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

7th of September: Human Sadness

We now enter into this blog’s seventh month (I think). So that’s cool.  Seven months in, I still occasionally forget what day it is and leave writing/compiling links to the last minute, which is telling. As ever, I’m about to send out the newsletter version of this, so you can subscribe over here.

Song of the week has to be Julian Casablancas’ mad new single. (called Human Sadness, hence the title)

NATO Council article of the week is on India’s nuclear submarine programme – as you can tell by the “previously”, there should be another one before it but IDK.

I also wrote a quick post on the announcement that the UK will operate its second carrier after all, which was based on faulty assumptions, but still got a lot of traffic. Embarrassing.

  • Stephen Saideman has had a number of good posts on NATO and Russia this week, with a number of little correctives and explanations – I’ve linked one on burden sharing, but it’s worth going back a few days.
  • Normally, “X must lead” is irritating do-somethingism, but I like this from the RUSI.
  • Speaking of irritating do-somethingism, great defense of Obama’s caution and a good critique of current rhetoric around Ukraine
  • Solid proposal for reinvigorating European defence
  • Interesting counter to the narrative of an “isolated” China.
  • Report from a journalist embedded in the Donetsk People’s Republic
  • Jihadism expert J.M Berger examines what their different approaches to hostages may mean about the future of IS and Jabhat al Nusra
  • Rather terrifying account of the Filipino peacekeepers’ escape from the Golan Heights
  • Defence of the lack of an ICC investigation in Gaza by its chief prosecutor
  • Again, Boris is a cretin.
  • Great attack on motorists’ dominance in Britain – published in the Telegraph, too!
  • Interview with Gordon Brown
  • Professor Marlière explains recent events in French politics
  • Meanwhile, France finally suspended the Mistral sale. This examines some implications (Fr.)
  • Quite scary account of an operation under the Brazilian dictatorship in 1970
  • Depressing New Yorker feature on gun culture in the States
  • Fascinating story on Google’s drone delivery programme
  • Number of excellent pieces on the stolen celebrity nudes. One here. These two, read in tandem, because I liked the BuzzFeed one but this is critical of it and I don’t know what to think.
  • Brilliant defence of bad British food, and a great article on Jamie Oliver
  • Rather great short story
  • Moving article on how we fail to deal with terminal illness
  • Lovely piece by Ta-Nehisi Coates about learning French as an adult
  • The Debrief have become one of my favourite sites in recent weeks – then they got an interview with Jon Hamm and now I’m dying of envy
  • Oliver Burkeman reviews some self-help books
  • Rediscovered this great career advice article from George Monbiot this week
  • Lovely feature on hangovers across time and cultures
  • Finally, very cool remix of the Game of Thrones theme

And that’s it. Have a good week x

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

10th August: Binary Mood

I don’t know if this is just one of those confirmation bias things but I feel like the past few weeks have just been a bleak, bleak time to be human. The last awful headline barely has time to be fade before another horror arrives on the news. So I’m rejigging the structure a bit this week. The first half is pretty grim but, I hope, interesting as ever. Meanwhile, I’ve shoved anything mildly optimistic/light-hearted into the second half, regardless of topic. If you’ve read enough dire reports on the state of the world today, scroll straight down.

Song of the week  – Guns N’ Roses’ “Coma”. Had forgotten about it as I’m no longer 16 ( 😦 ) The last two or three minutes of this song are properly incredible – rest is good two but from the solo onwards it’s something else.


After some hiccups in the posting schedule, my latest-ish piece at NATO Council is up (hoping for a couple more to appear soon) – this one was on the United Kingdom procuring the F-35. It’s also the last of the little miniseries I was writing (in my mind) on British defence matters so that’s cool. Been playing with a concluding post to go up here, may arrive this week.

