28th of December: Disappointment

In order to prepare you for whatever you have planned for this Wednesday, I’ve set out to make this week’s list a disappointment. So the ‘best of’ I hinted at last week won’t happen, because who cares, and to add insult to injury, I haven’t actually gotten much reading done this week as I’ve been busy eating and drinking, and done most of my travelling by car. Sorry.

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Song of the week, in preparation for all the hangovers we have now and in the days to come, is Macklemore’s (I know!) Neon Cathedral – possibly proof that when he’s writing about his own experience instead of tackily appropriating that of others, he can do wonderful things.

  • In the wake of all the fuckery coming out of US police departments, but relevant in light of frequent bursts of fuckery on our side of the Atlantic, some alternatives to mainstream models of policing (published in Rolling Stone!)
  • Speaking of violent thugs (heyo), this article on the uses of violence in prison is part of a fascinating series from an ex-con* which I think is accessible either via the tag, the byline, or just at the end of the article
  • Good review of Arundhati Roy’s book on capitalism in India, which is on sale for very little at Verso Books.
  • London-time: on the absurdity of the garden bridge, and on the delusions of the restaurant boom
  • Very interesting piece on a bloke who took the lessons of air safety practices and tried to get them applied in the NHS
  • On Azealia Banks and black erasure
  • A great review of Nicki Minaj’s The Pinkprint (still not sold on it) which doubles as a good profile of her
  • The absolute delightfulness of including a great piece on Kim Kardashian and her game in a serious venture to tackle video-games in a highbrow manner is enough to get this article in – it’s also wonderful.

OK the only piece I could really think of offering in my list was Ta-Nehisi Coates’ The Case for Reparations which I feel like everyone read when it came out** which was what brought on my initial despair at the prospect of making an overall list – anything good that you lot didn’t read the first time round you probably wouldn’t read again. If you have missed that though, do check it out.

I’m away next week, so there’ll be no list. It’ll be a bumper edition on my return, however, as I’m travelling and have got an enormous reading queue to keep me company.

So from all of us here at Filling the Long Hours (me), thanks for sticking with me this year, and have a lovely New Year, I’ll see you in January xxx

*I say ex-con, he’s a bit Piper from OITNB

**indeed, one of the great joys of my tedious existence was watching British tweeters discover it about two weeks after American twitter was done discussing it.

21st of December: And what have you done?

I miscounted the weeks between now and Christmas a bit – had sort of figured there’d be one more before Christmas day, so I could do the best of now. There are still a lot of links to be getting on with though, so if you’re headed home this week, plenty for you to save for the journey (I’ve been squirrelling long-reads away for weeks now, thinking “I’ll read them on the plane” – odds are I’ll read three).

As ever, you can also receive this list in the form of a weekly newsletter by subscribing here. If you’re hard-pressed for a gift for someone, I’m sure they’d be delighted with a gift subscription.

The other casualty of the timing is the Christmas song. There are a number I wanted to share but I think I’ll go with this beautiful Marvin Gaye one.

  • While the focus is mostly on his opponents these days, this is an interesting analysis of the internal challenges President Assad faces. A look at how weak US leverage with the opposition is becoming. Fascinating account of the negotiations to save Peter Kassig’s life. Found this report from an aircraft carrier launching strikes against ISIS rather interesting. Finally, on an optimistic note – Brazil hasn’t turned away a single Syrian refugee.
  • Great piece on Yasser Arafat
  • Couple, slightly meta, on torture – one arguing that the argument over torture’s efficiency matters, and one on lessons learned teaching about torture
  • Beautiful essay on PTSD
  • In the wake of the Cuba thing, a report on how Francis has shaken up Vatican diplomacy, and how Mariela Castro has led progress on gay rights in Cuba. Also a detailed, darkly funny account of the Bay of Pigs invasion
  • A slightly optimistic take on the Lima accords, and a sad piece from a South Pacific island that is gradually disappearing underwater – the ending is killer
  • Quite nice (bit banal) call for youths to speak up for Europe
  • Powerful on how our white good intentions may not be enough
  • Foucault to me will forever be “that shit Geography course I took in second year” so this interview with the author of a reappraisal of his work was quite interesting for showing me a different take
  • Really, really great feature following migrants from Africa to the UK
  • Aaron Bastani is very good on Brand and Farage and the failings of British politics
  • Interesting on men who have fallen out of the workforce in the States
  • This is circulating on Twitter – John Freeman, who sounds like a fascinating, bizarre, bloke, passed away today – this New Statesman profile of him from last year sounds like an uphill struggle
  • I don’t really go in for drone-panic but the thought of eel drones is utterly horrific

Interlude: if you actually thought I’d let Christmas go by without inflicting some Wham! on you, then I shake my head at you reader. Fool.

As you were.

  • Clive Martin good as ever on London in 2014– though it’s interesting to me that I recognise almost nothing of what he talks about. Well engaged with this city’s life, I am.
  • These two brilliant pieces on the Cereal Café came from the same visit and they are both by turns wonderful and bizarre.
  • This GQ profile of Stevie Wonder is actually slightly disappointing for some reason, but it got me to go back and listen to a bunch of Stevie Wonder so I’m sharing it in the hope it improves your week in a similar fashion
  • Meant to share this ages ago, and I fear it’s now too late  – Gary Bainbridge goes in on Elf
  • UsVsTh3m on crappy Christmas cover songs – 100% true on Ronan Keating doing the Pogues and the deep creepiness of Taylor Swift’s Santa Baby – neglects to mention the abomination that is Mariah Carey ft. Bieber
  • Good interview on the bizarre Sony-North Korea (or not, apparently) thing
  • Great on Azealia Banks
  • Interesting reflections on being in an interracial relationship

And that’s that. Have a lovely Christmas, everyone xx

14th of December: Flawless

Scraping this one in just in time, before I’ve even eaten breakfast – nothing if not dedicated.

