25th of May: A Change of Kanye

Song of the week is from Julian Casablancas’ under-rated solo album Phrazes of the Young. I remember the first time I heard it, sprawled on sofa, high off the thrill of two bottles of Heineken and being with a girl I wouldn’t realise didn’t feel the same way for about an hour longer. Oh to be 17. Anyway, come for the bittersweet reminiscing, ignore the daft lyrics, and stay for the transcendent solo*.

With that, let’s head off at a rather brisk pace as there are like thirty links this week. ugh, sorry. this is the best reading of two flights and two days of class so.

  • First off, couple of interesting pieces on China-US-Russia relations here. One, from Foreign Affairs, predicting a complicated threesome. However, this good voxplainer from Zack Beauchamp reminds us why the China-Russia alliance we’re all afraid of isn’t imminent.
  • I avoid domestic politics as best I can, but this from Lenin’s Tomb, is good on how poorly Labour are doing considering how well they should be, and this is important on how Ukip represent a xenophobia that isn’t as fringe an attitude as we like to think in Britain
  • On a similar note, first Ta-Nehisi Coates piece of the week on how the ‘outrageous’ racists like Donald Sterling help respectable racism continue its far more damaging work
  • There was another backlash against trigger warnings this week. Laurie Penny and Zoe Stavri in defence of them – Zoe delightfully irritable as ever, and an interesting piece looking at why people get so affronted by the request
  • If I had read this any other week, this would be the stand-out piece of the list so please read it. Especially if you’re a reasonably privileged straight chap like me, it is a super illuminating, moving piece on what it is like to receive homophobic abuse in the street and just like. Go.
  • Not keen on the interventionist tendency Samantha Power is associated with, but I do like her as UN ambassador. This speech on the Syria-ICC res. getting vetoed is killer.
  • Don’t think I’ve ever intentionally read the Figaro but this is actually a very fair piece (in French) on the disconnect between France’s military budget and the role it wants to play in the world. A lot of it is applicable to the UK.
  • #Kony2012 was awful, guys. Good piece questioning the logic of US involvement in the search for Kony.
  • Great article placing Boko Haram in the context of hundreds of years of Nigerian history
  • This is the fifth article in a series of five (links to previous parts in the header) over at War on the Rocks about a group of US aid workers (ish) in Iraq in April 2004 as shit hit the fan in a big way. It’s a bit over-written, a bit too much dramatic irony (LITTLE DID HE KNOW WHAT WAS COMING NEXT) but very interesting all the same.
  • Really cool article on the Fermi Paradox which I’m going to pretend I knew about before reading it.
  • Powerful as fuck writing on the 9/11 memorial museum. Understated, personal, surreal. Go. And this still isn’t the stand-out of the week.
  • Thought I posted this last week – really good, optimistic article on how online communities can curb online abuse
  • Interesting feature on the history of the five-a-day guideline
  • Cool piece on how Napoleon is viewed in contemporary France. Wish I remembered Quatrième history better but I didn’t listen for the whole of the 19th Century I think.
  • Lots of emailing for dissertation and job apps has shown me the wisdom of this piece suggesting an end to email sign-offs.
  • This site is a lifesaver, letting you know which episodes of TV series you can skip and I hope they expand to all the other programs I feel like I missed out on. Skipping half of the episodes released has given me a great opinion of Agents of SHIELD
  • This blog can be grim sometimes. Have a Buzzfeed list of adorable pictures of Barack Obama with kids
  • Two interesting takes on superhero films and blockbusters and stuff – one critical, one not entering into a neat dichotomy
  • I’ve got a lot of amorphous thoughts on before-last week’s Louie and the “fat girl” speech and I probably won’t write them down. But though I don’t agree all the way, this is an interesting criticism
  • Funny account of a craft beer festival in London that sounds the worst
  • For Mad Men fans, writers, and TV people – great, long, interview with Matt Weiner. Added bonus for people in my class in high school – he makes The Wasteland references, thus validating all the long hours spent on it.
  • In light of that bizarre Far Cry 4 cover released recently, this got reposted about the failings of Far Cry 3 despite its stated good intentions.
  • Another really cool EVE: Online story
  • Great feature on John Green and the Fault in our Stars film

Normally, here, I’ll do a snarky diss of some awful piece that has annoyed me during the week. But this week I bring to you a piece of writing so big and exciting that The Atlantic was almost running teasers for it like it was a fucking Batman film.

