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Window in Fremont, Seattle. 
Hi there, and welcome back to the Monthly Missive. In the last 6-9 months, I've noticed a huge increase in the number of people starting up regular newsletters. I've been doing this thing since early 2014 (and I was by no means the first person to do it), but 3 and a bit years is enough time to get bored. I wondered, would anyone notice this thing if I sent it out less often? I took it off the monthly schedule and almost instantly, open rates plummeted. Looks like you guys like your emails regularly, and on a Sunday night. I was right all along. So here we are - from now on this thing will land on the last Sunday night of the month. 
You can save anything in her to read later in Pocket, and email me at sophie@sophiebenjamin.com. 

ON A THEME


IN SOVIET RUSSIA, HISTORY LEARNS YOU
My grandmother and her parents fled Ukraine when she was eight years old because of Stalin and the holodomor (an artificial famine Stalin masterminded to wipe out 4 million ethnic Ukrainians). She was supposed to have five siblings, but she only has one who made it to adulthood, and this is why. This is a great article about the journo who tried to alert the West as to the atrocities that were happening, and the journo who sucked up to Stalin and helped him get away with it. 

Fifty years after the holodomor, a single Soviet engineer managed to avert nuclear war by keeping a cool head and making sure the systems monitoring missiles weren't just displaying a bug. He recently died, and this Guardian profile shows how powerful a single decision can be.

That story is kind of the opposite of what is happening with smartphones and social media now -- the power they have over our dumb lizard brain is staggering. In this article, The man who helped invent Facebook's "like" button explains his mixed feelings about it now, and the dark power of devices. On a similar tack, I liked this article on how the rise of American department store Sears from mail order catalogue to shopfront lays out exactly what Amazon is planning to do. 

ROSES ARE RED, VIOLETS ARE BLUE, ASPIRATIONAL CULTURE IS KILLING YOU
I am not a parent, but I imagine pretty sure most people do not want to say stuff to their children like "look, life is a bit shit sometimes and you have to be able to deal with it, sorry I brought you into this mess, darling." It's not a fun or easy thing to sell. I've been reading about  women's midlife crises, this one about how women who have been raised to lean in and achieve are seeing what their mothers have had to put up with and saying "fuck it", and of course, just in case there wasn't anything left for women to feel guilty about, how trying to prevent your kid from feeling bad is fucking them up

AUSTRALIA'S MENTAL HEALTH SYSTEM
Actually getting mental health care in Australia is a crapshoot, as anyone who has given it a go can attest. This piece on Pedestrian collects a bunch of stories from people who've had trouble with the system, and point out that the big problem is that someone has to be really sick before they can get treatment. Imagine if you couldn't get diabetes treatment until you were in a coma and just about ready to have a limb amputated? As it is, the private system has to pick up the slack, but you can't get into private hospitals without hefty co-payments unless you have top-tier cover, as the ABC details.

KELELA IS MY FAVE MUSICAL DISCOVERY OF THE PAST 12 MONTHS
I've written about Kelela in this newsletter before, and am happy to report her new album Take Me Apart lives up to the hype. I've really been enjoying the interviews with Kelela and profile piece accompanying the album promo -- her takes on artistry, fashion, privilege, the music industry and social justice as a marketing trend are all worth reading. Try this one, this one and this one

BORDER COLLIES ARE MY FAVOURITE KIND OF DOG 
"What a border collie taught a linguist about language" has confirmed my suspicions that our family border collie Jack understands every single word we say to him, and it is not a coincidence that he ignores any family member who teases him about getting fat, and would go and find our (sadly now dearly departed) elderly and deaf terrier and bring her back to Mum when she'd say "Jackie, go and get Abby for dinner". 

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