18th of December: One Week til Christmas

Need to rush out into central and do emergency Christmas shopping, lads, so let’s get cracking.

Song of the week is something off Childish Gambino’s new album, picked largely at random cos I don’t know what all the different songs are yet.*

  • Always feel kind of funny doing these narrative critiques and media sniping bits when there’s real horrors going on in the world, but I think it’s fairly necessary to puncture the establishment stories when they’re constantly being used to justify more horror and death.** This first one takes a general look at the Syrian war, and the misinformation and deceit surrounding it. This second, is more particularly on Aleppo. God knows, at this point, what truth is actually coming out of there, but guess there’s some value in having deeply partisan sources on both sides at least.***
  • Good analysis of Kalingrad as a place and society, not just a missile silo.
  • Strong response to the football child abuse scandal.
  • Think Kriss gets to something about “2016” here – it isn’t “the worst” in an anomalous way, it’s just that everything is always getting worse. I also don’t know how much you’ll enjoy this one, on the bizarre game theory thread, if you weren’t on Twitter as it unfolded and people obsessed over it. But it’s great.
  • On a similar note, think this is a very good point on the “fake news” thing – it’s creating a narrative that does nothing but help the far right.
  • Ta-Nehisi Coates writing a 10k+ word retrospective of the Obama years is a real “clear your morning, make a coffee and get comfortable” event. Luckily it came out just as work entered the beginning of the Christmas lull. It’s also well worth reading the responses – the two that were up when I read pointed out significant blind spots or errors in Coates’ narrative.
  • We all got really happy at the possibility of paying €1k a year to retain EU citizenship (because we inhabit the worst timeline), so of course the slugs in Brussels had to pour cold water over that slim hope.
  • This piece on beginning to recover from grief while staying in a Bangkok sex hotel with your mum is lovely but definitely could have gone on twice as long?
  • Important attack on the stupidity of Labour chasing anti-immigration votes down into the gutter.****
  • I liked this on battles for memoria historica in Spain.
  • Absolutely lovely feature on One Hundred Years of Solitude and Garcia Marquez.
  • Thought this was a kind of lovely, not uncritical, defence of Tolkien. It’s very very long but.*****
  • In the wake of the cool stunt where the author proved it was cheaper to get a coach to Paris for the morning-after pill than it was to buy one here, she made the arguments explicit.
  • I’m glad The Walking Dead is getting political flak because I just find it a bit dull and depressing (the worst thing always happens), so I’m quite glad to be able to dress that up in politics. This article is a bit odd – it seems to essentially just be based on one fella’s work. Still seems largely correct.
  • Only three or four days left, depending how late you’re working this week, to sample the full range of high-street Christmas offerings. I liked this New Statesman round-up. Think I might treat myself this week to one of the top-flight ones even though they’re like £9.
  • Always nice to see cities (here, Madrid) taking steps to curb car use. Especially considering Madrid is so small you can walk across the centre in less than an hour?
  • Turns out all the free games on old Windows machines were thinly disguised ruses to get people used to the new input methods required on the new computers.
  • This is compelling and beautiful, and it’s about Burnout Paradise. A+.
  • Another one of them “men can only find true connection with each other when it’s mediated via a playstation” ones. Good tho.

alright, go away. Think I’m due to write another one on like the 29th? Which I might bin off, tbh. So I’ll probably see you in the New Year. Have a lovely Christmas xoxo

*think the critical consensus on this was one was very divided so I’ve had to form my own opinion, which I hate doing. It’s good imo.

**I’ve found it on Twitter, in particular. Confronted with such glib ghoulish idiocy from the “do something (mostly war)” crowd, I find it hard not to respond (“respond” I’m a locked account with about eight non-bot followers) in kind, which is probably deeply morally off.

***I mean I saw articles from The Daily Beast circulating far more widely than the “Cubans in Syria/Dismember Syria” outlet ever deserves.

****it’s going to happen though, because the worst thing always happens, and there’ll be a cross-party consensus that something must Be Done about immigration.

*****not that I even really need much defending to be done of Tolkien. Of course I’d probably be held in contempt by the author and all associated for my attachment to the films over anything else.

4th of December: Peek behind the curtain

Apparently this isn’t even that much effort for me. “you just write some stuff and bash it out” I’m told. Rude.

Regardless, here we are. Short one again. I don’t even read books on the train so I don’t know where the time is going. Fallout Shelter and tweets I guess. Also my increasingly sharp ability to bin articles about American politics three paragraphs in. Which means I think we’re Trump-free this week?

