Wax, Winter and Work

No Complaints #139

This is meant to be a Friday newsletter, I know, and yet it is Sunday. I had a very busy few days and got a bit disorganised. Hopefully these links can still help ease your end-of-week malaise.

Things to read

“On one of my last days in Copenhagen, I returned to Refshaleøen. I stopped by a restaurant to ask directions to the building where Kim and Ole had lived. The line cook didn’t know the building, so I asked if he knew where the reporter who had died had lived. He cut me off midsentence as I was explaining how I knew Kim and asked, ‘Why are you doing this?’. I didn’t have a ready answer. I said something about how I wanted to know what had happened. But saying this out loud, to this stranger, I knew I could never really know, could never measure the precise weight of her suffering. Trying to find out what happened to Kim, in hopes of finding meaning in the senselessness of her death, is a selfish act, designed to serve the living. It feels like an act of betrayal.”

This account, written by a friend and fellow reporter, of Kim Wall’s death completely horrified me. I’m still deciding if interest (both mine and other people’s) in it is sensationalist or justified. Email to Pocket.

“It took at least two hours to get all of our Christmas lights plugged into smart plugs from WeMo and Sonoff, and then to get those plugs online with their apps, and then to get those apps to talk to the Alexa app. The first night I said, ‘Alexa, turn on the Christmas lights,’ they all turned on in sparkly synchronicity and it was magical. But one day, Alexa stopped recognising ‘Christmas lights’ as a group, and I could not figure out how to fix it, so I had to ask Alexa each night to turn off the lights one-by-one. (‘Turn off kitchen Christmas lights.’ ‘Turn off living room Christmas lights.’ ‘Turn off bookcase lights.’) This was way more annoying than turning them off manually. The fantasy of the smart home is that it will save us time and effort, but the friction involved in getting various devices from different companies to work together meant that many things took longer to do.”

Surprise, surprise, making everything in your home internet-enabled is a bit of a living nightmare. Email to Pocket.

“I used to think that Jeremy Paxman’s interviewing credo — ‘Why is this lying bastard lying to me?’ — was needlessly unfair to politicians, most of whom work long hours, put up with a lot of grief, and are motivated by a genuine desire to serve the public. But right now they are lying, almost all of them, almost all the time. And they’re doing it because they are frightened: of the press, of their own party members, of killing their own ambitions, of a rising tide of thoughtless populism.”

This plea for politicians to take responsibility for the current mess is well worth reading (it will make you angry though). Email to Pocket.

“Nystad, 47, oversees a group of 30 wax techs, as they’re known. Their job is to divine the right combination of wax, skis and snow at a given race — a puzzle with thousands of possible solutions. Get it right and a carbon fiber ski becomes a killer mode of nonmotorized, Alpine transportation. Athletes glide faster down hills and cover ground more efficiently through the rest of the course. Get it wrong and the same athletes will feel like they are trekking through mud. The failure will not go unnoticed. ‘If we screw up, we’re on the front page of every newspaper in Norway,’ he said. ‘We become idiots, overnight.’”

I have yet to watch a single second of televised Winter Olympics coverage, but I have spent a lot of time reading the background pieces. I can’t get enough of the sport tech stories, for some reason. Email to Pocket.

“Later on in this unseasonably mild August night, on Lolla's towering Grant Park stage, Chance the Rapper will pause during his anti-record-label anthem ‘No Problem’ and let the audience finish his signature line: ‘Countin' Benjis while we meetin', make 'em shake my other hand.’ At that precise moment, though, Maxey's hands will be signing the phrases ‘counting money’ and ‘meeting’, then miming a left-handed handshake followed by an emphatic middle finger. Maxey's ASL interpretation is an explosive, code-switching mishmash of textbook American Sign Language, pantomime, and makeshift signs he's cobbled together for slang words native to hip-hop (‘molly’, for example, combines gestures for ‘pill’ and ‘sex’); the way he signs is as worldly and wry and improvisational as he is.”

A great piece about how signing for a musician can become a performance all of its own. Email to Pocket.

Things to listen to

I highly recommend that you listen to This is Love, a new spin off podcast series from the team behind Criminal. I wrote about the show in more detail in my Tuesday podcast letter, where you’ll also find my interview with host Phoebe Judge about her shifting technique for getting subjects to tell their best stories on air.

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Things to watch



Worth every frame.

Compulsory medieval thingamabob

This cat has doubts about you.

The guest gif

Better late than never, right?