I refer, of course, to Ta-Nehisi Coates’ incredible “The Case for Reparations”, available here. It bears reading and re-reading (because I’ve forgotten half of it), if only because I think the cycle of thinkpieces is only beginning (it doesn’t seem to have crossed the Atlantic (lol) very much yet). Moving, well-researched, illuminating history that should be, but isn’t, common knowledge, it’s just great, and the stand-out of the week. I award it a full “smiling** Kanye”***

courtesy of kanyedaily.tumblr.com

Oh, I forgot – I wrote a thing too. Review of Victoria Coren’s book, if you’re interested. Have a great week, guys – summer is almost here and I’m coming home in less than three weeks x

*yeah I’m running with this sentence structure from now on

**feedback in the comments: do we like smiling-Kanye better than disappointed-Kanye? I enjoy being a dick but there’s something quite affirming about being nice on occasion.

***who got married this weekend which I feel like surprisingly little attention was paid to because I forgot it was happening. Congrats though (I secretly hope Kanye is a reader. That’d be amazing)

For Richer, For Poorer: A Love Affair with Poker

When Victoria Coren-Mitchell won the European Poker Tour for the second time last month, the Guardian ran an excerpt from her 2009 poker memoirs, and Amazon slashed the e-book‘s price (which strikes me as pretty dire business sense but I defer to the multi-billion pound empire, I guess). The excerpt was good, I played poker, a bit, badly, in high school, and have generally enjoyed Coren-Mitchell’s columns, so I went for it. I’m writing this from a flight that is making an unpleasant descent to Luton (apparently EasyJet are ok with electronics being switched on at take-off and landing: wonderful news), having just finished it, and I was very pleased with the purchase. Especially at that price, though I think I’d have been pleased at full price. Review after the big blind…

Continue reading

18th of May: the Vigilante Edition

Remembered the magic of scheduled posting, so this one is coming to you from Thursday evening, so as to avoid next week’s post being double-length.


Song of the week is ‘Devil In A New Dress’ off My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy – come for Rick Ross’ mad boasting skills, do your best to avoid the misogyny dripping from several lyrics, and stay for the beautiful interaction between the guitars and the samples in the backing track. Above all, remind yourself how good that album is. With that, off we go.

  • First up, interesting blog from Laura Seay (or @texasinafrica) on how Nigerian communities have developed new structures to provide security where state control is weak
  • Not sure if this piece at the National Interest is encouraging or worrying, but it takes a look at how a revived rivalry with Russia might play out compared to the Cold War
  • This is a good critique of the interventionists in British politics and how no condemnation of a nasty group (in this case, Boko Haram) short of a massive bombing campaign is enough to please them
  • Outline of the implications of the ICC’s investigation into British war crimes in Iraq
  • Probably the wrong word, but this examination of what challenges the US Army is likely to face in future conflicts is really cool. Not keen on Brazil getting dragged into it as an example but.
  • Had kind of gone off Laurie Penny recently, but here are three really good pieces by her. One on whether the Internet is sexist, one on how daft and embarrassing Boris is, and one, for all you people who are actually taking exams seriously this year, on how to pass them.
  • Optimistic blog on Brazilians and the World Cup. I’ve found a lot of the tone of the reporting on Brazil from outside very irritating recently, and I can only assume it’ll get worse, so this was nice.
  • Dispiriting column from Sarah Kendzior on the false promise of social mobility. Mostly US-focused, but lots of it is relevant elsewhere
  • This was one of those pieces I bookmark and then lose in the folders, but it’s interesting and a bit out there, on Uber, the app shaking up the taxi industry in big ways
  • I’m kind of OK with Community bowing out, so it’s a good time to appreciate what we had, and this is a great review of the last season with really interesting analysis of the imagery
  • I back this piece defending the Jurassic Park sequel 100%, mostly because Jurassic Park scared me into the kitchen as a kid, while I almost wore out our recording of The Lost World.
  • In case you missed it, the first glimpse of the new Batsuit+mobile is out. Big news. Seems to be a pleasingly Dark Knight Returns vibe to it. Not keen on what appear to be veins on the suit though.

image nicked off badassdigest.com

  • Finally, this is mildly NSFW, but a very funny piece of “Liberal Dude Erotica” (it cuts to black before anything happens so it’s not too NSFW)

And with that, we’re done. No Kanye-eyeroll this week, as it’s my birthday and I want to be positive.*

Have a good week, enjoy your reading.

