A quick round-up of what I’ve been doing, reading or have had no time to blog about over the past seven days.
What I have learned this week:
– I probably could work as a full-time arts journalist, and I would probably enjoy it. However, full-time arts journalism is impossible when one is already working full-time. I’m so tired I slept until 1pm today;
– Tesco plain naan breads contain a whopping FOUR HUNDRED AND FORTY-FOUR CALORIES. EACH. This makes them no good when one is calorie-counting. However, Diet Coke contains more caffeine than the actual stuff despite tasting like shite, and sugar-free Irn Bru is suprisingly drinkable;
– If you place a bet in Northern Ireland you are not entering into a legally-binding contract, but rather a ‘gentleman’s agreement’ which, in theory, the bookmaker could refuse to honour. It’s never happened, obviously, and Northern Ireland is currently undergoing a review of its gambling law to bring it up to date and remove this little idiosyncrasy.
What made me laugh this week:
– Toy train company BigJigs wrote to the Department of Transport offering to take over the beleagured West Coast Main Line franchise – and got a reply! Of course, public bodies and corporations would be crazy not to respond to this sort of enquiry in a way which will get them mad props on Twitter – you’ve probably already seen The White House’s response to an online petition requesting that the US Government begins construction on a Death Star before 2016 – but it was still funny;
– Sony has released a boxed set of early Bob Dylan outtakes so that they can take advantage to changes to European copyright law: called, funnily enough, The Copyright Extension Collection. Limited to 100 copies, they’re currently setting completists back a pretty penny on eBay;
– Jennifer Lawrence’s People’s Choice Awards acceptance speech was pretty adorable. I believe Castle and Taylor Swift won big too, so a good night all round;
– There are new kittens on the Kittencam, named after characters from Alien! Stringer thinks that’s pretty cruel, but I just came home to find our two sitting watching this and it was pretty much the cutest thing ever.
What made me cry this week:
– The Oatmeal’s comic marking the 20th anniversary of his house burning down;
– The Guardian’s crossword setter, Araucaria, used a puzzle to reveal he is dying of cancer;
– Can forgiveness play a role in criminal justice? Not always, but Paul Tullis’ piece for the New York Times on the family who forgave their daughter’s killer is thought-provoking and heartwrenching.
What made me think this week:
– It would appear that 2013 will not be the year in which people get paid to write columns in the national press talking about fights they’ve had on Twitter. You’ll have read about this already, of course, but yesterday the journalist Suzanne Moore quit the social networking site after furore erupted over her response to criticism for including an off-colour joke about “Brazillian transexuals” in an otherwise brilliant column about female anger in the New Statesman. Now, a whole bunch of the usual suspects are wringing their hands and saying isn’t it terrible that somebody who does a lot of great, awareness-raising work could be hounded off Twitter by a bunch of angry progressives (see Stella Duffy, who raises some great points, for more) but none of them want to talk about the fact that the abuse stemmed from some vile, transphobic comments Moore posted on Twitter in her responses to legitimate criticism and a follow-up column in the Guardian which might as well just have read “some of my friends are transexuals and they are FAH-bulous“. It’s easy to cause offence through the thoughtless use of language, although I’d argue that somebody in Moore’s position should have a little more self-awareness than most, but it’s even easier to take note when people call you on it, learn from it and say you’re sorry. It’s something that Observer columnist Victoria Coren did with grace and humility earlier this same week. As the always-excellent Stavvers wrote, “isn’t it better to try not to be terrible on anything?”
Twitter pile-ons make me uncomfortable – it must be quite horrible logging on to find your ‘mentions’ taken over by abuse as a result of something you have written in good faith being taken out of context by the people you purport to write for. As Moore was unable to handle this with dignity, and instead appeared to use the platform to reveal some deeply-entrenched prejudices, it was probably right that she ‘did a Steven Moffat’ and quit the site. But for those who do mean well? I’ve never considered it fair, and still don’t, but our own Kaite Welsh raised an excellent point in her own piece about the debacle (written after Moore’s transphobic meltdown, but before her Guardian follow-up piece):
This week, the Guardian reported that “one of the most gloriously vituperative literary feuds of recent times has come to an end.” Salman Rushdie and John Le Carré conducted their heated debate in the Guardian’s letters pages, not on Twitter, and they are well-known respected writers. This lends their argument a legitimacy that the tweeters are denied by Moore – surrounded by the likes of Moran, she dismisses her detractors as internet loonies whose opinions are nowhere near as credible as hers simply because they are not being paid to express them.
– I also loved Owen Jones on the Government’s so-called ‘Welfare’ Bill; Ros on a particularly heinous preview of the second series of Girls – back on Sky Atlantic on Monday! – and Lesley Riddoch on why the plot of Borgen could never happen in Scotland.
What I read, or finished reading, this week:
– Jenni Fagan’s excellent The Panopticon;
– Sparrow and Crowe’s Weird Winter Stories yuletide short story anthology, featuring one’s own Jay Stringer.
What I watched this week:
– No time for films for obvious reasons, but American telly is back! Castle, New Girl and the fourth season premiere of Justified were all great;
– The first part of the David Tennant-starring adaptation of Alan Furst’s Spies of Warsaw, which I reviewed for The Arts Desk.
What I listened to this week:
(via This is my Jam): The History of Apple Pie, “Glitch”; the Dropkick Murphys, “Rose Tattoo” (in preparation for an album review I have to write today).
What I wrote this week:
– As well as my review of Spies of Warsaw for The Arts Desk, I also had two reviews of acts playing King Tut’s New Year’s Revolution published in The Herald: Miaoux Miaoux and Kitty the Lion.