No Complaints #76: Serena, Spares and Stunners

Back to school time is here, although London is trying its best to pretend it isn’t by staying muggy. I can’t wait for the morning when I step outside and the cold snaps at my face.

Things to read

“Furthermore, she is the only player to have won 10 grand slams in two consecutive decades. And, as anyone who has even a passing interest in the sport is aware, if Serena wins another grand slam tournament before she calls it quits, she will surpass the record for the most slam victories in the open era, an achievement she currently shares with Steffi Graff.”

A compelling case for Serena Williams as the greatest sportsperson of all time. Email to Pocket.


“The flash drive exposes the great lie of technological progress, which is the idea that things are ever really left behind. It’s not just that an obsolete technology from the year of Saturday Night Fever still lurks unseen in the dank corners of a shiny new MacBook; it’s that it’s something that is relied upon regularly. The technology historian Thomas Hughes calls these types of devices ‘reverse salients’ – those things that interrupt and disturb the forward movement of technology. They reveal the ugly truth that lies behind each slick new presentation from Google, Apple, or Microsoft: technical systems are cobbled together from left-over pieces, digital Frankenstein’s monsters in which spare parts and leftovers are awkwardly sutured together and pressed into service.”

A surprising exploration of why we still use flash drives, even though they are ancient tech (in tech terms). Email to Pocket.


“Tulisa’s right: there was nothing like N-Dubz at the time, and they were genuinely brilliant. Instead of toning down their working class roots to appease the masses, they made music that articulated actual London; like a fight overheard on a Wood Green bus, or what you’d spit at an ex-boyfriend after he’d cheated on you, or the bleak reality of seeing someone’s Nokia phone after their death.”

A great interview with Tulisa. Email to Pocket.


“One evening, in the fall of 1857, while sitting with her younger sister, Bessie, in the audience of a makeshift theater in Oxford, seventeen-year-old Jane Burden was spotted by Rossetti and Edward Burne-Jones, a fellow Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood member. Always on the hunt for ‘stunners’ to employ as sitters for his medieval-inspired art, Rossetti decided that this sultry young woman would make a perfect Queen Guinevere. Janey, then living with her parents and two siblings in a tiny cottage behind a pub, was soon posing in the drawing room of the lodgings shared by Burne-Jones, Rossetti, and William Morris, the man who, by the following spring, would be her fiancé.”

How Jane Morris became the muse to the Pre-Raphaelites. Email to Pocket.


“Entering a house, I often feel that I am entering a woman’s body, and that everything I do there will be felt more intimately by her than by anyone else. But in that house it is possible to forget entirely – as the passengers on the top deck of a liner can forget the blackened, bellowing engine room below – what is surely nonetheless true: that a home is powered by a woman’s will and work, and that a curious form of success could be measured in her ability to suggest the opposite. I can’t see any difference, in my daughter’s adopted household, between what it is and what it seems to be – the home of a kind, artistic and educated woman – and yet I find myself unable to believe that difference isn’t there.”

Rachel Cusk on how we make houses into homes. Email to Pocket.


Things to listen to

I abandoned the You Must Remember This podcast during its Hollywood Blacklist season (it got a bit technical and American for me), but have returned for their delightful short series about Joan Crawford. There are only six episodes, and you can burn through them pretty quickly (all available here). I learned, among other things, who Mary Pickford actually was, how Douglas Fairbanks got famous, and what it meant to try and be a woman who was in films in the 1930s. Film ignoramus that I am, it's all fascinating to me.


Things to watch


Compulsory medieval thingamabob

“Please, snail. I promise I won’t stab you this time. These swords about my person are wholly decorative.”

The guest gif

Now I look at it again, this part of Peter Pan was actually a bit rude.

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

If you like the newsletter or its website and want me to keep doing it, maybe think about giving me some money.

THE END. See you next time!