21st of February: I Feel Like Peter

Honestly the worst and most niche possible title there, but whatever. It’s actually a quite good joke that I may have to explain in the footnotes, thus invalidating it. Got to cross London in a bit, so let’s get to it!

Song of the week really wants to be one off Kanye’s new album, but because of his vile releasing decisions*, I don’t think I can get a YouTube link for you. So, off the top of my head, have the lead single off The Strokes’ last (last ever?) album, which I feel like deserved to lead a bigger comeback for them but there you go. It’s very falsetto and a bit manic but very wistful and lovely, remember listening to it a lot on the backroads between Kentish Town and Caledonian Road so there’s a fun little autobiographical fact for you.

The blog has seen a serious drop in traffic recently, which is partly because I haven’t bothered writing it or promoting (OK, mostly because of that). So if you fancy promoting the reading list a little that’d be lovely. Or don’t, whatever, it’s not like I thrive off the clicks. It’s available as a newsletter or at my blog.

  • Giving myself priority, I wrote a thing! As I say, it’s odd to have a regular book review series and then still go back and do standalone book reviews but *shrug*. I spent months reading a WW2 history trilogy and boring my girlfriend with inane facts about tanks to bring you this post.
  • They got Peter Oborne on Newsnight the other week to talk about his recent visit to Aleppo, and whatever the guy’s politics, it was a really interesting segment until they cut it short in favour of “what do these old Tories think Thatcher would have thought of the EU” chat and I was fuming. Anyway, this is his report from Aleppo, at length and fascinating.
  • Think this is a good corrective to the popular memory of the Iraq war – amidst the WMD lies narrative, it’s forgotten that toppling Saddam had been the plan for most of the 1990s
  • Sarah Reed’s story is a deeply upsetting one, and this interview with her mother is very moving but also important. It’s the kind of story that we hear about happening in the States and feel a bit righteous about but it happened in Holloway prison.
  • Thought this was interesting on recovering from sexual assault and how it fits into a continuum of societal violence (sort of hard to do this one justice in a sentence). On a similar note, in the wake of the Adam Johnson case, this was quite sad on “the grown man and the teenager”
  • More David Bowie! This feature on what he had been up to in his final years is good, and this uses him as a springboard (it’s actually the reverse of one but) for some really poignant reflections about ‘forever’
  •  Very nuanced and interesting discussion of whether we could or should wipe mosquitoes out
  • Equally nuanced on India’s heavy use of carbon-based energy. Captures a lot of the difficulties and challenges developing countries face with green energy without denying the issues this raises for climate change policy.
  • Nice little coincidence here, urban planning all over the shop. First, a weirdly serious (without being survivalist lunacy) look at which features of cities make them better places to survive a zombie apocalypse. And using maths to understand sub-optimal traffic patterns – it’s only about half as much of a headache as that sentence sounded, even if you’re as dumb as me when it comes to numbers.
  • So this is where that title joke comes in. As you’re all obviously aware, we’re big Yeezy fans here at fillingthelonghours dot wordpress dot com. So it is with heavy heart that I bring you this piece on his persistent and nasty misogyny and say “yeah I kind of agree”. But the new album is really good! So what do you do? I don’t know. On the other hand, I love this review of Yeezus in retrospective, which is such a good idea for a piece (and also a cynical way to extract content but)
  • I’m very anti-Bake Off but that Tamal lad seems like a nice guy, and he’s got a column at the Guardian (IDK why) and this was pleasant. Still a vile TV series.
  • The Darkness are very good, and I like the idea of them being a pivotal band for this author as a kid.

And there we go! Come back next week to see if I’ve read any books or bothered to write any reviews. Get in touch if you want me to explain the joke in the title (please don’t). And tell your friends. Have a lovely Sunday and a lovely week xxx

* it’s one thing to not make it available on Spotify, but a TIDAL exclusive I can’t even pay money to just have? rude

20th of December: Special Christmas Edition

Man of my word, innit. Despite being physically exhausted just looking at this week’s list of bookmarks, I told you I’d cover all your reading needs through the New Year, and I’ve delivered. Let’s get right to it.

Last year I think I shared a whole load of Christmas music with you but, tbh, if you’ve reached the last Sunday before Christmas without hearing Wham! and Mariah Carey without my help, I don’t really want you reading this list. However, you may not know about Kanye West’s Christmas song, so have that. The Marvin Gaye sample is perfect.