With that, let’s get the nastiness out of the way first

The Bad

  • So IS(IS/L) have been all over the headlines (and all up in US bombsights now) this weekend. This essay in the London Review of Books is properly depressing stuff – they look increasingly likely to be here to stay
  • I’m sure you’re all dying to know – the official stance here is cautiously in favour of the operations against IS announced this weekend. Then again what the fuck do I know I was pleased when UNSC1973 got passed and look at Libya now. Regardless this is a well-argued proposal at Foreign Policy for a proper disengagement by the USA from the Middle East.
  • I’ve spent the past few days sneering, sniping and generally being unpleasant about the various irritants who make up the British liberal interventionist segment of the media. So it’s only fair that I share with you this thoughtful, honest meditation by Hopi Sen, shining light among them, on the current state of Western foreign policy
  • Properly arming the Kiev government would be a bad idea right now
  • Vladimir Putin seems a bit of a tragic figure, aside from all the nastiness. But what if sanctions do force him out of power?
  • Bringing research and scholarship to bear on the ongoing problem of creating a lasting ceasefire in Gaza
  • The fact that the Ebola serum has only been used on two white Americans while Africans die by the hundred looks bad – but it’s more complicated than that
  • This is a powerful, upsetting read about a young reporter’s first night in Kiev. Dispiriting but important. TW for sexual assault.

Ugh. All-round unpleasant.

But look.

  • First up, Daniel Woodburn presents a more optimistic look at ISIS’ prospects*
  • Intriguing proposal to end the violence in Ukraine from Dan Drezner
  • Slight, but fascinatingly futuristic idea for humanitarian relief
  • Realistic proposals for positive change in the DRC? :O
  • A reminder that there are no nuclear weapons in South America – that’s nice. Interesting look at why that is.
  • Hesitated on where to put this, as it’s bittersweet, but a lovely profile of one of the women involved in the Supreme Court case against the Defence of Marriage Act.
  • The New Statesman has a tendency to publish pretty irritating stuff on feminism**, but this brilliant (long) essay on trans people and radical feminism kind of makes up for it
  • Was only vaguely aware of this – amid the commemorations of the soldiers, Paul Mason argues the First World War was brought to an end by workers’ movements
  • CityMetric is an interesting project. This is cool on the definition of a city, and this is encouraging on the urban revolution.
  • Speaking of cities: very fun account by Clive Martin of a pub crawl through the worst of gentrifying London dickery. Surprisingly even-handed. While most of my trips into Central London make me pray for the day all its wanky boutiques, pop-ups, craft beer and fancy coffee houses disappear from the face of the Earth, this sort of piece makes me wonder if I shouldn’t give it a chance while I’m still here.
  • Great interview with the wonderful Christina Hendricks
  • Been reading a lot of The Debrief this week (you should too) – enjoyed this on the mad reactions to J-Law’s breakup, and not just because her dating that annoying kid out of About a Boy was annoying
  • Liked this by Daisy Buchanan – just eight years to go till I hit my peak, apparently
  • Really want to play Far Cry 3 again after reading this great piece
  • I identify deeply with this Buzzfeed.
  • My hero.

Also, I wanted to do a Kanye-eyeroll here but can’t be arsed, but can we just take a moment to note that on Thursday morning Dan Hodges wrote a weasel wordy, incoherent, ignorant column decrying the paralysis and cowardice of the non-interventionism that dominates Western policy and literally like twelve hours later, Obama was authorising airstrikes on ISIS (just in time to spare us a tedious Nick Cohen column on the topic, I hope). Beautiful.

Long’un this week. Whoops. We’re done. Enjoy the week as best you can guys. This too shall pass, maybe? IDK.

As ever, if receiving this thing to your email inbox late Saturday night instead of seeking it out yourselves during Sunday appeals to you, I’ve started a newsletter which you can subscribe to ->here<-

*optimistic for us, not them, obv.

**which I’m loathe to really criticise because I’m a bloke but.

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).