“Gabriel in last month’s blog you made your song of the week the song like, four tracks above this on Frank Ocean’s album why are you so musically limited”. go away Self Control has at least three separately beautiful bits.

 

Let’s go.

  • Thought this was quite interesting on how airstrikes in Mosul are co-ordinated and called in. Reminds me of off-map abilities in computer games TBH. Sort of interesting (*horrifying) watching Aleppo and Mosul happen at the same time and be reported on so differently. Partly because Iraq does seem to be going about things more carefully, but also partly because Buzzfeed aren’t embedding with the S.A.A. anyway. Lots of bad stuff imo.
  • I thought I shared this before? I haven’t apparently but that’s odd. I think I thought it was really good, but it’s long so I’m not going to re-read it to check if the reason I didn’t previously include it was like, nine paragraphs in it descends into Nazi apologia or something. if so, soz*. Anyway it’s about that photo of the falling man on 9/11.
  • Good to remember, as we descend into ever-worse politics based around pandering to the construct of the white working class, that most of the past five years’ (and more obviously) bad politics have had a particularly heavy impact on women of colour.
  • I enjoyed this tale of divorce court and offshore courts a lot, partly because *whisper* it’s a little bit of what I do for a living, but also because it’s written up like a bit of a thriller. It’s gripping enough to sort of forestall the realisation that it’s just some gross rich people battling over the ill-gotten gains, which ruins it a bit.
  • This is Trump-adjacent, I guess, but it’s mostly on how queer communities built institutions and networks and all that to survive.
  • This report on how London drug gangs extend into the provinces is so bleak and grim.
  • Just an article about shirtless men and masculinity I guess? some bums included so maybe don’t click at work.
  • All that bad reporting on that study that made some men sterile the other week at least provoked this actually good article on obstacles to male birth control.**
  • This is quite cute on old iTunes’ star system. Reading it gave me a sudden flash of my old “5*” playlist (and I think, 3 and 4 *s ones, which… what’s the point of that?)
  • Tbh not sure I can be bothered encrypting such thrilling conversations as Wednesday’s standout “do we have milk shall I get some” but this is a little guide to the encrypted messaging app Signal if you’re into that kind of life.
  • Sam Diss has been on a roll at Shortlist recently (not that I’ve ever managed to find the hard copies) – first, a sort of sensitive and funny article with interviews about balding***, and second, this excellent response to a survey about lunchtime pints; Sam (with the consent of his editor) went out for more and more pints at lunch every day of the week to see how he coped. The dream.
  • Unexpectedly short but still decent little Pearl Harbour story.
  • What is the day after thanksgiving? IDC. Still some nice little descriptions of good fridge leftover-raiding.

And that’s your lot. Shoo.

*wanted to link to the good stephen merchant bit about soz but YouTube is an eternal disappointment

**turns out pharmaceutical companies are slugs! Who knew!

***though I hate one of the interviewees a *lot*. See if you can guess which one! (little bit of audience engagement for you there)

20th November: At some remove

Timing’s a bit weird on this one, I guess. The last instalment was immediately before the election, and had I posted last week I guess we all still would have been in shock slightly but now this feels like the world we live in. It doesn’t matter too much. I’ve done alright at maintaining my position of minimising the amount of American politics I read about. I’ve still found myself reading more post-mortems than I’d like before realising that life is short. All this pre-amble to say that I’ve tried not to make this list all about Trump.

I settled on the song of the week about ten days ago. There’s a post-election piece later in the list about Marvin Gaye and it made me download What’s Goin On again and TBH as an album it’s kind of… a lot of filler and mumbling? IDK I know it’s a classic. but the title track is just so good. So ‘ave a bit of that.

  • Here’s that good Marvin Gaye thing actually.
  • OK. Two American election #takes and that’s your lot. One of which, odds are you’ll already have seen because most of my regular readers know each other and the author so why bother sharing it? cos it’s good, lads, and contains the line “evil always wins”. Also this from Dan O’Sullivan is good I thought.
  • Think it was Men’s Day yesterday. This one is old, and I might have shared it the first time round, but still think it’s worth reading – on the stiff upper lip killing us lads.
  • Wonderful defence of libraries.
  • This is kind of long and probably states the obvious at times but it’s a good unpicking of the notion of Western civilization.
  • It’s jumper season I guess (so cold) – this is cute.
  • God, remember Neopets? It’s still there, but just… a bit weird.
  • Always here for writing 6,000 words too many on a TV program. This extended critique of Ross from Friends is good.
  • Kinda lovely bit of stuff about bars.
  • This did the rounds after Leonard Cohen died, on the rise of Hallelujah. Bonus: the undercurrent of vicious contempt for Jeff Buckley.
  • This is just like an extended write-up of a PR stunt, but when the PR stunt happens in zero gravity I guess it’s OK.
  • Kind of quietly beautiful this – Golby went back to where he grew up and just wandered around I guess. Got that sort of slight sense of alienation I get when you English people talk about your childhoods like these are all standard experiences. What’s wrong with just playing Morrowind imo.
  • Oobah (not even a proper name) continues his reign of terror at Vice – this time, spending a night out in London without spending anything.