With a view to making 2016 the year this blog takes off, please do share it with your friends and family to give them some lovely Christmas cheer and me some lovely Christmas clicks. It’s available as a blog and newsletter.

  • About that Christmas cheer thing… this piece about three Syrian women in Raqqa and how they were variously involved with ISIS is very interesting and emphasises their voices and stories. This piece on the Syrian Kurds is, I think, overly optimistic on how far they can extend their successes, but worthwhile. On the other hand, the aftermath of one of the highest-profile victories in the war on ISIS, the battle for Kobane, left it an uninhabitable ruin – this account of a visit is a good reminder of the long-term consequences. I hate video #content and documentaries but this Vice embed with the Kurds as they re-entered Sinjar was decent.
  • A lot was made of the UK’s very good missiles being the reason we could make a difference in Syria*, and I don’t know what validity that has or ever had but this RUSI primer on the different military technologies the UK brings to the table is interesting (if you’re a very specific kind of nerd, admittedly). Also on a similar note, the arms manufacturers that make all the bombs being chucked around the Middle East literally can’t build them fast enough.
  • Which suggests we should maybe not start chucking bombs at space, but look! That’s the plan!
  • Interesting interview with a Belgian counter-terrorist officer
  • I like this piece from an actual historian on how sloppy narratives about French Algerians and the legacy of the war are used, mostly in the Anglophone media, to substitute for any sort of analysis
  • Yes, pieces about other people’s sobriety are well boring, but this one is good, so.
  • Two lovely, personal pieces on love and mental health – one, based on You’re the Worst’s stunning, affecting depression story this season (well good show that, watch it) and one on how bipolar disorder affects relationships
  • Super robot brains! Artificial intelligence! Literal immortality! Lot to get your head round in this two-parter on the road to superintelligence, and part of me suspects it’s all bollocks but.
  • Less exciting – a critique of lots of the assumptions in space travel and colonization narratives
  • This really long essay on The Selfie is incredible and almost makes all the tedious sneering at young people with their snapchats and their instagrams worthwhile if it led to it
  • This is an old recording of an old poem so not sure why it’s here but Jeremy Irons reading Eliot’s The Waste Land is beautiful and chilling and just about makes final year English Lit
  • As a classic Nice Guy tm ,  I liked this on the fading appeal of the ‘bad boy’**
  • Always a good sign of how hip you are when a hip music outlet does their “best of 2015” list and you don’t even recognise 75% of the artists. Good little source if you want more songs though, mostly leaning hip-hop
  • Fascinating on The Knowledge and the cabbie school on Cally Road
  • On drunk texting and why we’re so embarrassed by it
  • Profile of the lovely and very good Carly Rae Jepsen
  • Having played computer games since I was a wee lad, I’ve never really stopped to question the amount of prior assumptions and experience that go into it, but this piece by an older person (50 year old bloke, I think) who decides to start gaming for the first time is really interesting
  • The new Star Wars is, in fact, very good so this piece on how Disney are planning to perpetuate the franchise for all eternity in a cynical corporate master plan is Well Exciting.
  • Great little look at the furniture in the background of video games.
  • Five year anniversary of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, so Noisey did a whole load of articles about it. This one was good. Secret confession time: I didn’t listen to MBDTF till first year of university and didn’t really Get it for another year, so I can’t do the whole “first time I heard Nicki’s verse on Monster it changed my life” act. Shameful.

*basically gave up on ever writing up my thoughts about this tbh

**largely kidding

Six Strings Down


Last night, I was stewarding at an Eric Clapton concert, which mostly involves watching an Eric Clapton concert and getting paid for it (A+ job tbh). Because I’m ungrateful, I got to hoping Clapton would announce a special guest was sitting in with him on the next song, and out would come B.B. King. Much like every other time I’ve hoped this at a gig, of course, it was not to be.

I used to be quite bad for performative social media grief when a celebrity died, so have tried to pipe down a bit this morning, but I’ve long known B.B. King’s passing would hit hard. And hit hard it did.

Still, King lived to the age of 89 and had an incredible life. There are people far better placed than me to write tributes and obituaries to the man, his life, and, of course, his music, so I’m just going to share a few nice songs, a little anecdote about how B.B. King legit changed my life and then I’m going to go and listen to the 50-song anthology I just found on Spotify while seeking said better writers out.