6th of July: Late

This is late as a post has been, so sorry about that – was hanging out with a baby who is far more interesting than blogging.

Think this is the penultimate week of World Cup music, and I’ve missed so much. On the plus side, the delay from normal music choices has probably spared you an endless sucession of songs off Lana del Rey’s new album. This week, it’s the beautiful Chico Buarque (seriously, look up videos of him speaking and get lost in his eyes and voice) and “Apesar de Voce”. Come for the elated chorus, avoid laughing at how the censors let this one through, and stay to prove you’re smarter than them.

Before we start, got an announcement: following the NATO Council Canada articles from last week, am very pleased to have been asked to join their Junior Research Fellow program and write on a more regular basis. So that planned series on British defence spending and strategy will start appearing over there, probably mid-weekish. I’ll link to them in the reading lists too. So that’s exciting. And now let’s go!

  • On the subject of my own writing, here’s my review of John Mearsheimer’s The Tragedy of Great Power Politics.
  • I linked to this in said review, but this is a really interesting discussion of the domestic political factors that are, and will, undermine the pivot to Asia
  • Three interesting, and quite optimistic articles about recent military developments in Africa (I know, I know, Africa’s not a country but.). Here (Fr.), on Nigeria, here on the DRC, and here (less optimistic tbh, and as much about the French as anything), on Mali.
  • But a less optimistic take on things in the Congo with regard to the big steps taken in conflict mineral labelling
  • Thoughtful discussion from Noam Chomsky of the efficiency and justification for the Boycott-Divestment-Sanctions campaign against Israel
  • Sobering outline by Tom Nichols of ways nuclear war could still happen
  • Bittersweet account of boxer Joe Dorsey’s fight against segregation in Louisiana
  • Very interesting discussion of Laurie Penny’s recent article on trans people – gets to the heart of quite complex issues of representation and appropriation
  • I’ve been thoroughly unconvinced by Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) I’ve taken this year, so this critique was particularly interesting to me, even if it does occasionally stray into irritating academic-speak
  • On David Cameron’s continuing incompetence at European diplomacy: sigh
  • History essay on late nineteenth-century aristocrats, the Habsburgs and Franz Ferdinand
  • Lovely article on  MTV’s Catfish
  • I identified a lot with this Telegraph post on how house prices have become so absurd that they’re not even a concern to young people anymore
  • Football! Great piece on the tedious stereotyping of “physical” “tactically bemused” African teams. Deliciously provocative on how Brazil’s shambolic Latin American lazy shirking organisation compares to brave efficient brilliant clever Britain’s preparation for the 2012 Olympics. Very interesting take on diving in football – a defence that I really liked, having kind of gotten over of complaining about it. Lovely piece on how, even if we do go out against Germany on Tuesday, Brazilians as a people will have been the biggest winners of the Cup.
  • I giggled hard at this article on GTA: Online.
  • Funny comic on Bat-privilege.
  • When Caitlin Moran’s on form and not being dismissive of marginalised voices, she’s wonderful. This article on her teenaged “sex quest” is delightful.
  • I love warm weather but hate the outside and the people who inhabit it – this Buzzfeed list is everything to me.

And with that, we’re done! I’ve just got back to having good internet access so am going to dive headfirst into the Steam Summer Sale windfall. See you all next week!

The Tragedy of Great Power Politics: Review

nicked off Amazon.com

Earlier in the year, I wrote a review of an additional chapter John Mearsheimer had written for a revised edition of The Tragedy of Great Power Politics and published online – as I said at the time, I hadn’t actually read the original book. In my defence, the politics library at my university appeared to be a single room with some Spanish books in it, so I wasn’t confident I’d find it. Anyway, I’m back in London, and I’ve read it now. Review after the jump.

