A main plank of the BBC lawyers

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  1. I have a friend who dives into a spreadsheet when they’re stressed or overwhelmed. When they need a few minutes of controlled space in their own head. They normally emerge from the spreadsheet with clarity, a new understanding of the problem and a way forward. It’s a great thing to see.

    I was reminded of this by Alex’s analysis of where best to donate your bail-out funds. Thoughtful. Powerful. A small way forward.

    Another is this initiative to mentor black businesses. A lot of people who read this newsletter have signed up. More is better.

  2. Walking round town during lock-down I’ve been seeing loads of fly-posters for Benergy by BenjiFlow. I think they went up just prior to lock-down and have stayed up. It’s such a lovely coinage. Ben-ergy. B-energy. I rolled it round my head a lot. But I’ve only just properly listened to it and it’s fantastic. All kinds of musics, melodies, ideas, benergy.

  3. I enjoyed this judicial reckoning with TV men in The Observer’s interview with Samira Ahmed. (She sued the BBC because she and Jeremy Vine did the same job, presenting the same kind of programme, and he got paid vastly more than her.)

    “A main plank of the BBC lawyers’ expensive case against her was that the enormous discrepancy was explained by Vine having “a glint in the eye” and being “cheeky”. The judge in the case was not convinced. “Jeremy Vine read the script from the autocue,” the judgment noted. “If it told him to roll his eyes he did. It did not require any particular skill or experience to do that.”

  4. I was listening to a podcast the other day. The interviewee said that Richard Ayoade had described the job of a film director as being ‘the custodian of tone’. I like that. Lots of jobs have an element of that. It’s very often what gets you engaged in a piece of creative work but it doesn’t get written and theorised about like plot and story do.

  5. In a week of powerful words Clara Amfo’s speech on Radio 1 really stood out and sunk in.

    (There are 580 of you. 2 down on last month. The decline into irrelevance is picking up speed. 580 is palindromic in bases 12 (404/12) and 17 (202/17). Fun if you’re into Roland samplers.)

Funk, disco, boogie, jazz

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What to say? You don’t need another newsletter. I don’t need to be writing one.

Yet here we are.

I’ve been immensely cheered this month by the people-playing-records-at-home genre. I hope some of this works for you…

  1. This Vinyl Factory set with Sarah Evans is particularly joyous. No show-off mixing, just choosing oddly marvellous records and playing them in a good order. “funk, disco, boogie, jazz and a touch of techno”. Infectious and comforting.

  2. And here is Avsluta introducing some ‘introspective electronics’. It’s like having a knowledgeable pal come round and play you some music. Good house plants too, that seems to be a DJ staple.

  3. La Fleur’s 5 Favourite B-sides is similarly splendid. Maybe this is the future of ‘music discovery’

  4. And then there’s Nelly Cook (10-year old daughter of Fat Boy Slim) with a set of tunes that will bounce you round your bedroom. Things to note in here: a) her father cannot resist leaning in to fiddle with some controls, something that appears common to both DJs and Dads and b) Nelly’s lip syncing to Greta Thunberg. That’s cultural potency; when the 10-year olds know your speeches.

  5. It’s a bit off topic for this list but ‘using TikTok to make ambient music’ is a must as well. It is what it says, but in a way you can’t quite imagine. Give it a look.

    And finally, it’s Not Music, but I enjoyed these posters by Annie Atkins. They evoke vintageiness without being all Keep Calm And Etc. You can buy them and contribute to a good cause. Her book looks fantastic too.

    That’s it. Make Your Bed!

(There are 582 of you. One more than last month! Perhaps we have plateaued and this will be our merry band forever. You can unsubscribe but you can never leave.)

Every day is like Wednesday

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I’m not a big going out person. I like a coffee out. And a breakfast. But mostly, most of the time, I’m in.

So lockdown has surprised me. Not with any hardship, there’s no hardship for us, but by the loss of rhythm. I lose where I am in the week. It turns out that I measure out my weeks with the mileposts of a regular breakfast out with friends on Friday, fish and chips on Friday night, coffee out on Saturday morning, Match of the Day (not out) on Saturday night, coffee out on Sunday morning and a bath on Sunday evening (also not out). With these things gone I flounder around in the week like a broken time machine.

And I have no idea when to bath. Government - where’s my bail-out?

  1. I like people who are early to take things seriously. They notice, a bit before everyone else, that some phenomenon isn’t just a fad and is actually worthy of serious attention. Please Like Me does that, paying proper attention to the culture and commerce of influencers.

  2. Exploding Topics is sort of similar. They track emerging things. Not like ‘trend spotters’ but like a trivial early warning system. Their newsletter is bite-sized. No links to long reads. And you feel like you’ve heard about something new.

  3. Here’s an idea that seems appropriate for now, about mediation retreats: “Experienced retreat-goers, it turns out, have a term for this phenomenon. They call it a ‘vipassana vendetta’. In the stillness, tiny irritations become magnified into full-blown hate campaigns..” Oliver Burkeman The Antidote

  4. And people who are good at zooms/hang-outs reminded me of this bit of Olivia Lang: “..she ran the conversation like a world-class tennis player, serving generously, returning every ball.”

