Aluminium, Apostrophes and Animation

No Complaints #135

Hello and welcome to the new No Complaints, which is a lot like the old No Complaints apart from the fact that we have moved to Substack. You should have got an email from me yesterday explaining what all this is about, so I’m not going to repeat things (catch up here, if you want). The only really important thing you need to know is that if you want to get a cool new extra email from me on Tuesdays, about what podcasts you should be listening to, you need to head to this page. There is an early bird offer on at the moment which means you will only pay $5 a month, which I think is pretty good value.

Anyway, enough housekeeping talk. Here are the things for this week.

Things to read

“The president’s ardent intervention in Kazakhstan’s passionate debate over a new script and his proposed solution — he wants lots and lots of apostrophes — have highlighted how virtually everything in this former Soviet land, no matter how small or obscure, hinges on the will of a single 77-year-old man, or at least those who claim to speak for him.”

I am always here for a weird punctuation story (and so are lots of you, judging by the response to that em dash essay I included last week) and this one has a bonus despot! Email to Pocket.

How much time would you say he spends on his phone?

Well, a lot. He used to do this thing that would just drive me insane where, while I was talking to him, he would be doing work on his phone, and he’d just be like, ‘Uh-huh, uh-huh, uh-huh.’ And eventually I’d be like, ‘OK, what do you think?’ And he’d be like, ‘Uhhhhhhhh.’”

I really liked this interview with Ben Smith of Buzzfeed’s 14-year-old son, in which we hear about what it’s like to have a parent who works incessantly on the internet. Email to Pocket.

“Of the many things I have learned life is too short for – making your own puff pastry, monogamy, trying to have a proper drink in the interval at the theatre – top of my list is getting in a mobile-broadcast van outside my house in my nightie to be hooked up to the Today programme studio, in order to argue with various men. Second, perhaps, is listening to Today. If you have sat in a similar van or in the studio – headphones on while John Humphrys barks at you about abortion, something you have experienced and he has not, or John Pilger infers that anyone who does not think Julian Assange is a freedom fighter is in the pay of the CIA – you may feel the same way.”

I have said this before, and I will say it again: Suzanne Moore is a columnist without peer. Even if you haven’t been following the whole “British radio host says terrible things about equal pay” story (perhaps you live in another country, or value your sanity higher than I do), it’s worth reading her take on it. And because the Guardian have redesigned their website and seem to be making all their writers do notebook columns now, you also get a bonus anecdote from Suzanne about Shane Lynch underneath. Email to Pocket.

“Before coating the insides of their cans, Ball needs to know how corrosive the beverage within will be. The epoxy coating, after all, costs about a half penny per can and Ball doesn’t want to waste it. Also, some beverages are so corrosive that no amount of coating will protect their cans. (Roughly one in seven new energy drinks are too corrosive to put in cans.) Ball is not in the business of sending cans out into the world to be slaughtered by overaggressive liquids. The coating must perform. Otherwise, cans explode, and legal costs climb.”

A very detailed look at the engineering of the aluminium can. Email to Pocket.

“Many of us have seen the iconic images of carbonised loaves of bread that were excavated from Pompeii, Herculaneum, and other settlements in the Bay of Naples (Italy), that were destroyed during the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. But have you ever wondered what that bread might have tasted like? How was it made? What ingredients went into those loaves? What is that funny-looking, sectioned bread called anyways? It’s called ‘Panis Quadratus’, my friends, and historically it is one of the most beautiful representations of food ever found in the archaeological record.”

A lot of history about Roman bread, and a recipe to make a loaf that we only know about because a volcano exploded and preserved one for 2,000 years. Email to Pocket.


Things to listen to

I’ve been racing through episodes of Lingthusiasm this week, a lovely podcast about linguistics that is excellent and also a good option if you are completely up to date on all episodes of The Allusionist and feel itchy for some language facts.

Reminder: there will be more detailed podcast reviews/recommendations in Tuesday’s subscribers-only email — pay just $5 a month to get it here.


Things to watch

I’m sure everyone else saw this when it went viral last summer, but I didn’t so I’m still reeling from how hilarious Tiffany Haddish is in this clip and desperately hoping they are already shooting Girls Trip 2.

I have never read any of Marian Keyes’ novels but I am obsessed with her weekly vlog where she talks about what she’s been up to and how she feels and what skincare she is using in her lovely lovely voice.

How have I not seen these animations before?


Compulsory medieval thingamabob

This duck would like to be your friend.

The guest gif

Well done, you made it to the end.