There's a lot of stuff out there on the internet. This is what I've found so far.

Interviews, Ice Cream and Identity

No Complaints #166

It’s been a while. Let’s enjoy some more things.

Things to read

“The crisis affected everyone in some way, but the way it affected millennials is foundational: It’s always defined our experience of the job market. More experienced workers and the newly laid-off filled applicant pools for lower- and entry-level jobs once largely reserved for recent graduates. We couldn’t find jobs, or could only find part-time jobs, jobs without benefits, or jobs that were actually multiple side hustles cobbled together into one job. As a result, we moved back home with our parents, we got roommates, we went back to school, we tried to make it work. We were problem solvers, after all — and taught that if we just worked harder, it would work out.”
This piece on “millennial burnout” has been everywhere on my Twitter feed this week, so you’ve probably already seen it scroll past. I think it’s worth reading. Email to Pocket.

“Once home, I eat an ice cream as a reward for my run as if I'm seven years old. It used to be a 99 Flake but they've changed the recipe so now it's a Mars bar one. Then I eat popcorn as a savoury chaser. I'll write for a bit, take the dog out and then eat like a grown up – normally eggs on brown bread or soup. I go to a café in the afternoon to get out of the house and stop myself from ignoring my work and deciding I should paint a wall or make an elaborate recipe, and I drink mint tea like I'm being serious and pure while I'm writing. It's gross. Later, I'll have a double macchiato, which is delicious but really needs a cigarette and not the Juul I'm using as if I'm a US high schooler.”
Finally, one of those “what I eat and do in a day” pieces that doesn’t make me feel terrible, because I too like ice cream and sharing snacks with my dog. Dog food does seem unnecessarily boring, sorry Morris. Email to Pocket.

“It crashed onto my head and down I went. My feet kicked out for the bottom, to shoot up to the surface the way I’d done for many times, and met only empty water. The air bubbled out of me frantically, I set myself against the water, and the water began to win. I was panicking, utterly and completely, arms and legs thrashing as I fought to get myself back to the surface. I wasn’t a mermaid any more. In that moment, salt knifing up my nose, I wasn’t beautiful or weightless or strong. I was just a stupid girl who had swum too far out of her depth.”
A moving little story about that moment when your childhood imaginings are rudely confronted, and melted away, by reality. Email to Pocket.

“In the winter of 1992, I began a series of interviews with the artist David Salle. They were like sittings for a portrait with a very practiced sitter. Salle has given many—dozens of—interviews. He is a kind of interview addict. But he is remarkably free of the soul-sickness that afflicts so many celebrities, who grow overly interested in the persona bestowed on them by journalism. Salle cultivates the public persona, but with the detachment of someone working in someone else’s garden. He gives good value—journalists come away satisfied—but he does not give himself away. He never forgets, and never lets the interviewer forget, that his real self and his real life are simply not on offer. What is on offer is a construct, a character who has evolved and is still evolving from Salle’s ongoing encounters with writers.”
I only just discovered Janet Malcom’s piece ‘Forty-One False Starts’ from 1994, and I think it’s brilliant (and also how I would like to write one day). Email to Pocket.

“You’ve surely seen the selburose before, too: It’s knit into sweaters, featured on those mittens, seen at the Olympics, and printed on leggings and drink cozies. It’s shorthand for Scandinavia, if not Norway specifically, and feels at home on winter gear, especially our American faux-Christmas sweaters and earmuffs. Norwegians love it—especially on the famous black-and-white mittens my grandmother used to make. The symbol is one of that country’s proudest cultural exports, thanks to the knitwear on which it is most often emblazoned.”
This is why lots of ‘cosy’ knitwear has that star pattern knitted into it. Also, you’ve now learned a new word today: selburose. Email to Pocket.

Things to listen to

I am really into this podcast where two men review cereal and I don’t care who knows it. Also Forever35, but everyone likes that so I don’t feel cool by recommending it to you.

+Free stuff alert: I am now writing a weekly podcast newsletter for The Browser, full of excellent podcast recommendations. They have given me a limited number of three-month free vouchers to give away to loyal readers — it’s normally $5 a month to get the email, so you’re getting $15-worth for nothing. Hit reply to this email if you want one of these vouchers. First come first served.

