30th of March: Totally Intentional Delay

Sorry about last week – was away, which also means there were a lot more articles in my bookmark folder this week. To keep this manageable I deleted basically anything that even mentioned Ukraine, and that halved them, which does suggest my reading is a bit monotonous at the moment. Still plenty of good stuff ahead. Going with an easy Serious-Fun spectrum this week, so no sub-headings – enjoy.

  • A piece in the Spectator on how fucked Libya continues to be. I was ready to put this one in my snark folder, but it’s actually quite good, which is stunning because it’s the Spectator.
  • Quite a good summary on the Monkey Cage of why states care about the principle of territorial integrity
  • Great long piece bouncing between the story of US support for former Chadian President Hissène Habré and the decades-long struggle to bring him to justice at Foreign Policy
  • Probably the only interesting piece on MH370 I’ve read – ignores all the conspiracies and all the horror of plane crashes and uses it to look at state capacity in the area
  • This, at the LRB*, is good on how Assad encouraged jihadi networks to use Syria as a base for activities in Iraq, the same networks now leading the fight against him. D’oh.
  • Worthwhile summary of the tedious “does aid work” debate that actually takes a look at what the question is actually asking
  • Very cool in that “both inspiring and depressing” account of a massive fusion energy project in my old neck of the woods
  • I’m a sucker for nice pieces about Brazil and this happens to a) be one of those, b) have a nice paragraph, and c) be written by the excellent Musa Okwonga. Check it.

Few articles on family and parents and stuff coming up.

  • First, this from Alex Andreou over on the Guardian is a nice reversal of the standard concern about adults living with their parents.
  • This at the New Yorker is beautiful and sad by a guy grieving for his father.
  • On a similar note, this article draws on being taught about the author’s father’s experiences in Vietnam through films to ask why the same doesn’t happen with games

 

Buzzfeed lists being the universal symbol of frivolity, I’m using one to mark the transition to the light half of the list.

  • Season Three of Veep (my review of the first two seasons here) starts next week (on the same day as Mad Men and Game of Thrones!) and this is a nice reminder of some of its better insults. Also, pictures of JLD are never unwelcome.
  • Discovered Hannibal Buress the other week and he’s great – this interview is OK but also features a couple of great clips – the one about New Orleans is brilliant: 

 

  • Another thing I’m a sucker for is defences of Kanye – this one is more about Kim, but it articulated why I quite like her, as well as being very interesting on the role of Vogue and the fashion media
  • This is long, and quite old (it sat in my Pocket queue for months), but is a really cool investigation into those famous Monopoly escape kits POWs got in WW2.
  • What with the TV show coming back soon, for those of you who have read the books, this seems to be a good time to recommend The Meereenese Blot, an aSoIaF analysis blog which has so far featured really interesting series on Dany, Jon, Tyrion, and most recently, the Martells.
  • Finally, I had forgotten just how much I loved this album as a youth, so this was a welcome reminder of how great Confessions was.

And there we go, just over 600 words. Maybe I should maintain the “Ukraine filter” for another couple of weeks until we all move onto the next crisis. Have a great week x

*might be paywalled by now – I’ve got a copy saved in case

PS: Like those annoying pre-credits trailers that spoil upcoming episodes, I just found this gif in my bookmarks for reasons unclear and I’m teasing a new feature – articles that are so irritating that all I can do is hand them over to Kanye:

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16th of March: Redesign

Bit of an aesthetic shake-up this week. Charlie pointed me towards another blog, A View From The Cave, doing a similar type of review piece as a template, and I’m going to shamelessly nick it. Obviously though, you should check it out – I’ve even linked two separate weeks. We’re going sparse bullet-pointed lists and occasional flashy media embeds today, people. Let me know what you think.

Opening with a song from my most-played this week for you to have on in the background – an old classic from Jorge Ben Jor that I rediscovered recently.

 

International Relations and Security Stuff

  • If you’re not bored of reading commentators dissect the Crimea situation, these two are good on the vapid media response, and this is strong on the politics of annexation
  • This is a nice interview with the author of this piece – War on the Rocks’ 5 Questions feature is always worth checking out
  • This piece is a gentle and very evidence-based critique of the campaigning around Syria at the moment. On which note, can I just indulge in a bit of mean-spirited judging and link you to this delightful Twitter exchange? Sunny Hundal, people
  • This a thoughtful post from Jay Ulfedler (with lots of good links within it) on what an uptick in incidences of state mass killings last year means
  • Few weeks ago I posted an article defending the F-35, then I read this absolute savaging of the whole program and now I’m lost. See what you think, but it’s pretty damning stuff.