So in 2005 or 2006, Mum was working at the Montreux Jazz Festival and she brought a friend and I along with her to wander about the festival and soak it all in. Of course, this meant our lift back wasn’t until three in the morning, as far as I remember. So we wandered, we soaked, Montreux is a pretty incredible place even if you’re not going for a concert*, but there are limits. The last couple of hours of the night, we spent slumped on one of the sofas, flicking through the old concert clips they have there. That was where we discovered B.B. King. Reckon it was this clip.


I’m not gonna lie, dear reader, it was mostly the faces that caught our attention at first. Those faces. There aren’t many guitar players who are easily as fun to watch as they are to listen to, but B.B. King was one of them. But then the voice and the actual playing got to me – I think I must have made Daniel watch that video three or four times that night.

I had just bought my first guitar, mostly inspired off the back of discovering Muse, but the guitar was well on its way to becoming another expensive abandoned hobby when I heard The Thrill is Gone for the first time. Ten years on I’m still not really even fit to try and imitate B.B. King, but pretending I could got me properly interested in guitar, and also set me off on the path to… well, to becoming a tedious blues-rock bore for most of my teens, but there you go. Can genuinely see my life having taken a mildly different turn had I not come across that clip all those years ago, and it was all because of old Riley.

So that’s my anecdote. I’ll leave you with this lovely duet between B.B. King and Buddy Guy – stick around for the little chat at the end.


*livid that this doesn’t have video anymore

**the other activity for the day is working out whether I should have spent £100-200 to see B.B. King there on the couple of occasions he played while I was living in the area

2nd of November: Record-Breaker

There’s good news, and there’s bad news. The good news is that there is no way you won’t find something in this week’s list that interests you. The bad news is that that’s because there are fifty-odd links today. I’m not sure why I all of a sudden started reading so much, especially as this was the week in which I downloaded an app to shame me into reading more books and frittering away less of my time. Oh well.

This was also the week in which Taylor Swift’s 1989 was released on iTunes, which is such an unwieldy piece of software that I was late to class because of it. Also because I don’t care, admittedly. However, I will not burden you all with a song off it as that’d be too obvious – I’ve already got about a dozen articles about it down the bottom of the list.

Song of the week is, just because I’m listening to it at the moment and having a bit of a nostalgic moment, November Rain. Watching the video while listening is compulsory.

Long, over-indulgent song, in an over-long intro, for an over-long blog? Brilliant.

I wrote a thing this week! Not NATO Council anymore, but I wrote up a talk by Professor Keohane I attended at the LSE.

  • Good look at how ISIS exploits tribal divisons

  • This piece on Obama administration diplomacy re: Iraq has some great little anecdotes

  • Even though I find the media’s fetishization of them a bit odd, this is a great feature (FR) on the female Kurdish militias

  • An overview of external interventions in Libya recently

  • Strong argument (FR) against “political solutions” to terrorism

  • Dan Drezner tries to understand the latest outbreak of US-Israeli (hilarious) pettiness

  • Examination of lone-wolf terrorism

  • Review of a damning book on the conduct of the war in Afghanistan.

  • Dilma won, and the Brazilian right are already trying to get her impeached. A look at why the election was so divisive, and an explanation of why she won. Also, some general interesting observations on the election.

  • Good piece on how the “Churchill” model of leadership haunts British politics

  • Fascinating look at how broadly black identity was defined in the UK. Sort of writing I only really see coming from the States, would love recommendations of UK-centric stuff.

  • Philippe Marlière tackles the myth of British generosity to asylum seekers

  • Speaking of which, a great (slightly old now) feature on the seat Nigel Farage is going to target at the next election

  • Also from the LRB, this is a really interesting history of Islam by Tariq Ali, introduced by a beautiful little autobiographical tale

  • A look at the future for Burkina Faso from Al Jazeera and Africa is a Country, as well as this delightfully pointed letter (FR) from President Hollande to (now-ex) President Compaoré

  • Almost dystopian (Kelsey Atherton compared it to Warhammer 40K when he shared it) but fascinating feature, touching on so many problems, piece on Californian prisoners working as volunteer firefighters.

  • An optimistic piece on Ebola? Surely not.

