March 1st: Late Lunch

Long one this week, and I’m starting late, so let’s get right to it.

As ever, this reading list is available in two formats – blog or newsletter. If you’d prefer it in the other one, click on the appropriate link.

Went back and forth on the song for a while, but I think, especially as there’s a great article on it later, it’s going to have to be Know Yourself off Drake’s new album, which I’ve listened to about five times and am still sort of shrugging at. This song gets v. good though.

 

  • Lot of grim Syria pieces to kick us off this week. A report from Raqqa, capital of the Islamic State. A very good summary of how bleak the country’s future is – I’m going to pull out the very effective structuring device into the footnotes* – you should read it though. On the bright side, this profile of volunteer rescuers in Syria, and the people who are already planning the reconstruction of Aleppo.
  • The bar for a nuclear deal with Iran is being lowered. This article is good on some of the political-sciencey bargaining lessons, and this one makes the good point that the many, many critics of the negotiations don’t really have a plausible alternative.
  • Very good essay on the historical illiteracy of calls for a Muslim Enlightenment. Some properly lovely history in here.
  • This is going back to that “What ISIS really wants” piece from last week, but I thought it was a very good look at how the debate unfolded.
  • A detailed look at how many fighters ISIS has, and a critical look at its infamous social-media power.
  • Surreal report on Turkey’s incursion into Syria this week.
  • Some properly nasty reactions to the girls (literal children) who are thought to have travelled to Syria – there are very good critiques here, and here.
  • Jihadi John got “unmasked” this week. The debate on what pushed him to Syria unfolded predictably, but these are good – criticism of security services’ conduct here, but a strong critique of CAGE’s report** by Shashank Joshi, who I basically trust.  Meanwhile, the War Nerd, who I’m a bit wary of these days, has a decent piece on it. IDK it’s complicated innit.
  • This is utterly bizarre – the FBI and the Pentagon’s plan to defend Alaska in the event of a Soviet invasion.
  • Speaking of Russian invasions (heyo) – this is good on what happens if/when the Ukraine cease-fire collapses. And this makes a really interesting point – even if Putin weren’t an absolute knob, the last ten-fifteen years probably wouldn’t have looked enormously different. Troubling look at the militias fighting for Kiev, but not necessarily under their control. And this, on how justified Kremlinphobia merges into basically racism and is then appropriated by the Kremlin to defend itself, is very insightful.
  • This is funny and a bit depressing. Someone on Twitter looked through minor celebrities’ responses to the London riots – Michael Owen’s is bizarre and grim.
  • This happens a lot – senior American officials, who happen to be women, say the same things their male colleagues say, and get gendered ridicule for it.
  • Meanwhile, in response to Joe Biden (there’s an incredibly creepy photoset of him in that link), this is a troubling*** article on overly touchy blokes
  • Great essay on Islam and practicing faith independently and belief and I’ve been trying to write this one for two minutes so just go read it
  • Some interesting theorizing of what social media platforms permit and discourage
  • Really, really nice essay/short story/thing that you should read, on love? Again, trying and failing to describe it, go read it anyway.
  • Very good by Zoe Williams on how cruel policies that target the obese poor miss the point
  • This is cool in a nerdy way – why the medieval knight on horseback wasn’t the dominant force he was thought to be
  • Interesting on attempts to move beyond Fairtrade as a model****
  • Desperate last-ditch solutions for climate change would have grim side-effects but IDK this piece gives a bit too much weight to “it’d be sad if we couldn’t see the stars” which yes, but so would all of us burning and dying so idk.
  • Really good article on sex workers’ rights in Brazil
  • I read this short story on the bus and I almost had to just sit in the street and finish it and process it because I was shaken for about five minutes. Takes a sharp left turn and it’s just very good.
  • Joel Golby is very good on what happens after you graduate – I’m about four months away from what sounds bleak.
  • Funny in defence of holidays in term-time
  • This is one of those really good no-bullshit articles on fitness, with a focus on how misleading solutions are marketed to women.
  • Really cool look at how what is, in theory, a public walk along the Thames, is enclosed and fenced off and denied to the public
  • Critique of Mars One
  • Two really good pieces on the Two and a Half Men finale which sounds absolutely weird, and a great article on actually good TV, but why there’s never been another Friends
  • Funny on the crap advice future parents get
  • Here’s what I promised – really good review of Drake’s new album by Rembert Browne, along with the undisputed best thing to come out of said album in the form of this Vine.
  • Noel Gallagher took on Beyoncé, which, lol. Pete Paphides sorts him out.
  • Really interesting on how class still affects dating, and a great case for Tinder as a tool for later-in-life dating
  • Beautiful essay from an author who has learned he has terminal cancer
  • Very interesting on how Kendrick Lamar’s faith comes across in his music
  • This is quite nice on ‘drinking books’
  • This is funny.
  • And, because two days in, I’m already deeply sick of people talking about House of Cards, this review of the second season confirmed that I was right to give up on it.

