I read a lot of articles every day. My job at The Browser means that I’m generally sifting for the five most original and interesting pieces I can find that would still be as good if you read them a year from now to include in the newsletter. This criteria automatically excludes anything too topical or embedded in the current moment; my most common reaction when reading is “I love this, but it will make no sense to me in a week’s time”.
Very occasionally, I find an article that prompts the opposite response, such as this one. I could read these short first person accounts from people who track down missing pets tomorrow or in forty years’ time and I would love them just as much. The combination of altruism and expertise is intoxicating to me. For instance:
“They say the golden window for tracking down a missing person is within the first 72 hours; with cats moving quickly, a similar approach will also lead to the best results. But if they’re not found immediately, don’t give up: hiding cats can stay hidden for weeks on end before needing to venture out, desperate for food and water. Knowing a cat’s personality will determine nearly everything I do.”
Sharon from New Hampshire takes a psychological approach to finding missing cats and birds, interviewing the owners about their pets’ traits and then using that data to find likely places to look. I’m imagining Jonny Lee Miller in Elementary, except it’s a retired school administrator hunting for runaway animals. Would absolutely read a 6,000 word New Yorker style profile about this.
Like a lot of people, I listened to Taylor Swift’s first quarantine album folklore obsessively last year when it first came out, and then it dropped out of my rotation as 2020 drew to a close. This song, “The Lakes”, was the bonus track on the deluxe edition, though, and it’s the only one that has stuck — albeit in this live version. As much as I appreciate the swooping strings of the album track, there’s an openness to this performance that I really enjoy. As well as the fact that TSwift managed to do an (almost) non corny Wordsworth / word’s worth pun in the lyrics.
Don’t laugh at me, but I’ve only just realised that you can click “reject all” on the cookie warnings that pop up everywhere online now and still access the websites. I hadn’t ever given it a great deal of thought, but my people pleasing instinct had — I must click “accept”, I unconsciously theorised, because I don’t want a collection of inanimate pixels to be cross with me.
However, I now know better thanks to Terms and Conditions, a little in-browser game that satirises the ridiculous lengths that publishers will go to trick you into consenting to being tracked. Your mission as the reader is to make it through 29 increasingly surreal pop ups without accepting or opting in to anything. There’s even a “review” mode at the end where it will show you all the times you unknowingly said “yes” when you thought you were saying “no”.
In my ever present quest for romcoms that are not distractingly problematic, I recently watched the 2019 film Plus One (on Netflix in the UK, your mileage may vary according to territory). Two friends from college, played by Jack Quaid and Maya Erskine, decide to be each other’s “plus one” for the ludicrous number of weddings they have to attend in a single summer since they have hit that age when everyone they know is getting married. It’s a classic friends-to-lovers scenario that avid readers of fanfiction will be very familiar with.
And I enjoyed it greatly, not least because it includes possibly my favourite comic cemetery scene, and it does indeed fit my rubric. The plot doesn’t rely on a woman’s questionable consent or assume that all men are automatically irresistible. But when it was over I still had a lot of questions.
What jobs do these characters have that they can fly to Hawaii for one wedding and still afford to stay in hotels for about six more? Do they have any non-marrying friends? Where do they even live? Maybe these kind of gaps are just inherent to the romcom genre and nobody except me cares. But if you’ve seen it and you wondered too, then let me know.
No Complaints and my Writing Hour will be taking a summer break now. I’ll be back in a few weeks.
There are a few other places on the internet where you can find me: get my article and podcast recommendations in The Browser, listen to my murder mystery podcast Shedunnit, or follow me on Twitter and Instagram.