Monday 19 April, 2021


Quote of the Day

”There may have been disillusionments in the lives of the medieval saints, but they could scarcely have been better pleased if they could have foreseen that their names nowadays would be associated nowadays with racehorses and the cheaper clarets.”

  • H.H. Munro (aka ‘Saki’)

(One thinks, perhaps, of the St Leger Stakes and St Julien claret — though nobody in their right mind would call that cheap.)

Musical alternative to the morning’s radio news

Blues for Jimmy Yancey | Andrew Campbell


Long Read of the Day

This Must Be the Place

Thoughtful meditation by Drew Austin on what the Internet is doing to our sense of place.

In an environment of nearly infinite variety, we seem to hunt more eagerly than ever for shared territory and common experience, however fleeting. Earlier this month a house in Santa Monica, currently on the market for $5 million, became available to TikTok influencers, who can apply to spend two hours filming amid its pool and amenities as long as they help market the house in their videos. The process by which Airbnb transformed shelter into a liquid commodity might similarly transform content creation sites, which is to say that humans and content will soon have to compete for housing. The next time you enter a new place and instantly recognize its layout, it might be that you’ve been in a similar one before, but you probably just saw it on the internet.

Tech giants are happy to do Modi’s bidding in return for access to the Indian market

Yesterday’s Observer column:

Looking at his record, Modi seems to have been following the playbook of Viktor Orbán, that country’s prime minister, except that Modi has added religious and ethnic dimensions to his programme. But the formula seems pretty similar, based as it is on a thumping electoral majority and weak parliamentary opposition. The formula is to promise economic reform and then, when that falters, suppress opposition, control mainstream – and then social – media and undermine the judicial system. To this Modi has added his own distinctive flourish: radical and sustained use of internet shutdowns to hamper the mobilisation of opposition. And, so far, the strategy seems to be working: last year, Freedom House, an organisation that continually monitors the health of democracies, had judged India to be a “free” society. This year, the country’s rating is “partly free”.

All of which impales American tech giants, especially Amazon, Facebook, Google and Netflix, on the horns of an ethical dilemma. Read on.

Tim Harford: What have we learnt from a year of Covid?

Great piece.

We are now about a year into the ohmygosh-this-is-for-real stage of the pandemic. A time, perhaps, for taking stock of the big decisions — and whether they were wise.

To my mind, there were two big calls to be made. The first: was this virus a deadly enough threat to merit extraordinary changes to life as we know it? The second: should those changes be voluntary or a matter for politicians, the courts and the police?

Well worth reading in full. His summary at the end captures it well:

I’ll remember to trust the competence of the government a little less, to trust mathematical models a little more and to have some respect for the decency of ordinary people.

I love Harford’s writing. He’s a model of clarity and informed common sense.

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