Read on the street 22 February 2020
Has anyone else experienced this phenomenon?
You write a letter or a greetings card and pop it in a post box. An hour or two later, you absent-mindedly wonder if the recipient has read your note yet. You think, fleetingly, that it’s strange they haven’t replied to you yet – they’re normally so quick to respond to messages.
Then it dawns.
The other day someone showed me a family photo, taken years ago. A good old-fashioned hardcopy print that had been developed from an actual roll of film. As they placed it on the table in front of me, I instinctively reached out my hand towards it, forefinger and middle finger primed to zoom-in on a detail that had immediately caught my eye.
Just two of the curiosities of a modern existence dominated by technology.
Another is the privacy paradox that describes the anomaly between our apparent concern about the way our private details are gathered, stored and harvested, and our behaviour in blindly offering up our personal data to big tech companies through their social media platforms or online shopping interfaces.
If your household’s reliance on Alexa has made her feel like one of the family, read on and reflect on the balance of power in that relationship.
I hope you, Alexa, and Big Brother have a very pleasant weekend.
Why Amazon knows so much about you
As chief executive of Amazon, Jeff Bezos hasn’t exactly led the charge on progressive corporate policies around climate change and the environment. Amazon has often been criticised by groups like Greenpeace over its business practices, lack of transparency, carbon emissions, and excessive packaging. In the week in which Bezos pledged $10 billion of his personal fortune (yes, $10 billion) to fight the climate emergency, this account of how that wealth was accumulated - and what he might know about you - is timely.
Read on the BBC.
How Sony censored Greed
This week I saw Parasite, the surprise winner of best picture at the Academy Awards earlier this month. The first foreign language film to triumph in that most coveted of Oscar categories, Parasite is a darkly comic satire that deals with wealth inequality and moral boundaries through the intertwined stories of three South Korean families and one very nice house. The showing I attended featured a trailer for Greed, another satire on the topic of avarice and injustice with Steve Coogan playing Topshop’s Philip Green in all but name. It launched to less critical acclaim than Parasite, but I happened upon this insight into the conflict that arose when director Michael Winterbottom collided with the commercial intransigence of Sony. Whether you like his films or not, you have to admire Winterbottom’s integrity.
Read in The Guardian.
Cooperate for the planet
There are those who argue that we can only address the climate emergency by reducing economic output and accepting a period of frozen global growth. Martin Wolf, chief economics commentator at the Financial Times, thinks halting growth is not only impossible but would not go nearly far enough in any case. With global CO2 emissions continuing to rise, Wolf believes a total transformation from our current energy system is the only option. In this piece he argues, not unreasonably, that if we move beyond fossil fuels completely, the size of our economy becomes irrelevant. This is achievable but requires nothing short of a revolution facilitated by unprecedented global cooperation.
Read in the Financial Times.
"He went back in, again and again.”
Harry Gregg, the outstanding Manchester United goalkeeper who rescued survivors from the wreckage of the 1958 Munich aircraft disaster, died this week. I could have picked any one of several tributes to Gregg published this week, several of which ruminated on the true meaning of heroism and greatness in a sporting universe that bestows those adjectives on it stars too readily. I’ve chosen this column by Matthew Syed in The Times, partly because it also includes links to an excellent obituary of Gregg and a fine tribute by Henry Winter. Gregg was plagued for decades by survivor’s guilt, remedied only when Joy Byrne, the widow of his teammate Roger, confronted him at an event in 1998 with the words: “Harry Gregg, why have you been torturing yourself for 40 years?” Gregg was a hero indeed.
Read in The Times.
Life in the time of coronavirus
This series of photographs depicts in colour the real human (and canine) impact of the coronavirus. Taken around Valentine’s day, the almost dystopian images of empty streets and elaborate fumigators are a stark reminder of the scale of the outbreak, one that has infected more than 73,000 people since December, killing approximately 2,000 of them. For me, the most jaw-dropping and hauntingly pervasive impact was created by the juxtaposition of pampered pooches in face masks with people using plastic bags and cardboard boxes as makeshift face protectors for themselves and their children. We are reminded once again that, even in crisis, inequality permeates.
Read in The Atlantic.
The art of accelerated mindfulnes
When you wake on a Saturday morning, wondering feverishly how to fill the agonising wait until Read On The Street lands in your inbox, do you ever think “I’ll just go and have a lovely ice-cold shower, that should kill five minutes or so”? No? How strange. The stress-busting health benefits of regular cold water exposure are now widely recognised, with recent convert Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall the latest devotee to a therapy advocated by iceman Wim Hof. My colleague Katie has even promised to test the theory and report back next week. In the meantime, pour yourself a cuppa and enjoy James Parker’s short sharp celebration of the transformative powers that flow from his cold tap.
Read in The Atlantic.
Written by David Gaffney, Partner