No Complaints #100: Emails, Ethics and Exorcism

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

Things to read

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

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

*

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

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

*

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

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

*

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

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

We also talked about this on SRSLY this week.

*

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

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

 

Things to listen to

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

Things to watch

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

Things to attend

A couple of upcoming IRL things I’m doing:

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

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

Compulsory medieval thingamabob

Leonardo lied to us.

The guest gif

Landing in your inbox every Friday like

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

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

THE END. See you next time!

No Complaints #99: Golf, Groove and Greatness

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

Things to read

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

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

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


*

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

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

*

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

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

*

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

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

*

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

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

 

Things to listen to

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

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

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

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

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

 

Things to watch

What a murmuration.

We’ve all been here.

Oh, Bridget.

 

Compulsory medieval thingamabob

“I can explain everything.”


The guest gif

Sometimes, staying still is making progress.



 

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

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

THE END. See you next time!

No Complaints #98: Molly, Morse and Moles

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

Things to read

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

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

*

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

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

*

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

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

*

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

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

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

*

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

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

 

Things to listen to

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

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

+ All of the Lady Molly of Scotland Yard stories

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

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

+ Tokyo Hotel continues to be excellent and weird

 

Things to watch

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

Tripping with Stravinsky.

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


Compulsory medieval thingamabob

Snails rampant = #coatofarmsgoals


 

The guest gif

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

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

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


THE END. See you next time!

No Complaints #97: Sparrows, Sculpture and Smile

Why, hello.

Things to read

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

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

*

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

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

*

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

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

*

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

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

*

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

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

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

Things to listen to

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

 

Things to watch


Things to attend

A few upcoming IRL things I’m doing:

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

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

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


Compulsory medieval thingamabob

Togas are so last season.


 

The guest gif

Me too, tiny wolf.

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

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

THE END. See you next time!

No Complaints #96: Care, Contraband and Cabbage

Here we go again.

Things to read

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

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

*

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

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

*

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

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

*

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

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

*

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

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

 

Things to listen to

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


 

Things to watch




Compulsory medieval thingamabob

❤️️ you.


 

The guest gif

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

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

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

THE END. See you next time!

No Complaints #95: Ham, Hamilton and Hanks

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

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

Things to read

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

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

*

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

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

*

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

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

*

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

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

*

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

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

 

Things to listen to

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

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

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

 

Things to watch

I liked Megan Tan's Ted talk.


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


Best of luck with the wall.


Things to attend

14 March, 7pm, The Book Club, Shoreditch

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

Compulsory medieval thingamabob

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


The guest gif

Keep smiling.


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

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

THE END. See you next time!

No Complaints #94: Macaulay, Merkel and Meg

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

Things to read

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

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

*

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

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

*

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

Absolutely superb piece about Lil Wayne. Email to Pocket.

*

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

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

*

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

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

 

Things to listen to

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

 

Things to watch

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

Compulsory medieval thingamabob

I see you.


The guest gif

There's definitely enough time left.

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

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

THE END. See you next time!

No Complaints #93: Sisters, Saki and Scolds

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

Things to read

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

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

*

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

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

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

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

*

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

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

*

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

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

*

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

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

 

Things to listen to

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

 

Things to watch




Compulsory medieval thingamabob

Love each other as much as these snails do.


 

The guest gif

Mood:

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

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

THE END. See you next time!

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

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

Things to read

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

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

*

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

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

*

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

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

*

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

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

*

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

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

 

Things to listen to

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

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

 

Things to watch

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

The Worst Witch

La La Land

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

A Series of Unfortunate Events

 

Compulsory medieval thingamabob

Someone has to keep the illuminated lawn looking nice.


 

The guest gif

Up high.


 

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

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

THE END. See you next time!

No Complaints #91: Christmas, Cheer and Charms

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

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

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

Things to read

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

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

*

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

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

*

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

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

*

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

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

*

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

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

*

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

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

*


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

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

*

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

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

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

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

 

Things to listen to

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

 

Things to watch

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

Starlings, why do you do this?

Alan Rickman in a pot.

 

Compulsory medieval thingamabob

Me heading into 2017 like


The guest gif

Still the greatest gif ever made.


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

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

THE END. See you next time!

No Complaints #90: Fawkes, Frosty and Friends

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

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

Things to read

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

What a start to an obituary. Email to Pocket.

