No Complaints #33: Witches, Wizards and Watermelons

I’ve had a slightly turbulent few days, so apologies if that is reflected in the selection of things here. On the plus side, you can listen to me on not one but two podcasts this week: the latest episode of SRSLY, where we talked gender in Ant-Man and food issues in My Mad Fat Diary, and Media Focus, where I had thoughts about Jeremy Corbyn and his legions of Facebook warriors. Also, I'm on holiday next week, so there probably won't be an email next Friday.

Things to read

The day before the team plans to clone, which they do three times a week, a truck from a nearby slaughterhouse drops off scores of ovaries salvaged from dead horses. Plugging their noses to cope with the stench and blasting Bruce Springsteen to help with the repetitiveness of the task at hand, the specialists scrape out the enormous ovaries with a spatula to remove the eggs and place them in an incubator. After 24 hours, when the eggs are mature enough to be manipulated, the head scientists slide them under powerful microscopes and use a minuscule hollow needle to clean them and remove the nuclei, which contain their DNA. Again with a needle, the scientists insert a cell from the horse they wish to clone into a special zone just inside the empty egg’s outer membrane. This package is then given an electric shock to fuse the two parts, soaked in a cocktail of different chemicals, and popped in an incubator for seven days.

The story of a man who cloned his polo pony so they could be together forever. Trust me, the pictures in this are amazing. Email to Pocket.



“The watermelon originally came from Africa, but after domestication it thrived in hot climates in the Middle East and southern Europe. It probably became common in European gardens and markets around 1600. Old watermelons, like the one in Stanchi's picture, likely tasted pretty good – Nienhuis thinks the sugar content would have been reasonably high, since the melons were eaten fresh and occasionally fermented into wine. But they still looked a lot different.”

Sometimes, Vox’s insatiable explanation machine churns out some pretty good stuff. I mean, I do want to know why the watermelons in Renaissance paintings look different to the watermelons I can buy now. Email to Pocket.



“BE. THAT. GIRL. Because That Girl is a shining beacon to the rest of us. That Girl doesn’t play along and call herself whatever some dude is calling her, whether it’s ‘pal’ or ‘that chick I’m sleeping with’ or ‘her, over there’. That Girl doesn’t sit through drifty, disconnected conversations with men who can’t show up. That Girl doesn’t care if you think she’s attractive or appropriate or easy to be around or not. She’s not caught up in some dude’s love affair – with himself, with his stuff, with his fantasy of how easy and sexy and mysterious True Love will be when he finally finds it, just like a porn flick starring him with a soundtrack by The Shins. That Girl is willing to risk his disapproval for the sake of her own happiness.”

Shout out to my colleague Stephanie who tried valiently to fix all my problems this week with “Ask Polly” columns and books about witches. Thank you. Email to Pocket.



“We had heroes who just went through this entire war, this generation touched so solidly by war and prejudice and death, an event that called out for major, serious changes and in the decades that came after…. was there still no change? No revolution, nothing to galvanise the Wizarding World and make them better?”

An excellent bit of writing on why That Epilogue wasn’t our ending. More context, more Snape: here. Email to Pocket.



“But neither is it simply a matter of correct grammar. How we think about and make use of words can have a profound impact on how we think about the things those words represent. Turow told the New York Times in 2002 that changing the capitalisation would signal a shift in understanding about what the internet actually is: ‘part of the neural universe of life’.”

Why it's time to stop capitalising “internet”. Email to Pocket.


Things to listen to

My listening is about 90 per cent stuff I hear at the Proms at the moment, and fortunately I worked out how to export my BBC playlist so you can hear it too! I'll be updating it through the summer with more highlights, if that's your sort of thing. If you only listen to one thing,  make it Leif Ove Andsnes doing Beethoven’s Fifth Piano Concerto (approximate playcount for me per day: 10+).

Things to watch

Why Time Flies.

Demystifying depression.

Their stories, their words.

Compulsory medieval thingamabob

The dog that is also a flamethrower.

The guest gif

Don't touch me.

THE END. See you next time*!
*Next time will probably be the Friday after next. If you want to suggest things I should include in the next one, please do reply and send me links.