Things to watch

I was already terrified of smart speakers, and now of course I won’t ever be sleeping again.

Extremely satisfying and wholesome content.

Kristen Chenoweth’s face when this girl starts singing is *everything*.

Compulsory medieval thingamabob


The guest gif

Dancing out of this week like:

Millennials, Monkeys and the Moon

No Complaints #165

It’s been a while, but I finally have time to read/listen to/watch things again, so here’s a selection of the best.

Things to read

“They say millennials are easily offended, and I finally get what they mean, because I think this un-wrappable tissue paper sprout is abhorrent. Each day, you unravel one layer of sprout to reveal a Christmas cracker joke, hat or plastic bug. The final prize (spoilers) is a red yo-yo. The planet is literally on its deathbed! This tiny pink plastic lobster has contributed significantly to the destruction of our natural resources, and for what? I'll tell you what: it’s weirdly satisfying to chew on.”
My former colleague Amelia is extremely funny and talented, and you should read her epic journey through 24 days of really stupid advent calendars immediately. Email to Pocket.

“Austen is often described as a satirist who only hints at depths of feeling. But in fact she is startlingly blunt about emotions, describing her characters’ feelings, from desire to envy to shame, with scathing exactness. In Persuasion – my favourite Austen novel – the hardness of life for a woman is laid bare. Only a mature reader – perhaps even one in a similar position to the novel’s central character, Anne Elliot – can understand how cruel, and yet how common, her experience has been.”
Jane Austen is wasted on teenagers. Email to Pocket.

“There’s a bad double bind in being a writer: If you don’t write about things people are interested in, nobody is going to read you. But if you write about things people are interested in, other people are writing about them, too.”
On writerly jealousy and Sylvia Plath. Email to Pocket.

“Like so many retail brands in 2018, the brand has shuttered stores and reported falling sales over the past few years. But beyond the shoddily produced merchandise, Victoria’s Secret feels dated, with its inherent and unavoidable male gaze; the retro sense that their products are not really made for women. It’s this gaze that primarily defined many other crumbling mall brands that once soared in the 1990s and 2000s. While a male-centric approach to fashion once made some brands cool and aspirational for customers, in 2018 it’s exclusionary to a fault.”
The male gaze in retail is a new concept to me, but now I see it everywhere. Email to Pocket.

“Working with the living legend was a dream come true for Lin-Manuel Miranda, who plays a lamplighter named Jack. ‘One of the greatest moments I experienced on set was Meryl. She was sort of in weird Mary Poppins aunt mode the whole time, and at one point she goes, “Hey, kids, wanna see a perfect pratfall?” And just boom, face down, went from 90 degrees to flat. You haven’t seen Buster Keaton do a pratfall like this. Everyone rushed over like, “Meryl Streep has died!”’ he recalls. ‘And then she just got up and was like, [wiping hands] “I learned that at Yale.”’”
Working with Meryl Streep sounds both incredible and incredibly stressful. Email to Pocket.

Things to listen to

If you ever find yourself unconsciously completely the line “A sailor went to sea. . .” with a few more repeats of “sea”, then you have to listen to this documentary with Emmy the Great about why you do that.

+Also: I have a new job where I write the Sunday newsletter for the curation service The Browser, and it will all be excellent offbeat podcast recommendations you would never find otherwise. You can sign up for their free emails here, but as you all know you have to pay to get good stuff on the internet, and my email will only go to paying subscribers. However, they’ve given me my very own discount code for you people to use, so head to to get 20 per cent off, which makes it less than $4 a month for my email plus daily bulletins of amazing articles to read. (Doing this also shows them that I’m worth having on the team, thank you very much for your support.)

Things to watch

The Glee kids can’t stop doing covers, and I love it.


What it’s like to go viral.

Compulsory medieval thingamabob

Women’s unwaged labour: ’twas ever thus.

The guest gif

Working nine to five. . .

Shoes, Shareholders and Shocks

No Complaints #164

Thanks very much to everyone who has listened to the first episode of my new podcast, Shedunnit, and left nice reviews and comments. I know some of you have come from this newsletter, and that makes me really happy. If you haven’t tried it yet, but you are interested in books by Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, Gladys Mitchell, Ngaio Marsh etc, do give it a try.

