And we’re back! While I didn’t manage to clear the ‘longread’ backlog on Pocket (the New Yorker really did me in when they opened their archives), I got most of the way through my queue over the holiday, and have come to share the best of that with you.
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Song of the week is one off Stevie Wonder’s most recent (I mean, from 2005) album. It never reaches the heights of his older stuff but I like it a lot.
- Surprisingly, and not surprisingly, given the deluge of thinkpieces and bold stances that have rattled around the internet this week, I haven’t actually got an enormous amount of Charlie L’Hebdo pieces. Nick Cohen put in a couple of good submissions for The Worst, though. This one is beautifully written and refuses the binary simplicity of some responses, while Hugo Rifkind wrote the best piece on the cartoons themselves I’ve read.
- Quite unnerving account of Libya’s continuing descent into horror
- Exciting behind-the-scenes of how Obama’s big international agreements were negotiated
- Larry Elliott pours cold water on optimism about the global economy
- This is pretty old, but it’s a very interesting feature on the origins of ISIS in American jails in Iraq. A criticism of John Kerry’s tactic of mocking them. And two pieces from Daveed Gartenstein-Ross on ISIS having peaked/starting to decline, in the Atlantic and, sorry, the Spectator*
- Fascinating discussion of nuclear deterrence
- Powerful on responses to and lessons from the suicide of a young trans girl
- Very long piece on the failings of Britain’s war in Afghanistan
- I think this is old but I really really like it – Heather McRobie looks at elitism in foreign policy reporting and “who gets to speak” – touches on so many things I’ve wondered about recently
- Some ‘lessons’ from the Ebola crisis
- A look at how Brazil 2014 measures up against past World Cups
- Utterly terrifying but compelling account of a bloke who got knocked off his fishing boat in the Atlantic
- Good article on the equally terrifying phenomenon of migrant ‘ghost boats’ and the failings of European asylum policy
- Veers a bit close to bashing Russia for the sake of it but this struck me as an interesting proposal for a lasting peace between Ukraine and Russia
- Krugman good again on how news from the French economy is interpreted
- Not only do I really want to make the recipe in this article I want all recipes ever to be prefaced with long, beautiful writing about home, food, and identity. Wonderful.
- Joel Golby does some depressing maths about CEO pay.
- Little musical interlude here. I hadn’t seen Beyoncé’s video for 7/11 yet and while the song is mediocre at best the video is so relentlessly endearing and fun I don’t mind.
- Very old (ten years, anyway) piece on lad’s mags – interesting both because it seems to be written at the outset of a phenomenon that has declined by now and for what his arguments about masculinity.
- Mallory Ortberg is a treasure – a taxonomy of the ‘haters of the sea’ and a selection of Bible verses where “”Thou shalt not” is replaced by can u not”.
- Also old, but I love this collection of writing on Kanye’s The College Dropout. Track-by-track delight.
- Great interview with Stewart Lee
- Very interesting on how Hunger Games challenges gender roles and romance
- Interesting and lovely and a bit creepy on how to make yourself fall in love
- On the other side of the spectrum, a bartender recounts awkward Tinder dates he’s witnessed, and delightfully, @gspels (on Twitter) spent about a week pretending to be a ghost on Tinder and sharing the responses she got – this article collects some I had missed
- Interesting article on how Marvel Studios redefined itself in 2014
- The excellent Bim Adewunmi gave up Twitter for a week and tells us about the struggle
- Reasonably interesting long article on one of the blokes behind all the clickbaity viral stuff the internet is drowning in. More interesting is I’m pretty sure I used to listen to his Harry Potter podcast back in the day.
- Delightfully cynical on how Taylor Swift uses and performs female friendship
- Great critique of the depiction of sex work in GTA and people’s responses to it
- A writer from Bojack Horseman discusses how easy it is to slip into writing male characters as the default
- Finally, science and some climbers debunk a Hollywood trope.
And that’s it! Sort of. I meant to post separately about 2015 resolutions for the blog and myself but put it off too long so now I’m folding it into the first post of the year which has a certain logic. Feel free to wander off at this point, have a lovely week. x
38% women bylines (see below)
*the last one is noticeably worse, so clearly the magazine rubs off on its writers
So I’m cheating here, but in a roundabout way, as I left the UK on the 31st and have only just gotten back, a week later, the new year only really started tonight(four days ago). Especially as I was back where I grew up, so it was a pretty past-oriented holiday. Regardless, I’ve decided my resolutions kick in on the eighth. And I’m putting all this here instead of in an ornamental notebook on my desk because some of my resolutions are about this very blog. And also narcissim.
First and foremost, I’ve been thinking about allyship and being a dude feminist and the utter emptiness of that as a label in the absence of any action or commitment, and while I don’t think this is significant in anyway, my first resolution is to do with paying attention to the gender balance of the articles I share in the weekly roundups. In my field especially, there’s a bad gender imbalance (discussed among other things here) Twitter tells me only 25% of my retweets are of women, and seeing as I get most of my reading there, I’d be surprised if the reading list wasn’t also dominated by men. And, having done a rough count of a couple of lists, it’s about as bad as expected – looking like at most a third.
So to start with, I’m just going to take a note of what sort of balance I’m getting in future reading lists and include it at the end. My hope is that if it does turn out to be dismally dude-heavy, I’ll naturally start to try harder. Maybe I won’t, and if that’s the case, I might try something explicit. This feels almost embarrassing and tokenistic to do tbh, but I feel like if this reading list was being published in the Guardian, eyebrows would be raised at a 3-1 gender balance (here for example), so, you know. High standards and all. I’ll see.
Second, I’m going to write more. That’s mostly a personal resolution but it’ll have obvious impacts in that this is the only thing I write for. I’m putting it in the blog section of the resolutions, though, because I’m not sure what to write, beyond book reviews, which I’m reasonably committed to doing more of this year. By virtue of studying a non-degree, I don’t really have the expertise to credibly write about things, even the ones that I do know about. I think as my dissertation gets closer to completion I might try and reformulate some of the stuff that didn’t make it in into blogs, or synthesise findings or IDK. The reading list was always meant to be a crutch to warm me up for actual writing, and that didn’t pan out. So more writing. I am very open to suggestions of stuff people would like to see more of something.
Now, after the read-more thing, I’m putting my personal resolutions. For those of you who know me/care, you can click through, regardless, the knowledge that it’s up here offers some sort of peer pressure on me to follow through.
They are of course, the classic pride-before-the-fall resolutions of “I know literally everyone makes the same ones and fails by the third week of January but I am better than that”. Basically:
- Lose the belly. I’ve got the exercise, I’ve got a reasonable diet, occasional reduced-section-baked-goods binge aside, so I think this one is more than doable, though I have thought that for the best part of eighteen months.
- Cut the beer. Not only does this help with 1), I also get awful hangovers from beer so this should be pretty easy. I actually started this one on the 1st and it’s been alright.
- Read more books. Got an email from Pocket, the app I use to do most of my reading, and it told me I’d read the equivalent of 99 books in 2014, almost 5 millions words, all of that in the form of blogs, articles, and #longreads. I’m not convinced I read a single actual book all year (bloody Piketty aside), which I’d like to sort out.
Reasonably confident in all these because they’re basically all stuff, apart from the beer, I’ve been working on for weeks/months, so the resolution thing is just a nice frame for it.