No Complaints #104: Dictators, Dystopias and Dogs

If you don’t live in the UK and didn’t spend quite a bit of this week having to talk about what a “mugwump” is, then you probably had a better week than me.

Things to read

“Adult children of authoritarians are useful in three ways: first, they tend to be trustworthy confidants in regimes rife with paranoia, as corrupt authoritarian states usually are. Second, they are excellent vessels for laundering money,  creating enough distance that assets stolen from the state are harder to track. Third, they tend to have a warmer public profile which offsets the brutality of the dictator by distracting the population with pictures of their.”

Why a dictator’s daughter can be one of his most powerful weapons. Email to Pocket.


“We would need our strength if we were to make it to the Gulf before winter. Luckily, eggs are packed with Omega-3s, selenium and B12. I cracked them with one hand, directly into my mouth, one by one. A trickle of egg white ran down my chin. I saw no reason to wipe it away.”

I’m not sure why, but I found this hilarious. Maybe “dystopian cooking tips” are just my kind of humour now. Email to Pocket.


“I found myself becoming hyperaware of who was hanging out with whom in the office – not even who was dating whom (although of course that was interesting too), but who had become friends. I adopted a persona that felt – not haughty exactly, but an ‘I have my own friends anyway so I don’t need to be hanging out with you’ persona. Even though I kind of really wanted to. ”

On trying, and failing, to be a cool boss. Do men have these anxieties? I would be interested to know. Email to Pocket.


“By the middle of the nineteenth century, in other words, an ancient myth had mutated into a serious scientific hypothesis: the theory of the open polar sea. The most ardent supporters of that theory believed in a kind of Nordic El Dorado. Beyond the eightieth parallel, they held, the ocean was not merely ice-free but actually warm, leading to a kind of tropical paradise – possibly complete with a lost civilisation – tucked away at the top of the planet.”

Why Victorian literary culture was so obsessed with polar exploration. Email to Pocket.


“Over some 65 issues, from 1968 to 1983, the Chronicle became a catalog of abuses, noted in the most sparse, neutral tone possible. It was a painstaking effort to publish information that could never be obtained through the official Soviet media. Here, a citizen could read the details of closed political trials and the stories of what the Chronicle called “extrajudicial persecution,” understand what a K.G.B. search entailed, read secret documents meant only for those in power, learn about the constant religious and cultural persecution and get updates on political prisoners in the East.”

An amazing tale of fake news and journalism under authoritarian rule. Email to Pocket.


Things to listen to

Perhaps not unsurprisingly, I love a “writers explain how they write” interview. So imagine my joy when I discovered the WMFA Podcast, in which Courtney Balestier interviews a different woman writer in each episode about the practicalities of their job. There have been seven episodes so far, and I've just binged through the lots of them. My favourites are Emily St John Mandel (writer of the excellent Station Eleven) and Esme Weijun Wang (who was just named one of Best Young American Novelists).


Things to watch

I challenge you not to cry at this.

I wouldn't use the word fake here, but it's interesting nonetheless.

Robot Marie Antoinette ftw.


Things to attend

A couple of upcoming IRL things I’m doing:

2 May, London – A panel with Olly Mann of Answer Me This! and Jason Phipps of the Guardian talking about “how to launch and grow a successful podcast”. More details and tickets here.

9 May, London – The next SRSLY quiz is all about Twin Peaks! Get tickets here.


Compulsory medieval thingamabob

Bank holiday swimming!

The guest gif


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THE END. See you next time!