Christ that was a long one. Plenty to be getting on with, off you go. x

Apparently, the solution to my gender problem was just adding vast amounts of articles to the mix – up to 36% this week. 

*“No political solution to the conflict in sight, and the suffering inside Syria is getting worse No place to escape as borders to neighbouring countries close and animosity is rising toward refugees in host communities. Hostility is also growing in Europe and rescue at sea is being phased out. Funding for humanitarian organizations is flagging and more than 50% of Syrian refugee children are out of school. There are rising numbers of struggling refugee women and a generation of stateless children is being created.”

**which I haven’t read, it’s knocking about in my queue somewhere

***mostly because I think I’ve been all of the types here at one point or another

****though it does give a bit too much of a platform to irritating hipster coffee shop owners

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

October 5th: Exit Polls

Longest ever break, that – we just skipped, I think, two weeks? I very nearly missed today, not through lack of internet so much as wanting to play more Far Cry 2. Couldn’t even write it at 4 in the morning like I used to as I was up at the crack of dawn to trek (quick and empty bus almost directly from home) to queue up (there was no queue) at the Brazilian embassy all day (I was out in 15 minutes). So that was exciting – certainly the most significant election I’ve ever voted in.

Anyway, I have now settled into the flat, but not into the rhythms of actually studying. My Pocket queue has gotten absurd, as whenever I do read it’s for tedious university stuff, so we’ll see how much there is to share every week, but for now, I’ll stay with the same system. Meanwhile, there’s a veritable glut of links to be getting on with this week, so I’ll get straight (says he, 165 words in) to it!

Weekly-ish reminder that if you’d rather receive this direct to your inbox instead of hassling ALL THE WAY to click the link yourselves, you can subscribe here

Song of the week is hardly a secret, but I’ve listened to it about seven times in the past 24 hours. We watched Bridget Jones again this week* and then it came on at a house party and jumped into my gym playlist – it’s Chaka Khan’s “I’m Every Woman”.

 

First up, a couple of my NATO Council pieces dropped out of the system while I was away. This was supposed to come before the piece on India’s submarines (as evidenced by the transitional bits all over it), on Brazil’s own programme, while this, when I wrote it, was a reasonably topical look at France finally deciding to suspend the sale of the Mistral-class warships to Russia.

  • Naturally, it’s an ISIS-heavy list. The problem is, I’ve read so much on ISIS these past weeks that it’s all blurred into one. If it’s made it into the list, I think it’s good, and there are some that have stuck in my mind, like this overall look at Middle-East politics by Andrew Bacevich or this meditation on how hysteria has developed over ISIS, or this anatomy of mission creep. Otherwise, it’s just one, two, three, four, five pieces on ISIS that are all worth reading if you’re interested but broadly indistinct.
  • Lovely, bittersweet piece on how Odessa and its residents have been affected by the past year’s events in Ukraine
  • On a similar topic, I’ve not liked much leftist writing on Ukraine, as most of it seems about as sophisticated as the rant I got off the hippie who drove me to Madrid, but even though I don’t agree 100%, this is a really good critique of the West’s role in the crisis (without degenerating into The Nation-esque apologetics)
  • Also, good rebuttal of abusing recent events to fit them into a ‘clash of civilizations’ framework
  • A few good pieces on today’s presidential election in Brazil – one impressed by Marina Silva, one less so (Pt.), and a profile of Dilma Rousseff.
  • Sad profile of some of the campaigning mothers who have lost children to police violence in Brazil
  • In more positive news, this recognition of a quilombo community’s right to its land in Rio is a very interesting and encouraging sign – more context on the quilombos’ campaign here
  • Again, a bit late but this is quite good on what would have happened to the respective militaries had Scotland left the union – does nothing to dispel my belief that we could have reannexed them if necessary
  • Encouraging reminder that sometimes international climate efforts work – the ozone got better
  • Corrective to the idea of China as a “lonely diva”
  • A reflection on R2P
  • You can always count on Jay Ulfeldler for some well-sourced optimism – this on the “end” of the era of democratisation is good
  • Examination of what happened when Britain de facto secretly decriminalised cannabis (nothing good)
  • Mostly obvious stuff but some quite interesting bits and pieces from an informal experiment replicating Tinder
  • Powerful column on street harrassment**
  • 100% here for writers taking Kim Kardashian seriously
  • Two plane articles. One which will make you never want to fly EasyJet again because you know how the other half live. One, long, horrifying, dripping with tension, which will make you never want to fly again because you know that, basically, humans weren’t meant to fly.
  • Good response to a column on the “death of masculinity” in television (I didn’t read the original because I don’t like to waste free clicks on paywalled sites on hatereads, but this response stands alone).
  • Oliver Burkeman turns his guns on empathy
  • This is lovely on being a Sikh woman in business
  • As if #gamergate (ugh) wasn’t already enough of a nasty, sad, pathetic “movement”, it’s chief British supporters are the terrible Milo Yiannopoulos, and James bloody Delingpole, who is once again shown to be a troll by the devious trick of comparing his articles with each other. All it needs is for Toby Young to lend his support and it’d be a collection of the worst humans.
  • Finally, I loved this two-part examination of alliances in The Lord of the Rings films and its attempt to draw real-world lessons from the Battle of Helm’s Deep***.

