The Bullet List #29: Strike First, Strike Hard, No Mercy Edition / by Nasri Atallah

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Hey everyone,

I hope you’ve had a great couple of months since the last list. There are 120 of you who have signed up for these newsletters, and I appreciate the lovely words of encouragement you send through. I’m pretty sure this little compendium of recommendations doesn’t need one of those excruciating GDPR emails, but in case you don’t subscribe to this intentionally, I’ll be sad to see you go but you should probably unsubscribe. You can do that at the bottom of this email. Now, onto the recommendations


The New York Times’ Caliphate

The Times’ Rukmini Callimachi has done some pretty amazing reporting from ISIS-controlled territory in the past, and you might have seen her recent piece in April (Extreme Brutality and Detailed Record-Keeping) about the organization’s bureaucratic hold on the people under its heel. In this podcast, she unpacks how people end up joining the terrorist group, through extensive interviews with a returned fighter and on the ground reporting in Mosul. It’s the NYT’s first narrative podcast, and has a lot of the audio cues that make Serial or This American Life fan favourites. Perhaps too many of those cues, such as the ‘umming’ and ‘ahhing’ of the earnest public radio host. But overall it is a fascinating document of both what has happened in Syria and Iraq over the past few years, and of the painstaking work of contemporary journalism, that has been so undermined recently. This is as non-fake as it comes.


How an Aspiring ‘It’ Girl Tricked New York’s Party People — and Its Bank

This brilliant piece of reporting by The Cut’s Jessica Pressler is absolutely wild. It follows the weird and wonderful life of Anna Delvey as she becomes a fixture on the New York/London/Dubai/etc trust fund-kid scene. She’s part of that set of people who follow the party around the world — from Art Basel to Burning Man — convinced that it’s actually the party that’s following them. She interns at the right magazines, makes the right friends, decides to start an art foundation, Instagrams herself on yachts. But no one can figure out exactly who she is. Or where her money comes from. As she starts to ask more and more people to help her out with bills and as her tangle of lies unfolds, this story takes some breathtaking turns and lands in some very The Impostor territory.


The Good Fight

This one’s simple: I think The Good Fight is best show on TV right now. Well, technically it’s on CBS All Access, which is the network’s somewhat odd play in the streaming space. But find this show and watch it (you can do that on All 4 and Amazon Prime in the UK). It follows Diane Lockhart (the glorious, imperious Christine Baranski) from the show’s predecessor, The Good Wife, as her life is falling about on the cusp of retirement, due to the shenanigans of a Bernie Madoff-like ponzi schemer and friend. The show is stylish, intelligent, fun, funny, sharply written and observed, and feels so alive with all of its torn-from-the-headlines plotlines. Also, it is the most cathartic of Trump-era cultural products, confronting his presidency head-on, kicking asses and taking names. Read this piece by Emily Nussbaum in The New Yorker if you’re still unconvinced.

YouTube Show

Cobra Kai

Strike First, Strike Hard, No Mercy. The motto of the evil dojo Cobra Kai in the Karate Kid movies. Why am I mentioning this in 2018? Well, it’s the reboot no one was clamouring for. The Karate Kid Saga continues. And somehow, by some weird alignment of the stars, it is actually quite excellent. Far more excellent than it has any right to be. We meet up with Danny Larusso & Johnny Lawrence 34 years after the fateful events of the All Valley Under 18 tournament. (Was it an illegal kick? Was shouting about body bags necessary?). Danny is now, predictably, a massive douchebag who runs a very successful car dealership. Johnny wakes up surrounded by cans of Coors and gets shouted at while he does odd jobs for suburban assholes, then he gets to in his Pontiac Firebird and hates his life. This series is as much about the disillusionment of middle age as it is about fun karate stuff. And William Zabka can act! It’s a YouTube Red original, which means you either need to subscribe or buy individual episodes (which is what I am, again, inexplicably doing). You can watch the first two for free, here.



Vox brings its brand of enlightening explainer videos to Netflix with a new weekly show called, rather predictably, Explained. There are four 18 minute episodes up so far, and they do a great job of going quite deep on subjects in a short time. It’s a welcome addition to the mix of docs on Netflix, joining features and fascinating six-parters. So far Monogamy and K-Pop have been my favourites.

Some Stuff I’ve Been Up To Recently

I recently wrote an essay for the Monocle Travel Guide to Beirut and the lovely people at Monocle asked me to read it for their On Design podcast, which you can listen to here. I also recently wrapped up filming of a pilot for a documentary series I’m hosting and co-developing with Montreal’s Noble Television. Can’t say much more than that yet, but there’ll be some updates in the next couple of months. I’ve also submitted my novel synopsis and extract to the Faber Academy anthology and will be reading in front of 50 of London’s top literary agents in 3 weeks time. So that’s not terrifying at all. Oh, and I’m trying something new on my Instagram stories where I highlight a photographer I really enjoy once a week with a dozen of their photos. So follow me here, if that sounds interesting.


Khruangbin's Friday Morning. Watch the video here.

That's all for now.