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!

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.

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

25th of May: A Change of Kanye

Song of the week is from Julian Casablancas’ under-rated solo album Phrazes of the Young. I remember the first time I heard it, sprawled on sofa, high off the thrill of two bottles of Heineken and being with a girl I wouldn’t realise didn’t feel the same way for about an hour longer. Oh to be 17. Anyway, come for the bittersweet reminiscing, ignore the daft lyrics, and stay for the transcendent solo*.

With that, let’s head off at a rather brisk pace as there are like thirty links this week. ugh, sorry. this is the best reading of two flights and two days of class so.

  • First off, couple of interesting pieces on China-US-Russia relations here. One, from Foreign Affairs, predicting a complicated threesome. However, this good voxplainer from Zack Beauchamp reminds us why the China-Russia alliance we’re all afraid of isn’t imminent.
  • I avoid domestic politics as best I can, but this from Lenin’s Tomb, is good on how poorly Labour are doing considering how well they should be, and this is important on how Ukip represent a xenophobia that isn’t as fringe an attitude as we like to think in Britain
  • On a similar note, first Ta-Nehisi Coates piece of the week on how the ‘outrageous’ racists like Donald Sterling help respectable racism continue its far more damaging work
  • There was another backlash against trigger warnings this week. Laurie Penny and Zoe Stavri in defence of them – Zoe delightfully irritable as ever, and an interesting piece looking at why people get so affronted by the request
  • If I had read this any other week, this would be the stand-out piece of the list so please read it. Especially if you’re a reasonably privileged straight chap like me, it is a super illuminating, moving piece on what it is like to receive homophobic abuse in the street and just like. Go.
  • Not keen on the interventionist tendency Samantha Power is associated with, but I do like her as UN ambassador. This speech on the Syria-ICC res. getting vetoed is killer.
  • Don’t think I’ve ever intentionally read the Figaro but this is actually a very fair piece (in French) on the disconnect between France’s military budget and the role it wants to play in the world. A lot of it is applicable to the UK.
  • #Kony2012 was awful, guys. Good piece questioning the logic of US involvement in the search for Kony.
  • Great article placing Boko Haram in the context of hundreds of years of Nigerian history
  • This is the fifth article in a series of five (links to previous parts in the header) over at War on the Rocks about a group of US aid workers (ish) in Iraq in April 2004 as shit hit the fan in a big way. It’s a bit over-written, a bit too much dramatic irony (LITTLE DID HE KNOW WHAT WAS COMING NEXT) but very interesting all the same.
  • Really cool article on the Fermi Paradox which I’m going to pretend I knew about before reading it.
  • Powerful as fuck writing on the 9/11 memorial museum. Understated, personal, surreal. Go. And this still isn’t the stand-out of the week.
  • Thought I posted this last week – really good, optimistic article on how online communities can curb online abuse
  • Interesting feature on the history of the five-a-day guideline
  • Cool piece on how Napoleon is viewed in contemporary France. Wish I remembered Quatrième history better but I didn’t listen for the whole of the 19th Century I think.
  • Lots of emailing for dissertation and job apps has shown me the wisdom of this piece suggesting an end to email sign-offs.
  • This site is a lifesaver, letting you know which episodes of TV series you can skip and I hope they expand to all the other programs I feel like I missed out on. Skipping half of the episodes released has given me a great opinion of Agents of SHIELD
  • This blog can be grim sometimes. Have a Buzzfeed list of adorable pictures of Barack Obama with kids
  • Two interesting takes on superhero films and blockbusters and stuff – one critical, one not entering into a neat dichotomy
  • I’ve got a lot of amorphous thoughts on before-last week’s Louie and the “fat girl” speech and I probably won’t write them down. But though I don’t agree all the way, this is an interesting criticism
  • Funny account of a craft beer festival in London that sounds the worst
  • For Mad Men fans, writers, and TV people – great, long, interview with Matt Weiner. Added bonus for people in my class in high school – he makes The Wasteland references, thus validating all the long hours spent on it.
  • In light of that bizarre Far Cry 4 cover released recently, this got reposted about the failings of Far Cry 3 despite its stated good intentions.
  • Another really cool EVE: Online story
  • Great feature on John Green and the Fault in our Stars film

Normally, here, I’ll do a snarky diss of some awful piece that has annoyed me during the week. But this week I bring to you a piece of writing so big and exciting that The Atlantic was almost running teasers for it like it was a fucking Batman film.

I refer, of course, to Ta-Nehisi Coates’ incredible “The Case for Reparations”, available here. It bears reading and re-reading (because I’ve forgotten half of it), if only because I think the cycle of thinkpieces is only beginning (it doesn’t seem to have crossed the Atlantic (lol) very much yet). Moving, well-researched, illuminating history that should be, but isn’t, common knowledge, it’s just great, and the stand-out of the week. I award it a full “smiling** Kanye”***

courtesy of kanyedaily.tumblr.com

Oh, I forgot – I wrote a thing too. Review of Victoria Coren’s book, if you’re interested. Have a great week, guys – summer is almost here and I’m coming home in less than three weeks x

*yeah I’m running with this sentence structure from now on

**feedback in the comments: do we like smiling-Kanye better than disappointed-Kanye? I enjoy being a dick but there’s something quite affirming about being nice on occasion.