 

 

 

  • * Which reminds me – I watched it with a friend who loathes the series, while I really like it, but I was wondering – are they explicitly, textually anti-feminist? Not the character of Bridget herself, which is where most criticism pointlessly goes, but the intention – I mostly noticed the negative portrayal of the ambitious lawyer lady, as well as the straw-feminist that is her sweary mate. IDK. Still love the films.**though it is a baffling haircut

    ***One minor quibble though – I’m pretty sure the elven reinforcements in The Two Towers come from Lothlorien not Rivendell, which mildly undercuts her point about overcoming isolationism. *adjusts spectacles*

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

24th of August: Inexcusable Delay

In my head, you’re all desperately refreshing the page waiting for this to appear, so I’m feeling very guilty at how late this is going up. I’ve increasingly come to realise that there was something depressingly self-aware about committing myself to be at my computer at midnight on a Saturday every week, but I can’t even claim I was too busy enjoying the Carnival or something – after the terrible Doctor Who episode and a couple of Sopranos, I got bogged down in a losing game of Company of Heroes (wild times all around). Anyway. It’s here now.

Song of the week is a struggle because I’ve pretty much been listening to Taylor Swift non-stop for the past week, and I have some concerns about maintaining a dignified air. Still this song is very catchy so, even if the video is flawed, so fuck it.

This week’s article was a hesitant look at the broader consequences of the BRICS Bank. Would love to hear criticism and that of it, because I was pretty nervous when writing it.

  • Strong call for an honest debate about what confronting IS will actually require
  • A lot has been said about the Kurds’ moves towards independence – this article takes a look at their prospects
  • There’s definitely something problematic about the disparity in attention paid to the horrific death of one American and the deaths of hundreds of others in the same way, but it is what it is, and it is certainly very sad. Two excellent tributes to him at Vox and the Independent.
  • Stephen Saideman gets irritable about “fixing” NATO
  • Two interesting pieces by Robert Farley on US-Russian relations, one reviewing a book on the topic, and another on the American magazine The Nation’s weird turn to Putin apologetics and what it tells us about “left” foreign policy
  • Amidst the litany of grimness, this is a reassuring bit of qualified optimism from Jay Ulfeldler
  • A look at what an independent Scottish defence policy will look like*
  • Powerful piece on the “price of blackness”
  • With Ferguson rolling on, unresolved, in the background, people were sharing James Baldwin’s work this week. At the same time, the New Yorker** sent Teju Cole to follow in Baldwin’s footsteps, a delightful combination if ever I heard one.
  • Great profile of Nina Simone***
  • Clive Martin reports on the sad fate of a pub not far from my neck of the woods****  (though, as ever, I’m torn between my irritating at dickhead trendy bars, and my discomfort with traditional British old man pubs.) Also on gentrification, this, from a woman who I vaguely recall became an internet sensation during the riots, is good.
  • Funny but worrying on moving back in with your parents as a legit adult
  • Really fun piece on a game of watergun assassin
  • I have so much time for writers that take popular artists seriously and engage with their themes and shit. This on Lana del Rey, is great – though minor quibble: I’m currently listening to the original of The Other Woman, and I do kind of prefer Lana’s.
  • Interesting trawl through DC Movies scripts that never happened
  • Utterly surreal piece on a conversation between a jihadi and a Iraq war veteran on Twitter about Robin Williams
  • I’ve missed Charlie Brooker
  • Nerd alert. This ‘diary’ of a game of Crusader Kings II using the Game of Thrones mod is very funny, and makes me all the sadder that the mod doesn’t run properly for me.

