Tuesday 13 April, 2021

This photograph by Henri Cartier-Bresson is my favourite picture. It was taken in 1954 on Rue Mouffetard in Paris, and shows a cheeky eight-year-old lad heading homeward with two bottles of wine that he’s been sent to collect. I love it because in 1954 I was eight too, (and wearing the same kind of clothes) and I often wonder where this boy is now — or indeed whether he’s still going.

The photograph hangs in our living room, and I looked up at one moment today to see that reflected in it was the top of the gazebo in the back garden that’s been our outdoor living room during lockdown.

And as I pressed the shutter I suddenly remembered that we’re clean out of red wine.

Quote of the Day

”To trust people is a luxury in which only the wealthy can indulge; the poor cannot afford it”

  • E. M. Forster

Musical alternative to the morning’s radio news

Duke Ellington | Across the Track Blues


Long Read of the Day

The Great Protest Wave

What lessons can we draw from the global demonstrations that began in 2019?

Absorbing essay by Noah Smith.

In 2019, the world exploded in protest. There were massive, prolonged demonstrations in Hong Kong, in Chile and Venezuela and Bolivia and Colombia and Ecuador, in Russia and Spain and France, in Iraq and Iran and Lebanon and Algeria, in Indonesia and Haiti. We in the chattering classes spent much of the latter part of that year thinking about the protests, writing about them, theorizing about them, even visiting or joining them. We asked why this was happening. Was it a revolt against inequality? Or authoritarianism? Or was it just a fad enabled by new social media technologies? We felt like we were witnessing something historic, but we couldn’t tell what we were looking at.

Even the arrival of a once-in-a-century pandemic didn’t douse the flames of unrest for long. The U.S. saw the biggest eruption of protests in its history in the summer of 2020, and those demonstrations were echoed across much of the world. The people of Belarus and Myanmar have poured into the streets in existential struggles against their dictatorial governments. India has had two entirely separate massive waves of demonstrations — one by farmers over agricultural policy, another against a discriminatory citizenship law. Overall, 2020 has seen even more protests than 2019.

So what does this portend? Read on…

Put away the bleach: you can stop playing in the hygiene theatre

It’s official — even the CDC agrees. Nice piece by Derek Thompson in The Atlantic:

Last week, the CDC acknowledged what many of us have been saying for almost nine months about cleaning surfaces to prevent transmission by touch of the coronavirus: It’s pure hygiene theater.

“Based on available epidemiological data and studies of environmental transmission factors,” the CDC concluded, “surface transmission is not the main route by which SARS-CoV-2 spreads, and the risk is considered to be low.” In other words: You can put away the bleach, cancel your recurring Amazon subscription for disinfectant wipes, and stop punishing every square inch of classroom floor, restaurant table, and train seat with high-tech antimicrobial blasts. COVID-19 is airborne: It spreads through tiny aerosolized droplets that linger in the air in unventilated spaces. Touching stuff just doesn’t carry much risk, and more people should say so, very loudly. At last!

Other, hopefully interesting, links

  • Domino’s pizzas now delivered with autonomous cars in Houston This is progress? Link
  • Earthrise in 4k UHD Eerily beautiful. by Seán Doran. Based on JAXA / NHK Kaguya Orbiter archive. Source is denoised, repaired, graded, retimed & upscaled. We live on that lovely sphere. And we’re busy screwing it up. Link

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