  • Very interesting interview about rethinking the way we design cities, taking, but of course, Latin America as an example

  • Terrifying piece (FR) on Boko Haram’s latest attack

  • This is a long, moving, intelligent, thoughtful, upsetting essay on dealing with grief – I had to read it in several sittings both because of the length and the subject matter but I highly recommend making the effort

  • Sober reaction to the Virgin Galactic crash Friday

  • Beautiful little piece on Egypt’s revolution

  • What is dehumanisation, and how does it enable atrocities?

  • I had assumed this sort of thing was an algorithm – turns out there are poorly-paid people dealing with ‘reported’ content on social media.

  • Long feature on how Louisiana is fading into the sea and the political, environmental, and cartographical implications of this

  • Two on abuse of women online – one an account, and the other a call to stand up to trolls

  • Very good feature on how China is causing concern in the Asia-Pacific region.

  • This is funny on ‘The Secret Fantasies of Adults’

  • Also funny but kind of not on the pictures used to illustrate overpopulation stories

  • Surreal feature on ‘Uber but for not-quite-escorts’

  • ICYMI, J.K. Rowling wrote a thing about Umbridge. The bit beneath where she explains where the character came from is more interesting TBH. Mostly sharing because it reminded me of “’The ministry has fallen. Scrimgeour is dead. They are coming.”, ie the best quote in the whole series.

  • The Chuckle Brothers are having a moment and it’s amazing
  • This game looks fascinating but horrific – great review

  • Still haven’t played Metal Gear Solid 3 but this is such a great piece anyway

  • Very interesting look at different treatments of sex in RPGs

  • Proof that Gamergate (ugh) is winning – Anita Sarkeesian got invited onto The Colbert Report. Performs very well, too.

  • Right, we’re approaching the Taylor Swift segment. This is technically a Swift piece but I think it’s broaderly [sic] relevant on how we dismiss music without understanding where it’s coming from.

  • Here goes *deep breath*. Jezebel on how dude-heavy reviews of 1989 have been. Reviews from NPR, Vulture, Grantland, The Guardian* . Review from Slate is actually very interesting despite a stupid gimmick. Delightfully keen ‘conversation‘ on 1989. On Swift’s persona. On her use of social media**. This is on Red but it’s interesting. Vox did a cool live-blog (dude-heavy). The Guardian did a roundup of pieces on it, some of which I may not have linked to (doubtful). And… *exhale*

That’s all! Just under the thousand-word-mark. Have a lovely week. x

*though not a fan of the dig at Lana

**which is undeniably skilful but I’m actually finding quite annoying – my Tumblr is now even more adolescent than it was when I just followed my sister on there

31st of August: Final Stretch

In the UK at least, summer seems to have collapsed in on itself. Which can only mean I’m that much closer to moving into a flat and restarting some semblance of a life again, so with any luck, these posts will get a lot more streamlined. Until then, I’m still pinging across London multiple times a day, several days of week, with all the scope for consuming enormous amounts of reading. Without any further ado, then, let’s get stuck in.

Song of the week was my favourite revelation of last week’s VMAs – Usher and Nicki Minaj have done a song together, and it sounds like something that could have come off Confessions, which was lovely as I’ve kind of lost touch with Usher since then. NB: Going to be a Nicki-heavy week*. EDIT: There’s a real video! Excitement!


First up, NATO Council of Canada article this week involves neither Canada or NATO, but it is on procurement, so I just about stayed on-topic – I looked at Brazil’s military modernization programme.

Also, weekly reminder – I’m still sending this out in newsletter form every Sunday, hoping that it’ll eventually hit critical mass – you can subscribe here.