That’s your lot. Bye. x

6th of November: Maybe all the writing was bad this fortnight?

I don’t know what I’ve been doing this fortnight, because I can’t read actual books on the way to work (ty, crowded commuter trains) so all I have is my online #content. Can only assume it’s all been rubbish this week and I have emerged, beaten and bloodied, with these precious gems from the rubble.

Not complaining, mind, I hate having to write up 30-odd articles for you all.  Also there’s no real obvious order here, minimising my workload even further. Delighted.

Song of the week is maybe the weirdest but maybe my favourite of Bon Iver’s new album. It’s a terrible lyric video but it’s technically official so idk.

  • I bought a poppy last week (couldn’t get it on to my coat so it remained in my desk drawer for two days) and felt conflicted about it, like I was letting “them” win. Among the many good critiques of the whole poppy Thing, this one on the Royal British Legion was good. IDK. I’ve managed to pin it on to my winter coat now but I still feel a bit self-conscious because “they” have ruined it.*
  • Thought this essay on black male sexuality in pop culture was incredible.
  • In all fairness, my brief fortnight in a call centre wasn’t anywhere near as bad as the ones depicted here, but I do think there’s interesting points made about the future of low-paid service work.
  • Beth’s columns are always worth reading – this one on how to care for/be a friend to someone with depression is particularly sweet and sensitive
  • I’ve already shared this one with my premium subscribers so IDK if anyone will actually be left to read it. Anyway, it’s by the New Girl showrunner and it’s kind of world-weary and funny but also sharp about sexual assault and how women talk about it to one another. IDK, it made me do some thoughts.**
  • Weirdly, I never really think of Latin Americans as a specific migrant community in London. Dan Hancox is good on how they’re particularly suffering under gentrification.
  • Who reads the small print? This guy (for a week)
  • This piece on the vegan youtuber community is wild (What an exhausting phrase)
  • I like this Ruby Tandoh piece on food and Instagram and how we consume today, but I have one objection, which has always puzzled me with pre-food photography – doesn’t it get cold?
  • On growing up and mum’s recipes
  • Finally, this one might be a bit niche if you haven’t been tangential to American “natsec” Twitter, but I’ve actually interacted briefly with this Caruso fella in the past and unfollowed him several times as it became clear he was a bit of a knob. So this forensic savaging of his record and his behaviour is delicious and brutal.

That’s your lot, lads. Soz. x

*this is, of course, the amorphous they who ruin everything good and pure. I might just mean “the English” here, tbh

**I’m the dad.

23rd of October: I want a fried egg

Trying to watch Red Dwarf in another window here but it’s not going well, and I want to go and get some breakfast so I’m phoning this one in a bit, lads. Unlike my usual labour of love.