Serious Miscellany

Finished Season 4 of The Wire this week so these seemed relevant

  • Two of them are by Jamelle Bouie over at The Daily Beast. This, on the dog-whistly euphemism that is “inner-city poverty” and the GOP’s bad solutions, led to this introduction to some of the nasty policy decisions that “built the ghetto” as he puts it.
  • Meanwhile, this is quite a sad account, from a guy who lost his job for bullshit reasons, of what working in retail can be like

Development and aid isn’t my area really so I’ll point you over to the blogs linked in the introduction who specialise in it. Still;

  • This is an interesting report on what Invisible Children (of #Kony2012 fame) are up to now. One of my first, and most successful posts on here, was about that campaign when it was happening, so this was sort of enlightening. Worth reading anyway.
  • Another report on a charity – sponsoring Haitian kids. This one toes the line of being a bit white saviour-y but is nicely-enough written
  • Finally, not only was there more mass killing last year, but just generally more humanitarian disasters, to the point where the system can’t cope. So that’s nice.
  • I like Clive Martin and this Vice piece from him on masculinity on modern-day in Britain is funny. Still, I also like Ally Fogg and I think he makes some fair criticisms here so read both.
  • Another Vice piece (and it’s very Vice), about a tourist’s horrid experience with Tanzanian police that is properly strange and I’m not sure how I feel about it to be honest. Read it, but it’s kind of fucked.
  • This is a nice piece defending Pope Francis’ actions under the military dictatorship if only just to be reminded how fucking horrid the those regimes were. On that note, this is a nice reminder from Patrick Iber that things do get better:  

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  • Closing out this section is this fascinating but fucking long (it took me two days commute to finish it) by Andrew O’Hagan, who was meant to ghost Julian Assange’s autobiography.

Popular Culture stuff

  • There’s not much point in me linking to weekly recaps,  but this is an exceptionally good one by Todd Van der Werff on the Mad Men Season One finale. I’m even more excited for next month now. This feature on Elizabeth Moss (Peggy) is also worth reading.
  • A good feature on Anita Sarkeesian and how fucking depressing it must be to be trying to change video-game culture for the better.
  • Nice account of the TwitchPlaysPokemon thing here.
  • I actually played Hotline Miami this summer while listening to a lot of Yeezus. I never thought to combine the two – this article suggests doing just that. The article is really good, the idea less so (but it did inspire me to reinstall Hotline I guess)
  • A nice feature on Jay-Z that is really old but I got linked to it through the less interesting Pharrell one this week so it’s going here. Also just reminded me of this one written by Zadie Smith which I read ages ago but is great.
  • This is sweet on how a little girl’s comic got picked up by the community
  • A remix of the rap from this week’s Community – utterly delightful.
  • Science is fucking weird:

 

😦

This week was a bad one for left-wing heroes, so I’d just like to end this on a sad note, raising a glass to Bob Crow and Tony Benn, on who this tribute by my old professor Phillippe Marliere is very good, but in French (because I’m a dick).

<850 words!

9th of March: Pushback

Yet another week that’s been overflowing with comment pieces, but unfortunately, events haven’t really developed, so they’ve started to eat each other bit in that delightful way the commentariat goes from commenting on events to commenting on previous comments.

This week’s collection will be broadly divided in two – Ukraine, and “other things” – with other things going from the War on Terror to Jennifer Lawrence, via nuclear war and 12 Years a Slave. So if you’re sick of hearing about Ukraine just skip ahead. The Ukraine segment I’m going to rush through a tad, if only because these articles are starting to blend together. I’ve done a fair bit of quality control though so they are all worth reading if you want to be presented with a picture of the situation in Ukraine that agrees with my political leanings.*

Ukraine

Vague sub-division here into pieces that lean on the domestic angle, pieces that focus on how Russia done fucked up, pieces that look at the international response, and pieces that tear into David Cameron (my favourite kind of piece.)