  • Lots on the Islamic State this week** A thought-provoking John Schindler essay (/polemic) on what he sees as the generational struggle against militant Islamists. IDK. Worth reading, possibly overblown.
  • A couple of good pieces looking more closely at IS – this one on the Britons going to join it, and this on its rise, relationship with Al-Qaeda, and future
  • Boris Johnson is a cretin.
  • Interesting discussion of why we respond so much more to IS’ violence than, for example, gang violence in Latin America, given their apparent similarities
  • Clear pushback on the emerging idea that we should side with Assad against IS
  • Great essay on the vacuum of power (but not a “why won’t Obama lead”) in the Middle East
  • Kind of terrifying article embedded with the Shia militias on the frontlines in Iraq
  • Important reminder from a while back that bombing Syria last year would have done fuck-all, and diplomacy has eliminated their chemical weapons
  • Investigation of the possible legal justifications for American airstrikes against IS in Syria
  • Another good Stephen Saideman piece on reforming NATO
  • First of the week’s New Yorker backlog clearout – long feature on Putin and the new anti-Americanism in Russia
  • Lot of talk of Obama’s foreign policy falling apart this week. A reminder that the low-hanging fruit is gone.
  • Hopi Sen continues his hot-streak in his first appearance this week, on the “Stop the World” coalition – I remember wanting to argue with something in this but not finding anything.
  • Second New Yorker is a feature on the Sri Lankan civil war. Hard reading, but nothing that’ll surprise anyone who watched the Channel 4 documentary (go watch that if you haven’t)
  • This profile of an abortion doctor in Mississippi is a great look at a wonderful man, that doesn’t lose sight of the fucked up conditions he is forced into
  • Couple of good pieces on the dangers of condescending reporting on the Ebola outbreaks in West Africa. This one, at the Atlantic, is heartbreaking (that ending – chills). This one, at the Monkey Cage (I know), more scholarly
  • Hugh Muir is excellent on the continuing horrors coming out of Rotherham and the shameless attempts to blame them on PC gone mad.
  • Thoughtful essay on admitting your white privilege
  • History of race riots in the USA, and growing more positively out of similar fuckery in the UK, a history of the Notting Hill Carnival
  • Harsh piece on war reporting today
  • Rather weirdly beautiful piece of writing on war through the eyes of the C-130 transport plane
  • Obviously this is a great blog on what all the horrid images shared on Twitter do to us, but I’m mostly sharing it because despite having consigned Thinking Fast and Slow to the “two-thirds read” pile***, I recognised the quote!
  • Fascinating account of the botched rescue of the Iranian embassy hostages
  • I may have linked to this before, but you should all be checking out Willard Foxton’s WW1 History Tumblr – based on a collection of contemporary magazines, he also shares little anecdotes or histories. Really interesting little tidbits every day.
  • Hopi Sen, again, on the need for a Spotify for news – I feel this.Even if money wasn’t a concern, the hassle is maddening – the Financial Times is pretty egregious in this regard.
  • Told you Nicki was going to feature heavily. These two posts that I found really helpful provide context to the brilliant Anaconda video– plenty overlap, but this one is a snappy Tumblr, and this one is a bit boilerplate feminist. Meanwhile, this by Emily Reynolds is just quite funny.
  • Now that Playboy have de-perved their website (mostly), can respectably link to them. This, on the whitewashing of hip-hop, is great.
  • Suspect time-lapse videos are going to be everywhere soon (Dad showed me the new Instagram app), but until then, this one of the Panama canal is quite incredible
  • IDK if I’m horrified or enticed by Arby’s Meat Mountain but this is a brilliant article
  • I defer to no man**** in my love for About a Boy/Bridget Jones Hugh, but this is funny.
  • As the start of the academic year approaches, this might be helpful to some of you.
  • Finally, Fuck this tortoise.

A long one, but there you go. Lots to be getting on with – see you in September! x

*I have some thoughts on Super Bass, which for some reason, I hadn’t heard before, and I have a platform so: 1) the aesthetic of this video is terrifyingly frenzied. Just that blinking in the first verse is disquieting 2) first time I heard it, I was immediately reminded of the soundtrack to Thomas Was Alone and this felt like a really good insight. Look!

**I’ve noticed that about half of these articles are still referring to ISIS. There are sound political reasons for this (not legitimising them as a state, chiefly) but I go with IS largely out of laziness and Twitter character limits.

***started it up again last night after writing this

****admittedly I probably don’t need to

3rd of August: “Commuter” Edition

I’ve decided I don’t like coming into London during the week. As befits my status as “a bit of a waste of space” ™, recently I’ve been coming in to the centre, wearing shorts and sunglasses, and overlapping with various segments of commuters on the train, all besuited and miserable, and god. Nothing quite like it to remind you you’ve done nothing with your week.

Nothing but read a bunch of stuff! The advantage of “commuting”, of course, is I read a bunch of stuff – which is good for you, as you don’t even need to do the commuting bit (unless you do anyway, in which case, sorry)

Song of the week isn’t exactly a song so much as an indulgence. Despite realising their audience is apparently mostly 14, and despite their hawking their songs to every awful thing from the Olympics to Twilight, I still have a lot of time for Muse, if only out of loyalty to high-school me. This week’s song is the three-part ‘symphony’ off the end of The Resistance, ‘Exogenesis’. It’s ridiculous, self-indulgent, and just a bit beautiful. It’s also twelve minutes long: luckily, there are a lot of links this week.