  • Big chunk of war articles this week, what with their being a fair bit of warring going on. Two reports from Aleppo, one news, one more analytic, but a reminder that for all the horror, a no-fly zone is a bad, bad idea. Also thought this was a fairly good take on the breakdown of the ceasefire in Syria. And these two came out ahead of the battle of Mosul when it still looked like it would get ugly really fast. Touch wood, it’s still not become an ugly affair. One on the stakes of the battle, and one on the history of Mosul and its “character” I guess. Also, a report from Afghanistan, that other war there is.
  • Thoroughly bleak article on how British business was already struggling and bad by European standards even before Brexit came and sunk it all. And Aditya Chakrabortty puncturing some Brexit delusions. Also, a good, concrete plan to nationalise BAE systems so we don’t dedicate our only high-tech manufacturing capability to murdering people at funerals.
  • Why the SWP are bad and you shouldn’t attend their anti-racism events or carry their shit placards at demos.
  • This article, on why an honest policy on limiting emissions would mean no airport expansion at Heathrow or anywhere, seems thoroughly accurate and true but man, so depressing. I want mini-breaks.  😦
  • Some good war history on Dunkirk.
  • Also another good sceptical review of an exhibition about British imperialism.
  • FT, so let me know if you can’t get in, but thought this was interesting on how Berlin is dealing with gentrificiation in different ways.
  • While the surge in writing about mental health experiences seems positive mostly, I think this is an important critique of some common flaws in the genre. This is the second part, I imagine there’ll be a link provided to the first within.
  • This is a review of a film (Moonlight) I probably won’t see but it is beautiful writing on black masculinity.
  • I share stuff from The Guyliner fairly frequently, I think. On Coming Out Day, he shared this cute thing about his first kiss.
  • Absolutely bizarre profile of Tony Curtis in his old age.
  • Sort of getting to a point where I’m not even embarrassed anymore at Scrubs having been a formative influence on me. So this retrospective was fun.
  • More good gossip stuff – profile of a gossip expert.
  • This is kind of fascinating on a sort of less awful version of Omegle or all those camgirl websites. IDK it’s long and a bit NSFW but interesting.
  • This one is of interest only to me I reckon but an analysis of all the design decisions in Relic RTS games… such as Company of Heroes.

And that’s your lot, I’m off for a fry-up. xoxo

9th of October: You weren’t going to read until now anyway

Bit late this week, sorry. Also a bit short, as I’ve been on holiday so not consuming quite as much content as I usually do. All-round disappointment, really. Just use it for some post-sunday-lunch perusing.

Anyway.

Song of the week is off Frank Ocean’s new album, which isn’t really new anymore, but if you will insist on exclusivity windows for streaming services, I’m going to arrive late to the party. It’s good though. The Internet is all mediocre cover versions, so I assume the copyright lads are on top of it. Have a Spotify link.*

  • First off the bat is a piece I don’t actually think is that good? Clearly I had some motive for including it in the list but I think it’s mostly to make fun of it.** Basically, I think there’s interesting technical and strategic analysis of a near-future conflict in the Baltic Sea, which is worrying but worthwhile. But it’s framed around this sub-Clancy fiction which is kind of terrifying insofar as what it says about the psyches of all the people involved.
  • Pretty sustained, no-holds-barred piece on Blair’s legacy
  • Fairly surreal profile of Valentine Strasser, who (almost accidentally) became President of Sierra Leone aged 25 after a 1992 coup.
  • Long history of Cyprus and how (mostly) Britain has made a mess of it.
  • It’s worth reading this profile of a life-long forger just to get the context for the headline (“If I sleep for an Hour, 30 People Will Die”)
  • Second week running I’ve got an interesting piece just named after a “genre” of clothes. This, on ‘boyfriend’ clothes.
  • This story of a Scottish island community buying their land back and prospering is pretty cool.
  • This Emily Reynolds bit on how we experience cities through memory etc. was really interesting and resonated a lot, I think.
  • The Pizza Express/McDonalds theory of the Labour party authentocracy has been circulating on my Twitter timeline for a while. Adding Spoons into the mix might be a stretch but I love it.
  • Another great essay from The Good Immigrant on sex and tokenism. I’ve bought the book now so I’ll probably stop sharing them.
  • Rik what does the funny kitchen implement reviews went and did SAS training. IDK. it’s good though.
  • This is sort of poignant on European night trains and how they were accidentally killed off.
  • Speaking of killing off, this story from the frontlines of the war on rats is pretty great.
  • Megan Nolan writes so beautifully.
  • Retelling Big from the mother’s point of view changes the whole film.
  • I know I complained about Fresher’s advice lists last week but I promise this one is worthwhile.
  • this is spectacular:

*was thinking of expanding this feature into a little fortnightly Spotify playlist, and I might still do so but cba this morning.

**IMO I’d just give up reading this week, come back on the 23rd***

***please don’t go away

25th of September: Wrestling With Chrome

Chrome is crashing constantly so compiling this week’s list has been like pulling teeth. Just so you know the effort I go to for you.

I’ve been listening to Runaway a lot recently, more so than I have in ages, and it’s so good. But also, my thumb keeps slipping on Spotify and giving me the other Runaway. Which is also kind of really good too? Which is nice cos normally when you slip and pick the wrong song on Spotify it’s a stupid string quartet cover version.