*

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

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

*

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

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

*

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

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

*

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

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

 

Things to listen to

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

1. The West Wing Weekly.

2. Best of Friends.

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

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

5. Gilmore Guys.

 

Things to watch

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

Here he is as a tiny Elvis.

Honestly, listen to him cover Michael Jackson.


Compulsory medieval thingamabob

Good thing I brought my cauldron AND my sword today!


 

The guest gif

Have a good weekend!


 

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

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

THE END. See you next time!

No Complaints #89: Couples, Critics and Cobalt

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

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

Things to read

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

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

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

*

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

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

*

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

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

*

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

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

*

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

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

 

Things to listen to

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

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

 

Things to watch





Things to attend

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


Compulsory medieval thingamabob

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



The guest gif

See ya.


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

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


THE END. See you next time!

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

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

Things to read

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

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

*

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

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

*

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

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

*

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

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

*

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

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

 

Things to listen to

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

 

Things to watch





 

Compulsory medieval thingamabob

I. Said. Not. Now.


 

The guest gif

See you at the other end of the week!


 

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

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

THE END. See you next time!

No Complaints #87: Scissors, Spreadsheets and Signal Flags

Well, that was a week. 

Things to read

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

In praise of kitchen scissors. Email to Pocket.

*

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

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

*

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

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

*

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

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

*

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

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


 

Things to listen to

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

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


 

Things to watch



 


 

Compulsory medieval thingamabob

Know how you feel, C.


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

The guest gif

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

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

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

THE END. See you next time!

No Complaints #86: Creep, Crystals and Curious Rocks

Thanks very much for all the nice messages I received after last week’s truncated edition. I’m back on track now, getting on with things as best I can. I hope you are too.

Things to read

“My mental split is between the good and the bad, not the high and the low. Before finishing this interview, I watched an episode of the sublime Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the one where it finally occurs to the main character that she might not be the hero of her own story. (She has this realisation in song.) I’m not trying to be cute when I say that I could have written 5,000 words on it – I truly had what the Internet calls “many feels”. This is what I am looking for in art: feels. Intellectual, emotional, philosophical, religious, existential feels.”

I’m about to spend a weekend with Zadie Smith’s new novel, and after reading this interview, I could not be happier about it. Email to Pocket.

*

“It is sunny and safe here. There is no dramatic music to make you uncomfortable, only the beat of a soft snare to signify oncoming drama. When a character is upset, it is usually because a town meeting, held in Miss Patty’s dance studio, has not gone their way, or because someone they love failed to show up. When there are tears, they are warranted.”

I am currently experiencing Peak Gilmore Girls, having put out a special podcast about it this week, and preparing for the related live event on Tuesday. This piece does a good job of capturing why we love it so. Email to Pocket.

*

“In Chichibu, Japan, two hours northwest of Tokyo, there’s an odd museum; perhaps the only one of its kind. It’s called the Chinsekikan (which means hall of curious rocks) and it houses over 1,700 rocks that resemble human faces.”

Trust me, you need to see this. Email to Pocket.

*

“Across thousands of films in our dataset, it was hard to find a subset that didn’t over-index male. Even romantic comedies have dialogue that is, on average, 58 per cent male. For example, Pretty Woman and 10 Things I Hate About You both have lead women (i.e., characters with the most amount of dialogue). But the overall dialogue for both films is 52 per cent male, due to the number of male supporting characters.”

A brilliant, horrifying data project on Hollywood’s gender/age problems. Email to Pocket.

*

“The very act of a person seeing himself in a mirror or being represented in a portrait as the centre of attention encouraged him to think of himself in a different way. He began to see himself as unique. Previously the parameters of individual identity had been limited to an individual’s interaction with the people around him and the religious insights he had over the course of his life. Thus individuality as we understand it today did not exist: people only understood their identity in relation to groups – their household, their manor, their town or parish – and in relation to God.”

How the availability of mirrors in the fifteenth century changed how we think about ourselves. Email to Pocket.

 

Things to listen to

In my podcast column this week, I wrote about very long podcasts (think five hours at least). In the course of my research, I listened to quite a lot of The Secret History of Hollywood, a very long documentary podcast made by a chef-slash-movie enthusiast in Berkshire. I started at the beginning of the “Bullets and Blood” series, and I’m still going – the narrative is incredibly compelling, and hours in, I’m still as hooked as I was in the first ten minutes. Do give it a go.

 

Things to watch

The best show in NYC (aka men should do more pole dancing).

