4th of December: Peek behind the curtain

Apparently this isn’t even that much effort for me. “you just write some stuff and bash it out” I’m told. Rude.

Regardless, here we are. Short one again. I don’t even read books on the train so I don’t know where the time is going. Fallout Shelter and tweets I guess. Also my increasingly sharp ability to bin articles about American politics three paragraphs in. Which means I think we’re Trump-free this week?

“Gabriel in last month’s blog you made your song of the week the song like, four tracks above this on Frank Ocean’s album why are you so musically limited”. go away Self Control has at least three separately beautiful bits.

 

Let’s go.

  • Thought this was quite interesting on how airstrikes in Mosul are co-ordinated and called in. Reminds me of off-map abilities in computer games TBH. Sort of interesting (*horrifying) watching Aleppo and Mosul happen at the same time and be reported on so differently. Partly because Iraq does seem to be going about things more carefully, but also partly because Buzzfeed aren’t embedding with the S.A.A. anyway. Lots of bad stuff imo.
  • I thought I shared this before? I haven’t apparently but that’s odd. I think I thought it was really good, but it’s long so I’m not going to re-read it to check if the reason I didn’t previously include it was like, nine paragraphs in it descends into Nazi apologia or something. if so, soz*. Anyway it’s about that photo of the falling man on 9/11.
  • Good to remember, as we descend into ever-worse politics based around pandering to the construct of the white working class, that most of the past five years’ (and more obviously) bad politics have had a particularly heavy impact on women of colour.
  • I enjoyed this tale of divorce court and offshore courts a lot, partly because *whisper* it’s a little bit of what I do for a living, but also because it’s written up like a bit of a thriller. It’s gripping enough to sort of forestall the realisation that it’s just some gross rich people battling over the ill-gotten gains, which ruins it a bit.
  • This is Trump-adjacent, I guess, but it’s mostly on how queer communities built institutions and networks and all that to survive.
  • This report on how London drug gangs extend into the provinces is so bleak and grim.
  • Just an article about shirtless men and masculinity I guess? some bums included so maybe don’t click at work.
  • All that bad reporting on that study that made some men sterile the other week at least provoked this actually good article on obstacles to male birth control.**
  • This is quite cute on old iTunes’ star system. Reading it gave me a sudden flash of my old “5*” playlist (and I think, 3 and 4 *s ones, which… what’s the point of that?)
  • Tbh not sure I can be bothered encrypting such thrilling conversations as Wednesday’s standout “do we have milk shall I get some” but this is a little guide to the encrypted messaging app Signal if you’re into that kind of life.
  • Sam Diss has been on a roll at Shortlist recently (not that I’ve ever managed to find the hard copies) – first, a sort of sensitive and funny article with interviews about balding***, and second, this excellent response to a survey about lunchtime pints; Sam (with the consent of his editor) went out for more and more pints at lunch every day of the week to see how he coped. The dream.
  • Unexpectedly short but still decent little Pearl Harbour story.
  • What is the day after thanksgiving? IDC. Still some nice little descriptions of good fridge leftover-raiding.

And that’s your lot. Shoo.

*wanted to link to the good stephen merchant bit about soz but YouTube is an eternal disappointment

**turns out pharmaceutical companies are slugs! Who knew!

***though I hate one of the interviewees a *lot*. See if you can guess which one! (little bit of audience engagement for you there)

20th November: At some remove

Timing’s a bit weird on this one, I guess. The last instalment was immediately before the election, and had I posted last week I guess we all still would have been in shock slightly but now this feels like the world we live in. It doesn’t matter too much. I’ve done alright at maintaining my position of minimising the amount of American politics I read about. I’ve still found myself reading more post-mortems than I’d like before realising that life is short. All this pre-amble to say that I’ve tried not to make this list all about Trump.

I settled on the song of the week about ten days ago. There’s a post-election piece later in the list about Marvin Gaye and it made me download What’s Goin On again and TBH as an album it’s kind of… a lot of filler and mumbling? IDK I know it’s a classic. but the title track is just so good. So ‘ave a bit of that.

