ancient Japanese hotel.

 

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 all about Game of Thrones, and is already sold out. HOWEVER, there is a waiting list you can join here and if there's enough demand we'll add another date.

5 August, London – Anna and I are doing our first ever live SRSLY episode at the ShoutOut Festival - an event dedicated to the celebration and discovery of diverse podcasts. Buy a ticket for the whole day, and see us as well as lots of other great shows like Another Round and Mostly Lit.

17 September, London – We're also part of the line-up for the 2017 London Podcast Festival at King's Place. Tickets for our show are already on sale.

 

Compulsory medieval thingamabob

Monkey scribes ftw.

The guest gif

Waiting for the weekend 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 #109: Carrie, Caffeine and Clerks

Oh, what a night. I very nearly skipped a newsletter this week, as I'm still very tired and confused after staying up for about 30 hours straight to work on the UK election results. But I have been reading and listening and watching other things to distract me from it all, so perhaps some of these will do the same for you.
 

Things to read

“At Fountain Court Chambers in central London, the senior clerk is called Alex Taylor. A trim, bald 54-year-old who favors Italian suiting, Taylor isn’t actually named Alex. Traditionally in English law, should a newly hired clerk have the same Christian name as an existing member of the staff, he’s given a new one, allegedly to avoid confusion on the telephone. During his career, Taylor has been through no fewer than three names. His birth certificate reads 'Mark'. When he first got to Fountain Court in 1979, the presence of another Mark saw him renamed John. Taylor remained a John through moves to two other chambers. Upon returning to Fountain Court, in 2008, he became Alex. At home his wife still calls him Mark.”

It's not all about wigs, you know, although it is a bit about wigs. Great piece on the strange world of the barristers' clerk. Email to Pocket.

*

“So why is the show so often portrayed as a set of empty, static cartoons, an embarrassment to womankind? It’s a classic misunderstanding, I think, stemming from an unexamined hierarchy: the assumption that anything stylised (or formulaic, or pleasurable, or funny, or feminine, or explicit about sex rather than about violence, or made collaboratively) must be inferior.”

Emily Nussbaum is outstanding on Sex and the City. Email to Pocket.

*

“The delicate word there is informed. Many people seem engaged in a daily arms race between wakefulness and unconsciousness, using various products to mask and manage poor sleep habits, and ultimately just needing more products. Spray-on caffeine followed by spray-on melatonin. Or alcohol, which only further messes with our physiological rhythms.”

Seemed appropriate: an Atlantic longread entitled "how to sleep". Email to Pocket.

*

“ As far as I could tell, all wedding dresses pretty much looked the same, and brides looked happy because they were in love. I had never seen a wedding dress that I remembered for more than 10 minutes after I left the reception. But maybe I was missing something. Maybe now that this was happening to me, some grand and electric secret would be revealed.”

What is it about the big fancy white wedding dress? I'm still not sure I know after reading this. Email to Pocket.

 

Things to listen to

I've been really enjoying the On She Goes podcast, hosted by Aminatou Sow of Call Your Girlfriend fame, which is all about women, race and travel.
 

Things to watch

A great 12-minute gangster film.

Shopping list goals.
 

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 all about Game of Thrones, and is already sold out. HOWEVER, there is a waiting list you can join here and if there's enough demand we'll add another date.

5 August, London – Anna and I are doing our first ever live SRSLY episode at the ShoutOut Festival - an event dedicated to the celebration and discovery of diverse podcasts. Buy a ticket for the whole day, and see us as well as lots of other great shows like Another Round and Mostly Lit.

17 September, London – We're also part of the line-up for the 2017 London Podcast Festival at King's Place. Tickets for our show are already on sale.

 

Compulsory medieval thingamabob

The British electorate right now.



 

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 #108: Bronte, Books and Baby B

I have the day off work today, and I'm using it to swim in a pond and not think about the election. Oh, and send this, of course. Reply and tell me your political calm-down techniques, if you have them - I think I'm going to need them in the next seven days.
 

Things to read

“This may seem an unnecessarily deep philosophical hole to fall into at the question of where to shelve a roman à clef, but it is the essence of a slippery slope, and one easy to start down while staring at a wall of mystery books at 9 pm on a Sunday night with not a soul in the store, wondering what constitutes a mystery per se, and whether we ought to be shelving Gillian Flynn next to Tana French, and what about Patricia Highsmith? This is the bedrock of reason beginning to crack.”

An essay on the philosophical implications of shelving books. Email to Pocket.

*

“From winding rock paths on the Quiraing to East London bushes, from roman hillside forts to woodland dingles, from scrappy tufts of marram grass on northern sand dunes to rocky southern outcrops, I have pissed all over some of the greatest landscape this set of islands has to offer. Not in the leery, lairy, out-on-the-piss, down-the-side-of-a-biffa-bin way that ruins most city centres on a bank holiday, of course. I mean the sort of bracing, al fresco, grass-against-your-soft-bits wee that becomes essential if you’re spending more than about six hours outdoors. ”

I'm not sure I'm confident enough to enjoy the bracing pleasure here extolled of weeing out of doors, but I like reading about the author's bold attitude to the whole experience. Email to Pocket.

*

“Fat acceptance was indeed born during the same era as second-wave feminism; today, body positivity and pop feminism exist as the significantly less radical, more widespread versions of their predecessors. As these ideals have deviated further from their origins, becoming more watered-down and commercialized, they’ve also become inextricably linked.”