Part of the problem as someone with literally no knowledge of Ukraine beyond that scene in Seinfeld is distinguishing the propaganda from reality when it comes to ethnic divisions etc. I come to you not with answers, but  a few different pieces coming at it in different way. This, from a Ukrainian (important) rejects the divisions quite firmly. On a similar note, Timothy Snyder of Bloodlands fame is very critical of the Russian line. Unfortunately  his criticism obscures some unpleasant fascist realities, which this article pushes back on, without aping Kremlin talking points. Also, Jay Ulfedler** has an interesting and honest post on calling a coup a coup and what that means for our responses.

A few articles now highlighting how this was a move made out of weakness from Putin’s part, not some elaborate chess-game gambit. A lot of the commentary (from idiots) has veered towards “big manly Vlad made fools of us wimpy Westerners again” which …ugh.

This is an important piece on all the distinct levels the above logic fails on – if Putin were to call the hawks’ bluff that’d mean war with Russia, which they don’t openly advocate, but it’s hard to reconcile that with their fear of making empty threats.

Hopefully we can all agree on nuclear war being an inappropriate response to a minor border war – still, here are a whole pile of articles arguing for different levels of response from the international community, as well as a few defences of the (unfairly) reviled ‘reset’ policy.

Two articles on the UK role in this all. I’m generally critical of UK commentary on international relations, but this is good – there’s an implicit assumption that “something must be done” which I dislike, but it’s implicit. Also this from the NYT is absolutely killer. “Britain’s ruling class has decayed not just to the point where Cameron is considered a man of exceptional talent” is never not a welcome idea.

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Finally, because I do love a bit of Putin hilarity, this picture is great. Also, your weekly reminder (never done this before but might make it a feature) that John McCain is the worst.

Other Things

Now, the world moves on despite all eyes being on Crimea (no articles on the South China Sea this week!). This is an interesting interview with Barack Obama on his Middle-East policy. I’m pretty sure the author isn’t known for being a fan of Barry’s, so it’s worth reading the full interview, but the summary isn’t actively dishonest or anything.

This article toes the line in between useful caution and perpetuating the paranoid mentality of the War on Terror, but it’s worth checking out just as a reminder that Bin Laden’s death wasn’t, unfortunately, the end. Of course, whether that necessitates another ten years of country-destroying, mass-killing, budget-busting, occupations is hopefully not up for debate.

Speaking of mass-killing expensive things, this is one of those amazing and deeply confusing articles about weird nuclear weapons – this time air-to-air missiles.

This article is a very powerful description of living under rape culture, which sells it short TBH so just read it. Similarly, this article is more light-hearted, but still important, on the specific issues of how we see black women, as seen through the rise of Lupita Ngony’o.

Speaking of whom, this article, partly a response to the one last week about Lawrence, is an interesting look at the role of “It” Girl as it seems to move from Jennifer to Lupita.

All of which peaked, of course, with the Oscars. A couple of great articles on the deserved Best Picture winner, 12 Years a Slave – one is old, I think, but topical enough.

Two very fun accounts of the Oscars from a bit of an outsiders’ perspective that toe the line of bragging without becoming dickish.

This really is old but it was doing the rounds on Twitter again and I had been wondering about what was going on in Elephant & Castle, so here’s this critique of gentrification in London. I think Novara Media did a show on this recently too, though haven’t heard it myself.

Final stretch. This is good on Clementine, the wonderful star of the best part of The Walking Dead franchise – the game (when has that ever happened).

Finally for real this time, and I worry that this might mark an irrevocable decline in the credibility of the links here, but at the risk of becoming your grandmother who sends you cute upworthy links (it’s not off upworthy, don’t fret), this is adorable and doubles as Brazilian propaganda so how could I not? Neymar killing it.

*I started writing an actual post about Ukraine that would collate all these links in a more coherent narrative but I am fucking awful at having thoughts of my own so it can wait

**whose blog is very cool and who was also very kind when I asked for some help with my dissertation, so check him out

[I make this one to be just under a thousand words again. Is this still too long for people? Open to suggestions etc.]

2nd of March: Overtaken by Events

Just as I was learning how to keep it short the world became really interesting and scary and I ended up with about thirty links to share with you all. I’ll bring back the sub-headings this week so you can skip over the sections that interest you less. Here we go!

The rise of China and the shrinking of the US Army

In the wake of the proposals for cuts to the US defence budget (probably overdue), a couple of articles on why the scaremongering is overstated and we shouldn’t be too concerned that the US will be crippled by them. On the other hand, an article arguing that Chinese defence spending has been underestimated, making them a much more plausible rival, which is just enough to inject a little fear. An article here argues that the US is pursuing a more robust policy in the South China Sea, which is probably for the best so long as it acts as more of a deterrent than a provocation. Finally, this from War on the Rocks is interesting on how the USA can maintain the Pax Americana through seapower.

