Bees, bombs and a bargain

No Complaints #155

We’re a bit under the weather here, in this breezy-yet-still-muggy corner of north-west England, hence the slightly late arrival of this edition. Enjoy it like it’s still Friday and the whole weekend’s possibilities are stretched out before you.

Things to read

“It is an interesting and somewhat macabre parlor game to play at a large gathering of one’s acquaintances: to speculate who in a showdown would go Nazi. By now, I think I know. I have gone through the experience many times—in Germany, in Austria, and in France. I have come to know the types: the born Nazis, the Nazis whom democracy itself has created, the certain-to-be fellow-travelers. And I also know those who never, under any conceivable circumstances, would become Nazis.”

This, first published in August 1941, makes for interesting reading at the moment. Email to Pocket.

“It’s not just Belgium, though. There’s been a spike in thefts in England, with a million bees recently stolen in what may be the largest theft of its kind, and there was a million-dollar heist in California in spring of 2017. The Miami Herald reported in February that a local beekeeper set out to solve the mystery of his missing bees—only to uncover evidence pointing to a local pastor, who was later arrested. (‘I feel bad that somebody who’s a pillar of the community got caught,’ said American Bee Project President Adam Locke. ‘But nobody is above the law.’)”

If anyone can point me towards the bee heist longread of my dreams, I will be very grateful. Email to Pocket.

“I decided that the best option would be to take a picture of my arse (obviously) and ask my 18 newly recruited influencers to post it on their Instagram feeds with a complementary comment. I took the photo (shown above in all its glory) and then pixelated it using a graphics program from 1996. The resulting image was then titled ‘The Colour of Influence’ and I asked my new-found influencer army to proclaim it ‘amazing’ or ‘my best work ever’.”

Exposing (ha ha) the lie of social media influencers. Email to Pocket.

“And then, one day, I came to Paris. Sitting in the café of the Deux Magots, that faces the little church of St. Germain des Près, I saw approaching, out of the fog and damp, a tall man, with head slightly lifted and slightly turned, giving to the wind an orderly distemper of red and black hair, which descended sharply into a scant wedge on an out-thrust chin. He wore a blue grey coat, too young it seemed, partly because he had thrust its gathers behind him, partly because the belt which circled it, lay two full inches above the hips. At the moment of seeing him, a remark made to me by a mystic flashed through my mind ‘A man who has been more crucified on his sensibilities than any writer of our age,’ and I said to myself—‘this is a strange way to recognize a man I never laid my eyes on.’”

I am into the archive pieces this week. Here’s Djuna Barnes’ profile of James Joyce from 1922. Email to Pocket.

“My mother’s very much a Japanese lady of her generation. She has a certain kind of manners—prefeminist Japanese by today’s standards. When I see old Japanese movies, I recognize a lot of the women behaving and speaking exactly like my mother does. Japanese women traditionally used a slightly different formal language from men, and these days that’s gotten much more mixed up. When my mother visited Japan in the eighties, she said she was stunned that young girls were using male language. My mother was in Nagasaki when the atomic bomb was dropped. She was in her late teens. Her house got kind of distorted, and only when it rained did they realize the extent of the damage. The roof started leaking all over the place, like a tornado had hit it. As it happened, my mother was the only one in her family—four siblings, two parents—who suffered an injury when the bomb dropped. A flying piece of debris hit her. She was at home recovering when the rest of her family went off to other parts of the city to help. But she says that when she thinks of the war, the atomic bomb wasn’t what frightened her most. She remembers being in an underground air-raid shelter in the factory where she worked. They were all lined up in the dark and the bombs were landing right on top of them. They thought they were going to die. My father wasn’t typically Japanese at all because he grew up in Shanghai. He had a Chinese characteristic, which was that when something bad happened, he smiled.”

Forgive the extremely long quotation; I love this interview with Kazuo Ishiguro so much that I couldn’t bear to pare it down any further. Email to Pocket.


Things to listen to

I’ve been trying out Change Agent this week, a podcast from the New York Times that tries to mash two audio genres together with varying success. The show focuses on behaviours we’d probably all like to improve on: self control, truth telling, showing up, etc, and host Charles Duhigg interviews an individual who has a particularly extreme problem related to one of these traits. Then, halfway through, each episode switches into a narrative documentary style more familiar from shows like Radiolab, and we hear a story about unrelated people but which has a related message. Finally, we return to the original subject and learn if they’ve managed to change. It’s odd, but I’m quite addicted to it already.

+Related: There is currently a one-month free trial offer on my paid podcast newsletter if you sign up before next Friday. That way, you get a whole month of my extra reviews, recommendations and industry reporting for free — total bargain. Click here.


Things to watch

Grim; powerful.

This political ad made me think.

Try not to cry.


Compulsory medieval thingamabob

Hold your kitty close.


The guest gif


Go forth and be excellent.