*this is obviously a lie because who do you think I am? I just didn’t see anything that really annoyed me this week, somehow. The John Pilger shocker in the Guardian almost made it, though.

11th of May: The Best Laid Plans

11th of May: The Best Laid Plans

So I’m writing this at 5AM, mildly nauseous from mediocre street-food and falling asleep a bit because I care. Even after three months, that is impressive commitment. So with that self-pity taken care of, let’s go. (Update: naturally, I decided to sleep before posting this and didn’t wake up until 1PM. But of course.)

First off, this week’s song isn’t really a song, but two songs so look at that value for money. A mash-up I came across on YouTube a couple of months ago combining my teenage idols with the best thing about Community (RIP) – what’s not to love?


And with that sorted, let’s go!

  • Very clear outline from Reni Eddo-Lodge of the machinations of structural racism – useful because unlike the usual articles I post, this one looks more at the UK than the US
  • On a similar note, a brilliant post by Musa Okwonga on Jeremy Clarkson and Ukip and the ubiquity of racism in British public discourse. Angry and beautifully-written.
  • Meanwhile, because it’s nice, if discomfiting, when Conservatives speak sense, this from the effing Spectator of all places, is nice on how mass immigration is something Britain should be proud of. A bit of a whitewash, perhaps, bearing in mind Reni’s piece above, but still.
  • I’ve not made any effort to hide my general Nick Cohen-fatigue, but haven’t bothered to properly dissect a column of his – this is a heroic effort in that direction.
  • Moving to the Middle East, where the Assad Regime has retaken Homs in what Juan Cole suggests may be a turning point in the civil war, while the ICC is closer to being asked to investigate abuses in the civil war, possibly threatening its legitimacy. Meanwhile, in a tragedy that doesn’t compare to the suffering of the Syrian people but is nevertheless devastating, priceless historic buildings, monuments and artifacts are being destroyed.
  • Interesting piece from David Wearing connecting poor labour conditions in the Gulf with the wider politics of the Middle East
  • With regard to the depressing situation in Nigeria, an important post from (AFAIK) a Nigerian writer on the shortcuts, prejudices, and assumptions that have dominated Western responses to #BringBackOurGirls, and a good explanation from Vox of why it isn’t another #Kony2012
  • Couple of interesting posts on East Asia – one suggesting a new framework for historical memory, and one on Europe’s role in US-China relations. Also, I wrote a thing about it here, so check that out – I’ve updated it with some wisdom from the comments about Brazil.
  • Few good pieces about Russia; this one from Jay Ulfedler summarises the main debate over responses to Putin’s action and it’s useful example of wider tensions within IR. This extended Jurassic Park analogy, at War on the Rocks, is funny, and works surprisingly well. Finally, this, in French, is rather great, and if possible, I’d recommend perusing the blog’s archives – no-one puts fools down quite like an irritable, eloquent Frenchman
  • Interesting what-if? piece on how Germany could have won WW1
  • Troubling account of a response to the nasty, nasty abortion restrictions being mooted here – just a reminder of how awful Spanish conservatives are
  • Bittersweet piece on growing labour mobilization among fast food workers in the US. Pretty depressing, but there’s a note of optimism somewhere here
  • I’m sure every country that isn’t the UK or USA gets irritated at crappy journalism about them in the serious press, but this rebuttal of an Economist report does suggest Brazil has it pretty bad.
  • Three pieces on comic book movies and the Amazing Spider Man 2. For what it’s worth, I enjoyed it, mostly because Emma Stone is wonderful – which is why this post on how they mistreated her character is interesting. Meanwhile, FilmCritHulk wrote a thing about the poisonous themes at the heart of the film which is hard to dispute and worth reading anyway because Hulk, and here, a film critic highlights how the identikit action sequences are becoming a burden on superhero films
  • Gif of the week (yes it’s a gif), and it’s not long before another Mad Men comes out to maybe supplant it.

