22nd of February: He’s Going To Start With A Lie

Quick one this week, as I’m racing to catch up on all the work I didn’t do this week for pressing Crusader Kings-related reasons.

Remember when Lily Allen wasn’t annoying? I can’t even remember what she did wrong. Anyway, the song of the week was on in the pub the other week and I forgot it was her for long enough to listen to it.


As ever, this reading list is available as a newsletter or a blog, so if you’d like to see how the other side live, go ahead.

  • The big debate on Twitter this week has been around a long essay in The Atlantic called “What ISIS Really Wants”. I put off reading it as long as I could, but the more I avoided it, the more people argued about it, and finally, I bit the bullet. And then, of course, had to read all the participants in the debate. I’m not really sure how I feel about any of the pieces I’m about to link, really, but taken together they’re probably worthwhile. This debate does feel an awful lot like it’s everyone talking past each other, but there you go. A strong critique of The Atlantic’s methods, intentions, and conclusions. An interview with one of the experts featured in the essay. Conversely, this article is glad the U.S. government has started taking ideology seriously again. Meanwhile, terrorism expert J.M Berger (who also rounds up some articles at his own site), suggests that the most relevant aspect of ISIS’ ideology is their end-of-days cult features, not their religion. Make of them all, or none, what you will*
  • Gripping and ultimately upsetting read on attempts to rescue U.S. hostages in Syria
  • This is very good on the tendency for the debate on Ukraine and Russia to be conducted over the heads of the Ukrainians and Russians themselves, denying their agency in events
  • Meanwhile, asylum application numbers in Germany haven’t been this high since the fall of the Berlin wall
  • The no-platform/free-speech debate has popped up again, very disingenuously so. This is an excellent blog on free speech, hypocrisy, and Peter Tatchell
  • Meanwhile, the “the internet makes it really hard to get away with racism :(:(:(:(” thing hasn’t gone away – this is good on the disproportionate pity felt for Justine Sacco**
  • Fascinating and personal pieces on issues of ‘passing’, identity, assimilation, etc.
  • Anniversary of Malcolm X’s murder this week – this telegram from Dr. King to his widow is touching
  • This is a very articulate defence of the ‘lesser of two evils’ argument when voting
  • Succint, well-produced, video summary of the racial politics of dating
  • Some positive*** news out of the music industry for once – the internet is making it a lot easier for niche bands to find big live audiences
  • I want Vox to do this for every music video. This analysis of the music and imagery in Taylor’s Style video is a bit basic, and tends towards the “omg she’s wearing Harry Styles’ necklace” thing that’s oh so dull, but it’s so beautifully put together and visualised
  • Utterly surreal campaign of birthday trolling
  • Brazil does food well – in other news, water wet, etc.
  • My favourite thing about this reimagining of Half-Life as a 1990s isometric game was that I recognised all the level architecture
  • More Kanye****! Really good interview with my favourite Kanye-writer Ayesha Siddiqi on Kanye c.Yeezus (I think) and very good essay on the double standards of white mediocrity and black excellence
  • Couple of good Sam Kriss pieces – one, old, on Age of Empires as a game where you play as feudalism itself, and a very-him review of 50 Shades of Grey
  • Interesting on how editors negotiate language for transatlantic audiences
  • Karl Pilkington should do everyone’s wedding proposal.

And with that, I’m off to make up for a week of slacking. Have a lovely week x

8 out of 26, so I’m stuck around a 2:1 dude ratio, again.

* lol this was going to be a “quick one” and that’s the longest paragraph of text to appear on this blog since How I Met Your Mother

** yeah, her of the ‘AIDS tweet’ literally millennia ago and I’m still annoyed that someone felt the need to write another article about her to plug his bad book

*** I say positive, it mostly made me feel extremely out-of-touch, because the biggest flash of recognition I got out of the names listed was when I recognised they were taking the piss out of Ed Sheeran before his name was mentioned (which was good because he’s literally the worst thing alive)

**** unfortunately, Ye went and blew the consensus that was forming around him when he waded into whatever beef the Kardashians have started this week with some grim, grim comments on his ex-girlfriend, which is upsetting



15th of February: Mostly Just Kanye

Having dodged work, Valentine’s Day, and anything other than the Steam free weekend on Total War: Rome 2, I come to you late, and slightly hungover, with a whole load of articles, which, to be honest, lean heavily towards the Kanye-centric. They’re towards the end of the list though so if you, like everyone I care about, are indifferent (at best) to Mr. West, you can just stop before you get to them.

As ever, this reading list is available both as a blog and as a weekly newsletter – it’s up to you how you receive it.

Song of the week should really be a Kanye one but I’ll spare you. This came up in a random Spotify playlist, completely out of the blue, which is odd, as it’s new Lana del Rey music. More reminiscent of pre-Ultraviolence Lana.

  • The debate about arming Ukraine is probably going to keep rumbling on, and while I don’t think any of these critiques of the Brookings proposal do enough to emphasise the basic, inevitable, human cost of adding more weapons to the mix, together, their headlines are quite clear regarding the failings of the plan – from Brookings themselves, The Week, and Foreign Policy. Conversely, a good defence of a non-violent way of supporting the Ukrainian military.
  • Obama did a long interview with Vox, whose foreign policy section is interesting – War on the Rocks did a Realist summary of it. Also, this is, I think, Barry Posen’s standard article calling for restraint in American strategy but it’s good so.
  • This interview on European terrorism was from before the Copenhagen attacks, so it’s grimly prescient
  • Libcom make a decent case against the potential of radical electoral movements
  • Ally Fogg good on the British FGM statistics
  • I liked this look at Mandela as a strategist
  • Another one of those pieces about Chait and the PC wars from last week
  • Quite interesting on how the notion of ‘jaywalking’ was the result of a determined campaign by the automobile industry
  • The Guardian’s new dating feature is horrific and wonderful
  • This account of a chat between Taylor Swift and Jay-Z at the Grammys made my day

On which note, this is your chance to get out before it all goes Kanye.