  • Here’s that good Marvin Gaye thing actually.
  • OK. Two American election #takes and that’s your lot. One of which, odds are you’ll already have seen because most of my regular readers know each other and the author so why bother sharing it? cos it’s good, lads, and contains the line “evil always wins”. Also this from Dan O’Sullivan is good I thought.
  • Think it was Men’s Day yesterday. This one is old, and I might have shared it the first time round, but still think it’s worth reading – on the stiff upper lip killing us lads.
  • Wonderful defence of libraries.
  • This is kind of long and probably states the obvious at times but it’s a good unpicking of the notion of Western civilization.
  • It’s jumper season I guess (so cold) – this is cute.
  • God, remember Neopets? It’s still there, but just… a bit weird.
  • Always here for writing 6,000 words too many on a TV program. This extended critique of Ross from Friends is good.
  • Kinda lovely bit of stuff about bars.
  • This did the rounds after Leonard Cohen died, on the rise of Hallelujah. Bonus: the undercurrent of vicious contempt for Jeff Buckley.
  • This is just like an extended write-up of a PR stunt, but when the PR stunt happens in zero gravity I guess it’s OK.
  • Kind of quietly beautiful this – Golby went back to where he grew up and just wandered around I guess. Got that sort of slight sense of alienation I get when you English people talk about your childhoods like these are all standard experiences. What’s wrong with just playing Morrowind imo.
  • Oobah (not even a proper name) continues his reign of terror at Vice – this time, spending a night out in London without spending anything.

That’s your lot. Bye. x

6th of November: Maybe all the writing was bad this fortnight?

I don’t know what I’ve been doing this fortnight, because I can’t read actual books on the way to work (ty, crowded commuter trains) so all I have is my online #content. Can only assume it’s all been rubbish this week and I have emerged, beaten and bloodied, with these precious gems from the rubble.

Not complaining, mind, I hate having to write up 30-odd articles for you all.  Also there’s no real obvious order here, minimising my workload even further. Delighted.

Song of the week is maybe the weirdest but maybe my favourite of Bon Iver’s new album. It’s a terrible lyric video but it’s technically official so idk.

  • I bought a poppy last week (couldn’t get it on to my coat so it remained in my desk drawer for two days) and felt conflicted about it, like I was letting “them” win. Among the many good critiques of the whole poppy Thing, this one on the Royal British Legion was good. IDK. I’ve managed to pin it on to my winter coat now but I still feel a bit self-conscious because “they” have ruined it.*
  • Thought this essay on black male sexuality in pop culture was incredible.
  • In all fairness, my brief fortnight in a call centre wasn’t anywhere near as bad as the ones depicted here, but I do think there’s interesting points made about the future of low-paid service work.
  • Beth’s columns are always worth reading – this one on how to care for/be a friend to someone with depression is particularly sweet and sensitive
  • I’ve already shared this one with my premium subscribers so IDK if anyone will actually be left to read it. Anyway, it’s by the New Girl showrunner and it’s kind of world-weary and funny but also sharp about sexual assault and how women talk about it to one another. IDK, it made me do some thoughts.**
  • Weirdly, I never really think of Latin Americans as a specific migrant community in London. Dan Hancox is good on how they’re particularly suffering under gentrification.
  • Who reads the small print? This guy (for a week)
  • This piece on the vegan youtuber community is wild (What an exhausting phrase)
  • I like this Ruby Tandoh piece on food and Instagram and how we consume today, but I have one objection, which has always puzzled me with pre-food photography – doesn’t it get cold?
  • On growing up and mum’s recipes
  • Finally, this one might be a bit niche if you haven’t been tangential to American “natsec” Twitter, but I’ve actually interacted briefly with this Caruso fella in the past and unfollowed him several times as it became clear he was a bit of a knob. So this forensic savaging of his record and his behaviour is delicious and brutal.

That’s your lot, lads. Soz. x

*this is, of course, the amorphous they who ruin everything good and pure. I might just mean “the English” here, tbh

**I’m the dad.

23rd of October: I want a fried egg

Trying to watch Red Dwarf in another window here but it’s not going well, and I want to go and get some breakfast so I’m phoning this one in a bit, lads. Unlike my usual labour of love.