Things to read

“For nearly her whole career, Cira Robinson has — like many ballet dancers of color — performed a ritual: painting her point shoes to match her skin. She did it first in 2001, when she was 15, at a summer program with Dance Theater of Harlem. The company said her shoes needed to be brown, not the traditional pink, but she couldn’t find any in stores, so she used spray paint. ‘It made them crunchy and just. . . ew,’ she said in a telephone interview.”
I’m so interested in how ballet is finally realising dancing isn’t just a white pastime. Email to Pocket.

“It is fair to say that Fisher wasn’t the everywoman’s food writer. An entire book dedicated to oysters is not the most vital or accessible text of our time. She acknowledges, if only obliquely, the narrowness of the audience for whom she writes when she comments that “oysters are very unsatisfactory food for labouring men, but will do for the sedentary.” On the topic of mass-market cookbooks, she describes having to toss back a glass of dry vermouth just to be able to face them. “The trick worked its… magic, and I felt only an occasional wave of hysteria as I read [them].” A reactionary streak runs deep through Fisher’s writing and she was clearly unsettled by the introduction of cheap, factory-made foodstuffs to the American post-War marketplace.”
I learned a lot from this piece about the US food writer MFK Fisher. Email to Pocket.

“From 1965 to 2011, Mrs. Davis also published an annual newsletter, Highlights and Lowlights, that covered corporate meetings, shareholder proposals and most anything else on Mrs. Davis’s mind. The price varied, but lingered around $600 — and Mrs. Davis required that her customers, mainly CEOs, purchase no fewer than two copies per order.”
The obituary of a newsletter icon. Email to Pocket.

“The question is, then, who is this book is for? If you are young enough not to know about spare toilet rolls and spring cleaning, you are probably too young to have your own pantry and be hosting dinner parties with table runners. It feels at once remarkably cynical and utterly removed from the reality of most young people’s lives. Or perhaps it is the truest reflection of the Instagram generation, yet – just a big, pretty, hollow collection of paper garlands, sprigged cocktails and pugs in party hats, all rattling around seeking approval.”
This take on Zoella’s book is both very funny and quite worrying. Email to Pocket.

“If you’ve ever watched a horror movie, you know that the star psychopath wins mostly because he’s playing by psycho rules and the victims are playing by normal-people rules. So your office Michael Myers comes knocking at your front door and you invite him in for tea. Every day he’s stomping all over you! Yet here you still think he’s like you on the inside. He’s a Murderbot 6000. He’s a misprogrammed goon who’s out to get you. Let’s talk about your choices! You’re “nicer to him” than everyone else? You’re acting like the office is a day care center and it’s time to share blocks, yet this guy is running around with a chain saw. Tell him firmly, once, what you need. Second time, send an officewide email that says, “Babadook here keeps ‘forgetting’ to add me to these meetings, can you help him remember?” Third time, roll up on his office and start straight-up yelling. It’s time to misbehave.”
Reading this has made me realise that I really, really want to write a workplace agony aunt column. If you want to publish that. . . hit me up. Email to Pocket.

Things to listen to

I’ve been trying out Proof, a new cooking podcast. I’m suddenly very into food podcasts of all kind, actually. Maybe it’s the time of year.

And obviously, my new podcast, you should be listening to that, duh.

Things to watch

I mean.


Stop skipping the credits!

Compulsory medieval thingamabob

“This is more of a statement than a question. . .”

The guest gif

The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is a parable for our modern age.

Clickbait, Creators and Christie

No Complaints #163

Hello! I took a big step this week, and put the trailer for the podcast I’ve been working on for about a year out in the world. The show is called Shedunnit, and it’s all about the detective fiction of the 1920s and 30s — the work of writers like Agatha Christie, Dorothy L Sayers, Ngaio Marsh etc.

If you’re interested, you can find out more on the website or subscribe in all the major podcast apps, like Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, RadioPublic, Spotify, etc. It’s a scary thing to do, to allow strangers to listen to something that you really care about, so I hope you like it. The first full episode comes out on 31 October, so if you subscribe before then it’ll deliver straight to you phone automatically.

Now, links.

