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Favourite links I shared in 2022

Collage of six screenshots taken from videos I shared this year.

This year, I was far too preoccupied with linking to other people’s content and neglected to produce much of my own. My goal is to change this going forward. I want to create things worth linking to, not just link to the cool stuff other people are making.

However, as we’re seeing 2022 out, I thought I’d do the thing a lot of people do around this time of year: look back at the past 12 months and compile a “best of” list.

So, in no particular order, here are my 22 favourite links I shared in my blog and newsletter this year…

01. Despite all the fond memories I have of Harry Potter – the books, the films, the games – this was the year all the joy the series once brought me died. J.K. Terfling and the Tweets of Transphobia certainly dug the Wizarding World’s grave, but it was realising just how horrible the politics of Harry Potter had always been that hammered the nail into the coffin. This video essay from the best skull on YouTube, Shaun, explores some of the most egregious examples of bigotry on open display in the books.

02. I hate LinkedIn. For some, it’s their favourite social media network. It’s no doubt helped some people find rewarding jobs and build a following. But to me, it’s even more toxic than Twitter. Sure, Twitter has some of the worst people on the planet posting every day, but at least there are some funny and kind people posting, too. Whereas most LinkedIn posters are vapid at best and [redacted] at worst. Furthermore, as pointed out by Hussein Kesvani, LinkedIn seems intent on killing off good writing. Most viral LinkedIn posts are made up of “Broems” – as defined by BuzzFeed in 2017 – that are all structured in the exact same way, optimised for maximising engagement by gaming the algorithm. Here’s what Kesvani has to say about them:

Some readers might consider Broems to be mundane, readily dismissing them. To my mind, however, they represent a darker path that internet culture is heading toward, one in which creative, artistic originality and experimentation are constrained by the demands of content-driven platforms that prefer rip-offs, reproductions and imitations, over cultivating and supporting original ideas. Broetry encompasses all of this: a style of writing devoid of imagination, relying heavily on repackaging self-help mantras, and curating quotes from pop-psychology books. Much like other forms of online content, Broetry imitates each other to serve a singular purpose: gaming platform algorithms in order to go viral and to give the writer as much personal publicity as possible.

03. If there was just one article I linked to that I really wanted more people to read, it was James Greig’s take on the problems with the single positivity movement. As Greig said, “it’s no longer in vogue to complain about singledom. Instead, it is meant to be celebrated. In many respects, this is a positive development, but whether it is truly ‘empowering’ to be single is a little more complicated.” As a long-term non-partnered person who does not find their singledom empowering in the slightest, I’ve often found myself chastised for desiring to be partnered just as often as I’ve been mocked for my lovelessness. Greig’s article was cathartic to read and put into words a feeling I’ve had for years but could never quite articulate. 

The truth is that being single, just like being in a relationship, can be lonely, painful and humiliating: I don’t see the point in pretending that this is never the case; that it is never, under any circumstance, a legitimate thing to feel unhappy about. If people are excluded from romantic love for whatever reason, it feels like a bit of a cop-out to tell them that this is actually something they should be pleased about. Are they letting the single positivity movement down if they feel otherwise?

I’d also just like to note that I share a similar perspective on the possible solutions to the problems of loneliness as Greig and those he quotes in the article:

In a world that so often gives rise to brutal isolation, being single and being in a relationship are two sides of the same coin; the difference between them often being only a matter of time. We focus too much on the interpersonal as either the solution or cause of our ills, when improving social conditions would make life more enriching for everyone. Our generation has a solid 40 or 50 years before we’re elderly: that time might be better spent trying to build a society less cruel towards the people on its margins, instead of chasing the illusory security of a relationship which lasts until we’re dead, or repeating affirmations in the hope they become true. But the solutions to loneliness don’t need to be entirely structural, either: we don’t have to wait for a better world to start nurturing different forms of connection.

The International Fixed Calendar with 13 months (new month "Sol" between June and July). Every month has 28 days with a bonus 29th day at the end of the year.

04. In 2021, Austin Kleon wrote a blog post about the “International Fixed Calendar”, but it wasn’t until this year that I really thought about the trouble with months. I can’t ever see it catching on, despite Kodak implementing the calendar from 1928 to 1989, but I find the idea of introducing an extra month between June and July – then making all the months four weeks long – quite appealing. And I assure you it has nothing to do with the fact that my birthday would always fall on a Saturday if implemented. (Although it would be a nice bonus.)

