Sunday Reads

An ideally weekly, if my Saturday wasn't too busy, selection of medium- to long-form articles I would like to recommend to you, perfect for a lazy Sunday morning in bed with a cup of tea and your phone.

Why Writing Matters in the Age of Despair

This is one of those quite astonishing pieces of writing that ties up a deeply personal account of trauma and our societal situation of awfulness with the importance of writing, always writing, never stop writing, because without articulating our stories we will vanish. As someone who writes in part to make sense of the world and my place in it, I often feel the pointlessness of writing, like screaming into a hurricane of shite. But Lyn Lenz reminded me that we are not alone and that the collective nuance of many voices is the best weapon against "the flat face of fascism". I have failed to do this piece justice in one paragraph. Go read it.

The Most Powerful Publishers in the World Don’t Give a Damn

One of a few articles attempting to articulate the general despair directed at the custodians of our social media platforms who really don't seem to understand the forces they've enabled or their responsibility for enabling them. I'm not sure if "don't give a damn" is quite fair though. I don't think they realise they should give a damn in the first place. They still think their heavily programmed, heavily mediated information processing machine is as neutral as clean water.

Halfway to boiling: the city at 50°C

I really suffered this summer from the seemingly endless dry heat. I felt crushed and drained until sunset, and even then couldn't really function. Yet it only really hit 30°C in Birmingham. In other cities around the world the temperature hit 50°C and the thought of that just hurts. Which makes sense because it's potentially fatal. A sobering look at a growing trend.

The Last Temptation of Christ at 30: how Scorsese's drama still soars

My only real memory of this film was the mention on some arts programme about the anachronistic use of jet engines to soundtrack the climax, which thought was cool, but then I was raised in a godless home so had a massive blindspot for religion. A few years ago I saw Mel Gibson's gorefest adaptation of The Passion and found the whole thing endlessly fascinating, digging through Wikipedia entries for the characters like it was Game of Thrones as that blindspot started clearing. Who knew the mythology of my people was based on such meaty stories? I should probably re-watch this.

Bad Romance - To cash in on Kindle Unlimited, a cabal of authors gamed Amazon’s algorithm

A deep-dive into the murky world of gaming Amazon's Kindle Unlimited system. This goes under the "algorithmic employment" umbrella coined by James Bridle, being jobs that depend on understanding and optimising for an opaque and constantly shifting algorithmic environment that you cannot predict or control. It feels to me like we're at apex of gamification, a term that was parroted as a potential force for good at one time because humans like playing games so let's apply game systems to stuff like healthcare. Social Media works as a game, from getting likes on Instagram to building a brand on YouTube. And making money from Amazon is definitely a game as complex and satisfying as World or Warcraft. It's all kinda fun, until you realise people living on the precarious edges of society are depending on algorithmic employment, from eBay bedroom resellers to Uber drivers. Should their lives be a game?

Delightful video

Is all that a bit too much? Here's a lovely 4 minute look at the weirdness of the English language. How would English sound if it were phonetically consistent?