No Complaints #21: Anxiety, Animation and the Art of Artless Bullshit

Not enough men in suits have said “long-term economic plan” to me this week. I hope they’re ok.

Things to read

“It is the Westminster museum of artless bullshit, containing well over 300 talking exhibits. More lies are told here than on all the world’s dating profiles put together. Hacks, politicians and spin doctors are condemned to scurry about, indulging in wanton political frottage, while the TV networks flaunt their ever expanding array of debate-related gizmos: live worms, insta-polls, giant malfunctioning touchscreens, mobile Karen Silkwood shower units.”

Before the campaign started, I promised myself that I wasn’t going to waste an NC slot on an election thing. But then Marina Hyde wrote such a perfect takedown of what goes on in a TV debate spin room that I couldn’t not include it. Make sure you watch the accompanying The Day Today clip, too. Email to Pocket.



“I will know when I have made it when I stop worrying so much about whether I’ve made it. This question has plagued and haunted and tormented me for as long as I can remember. Sometimes there was a defined sense of what it would be, and sometimes it was just a free-floating anxiety, a pulsing when-will-I-ever-get-there-and-feel-at-ease-ness. When I’ve worked toward something and reached a goal, I often move right into thinking about the next one. There has been a lot of making but not a lot of ‘it’.”

Leah Reich, taking part in an intriguing panel where women answer the question “when will you know that you’ve made it?”. Email to Pocket.



“The concern for sincerity was so intense that it outweighed politesse. Even white lies were a major offence. A short story called ‘The Fatal Cosmetic’, published in 1839 in the middle-class fashion magazine Godey’s Ladies Book, described the accidental murder of a friend as a consequence of verbal and cosmetic hypocrisy. The story’s villain is Mary Ellis, a hypocrite who dared to flatter a mediocre pianist. Mary Ellis’s lies escalate she breaks a mirror and denies it, the lout and eventually she accidentally poisons someone with her concealer. ‘Let those who consider a white lie a venial offense…reflect on the consequences of Mary Ellis’s moral delinquency and tremble at the view,’ the narrator concludes.”

On the Victorian cult of sincerity, posited here as the nineteenth-century forerunner of today's “personal brand”. Email to Pocket.



“He handed me a salt-and-vinegar potato chip. We were more than 500 feet underground, sitting on a blanket of powdered limestone, up in Section Two and a Half South. I asked him if there was anything he enjoyed about coal mining.”

That might be the best opening to a feature ever. Email to Pocket.



“After years of being online, I’ve crafted a digital persona that reflects only the positive pieces of my personality. People know I’m a writer, I like dogs, and I travel as often as I can. And because I’m so active on the internet, I have a lot of what you might call ‘internet friends’, or people I only connect with virtually but feel like they are a part of an extended group of people I care more about than acquaintances.”

Pretending to be happy on the internet can be exhausting. Email to Pocket.


Things to listen to

Clive James is dying, and he wants to talk about it. Unusually, he wants to talk about everything, not just the bits that will sit well in his obituary when he’s gone. He wants to talk about his adultery, his failures as a parent, his selfishness about his career. And he’s doing this with poems, beautiful poems that are all the more moving and involving because you know there can’t be many more of them to come. His new collection (the last? we don’t know) has just been published so there have been a fair number of interviews with him, but I think this long one with Kirsty Lang on Front Row is the best.

+Bonus thing: Several of the poems in the new collection were first published in the New Statesman, and you can read them for free on our website.

Things to watch

Helen Mirren on helium.

All with a single line.

The plant family tree.


Compulsory medieval thingamabob

Surprise! I’m the king, and I was hiding in this egg the whole time.

The guest gif

It’s been quite a week.

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. If you enjoyed it, why not forward to a friend? If you didn't, keep it to yourself. So far, I've had no complaints.