  • Big chunk of war articles this week, what with their being a fair bit of warring going on. Two reports from Aleppo, one news, one more analytic, but a reminder that for all the horror, a no-fly zone is a bad, bad idea. Also thought this was a fairly good take on the breakdown of the ceasefire in Syria. And these two came out ahead of the battle of Mosul when it still looked like it would get ugly really fast. Touch wood, it’s still not become an ugly affair. One on the stakes of the battle, and one on the history of Mosul and its “character” I guess. Also, a report from Afghanistan, that other war there is.
  • Thoroughly bleak article on how British business was already struggling and bad by European standards even before Brexit came and sunk it all. And Aditya Chakrabortty puncturing some Brexit delusions. Also, a good, concrete plan to nationalise BAE systems so we don’t dedicate our only high-tech manufacturing capability to murdering people at funerals.
  • Why the SWP are bad and you shouldn’t attend their anti-racism events or carry their shit placards at demos.
  • This article, on why an honest policy on limiting emissions would mean no airport expansion at Heathrow or anywhere, seems thoroughly accurate and true but man, so depressing. I want mini-breaks.  :(
  • Some good war history on Dunkirk.
  • Also another good sceptical review of an exhibition about British imperialism.
  • FT, so let me know if you can’t get in, but thought this was interesting on how Berlin is dealing with gentrificiation in different ways.
  • While the surge in writing about mental health experiences seems positive mostly, I think this is an important critique of some common flaws in the genre. This is the second part, I imagine there’ll be a link provided to the first within.
  • This is a review of a film (Moonlight) I probably won’t see but it is beautiful writing on black masculinity.
  • I share stuff from The Guyliner fairly frequently, I think. On Coming Out Day, he shared this cute thing about his first kiss.
  • Absolutely bizarre profile of Tony Curtis in his old age.
  • Sort of getting to a point where I’m not even embarrassed anymore at Scrubs having been a formative influence on me. So this retrospective was fun.
  • More good gossip stuff – profile of a gossip expert.
  • This is kind of fascinating on a sort of less awful version of Omegle or all those camgirl websites. IDK it’s long and a bit NSFW but interesting.
  • This one is of interest only to me I reckon but an analysis of all the design decisions in Relic RTS games… such as Company of Heroes.

And that’s your lot, I’m off for a fry-up. xoxo

9th of October: You weren’t going to read until now anyway

Bit late this week, sorry. Also a bit short, as I’ve been on holiday so not consuming quite as much content as I usually do. All-round disappointment, really. Just use it for some post-sunday-lunch perusing.

Anyway.

Song of the week is off Frank Ocean’s new album, which isn’t really new anymore, but if you will insist on exclusivity windows for streaming services, I’m going to arrive late to the party. It’s good though. The Internet is all mediocre cover versions, so I assume the copyright lads are on top of it. Have a Spotify link.*

  • First off the bat is a piece I don’t actually think is that good? Clearly I had some motive for including it in the list but I think it’s mostly to make fun of it.** Basically, I think there’s interesting technical and strategic analysis of a near-future conflict in the Baltic Sea, which is worrying but worthwhile. But it’s framed around this sub-Clancy fiction which is kind of terrifying insofar as what it says about the psyches of all the people involved.
  • Pretty sustained, no-holds-barred piece on Blair’s legacy
  • Fairly surreal profile of Valentine Strasser, who (almost accidentally) became President of Sierra Leone aged 25 after a 1992 coup.
  • Long history of Cyprus and how (mostly) Britain has made a mess of it.
  • It’s worth reading this profile of a life-long forger just to get the context for the headline (“If I sleep for an Hour, 30 People Will Die”)
  • Second week running I’ve got an interesting piece just named after a “genre” of clothes. This, on ‘boyfriend’ clothes.
  • This story of a Scottish island community buying their land back and prospering is pretty cool.
  • This Emily Reynolds bit on how we experience cities through memory etc. was really interesting and resonated a lot, I think.
  • The Pizza Express/McDonalds theory of the Labour party authentocracy has been circulating on my Twitter timeline for a while. Adding Spoons into the mix might be a stretch but I love it.
  • Another great essay from The Good Immigrant on sex and tokenism. I’ve bought the book now so I’ll probably stop sharing them.
  • Rik what does the funny kitchen implement reviews went and did SAS training. IDK. it’s good though.
  • This is sort of poignant on European night trains and how they were accidentally killed off.
  • Speaking of killing off, this story from the frontlines of the war on rats is pretty great.
  • Megan Nolan writes so beautifully.
  • Retelling Big from the mother’s point of view changes the whole film.
  • I know I complained about Fresher’s advice lists last week but I promise this one is worthwhile.
  • this is spectacular:

