A calorific arms race

This, by MM Carrigan in Eater, is a great bit of writing. It’s about the semi-mythical fast food buffets that are unimaginable now, “an arms race in maximizing caloric intake.”

In the age of COVID-19, the fast-food buffet feels like more of a dream than ever. How positively whimsical it would be to stand shoulder to shoulder, hovering over sneeze guards, sharing soup ladles to scoop an odd assortment of pudding, three grapes, a heap of rotini pasta, and a drumstick onto a plate. Maybe we can reach this place again. But to find it, we must follow the landmarks, searching our memory as the map.


What Dr Seuss didn’t say

If you’ve been reading this blog for some time you’ll know that from time to time I get fascinated by online misquotes, which often go on to have a life of their own. As I’ve written before, the urinal trough in the gents’ toilets in Glasgow’s King Tut’s venue is engraved with a quote from the writer Hunter S Thompson that says:

The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There’s also a negative side.

He never said that. He did, however, write that the TV business is a cruel and shallow money trench where thieves and pimps etc etc etc. Swapping TV for music and adding “there’s also a negative side” is the work of someone on the internet. One of the upsides of transition is that I can now go for a wee in Tut’s without getting annoyed by this.

I found out about another one today, which I had previously thought was an old advertising slogan of some kind:

The people who mind don’t matter. The people who matter don’t mind.

Nope! The actual quote is this:

Be who you are and say how you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.

Multiple sites, including Good Housekeeping, have attributed it to Dr Seuss. You can buy it on cushions and framed prints on Etsy. But despite their claims that it’s in The Cat In The Hat, it isn’t. There’s no evidence that Dr Seuss ever said it.

Quote Investigator looked into it and found an early example in Punch magazine in 1855.

What is Matter?—Never mind.
What is Mind?—No matter.

And the TV show QI found a version of it in an engineering journal in 1938:

Mr. Davies himself admitted that it was highly controversial and open to criticism; but criticism concerned both mind and matter. “Those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind!”

The phrasing was used in the 1940s in some popular anecdotes about the seating arrangements at parties and turned up in various newspapers before being attributed to the US financier and philanthropist Bernard Baruch. But it appears to be one of those bits of anonymous wisdom that gets attached to various people in various places at various times. As Dr Seuss put it*:

Sometimes we just see
What we want to believe!

* You knew I’d to this. No he didn’t. I made it up. 


Hundreds of Emilys

This is heartbreaking, powerful and thought-provoking: Buying Myself Back, by Emily Ratajkowski.

It’s about photographs and paintings and who can control images of you. And it’ll probably further damage your faith in human nature.

Pictures meant only for a person who loved me and with whom I’d felt safe — photos taken out of trust and intimacy — were now being manically shared and discussed on online forums and rated “hot” or “not.” Rebecca Solnit wrote recently about the message that comes with revenge porn: “You thought you were a mind, but you’re a body, you thought you could have a public life, but your private life is here to sabotage you, you thought you had power so let us destroy you.” I’d been destroyed.

LGBTQ+ Uncategorised

Trans healthcare has been privatised

Genderkit has collated the latest waiting list information for UK trans healthcare and it’s the grimmest read yet: there isn’t a single gender clinic for adults that has a waiting list of less than two years, and those waiting lists are growing ever longer.

This image is telling: the only clinics without years-long waiting lists are the ones in the private sector.I’ve experience of this; I was a private patient with GenderGP while languishing on an NHS waiting list.

What’s effectively happened here is that trans healthcare has been privatised. If you can’t afford to pay privately for your healthcare you can expect to wait many years before getting a first assessment and months or years more for any kind of treatment.


This is not OK. This is never OK

Emma Thomas is an award-winning creative producer and director who’s currently sending out CVs in her hunt for work. So at first she was delighted when a potential employer got in touch.

You can be sure this isn’t the first time he’s tried this. And there are many men just like him. To them, women aren’t people. They’re targets.

It’s 2020. And yet a woman has to write this on her profile on a business-focused networking site.



Famous Moments in History, Reimagined By Centrists

Bullshit Uncategorised

Na-na-na-na Facts Man!

This, by Annie Lowrey, is fantastic.

You have met Facts Man before if you have spent any time online in the past half decade or so. He’s inescapable. He podcasts. He makes YouTube videos. He traffics in Medium posts. He burns up Facebook. And he loves—loves!—Twitter.

