No Complaints #61: Distraction, Drawing and Dulé

There was no newsletter last week because it was my birthday, and I was at the Harry Potter studio experience having the time of my life. I make no apology for this.

Things to read

“All the way back to the early 1980s, Hadid’s project was profoundly about the mutual reliance of perception and function. The breaks and bends in her buildings were not, unlike those of many of her contemporaries, the result of a self-referential geometrical exercise, a cryptic narrative, or a default setting in the aerospace and animation software that architects have increasingly adopted. Instead, her moves were attuned to an anticipated visual experience – something like the forced perspective of a raked theatre stage or the optical illusion of anamorphosis. Hadid’s pictorial and painterly work was a meditation on the tension between sight and insight. A Hadid building visibly strives, like all of us, toward some image of itself.”

Zaha Hadid was just getting started, and now she is gone. Email to Pocket.


“Although inattention is represented as the polar opposite of attention, it is more useful to perceive the issue of distraction as a concern about people not attending to what is represented as the legitimate focus of attention. It also expresses the fear that the inattentive might be paying far too much attention to the wrong texts and cultural practices.”

The “nobody has any attention span to speak of” panic is actually centuries-old. Email to Pocket.


“Appearing like trenches dragged into the earth, sunken lanes, also called hollow-ways or holloways, are centuries-old thoroughfares worn down by the traffic of time. They're one of the few examples of human-made infrastructure still serving its original purpose, although many who walk through holloways don't realise they're retracing ancient steps. ”

A way of walking back in time. Email to Pocket.



“In Britain, at least, it poses an existential threat to Queen and Country, wherein the introduction of new trains such as Carlos from Mexico, Yong Bao from China, and Raul from Brazil, do not brightly reflect the realities of a globalised marketplace so much as suggest that yet another cultural battleground has been ceded to Daily Mail commenters’ fear of ‘illegals’, who are poised to steal your jobs and corrupt the children with their foreign ways. Yet the crucial detail about Thomas’s new ‘foreign’ friends is that these trains are all wearing masks, each face ghostly white despite being ‘Indian’, ‘Brazilian’, ‘Mexican’, or ‘Chinese’. Under the bourgeois aegis of globalisation, Thomas’ expanded universe is fostering the assimilation of the rest of the world into structural whiteness, and the new ‘friends’ are facilitators of the neocolonialist marketplace. The century-old series’ original message of Civilisation through Industrialisation remains intact.”

Possibly the greatest piece of comic writing about fictional trains, ever. Email to Pocket.



“Many parents did not want to hear Kachindamoto's pleas to keep their girls in school, or her assurances that an educated girl would bring them a greater fortune. The common response was that she had no right to overturn tradition, nor, as the mother of five boys, to lecture others on the upbringing of girls. Realising that she couldn't change the traditionally set mentality of parents, Kachindamoto instead changed the law.”

This woman has broken up 850 child marriages in three years. Email to Pocket.


Things to listen to

The last time I fell for something as hard and fast as I have for this podcast, it was 2006 and I was supposed to be doing a degree. Some DVDs were left in my pigeonhole in a plain white office envelope with “WATCH ALL OF THIS BEFORE I NEXT SPEAK TO YOU OR ELSE!!!” scrawled on it, and that was it. The West Wing and I had found each other. And when Dulé Hill appeared on screen in the third episode of season one, well – it’s not really accurate to say I “had” a crush on him, because I think I might still be having it, now.

I haven’t done a complete watch of the West Wing since that first time. I’ve repeated favourite episodes here and there, of course, but I was afraid of seeing the whole thing again from the beginning. There are problems with Aaron Sorkin’s writing that I feel have been thrown into sharper relief by his post-WW projects, and I didn't really want to admit that they were there in object of my affection too. But now that The West Wing Weekly podcast has come along, I’m giving it a go. I’ve got company, you see.

So far, it’s a delight. Hrishikesh Hirway of Song Exploder fame is a great companion in this (his views on Sorkin’s treatment of women are very sound, btw), and I’m revelling in Josh Malina’s onset anecdotes and general joy for everything to do with the showAND DID I MENTION THAT DULÉ HILL WAS ON EPISODE THREE? Short of holding an actual seance with the ghost of Mrs Landingham, I’m not really sure how they’re going to top that.

Things to watch

At the Bangladeshi "Like" farm.


The Next Rembrandt.


Compulsory medieval thingamabob

When you ask a woman “what is it like for you on the internet?”, a truthful answer would look something like this.

The guest gif

Probably the best thing ever captured on film.

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.