Dave Chappelle’s “Creep” is fantastic (and Leslie Jones is one hell of a back up dancer).

The birth of a crystal (more relaxing than the human equivalent).

 

Compulsory medieval thingamabob

“Well, I think we look snazzy.”



The guest gif

Yup.


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 #85: Suggestions, Songs and Snails

I've read a lot of excellent things in the past couple of days about what you can do, both to take care of yourself, and to begin the process of reversing the terrible events of this week. This is just one of them - there are plenty more, including this one that has suggestions for people based in the UK.

I've worked a lot this week, and I've cried quite a lot too, so I haven't read or watched or listened to anywhere near enough things to make a proper newsletter. I'll be back next week with a proper edition. Meanwhile, here are a few things that have briefly made me smile.
 

Things to listen to
All of Song ExploderThe songs of The Magnetic FieldsWooden Overcoats.

Compulsory medieval thingamabob

Love trumps hate. Even for snails.


The guest gif

Snails don't have pincers, Dan.


THE END.

No Complaints #84: Meds, Matches and Mariah

A very warm welcome to the new subscribers who have signed up in the last week! Hasn’t it been a strange one? Before we get to the good stuff below, just a reminder that you can browse back issues of the newsletter here, and if you feel like contributing towards the time it takes me or the hosting costs of the archive, you can do that here

Things to read

“Breakfast needs to be eaten everyday. A walk in the afternoon is a good idea. Green tea can help. Everyone needs water. Taking medicine has to happen as prescribed. Whatever. These things seem simple but are often monumentally hard tasks when a particularly bad spell of depression comes around. A depressed person needs help doing the little things because to us they don’t seem to matter anymore.”

Some timely tips on how to support friends experiencing depression. Email to Pocket.

*

“It’s important to note what the data does and does not show. It wouldn’t be fair to extrapolate from this that women and girls are more likely to be dead or missing across all books written by men; only that they’re more likely to be dead or missing in books by men with ‘girl’ in the title. ”

What happens to the girls who are on trains/gone/that fell from the sky? A fascinating piece of analysis. Email to Pocket.

*

“It’s always been a pattern for me that I love shows wherein small societies seem to operate upon a certain set of rules that govern their own unique universe. This is similarly the way it is in Downton, Twin Peaks, even Lost. Initially, the viewer might not necessarily understand what the laws and rules of this universe mean, but the more you watch it, the more the show teaches you itself how to watch it”

Warming up for the new episodes of Gilmore GirlsEmail to Pocket.

*

“It’s ridiculous. Obstetricians don’t pause, mid-breech, to check their Twitter notifications; bricklayers can’t demolish their wall-in-progress and start again. For 20 years I had a real job I was good at: fixing other people’s novels. Now, however, that I work alone, making up stories, I am locked in a battle between self-doubt and self-discipline, and the former usually wins. I have the concentration of... oh, I like your shoes.”

A witty example of the “day in the life of a writer” piece. Email to Pocket.

*

“I rapped for the first time on the yard for Charlie and Jamaica. It's crazy that I've performed in front of millions of people since I was 8 years old, but for some reason I was nervous as hell. Rapping has always been second nature to me, but my creativity has definitely been put to a test since being in this bitch. I absolutely refuse to rap about being in jail. It's not who I am AND it's not who I'm going to be! I hope they liked it. I think they did.”

Lil Wayne’s prison diary is excellent. Email to Pocket.

 

Things to listen to

This week’s podcast column was about the US election (and has already prompted an angry article in the National Review about guns), so I will divide my recommendations into two handy categories.

I want to know everything about the election. What do I listen to?

1. The FiveThirtyEight Elections Podcast. They’re now doing daily episodes, and they are quite calming if you’ve seen a scary poll on Twitter and need to know how bad it really is.

2. Call Your Girlfriend. Two sensible women take apart the worst excesses of the Trump clan.

3. Election Profit MakersThe most recent episode, where one of the hosts loses it and starts yelling at all listeners who haven’t started phone banking for Hillary yet, is superb.

I never want to hear the words “election” or “Trump” again. What do I listen to?

1. NocturneA beautiful, gentle storytelling podcast that investigates the things people get up to at night.

2. Not by AccidentA documentary podcast telling the story from conception to birth and beyond of a woman’s decision to become a single parent.

3. This Spotify playlist, which is mostly Renaissance lute music. 

 

Things to watch

Mariah Carey loves Postman Pat.