Ukraine.

This is moving so ridiculously quickly that I deleted most of what I bookmarked earlier in the week because events had left them behind.  Still, a couple of pieces that predate the Russian intervention in Crimea. This is a really cool account of the tactics of the Maidan protesters. This article on Russian foreign policy is very prescient.

Onto the actual events of the past couple of days. Over at the New Republic, Julia Ioffe has a really scary but plausible (and delightfully pessimistic) take on Putin’s politics which leaves an invasion of more Ukrainian territory a real possibility. On the other hand, this article points out that even though Ukraine will find it hard to defend the Crimean peninsula militarily, they have plenty of means to make any Russian annexation difficult there.

Meanwhile, as far as Western responses go – Admiral Stavridis outlines some actions that NATO could take (which are uncomfortably escalatory), Stephen Saideman, a NATO expert, points out why NATO inaction is quite likely, and Hayes Brown suggests non-military responses that could be taken. Booting Russia out of the G8 seems like a no-brainer (and it seems to be in process – cf. Obama’s call to Putin). Finally, and I thought this day would never come, but Nick Cohen’s column last week makes half a good point in this regard (he ruins it with some standard Cohen drivel though) – we should look at targeting foreign leaders with sanctions (perhaps extending the Magnitsky Law would help). At the New York Times, this article is a good reminder of the fact that ultimately there aren’t that many options. Neverthless, this other New York Times piece makes a convincing argument to keep these things in perspective, which is a welcome antidote to all the “PUTIN SO CLEVER HUMILIATING THE WEST” panic.

Also while it’s very serious and could get quite scary soon, this Buzzfeed list is a funny reminder of what a skilled troll Putin is.

Race in America

A couple of great pieces here on the persistence of racism in the USA, one from Jamelle Bouie responding to some utter fuckwittery from Bill O’Reilly, and, at long last, a piece from Ta-Nehisi Coates who is always brilliant, but particularly so here.

LGBT Activism

A powerful speech (transcribed) here from @piercepenniless on LGBT history, and an interesting article on libcom on the problems with some of the responses to Russia homophobia.

Miscellaneous Seriousness

I normally put the uncategorised pieces at the end but I feel like coming after a bunch of videogame links would trivialise these.

An article from Moazzam Begg, who has been detained again this week, from a while back, on what seems to be some pretty dirty state harassment, as well as a condemnation of Birtish policy on Syria.

Speaking of which, an uncharacteristically optimistic piece on the future of the Syrian civil war – emphasising that the solution will have to come from Syrians, but how bringing in veterans of past civil wars could inspire a peaceful solution.

A good piece from The Best of Possible Worlds (more Candide to come) about world hunger and the apparently self-defeating behaviour of the extreme poor.

This at Comment is Free is a bang-on condemnation of those bizarre Brazil T-shirts from Adidas.

James Ball at the Guardian has an amazing feature on the fucking surreal ceremony at the heart of the internet’s functioning. I had no idea about this system or any of it and it’s insane – well worth reading.

Bumper segment on videogames!

Over at Eurogamer, this is an interesting piece on why procedurally-generated storytelling in games is probably a bit of a dead end.

This piece on the Last of Us DLC (I’ve neither played it or the original but still) is really good at capturing the importance of video-games having female protagonists. It’s very easy to dismiss the significance of representation in player-character options as a straight white bloke but this is powerful and hard to ignore.

I always read accounts of the latest enormous, thousands-of-dollars-destroying, war in EVE:Online with bafflement, and the author of this piece starts from the same place as me and goes on a really interesting investigation into the game. Still very confused about EVE, but it sounds as cool/boring as ever.

Speaking of boring things, most of what happened around Flappy Bird left me cold, but this is a great defence of the developer, and it gets the last chapter of Voltaire’s Candide right which makes me love it.

Miscellany

An interesting Buzzread (ugh) about the ‘cool girls’ that came before Jennifer Lawrence.

Finally, a very intriguing argument at The New Inquiry suggesting that the way social media and the internet have fragmented teenage identities have had a big effect on how peer pressure and cliques and all those things I’ve been seeing in Freaks and Geeks operate.

And we’re done! No footnotes this week. Managed to keep it under a thousand words, pretty proud.