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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



16th of November: Noir

I kind of hate myself for that title because I think it might be a pun, but I’m in a shambles anyway because this week’s list has, at a push, one IR-ish article. I also managed to delete the archive of saved links I was keeping which is a little bit heartbreaking.

Song of the week is Albert Hammond Jr. (out of the Strokes), just remembered that he was doing the “removing albums from Spotify” thing well before Taylor, and sought him out on Youtube (cos duh). Anyway this song’s a bit beautiful and “you’re pretty won’t you come play with me” breaks my heart consistently.


Structure this week is shot to bits because I can’t do “IR-Serious Non-IR-frivolity” as usual, so let’s just get straight into it.

  • I like this on the Seumas Milnes of the world – how not to oppose imperialism
  • (straight onto the British politics!) Following the tedious and abortive coup against Miliband, Jonathan Freeland suggests a good campaign message for Labour
  • Lol this government is a joke.
  • Kind of by turns beautiful and heartbreaking (corresponding to each country), this piece on youth prison systems in Spain and the UK is excellent
  • Vaguely surreal profiles of some of the expats staying in Afghanistan when ISAF leaves
  • Was going to share a couple of episodes of #IMOBastani, Aaron off Novara Media’s new project, with you but this one is on UKIP and Mare Nostrum and it is very strong stuff (“because these people have names, right?” is a killer line), and the other two are in the related videos. It’s still a bit rough around the edges but definitely one to watch – do check out episode three too.
  • Another good piece on the mid-term elections*
  • Troubling from Jamelle Bouie on the possibility that the deadlock and fuckery that is American politics might be here to stay for a long while
  • Excellent on abortion rights
  • Clever apps and technology probably isn’t a solution to rape culture
  • Heartbreaking story from the pre-Civil Rights era. As you read it, never forget they were literal children and that everything is the literal worst.
  • Another beautiful Ask Polly column
  • As someone who spends a few minutes each week downloading daft apps to optimise my existence**, I found these pieces on ‘lifehacking’ and Soylent fascinating,
  • The Toast is amazing and this piece on introverts is my favourite
  • Good critique of yet another Band Aid single***
  • Stinging review of Lena Dunham’s memoir
  • Taylor Swift’s music finally disappeared off my Spotify, so I’m going to share a number of articles about the future of streaming
  • Joel Golby at Vice has a couple of funny ones this week – on Mick Hucknall’s sex life (yeah, ew) and on the nightmare that is “Very British Problems” getting a TV show
  • Couple of pieces on Interstellar at Popular Science
  • Rather pretty writing on video-games and Destiny and savegames
  • I am dreading reinstalling Skyrim on the new computer because of the bloody ordeal that modding it will be – this is nice on how much the modding community has impacted the game
  • And, of course, because how on earth was it going to go a whole reading list without the person that I’ve been reading out about all week – Kim Kardashian. I’m actually surprised I didn’t save more pieces about this because there’ve been some good ones but IDK.

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

*I think I linked to the same author on the same topic last week but can’t check because of deletions 😦 😦

**today I saw my calendar app was telling me to work on my dissertation, ignored it, and continued playing Far Cry 3. 10 hours.

***though tbh if they get someone good on it, I will listen to it throughout December, because the original is one of the key parts of my Christmas playlist

9th of November: Frozen

Surprisingly, considering it’s reading week, there are a few less links this week. I attribute it to actually getting some work done for once. Could also be the cold starting to freeze my brain. Still, a lot to be getting on with here. Also, it’s gone in italics and I don’t really know why so sorry about that*.
My most played songs this week are, naturally, still from 1989, and I had said I wouldn’t use them so I’m in a bind. This’ll do – beautiful song off a recent B.B. King album.
  • This is some Tom Clancy-esque (except it’s real) stuff on how the naval part of WW3 would have gone down
  • Speaking of which, interesting (and terrifying) detail on how aircraft carrier launches work
  • One of the kidnapped journalists in Syria tells his story
  • Quite interesting on the things Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 gets right about proxy wars
  • A look at how the threat (which I only vaguely half-remember) of China’s monopoly on rare earth extraction failed to materialise
  • Interesting on open-source intelligence
  • This is good on the far-right’s appropriation of the poppy appeal
  • Part of why student politics continues to be a joke – the NUS is a massive one
  • Watched this unfold on Twitter this week and it’s still pretty stunning. A journalist criticised Dapper Laughs and he set his followers on her and then went back to having a legit ITV2 program.
  • Good by Aaron Bastani on the failings of EU migration policy in the Mediterranean
  • This is nice on urban regeneration in Cairo
  • Some Guardian journos reflect on how their social class has changed
  • This article is quite a good expression of some of the discomfort I’ve felt at leftist foreign policy writing recently
  • Rather interesting that this article (FR) on police violence in France uses the UK as a positive comparison. Not sure if that’s just a sign of how bad France is or a certain naivety.
  • Boris Johnson needs to go
  • Nice look at how Europe has influenced the gradual retreat of the death penalty in the USA
  • Behind all the rhetoric, Brazil isn’t really about to go all Castro
  • Following the mid-terms, a critique of the Democrats’ policy of not campaigning as Democrats
  • I mean I’m all in favour of London sawing itself off from the rest of the country and floating away but if giving London more powers is in the provinces’ interest then I guess that’s nice too?
  • Following that “I am a feminist” T-shirt storm in a teacup, this article actually looks at the company that made the shirt, which looks less like a sweatshop and more like development in action
  • I’ve shared this about eight times this week in various places but it’s just so good. The excellent Cord Jefferson writes about his mother, and kindness, and just go read it now**
  • Not only is damselling in games sexist, it’s a bit dull
  • It seems we’re even sexist to robots
  • The science of wormholes
  • Great profile of Mallory Ortberg, of The Toast, which prompted me to do some trawling through their archives – some gems: the wars of the roses reimagined, and a look at the most embarrassing succession crisis in history
  • This is funny from soon-to-be father Stuart Heritage
  • Harsh truths about being single
  • This review of the new Call of Duty touches on something I’ve often wondered about – war games do seem more fun when they take place in recognisable settings
  • Have yet to encounter a Movember twat but this reminded me of seething at them in the past
  • Great piece on the rise of TV recaps
  • Not only was I broadly pleased with this season of Doctor Who, but The Walking Dead has been good so far? Shocking stuff. Todd VanderWerff looks at why (I knew the character stuff from last season would pay off)
  • I went around recommending this a lot when I discovered it couple of years back– dug it up a few nights ago. Simon Amstell’s brilliant, brilliant stand-up set from IDK how many years ago now.
Finally, cos I don’t want to dignify this with a bullet-point, but there’s more head-over-heels with the ridiculously-endearing-atm-Taylor Swift*** stuff. This clip of her lip-syncing to Kendrick Lamar (!) is wonderful, and I don’t know why, I really liked this appearance on a French radio show.
*this happened to my Granddad in an email once and I laughed. 😦
**warning from experience– don’t read it on the bus – it might do you in
***aside from the pulling her stuff from Spotify thing. Not that it affects me as I had it all saved because I’m not an amateur