  • Two posts on the international response to Vladimir Putin’s actions in Ukraine. One arguing for a more assertive policy, and one praising the restrained one so far. You choose*
  • Interesting article examining different scenarios for China’s rise to challenge the narrative of its inevitable hegemony
  • What are NATO and the EU’s rapid response forces good for? Also wrote an article about this, which I submitted about three hours before reading – annoying.
  • Mean Girls reference and slamming right-wing orthodoxies? Sold. On Mitt Romney, the ‘fetch’ of presidential candidates
  • Damning piece on the aftermath of the Libyan intervention
  • The Early Warning Project present their assessments for risks of state-led mass killing in 2014 – interesting for my dissertation, but also for you
  • Adam Elkus has some problems (to say the least) with US policy in ‘AfPak’
  • Bitterly funny.
  • Quite nice interview with someone who I assume is famous in the States on travel, food, and …war
  • I don’t know how the hell to summarise this piece without sounding mad. One of their pictures might help:

    taken from The Atlantic

  • Reassuring blog by Tom Chivers on the Ebola outbreak.
  • There was a lot of money sloshing around for contractors after the Afghan and Iraq war – this piece looks at someone who made a lot of money from them, perhaps not too ethically.
  • Charlie’s got more thoughts on development – interesting ones
  • Lovely piece from Roxane Gay
  • Dorian Lynskey has an excellent feature on the egregious example of cultural appropriation that is the ‘festival headdress’
  • Mythologised history is fun, but it’s nice to know the truth about les taxis de la Marne
  • Speaking of mythologised history, this (multi-part, not sure which link I’ve given you) “degenerates” into mid-century Swiss army fan-fiction (as if that’s a bad thing), but is interesting on the German plans for an invasion of Switzerland in WW2
  • Ally Fogg is not unhappy that men’s appearances are getting more scrutiny than in the past
  • This sounds appalling to me, because strangers, but quite an interesting concept – like blablacar but for food
  • This is nice, somewhat encouraging, stuff by Bim Adewunmi
  • The pieces from the New Yorker archive are starting to come through. This week, celebrity profiles! First up, this is cool on George Clooney
  • Didn’t mean for this to happen, honest, but GQ’s interview with Kanye West is great, and it was right next to this very interesting (quite old, pre-Red) profile of Taylor Swift** in my bookmarks. I’mma let you finish indeed.
  • Got endless time for writing about Confessions
  • This is inexplicably funny.

Weekly reminder that if you’d prefer, the Reading List is available in newsletter form here, and with that, I bid you bubye. Enjoy the weather or something. x

*currently writing something on Parliament’s report on the issue, so watch this space

**god this has been a week for “guilty” pleasures, hasn’t it? Muse and Taylor Swift (who even my teenaged sister (ie, Swift’s target audience) rolls her eyes at me for liking).

13th of July: They Think It’s All Over

And, mercifully, it almost is. It’s been a wonderful Cup but I’m ready for the footballing humiliation to end and the irritating coverage of Brazil to go away. That means it’s the last of the Brazilian choices. To suit the mood, the beautiful “Tive Razao” by Seu Jorge. Come for the effortlessly cool video, avoid weeping over the Brazil team’s goal difference in the last two games, and stay for Jorge’s gorgeous voice.

With that, off we go. One thing: I forgot how publishing works when it’s not just me alone in my room pressing “post”, so the next NATO Council piece will actually be up this week, maybe.

