No Complaints #91: Christmas, Cheer and Charms

This is the third Christmas that I am sending this newsletter (special wave to anyone who was here in 2014, doesn't that seem like a long time ago, etc). Unlike last year, this is going out before Christmas Eve so that if you've got time left at work these links can still be of use to you to pass the time. There's a mixture here - some of my favourites from previous editions, plus some new stuff I read/watched/heard this week. I hope you enjoy it.

If you've had fun reading these things and chatting to me about them this year, consider supporting the continued existence of this newsletter. I have some expansion plans for 2017 that I'm pondering! 

Note I'm taking next week off, so the next edition will be with you on 6 January.

Things to read

“If any man ever hit you, if anyone ever sexually harassed you, you’d tell him to fuck right off. You want to be, no, you will be the kind of woman who can tell anyone to fuck off if a fuck off is deserved, so naturally you start a Fuck Off Fund.”

This is probably the piece that I have had the most conversations about with subscribers, and it most certainly bears rereading (originally in NC#53). Email to Pocket.


“Imagine if you woke up this morning and Disney’s 1998 animation A Bug’s Life did not exist. After endlessly scouring the internet, you’d come up with nothing, despite your own distinct memories of a bunch of ants going on wild hijinks through the undergrowth. You’d turn to your best friend, your brother, your mum, and say, “Hey, remember A Bug’s Life? It was about ants”, and your friend/brother/mum would turn to you and says: 'No, darling. You’re thinking about Antz.'”

My colleague Amelia has written some outstanding stuff this year (follow her, follow her now) but just before she left to go away for Christmas this week she pulled off a real mic-drop of a piece. It's about a film from the Nineties that half the internet thinks exists but actually doesn't, and the terrifying effects of collective memory. Email to Pocket.


“Quills are not styluses! Seriously people, how hard of a concept is it? I’m sure you’re all thinking that they could technically be used as a stylus , which is all well and good, except when the Charms Professor barges into my office with ink covering the screen of his tablet wondering why he can’t access Youtube.”

Still love the Muggle IT guy at Hogwarts (originally in NC#56). Email to Pocket.


“Personal productivity presents itself as an antidote to busyness when it might better be understood as yet another form of busyness. And as such, it serves the same psychological role that busyness has always served: to keep us sufficiently distracted that we don’t have to ask ourselves potentially terrifying questions about how we are spending our days.”

The whole concept of time management - and inbox zero etc - is all about avoiding thinking about death. Email to Pocket.


“Do I actually take a long time to put on my shoes? Until recently, I would have said no; it’s just that my girlfriend is short, and therefore closer to the ground, which means gravity has a stronger pull on her, which warps her perception of time. I would never have imagined that ‘my boyfriend takes a long time to put his shoes on’ was a common refrain.”

Men! Why does it take you so long to put on your shoes? (originally in NC#66). Email to Pocket.


“Henry’s workshop is five steps below street level, in the basement of the Congregation Sons of Moses synagogue. There are no windows and yet it’s a cheerful place, primarily because of Henry, but also because of the instruments he uses—the oversewing machine with its web of thread, the presses that are tightened by wheel crank, the hand guillotine and the foot guillotine. Some are wickedly efficient, others possessed of a Rube Goldberg charm. Grease is needed to keep these machines in working order, and there’s a sweetness in the air, from the lubricant oils, the leather polish and Elmer’s glue, all of it underlined by the nutty scent of paper recently cut.Do I actually take a long time to put on my shoes? Until recently, I would have said no; it’s just that my girlfriend is short, and therefore closer to the ground, which means gravity has a stronger pull on her, which warps her perception of time. I would never have imagined that ‘my boyfriend takes a long time to put his shoes on’ was a common refrain.”

The last bookbinder on the Lower East Side. Related: I stuck the spine of a decades-old and very well beloved book together with tape this week, and I did not make a good job of it. Email to Pocket.


“She’ll stick around for a few months because you been together a long, long time. Because you’ve gone through so much together – her father’s death, your tenure madness, her bar exam (passed on the third attempt). And because love, real love, is not so easily shed. Over a tortured six-month period you fly together to the D.R., to Mexico (for the funeral of a friend), to New Zealand. You walk the beach where they filmed The Piano, something she’s always wanted to do, and now, in penitent desperation, you give it to her. She is immensely sad on that beach and she walks up and down the shining sand alone, her bare feet in the freezing water, and when you try to hug her she says, Don’t. She stares at the rocks jutting out of the water, the wind carrying her hair straight back. On the ride out to the hotel, up through those wild steeps, you pick up a pair of hitchhikers, a couple so giddy with love that you almost throw them out of the car. She says nothing. Later, in the hotel, she cries.”

Oh, Junot Diaz. I could read you forever. (originally in NC#68). Email to Pocket.


“During episode three of Chewing Gum, the British comedy created, written by, and starring 29-year-old Michaela Coel, her protagonist Tracy Gordon crashes a party and accidentally takes too much MDMA. Rolling, she meanders home to a council estate in east London that’s suddenly bursting with color. 'It’s like a palace,' she enthuses, as neighbors grin and wave.”

I am so happy that Michaela Coel is in this piece - her show Chewing Gum, which we discussed on the podcast, is still one of the best things I've watched in a long time. Email to Pocket.

“There is a wonderful exchange near the beginning of the book when Rose reveals dramatically that she would consider selling herself on the streets, only to be told that this is unlikely to work in deepest Suffolk. Rose bursts into tears, with Cassandra speculating it’s because she has lost faith in ever meeting any marriageable men, ‘even hideous, poverty-stricken ones’. We’re left in no doubt that this is a story with sex and money at its heart.”

I Capture The Castle is still one of the best books ever (originally in NC#80). Email to Pocket.


Things to listen to

This is my summary of a year of listening - go download it all.


Things to watch

Toxic vs O Come All Ye Faithful is still the best.

Starlings, why do you do this?

Alan Rickman in a pot.


Compulsory medieval thingamabob

Me heading into 2017 like

The guest gif

Still the greatest gif ever made.

If you have a suggestion for something I should look at, hit reply to this email or talk to me on Twitter.

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THE END. See you next time!