Things to read

“This is, of course, bunk. Your DNA, as Sarah Zhang put it in The Atlantic recently, ‘is not your culture,’ and it certainly isn’t guaranteed to tell you anything about the places, history, and cultures that shaped you. The scientific-seeming results you get from a home DNA kit are fun, in the manner of a party favor, but they’re not particularly reliable, especially for people from outside of the U.S. and whose ancestors are from outside of Europe. And even if they were pinpoint accurate, what you’re being told is, as British geneticist James Rutherford puts it, ‘something that is at best trivial and at worst astrology.’ If you want to know who you ‘really’ are, you should examine your family history, the environment you grew up in, the experiences you’ve had and relationships you’ve formed. Those tell you a lot about who you ‘really’ are. Your DNA itself tells you very little.”
I got my father one of those DNA tests as a fun stocking filler last year, and it went exactly as this writer describes: it told him that basically everyone in his family ever is from Ireland, mostly the south, which we already knew. Obviously, this changes nothing about how he feels or thinks. It’s concerning that people seem to think it should. Email to Pocket.

“Part of the problem, he began to realise, was that no one ever taught him how to collect information – the message was: ‘Take notes, full stop.’ When faced with an hour-long lesson and a issue with focus, that instruction was daunting. But over time, he began to note down ‘pieces of what was being said’, rather than scrabbling to write down everything. ‘I was slowly starting to figure out these tiny little wins. I figured out how to take these notes, how to make them even shorter, then codify them.’”
—I’ve been doing a bullet journal for a couple of years now, and a lot of this resonated with me. Email to Pocket.

“The demands of the YouTuber life suit younger creators – and the largest demographic on the site is those in their 20s (when once teenagers may have dreamed of becoming pop stars, now they dream of becoming YouTubers). Many find it possible to keep creating at a high enough rate, if only for a few years. ‘At that age you absolutely can,’ Lees says. ‘You’ve got the energy and focus to work incredibly long hours, you’ve got very few responsibilities to take your attention away from work, and – perhaps most importantly – you’ve likely still got a solid social circle, friendships that aren’t difficult to maintain.’ But, as every casualty of childhood stardom demonstrates, early success carries with it tremendous risk.”
I’m so interested in the consequences of invisible online labour, and this piece on YouTuber burnout has lots of insights on that. Email to Pocket.

“Fifty years ago, a frightened 15-year-old black youth checked into St. Louis’s City Hospital with unusual symptoms that puzzled doctors. His legs were swollen, and soon so was his entire body. Nothing seemed to work, not even seven weeks of antibiotics. Doctors suspected he may have acquired chlamydia from a same-sex partner, but the youth never said he had. For six months he continued to deteriorate, until in May of 1969 this sweet, shy teen lost his life to the disease that baffled medical personnel. His name was Robert Rayford, and he is the first known person to die of HIV in the United States.”
On the whitewashed history of HIV. Email to Pocket.

“I don’t know how everybody else felt, but I always felt like we were slightly on the outside looking in. We were never a cool band. When people think of cool bands, they very rarely think of us. I haven’t read it but there’s been a lot of talk about that book Meet Me in the Bathroom. It’s funny that I’ve been doing this long enough that people are waxing poetic about this time in music that doesn’t seem like it was that long ago. It was 15 years ago, but it doesn’t feel that long ago. There were the White Stripes and the Strokes and Yeah Yeah Yeahs, these bands that were very hip. They looked cool, they dressed cool, they hung out with cool people. We always fell outside of that. I think it might just be a Northwest thing. Northwesterners tend to feel like they have an inferiority complex. We were these collegiate shit-kickers from Bellingham/Seattle.”
The guy from Death Cab for Cutie ranks all their albums, and reveals that he hates the same kinds of his songs that I do. Very reassuring. Email to Pocket.

Things to listen to

I have absolutely loved 99% Invisible’s “Articles of Interest” series, all about the deeper issues involved in the clothes we wear. The episode on punk style was my favourite.

And obviously, my new podcast, you should be listening to that, duh.

Things to watch

Again, interesting insight into that invisible online labour thing.

I love this woman’s videos.


Compulsory medieval thingamabob

Nice to meet you, have you come far?

The guest gif

Miss Marple knows the truth.