  • Somewhat reassuring look at how the USA will retain the capacity to deter Chinese expansion until domestic factors make China less of a threat
  • Then again, with the continuing absurdity that is the F-35 program, maybe the optimism is misplaced…
  • Analysis of the different possible motivations and strategies behind IS(IS?)’s violence
  • Great piece for the IR nerds by Adam Elkus on the “state of the state”. His “ISIS as Jay Gatsby” analogy is my favourite thing
  • Consideration of the pro-Russian narrative in Ukraine on Kiev’s atrocities
  • Bit glib, but within this comic there’s a really interesting story of the AU peacekeeping mission in Sudan
  • Charlie’s blog is really hitting its stride – I’m actually starting to get the hang of the complexity economics thing he keeps going on about
  • I snark enough about reporting on Brazil here, so only fair to highlight – this is a good piece on the World Cup serving as an introduction to Brazil for the world and vice versa*, this is a sweet piece on kids who won tickets to the final (Charlie Bucket eat your heart out), and this is both snark on crappy reporting and a nice look at Brazilian’s reaction to the Mineiraço
  • 😦 **
  • While it is all a bit obvious, this is a useful reminder that everything is fucked in case you’re also struggling to find a job and hating everything – it’s not all your fault***
  • Brilliant little Civil War story
  • Occasionally I think I might stop dodging the draft and go and do my Brazilian military service. This piece, on Royal Marine Commando training, was a nice deterrent. It’s also interesting to note how sophisticated it all seems compared to the “Curahee” episode of Band of Brothers
  • The Emmy nominations were this week, and I saw a lot of “OMG why didn’t X get a nod” stuff circulating. This is a good Voxplainer on the process behind the awards that goes some way to explaining all the anomalies, like Jon Hamm not winning all the awards ever.
  • I like Mindy Kaling a lot, The Mindy Project a lot less, but it’s great that it exists as a show if it inspires these sorts of conversations. Article itself is a bit flabby – it’s one of those Buzzfeed “roundtables” that gets too rambly. A lot of interesting stuff about second-generation immigrant alienation, among other things.
  • This is stunning – behind-the-scenes footage of the VFX work on Game of Thrones work
  • Looks like this could be an interesting series on Lana del Rey. Could also be tossy and dull of course, because it’s the New Inquiry, so one to watch
  • Super exciting news about a republication of The Sun Also Rises, along with a lovely collection of all the covers through the years

Finally, it’s back. I’m trying to be a more positive, professional voice here, but I made the mistake of reading this and ugh. I should have known better – king of the smug interventionists John Rentoul linked to it on Twitter, and the title itself is a warning as to just how smug it’ll get, but god. In response to all the sneering, let’s just take a whistle-stop tour through all the problems with it; massive public opposition to further intervention in the Middle East is dismissed as “cheap campaign promises”; the Iraqi government’s agency in refusing to sign the Status of Forces Agreement is dismissed in favour of scoring cheap shots at Obama; “an attempted détente” with Iran is pitched as a bad thing; the excellent Daniel Drezner is smeared as “one of the administration’s “realist” apologists”…. I mean I could go on, this is just me scrolling through and letting the irritation take me. There is only one thing left to say:


Enjoy the final tonight, and have a lovely week, guys xx


*of course if the introduction happens via shitty sensationalising and “oooh how exotic” reporting then….

**unless if you’re spending most of your day playing Skyrim and Crusader Kings… then it’s kind of your fault

***this is a link, in case it isn’t clear

22nd of June: Rebrand

I’m writing this week’s post, at long last, from London. To celebrate the move, I’ve changed theme (also because the other one was just absurdly narrow). Very glad to have seen Spain crash out of the Cup and crown Phillip the Sixth before leaving, but delighted to be home. With that out of the way, vamonos.

First up, song of the week is the great opener from O Rappa’s MTV Acoustic album. Come for the infectious riff, avoid getting bored by the overlong introduction, and stay for the wonderful Brazilian instrumentation.

Next, in case you missed it, I wrote a review of HBO’s The Pacific here, which somehow skyrocketed to one of my most successful posts ever by virtue of …idk being part of the tumblr “pacific” tag? either way, works for me.

With that, let’s go, for the first reading list of the summer in London!

  • Couple of posts on the ongoing debate over the ‘America in retreat’ trope. One in response to an Anne-Marie Slaughter piece, and one in response to a Robert Kagan one: both pieces are linked to in the introductions.
  • With regards to the ongoing nightmare in Iraq, several pieces. Here, a history of the Kurds’ efforts for statehood (in French). Interesting piece from Aaron Zelin who’s been justifiably doing the vindicated-expert thing on Twitter recently on what it’s like to live under ISIS rule. Strong argument for us not going back into Iraq from Barry Posen. Finally, important Jay Ulfelder post on the dangers of making up counterfactuals
  • Great essay on the relationship (much more complex than it seems) between God and State in Egypt
  • Non-annoying Amnesty International piece scrutinising Brazil’s shortcomings in the context of the World Cup
  • Reporting on a World Cup protest that is actually constructive and useful and features badass old ladies
  • Important piece on the British-caused/exacerbated/provoked famines in India during the Second World War. Churchill FTW
  • Gripping account of the soon-to-be retired A-10 warplane saving a British raid gone wrong in Afghanistan
  • Incisive, clear-headed analysis of what was actually going on in that scandal over an Islamic extremist takeover of Birmingham schools
  • Terrifying piece on how poor internet and software security is. Properly chilling
  • Great review of Lana del Rey’s new album Ultraviolence, which I’ve been wanting to share tracks off for weeks, but my stupid World Cup feature takes precedence. Features wonderful thinking about the emotions girls are allowed to express. You guys know I’m a sucker for over-analysing pop music.
  • Speaking of over-analysis, brilliant examination of the dragons-as-nukes metaphors in Game of Thrones
  • Examination of the way the backstories of female characters in video-games show how their writing continues to be lazy. It focuses on games, but seems relevant for a lot of other media.

