Diet, Disaster and the Dinkus

No Complaints #153

I handed my book in late last Friday, hence the lack of a newsletter last week. My eyes have seemed a bit allergic to the written word since, but I still found a few things you might like.

Things to read

“Like most ideas that become anodyne and useless enough for corporate marketing plans, ‘body positivity’ didn’t begin that way — it started out radical and fringe, as a tenet of the fat acceptance movement of the 1960s. Back then, body positivity was just one element of an ideology that included public anti-discrimination protests and anti-capitalist advocacy against the diet industry, and it made a specific political point: To have a body that’s widely reviled and discriminated against and love it anyway, in the face of constant cultural messaging about your flaws, is subversive.”

—“Body positivity” is a scam trying to sell you shower gel. Email to Pocket.

“When there is a major disaster, the understandable response of journalists is to rush in and find the most urgent stories as quickly as possible. It serves a necessary purpose: to tell people what the problem is, who is affected and what help is needed. Aid agencies and NGOs often follow a similar logic in their public communications. The idea is that vivid ‘human stories’ that focus on the experiences of vulnerable individuals — very often children — will elicit sympathy from an audience whose attention is fleeting. But these stories also have the potential to alienate. If I tell you that Caesar spent 18 months being handed from one trafficking gang to another in Algeria and Libya, during which time he was tortured and put to work as a slave, does that help you understand who he is and why he has made the choices he has — particularly if that is all you know about his life? And what if hundreds of people all have similar stories? At some point, we feel overwhelmed and start to switch off. Some of us may even start to feel hostile: why are we constantly being told to feel sorry for these strangers?”

The author of this incredible myth-busting piece about the refugee crisis is a very smart former colleague of mine and you should all buy his new book on this subject at your local bookshop and then leave a lovely review for it on Amazon. Email to Pocket.

“Millennials are known as entitled, but as a group, I don’t think we could have lower expectations. I’ll go: I don’t expect to own a home. I don’t expect to retire well, or at all. I don’t expect anyone to give me anything I haven’t explicitly asked for, and even then. I don’t expect it will ever be affordable to continue my education in any formal way. If a package gets lost in the mail, I don’t expect to see it again. I don’t expect the government or the banks or the universities to do anything that benefits regular people. I don’t expect them to hold each other accountable on our behalf. I don’t expect them to expel abusers from their ranks, or to put my safety over their legacy. I don’t expect to feel safe in large crowds or alone late at night. And I don’t expect that my privacy will be respected, online or in general.”

A depressing, realistic picture of a generation. Email to Pocket.

“So shortly after their victories, we all shared a Skype call, and I watched them scroll through their chat, trying to explain the inner-workings of their friendship: Fiedler mentions that she doesn't ‘even know how to do GIFs’, and later references a Will Ferrell ‘emoji’ sent by Innamorato. Innamorato says she sends selfies and admits to a particular photo series that involved her finding a stack of Fiedler's signs and putting them all around her office. Lee says, ‘Liz would sometimes send a pictures of her kids’, but ultimately confesses the three of them are ‘low-key lame’.”

The new generation of politicians organises in the group chat. Email to Pocket.

“I think about the dinkus on the train, observing a smattering of stars tattooed on a fellow straphanger. I think about the dinkus while packing up my bedroom for a recent move, finding a cache of glow-in-the-dark stars I’ve carted from apartment to apartment and arranging them in a familiar pattern of three. The dinkus is a success story: it survived the jump from printed media to the Web. Now it’s even traveling from Web back to print (hallelujah).”

I love a little asterisk divider (aka a dinkus) when I’m writing; my book is absolutely stuffed with them. They make everything easier, for writer and reader. Email to Pocket.

Things to listen to

I wrote the radio column in the New Statesman magazine this week, and I cannot urge you to go and listen to the programme that I reviewed strongly enough. It’s called “Under the Water”, and was made by the Danish documentary producer Rikke Houd. She follows a team of marine archaeologists off the south coast of Britain, as they try and excavate a prehistoric forest that has lain on the seabed since the end of the last Ice Age 8,000 years ago. It is hynotic, powerful stuff.

+Reminder: I do another weekly newsletter all about podcasts, and for its paying members, I make custom playlists of new podcasts. Sign up.

Things to watch

How Looney Tunes influenced a generation of composers.

I will watch anything Heben Nigatu is involved in.

The only woman photojournalist on the Gaza frontline.

Compulsory medieval thingamabob

Team work.

The guest gif

Here’s to a summer of cool drinks and fiery burns.