5th of February: There’s a cat on my bed

Right look, I know, it’s been ages. There was Christmas, and then there was New Year’s (Sundays both, I think), and then I was moving house, and then as I was on holiday.* I’m sorry. I’m still keen on this list, I still like the idea of getting to share some great #content with you all, I’ve just been a bit slack. Sunday morning is, and remains, a bastard of an appointment, so I’ll consider rejigging it as we get into the year. Meanwhile, I’ve left this long enough, and it’s ballooning. I’ve been told my list of bookmarks is now obscenely long, so I’m splitting it up and giving you all a bonus instalment next week. It looks like I might be able to put together a whole list of just fun stuff which might be nice. This week: misery and death.

Bonus cat:

2017-02-05-10-30-46

 

  • The Daily Beast has maybe always been a bit weird, but it’s gone full weird in recent times, between outlandish claims on the Middle East and now its spearheading of hysteria over Russia. Still, for this piece, a journalist who survived an IED attack in Iraq in 2006 went back to interview an ISIS bombmaker in prison. It’s nuanced and heavy and thoughtful.
  • I think my main takeaway from the scandal over the IISS getting secret funding from Bahrain is that, had an interview gone the other way last year, I could have been on £16-9k a year of that sweet sweet blood money. This piece is very thoroughly reported, providing real heft to the deserved smacking the IISS has gotten over this.
  • Reckon I had an article about the Mosul dam collapsing, probably in The New Yorker, in the list two or three years ago, and here we are again! It’s still terrifying in an almost unbelievable way. If Iraq has dumb Hollywood films I assume this is their equivalent of the San Andreas fault.
  • And while we’re on the subject of flooding, don’t assume your warm little London cupboards and cells are safe** – the UK is woefully unprepared for major flooding.
  • Speaking of woefully unprepared, nuclear weapons are not only apocalyptic, they’re also a bit shoddy? This story was published, I think, before the Royal Navy almost levelled Miami, which only adds to how scary it is.
  • This is an interesting, humanising idea from Reuters, a sort of detailed, granular analysis of the journeys of the people on one of the worst shipwrecks in the Med in the past couple of years, with interviews and everything.
  • It is good to be made aware of good and valid reasons for concern around the death of cash and the rise of contactless cards and phone payment etc. However, I still say – bin coins and if your shop doesn’t have contactless, sort it out.***
  • This is a great profile of Diane Abbott, who gets so much stick for reasons I can’t quite? Put my finger on? Don’t know what it is about her that means there’s so much hostility to her in particular? Weird and mysterious IMO. Anyway, she’s brilliant and this is interesting.
  • Like most people, I suspect, the whole Corbyn thing has sort of faded in my eyes and it’s a bit bittersweet, etc. Still interesting reading this excerpt from a book on the initial leadership challenge that looks at how the Guardian slanted its reporting and analysis around the boy JC.
  • I think this piece on Camden becoming a parody of itself and then gentrifying and possibly dying out is interesting but ultimately, the answer to the headline must be kind of… no? Whenever I’d visit London in my teens, I’d make a point of visiting Camden market, and it seemed like the coolest place there was.**** Then I lived there for a bit and became immune to it, and then, when I got a job in the Spoons on the canalside, I realised I hated having to walk up that high street. So idc.
  • Speaking of places I’ve lived I have weird feelings about! Madrid’s new mayor is doing genuinely fascinating and bold stuff with pedestrianisation and binning cars off in order to combat air pollution, unlike our new mayor whose main policy was “try not to walk too much lads” as we all choked on toxic exhaust fumes.
  • Fair warning this one is a lot of gross body horror, and a bit US-centric probably, but if you want some gruesome facts about childbirth, go ahead!
  • Think the heyday of cultural appropriation as a controversy has sort of passed us by, but this is a really sensitive, lovely account of an author’s struggle with her own kimono.
  • I don’t know what conclusion to draw from this article about Silicon Valley in the context of the #deleteUber thing – guess it’s the eternal “there is no ethical consumption under late capitalism thing” but hey.
  • Torn on this one about Google’s machine learning experiments. On the one hand, the technology and progress is terrifying and awesome. On the other hand, the fawning tone of the whole thing is a bit nauseating. It frequently reads like one those gross articles where a bloke is sent to perv on a young female actress. At least the objectification is being turned on some male nerds for once?
  • Sobering look at people in the UK who are homeless despite being employed. Seventh largest economy in the world!
  • Good corrective to some of the reporting around strikes and trade unionism that tends to erase the agency of union members (or “workers” as they are commonly known.
  • This profile of Mexico’s post-murder-cleanup-specialist is grim and weird and poignant.
  • A lot of chat on the ol’ social media comparing the rise of the alt right and the morality of punching Nazis (extremely good, btw) with German denazification. This story about some neo-Nazi serial killers sort of tarnishes that narrative a bit, I think. There’s been rumblings about the trial elsewhere, some going into more depth into the allegations of complicity from the authorities.
  • This week in “that thing you thought was good is actually bad” news, some caution around the reopening of Fabric.

 

And that’s that. Fun stuff next week I promise!

*conveniently elided here; the week I just couldn’t be arsed, frankly. I made a pie instead, and it was great.

**just clocked that this is the first list I’m putting together at my new kitchen table. We have daffodils it’s cool.

***have gotten to the point where I have to make an effort to remember my PIN when I’m rudely asked for it

****the underground stables bit exerted a particular fascination – the climax of one of my long-running Urban Dead stories took place there.

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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