No Complaints #13: Fieldfares, internet sexuals and Maria Callas’s voice

The thirteenth one of these I’ve done – a number unlucky for some, but not for you, valued subscribers, who now have a sheaf of exciting links with which to round off your week.

Things to read

“I love these migrant thrushes because they’re scraps of the arctic flown to my fenland home, and because they bring history with them too, a bewitching mess of it. They’re built of all the fieldfares I’ve ever known: birds in paintings, photographs, field guides, migration maps, books, conversations, articles in magazines. And they’re made, too, of all the times I’ve seen them before, and for an flickering instant as the fieldfares blow in, I’m a child standing on tiptoe on the edge of a playing field, squinting to work out what these bold, patterned birds in the frosted trees might be. I’m 10 years old again. It took me half a lifetime to understand that each encounter with the natural world pleats together all the things you’ve read and heard, and adds to them, making something more of the bird or leaf or landscape in front of you, so that the older you get the more meaningful these things become.”

Helen Macdonald has won all the awards now, so everyone knows how good H is for Hawk is. But that doesn’t mean I have to stop talking about it. Here, she writes about the nature books that formed the way she thinks and writes about the world, in such a way that made me want to buy/read them all immediately. Email to Pocket.
“We desire for animals to talk – both to share and to comprehend our values – and then assume that they understand our complex systems of justice and morality. We misunderstand and then ascribe punishment that belongs to the human realm of reason. We exercise what Descartes claimed is our right as humans – to exert dominion over beasts and order them dead. A real, actual animal, it seems, has little place in the fantasy world of the speaking animal.”

This one starts with doge and goes from there, trying to pin down why it is humans have always been so keen on talking animals. Email to Pocket.

“Debbie Reynolds looks beautiful. But she’s 82. For my five year-old, who’d been struggling with mortality, it was just too much to take in. She burst into tears. ‘I want,’ she wailed, ‘to climb inside the TV and live in the movie where nobody gets old and nobody dies’. I told her so did Woody Allen. ‘Can I, Mummy?’ she asked. ‘Can I climb inside the TV and stay with beautiful Cathy for ever and ever?’ I really thought about it. ‘No my darling,’ I said. ‘No you can’t.’”

What happens when you confront children with their own mortality, or: the perils of showing your five-year-old Singin’ in the Rain. Email to Pocket.


“What made Callas a great singer was her fierce commitment to the voice as a means of dramatic expression. This must be stressed: her fame as an artist came not from gossip about her temper or her cancellations or her relationship with Aristotle Onassis. She was not great because of her ‘acting’, some riveting physical gestures and electrifying stage presence that we must trust those who actually saw her to verify. If that was primarily what she brought to her performances, she would be a dim legend by now.”

A detailed look (with some excellent clips) at what made Maria Callas’s voice so great. Email to Pocket.


“Some people limit their internet sexuality to the private sphere of sexting or video chats with long-distance lovers. Others choose to meet their virtual partners in a semi-anonymous public forum. When mediated bodies can inhabit the same temporal dimension, the distinct purposes of porn, sex work, casual sex, internet dating, and social networking start to blur. Right now I see being sexual on the internet as a bold and risky form of performance. I anticipate that in the future it will just be thought of as sex.”

Are you “internet sexual”, part of a “young sexual vanguard” using new technologies to express desire? I’m not sure this piece helps you answer that question, but it does give you an incredible insight into what people are willing to do alone in their bedrooms with thousands of people watching through the internet. Email to Pocket.


Things to listen to

The BBC are re-running their exhaustive radio adaptation of Edith Wharton’s The Reef, and I can’t recommend it highly enough. If you haven’t read the novel, it’s a four-handed tale of sexual politics and social convention that puts Patrick Marber’s Closer in the shade, with the added bonus that it’s set between London, France and America in the early twentieth century. They’ve helpfully collected all the 15-minute episodes into omnibus editions, too, so you have no excuse not to get stuck in right away.


Things to watch

Compulsory medieval thingamabob

“And in conclusion, that is why I should get to eat you all.”

The guest gif

Finally, it’s Friday.


THE END. See you next time*!
*Next time will probably be next Friday. If you want to suggest things I should include in the next one of these, please do reply and send me links.