No Complaints #4: Childbirth, Commodore and Coward

Housekeeping note: I am off to the Highlands tonight to spend a week walking around in the rain and looking at the sea, so there won’t be a No Complaints next Friday. Back in your inboxes on 22 November.

Things to read

“Lipreading, on which I rely for most social interaction, is an inherently tenuous mode of communication. It’s essentially a skill of trying to grasp with one sense the information that was intended for another. When I watch people’s lips, I am trying to learn something about sound when the eyes were not meant to hear.”
—I love the title of this essay: “Seeing at the Speed of Sound”. Rachel Kolb, who has been deaf since birth, explains how lipreading works. Accents “are a visible tang on people's lips”.


“Hour after hour, this terrible fever. What the hell am I doing? I kept asking myself. Why am I forcing a fine new machine to pretend it is a half-dozen old, useless machines? Eventually I realised: This might be about my friend Tom dying. At least I think so. I am not good at identifying my own motives. It usually takes me at least ten days and a number of snacks to go from feeling something to being able to articulate what I felt.”
Step into the world of retro-computing, or emulation: where a new machine creates a simulation of an old, defunct system, allowing you to resurrect computers you remember from years gone by inside your shiny modern laptop, or in Paul Ford’s case, to find a way of processing grief for a friend who has just died.


“I had been in labour for 28 hours. No one cared. No one gave me a medal or batted an eye. They wrote it down. I wondered if they believe me. I wondered if they can know the pain I’ve been in. I wished for a way to communicate pain more precisely than a scale of 1 to 10. But the scale is subjective, I longed to say. We have no way to know. I hated this. I said 7, 8. I didn’t know. It was the worst pain I’ve ever felt, but I have never had my arm cut off. That was what I always imagine to be the worst pain: having a limb chopped off. I saved 10 for it, out of respect.”
I think this piece has brought me the closest I’ve ever got to understanding what it’s like to give birth without actually, you know, doing it myself. It’s long – 14,000 words long – but worth every second, particularly for the clear-eyed discussion of “natural birth” vs medication the author includes alongside all the harrowing physical description. Women: do not read this while eating lunch like I did. You will feel queasy and need to cross your legs a lot.


“Nominally, MetaFilter is a venue for people to talk about things other people have done, intelligently and with respect for each other (if not necessarily for the thing being discussed), and a small number of people are paid well to ensure this is what happens. All of this, it seems, adds up to a place with a premium on humility and other-centeredness. Of course, members’ opinions, perspectives, and anecdotes come out inevitably and regularly in the comments, and are in many ways the lifeblood of the site. But the fact remains that structurally, the users’ main input to the site – their comments—are secondary, appendageal, or, looked at another way: supportive.”

The story of MetaFilter, the internet’s first family, or as it is termed here “a sort of humane proto-Reddit”. Heartwarming and a bit surprising.
“It wasn’t until I was 21 that I began to take my intuition seriously and took to scrutinising my house. Look at how the nicks in the bathroom door lined up so perfectly with the nicks on the jamb, creating a perfect peephole. Crouch down low and affix your eyeball, behold the toilet bowl, right there with its puffy pink plastic seat cover, the kind that warms your butt when you sit down on it. Notice how the nicks between two separate pieces of paneling on my bedroom wall came together in the perfect little hole, as if manufactured, which it was. If you walked into my back hallway and moved a strip of particleboard propped against the wall there, you would find a big, punched-in looking hole. The hole was covered with a strip of electrical tape, dull and dry from being peeled back so many times. When I peeled it back for the first time it fell to the dusty floor like a dead autumn leaf. When I put my eye to the hole, there was my bedroom, all laid out like a diorama, a doll’s house. There was my bed, the posters on my wall, my stacks of books and records. The writing on the floor, my mirrored armoire. All that was missing was me.”

My Stepfather, The Peeping Tom. An astonishing story from Michelle Tea about how her family dealt with what they resolutely refused to consider sexual abuse.


Things to listen to

I have just finished binge-listening to all the episodes of Call Your Girlfriend, a long-distance conversation between best friends Ann Friedman and Aminatou Sow that they release as a podcast. They talk about their jobs, the media, menstruation... They're basically the older sisters I wish I had and I want to be in their gang.


Things to watch


Compulsory medieval thingamabob


The guest gif

Emma, who says she is a “non giffer”, selected this from a wide range of options that definitely weren’t all Cumber-themed.

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.
So far, I’ve had no complaints by Caroline Crampton
The Heart Of London, United Kingdom
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