Owls, Oculism and Outside

No Complaints #152

I would not recommend having an imminent book deadline at the same time as a major referendum is being held on abortion rights in a nearby country that you care a lot about. The effect it produces in your brain is not. . . pleasant.

Things to read

“You need a special license to own an owl in the US, but anyone can buy one in Japan — if they can afford it. When Pakuchi Bar’s owner, Tomo Nonaka, first found an owl she wanted to buy, she was discouraged by the price: ¥2 million (more than $18,300). However, most owls can be purchased for a few thousand dollars, and five years ago Nanaka was finally able to afford one. Now she has 30.”

Look at these lovely owls! Email to Pocket.

“There’s more, but there’s already so much: genius, by definition a male condition. Genius, a male condition that inflects its maleness on the individual soul. Genius, an object of worship. Genius, perhaps slightly demonic. The derivation isn’t surprising on its own (no one would mistake a typical Roman for a feminist). What is striking, though, is that, millennia later, the biases of the language remain with us, tugging at the edges. Genius itself, the way we typically conceive of it, remains infused with the male gaze, or perhaps more aptly, the male haze: It is gendered by implication. It is a designation reserved, almost exclusively, for men. Guess who the first season of that new show Genius is about? I’ll give you a hint: The first name of the genius in question is Albert. The subject of the show’s second season? Pablo.”

Only a man can be a genius. It’s there in the very word itself. Email to Pocket.

“For the company’s 30th anniversary, in 1991, Del Vecchio renovated some 15th-century stables in the middle of Agordo and opened a private glasses museum. The curator, Caterina Francavilla, who is the daughter of Del Vecchio’s longtime deputy, showed me round before she closed up for the day. The first glasses were almost certainly made in northern Italy in the last decades of the 13th century. (Lenses are called lenses because they looked like lentils.) But for centuries after their invention, spectacles and other magnifying lenses were mostly rejected by medical men, who warned of their unnaturalness and recommended potions to correct people’s eyesight instead. In The Perfect Oculist, of 1666, Robert Turner, a London doctor, recommended turtle’s blood and the powdered head of a bat for the treatment of squints. For weak eyesight, you might try wearing cow’s eyes around your neck.”

I learned a lot of quite scary facts about glasses from this article. Email to Pocket.

“There were fewer and fewer people I knew active as the months went on. But that didn’t make a difference because the way I was using it had changed. Everyone I followed and their stories had receded. I rarely checked anything other than my chats, and soon, the app’s whole function was to for me to talk to one particular group of friends. The more the outside world departed the platform, the more it made the group chat inside of it feel like a secret clubhouse. It felt as though we were having a private conversation in another room in the house, far away from where the party was happening. I continued to use it to talk to the eight people I wanted to talk to — which became six, and then five, and then four, and then three — as members of the group gave up on the redesign and the app’s many other failures. But I still didn’t leave because the end-times experience of Snapchat is the most I’ve ever enjoyed it.”

On the joy of almost-abandoned spaces on the internet. Email to Pocket.

“There is also more than one way to watch The Sound of Music. Viewing it as a dramatisation of a true story from the Anschluss is not the best approach. Most of us watch the film first when we’re a child, and subsequently enjoy the ritual of its slowly unfolding plot and frequent song reprisals with the comfort of nostalgia – not for nothing was its first UK TV broadcast on Christmas Day. Many, people, including academic Stacy Wolf, read androgynous Maria as radiating “delicious queerness”. Alternatively you can wallow in the film’s toothsome charms as the last gasp of the family-friendly studio musical before the climate changed and the genre went in darker directions.”

The Sound of Music is a pretty widely adored film. But is it even any good, and how can you tell? Email to Pocket.


Things to listen to

I haven’t had much time for listening this last week, other than when I’m editing for work, so I’m going to recommend you two episodes I worked on about the Repeal the 8th referendum in Ireland today: this longer one, and this shorter one with audio from campaigners on the ground a few days ago.

+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

A reminder.

Glenn Gould is everything.

Harmony, explained five ways.


Compulsory medieval thingamabob


Me vs my impending deadline doom.

+Bonus read: The Artful Imperfection of Medieval Manuscript Repair.


The guest gif


It’s all going to be fiiiiiine.