No Complaints #28: Fingers, Fuses and the Earl of Fife

A week of firsts and lasts, this. I had the great honour of taking part in Ruth and Martin's Album Club (you can read me listening to The Sex Pistols for the first time here) and also of being at Sandi Toksvig's last News Quiz. It all got a bit emotional, hence the later email-sending...

Things to read

“Seneca is adept at sugaring the pill, or rather at building some of these philosophical truisms into vivid pictures of Roman life. So we learn in passing about Roman children’s games (they would play at dressing up in purple-bordered togas, pretending to be consuls and judges), or about the difficulties of being a governor’s wife in a Roman province (always liable to be the subject of gossip). And one of the most memorable and often-quoted descriptions of the noise generated by a Roman bathhouse (the pummeling and pumping of flesh, the screams of men having their armpits roughly plucked) comes from one of Seneca’s Letters whose principal theme is nothing to do with bathing, but concerns mental and philosophical concentration.”

Mary Beard on whether whether Seneca was really that stoical, or actually just a very good spin doctor. Email to Pocket.



“Unusually though, he inherited the Dukedom through the female line. His mother Princess Maud was the younger daughter of Alexander Duff, Earl of Fife, who married Princess Louise, daughter of the future King Edward VII, and was created Duke of Fife by Queen Victoria in 1900. As he had no son, provision was made by a special remainder for the title (and the subsidiary title of Earl of Macduff) to pass through his daughters.”

Yes, it's another fabulous Telegraph obituary. So. Many. Titles. Email to Pocket.



'Here’s what makes email the most reviled technology ever, Stewart Butterfield says: 'There’s a billion fucking things you have to do in your life, and email is the distillation of the other stuff that other people want you to do.'”

Don't read any of those articles about inbox zero. Read this instead and quietly despair (quietly, as in don't sent me an email about it). Email to Pocket.



“Without in-person features, we need other methods to make sure a reader picks up on our intended mismatch. Sometimes it’s really obvious, like </ sarcasm> or #sarcasm. Sometimes it’s slightly more subtle: “quotation marks” could be sarcasm or an actual quote, ~*~sparkly unicorn punctuation~*~ could indicate true enthusiasm or begrudged, enforced cheerfulness. And sometimes it’s truly subtle indeed: misspelling femnsism or birb’s rights or avoiding capitalization and punctuation altogether isn’t necessarily sarcastic. It could simply mean that you don’t care, you didn’t notice, or you’re heavily steeped in internet vernacular. The interesting part is the variation: when you deviate from how people expect you to type in a given context, your punctuation choices take on a greater significance. But just like you have to know how to construct a grammatical sentence in order to speak fluent doge, creative typographical choices are meaningful because they play against a background of routine, default ones.”

How sarcasm works on the internet. Email to Pocket.



“My fuse is particularly short. I don’t want to hug or commiserate or cry on another shoulder. I have absolutely no tolerance for social conventions. Anyone who asks 'how are you' is met with 'terrible — my brother just died'. Some version of this sentence keeps running through my mind on repeat like a newsfeed on the bottom of a screen. It never stops. It underscores every moment: 'My brother is dead my brother is dead my brother is dead my brother is dead my brother is dead my brother is dead my brother is dead my brother is dead my brother is dead…' Like I have to keep saying it or it isn’t real. Like I have to keep reminding myself that this is really happening because it’s just too fucking unbelievable.”

A very good description of what it's like to grieve. Email to Pocket.


Things to listen to

I think The Bugle is my longest running podcast-relationship (we haven't fallen out yet). I started listening in April 2008 for reasons I can't really remember, and am still there. The premise is simple - Andy Zaltzman and John Oliver are long-time friends and comedy partners, but one of them lives in London and the other New York. So once a week they get on skype or whatever, and construct between them an "audio newspaper" in which they run down the news that's happened since they last spoke in a strict print hierachy, from "top story" to "sport" (there was also an "audio cryptic crossword" for a while). Initially supported by the Times, they went independent in early 2012 (a decision which was absolutely not connected to the things they had been saying about the Murdoch press while, ostensibly, part of that very stable). Supported by its listeners, the Buglers, it's been going strong ever since. They've done 293 full episodes and numerous specials and sub-episodes. In the time it's been going, Oliver has become properly famous in the US, with his own HBO show and that, and Andy has (as well as being a standup, writer, broadcaster etc) delivered his own son in the upstairs bathroom. Part of the reason I enjoy it, I think, is because they're just so unashamedly British when so many comedy podcasts are American or Australian... And also because their blend of bad singing, classical references, terrible puns and general rudeness can reliably make me laugh alone on trains.

With something that has been running as long as The Bugle, it's easy for it to slip into in-jokes that are incomprehensible to the newbie, but Oliver and Zaltzman have always been good at retiring things so it never gets too insular. For that reason, you have to go back to the likes of #11 for the audio cryptic crossword, #14 for early "hottie from history" nominations, and #54 for a stellar appearance by "the American", a recurring character who speaks for that entire nation. But there's really no need to go back that far to begin with - dive in with the most recent stuff here, and then if you really like it consider some of the pre-independence Times stuff here. And if you get that far, let me know, because if you like it that much we should probably get married or something.

Things to watch

Master and Margarita in two minutes.

Manhattan rises.

Bach, you complete me.

Compulsory medieval thingamabob

Pissed as a hedgehog.

The guest gif

Wait for it.

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.