Like dominoes, but on fire.

The pioneer of the high five.
 


Things to attend

If you’re interested/can get to London, come along to these events I’m doing this month.

22 November – The SRSLY Gilmore Girls Quiz! Very excited about this, as it’s our first podcast live event. To celebrate the release of the new Gilmore Girls episodes on 25 November, we’re running a pop culture pub quiz. It’s already sold out, but there is a waiting list for tickets if you want to come.

30 November – Women in Journalism seminar: “How to start – and grow – a successful podcast. Other speakers: Helen Zaltzman, Fiona Symons, Helen Lewis.


Compulsory medieval thingamabob

“Um, the Bible thing was about camels and needles, not dogs and ring...”


The guest gif

Mood.


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

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


THE END. See you next time!

No Complaints #83: Brogues, Bananas and Bagehot

It’s a fact: podcast people are the nicest people on the internet. Since the first instalment of my new podcast column was published, I’ve been flooded with messages from people telling me they’re excited to read it, or suggesting things I should cover. Thanks everyone! Of course, it’s all just a cunning plan to allow me to wear headphones all winter and therefore have nice warm ears. But please read it anyway. It’ll be appearing on newstatesman.com/podcasts every Thursday.


Things to read

“The brogues were my mother’s proof of membership, a swipe card, a badge which gained her entrance to a certain way of life – a certain caste, if you like. Like a way of saying things, they located her. They fitted snugly, and gave her grounding in her new home; they expressed her English husband’s designs on her and her acceptance at this stage of the freedom she had achieved from the Fascist-stricken, war-torn Italy that had been her whole life until she left. Yet for me the sight of her crafted brogues from Peal & Co is soaked with the sorrow of the accommodation she made; the shoes were a kind of trick, a disguise.”

This is such a feat of writing – personal memoir, a gentle prod of argument about immigration, and a discussion of language and accents all combined in an essay about a pair of shoes. Email to Pocket.

*

“Dark chocolate now has an image to maintain. Dark chocolate reads The Economist, and regularly quotes Bagehot to make all that reading worthwhile. Dark chocolate was totally into the restaurant before it was cool. Dark chocolate stopped liking the restaurant once it got cool.”

This should be the final word in the chocolate wars, imo. Nobody likes someone who quotes Bagehot repeatedly. Email to Pocket.

*

“In the White House and out of it, navigating social mores has historically been the domain of women. But now there is an opportunity here for us to consider – really publicly consider – what a support system looks like when a man is doing the supporting. For that to happen, the first gentleman will actually have to do the work (the seating charts, the tours, the interviews about what it’s really like to be married to the president, perhaps even the careful calibration of patriotic fashion) that first ladies have done before him. And we’ll have to judge his success in those roles as we judged them.”

I'm persuaded by this. If Bill Clinton actually does being “First Dude” properly, he could do more to unravel modern ideas about masculinity than anyone has for a long, long time. Email to Pocket.

*

“I’m not sure how well I’m expecting any of this to turn out, but the result is not good. When I peel my banana, there is subcutaneous haemorrhaging. (Again: not a sentence I want on my medical record.) This happens time and time again, jam weeping everywhere.”

I always enjoy reading Rhik Samadder’s “Inspect a gadget” column, but this one about a device that is essentially a jam catheter for bananas is absolutely excellent. Email to Pocket.

*

“Brett pulled his tank top up over his head and stared at himself in the full-length mirror. He pushed down his jeans, then his boxers, and imagined the moment when Jennifer saw him nude for the first time. His feet were average-sized, and there was hair on his toes that he should probably take care of before tonight. He liked his legs just fine, but his thighs were wide and embarrassingly muscular. He tried standing at an angle, a twist at his waist. Some improvement. In that position, it was easier to see his ass and notice that it was not as pert as it had been at 22. He clenched both cheeks, hoping that tightened its look. He sucked in his tummy and pulled his pecs up high, trying to present them like pastries in a bakery window. Would she like him? Were the goods good enough? He pouted his lips and ran his hands over his thighs, masking their expanse. Maybe.”

If women wrote men the way men write women. Email to Pocket.

