Welcome to issue fifty three of Manufacturing Serendipity friends!
As I mentioned last time, I’ve now been sending out this fortnightly newsletter for two years, and to mark the occasion here’s part two of my retrospective thinger. (I did the same thing for year one, if you’re interested you can read those issues here and here.)
Grab yourself a suitable beverage my loves, and let’s do this thing…
My Favourite Finds of the Year (Part Two)
Advice, Articles & Interviews
It Was a Mystery in the Desert for 50 Years. In a remote Nevada valley, artist Michael Heizer’s megasculpture is finally revealed.
Science, Nature, & various studies
Tweets & Web thingers
Fiction & Poetry
The Sun on My Head by Geovani Martins (translated by Julia Sanches). In this debut collection, Martins transports us to the favelas of Rio de Janeiro where his 13 short stories are set. In one story, a young boy is drawn to his father’s gun, in another, a young boy frets over the demise of a butterfly.
Beverly by Nick Drnaso is a graphic collection of interconnected short stories featuring the inhabitants of a suburban American town. A group of teenagers pick up trash on the side of the highway, whilst excluding and ignoring a potentially violent loner in their midst. A suburban mother longs to be part of something bigger. A young woman’s trauma reveals the racial tension in the community.
A Song for a New Day, by Sarah Pinsker. Written in 2019, this eerily prescient novel tells the story of a world changed by a pandemic, and the consequential rise of two particularly powerful corporations you’ll likely recognise.
Driving Short Distances, by Joff Winterhart, tells the story of 27-year-old Sam’s return to his hometown, following three unsuccessful attempts at university and a breakdown. Seeking a job that will demand very little of him, he finds himself drawn into the world of a man called Keith Nutt whose business is apparently “distribution and delivery”.
Fen, by Daisy Johnson, a short story collection where houses fall in love with girls; a mother gives birth to a boy whose sucks her mind and memory dry; and beautiful young women bring men home to devour.
Companion Piece, by Ali Smith, is ostensibly a lockdown story, but at its heart, I think perhaps it’s a story about intrusion – how as people, we intrude on each other; how even when we try to shut it out, the outside world intrudes; and how our dreams intrude our waking life.
After Sappho, by Selby Wynn Schwartz. Here, Schwartz takes biographical fragments of the lives of many historical women (including Lina Poletti, Virginia Woolf, Gertrude Stein, Radclyffe Hall, and more!), to form a collective, compelling narrative which speaks to all of us in the here and now.
Notes to Self, by Emilie Pine, a collection of personal essays about alcoholism, infertility, identity, and more.
The Premonitions Bureau, by Sam Knight, the very strange, but true story of British psychiatrist John Barker.
These Bodies of Water: Notes on the British Empire, the Middle East and Where We Meet, by Sabrina Mahfouz. Here Mahfouz investigates the history of the Middle Eastern coastlines and waterways that were so vital to the British Empire’s hold. Interwoven with her own personal experiences, she combines history, politics, myth and poetry in a devastating examination of this unacknowledged part of Britain’s colonial past.
The Royal Tenenbaums, The Grand Budapest Hotel, & The French Dispatch, (Disney+). I made good use of my free Disney+ trial with a Wes Anderson film binge.
The Father (Amazon Prime) – I loved this film adaptation of Florian Zeller’s stage play. It offers viewers an terrifying insight into how sufferers might experience dementia, as we follow Hopkins through a series of hellishly disorientating time slips and time loops.
Coco (Disney+). Clearly I’m very late to the party with Coco (it was released in 2017), but this one is an absolute delight, and you should watch it if you haven’t already.
Spiderhead, (Netflix). Entertaining, and Chris Hemsworth is surprising good; but ultimately this film doesn’t really honour the short story by George Saunders which it was based on. Wanna read that instead? Here you go my loves: Escape from Spiderhead.
Prima Facie, (National Theatre Live), Jodie Comer is nothing short of incredible in Suzie Miller’s one-woman stage play about sexual assault and the legal system.
Halston, (Netflix). This biopic which charts the rise and fall of the fashion designer Halston has been criticised by his family (they dubbed the series “an inaccurate, fictionalised account”), but it is fabulous, and I’d recommend it.
Conversations with Friends (BBC iPlayer). This TV adaptation of Sally Rooney’s first novel was criticised for being slow (and it really is); but I think because the characters are all pretty flawed, and (with the possible exception of Bobbi) difficult to sympathise with, it’s actually a much more interesting and complex story than Normal People.
Inside Number 9: Season 7, (BBC iPlayer), this season isn’t as strong as previous seasons, but it’s nevertheless worth a watch.
Stranger Things: Season 4 (Netflix), I thoroughly enjoyed this.
Keep Sweet, Pray & Obey, (Netflix). This four-part series which takes us inside the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is acutely distressing; (trigger warning – sexual, physical and psychological abuse); however I felt the documentary makers did an excellent job of giving survivors the space to share their experiences and tell their stories.
Trainwreck: Woodstock 99 (Netflix). This 3-part series which documents the absolute horror show that was Woodstock 99 is grim viewing. Arguably the documentary makers did a good job of shining a light on the fact that the organisers were never held to account for their failings, but I can’t help but feel like they could have gone in harder – in my view, Michael Lang, (now deceased) gets off remarkably lightly, and is largely portrayed as sympathetic, which I found particularly galling.
The Dropout, (Disney+), deals with the bizarre, terrible, but nevertheless true story of Elisabeth Holmes, founder of the medical company Theranos.
Dopesick, (Disney+). This eight-part drama tells the story of how the “non-addictive painkiller”, OxyContin, created the opioid crisis in the US.
The Bear, (Disney+). This eight-part drama follows Carmy, a burned-out and broken Michelin-star chef, who, after his brother commits suicide, returns home to run the family restaurant.
Stuff I’ve made, done, or tried out
Adulting: I met with a financial advisor who is helping me sort out my pension. I’ve been putting off the pension stuff for ages, because *reasons*, but it turns out that it’s not nearly as complicated, difficult, or scary as I thought it would be.
My cousins send me birthday poems.
And We Lived Happily Ever After (National Flash Fiction Day Anthology 2022), is launched and I get to see my first short story in print. I am very excited.
Rather than write my usual missive, I write a slightly rambling collection of thoughts on what I think people mean when they say we need to “be more strategic”.
I travel to Seattle to speak at MozCon, and publish an excerpt from my talk: Benchmarking the Performance of over 2,000 Digital PR pieces.
I manage to finagle a little writing time and wrote something to submit to a competition. I did not win, but you can read the winning entry, plus submissions from myself and others here.
I brought a couple of old blog posts back from the dead: Speaking at Conferences – The Art of Persuasion (Part One) and Speaking at Conferences – The Art of Persuasion (Part Two).
I ran my course at BrightonSEO, and it was an absolute delight.
I recorded an episode for the We Earn Media podcast with my friend and fellow Distilled alumna Britt Klontz.
I got to speak at MKGO alongside a bunch of wonderful humans.
I joined my friend Jono on the Yoast SEO news webinar.
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