Last August, the Guardian's Northern correspondent Helen Pidd invited Yasser, a 34-year-old Syrian refugee, to live in the spare room of her Manchester flat while he waited for his wife and baby daughter to join him. Helen and Yasser tell their sides of the story, from navigating the UK's welfare bureaucracy to the English's perplexing fondness for cookbooks and bare floorboards, a family Christmas near Morecambe and a topical Halloween costume. [more inside]
Sweden Simulator; a browser-based virtual-reality simulation of many of the common experiences of Swedish life. [more inside]
Young people in Japan are increasingly abstaining from romantic relationships and sex. The media refers to this phenomenon as sekkusu shinai shokogun, or "celibacy syndrome". [more inside]
Five Reasons Why I Am Not An “Artist”, an essay by Tom Ellard (formerly of 1980s industrial electropop band Severed Heads and now an academic and media art practitioner in Australia; previously), touching on areas such as artificial divisions between art and technical practice, the politics of the role of the artist and the conflict between creative exploration and artistic recognition and success.
Why Australia hates thinkers, an essay on anti-intellectualism in today's Australia and the populist hostility to “intellectual elites”, by Alecia Simmonds.
How to be German in 20 easy steps; also, from the same author: how to be English. Elsewhere: how to be a really hip German.
The Bacon-Wrapped Economy, or how the rise of a new elite of wealthy, predominantly twentysomething, software engineers and startup founders is changing the San Francisco Bay Area's economy and culture. [more inside]
A future history of the CD revival. In response to a piece on cassette culture (previously), music writer Tom Ewing reports from the 2020s' revival of interest in the compact disc format, and the interplays between hazy memories of growing up in the '00s, reaction against networked "social playlists", and a fetishisation of both the "glossy, uneasy sheen" of the CD sound and the constraints in working with physical artefacts.
Veteran Australian pop satirist New Waver, best known for covers of pop songs rewritten from a pessimistically neo-Darwinian point of view, has a new album out. Titled Bohemian Suburb Rhapsody, it looks at the subjects of gentrification, the explosion of revivalist styles in "hip" music, contemporary white-collar culture, the ideology of the "creative class" in the post-industrial age and the resulting oversupply of cultural products, through the medium of cover songs and musical montage. The album is free for dowloading from New Waver's web site; there is a more detailed explanation here, and a video for the song "Hey Dude" (which explains the dynamics of gentrification through the medium of a Beatles cover) here.
US Crude Oil Production vs. Rock Music Quality, by year. Is Rockism the cultural equivalent of Hubbert Peak Theory?
Roxy Freeman was born into an Gypsy family. For years, her family travelled around Ireland in a horsedrawn wagon, without electricity or formal schooling, getting by on picking fruit and selling horses they bred, before settling in Norfolk. Roxy taught herself to read, devoured books, and, after travelling the world for a number of years, decided to go to university, a move which would require her to completely change her way of life. Living in a flat in Brighton, a way of life which she finds bizarre and alien, she has written about her childhood, her family's culture and the difficulties and prejudices she encountered, for the Guardian. [more inside]