No Complaints #23: Aristotle, Aristocrats and the Art of Asking Questions

There was an election; I didn’t sleep very much for two months. This photo sort of sums it up, really. Let’s leave it at that. But I have done a few other things since the last one of these, like write yet more things about sheep and a bit about some early twentieth-century Polish opera with a giant face. Now I’m determined to decant some of my vast backlog of links into your inbox on a slightly more regular basis once more. Stand by.

Things to read

“Towards the beginning of Iris, Apfel recalls an episode from her 20s: while watching over customers at Loehmann’s, the founder of the department store tells her, ‘You’re not pretty, you’ll never be pretty, but you have something better: you have style’.”

A lesson for us all in being old and wearing whatever you want. Email to Pocket.

+ I also enjoy this Instagram for similar reasons.



“Where can I rent a beagle for hunting? Has the gun with which Oswald shot President Kennedy been returned to the family? What is the life span of an eyelash? Are Plato, Aristotle, and Socrates the same person? I unexpectedly stayed over somewhere last night. Is it appropriate to send a thank you?”

The New York Public Library found a box of reference questions from before the internet, when humans had to ask other humans to look stuff up in books for them. Email to Pocket.

+ Related: these are also the kind of questions you can get answered on the Answer Me This podcast, a longstanding favoured listen of mine that will be getting a proper recommendation in the near future.



“She loved speed and, as well as becoming one of the first British women to get a pilot’s licence before the war, she competed in the 1952 Round Britain car rally as co-driver with Sheila Van Damm. Guests at the coming out party for her daughter in the 1960s would recall how she took charge of a fairground carousel hired for the event and boosted it to full power, terrifying those on board.”

The Telegraph is a reliable source of astonishing obituaries about bonkers aristocrats. This one for the Dowager Marchioness of Reading does not disappoint. Email to Pocket.



“This is more of an observation than a question – in fact it’s not a question at all – in fact it’s less an observation than an open-ended series of unconnected thoughts wrapped in a thin veneer of criticism – I’ve never asked a question in my life.”

Every question in every Q & A session ever. Email to Pocket.



“Because of the uniformity of students’ appearances in lndia, intelligence was what mattered most to everyone, and so I mainly worried about how the way I performed in class might affect my social standing – especially because of my ‘stupid’ accent. In America, it seemed that there was a lot more emphasis on appearance. It didn’t matter that I was the smartest girl in class – girls told me that I was ugly; I was fat; I didn’t know about ‘working around’ the school dress code. I didn’t know that makeup and nail polish were allowed to be worn at school, or that you could do your hair any way that you wanted. I only realised my lack of ‘style’ when, in class one day, a classmate came up to me and said, “Why’re you wearing that shirt? It’s ugly and wrinkled. And I can see your bra through it. No one wears plain white bras.’ My dreams of secrets shared over french fries and starry nights with friends were crushed, all because of the colour of my underwear.”

I wish Rookie had existed when I was a teenager. Email to Pocket.

Things to listen to

Potter and Daughter is a podcast that I definitely didn't know that I needed, but now that I have it I can't bear the thought of it ever ending. The premise is very simple – dad Joel Watson talk to his seven-year-old daughter Lily about her thoughts on reading the Harry Potter books for the first time. They work chronologically through the books, covering about six chapters per episode, with Joel mostly posing questions to Lily about what she remembers for that section and eliciting her thoughts on the action and characters. What comes through most of all is just how much they both love the books and the world they happen in. And it helps, of course, that Lily is completely brilliant (the bit in the first episode where she works out that she has the same name as Harry's mum is particularly excellent). They're only on book four and I'm already worried about what will happen when they get to the epilogue of book seven.

Things to watch

Oh, Fred Astaire.

In the studio with Judith Bernstein

Buttering the cat.

Compulsory medieval thingamabob

To me, to you. But ages ago.

The guest gif

I'm baaaack.

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.