Part summary, part opinion piece on the feminist discourse around weight loss. Pair with this episode of This American Life entitled "Tell Me I'm Fat". Email to Pocket.

*

“For all the many celebrities who harp on about self-improvement and remembering how to be humble, Wood strikes you as someone who has just got on with it by working hard and having a good old go at understanding who she is. Intrinsic to this understanding seems to be her embracing of Quakerhood. 'Well, a quaker meeting involves sitting in silence,' she explains, 'which actually, is just lovely. And then, if anyone is moved to speak, they speak. But that doesn't happen often. It's a wonderful thing.'”

An archive interview with Victoria Wood by Pete Paphides. Email to Pocket.

*

“In the wish-fulfilling world of Jane Eyre, the equivalence of human souls promises to nullify the power imbalances of gender, money, and class. Brontë, of course, had no such luck, yet by insistently maintaining an authorial persona distinct from, if inevitably linked to, her “real” identity, she staked her right—forcefully, defiantly, furiously—to a scrap of utopian equality.”

Why Charlotte Brontë was angry. Email to Pocket.

 

Things to listen to

Invisibilia is back with a new series! They've kicked off with a two-parter about emotions - what they are, how our body produces them, the different things they make us do - but the show's return has also prompted me to go back to some favourites from the previous two series: "The New Norm"; "How to Become Batman"; "The Problem with the Solution"; and "Outside In". (The NPR website makes it frustratingly hard to link to individual episodes (sort that out, please!) but if you go to the main show page and scroll, you'll find them all.)

 

Things to watch

Beautiful little film.

 

Things to attend

This is where I put details of upcoming IRL things I’m doing. Which, this summer, is mostly live podcast events! Here all the details:

9 July, London – The next SRSLY pop culture quiz is all about Game of Thrones. It's at The Book Club in Shoreditch, and costs the highly bargainous price of £3 a head. Tickets go on sale here at midday on 7 June.

5 August, London – Anna and I are doing our first ever live SRSLY episode at the ShoutOut Festival - an event dedicated to the celebration and discovery of diverse podcasts. Buy a ticket for the whole day, and see us as well as lots of other great shows like Another Round and Mostly Lit.

17 September, London – We're also part of the line-up for the 2017 London Podcast Festival at King's Place. Tickets for our show are already on sale, and I know because he tweeted me that at least one person has bought one so far, so hurry and get yours before they're all gone.
 

Compulsory medieval thingamabob

Smell you later, suckers.

The guest gif

No gif this week because bad cafe wifi wouldn't let me upload one. Back 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 #107: Scrolling, Strangeness and Sound

It's been a dreadful week. I have nothing to say except: do what you have to do to keep doing.
 

Things to read

“Abdulfatah was casually scrolling through Twitter when he realised his profile picture had been stolen. 'Honestly, it was horrific,' he tells me – again over Twitter’s messaging service – 'I hope nobody has to go through what I did. Just imagine scrolling through Twitter only to find that some random person used your photo to claim you’ve gone missing in a bombing.'”

Another excellent story from my colleague Amelia - this time deliving into the weird, sick world of people who post fake "missing person" tweets after large-scale atrocities. Email to Pocket.

+ I also worked on this piece with my podcast pal Anna after the Manchester attack - she spoke to the Arianators about what their fandom means to them.
 

*

“Scott never heard that recording. We can only hear the scratchy, haunting, but recognizably human sounds of those recordings now because almost a decade ago some audio archaeologists created a computer program to play them. As strange as it seems, all the French inventor cared about was seeing what sound looked like.”

The pioneers of sound recording just wanted to look at their audio, not hear it (imagine how different podcasting would be if we still felt like this, lol). Email to Pocket.

*

“We can display all these bizarre Norse influences in a single sentence. Say That’s the man you walk in with, and it’s odd because 1) the has no specifically masculine form to match man, 2) there’s no ending on walk, and 3) you don’t say ‘in with whom you walk’. All that strangeness is because of what Scandinavian Vikings did to good old English back in the day.”

Some fascinating insights into why English is like it is. Email to Pocket.

*

“At the Band-Aid girl’s house, she picked up the bartenders from three states who she had fallen for, and at the humming boy’s house, she picked up a highway patrolman she’d spent a night with in Oklahoma City, back when they were both young. He was with a shrimp fisherman and a man who used to drive fire engines. They let him on the bus first, because they thought he had rank.”

A super short story by Elizabeth Gilbert. Email to Pocket.

*

“And so I found myself, last week, sitting in that room at Inner London Crown Court, nervously fidgeting with my witness statement, waiting to give evidence as a witness at his trial. When another woman came in and sat next to me, we glanced at each other and said a polite hello. Minutes later, a third woman joined us. 'I’m the one who got him on video,' she said.”

One woman's account of what happened after she reported her sexual assault. Email to Pocket.

 

Things to listen to

After a long day working on responses to the Manchester attack, I asked on Twitter if anyone could recommend anything really uplifting for me to listen to on the way home. I didn't mean uplifting necessarily in the emotional sense; I just wanted to be lifted up out of my own mind for a bit. There were lots of good suggestions on that thread, but the one that really worked for me was the "Missing" series from The Untold. Brief episodes, compelling subject, and very well produced, it did the job.

 

Things to watch

Go robot go.

I'm dead.

How Hollywood's made up languages are made up.

 

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

Me on the internet


 

The guest gif

 
This is quite calming.
 
 

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 #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!