No Complaints #106: Boom, Bats and Backlash

Last week, I spent some time away from the internet, in a place with books, regular meal times and a nearby duckpond. It was as nice as everyone is always saying it is.

Things to read

“By that point, writers, editors, and readers had become suspicious of one another, and the factors that produced the personal-essay boom had started to give way. Some of the online publishers that survive have shifted to video and sponsored posts and Facebook partnerships to shore up revenue. Aggregation and op-eds – the infamous, abundant takes – continue to thrive, although the takes have perhaps cooled a bit. Personal essays have evidently been deemed not worth the trouble. Even those of us who like the genre aren’t generally mourning its sudden disappearance from the mainstream of the internet.”

Is the personal essay over? Or has it just moved to Tinyletter? I am fascinated by this kind of stuff. Email to Pocket.


“What made the boy was a polo shirt in the 1950s, a turtleneck in the 1960s, something polyester during the disco era. Gloria Stavers put Jim Morrison in her own fur jacket when she posed him for the cover of the magazine she edited, 16; the designer Bill Whitten put Michael Jackson in sequined jumpsuits that made him seem like light itself. As the teen male physical ideal was reshaped by gym rat practices and creatine, the fashions became simpler, to better show off honed physiques. By the mid-2000s the perfect teen idol outfit was more an ideal than a fashion statement: a white t-shirt, somehow never sullied — the ultimate sign of easeful male privilege. The one Harry Styles most frequently wore as the shaggy-haired main libidinal force in the boy band One Direction was a little loose but definitely clingy, sleeves rolled up so his fresh tattoos peeked through, possibly pulled out of a heap but somehow never wrinkled.”

Of all the excellent Harry Styles takes out there, I think this was my favourite. Email to Pocket.

+ Bonus Harry Styles content: we reviewed his debut solo album on the podcast this week, and talked about my co-host Anna’s three (3!!) irl encounters with him.


“They found that people in Argentina and other South American countries do, in general, require less personal space than people from Asia. In some places, strangers were encouraged to stay away, but friends could crowd in close. In Romania, for example, strangers are supposed to keep their distance. But friends can creep close. In Saudi Arabia, people stand farther from their friends than Argentinians do with strangers. Hungarians want loved ones and strangers at arms length, or at least 75 centimetres.”

A study into what “personal space” means around the world. Email to Pocket.


“You cannot know what it is like to be a bat by screwing your eyes tight, imagining membranous wings, finding your way through darkness by talking to it in tones that reply to you with the shape of the world. As the philosopher Thomas Nagel explained, the only way to know what it is like to be a bat is to be a bat. But the imagining? The attempt? That is a good and important thing.”

Helen Macdonald on what she learns from animals. Email to Pocket.


“The witch aesthetic emerged as a simultaneous evolution from and backlash against the aesthetic of weaponised femininity that rose to prominence in the late aughts and early teens. One parody video would famously sum up the weaponised femininity aesthetic as, ‘You want the wings of your eyeliner to be so sharp they could kill a man, allowing it to drain his blood so you may use it to summon the goddess Athena.’”

Explaining Lorde and the witchy aesthetic that surrounds her. Email to Pocket.


Things to listen to

Listening time is a bit limited at the moment (there’s an election on, etc), so today we have a smorgasboard of episodes that I have enjoyed recently.

Gabourey Sidibe on Death Sex and Money

National Sandwich Week on The High Low

The Secret Life of Alex Goldman on Reply All

Perfume Genius on Song Exploder

Emily Dickinson on In Our Time


Things to watch


Things to attend

This is where I put details of upcoming IRL things I’m doing:

9 July, London – The next SRSLY pop culture quiz is going to be on this date, subject still TBC, at The Book Club in Shoreditch. If you want to be the first to get tickets, sign up for our podcast email alerts here.


Compulsory medieval thingamabob

At the end of manifesto week.


The guest gif

On the plus side, new Twin Peaks next week.

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THE END. See you next time!