*was thinking of expanding this feature into a little fortnightly Spotify playlist, and I might still do so but cba this morning.

**IMO I’d just give up reading this week, come back on the 23rd***

***please don’t go away

25th of September: Wrestling With Chrome

Chrome is crashing constantly so compiling this week’s list has been like pulling teeth. Just so you know the effort I go to for you.

I’ve been listening to Runaway a lot recently, more so than I have in ages, and it’s so good. But also, my thumb keeps slipping on Spotify and giving me the other Runaway. Which is also kind of really good too? Which is nice cos normally when you slip and pick the wrong song on Spotify it’s a stupid string quartet cover version.

  • Kind of grimly interesting on how the US government has reformed its approach to the families of hostages
  • Among certain circles, British decolonisation and counterinsurgency is sort of held up as a model of “hearts and minds” COIN. This history of the brutal and sordid war in Malaya sort of punctures that eight billion times.
  • Speaking of sordid! We’re still selling arms to Saudi Arabia and contorting ourselves into knots to justify it. I wish I had been writing my dissertation this year rather than last year this is much juicier than “technically India was doing some mass killings in the 90s”.
  • This refugee housing project in Athens is kind of inspiring and nice.
  • Little reappraisal of the blitz from Richard Overy, probably interesting to me and me alone but oh well it’s my blog
  • So another author came out with a high profile and misguided intervention about appropriation and identity politics that I didn’t bother to engage with because life is so short, like I feel death’s cold hand on my shoulder every time I consider wasting my time with these rants. But anyway there were a couple of measured responses at least – from Nesrine Malik and Jia Tolentino.
  • New book out this week, The Good Immigrant, sounds interesting and valuable. Conveniently, loads of the essays contained in it have been published elsewhere. You’ve probably seen this thing by Riz Ahmed on airport security, it’s good. And this by Kieran Yates on being in between two worlds is really great.
  • Kinda beautiful little story about working as a cleaner I guess?
  • Oh god why am I reading and sharing U.S election stuff again death’s cold hand is tight on my shoulder – anyway. Seen a lot of disingenuous shit about young people being about to hand the election to Trump. This was quite sharp on the bad logic of those calls.
  • This is nuanced and interesting about porn. It’s in The New Yorker! So it’s classy and refined, but it is about porn so IDK careful where you click.
  • On [ugh] athleisure. But actually pretty fascinating on evolving vestimentary norms and class and gender and stuff and also yoga pants.
  • Had never heard of the Lucas Plan, tellingly. Sounds amazing.
  • Honestly this is kind of US-centric from the title on down but it’s a little bit of an amazing tirade against autumn or “fall”. It’s good.
  • ugh Freshers’ content.* But this is actually Emily Reynolds being really good and gentle on taking care of your head when you leave for university and I probably wish I had had it in 2011. Alas I am not followed by many youths so this is not really saving a life. Also this little bit of #content was quite amusing and #relatable and I hate everything.**
  • There’s a bit in here where someone suggests deporting the whole UCL campus to the countryside. Not unrelated to my previous point on Freshers, but I say to that plan: good. Anyway it’s important and eye-opening on cycling infrastructure and how much of an uphill struggle reforms to make London more liveable are. Also it’s about that god-awful road that runs through UCL so some nostalgia value for all my alumni readers.
  • This is lovely. Literally just eighty million words by someone out to drink their first ever coke but it’s so good.
  • Stumbled across this very cool and pretty website, Roads & Kingdoms the other day. Largely travel writing, I think. Worth having a trawl through this it’s all kind of fascinating. I pulled out this one about a ruined palace in Kabul and this one about meal planning in the Antarctic.
  • Sort of bleak account of Real Madrid’s (and I imagine other clubs’) youth academy
  • I liked this by Carl Anka on the value of the player character in the new FIFA being a black guy.
  • Some nerdery here on how Wales played the FIFA rankings to set themselves up for the Euros.
  • Cool tribute to The Blueprint, fifteen years on.
  • This “history” of Use Your Illusion seems to mostly just be quotes from Slash’s autobiography which is disappointing but still.
  • Don’t think I’ve ever read something properly about Kanye and 50 Cent’s rivalry but this is cool.
  • IDK, art. On the one hand the story of this woman who sought out famous photographers to take her picture is bizarre and interesting, but on the other, *fart noises*
  • Is Usher making a comeback? That’d be nice, I miss him.
  • Deep dives on celebrity gossip news are so compelling to me IDK why. On the end of Brangelina [ugh].
  • This article needed about fifty more photos of cool book covers because book covers are great but still quite interesting on re-editions and re-brandings of old-ass classics.
  • There’s probably a more mature response to all these luxury flat owners complaining that the Tate’s viewing platform overlooks their apartment but my main reaction is “lol rekt”. Sorry.