05. The world is falling apart, and I spend a lot of time thinking I’m supposed to write something that matters. But I spend a lot of time writing about love and loneliness in my journal, in my poems and in a lot of my stories. Well, Sasha Fletcher has some thoughts about writing about love while the world falls apart. And I think it’s both beautiful and something every artist should read.

[It’s] possible things have already fallen apart, and that I’ve spent my whole life watching it. And I think the only reasonable response to this is to write about love. Our government collects our taxes and watches us die and laughs when we beg for help. We’ve seen over a year and a half of communities rising up in mutual aid because, while the people we elect to protect us don’t give a fuck if we die, it turns out that we, all of us, very much do. So I write about love, because it’s the only thing I think really matters.

06. Stuart Hardy – aka Stubagful on YouTube – occasionally writes absurd short stories and animates them with his style of stickmen. I think the art style compliments the surreal situations in Hardy’s narratives really well. There were several great videos he released this year, including the fifth instalment of his Brexit series that treats the UK’s ridiculous act of economic self-harm like a TV show. But my favourite was “End Credits”.

07. One of the things that got me through January was the Kill James Bond podcast. I’ve never been much of a fan of 007 and have only seen a few of the movies. I think I’ve had much more fun listening to Alice, Abigail and Devon tear apart these films than I ever would watching them. Their free bonus episode on Cars 2 is also hilarious and was my introduction to the podcast. Seeing the films is not a prerequisite to enjoying their pisstakes. So don’t let your lack of Bond knowledge dissuade you from checking them out.

08. I love reading about other writers, their habits and processes. Warsan Shire talked about hers in an interview with Vogue, which I found fascinating.

It’s funny, actually – it’s only when I moved to LA to be with my now-husband that I got a writing desk for the first time. Now, I have two sons, so I get up before everyone else and do a bit of work in my studio, then go back there again in the evenings when everyone quiets down. If I’m watching a film, I write longhand; if I’m listening to music, I type on my computer. Sometimes ideas come to me throughout the day, which I put in the Notes app on my phone. There’s all sorts of nonsense in there. Then once a week or so I go through it and see if there’s anything of value. I also keep notebooks all over the house – I’ll write anywhere and everywhere, really.

I also really liked what she had to say about this expectation for everyone to be on social media, especially if you’re a writer:

In our generation, we’re constantly told that we’ve got to have a social media presence, and a lot of it is bullshit. Just because you have a platform doesn’t mean you have anything important to say. So, I just stepped away until I had something worth posting about again, and hopefully other people will realise it’s okay to do the same.

09. The Alt-Right Playbook by Innuendo Studios is one of my all-time favourite series on YouTube. They explain alt-right tactics in creative and engaging ways, whilst also shining a light on the ideologies of conservatism and liberalism and how the alt-right exploits them. “The Cost of Doing Business” was a new episode that came out this year, which focuses on how the Democrats and Republicans actively hurt and/or neglect people of colour for political gain. I also see some parallels to the political situation in Britain with the Conservatives and Labour under Keir Starmer.

10. Is the cry-laugh (😂) a right-wing emoji? The hosts of Ten Thousand Posts think so. In the episode “Live, Love, Cry Laugh”, Hussein and Phoebe talk to Huw Lemmey about how the emoji has become a common response from right-wingers in response to horrific acts of cruelty, such as refugees drowning in the Channel.

Raphael Bob-Waksberg's wacky list of 50 best TV shows

11. One day I’ll have a proper think about who my favourite writers are, but I can make a safe bet now that Raphael Bob-Waksberg would make my top five. Even when writing a list of 50 best TV shows he makes me laugh, and he didn’t even write it with the thought anyone else would ever know about it. Injecting that kind of creativity into something as frivolous as a “best of” list is the kind of attitude I want to adopt. RBW did an interview with Rolling Stone about his wacky list and the approach he took. It’s well worth a read.

As soon as I agreed to do this, I was like, “This is very hard! How do you possibly compare these shows?” Sometimes my frustration with these lists — it’s not so much about the lists as the conversation around the lists, talking about these things like there’s some objective truth to it. Like, “How can you possibly rank this show 20 and that show 32, when if you mathematically look at the merits…” It’s all subjective! It’s all personal! And so much of our appreciation of television is what it means to us and how we experienced it, and where it fits into our story. I think all writing — and criticism is very much included in this — is a form of autobiography, and I thought that I wanted to lean into it a little bit, and talk about what these shows meant to me.

