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

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