Heaven, Havana and Home

No Complaints #161

I’m working a lot at the moment on something I can’t really talk about yet, which is a bit frustrating; as soon as I do have updates on it I’ll be telling the people on this mailing list, so make sure you’ve signed up.

Things to read

“They are real people, but they are so on their guard. If you just sit and listen to them, they will inevitably explain something to you that’s been on their mind about the way they’re perceived. Sometimes, midway, they hear themselves talking and they turn on you. They’re like, ‘Oh my God, I can’t believe I’ve fallen for this.’ But it’s always nerve-racking. I dread interviews; I’m never excited. I did a story on synchronised swimming a few years ago, and that’s how I think of it now: You are in the pool and you are working so hard beneath the surface, but you have this crazy smile above the surface that makes it look like you are enjoying yourself.”
Here’s Taffy Brodesser-Akner, one of my favourite writers, talking about what it’s like to interview celebrities, and a few other things. Email to Pocket.

“It’s harder for a writer to get this material merely by ‘overhearing’ it, and besides that’s a genre of Twitter thread—the shamelessly extended eavesdrop. In any case, there’s a sense among writers who are “extremely online” that we have to be on Twitter for work, and it’s not true—but it does help. Even obnoxious self-promotion tends to get you more freelance work—the websites are always half-empty—and more importantly to ‘log off’ would mean losing step with much of the world. Look at the most notorious dissenter, Jonathan Franzen. His most recent novel, Purity, in which he attempted to address some of the issues of the internet, was not very good, because although he can identify the systemic problems, he refuses—to use a social-media word—to ‘engage’ with the details of the system that would affect the characters of his novels. It’s an approach that would serve him better on Twitter. (That’s also irony.) Even writers who purport to ‘not do social media’ will later reveal that they’ve started anonymous accounts, which allow them to look at it about as much as anyone else. Others who seem relatively inactive are often lurking. You can tell because they often casually mention they saw your recent tweets.”
Lauren Oyler on the push-pull of social media and creativity. Email to Pocket.

“Aiken wrote a brief essay, probably in 1952, about her unconventional living arrangements. She published it in Housewife magazine. The piece is called, with cheerful straightforwardness, ‘Our Home Is a One-Decker Bus.’ What’s remarkable about it is how Aiken treats her (intimately personal, yet also odd and whimsical) material. That is, she doesn’t ‘treat’ it at all—she reports, with brisk efficiency. Living on a bus comes across as a practical problem, to be managed without fuss. Here is where we built our airing cupboard, above the hot-water tank. Near the clothes horse we keep the baby’s folding bath.”
I resent the “you’ve probably never read her” framing of this article about Joan Aiken, but I still think it’s very good. Email to Pocket.

“When you’re actually playing these games, you likely won’t give a second thought to the digital sky in the background. You would certainly notice it if it wasn’t there, but, in the moment, you’re more focused on the task at hand. Presented on their own, however, the diversity of colour and design is impressive. Especially given the limitations of the technology.”
Hey, let's take a load off and look at some relaxing video-game skies. Email to Pocket.

“The discretion they’re calling for is frequently cited in the issue of geotagging on Instagram. On the app, geotagging lets you share the location where a photo was taken. Tap on a tag — say, Yosemite — and you’ll see all the public photos associated with that locale. But geotagging can also get specific, and that’s where the real issues start. ‘We’re having a lot of problems with people geotagging hidden or sensitive places,’ Boué said, adding that these places don’t always have the infrastructure to handle a lot of new visitors.”
Another way social media is ruining the world, lol. Email to Pocket.

Things to listen to

I went to the Third Coast Festival in Chicago last week (was it just last week, it seem so long ago, thanks jetlag) and I met a lot of people who make great audio. One of them was Tamar Avishai, who makes the Lonely Palette podcast. I inhaled about 12 episodes in a row on the flight home, and I am now a confirmed fan of her unsnooty approach to art history and commitment to trying to explain paintings using only words. I highly recommend you have a listen, and if you like it, check out the lovely things available if you support her on Patreon.

Things to watch

All Cats Go To Heaven.

I don’t care if this is fake.

I have found 2018’s answer to Changing Rooms and it is on YouTube, made by two young Canadian women, and it is perfect.

Compulsory medieval thingamabob

Me, escaping my deadlines.

The guest gif

It’s 9.30pm on a Friday! I am still working!