Continue reading

29th of June: Reading You Can Really Get Your Teeth Into

Bit of topical World Cup humour there. Jokes being the furthest thing from my mind as I sit shell-shocked on the sofa from that exhausting Brazil game. Still we’re through, so I don’t have to open the blog with a sad Brazilian song. Instead, have this delight from Jorge Ben Jor. Come for the weird title, avoid the weird lyrics, and stay for the all-round positivity of it all.


First up, I’ve already linked to these on the blog, but I figure some of you must only come for the reading list posts – I’m very proud to announce my contribution to the NATO Council of Canada has gone live and can be found here and here (it’s a two-parter  – you guys should know I’m nothing if not concise). There are definitely gaps, and as soon as it went up I was unhappy with bits of it, but there it is and I’m very happy.

Now, for some actual good writing.

  • A number of excellent pieces prompted by the nightmare in Iraq. Wonderfully lyrical at War on the Rocks. Examination of the shifting balance of power in the Middle East by Immanuel Wallerstein*, and a consideration of the “uneasy anti-ISIS coalition” forming by David Wearing. Finally, one, two, three and (a delightfully nerdy) four pieces on the US response to the crisis and the absurdities of US foreign policy debate.
  • That the CIA toppled the Shah is one of those things that I’ve tended to just take for granted, so this well-researched account of the 1979 revolution was an illuminating rebuttal to that narrative
  • Good call for a more effective NATO, an interesting (if occasionally laden with dodgy politics) argument for why Germany is reluctant to pull its weight militarily, and an honest explanation for Europe’s ‘under-investment’ in defence.
  • Speaking of Europe, two excellent pieces on the utterly tedious debate over the Commission presidency at the Guardian, and the BBC.
  • Master Storifier Kelsey Atherton compiled these tweets in response to what sounds like a daft drone-panic piece – well worth scrolling through.
  • Speaking of tweet collections, Teju Cole is on top form here on the impossibility of sustaining the caring about #BringBackOurGirls
  • Don’t know if you read that dreadful Gary Oldman interview, but this is a good article on how it demonstrates the triumph of “PC gone mad” nonsense
  • Great profile of the wonderful Ta-Nehisi Coates
  • Though he’s off making the world a better place in Kenya (I assume), Charlie is still finding time to post reviews of bafflingly complicated books
  • The excellent Mauricio Savarese has been telling us for months that the World Cup would not be the disaster everyone was predicting. This is his victory lap. On that note, this is another excellent piece giving Brazilians agency in taking advantage of the Cup – on favela residents renting out rooms in their homes for tourists – Hadley Freeman’s place in the Guardian’s World Cup team justified immediately
  • While we’re on the football, this is rather lovely on supporting teams because of the people you care about (NB: If Brazil crash out embarrassingly, I’m taking this piece as a Bible). Also a great profile of the different sibling relationships in international football, and a bit of bants from Marie le Conte on being a French supporter in London – identified strongly with bits and pieces of it but it’s funny either way.
  • Less lovely but important piece on the outrageous tossers who blacked up to “support” Ghana against Germany and FIFA’s lack of action in response
  • Brilliant idea for an app to support people in mental health crises
  • Fascinating account of how an almost unintentional decision to allow same-sex relationships saved The Sims – one of those pieces that really makes me want to re-install The Sims (fortunately Steam only has Sims 3 on sale)
  • I promised I wouldn’t link to recaps every week but Mad Men isn’t airing anymore and this is more of an essay anyway – on Betty Draper and the crippling limitations women of her time faced.

And that’s that – watching Colombia thunder over Uruguay now (delicious) so I’m not confident about Brazil’s chances on Friday. There’s a chance I’ll be writing the next post through my tears. Have a good week, enjoy the rest of the second round! x

*feels like First Year IR all over again

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

15th of June: Last Reading List out of Madrid

Been reading a paper on insurgencies which used Vietnam as a case study so that joke didn’t seem tasteless. Sorry.