Finally, and this has been a long time coming, a Kanye eye-roll for a columnist who’s been annoying me for a while now. I felt guilty about how much I was enjoying the critical panning of the Vagenda book as, despite their general dull vacuousness aside, they were kind of harmless. Also, ultimately, I feel uncomfortable criticising how a woman “does feminism”. But with this piece, Rhiannon Lucy Coslett enters the pantheon of annoying Nick Cohen-esque “why are X to afraid to support Y – perhaps with bombs” (I mean seriously, look how offhandedly the suggestion of military intervention is raised) columnists, moving much closer to my wheelhouse, and thus earning herself a full Kanye eye roll (as well as a heartfelt plea to the Guardian to stop commissioning people who have no knowledge of topics to write about them).tumblr_mshgsbUsd61qfkqupo1_500

With that, we’re done! I might not post next week as I’m away for the weekend celebrating my birthday so you know, give me a break. x

Mearsheimer and the Rise of China

The National Interest posted a new chapter from John Mearsheimer’s The Tragedy of Great Power Politics, which I am yet to read, on whether China can rise peacefully. It’s up in full, for free, and well worth the read – it can be found here.

It’s worthwhile both for what Mearsheimer anticipates will happen over the next few decades in the Pacific, and for a succinct summary of the tenets of offensive realism. Of course, the problem with reading a succinct summary is that it can feel like important arguments are rushed and assumptions aren’t justified, which does mean The Tragedy of Great Power Politics has jumped its way up my reading list. Still, I’d like to give you my own brief summary of the argument and highlight a couple of interesting points, as well as a few questions that the article left me with.*

Long post after the jump (sorry)

4th of May: Quarterly Review

So this is roughly the three-month anniversary of the Reading List posts. While my initial ambition to use them to ease me back into actually writing has gone out of the window, I’ve enjoyed doing this every week anyway, and I hope you have too. Happy anniversary.


With that out of the way, off we go. I’m away from home for the second weekend running, so there’ll be less links, and if WordPress fucks me over again, it might not even appear till I get home, but there you go.

last.fm is giving me nothing as far as song of the week goes, as it’s only been able to track me for two days. So, have a Kendrick Lamar song – it’ll be relevant for one of the last links, so you can go into it knowing what it sounds like!


  • To start with, as Iraq holds parliamentary elections this week, these are timely and interesting too – a profile of Prime Minister Maliki, and an account of how Iraq has continued to be unstable and dangerous in the aftermath of the US withdrawal
  • Interesting long piece on how enormously the US entry into World War One changed the country and its institutions
  • A great article from Cord Jefferson here on how Donald Sterling’s comments fit into a long tradition of white male anxiety over inter-racial relationships. On a similar topic, this from Jude Wanga on the issues with the “#somostodosmacacos” campaign in support of Dani Alves is a quite provocative response, and this is a poignant tribute (that I meant to link weeks ago) to Rubin “Hurricane” Carter
  • The Buzzfeeding of Novara continues in fine form with this good primer on how important the recent strikes in Chinese footwear manufacturers are
  • I was all ready to put this in the eyeroll section – “criminal eyesores” made it sound like it would be classic Jenkins with the added bonus of being targeted at Brazil to annoy me. But it’s actually a thoughtful article on the future of informal housing in cities the world over, with appropriate respect given to the concerns of favela residents. Fair play to Sir Jenkins.
  • Oddly, I’ve read several articles on British politics recently, which I thought I was trying to stop doing. Regardless, a good article by Rafael Behr on how the disillusioned voters Ukip appeal to are changing British politics, a reminder of how awful Ukip are by Hugh Muir, and a very interesting read on HS2
  • Fun blog from Jessica Valenti on why it can be worthwhile to engage with nasty trolls
  • Was linked to this site earlier – it’s a very interesting look at the rhythms of rap lyrics – reminded me of struggling with, and giving up, with moving from tabs to sheet music on the guitar years ago. Anyway, this analysis of some of Kendrick Lamar’s raps is really cool.Image
  • In case you hadn’t seen it yet, this photo and cast list of the new Star Wars films gave me shivers. Though in light of the previous films’ hit-and-miss representation of women and people of colour, it’s unfortunate to see so many white guys in those sofas.


Finally, the eye-roll of the week! It is, for the first time, a Seumas Milne column. It’s pretty standard Milne – but the disingenuousness of the last few paragraphs is shocking even by his standards. NATO member states requesting firm commitments to their defence after Putin expresses a desire to protect ethnic Russians beyond his borders becomes, naturally, US imperialism, and there is no mention of Russia’s invasion or the thousands of troops waiting on the border. Throw in some baseless (or incorrect) speculation about a Russia-China alliance, and you’ve got a gem. I award it the full Kanye.


With that, we’re done – have a good week!