That’s that! Have a lovely Sunday! xx

*I wish some of the lowest parts of my life weren’t tied up with such regularly re-hashable forms of content. Every September, till I die probably? I’ll be compelled to read more shit lists and relive the whole sorry time.

**I was the keen little nerd that set up a Facebook group for Max Rayne house before leaving for university. Don’t know why. I remember developing deep and abiding hatreds of several people in my halls of residence that never really faded and don’t think I ever got anything positive out of the group. Just a little bit of fun anecdote for you there, loyal readers.

September 11th: Convenient

There’s an actual 9/11 piece in the list this week, which I guess appeared online because of the anniversary so it’s not that much of a weird coincidence. Anyway I’ve been up since 8 (I miss curtains) and just been dreading writing this one up all morning. Have been reading blogs not books on the commute recently, so the list is just ballooning, it’s vile. As such, let’s get right to it.

Think I listened to this song three times on the way home last night, having hardly heard it since I was about 14? It’s possibly tacky but I love it dearly* so have some Stevie.

  • War on the Rocks ending up publishing a sort of debate series on sectarianism in Iraq and Syria and the Assad regime and all sorts that I read in completely the wrong order and in too scattered a fashion to really summarise and process and judge the arguments, but if you’re interested in that kind of thing, there are worse things to spend half an hour going through. It started with this two-part article on how sectarian divides in Syria and Iraq are misunderstood and abused by policymakers, then there was a rebuttal on Syria, and finally a kind of fascinating look at how the Syrian regime has crumbled into militias and warlords.
  • This is a very long piece on the French war on terror, in French, that took me the best part of a morning to read (turns out gyms aren’t conducive to speed-reading) but is also worthwhile. Ignore the annoying hashtag jokes, France is like that sometimes.
  • Have you been complacent about the Korean peninsula as the source of our doom recently? Me too, but their latest nuclear test is a scary thing.
  • Decent write-up of Dilma’s ouster
  • Another scary place! The new Filipino president is kind of terrifying and this story on his drug war is… damn.
  • Speaking of the war on drugs, Fabric, eh? eh? I never went to Fabric and probably would have hated it** but what a bleak story. Whole lot of good stuff got written mourning it to some extent this week. Shortlist and Thump tied it into how London is not for the young anymore. Sadiq’s depressingly ineffectual role, here. And the drug angle, here. Reminder – the police investigation into the club was called Operation Lenor. ugh.
  • Meanwhile, look at these perplexingly sober kids at Reading festival this year.
  • On the misguided criticisms of “””””””milennials””””””” for spending frivolously instead of wisely saving up for ??????.
  • FFS there are four articles on British politics this week I’m ashamed. After Theresa May’s ascent to power, there was a sort of “oh thank god a competent leader” vibe – I’m glad Abi took the time here to question that. A cool Aditya Chakrabortty piece on teaching assistants in Durham organizing in protest against vile contract changes. The rare piece that could do with doubling in length, on how Harlow is processing the recent murder of a Polish man.  Finally, even as I am eternally grateful to have turned 18 a year after the 2010 election*** this is kind of an interesting interview with Nick Clegg.
