Friday Reading eats big Xmas dinners now S10E14

Friday Reading is a weekly series of recommended reads from the Guardian’s Martin Belam, covering journalism, media and technology, and other interesting nerdy things. It is also available as an email newsletter and eats big Xmas dinners now. Sign up here.

One of my favourite recording artists – Nadine Shah – has written for one of my favourite newspapers – the Guardian – about the financial struggles that streaming is causing even for established artists.

As a cocky northern lass, I thought I’d be OK: “C’mon Nadine, you’ll be all right, you’ve been nominated for a bloody Mercury prize, you’ve over 100,000 monthly Spotify listeners. You’ll make the rent.”

I was foolish. The situation was such that I temporarily had to move back in with my parents over the summer. Not the worst thing to happen, but still not a great look for a thirtysomething pop star.

Music streaming makes major labels rich, while musicians like me go broke – Nadine Shah

Incidentally, my #SpotifyWrapped told me that my favourite genre was ‘Chamber Psych’, a type of music I’d never ever ever ever fucking heard of. Turns out it is Nadine Shah and bdrmm and Jane Weaver and BC Camplight, and frankly, who knew? If you were also puzzled about #ChamberPsych, there’s a big long playlist here that I’ve been chin-stroking my way through.

Tom Whitwell’s 52 things I learned in year (n) is always one of the highlights of the year. The 2020 edition is no exception. One of those people who makes me jealous just by existing.

My faves this year: cities mostly plant male trees which is making hayfever worse, it was the stock value of the wrong Zoom company that rose suddenly in February, the inventor of the pixel regretted making them square, and a micromort is a one-in-a-million chance of death – just being alive is about 24 micromorts per day.

Marcela Kunova for with an interview with Lord Gilbert of Panteg who chaired the House of Lords Communications and Digital Committee that just published a report on the sustainability of journalism: ‘Platforms should pay for news’ a peer committee says

Are you feeling squeamish about a rapidly developed vaccine being approved and touted by the kind of politician that openly lies that it has been approved rapidly because we have left the EUthat’s you Mr Haunted Victorian Pencil – or the kind of politician who ignores that it was developed in German by Turkish immigrants and proudly declares it is because the UK is the very best country? I mean, I don’t blame you. This helped me:

Next time somebody expresses concern at the astonishing speed the vaccine trials have happened at, point out to them that ten years isn’t a good thing, it’s a bad thing. It’s not ten years [to usually develop a vaccine] because that is safe, it’s ten hard years of battling indifference, commercial imperatives, luck and red tape. It represents barriers in the process that we have now proved are “easy” to overcome. You just need unlimited cash, some clever and highly motivated people, all the world’s trial infrastructure, an almost unlimited pool of altruistic, wonderful trial volunteers and some sensible regulators.

Less than a year to develop a COVID vaccine – here’s why you shouldn’t be alarmed – Mark Toshner, Director of Translational Biomedical Research, University of Cambridge

I am very QUITE CROSS with the New Statesman for publishing a right load of old bollocks the other week – pro-tip, treating easily Googleable standard industry terms as unknowingly mysterious doesn’t make you look like you know what you are talking about you fucking wombles – however this is by Jonn Elledge and makes a rather good argument so I will grudgingly point you in its direction.

A question often asked, whenever someone has drifted into religious or political extremism, is: who radicalised them? This is generally asked of religious fundamentalists or white supremacists. It’s rarely asked of government departments. That may be because the answer is obvious: a series of increasingly hardline Home Office ministers, who apparently either worship or live in fear of the Daily Mail.

So perhaps a better question is: can the Home Office be de-radicalised? A major government department has, over years, drifted into increasingly unhinged and extreme positions, which have seen it ruin the lives of law-abiding migrants and legitimate British citizens alike.

“Can the Home Office be de-radicalised?” by Jonn Elledge

With Christmas coming up, I suppose I need to work out when series ten of Friday Reading finishes, and when season eleven starts…

I’m also thinking about a ¡SHOCK HORROR! name change.

For the newsletter. Not for me. This isn’t another whole “@CURRYBET IS NOW @MARTINBELAM” debacle.

My friend and former colleague Will Maclean has done a BRILLIANT thing with his debut novel:

Independent London bookstore Goldsboro Books released 1000 signed and exclusive first editions to members of their monthly book club. “On the title page, you’ll see a single word handwritten by me,” reads a note from Maclean distributed with each first edition. “That word, although meaningless on its own, is part of a piece of writing precisely 1000 words long.

“Each of these 1000 Goldsboro exclusive editions has one single word of that original piece written in them, dispersed among the people who own them. That piece of text is recorded nowhere else but, collectively, in those 1000 editions.”