***who got married this weekend which I feel like surprisingly little attention was paid to because I forgot it was happening. Congrats though (I secretly hope Kanye is a reader. That’d be amazing)

20th of April: The Easter Reading

Semana Santa here, which has meant much disruption, watching the first season of Rick and Morty (surprisingly good) and House of Cards (surprisingly “meh”), lots of video-games, and luckily for you, not much commuting – so not much reading. Nevertheless, some great Easter reading for you to enjoy in a chocolate-egg induced coma this afternoon.

First off, song of the week. I loved the live version of this off the Shine a Light live album, but this is a really nice cover of the Stones’ “You Got The Silver” by Susan Tedeschi.

 

IR and Security Stuff

  • Couple of interesting pieces on the less-noticed dimensions of Russian power at the moment. One on their very skilled diplomatic corps, and one on Putin’s use of ‘soft power’
  • Meanwhile, in the endless void of US foreign policy talk, a succinct outline by Stephen Walt of why Realists are currently the doves in US politics, and a dismissal from Michael Cohen of the “America in retreat” trope
  • On which note, a provocative proposal at War on the Rocks for a more forward-thinking policy on Korea – aiming towards reunification and not just disarmament

Assorted Serious Stuff

  • This is a recent, interesting piece on Primeiro Comando da Capital, the scarily powerful gang from Sao Paulo. This Vanity Fair one is older – long – but very worth reading; the history of the P.C.C is like something out of The Wire.
  • Following the piece on abortion in Brazil last week, this is an interesting investigation into the economic and cultural factors that explain 82 percent of babies being born by Caesarean there
  • Simon Jenkins is a bit of a broken record, but he’s pretty interesting on issues of architectural heritage, so his criticism of what he calls “UNESCO’s ruin fetishism” and how it might affect Syria is intriguing
  • Coincidentally the first of two pieces by The Independent’s Archie Bland, this one on a period of panic a few years back about London’s “knife crime epidemic”
  • By now you’ll have seen this powerful piece on violence against women at the Guardian – so in order to contribute something, here is the ever-thoughtful Musa Okwonga’s reaction to it
  • An interesting post by Jay Ulfedler on the difficulties of predicting future outbreaks of mass atrocities, specifically in Rwanda, even twenty years later.
  • Ending a bit of a dour run of pieces this week with this mildly uplifting account of a less-acknowledged benefit war has brought to society (beyond the jet engine)*
  • Interesting, tongue-in-cheek post by Charlie Satow assessing Random Control Trials in development and their drawbacks. Also he’s fundraising for charity work he’s doing this summer if you’re still inclined to support him after reading this post

Assorted Culture Stuff

  • Second Archie Bland piece here – fun on Angus Steakhouses**
  • New topic! Never linked to a comic-based thing, but this is very good, and despite being about the portrayal of sexuality in comics, has a lot to say about it in other mediums
  • Interesting long piece on Eminem, who I no longer have much time for, and how far/whether he fits into the history of “black” music being appropriated by a white industrymorrowind
  • Another long one, this a very nicely-written essay on game inventories and their mechanics, intercut with a story of a teenage hike
  • Moving piece on motherhood sparked by the game Creatures, which I had entirely forgotten
  • The return of Game of Thrones and its weddings inevitably means another cycle of tedious spoiler debates and thinkpieces***. Don’t fully agree with this one, but it’s funny.
  • Finally, a mildly amusing Radio 1 parody song featuring none other than Sophie Turner, Sansa Stark. Well, the host is a knob, but she sings very well and dances amusingly, so.

 

It’s what you’ve all been waiting for, isn’t it? Who gets the Kanye West eye-roll this week?

I almost considered giving this one a pass because I’m pretty sure I’ve snarked about General (Armchair Regiment, First Class) Sunny Hundal being daft before but the notion of NATO forces “getting involved” in Ukraine is just too hilarious (and terrifying). It’s bad, and he should feel the full force of this Kanye West eye roll.

ImageThat’s all folks! Happy Easter, and have a good week!

*admittedly it’s basically Tilly’s “war made the state and the state made war” thing, but…

**also sounds wildly inferior to Buffalo Grill, one of Ferney’s few restaurants, so the host of many a meal, if only because no free salad.

***my take, for the record; I appreciate that if you’re on Facebook or Twitter or anywhere on the Internet the morning after an episode of Game of Thrones, you’ll get spoiled, and that’s kind of on you. But I don’t buy the “spoilers are fine because of this study that showed you enjoy it more” thing and people need to stop quoting that dull study