When I heard there had been another ‘incident’ with Kanye, I got very excited as I knew it could only mean one thing: lots of articles about Kanye for me to delight over. The Internet did not disappoint.

  • First off, a clarification of the quirks in the awards process that led to Beyoncé losing out in the first place
  • Just the best news of the year
  • Wonderful idea – a professor is running a Kanye West course
  • Three articles in defence of Kanye as unfiltered and unapologetically Kanye – 1, 2, 3.
  • Finally, this by Sam Kriss is as much about Taylor Swift as it is Kanye and I don’t even really know what it is, but it’s brilliant

And that’s that! Have a lovely week everyone x

3 out of 22 this week, so it’s getting worse now.

8th of February: A Quick Hit

Quick one this week, and not just because it’s too cold for me to bring my arms out from under the duvet for more than ten seconds.

Song of the week is Blueberry Hill, by Fats Domino, which came up in one of the Spotify playlists I was listening to and is kinda wonderful.

As ever, this is available as a newsletter and a blog, so if you’d like to switch you can.

  • Quite interesting piece on Iran’s role in the anti-IS war, followed by an examination of said war and American strategy that sort of rebuts it
  • Dispiriting ‘highlights’ from an interview with Bashar Al-Assad
  • This might be a bit self-serving, but this account of last-minute negotiations to prevent the Afghanistan war is fascinating
  • Interesting essay on the structural problems facing the Middle East
  • Sad and humanising photo series of refugees with the last meaningful thing they were able to pick up before fleeing
  • Sort-of obituaries of the Jordanian pilot and the American aid worker murdered this week
  • Excellent article on global healthcare spending by Paul Farmer
  • This article lays out some possibilities for this year’s general election to show how fucked the electoral system is here
  • Interesting comparison of attitudes and policies on binge-drinking
  • Great article on the potential of a ‘racebent’ Hermione Granger
  • D.W. (from Arthur) is stone-cold.

And that’s that. Have a good week everyone! X

Only 3/13 women bylines this week I’m afraid.

1st of February: Weight off my Mind

So I’ve just gotten shot of a two-year long project, freeing me up to do far more of the […] I had been missing out on. Despite having spent the past week in a bit of a stressful haze, got a lot of good reading lined up for you, so let’s get to it.

Song of the week is Beyonce’s Blue mostly because the video is one of those “beautiful footage of Brazil/Brazilians” ones that I love – also because Kanye’s new video reminded me of it.

As ever, there are two ways to view this reading list. If you’re getting the newsletter and would prefer the blog, go here. If you’re reading the blog and would like the newsletter in future, go here.

  • Bit of a troubling examination of the attacks on Israel coming from Syria – just in case you thought there weren’t enough wars currently happening in the Middle East
  • Couple of interesting analyses of alternative for the Responsibility to Protect – the French, and the Chinese (and Brazilian). Good antidote to black-and-white “the West vs the Rest” stuff
  • In defence of the word ‘but’
  • I absolutely love reading about the logistics of the withdrawal from Afghanistan so this feature was a gift – if you’re not such a fan of reading about shipping routes and convoys then maybe give it a miss
  • Meant to share this last week when it’d have been relevant but it went to the wrong folder. Anyway, a good obituary of the late King of Saudi Arabia
  • On climate change – this comic starts grim and ends positively, as does this article. Of course, they both start grimmer than they end happy so everything is still bleak.
  • Upsetting piece interviewing Nigerians who fled Boko Haram in Bama
  • Jonathan Freedland is very good on the Auschwitz memorial service
  • This was going around on Twitter as the author sadly passed away this week – an account of living with the rare skin condition EB
  • Powerfully irritated piece on doctors refusing to perform sterilisations on young people
  • Joel Golby writes another advice list and it’s rather brilliantly dull
  • Useful primer on the difference between “coloured” and “people of colour”
  • If you don’t spend your every waking hour on Twitter, you may have missed out on Jonathan Chait’s latest bad piece on political correctness and the debate it provoked. Anyway. Gawker had a funny response,  this is an angry response, and this is a sensitive attempt to discuss the issues Chait raises (best read in conjunction with this)
  • Very good critique of how the LOTR films adapted Eowyn’s character
  • Interesting on statistical modelling and the East Coast snowstorm
  • Some of these are a bit lame, a couple disgustingly adorable, but this artilce on stories about love mediated through videogames is great
  • Fascinating interview with one of the pilots of the SR-71, the world’s fastest plane
  • Chiamanda Ngozi Adichie (she of ***Flawless fame) wrote a nice short story
  • Great history of the smile
  • Really cool write-up of the fourth season of The Wire, if you’ve seen it
  • Thought this was really nicely-written, on how not to be a harassing dickhead in nightclubs
  • In defence of a little hatred


And that’s it. Quite pleased that at last, this week approached gender parity, though I didn’t really make any particular effort in that direction so was mostly luck. Anyway, have a good week. x