What does he serve up there? Truth. Facts. The overlooked and the undercovered. The unvarnished and obvious conclusions that the media do not want you to believe. The conclusions that the social-justice warriors and sheeple professors will not let you reach. The conclusions that mere mortals, including lauded subject-matter experts and the people who have actual lived experience of the topic at hand, have not yet grasped.


“Inappropriate enthusiasm is pretty much baked into my core personality”

I’ve been reading Heather Havrilesky’s writing online pretty much since I first went online. This, on friendship in a time of Covid, is superb.

In the past, whenever I met someone I liked a lot and admired, I was often too fearful to stick my neck out and assert my interest in becoming friends. I was sometimes paranoid about looking desperate or nerdy. I was worried I might seem too pushy or clingy or inappropriately enthusiastic, even though inappropriate enthusiasm is pretty much baked into my core personality.

Me too, Heather. Me too.


Human rights are never popular

Many people have rightly celebrated the life and mourned the death of John Lewis, the US civil rights leader and staunch LGBT ally. Lewis was one of the original Freedom Riders, civil rights activists who refused to accept racial segregation and who engaged in very public protest.

The Freedom Riders were very brave and very important. And they were also very unpopular. As the Washington Post shows:

This shouldn’t be surprising: before his death, nearly two-thirds of Americans disapproved of Martin Luther King too. The civil rights leaders we later lionise are demonised, victimised and sometimes even brutalised for telling the majority what they don’t want to hear.

When it comes to human rights, what is right is rarely what is popular.


“Q deserves to live”

Mic Wright has published a typically opinionated post on Q Magazine, which he used to write for and which may have published its final issue.

Q has been around since the mid-1980s, and that means it’s been a key part of my musical life since the time when music felt like it was the only thing that mattered. It was, and is, a wonderful magazine featuring some incredibly talented writers. But like many magazines, it suffered from a series of really terrible decisions that did permanent damage to the brand.


When the history comes to be written — if it is ever written — the villains of the story will be execs. Suited and booted bastards who have no real interest in music, no understanding of its effect beyond graphs and demographic data. They were the ones who killed the music magazines with a late-90s and early-00s obsession for creating scenes arbitrarily and pumping out list after list after list. They — and their supine editor-in-chief minions — were the ones who spent thousands upon thousands on cover shoots with ‘stars’ that everyone hated.

For me, Q became inessential in the early to mid 2000s when its reaction to the rise of online competition was to make the core product terrible. Instead of the great journalism I loved so much, journalism that made you excited about hearing new music or rediscovering music you thought you knew, the magazine became a collection of lists. It wasn’t quite “32 bands whose singers are quite tall”, but it wasn’t far off.

As I wrote back in 2004:

Q has fallen into the trap of thinking that the number of reviews (and lists, and songs) is all that matters, so an issue with 137 album reviews is much better than one with 122. It’s a trait shared by many other music mags too, many of which have reduced the per-review word count to enable them to squeeze more reviews into the same space and put the all-important “we review everything!” claim on the front cover.

[monthly music magazines] should do what online media can’t do: provide readers with access to big-name acts and tell interesting stories. It could also dump the dross, and instead draw people’s attention to the music that’s worth bothering with – the four- and five-star records, not the two- and three-star ones.

The shallow, list-based approach lasted for years and the magazine shed thousands of readers. Things started to get better in 2009 when Paul Rees became editor. Me again:

I’d hate to see the freelance bill, but Rees seems to have looked up the Big Book of Good Music Writers, hired them, and given them enough space to do something interesting. The result is a magazine that’s as good as, if not better than, it was in its heyday.

And it’s even better now.


Q over the last five years under the modish captaincy of Ted Kessler, ably assisted by a gang of old and young lags, and a freelance pool that has become more diverse with each passing month, has become genuinely brilliant. The final issue, if it is the final issue, is a masterclass in writing about right now alongside genuinely powerful reminiscences of scenes and people gone by. Q deserves to live. I hope it gets a rescue deal like MixMag and Kerrang! before it, because to go beneath the waves because of an unprecedented economic crisis would be a tragic end.

I’ve been Very Online since the 1990s, but I’m still a great believer in the power of magazines: I buy digitally rather than print these days, but whether it’s Cosmopolitan or Q, Total Film or Time, magazines deliver something valuable that even their online equivalents can’t. It’s not just the writing; it’s the curation, the presentation, the lack of distraction. Online reading is a speedy shower. Magazines are a luxurious bath.

I’ve quoted Q co-creator David Hepworth before: a new issue of a good magazine feels like getting a letter from a friend. Q has felt like a friend for almost all of my musical life, and I’ll be very sad if I have to say goodbye.