Another rule I made for myself as I made this list was it had to be fun while I was doing it. I was not going to let myself get stressed out about it, because I was not getting paid for this. I wrote this list in June, and now that I’m looking at it again, I’m like, “Oh, I don’t agree with that anymore!” But I’m not going to waste time second-guessing myself. That list is very much me going by feeling in that particular moment.

I’m adopting this philosophy for every list I write henceforth (yes, including this one).

12. I am not on TikTok. For now, I am abstaining from downloading the app. I cannot squander even more time than I already do. But a few Sylvaniandrama TikToks were reposted to Twitter, and I love them. Especially the one set to Mr. Brightside.

13. Absurd Trolley Problems is a fun little game from Neal Agarwal. Not a bad way to kill a few minutes. Speaking of killing, my solutions to these absurd trolley problems killed 60 people. Play it and see if you can make more moral decisions than me.

14. Last year, I stumbled across a notebook a friend had gifted to me some time ago. She had left me a note on the first page. Discovering it was a lovely surprise that still brings me joy whenever I think about it. I was reminded of this when I discovered the “In Used Books” Instagram account and Elaine Velie’s article about the fascinating things people leave behind in library books. There’s something really special about leaving something behind in a book, and I’ve started leaving things inside books intentionally.

15. Zoe Bee has a fantastic video essay on why grading is scam and motivation is a myth. Our school system is flawed, and I say that as someone seriously considering entering the teaching profession. This video explores issues with grading I’d never considered before and even offers some alternatives.

Medieval art: gun-carrying demons

16. Olivia Swarthout – aka @WeirdMedieval on Twitter – is the “Tumblr girl [who] got the internet obsessed with medieval art.” I don’t have anything interesting to say, I just think this account is really cool and I love these weird medieval guys Swarthout shares. The man catching his wife in bed with a dragon is funny, but the gun-carrying demons might be my favourite.

17. Lynda Barry emphasises the importance of child’s play in an interview with the New York Times, which I blogged about in October, and I think playfulness is a super important element to any artistic endeavour.

I’ve found that engaging in this kind of work — anything that adults call art and that kids might call a toy; that contains something alive — seems to make me feel that life is worth living. It’s a thing I always say to my students: Art is a public-health concern because it keeps you from killing yourself and others.

18. What is the opposite of a gun? This is the central question of Brendan Constantine’s poem “The Opposites Game”. The animated treatment from filmmakers Anna Samo and Lisa LaBracio is a powerful watch.

19. Aamon Hawk – aka Aamon Animations on YouTube – knows how to blend the shitpost with cosmic horror. I shared his 2021 masterpiece “PUNISHED BERNIE” at the start of the year. Whilst I’m not a huge fan of revering a single political figure like this, the talent on display here is too good for it to matter. Although, the new “TRUMP RETURNS: Feast of the Apostles” might just be the best one yet.

20. Rebecca Sacks shared some fundamental principles for writing great sex. I have no idea how many articles I read on the craft of writing this year, but this was the one that stuck with me. Probably because bad sex writing is quite common and Sacks offers a really interesting perspective on how to write sex well.

Everyone fumbles in their writing, but bad sex writing is especially excruciating to get through. My theory is that when sex writing fails, it’s because the author forgets about the characters and is instead attempting to communicate directly with the readers: trying to titillate, impress, or scandalize us. Isn’t this sexy? The way her back is arching—isn’t it a hot image? Or, Isn’t this impressive? Look how nonchalantly I write about fucking! Or, Can you tell I’ve had lots of good sex? Hmm? Can you? In my experience as a reader, I resist an author’s attempt to control my response to writing—this is a form of sentimentality, in my opinion. As a writer, when I find myself imagining a reader getting turned on by the sex I am writing, I stop myself. I close my eyes. I re-enter the scene from the point of view of the character. Forget the reader. Forget turning them on or off, forget that Goodreads exists, forget it all. So much of writing, for me, is putting myself aside and writing from the deepest possible inside I can access of a character.

21. John Walsh – aka Super Eyepatch Wolf on YouTube – has put out quite a few analytical video essays I’ve loved watching this year. Why you should still read the Berserk manga series, even though the tragic passing of Kentaro Miura means it will never be finished, was the most personally impactful. The darkside of content creation and why influencer courses are bunk is also very good and should be essential viewing for creators. But it was his video on what the Internet did to Garfield that brought me to his channel and why I checked out his other work. Few video essays I’ve watched have managed to shock me as much as this one did.

22. Finally, I just had to include my favourite easter egg from one of my newsletters (did you know I link easter eggs in my newsletters?). It’s “Never Gonna Give You Up” by Rick Astley… but with raptors.

Honourable Stray Links