 

Things to listen to

Just because I’m now writing about podcasts during work hours as well doesn’t mean I’ll stop throwing out my audio recommendations here! This week, I binged my way through the adaptation of Emma Donaghue’s new novel The Wonder that BBC Radio 4 has been running on its “Book at Bedtime” strand. It’s a slightly spooky story about an English nurse (a pal of Florence Nightingale’s) who gets hired by an Irish community to verify whether a young girl in a remote rural village is actually existing without food, sustained only by God, or if there is foul play at work. It’s read by Carey Mulligan, and I found it really gripping (as well as interesting on the topics of women, food and faith).

 

Things to watch

In sorrow at the demise of Vine, here are some of my favourites:





 

Things to attend

A couple of IRL things I’m doing in the next month:

22 November – The SRSLY Gilmore Girls Quiz! Our first podcast live event! To celebrate the release of the new Gilmore Girls episodes on 25 November, we’re running a pop culture pub quiz. It’s already sold out, but there is a waiting list for tickets if you want to come.


30 November – Women in Journalism seminar: “How to start – and grow – a successful podcast. Other speakers: Helen Zaltzman, Fiona Symons, Helen Lewis.

 

Compulsory medieval thingamabob

These beautiful friends don’t care that everyone else does it the other way round.



The guest gif

Gifcities ftw. (Thanks to this piece by NC’s first ever subscriber, Alex Hern.)


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 #82: See, Sea and Ceremonies

They announced when the presale for the UK run of Hamilton is going to happen today, and I found out quite how many different email addresses I have. Apparently I registered with every single one I could remember and a few I had subsequently forgotten about. Thanks, Lin-Manuel!

Things to read

“This prison is 80 per cent white women and 19 per cent black women. One percent other. But when I say to people 80 per cent of the women in this prison are white rural women, they’re shocked. And they’re shocked because that information is kept from them. It’s kept from them because it doesn’t bolster the ideas that blackness equals criminality. It’s contrary to that. It doesn’t enforce the idea that white people should be afraid of black people and not afraid of each other.”

Claudia Rankine’s ideas for how to spend a MacArthur genius grant are totally fascinating. Email to Pocket.

*

“In Politics and Aesthetics in the Diary of Virginia Woolf, author Joanne Tidwell suggests that Woolf – an author who otherwise demanded much of her audience – wrote for an older self, imagining an ideally sympathetic reader, as if in her diaries Woolf wrote to the person she hoped to become. Social media is another kind of public diarising, and its trajectory aims at a similarly ideal avatar – it externalises thought, but also the interpersonal, the communicative. We use it to seek out an empathic witness for our scribblings, projecting into the murk of online space an audience who sees us as we hope to be seen.”

A rare essay about using social media that I actually like. Email to Pocket.

*

“She was informal, colloquial, her sentences bookended by the word ‘see’, a conversational fillip that also strangely felt like a mark of authenticity. She seemed genuine. She was genuine. All over America, black women were still, their eyes watching a form of God, because she represented their image writ large in the world.”

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie writes flawlessly about the flawless Michelle Obama. Email to Pocket.

*

“While working with the North Atlantic data, she noted what must have been a rift between high undersea mountains. This suggested earthquake activity, which then only associated with fringe theory of continental drift. Heezen infamously dismissed his assistant’s idea as ‘girl talk’. But she was right, and her thinking helped to vindicate Alfred Wegener’s 1912 theory of moving continents.”

Meet Marie Tharp, another one from that endless list of women who did important science but got no credit for it. Email to Pocket.

*

“Now, hold on to your hat: The person who wants to text-fight with you may not like receiving this message. If text-fighting has become a habit with them, they might text-bomb your phone for a while. If that happens, I suggest turning your phone off and leaving it off for an hour or two, to help you both cool off.”

Rookie is supposedly a site for teens, but its advice on how to reduce your digital drama is good for all ages, I reckon. Email to Pocket.

 

Things to listen to

A pair of episodes from Surprisingly Awesome made me think this week – “Wedding Planning” and “The Wedding”. The team followed a couple who were planning something approximating “standard” American nuptials through the planning phase and then into the day itself. So many eye-opening facts (eg, even in couples who think they’re splitting the wedding-work fifty-fifty, the woman is definitely doing more) and moving moments (like when the mother of the bride talked about her own mother, who now has Alzheimer's). But, of course, the most shocking thing of all was the money. This pair started out planning a city hall ceremony and a pizza-based reception in their apartment, and ended up spending over $20,000 on flowers, clothes, food, the works. But at least they have podcasts they can listen back to if they want to know how it happened.

