No Complaints #8: Holograms, murdering owls and the occasional golem

First, let me say hello to all the new people who have signed up since last week. Nice to have you with us. Second, an apology to regular readers for sending this out later than usual – I do like to have it with you in time for that final, entirely unproductive, hour at work on a Friday afternoon, but I’ve been quite busy this week and there were a lot of gifs to sort through. Sorry. Onwards:

Things to read

“The flag at least was easy. The six-colour design is a carryover from the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM). The red, green and black stripes signify their pan-Arabic roots, while the blue pennant symbolises the waters of the Nile, and the yellow star a guiding light. Though proposals for new flag designs were considered, keeping the SPLM flag was a sentimental and strategic decision. After all, it was under that banner that the people of Southern Sudan had gathered and fought during the two civil wars. Designing the coat of arms, South Sudan’s single new post-referendum marker of national identity, proved to be more challenging.”

How do you decide what symbols should represent a country that has only just come into being? After it declared independence, South Sudan only had six months to create all of those vital things long-existing nations take for granted, like flags and emblems and coats of arms. It’s hard, especially when it turns out that all the good animals are already taken. Oh, and at every stage, 28 cabinet ministers had to be allowed to comment.
“Then came the realisation: this entire time, I hadn’t been Jim’s girlfriend. I’d been the other woman. And now I understood the strange behavior of his friends and the harassment from his wife. I know now what really formed the cracks the crippled my relationship with Jim. It was the same thing that crippled his relationships with the women before me: when the line separating his real life (his marriage, his children, his family) and his fantasy (his online persona, and, for a little while, me) could no longer be maintained. There are many, many men I’m certain, who use social media to live out secret lives with women who are not their partners. Far fewer men, however, act on it. But Jim did, and he excelled at it.”

You could argue that uploading your every photo and tagging your every location on social media would make it easier for you to get caught cheating. But it also makes it easier to fabricate a false existence, to mislead through the sheer amount of data you are generating.

“Hatsune Miku, one of Japan’s most famous pop stars, has been 16 for the past seven years. She wears her cascading aquamarine hair in pigtails that skim the ground when she dances, and according to stats offered up on her record company’s website, she stands five-two and weighs about 93 pounds. She has opened for Lady Gaga, collaborated with Pharrell, and sung more than 100,000 songs, dabbling quite literally in every genre imaginable. If you’ve heard of her, you’ve probably heard her described as a “hologram”; maybe you’ve also heard people say she doesn’t exist. But both of these are the kind of misnomers that are liable to send her legions of die-hard fans – and there are 2.5 million of them on Facebook – into cardiac arrest. (Don’t even think about calling her a cartoon.) She is, depending on whom you ask, a harbinger of a radically collaborative future in pop music or a holographic horsewoman of the apocalypse.”

I’m not usually one for “is this the future of music?” pieces, but this one was fascinating. Described as “Siri meets GarageBand”, this Japanese pop star is part hologram, part avatar, part singing computer – and enormously popular.


“I am not supposed to be embarrassed. I am supposed to be proud of my nerdy fantasy and revel in the fact that my friends are watching this actor-butler bring me snacks. I am supposed to be Instagramming every second. Instead, the experience is reminiscent of a bachelorette party I once attended in Santa Barbara, when a stripper showed up wearing medical scrubs and carrying a boombox. When I could see that my turn for a lapdance was approaching, I snuck away to the bathroom.”

I share Ann Friedman’s cringes all the way here. I can think of few things more awkward than having a hired hot guy hovering awkwardly on the edge of my social gathering, trying to top up my drink. But still, my favourite “San Francisco is nuts” trend piece in ages.


“Unlike Hogwarts, at Czocha you were Sorted by which house you impressed, and I worked to get noticed without getting into too much trouble. After all, I had to get up early to go to classes like Magical Artifacts and Defense Against the Dark Arts with persnickety professors who could take away points towards winning the House Cup. I especially tried to stay on the staff's good side once I was Sorted into House Durentius, but it was hard to stay out of trouble when angry ghosts, lost magical wildlife, the occasional golem and terrifying dark wizards lurked around every corner. By the time the game ended on Saturday night I had prophesied the resurrection of a dark wizard, fed a faun a lollipop, snuck down a secret passageway in my pajamas to join a secret society, and battled a fellow student to a standstill in a magic duel while trying not to trip on the dress I’d worn for the dance. And of course, I aced my Magical Artifacts class. After all, just because I went on fantastic adventures didn’t give me an excuse to shirk my studies.”

What it’s like to take part in an extremely ambitious live action role-playing game, where a Polish castle stands in for Hogwarts. I’m enormously jealous of the author, of course, but slightly mollified by the news that there’s apparently going to be a documentary made about it.

Things to listen to

In the week when Serial was enjoying Thanksgiving, I went in search of another true crime podcast to fill the void. I happened upon Criminal, and even though Sarah Koenig and team are back in action, I’m now an avid listener. The first episode deals with the case of Michael Peterson, convicted of killing his second wife with a blow to the head in 2003 (a retrial is now in progress). On the surface, it seems open-and-shut – but then there is the persistent and quite persuasive theory that it was actually an owl that did it. I also recommend this one about lie detectors, which made me completely rethink my theories about Jay’s testimony. And it tickles me greatly that the host of Criminal is called Phoebe Judge.

Things to watch

This WWII pilot pulling off a landing everyone said was impossible.

You don’t have to be in the bath to feel relaxed.

I’ve only just seen this, all right?

Compulsory medieval thingamabob


The guest gif

My pathetic appeal for more gifs this morning was extremely fruitful. Thanks everyone, I’m fully stocked now until about March. We’ll kick off with this, from Alex.

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.