  5. Also appropriate for now, some Emily Dickinson: “There is no Frigate like a Book / To take us Lands away”. Though, actually, lately, we’ve been watching a lot of Curb Your Enthusiasm.

I like Jürgen Klopp’s sign-off: Please look after yourselves and look out for each other.

(There are 581 of you. In 581 the Emperor Maurice wrote the Strategikon. It’s good that there was an Emperor Maurice.)

the chickens followed, they are not mine

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We've just come back from a holiday in America, using up the last of the air miles from all those years of flying for work. It was fantastic, but it felt like the end of an era. I was reading What We Need To Do Now and ‘fly to Florida and drive around in a convertible’ are squarely not on the list. This is a bit OK Boomer isn’t it? Have a life of flying and then decide to give up right at the end. Sorry about that.

1. A thing I like about holidays is the way you hear different music floating around. Such as, for instance, 10,000 Hours by Dan + Shay and Justin Bieber. Did you all know about this? Should this not have been talked about more? Are there any other pop sociology/science theories/myths that have made it as pop lyrics? There's a band called Skinnerbox. But, apparently no songs. There are loads of songs called Prisoner's Dilemma. You can imagine how those go. There appear to be no songs called You Only Use 10% of Your Brain. There is only one song called Money Ball. I'd have thought there'd be more.

I also note that some of the lyrics of 10,000 hours seem to be based on standard internet security questions. I presume someone was trying to re-activate their online banking while bashing out the second verse:

Do you miss the road that you grew up on?

Did you get your middle name from your grandma?

When you think about your forever now, do you think of me?

2. I was also struck by the way El Cantante by Marc Anthony shares a little brass figure with The Floral Dance by The Brighouse and Rastrick Brass Band. (You can hear in at 1:12). Perhaps that's a job for Mike 2600.

3. As I get older I get more used to having events I remember recounted as history. It's strange, but it's sometimes lovely. This is one of the lovelies - Nabihah Iqbal's NTS special about Tears for Fears. I've grown in and out of obsessions with Tears for Fears. I guess, right now, I'm slightly out, but this is a magnificent reminder of how good and important they are.

4. Frank Lantz invents games, he's very good at it. He's invented an Alexa-based game called Hey Robot and in this tiny two-tweet thread you can see him demonstrating his understanding of the way games work on people, gems of insight about motivation and body language. (You do need to read the tweets and watch the video. You should.)

5. Pome is the best thing on the internet of newsletters. (Short modern poems for your inbox, because it's dangerous to go alone.) This poem arrived a while ago:

explain yourself

my life was like this when i found it.

so i walked with it the entire way.

the chickens followed, they are not mine.

It made me seek out more andrew michael roberts (he appears to favour lower case) and eventually a slim paperback arrived in the post. It contained this one:

the moon

all the other moons

get their own names.

I like that. (For instance)

(There are 576 of you. 576 was also a leap year. It is a highly totient number.)

Let's say we do this the first Sunday of the month

Because you've got to have a system

Five things:

  1. I recently read The Maintenance of Headway. It’s lovely and odd. You’re constantly wondering if it’s supposed to be this flat and banal, but it’s so smooth and readable you just keep ploughing on. A strange reading experience. It also contains a profound truth about buses, beautifully illustrated in this interactive diagram.

  2. Turbulence. I realise this is quite circular, me posting to a post from a (brilliant) newsletter about interestingness. But there’s a very high quality metaphor available here. About the technology race in defeating the turbulence from Formula One cars and how it means only the winners can win and the losers keep losing.

    Essentially the richest teams spend the most money developing their cars, which mostly comes down to tiny aerodynamic adjustments that help their drivers cut through the air with as little drag as possible. Those winglets and modifications also have the knock-on effect of causing additional turbulence, which most in the sport refer to as "dirty air" that makes it harder for other drivers to follow closely and pass…Because all this aerodynamic modeling is computationally intense. It’s also massively expensive (more computers cost more money). In racing, this meant the teams with the most money could find more and more ways to reduce drag in their cars. This led to a kind of arms war of winglets, as teams attempted to find more and more ways to direct air around their car, thereby reducing drag…But the second-order effect was an increase in turbulence for everyone else as these little bits and bobs made for unpredictability in the air as other cars pass.

  3. In Cockney/underworld slang a ‘carpet’ is 3 or 300, or 3,000. Apparently because if you were sentenced to three years or more in prison you got a carpet in your cell. I assume that’s not actually true, because these things never are, but it reminded me of stories you’d hear in the Civil Service about how, if you were promoted to a particular rank you’d get a carpet for your office. And, of course, if your office was subsequently transferred to someone of lesser grade the carpet would be removed at great expense and inconvenience. There’s some support for these stories online.

  4. This U.A. Fanthorpe poem is perhaps the best poem ever. It’s about WD40 and love.

  5. If anyone’s this good at this. Invite me round for breakfast.

(There are now 580 of you. The I-580 in California was featured in 2011’s Need For Speed: The Run. Not a great game.)

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