  • Look I really like the Imperial War Museum because I’m a little ghoul child with the ability to suppress my politics for the sake of convenience and also because there’s a T-34 and a Sherman just parked in it and that’s cool. But this savaging of how much propaganda is baked into the permanent exhibits is accurate and necessary I guess. tanks tho.
  • Over-long, possibly, and IDK what I make of all of the arguments, but an actual unique and thought-out and informed take on the burkini debate by an actual muslim woman is worth reading anyway.
  • Christ there’s something surreal and terrifying about this piece on sexual assault on long-haul flights.
  • Also terrifying – Bridget Minamore being very good on the fear of walking home alone at night and the makeshift weapons and safety rituals women have to create. Side-note, I finally got around to watching Bridget doing some poetry reading and it was actually good which is weird cos poetry. Check it out, it’s funny and sharp.
  • So here’s that 9/11 piece. I think I was old enough to remember 9/11 but it’s basically just been an event that has shaped the world I lived in more than an actual concrete thing I can remember. Reckon that’s why it’s always so compelling reading about the minute-to-minute experience of people who were there in some capacity. This oral history of Air Force One on 9/11 is even more fascinating! It mixes the standard fascinating personal responses people had with the high-level political stuff and man I was reading this on the way to the pub last night and considered waiting outside just to finish it it’s gripping.
  • Interesting study of what made the British intervention in Sierra Leone work.
  • Don’t forget, antibiotic-resistant beasties are gonna fuck us all up! And it’ll be chicken’s fault.
  • This was kind of fun about Tindering across Europe. (remember Tinder?)
  • On the superstitious rituals we have with technology.
  • Putting Deliveroo and Uber in a hundred-year history of scientific management systems is interesting (lmk if you can’t get through the paywall here)
  • Kinda still hope robots will save us all, but why would anything good happen? “the future will kill us all”
  • Bit overblown, bit US-centric, bit overlong, but quite cutting on foodie delusions. And on that note, this compelling profile of an absolutely bizarre restaurant stunt lie thing had me kind of bemused for a good while.
  • Absolutely fuming that Wikipedia isn’t actually skint tbh
  • Lovely profile of lovely Chance the Rapper
  • Having played games on shitty computers most of my life, let me tell you – it isn’t worth it. But this fella’s interesting, taking it to absolute extremes.
  • Michelangelo’s David might just topple over jsyk. Really liked this piece.
  • This week’s good-ass sports-writing is on O Fenomeno. Beautiful.
  • This week’s good-ass food-writing is on hot chicken in Nashville. I don’t even like fried chicken! but wow it’s good.
  • Sweet explanation of the joys of Let’s Plays and watching people play computer games on the internet.
  • Figs are really weird!
  • Don’t know if I’ve shared it before but I think Ed is almost at the end of his “Winning the Lottery with Nicolas Cage” ordeal and it’s worth browsing his archive.
  • Finally, Hussein Kesvani is good on the bleakness of the gym.

*also the missus is on holiday so she won’t see this and ruthlessly mock my taste. was tempted to put up something off the new Carly Rae Jepsen album to take maximum advantage of the freedom.

**all the tributes left me feeling some weird kind of way, like when I read about the British teenage experience or what university is like for people who didn’t dislike it and I just feel a bit like I’ve got my face pressed up against the glass, bemused at other people’s lives. idk. don’t read my footnotes imo

***somehow the knowledge that I would have definitely voted Lib Dem and regretted it feels less embarrassing than it would be to have actually done so and regretted it. slim consolation tbh