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

26th of October: Cleanout

Bit of a long one (finally cleared out my Pocket queue), and I’m not really in the mood, so I’ma get straight into it.

Song of the week is from the album Eric Clapton and B.B. King did – listened to it quite a bit this weekend and quite enjoyed wondering whether B.B. found Clapton’s constant guitar-wankery tiresome.

  • A lot on IS(IS/IL). Some bold proposals for countering them. An indictment of the “official” Syrian opposition. A reminder of ISIS’ precarious financial situation. A look at the symbolic meaning of the battle for Kobane. Surreal feature on the Americans in Irbil. Quite funny puncturing of IS’s mythology.
  • Similar to the post I wrote a while back about the UK’s report about Russia as a threat, the US have done one on China.
  • Interesting look at the last “fighting season” in Afghanistan before ISAF leaves.
  • I’m sharing this with a massive caveat. It’s a piece on strategy and tactics and military technology used in Israel’s latest assault on Gaza. It fails to even mention the fact that these highly-advanced techniques, fascinating as they are, were used on civilian populations etc. until, in passing, the end, which strikes me as problematic.
  • Wry look at the constructivism of Kissinger’s latest book.
  • Krugman comes out in defence of Obama – don’t agree with all of it but think he’s generally on point
  • Rebuttal of the “Russia was humiliated in the 1990s” argument
  • A favourable review of Owen Jones’ (rubbish-sounding) book – and a complete dismantling of his lazy use of numbers. Fair and balanced, me.
  • This is a bit heart-breaking, on the sort of necessities headteachers are having to fund for their pupils out of school budgets.
  • Aaron Bastani has a good critique of the TUC and their march the other week.
  • Excellent dismantling of the Conservatives’ economic narrative
  • Africa isn’t a country – Sudan is really far from Ebola
  • Paul Farmer writes on Ebola
  • This is a good analysis of the reaction to Renée Zellwegger’s appearance at [show] this week, though I must confess I was shocked by it too – time and ageing are terrifying.
  • Good piece on Roxane Gay and the unconventional model of black femininity she represents
  • Excessive gendering of schoolkids seems daft
  • Important on how damaging the stiff upper lip is
  • I got irritated at the BBC not mentioning any of the evil dictatoring Duvalier did when he died – this is good on the subject
  • Heartbreaking TNC interview with the mother of Jordan Davis
  • Daniel Drezner raises some interesting concerns about the future of the global economy
  • Are there any shades of grey to paedophilia?
  • Jay Ulfelder* reminds us that inertia is an under-studied factor in politics
  • Difficult-to-read interview with some of the girls who escaped the Boko Haram kidnappers. So much heartbreaking detail.
  • Speaking of hard-to-read, I did not expect this piece to be the punch in the gut it was, but it’s horrible. Still interesting on the cheap use of death as a plot device.
  • This piece pours cold water on Google’s self-driving cars, which is annoying because I’m hoping they’ll become a thing before I have to learn to drive myself around
  • Couple of good pieces on Gamergate (ugh) from Charlie Brooker and Gawker.
  • This is funny, on fictional characters who could have done with an abortion, though neglects to mention Kim from Scrubs, among others.
  • Spent about half an hour reading all of Hamilton Nolan’s fitness columns at Gawker. This one, on how to squat, is funny and also quite useful, but I could say the same about any – check out the archive.
  • Strange tale of an accidental nature reserve in Bucharest.
  • Clive Martin does one of his weird travel pieces in London (it’s in two parts)
  • Only a few days till 1989 drops – this profile/interview with Taylor Swift is quite lovely, if only for the detail that her motivation song is Kendrick’s Backseat Freestyle, the crudest song on that album.
  • Weirdly compelling on a man making a big bet on a game of Day-Z

*whose name I realised on my dissertation presentation this week I’ve been consistently spelling wrong, so sorry Jay!

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).