Ballet, Bedtime and Britney

No Complaints #162

Happy Friday! A classic mixture here of things I found on the internet this week and thought were good/interesting/amusing. Thanks for subscribing, and please do forward to a friend if you think they’ll enjoy it.

Things to read

“I never know how to answer that question well because the only answer I have is really boring: you morph into the most patient version of yourself and you do the work. There's no fast track. You build a name, you do your best, you learn from the edits your editors give you, you learn how to adapt your voice to suit the tone of publications, and you just keep on keeping on. There's no magical phrase or certain email or anything other than time, time, and more time. Which also means that if you want to stay on top of your bills, you may also need to work a day job or a part-time job or take on copy editing or the type of writing you don't think is particularly cool or glamorous. But also: too bad! No one is above day jobs or part-time jobs or copy editing or types of writing that aren't cool or glamorous! Clearly don't do anything that you feel uncomfortable with, but you're no less of a writer if you also enjoy paying rent.”
Anne T. Donahue here in her newsletter (sign up!) with some of the best “writing as a freelancer” advice I’ve seen in ages. Email to Pocket.

“Back in Switzerland, there were other restrictions on the Jewish community. Since they could not own their own homes, Jews often financed the construction of a building and then rented an apartment in the building from its Christian owners. However, Jews and Christians were barred from living in the same house, which led to a unique solution still visible in Endingen and Lengnau: Many old buildings have two entrances side by side: one for Jews and one for Christians.”
This is a fascinating history of Switzerland’s Jewish communities. Email to Pocket.

Othello: You’re either a person of extreme discernment and top-notch taste or a sociopath.

The Merchant of Venice: You own a ‘The Future is Female’ shirt and would absolutely call the cops on a barbecue.

Pericles: You are a Fox News host who wants a bedtime story.

The Winter’s Tale: You only liked your favourite band before they got ‘accessible’.”
I feel very seen by this piercing assessment of what your favourite Shakespeare play says about you. Email to Pocket.

“Right now, though, Spears’ very existence, as an innocent, after all her troubles, presents as something quite subversive, though. Her most sustained interaction with her fans is via social media. Along with the earnest tweets and inspirational quotes and the throwbacks on her Instagram, she is constantly doing - whether it’s working out with her boyfriend, painting with her kids, singing and dancing, go-karting or doing some yoga so she doesn’t go ‘stir crazy’ in her hotel rooms on tour.”
On Britney Spears’ long pretence of innocence. Email to Pocket.

“We are now habituated to regard cartography as a science: an endeavour of exacting precision, whose ambition is the elimination of subjectivity from the representation of a given place. But before it was a field science, cartography was – as Stevenson proved – an art. It was an art that mingled knowledge and supposition, that told stories about places, and in which astonishment, love, memory and fear were part of its projections. It is instructive to consider these earlier artistic forms of mapping, for they exemplify neglected ways of proceeding within a landscape.”
I’m in the process of getting maps drawn for my book, and it’s so interesting working out the balance between accuracy and art. Email to Pocket.

“The fragment – the bassline and six bars of melody – has never been seen, leading most music historians to conclude that Adagio is entirely Giazotto’s work. It was certainly Giazotto who copyrighted and published the piece in 1958, and later in life (he died in 1998) he revised his story claiming full authorship, possibly as a ruse to keep his presumably considerable royalty payments flooding in. In a 2007 book, Giazotto’s last assistant before his death, Muska Mangano, is quoted as saying that a modern but independent transcription of the fragment was found in Giazotto’s papers after his death, but none of this matters very much.”
Albinoni’s Adagio in G Minor, a piece of music that infests film scores everywhere, is actually a 1950s rip off, and that’s not even the first time someone ripped off this poor Baroque composer. Email to Pocket.

Things to listen to

I listened back to the very first episode of Heavyweight this week. It’s still good. Also, I recently discovered The Boy Who Hasn’t Lived, an excellent Harry Potter podcast, so I recommend getting into that one asap if you’re a fan.

Things to watch

I could spend hours watching pointe shoe videos on YouTube. I don’t even like ballet that much.

This is very well articulated.

I love Marian Keyes’ YouTube videos so much and I don’t care who knows it.

Compulsory medieval thingamabob

Tally ho!

The guest gif

May you all experience a high speed high five this weekend.

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