As ever, if you’d rather receive this in newsletter form to your inbox, you can subscribe here. Also, if there’s anyone you think would enjoy some of the articles contained within, or if you know someone who just doesn’t know anything about Chinese military buildup or the Jackson 5 Christmas album (little teaser trailer for you there), then please do let them know about the blog/newsletter.

Speaking of naked self-promoting, I think I’m going to do my very own “best of” list(s) on the blog in two Sundays time. I’m thinking at least a ‘best of’ selection of what I’ve already shared with you. So keep an eye out for that.

Christmas song of the week combines many of my great loves – B.B. King, Christmas and weird Santa bants.

  • To start with, a good corrective to a lot of the concern about China’s military expansion
  • Interesting report (FR) on the 35-hour working week’s economic benefits
  • A look at the evidence about police body cameras
  • Aditya Chakrabortty strong as ever on corporate welfare
  • Unintended consequences, man. Very interesting on how attempts to clamp down on conflict minerals have backfired
  • Strong critique of British development aid
  • Think I’ve come round against TTIP, almost – this is very measured against it
  • On how Labour could have gone in a very different direction in the 1970s
  • Interesting interview (FR) on, I guess, political correctness and stuff
  • Very good piece on listening to sex worker voices
  • This is insightful on the relationship between Hungary’s authoritarian regime and violence against women
  • Little treat for you – short clip from a Mitterrand speech from the 1970s – even if you don’t speak French, listen to how bizarre the dynamics of his speech is UP AND ROUSING and then down and all momentum lost. Delightful
  • Excellent on the New Atheists and how they’ve legitimised imperialist policies
  • Dan Hancox strong on gentrification and property developers, and an old attack on the new folksy creative classes. Has a great dig at Ed Sheeran in it so it’s A+ from me
  • Chris Rock wrote a great essay on race in Hollywood
  • Lovely on the Jackson 5 Christmas album, which is, indeed, joy embodied.
  • Jonathan Jones is pretty useless, even set against the low, low, bar that is “Guardian columnist”. This was an excellent critique of his latest
  • Very cool VOXplainer on telepathy
  • That fucking cereal café, man. Backlash on backlash, back and forth, to the point where I now think the narrative is that the buffoons are the victims? Anyway, Ed Jefferson lays out a number of the irritants about it I hadn’t considered about it
  • Absolutely lovely piece by the late Roger Ebert on his wife
  • Great bit of Star Wars nerding – rethinking the original films in light of revelations from the prequels
  • Love a bit of internet-gushing about Beyoncé and Nicki Minaj – this combines the two so is, ahem, flawless.

With that, I’ll leave you to enjoy them. Have a lovely Sunday x

7th of December: First Week of Wham!

This cold is made only marginally more acceptable by Christmas playlists being allowed now. Just. Which I guess is my festive thought of the week for you. And, keeping to the theme, how about a few weeks of Christmas songs of the week? I’ll attempt to not just alternate Mariah Carey and Wham for a month (no promises).

I was very annoyed not to find this album annoying, what with the ukuleles and general Zooey Deschanellery, but there you go. Deschanel’s duo, She and Him, released Christmas music. It’s quite peaceful and pretty.

  • So this (FR) article on ISIS recruits wanting to come home is a bit darkly funny, but also interesting on the challenges of managing returning jihadis. Meanwhile, a look at whether the group has peaked
  • Analysis of China’s highly advanced radars and what they mean for US military strategy
  • Following the shambles 2010 Review and ahead of the 2015 one, this article on why British Defence Reviews fail is good
  • Book launch interview* with Philippe Marlière (FR) that goes into the shortcomings of the Hollande presidency. Bonus – watch his facial expression when the woman asks what he would do were he President.
  • Why £15billion in road investment is a bad use of money
  • Scary article on Golden Dawn, and a possibly even scarier article on how Britain sided with Nazi collaborators against the communist partisans after the liberation of Greece**. Also, a big connection between the two articles, so thanks Empire.
  • On gentrification and street art in Peckham
  • Sad feature on a murder in Missouri situated at the overlap of various oppressive dynamics
  • Rather wonderful piece on restaurant kitchens (Lucas, this is for you) and a quite nice essay on working in a fast-food place during college
  • Clive Martin is good on this generation’s struggle to grow up
  • IDK if you want to build a desk, I don’t, but this guide was still very funnily written
  • Great article on the problems with MarsOne, the organisation looking for volunteers to send up to Mars, and an interesting summary of the debate over manned v unmanned spaceflight
  • So this article on using Skyrim in a university course is interesting, but I do feel like it gives the game a bit too much credit – the plot they’re analysing is paper-thin
  • Beautiful, painful writing on family and videogames
  • Finally, I just realised this is actually Christmassy so fits, but even for those who don’t watch Mad Men (maybe), I feel like the scene where Don and Joan go drinking is just such a pure aesthetic joy that you’ll get something out of it. IDK, it’s my blog and I want it here.

Have a lovely week, everyone x

* Meant to link to this weeks ago, but IDK what happened, think the bookmark got eaten.

**  You sort of think you have a handle on the cynicism of imperial states and then you read something like this and wow.