That’s that. See you next week, hopefully a bit earlier in the day x

As ever, you can subscribe to my newsletter and get this in email form every week if you prefer, though I CBA to do one today.

*the first version of this I saw had the Scottish Army project at 5,000 men, and I died laughing. Turns out it was a typo, but I still think we can take them. Day after the referendum, roll tanks over the border to reannex them. for banter.

**not that I don’t love having free access to their archives but my Pocket queue is now about thirty massive New Yorker pieces that I haven’t ever got the energy to read on the train, so they just linger. they need to stop.

***including a critique of Kanye’s “Blood on the Leaves” that actually seems fair and not sneering

****insofar as I have a neck of the woods other than “First Capital Connect trains” these days

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).

27th of July: Straight outta Skipton

I’m writing to you from a tiny village in Yorkshire (a proper one shop, two pubs place), showing you just how committed I am – from Spain to the provinces, I never fail to bring you the best reading the internet had to offer this week.

This week’s song is Kendrick Lamar’s “Real”. It’s a great song in itself, but comes at the end of an incredible run of songs in the middle of Good Kid M.A.A.D City, an album which took me five or six listens to actually appreciate once I had gotten over the hype, and now I listen to the songs from “m.A.A.d City” to “Real” all the time, so listen to this one, then those four, then the album.

Before I get into it, an announcement. Inspired by Kelsey Atherton (excellent for tech and especially drones), and Jamelle Bouie (lovely photos, recipes and brilliant writing on race), I’m starting a newsletter version of this series. Basically, if you’d rather receive the Reading List to your inbox every Sunday instead of seeking it out here, just click on the following link to subscribe!

  • First up, this week’s NATO Council piece was on the new British aircraft carrier, the HMS Queen Elizabeth. Unsurprisingly, the project has been a joke.
  • Speaking of absurd ship-building projects, here are three articles on France’s sale of Mistral-class amphibious ships to everyone’s favourite autocrat. One demanding they cancel the sale, one explaining why it’s not that easy, and one offering an alternative.
  • And while we’re talking about EU sanctions, this explainer from Vox on why the EU reaction to Putin has been so seemingly toothless strikes me as having a lot of truth to it.
  • Last week, posted a thing about Srebrenica – this by Stephen Saideman on the recent Dutch ruling that it was partly liable for the massacres, and the consequences for future peacekeeping operations, is interesting
  • Provocative argument: it’s time for the USA to let Iran deal with the mess that is Iraq, given their part in further destabilising it after the US smashed it up.
  • Avoiding posting any Israel/Palestine stuff because it’s depressing and may already have torpedoed a job interview for me this week, but this piece on writing about the Middle East is really well-written and thought-provoking, regardless of the rest.
  • Further writing on the BRICS Development Bank announcement from last week – will it fund coal plants? And will that be such a bad thing?
  • Properly brilliant piece on Brazil in the wake of the Cup.
  • Cord Jefferson excellent as ever on male entitlement to women’s affection
  • Interesting discussion of how we define “public”
  • This discussion/list of advice for writers and journalists of colour is valuable even to white non-writers like me for a variety of reasons. First, some of the advice is universally applicable. Second, no matter how much I read about discrimination and stuff, it’s still an eye-opener to see the different adversities people have to overcome. Finally, it’s good to be aware of the specific struggles people go through in an area to see if there’s a way to alleviate them.
  • About to start the second season of the excellent Orange is the New Black*, so this was relevant. This feature by the real-life Larry (Chapman) Kernan is really interesting, both on the experience of the outside-prison partner, and on the experience of being made into a TV series.

And that’s it! Have a lovely week, all x

*seriously fucking good. I might write something about it once I’m done, though I’m wary of pontificating too much on a TV series refreshingly centred on the perspectives of people who aren’t middle-class white guys like me (related to the penultimate link in the list). Still. Relentlessly humanising, critical without preaching, funny, sexy, heartbreaking stuff. Go watch it.