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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Allons-y.

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

Now, for some actual good writing.

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

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

*feels like First Year IR all over again