Geeks, Gould and a Goodbye

No Complaints #158

I’m back from holiday and reading the internet again. Here’s what I found in the last couple of weeks. Also, I’m doing a couple of public podcast-related events in the next month or so — see the “things to attend” section below for details if you’d like to come along.

Things to read

“Imagine it is a summer’s day long in the past and you think you will watch some Wimbledon or cricket on a Tuesday afternoon, so you switch on the TV, but there are no sportspersons in sight. Instead there is a black and white film halfway through. It is obvious that rain must have halted play, so the BBC is showing a film instead — but infuriatingly, there is no way to know what film it is if you don’t recognise it. This is maddening, an unscratched itch. We are talking the 1970s, 80s and most of the 90s here: you can’t just hit an info button on your remote control, you can’t go on Twitter and ask your mates, you can’t look at a BBC website and see if they are explaining what is happening.”

On being a film geek before the internet, and a magnificent explanation of something called a “double Halliwell”. Email to Pocket.

“It was a Thursday morning, shortly after my team’s daily meeting, when I received a Slack message from my boss asking me to come to the most secluded meeting room in our trendy, open concept office. Immediately, I knew what was about to happen. The director of HR told me my position was redundant and laying me off had nothing to do with my performance. I was then instructed to leave the office within five minutes with my coat and bag (the rest of my stuff would be mailed to me) and to absolutely not say goodbye to anyone so as to not disrupt the process. My emails and Google Docs disappeared as I was in my meeting, I was not given a chance to save anything.”

The Personal Business of Being Laid Off. Email to Pocket.

“Six hours into my labour I was eating a chicken bagel on a bouncing birthing ball, watching Dr No with my cousin; 48 hours into my labour, I woke up, light-headed and wet, my waters broken; 51 hours into my labour, I was kneeling in a birthing pool in Homerton hospital, holding a beautiful, howling prune in my arms.”

What does childbirth feel like? A writer tries to explain, free of symbolism or assumption. Email to Pocket.

“My fingers drummed along on the steering wheel, or tried to, because Gould was playing, and Gould is always on fast-forward, his hands skipping so quickly over each other it was hard to say which was which. The outlines of the sounds were unclear, also, because despite having poured olive oil into my ears for several days, I had swimmer’s ear, which gave even the smallest noise an unrefined booming quality. Perhaps I could play this myself, I thought. Perhaps I could order the sheet music off Amazon. The piano would appreciate the company.”

This is how Glenn Gould’s playing makes me feel too. Email to Pocket.

“The KathNiel Dreamers meet on Sundays, when most domestic workers in Hong Kong get their day off, and when the networks within the community become most visible. Often unable to socialise in their small personal spaces in their employer’s homes, workers take to the city’s public spaces, marking out their zones with tents and cardboard and transforming the streets into a glorious fiesta of personal expression.”

I found this account of how Filipino women in Hong Kong form communities around their fandom for manufactured “love teams” from reality TV back home quite moving. Email to Pocket.

Things to listen to

My own podcast SRSLY is on a summer hiatus at the moment, but while you wait for us to return I recommend pressing play on Zadie Smith reading her short story “Now More Than Ever”.

Things to watch

A polar bear on a treadmill.

So good.

Font imperialism.

Things to attend

9 & 10 August — I’m teaching a course on “writing for podcasts” at the City Lit college in London. Get more details and sign up here.

16 September — I’m doing an in conversation event with Starlee Kine, which has the title “Cracking the Mystery of Mystery Show”. Tickets here. (I’m also leading a practical workshop at the festival on this day, but it isn’t up on the website or on sale yet.)

Compulsory medieval thingamabob


The guest gif

Next level sceptical head tilt.