And with that, we’re done! Spent most of the flight home watching Louie and Batman cartoons, so less articles than expected. Also, I’ve finally arrived in walking distance of the UCL library, so am planning to read a lot more books. On the one hand, this means less links – on the other, more reviews! Have a great week, guys – next time we speak, I think we’ll be well into the knock-out stages! x

4th of May: Quarterly Review

So this is roughly the three-month anniversary of the Reading List posts. While my initial ambition to use them to ease me back into actually writing has gone out of the window, I’ve enjoyed doing this every week anyway, and I hope you have too. Happy anniversary.


With that out of the way, off we go. I’m away from home for the second weekend running, so there’ll be less links, and if WordPress fucks me over again, it might not even appear till I get home, but there you go.

last.fm is giving me nothing as far as song of the week goes, as it’s only been able to track me for two days. So, have a Kendrick Lamar song – it’ll be relevant for one of the last links, so you can go into it knowing what it sounds like!


  • To start with, as Iraq holds parliamentary elections this week, these are timely and interesting too – a profile of Prime Minister Maliki, and an account of how Iraq has continued to be unstable and dangerous in the aftermath of the US withdrawal
  • Interesting long piece on how enormously the US entry into World War One changed the country and its institutions
  • A great article from Cord Jefferson here on how Donald Sterling’s comments fit into a long tradition of white male anxiety over inter-racial relationships. On a similar topic, this from Jude Wanga on the issues with the “#somostodosmacacos” campaign in support of Dani Alves is a quite provocative response, and this is a poignant tribute (that I meant to link weeks ago) to Rubin “Hurricane” Carter
  • The Buzzfeeding of Novara continues in fine form with this good primer on how important the recent strikes in Chinese footwear manufacturers are
  • I was all ready to put this in the eyeroll section – “criminal eyesores” made it sound like it would be classic Jenkins with the added bonus of being targeted at Brazil to annoy me. But it’s actually a thoughtful article on the future of informal housing in cities the world over, with appropriate respect given to the concerns of favela residents. Fair play to Sir Jenkins.
  • Oddly, I’ve read several articles on British politics recently, which I thought I was trying to stop doing. Regardless, a good article by Rafael Behr on how the disillusioned voters Ukip appeal to are changing British politics, a reminder of how awful Ukip are by Hugh Muir, and a very interesting read on HS2
  • Fun blog from Jessica Valenti on why it can be worthwhile to engage with nasty trolls
  • Was linked to this site earlier – it’s a very interesting look at the rhythms of rap lyrics – reminded me of struggling with, and giving up, with moving from tabs to sheet music on the guitar years ago. Anyway, this analysis of some of Kendrick Lamar’s raps is really cool.Image
  • In case you hadn’t seen it yet, this photo and cast list of the new Star Wars films gave me shivers. Though in light of the previous films’ hit-and-miss representation of women and people of colour, it’s unfortunate to see so many white guys in those sofas.


Finally, the eye-roll of the week! It is, for the first time, a Seumas Milne column. It’s pretty standard Milne – but the disingenuousness of the last few paragraphs is shocking even by his standards. NATO member states requesting firm commitments to their defence after Putin expresses a desire to protect ethnic Russians beyond his borders becomes, naturally, US imperialism, and there is no mention of Russia’s invasion or the thousands of troops waiting on the border. Throw in some baseless (or incorrect) speculation about a Russia-China alliance, and you’ve got a gem. I award it the full Kanye.


With that, we’re done – have a good week!