  • Kind of grimly interesting on how the US government has reformed its approach to the families of hostages
  • Among certain circles, British decolonisation and counterinsurgency is sort of held up as a model of “hearts and minds” COIN. This history of the brutal and sordid war in Malaya sort of punctures that eight billion times.
  • Speaking of sordid! We’re still selling arms to Saudi Arabia and contorting ourselves into knots to justify it. I wish I had been writing my dissertation this year rather than last year this is much juicier than “technically India was doing some mass killings in the 90s”.
  • This refugee housing project in Athens is kind of inspiring and nice.
  • Little reappraisal of the blitz from Richard Overy, probably interesting to me and me alone but oh well it’s my blog
  • So another author came out with a high profile and misguided intervention about appropriation and identity politics that I didn’t bother to engage with because life is so short, like I feel death’s cold hand on my shoulder every time I consider wasting my time with these rants. But anyway there were a couple of measured responses at least – from Nesrine Malik and Jia Tolentino.
  • New book out this week, The Good Immigrant, sounds interesting and valuable. Conveniently, loads of the essays contained in it have been published elsewhere. You’ve probably seen this thing by Riz Ahmed on airport security, it’s good. And this by Kieran Yates on being in between two worlds is really great.
  • Kinda beautiful little story about working as a cleaner I guess?
  • Oh god why am I reading and sharing U.S election stuff again death’s cold hand is tight on my shoulder – anyway. Seen a lot of disingenuous shit about young people being about to hand the election to Trump. This was quite sharp on the bad logic of those calls.
  • This is nuanced and interesting about porn. It’s in The New Yorker! So it’s classy and refined, but it is about porn so IDK careful where you click.
  • On [ugh] athleisure. But actually pretty fascinating on evolving vestimentary norms and class and gender and stuff and also yoga pants.
  • Had never heard of the Lucas Plan, tellingly. Sounds amazing.
  • Honestly this is kind of US-centric from the title on down but it’s a little bit of an amazing tirade against autumn or “fall”. It’s good.
  • ugh Freshers’ content.* But this is actually Emily Reynolds being really good and gentle on taking care of your head when you leave for university and I probably wish I had had it in 2011. Alas I am not followed by many youths so this is not really saving a life. Also this little bit of #content was quite amusing and #relatable and I hate everything.**
  • There’s a bit in here where someone suggests deporting the whole UCL campus to the countryside. Not unrelated to my previous point on Freshers, but I say to that plan: good. Anyway it’s important and eye-opening on cycling infrastructure and how much of an uphill struggle reforms to make London more liveable are. Also it’s about that god-awful road that runs through UCL so some nostalgia value for all my alumni readers.
  • This is lovely. Literally just eighty million words by someone out to drink their first ever coke but it’s so good.
  • Stumbled across this very cool and pretty website, Roads & Kingdoms the other day. Largely travel writing, I think. Worth having a trawl through this it’s all kind of fascinating. I pulled out this one about a ruined palace in Kabul and this one about meal planning in the Antarctic.
  • Sort of bleak account of Real Madrid’s (and I imagine other clubs’) youth academy
  • I liked this by Carl Anka on the value of the player character in the new FIFA being a black guy.
  • Some nerdery here on how Wales played the FIFA rankings to set themselves up for the Euros.
  • Cool tribute to The Blueprint, fifteen years on.
  • This “history” of Use Your Illusion seems to mostly just be quotes from Slash’s autobiography which is disappointing but still.
  • Don’t think I’ve ever read something properly about Kanye and 50 Cent’s rivalry but this is cool.
  • IDK, art. On the one hand the story of this woman who sought out famous photographers to take her picture is bizarre and interesting, but on the other, *fart noises*
  • Is Usher making a comeback? That’d be nice, I miss him.
  • Deep dives on celebrity gossip news are so compelling to me IDK why. On the end of Brangelina [ugh].
  • This article needed about fifty more photos of cool book covers because book covers are great but still quite interesting on re-editions and re-brandings of old-ass classics.
  • There’s probably a more mature response to all these luxury flat owners complaining that the Tate’s viewing platform overlooks their apartment but my main reaction is “lol rekt”. Sorry.

That’s that! Have a lovely Sunday! xx

*I wish some of the lowest parts of my life weren’t tied up with such regularly re-hashable forms of content. Every September, till I die probably? I’ll be compelled to read more shit lists and relive the whole sorry time.

**I was the keen little nerd that set up a Facebook group for Max Rayne house before leaving for university. Don’t know why. I remember developing deep and abiding hatreds of several people in my halls of residence that never really faded and don’t think I ever got anything positive out of the group. Just a little bit of fun anecdote for you there, loyal readers.