Basically, Maclean has created a 1000-piece puzzle. And by late November, people were coming together on Twitter to try and solve it.

I have the book myself, which I am already enjoying immensely. It is billed as “An unsettling literary ghost story set in the 1970s between a claustrophobic British suburban town and a menacing Suffolk manor”. I might as well have had it written to order.

It was honestly an absolute honour to get to work with Gary Younge at the Guardian, and he is a journalistic hero of mine. He has turned his hand to reviewing Barack Obama’s memoirs and he does not disappoint.

If Nelson Mandela can write Long Walk to Freedom, which covers his whole eventful life over 617 pages, then Obama could surely have got through his campaign and the first three years of his administration in less.

Who doesn’t love the idea of an online Teletext and Ceefax museum. And who doesn’t love even more that this dedicated resource to an out-moded and technically dated communications protocols now includes a bit in the top right-hand corner where my browser tells me it has blocked some Adobe Flash content for being an out-moded and technically dated communications protocol etc etc.

History of the ever-disappearing green space in Waltham Forest – in this case Selbourne Park which over the years has gradually been eroded by transport infrastructure and building retail units, and is soon to completely disappear under blocks of high-rise flats as they destroy what is left of a grand Edwardian municipal project. Also has a great picture of “Walthamstow Tank Day” in 1918 when they had a tank in the borough to try and encourage fund-raising to build more of the fearsome monsters.

One of the #TimsTwitterListeningParty events this week was Heavy Load, a punk band who all met at Southdown Housing, a non-profit assisted-living community for people with mental health issues and learning disabilities, and were a mix of service users and staff. It was fucking great. Here’s the album – Shut It.

There’s also a documentary film about the band/project, which is free to watch until 7 December.

Tim Worthington here in prose with a wonderful sum-up of how the KLF left the music industry in a blaze of noisy glory at the Brits, and also reminds me that classical boffin Georg Solti ‘walked out’ of the KLF performance as a protest. What a fucking stuck-up arse of a prick. Solti, not Worthington, to be clear. “THIS IS TELEVISION FREEDOM!”

You sort of just have to admire the absolute fucking grift of the woman asking for donations to help her buy a super expensive new Mac so she can do some spreadsheets of the US election results to “prove” fraud and she’s actually based in the UK.

I’m sitting on a wall outside my friend Hannah’s house. I take a sip of my coffee and it’s so hot the plastic lid sears a small pink rectangle into my lip. “I’ve never heard a woman say she’s been friendzoned,” says Hannah when I tell her about Ellie’s situation.

“I have,” I reply. “But not in a serious way, women never say it in a serious way.”

I really enjoyed reading this piece by Annie Lord – Why Women Don’t Say “Friendzoned”

I do worry that this is another thing that people are gently being radicalised about on the internet, that the first time 13 or 14 year old boys experience a feeling of rejection, it’s very easy for them to find 1,057 slightly older boys online going “Man, she friendzoned you” and it’s an on-ramp to being an INCEL/MGTOW liability. Stupid bloody internet.


In 2014, I was among the 4,000 people who were detained in a police cell for mental health related reasons. Today, anyone who survives an attempt to take their own life, will likely face the police. Due to substantial cuts to the health sector and limited mental health resources, the police have become frontline mental health workers. For many, it seems like a role they resent.

I Was Jailed for Attempting Suicide – I survived that night, but I’ll never forget being taken away by police during my mental health crisis by Emma Madden, Vice

There was a videogame where you could basically just mooch about doing nothing in a suburban Russian tower block.

The Horrified website – in celebration of British horror – looks great and I put it on my list because I saw someone I know say they were taking over editing it or starting to write for it or somesuch but anyway I’ve forgotten who, but check it out.

I don’t even know how this cropped up either but I got a real nostalgia rush from stumbling on this old blog post of someone basically live blogging reading one of the old late-90’s BBC Eighth Doctor novels, in this case Seeing I.

I watched a bit of 1960s Doctor Who ‘upscaled by computer AI whatnot to 4K ultra high definition’ etc and still can’t work out if it is the future of all archive telly, or is just basically a new version of that 70s fad for making ‘fake stereo’ versions of old 50s mono records.

I got my Spotify artist yearly figures which as ever descended into my daughter laughing at how small the numbers are and me going “Well, it’s not nothing. And how many hours did people listen to YOUR music on Spotify for young lady, hmmm, hmmmm?” and clutching my lapels like William Hartnell.

I’m probably gonna do some kind of m-orchestra Xmas online stream, so watch this space, or even better, like my Facebook artist page to get notifications etc…