 

Things to watch



Things to attend

Rarely for me, I'm actually doing a couple of real-life events next month. If you’re interested/can get to London, come along! Here are all the details.

22 NovemberThe SRSLY Gilmore Girls Quiz! Very excited about this, as it’s our first podcast live event. To celebrate the release of the new Gilmore Girls episodes on 25 November, we’re running a pop culture pub quiz. It’s already sold out, but there is a waiting list for tickets if you want to come.

30 November – Women in Journalism seminar: “How to start – and grow – a successful podcast. Other speakers: Helen Zaltzman, Fiona Symons, Helen Lewis.

 

Compulsory medieval thingamabob

You just know this monkey has a smug dad column in the Guardian.


 

The guest gif

Be good, everyone.


 

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 #81: Gerald, Growth and Green Day

Hello! Thank you so much for all the responses to last week's newsletter - I really enjoyed hearing what you enjoyed. Do keep sending me your replies if you can, it's nice to be reminded that there are real people reading this.

Things to read

“By late September, Alexa and I were getting along. I’d learned that she wasn’t funny, so I didn’t ask for jokes; I learned that I could say ‘Alexa, good morning’ and ‘Alexa, good afternoon’ and have a pleasant interaction; she was telling me cool stuff about jellyfish and whether it would rain; we both liked the White Album. Then, on Friday, something crazy happened. ‘Alexa, good morning!’ I said. ‘Good morning,’ Alexa said. ‘It’s the last day of September. Guess it’s time to wake Green Day up.’ I did a double take: reader, Alexa made me laugh. ”

I enjoyed this little tale of a technophobe’s efforts to live with an Amazon Echo. Email to Pocket.

*

“I’m trying to carve out the man from the internet joke he’s embedded in, but he doesn’t know it surrounds him, and he doesn’t really care. He’s a photograph on a dartboard hung on a wall in bar: To him, the darts don’t even exist, let alone hurt. He shrugs: None of this matters. What matters stays with you. Everything else just falls away.”

This is such a delicately-written piece, and the headline says it all: Jonathan Safran Foer Doesn’t Know Or Care About Your Memes. Email to Pocket.

*

“I can see why Rupert’s kids were wary of her (a shy and retiring stepmother she was never going to be), but I always thought she looked a lot more entertaining than any of them. She would be a lot of fun to have a two-martini lunch with at some fancy place on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. And she’d be petrifying to antagonise.”

I am, as previously discussed in this newsletter, totally fascinated by Wendi Deng. A new fact I acquired from this excellent interview by Hadley Freeman: she still prefers to be known by her married name, aka Murdoch. Email to Pocket.

*

“Susan and Peter are on an ice flow in a frozen river that’s breaking up. Chunks of ice are going downstream and going over the edge of a waterfall, and on both banks of the river they’re surrounded by wolves – enormous, CGI, double-sized wolves – snarling at them, going to tear them to pieces. And Peter’s got a sword that he was given by Santa Claus, I guess, Father Christmas. It really looks like it’s curtains. He’s standing there and Susan says to him, ‘just because someone gives you a sword doesn’t make you a hero, Peter’. And I thought, ‘you can’t be serious? This is not the time for that kind of discussion’. In fact, it never is.”

An important critique of the Narnia films' obsession with personal growth. Email to Pocket.

*

“Gerald left school at 14 to work at his uncle’s clothing factory and train as a fitter. When war intervened, he joined the RAF, serving with a Halifax bomber squadron in North Africa. Meanwhile Olwyn and Ted won scholarships to the local grammar school. Returning home at the end of the war, Gerald recalled the door being opened by a 15-year-old Ted who “just stared, with tears streaming down his face, and in a strong voice said, 'Mam, it’s him, it’s him!’”.”

As a Janet Malcolm devotee, I am fascinated by all new nuggets of information about Ted Hughes/Sylvia Plath. This obituary for Ted's brother Gerald provides some excellent childhood detail for several of the protagonists in The Silent Woman (which we talked about on the podcast here). Email to Pocket.

 

Things to listen to

The Heart has just finished a ravishing series about diaries that I highly recommend you dive into. The BFF episode was really fun, and I very much enjoyed the crossover episode with the Mortified podcast, but the episode that absolutely floored me was the last one. Told in The Heart's characteristically ethereal style, it's a devastating story of a love lost.
 

Things to watch



 

Compulsory medieval thingamabob

When Borrowers go bad.

The guest gif

Don't be this guy.

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!