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Rory’s links #4: Institutional rot

One of my biggest lifelong Roman Empires is the British Royal Family. I’m hardly unique amongst elder millennials whose moms loved Princess Diana and hated Camilla; Diana’s death was a big moment in my tween years. I paid attention to the major happenings for a while—I mean, I watched Will and Kate’s wedding live—but it wasn’t until The Crown aired and Harry and Meghan’s mistreatment went super public that I realized the depths of the institution’s rot. I made a concerted effort to follow the royals the year leading up to Queen Elizabeth’s death because I could tell that was impending, and I’ve been watching stories somewhat closely ever since.

That means I was ready for this year, and all the speculation around Kate (and Charles-William to a lesser degree).

To start this linkspam, I really recommend this Nieman Lab piece from a former Buzzfeed News royal reporter. To understand the BRF, you have to understand how symbiotically parasitic the BRF-royal rota relationship is, and this article breaks it down beautifully in context with recent gossip on and briefings about Kate Middleton. There’s also a timeline of events from the end of December through March 6th, if you’re wondering about the specific current events.

You also have to understand that, while the BRF will make moves similar to influencers, they’re a major branch in the UK’s political system. It’s why four major news agency pulled a Kate-and-kids family photo posted for UK Mother’s Day after it was determined the photo editing didn’t meet journalistic standards. Will and Kate have long edited their family pictures—this Tiktok has a really good examination of past Photoshop fails all the way back to when Charlotte was a baby. The approach is one thing if you’re an actor or you’re selling something. When your next head of state is pulling this as apparent proof-of-life for his missing wife (and throwing her under the bus after), that’s something else.

None of this answers what’s actually going on with Kate. The likely answer is probably some variation of the stated one, that she had a major health incident and hasn’t been up to public work. There are other theories both related to this and unrelated that have varying levels of credence, and maybe we’ll find out some of them are true. I personally find it less interesting than why this is so big now: basic lack of institutional competence has eroded public trust (for good reason!), and Charles wanting to hoard more money by slimming down working royals is blowing up in his face big time. The only people out there doing engagements—which are showy busy work at best most of the time, but vital to the monarchy’s survival—aren’t getting press or cameras. Kensington Palace, which should be taking up the bulk of the work in the face of Charles’s cancer treatments, has terrible comms strategies, making blunders minor celebrities with common sense would never go near. It’s a complete trainwreck.

Maybe this specific event will fizzle out in another couple months, and will mostly be forgotten by the end of the year. But I have seen nothing that convinces me that Buckingham or Kensington Palace have the endurance to keep up what they’re doing in the long term, or that they will learn from this. They haven’t yet.

A few links I enjoyed from the last monthish of the newsletter She’s a Beast (I think, a couple might have come from other newsletters):

A journalist tried resume spamming bots, with some level of success. Just another one of those feeling-glum-about-capitalism days.

Sports bras can restrict your breathing. I use sports bras as soft binding for gender reasons sometimes, so I wasn’t super surprised by this. The study in question seems to suggest that problems arise mostly during hard exercise and because bras get picked while people are at rest and not during most intense physical activity. Not sure how the average person should solve this one.

On boring problems: an essay considering the way problems change depending on age. Approaching 40 means thinking about this kind of thing a lot, so while it’s a bit of a bummer, I found value in having some level of my experience mirrored back at me.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how modern life requires reverse-engineering experiences more natural to the function of the human body and brain. A couple interesting links for this: How to rewild yourself, with an aim at reconnecting with nature, and Here’s how to rediscover your childlike wonder, which privileges awe and play as worthwhile experiences.

Also related to the above, the title of this article (The art of doing nothing: have the Dutch found the answer to burnout culture?) is misleading; I think it’s a better look at Dutch culture and its relationship to burnout than a broader remedy for the problem. That doesn’t bother me, though. I like seeing different cultures’ approaches to work.

The Case for a Paper Fitness Journal is a specific essay weighing demands of digital versus physical paperwork for fitness, but it’s broader more applicably. There are great uses for apps and programs to track a variety of things and topics. I’ve been using Obsidian lately for information management and broader project conceptualization. But for a lot of day-to-day work, little is more clear and specific than writing in a notebook. If it gets overwhelming, I only need to turn to the next blank page.

YouTubers broadly have their busiest season in November-December, and they will often take January or even February as time to rest and rebuild. The last month marked the return of a lot of temporarily dormant essayists to my subscriptions page. Here’s a quick glimpse at some recent videos essays (which you can read via the transcript on the page if you’re not adverse to flawed subtitles that are often auto-generated):

The Queer History of The Lord of the Rings by verilybitchie. I was really into the origins of Eowyn’s story.

The Rise and Fall of Muppet Cinema by Patrick (H) Willams. “Muppet Cinema” is mostly shorthand to refer to the period in film, especially the 80s, where puppets were a key element. I like the way the essay denotes CG as cartoons and puppets as theatrical without being dismissive about it. Different tools for different uses!

The American Idol Theme Park Experience by Defunctland. My big theme-park experiences in the last decade were all West-Coast Disneyland, which didn’t have this attraction, but I could absolutely imagine having an annual pass and deciding a day on a trip would be spent on this. Also a valuable look at American Idol as an IP. (So that’s what JLo’s been up to when she hasn’t been making movies.)

Saltburn: The Tumblr-ification of Cinema by Broey Deschanel. Excellent deconstruction of both Saltburn and the 1999 adaptation of The Talented Mr. Ripley, from which Saltburn takes a lot of its ideas without realizing why they were there.

Twilight by Contrapoints. The chapter titles say it all here; the essay uses Twilight to explore philosophical perspectives on fiction, desire (both related and unrelated to fiction), fantasy, power, death, and identity. I’m not sure I agree with every point here—and there’s a more glossing over of the racism baked into Twilight than I would have liked—but overall, a meaty three-hour essay that was exactly geared toward my tastes.

Hannah Montana’s Guide to Life Under Capitalism by Alexander Avila. Glad I watched this one before all the gossip about Miley’s family started making the rounds. I’ve been a big fan of deep dives on children’s sitcoms lately (see also: Quinton Reviews covering iCarly, Victorious, and Sam and Cat), and you can’t talk about Hannah Montana without talking about class. Also made me both laugh and unsettled by using AI politician voices to read quotes.

Rory Hume is a rainbow gay, cat whisperer, and concert swag addict.

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