So this is one of those posts I write at 6AM with cheap beer and street-food sloshing around my system out of misplaced sense of duty – the sun is rising but I’m damned if I’ll go to bed without scheduling this week’s reading list – I’ve seen what it does to my pageviews. Not only that, but it’s the last one I’ll write in Spain – this time next week, I’ll be, probably, sick of London. So that’s exciting. Thanks for reading these past few months, I’ve enjoyed watching my stats disappoint – hope you stay with me over the summer.

Continuing the World Cup theme from last Sunday, this week’s song is a Gilberto Gil one I fell in love with again at the start of the year, so when Spotify shuffle saw fit to present it to me tonight, as I contemplate the end of this year, it felt appropriate. Come for the joyous opening, avoid the strangeness of the video, and stay for the legitimately decent romantic lyrics. Here goes!

  • So the big, non-World Cup news of the week is, unfortunately, the stunning advances ISIS made, taking over Mosul, Iraq’s second city. Scary stuff. Three good explainers here from Marc Lynch, J.M Berger, and The Arabist, as well as a poignant response to the situation from an Iraq war veteran, and an entertaining series of tweets from Kelsey Atherton (who you should follow) to cleanse the horror from your palates.
  • But just because the Middle East has kicked off again, doesn’t mean the other crises subside. Ukraine’s developing civil war rumbles on in a low-level horrific way. An interesting pair of looks at how NATO, especially (natch) the USA’s responses to the crisis have, and will play out
  • Interesting analysis of how many aircraft carriers the US really needs
  • The excellent Jude Wanga was covering the Time to Act conference on sexual violence this week – here’s the first of her reports on it.
  • Powerful piece from Cord Jefferson on the draining demands made of black writers
  • As proof that this blog isn’t just me screaming into the void – Tina at NATO Council wrote a great piece on the Fermi Paradox I linked to last month – part one of two so check back over there for the follow-up
  • Also at NATO Council, the wonderful Daniel Woodburn wrote about increasing evidence of a link between climate change and conflict. I can testify to the research and proof behind this piece, as I had the dubious (<3) pleasure of proof-reading the original thesis paper thing. Go read it please.
  • Quite funny and also informative look at China’s infrastructure programs – and stadia – in Africa
  • Football stuff! In light of all the whingeing (already!) about referees and goalies, this seems appropriate. In light of all the terrible clichéd reporting being done on Brazil, this seems necessary. And in light of the condescension, bad reporting, and mockery, this is fucking vital.
  • Provocative argument suggesting the public debt crippling most of the Western world may be illegitimate.
  • Great, thoughtful, essay on whether it’s still possible to be a “responsible” gun carrier in the US these days.
  • Important corrective from A Girl on the Net on the language we use about having “a right to sex”
  • TV-violence stuff – not fully convinced by Jessica Valenti calling the Walking Dead “good”, but her point about the lack of sexual violence is insightful – I remember a turn-off in the comic (aside from its general terribleness) being the adolescent use of rape as a shocking way to humiliate female characters. Meanwhile, at the AVClub, Soniya Saraiya has an interesting meditation on the purposes and effects of violence in Game of Thrones
  • While cheap food sounds like an unmitigated good, Jay Rayner suggests the developing supermarket price war might backfire on British food independence

Finally, and while I’m not going to give this a full Kanye-eyeroll (partly because I cannot be fucked to upload the gif), this was an annoyingly inane article – classic Owen Jones(or any prominent British leftist)-does-foreign-policy stuff really. Like, global powers have intelligence services that do nasty things. Well done there, top notch analysis. So I’m just letting you imagine the deepest sigh, possibly a theatrical eye-roll or two – you get it.

That said, probably worth reading if you have somehow lived to any age where my blog is arriving on your feeds without ever having heard of the bad stuff the CIA has done. Then again, if that’s the case you might be better off with Owen Jones to be honest.

Have a lovely week – got some pieces lined up to come sometime this week, but you should all be busy watching the Cup – it’s looking like a delight. So take that, haters.