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Journal

Sunday Sharing #1: How to be a better non-fiction reader, Scots word of the day, goblincore and more

In my newsletters, I like to share links to stuff I’ve read/watched. For both August and September, I had a wealth of links worthy of sharing but had to cut down. As an experiment, I thought I’d attempt to compile things I want to share into a weekly post. Then I’ll select some highlights for the newsletter. This may be a regular feature, it might disappear and never resurface. Depends on how much I like the structure.

Also, when I discussed the idea with a friend, she pointed out that this might be useful for myself. It’ll serve as an online record of links to parts of the web I’ve enjoyed reading/viewing that I can look back on and find again if I need to.

I’ve longed for a method of logging what I find online. Unless I find a better way, this will hopefully serve.

Here are 10 things from the past week that I felt were worth sharing…

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Viewing

Gaming for a non-gamer

First video in the series: “What Games Are Like For Someone Who Doesn’t Play Games”

Razbuten is a YouTuber who posts video essays about video games. He’s talked about why they hate fast travel, how crafting is pointless in some games and how small open-world games feel big, among other topics. However, my favourite videos on his channel are all part of his series Gaming For A Non-Gamer.

One day, his wife — who had not grown up playing video games — asked if she could have a go at one of the games she had seen him play. Like any good content creator, Razbuten saw an opportunity. What better way to understand what gaming is like for someone who does not usually play video games than to see a non-gamer learn in real-time? All he had to do was watch and provide almost no instructions. And so began a series of informal experiments that raised many interesting questions about the language of video games.

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Viewing

Short film recommendation: Facing It

Still from the short film: A group of people with claymation faces sit at a bar staring down the camera at the viewer.

As I wrote in my latest newsletter, out of everything I watched in September, the most impactful was Sam Gainsborough’s excellent short film Facing It.

When something hits me as hard as it does, quite often it’s because I experience that feeling of “being seen.” Well watching this short film was the most seen I’ve felt in some time.

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Journal

Do more, think less, enjoy the journey

The deepest satisfaction of writing is precisely that it opens up new spaces within us of which we were not aware before we started to write. To write is to embark on a journey whose final destination we do not know.

Henri Nouwen

When accused of overthinking, it’s funny to counter with the suggestion that maybe everyone else is just underthinking. But I know I overthink. I know it because I’ve spent enough time thinking about it.

The other day, a very good friend of mine listened to me ramble — or rather complain — about all the numerous ideas in my head that I can’t put on paper. What came out of the discussion was the amount of pressure I put on myself to produce shareable work. I’ve been so focused on the desired destination that I’d forgotten to enjoy the journey.

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Reading

Reviewing Tim Kreider’s “We Learn Nothing”

We Learn Nothing paperback cover, published by Simon & Schuster (2013)

Tim Kreider is a cartoonist and essayist who was a regular contributor to the New York Times. I’ve previously referenced his article “I Am a Meme Now”, which I absolutely adored. It was that essay that prompted me to buy this collection. It features a number of his excellent sketches, too.

Overall, some essays were incredibly powerful, and I’ll 100% read them again and again. Whilst others were middling, and a few even left a rather bad taste in my mouth. Yet I must have enjoyed this book a great deal to write a review this long!

To review the book, I thought I’d highlight six (out of 15) essays that perfectly encapsulate my thoughts about the book as a whole.

***

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Journal

Write lists

Austin Kleon’s “HOW TO BE HAPPY” list from his book Keep Going

Does anyone else love making lists? Quite often I love making a list more than anything I’ve listed.

Lists bring order to the chaotic universe. I love making lists. Whenever I need to figure out my life, I make a list. A list gets all your ideas out of your head and clears the mental space so you’re actually able to do something about them.

Austin Kleon, Keep Going

Austin Kleon, in his book Keep Going, notes the benefits of writing and keeping lists. He mentions numerous creatives who make lists, from artists like David Shrigley and John Porcellino to writers like Steven Johnson and Mary Roach. List-making is a way to curate a collection of all our messy thoughts and put them into order.

In my last post, I talked about writing through the noise in my head. Sometimes writing a list helps cut through that noise.

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Journal

My brain is very loud sometimes

It’s not even metaphorical, sometimes my internal monologue really is screaming at me.

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Reading

Five newsletters I like

I’ll be launching my own email newsletter very soon, and so I thought I’d take this opportunity to share five newsletters I regularly read and enjoy.

Assuming you’re like me and you check your email inbox at least once per day, newsletters can be a great way to follow the work of your favourite content creators. There’s no interference from an algorithm that causes you to miss the latest update. Instead, you’ve invited your favourite creator into your inbox.

Email newsletters come in many forms. Some are similar to blogs, focusing on a particular theme or subject matter and writing content centred around it. Whilst mine will be a curated newsletter. What this means is that it will feature a collection of links and general info all in one place with the aim of sending you to other pages on the web.

The following five fall into one of these two categories:

Categories
Reading

Reading lists and red flag books

A red flag over the front covers of six books (from left to right): The Millionaire Next Door, Atlas Shrugged, Zero to One, Can't Hurt Me, Think and Grow Rich, and How to Win Friends and Influence People.

If you invite me round your house and you have a bookshelf, I’m going to have a nose. Wherever there’s books, I want to know what’s there—even if I know I’ll never read anything of what’s on the shelf.

Perhaps that’s why I also love a good online reading list. Whether it’s a blog post or a Twitter thread or even a video, I’ll stop and read/listen.

So when I stumbled upon Brian Feroldi’s thread of 20 books that should be read again and again (back in early July), I stopped my mindless Twitter-binge and had a scroll. My reaction was much the same as everyone else: a feeling of despair at the soullessness of such a list.

Categories
Reading

The male gaze is inverted in Eliza Clark’s compelling book “Boy Parts”

Boy Parts paperback cover, published by Influx Press (2020)

I got handsy. It’s hard to just look, isn’t it? It’s hard to look, and not touch, not squeeze, or prod, or squash all that soft, private skin they show me.

It takes a compelling book to compel me to write about it. But that’s exactly what Eliza Clark’s Boy Parts is, a compulsive read that gripped my attention so successfully my eyes did not glaze over a single word. When I’d turned the last page, I craved more.

Through the eyes of the protagonist, Irina Sturges, we get a subversive take on the male gaze. A photographer who specialises in—shall we say revealing—photos of men, the male flesh is for Irina to scrutinise.

Whether we’re knowingly aware or not, we are well-acquainted with the male gaze in our media and literature. For those unclear as to what the male gaze refers to, Wikipedia defines the male gaze as:

[The] act of depicting women and the world, in the visual arts and in literature, from a masculine, heterosexual perspective that presents and represents women as sexual objects for the pleasure of the heterosexual male viewer.

The unique lens of Irina Sturges gives us a story where men are objects. It pushes us to think about the way women have been framed in our media for decades. But the narrative is more than just an inverted gaze, it’s a story where we can never be sure of reality. Victim blaming and gaslighting galore, Irina’s world is tinged by trauma and the lines between pain and pleasure are blurred. Told predominantly through her voice, whether we are meant to sympathise with Irina is a decision best left to the reader.