‘A violent peace’

Everywhere I went in the short time I was in Kabul, people told me of their fear, their loss, their disgust, their desperation. Most have no jobs, no money, no hope for their future or the future of their children. What I found was a violent peace. People are arbitrarily detained, disappeared, interrogated, beaten, killed. It could be for any reason or no reason they will ever know. The Taliban are pitting neighbor against neighbor, encouraging people to spy on and report each other. Fear is digging in, and it’s here for the long haul. 

— Foreign Policy’s Lynne O’Donnell returns to Afghanistan, almost a year after the US exit.

What does a batsman see?

Terrific writing in The Cricket Monthly about the psychology of being an elite batsman. It’s an article about cricket, yes, but more so about the human mind and its need to be trained and disciplined:

As he searches his mind for the answer, he enters a deep meditative state. Time passes quickly. Hours later – it is difficult for him to tell how many – he emerges with a stunning realisation: by playing cricket since the age of four, he had, without realising it, developed a systemic process of concentration and a precise method of watching the ball; but he had only been using them consistently on his good days.

10-year-old patient

From the Columbus Dispatch:

Hours after the Supreme Court action, the Buckeye state had outlawed any abortion after six weeks. Now this doctor had a 10-year-old patient in the office who was six weeks and three days pregnant.

The story goes on to say that clinics in neighbouring states are seeing in excess of 20 cases a day of people travelling to receive treatment. Stories like this underline the need for strong local journalism. Broad, national stories in the New York Times and others will cloak the cruelty happening on peoples’ doorsteps. Only dogged local reporting will tell this story fully.

It’s raining anchovies in San Francisco


Fish are falling from the sky in parts of San Francisco, and a boom in coastal anchovy populations is to blame. 

It’s seagulls, dropping anchovies from their stuffed mouths. It’s never been so good to be a hungry sky rat, apparently:

Local fishers and researchers are blaming seabirds that, because of an explosion in the anchovy population off the coast of the Bay Area, now have more fish than they know what to do with. 

My favourite detail in this story, by far, is the reasonable assumption made by a San Francisco resident as to the origin of the falling fish:

[A] third person said they assumed “a band of roving kids were doing a Tik Tok sardine-throwing challenge on a roof somewhere” after seeing several fish fall onto an Outer Richmond sidewalk.

Atari at 50

Nice interview in HowToGeek with Atari founder, and Grand High Dad of video games, Nolan Bushnell. In it, he makes this neat observation on modern gameplay:

Benj Edwards, How-To Geek: Do you think the video game industry has lost sight of any innovations from the early days of Atari?

Nolan Bushnell: A little bit. Remember that Atari was founded as a coin-op company. And coin-op has this requirement that a newbie has to get into the game almost instantly without reading instructions. So the simplicity of onboarding is lost by a lot of people right now.

Anyway, give it a read. I interviewed Bushnell once. Lovely man. Back in the days when I had to shoot my own video for the BBC, I asked him to “say a few words” for a sound levels check. Ignoring my standard issue “what did you have for breakfast?” prompt, he opted to instead recite the Jabberwocky, at a theatrical, leisurely pace. All fun and games until the PR rep popped her head around the corner to utter those horrible words: “About five minutes or so left guys.”

To be an American woman

I hesitate to share the paragraphs below, as they are the essay’s pay off, and writers deserve to own that moment. But, nothing I’ve read today articulates as well the sheer devastation of the Supreme Court’s ruling. Read the whole piece.

Anti-abortion rhetoric only works if you are never poor, never a victim, never without health insurance, have never found yourself bleeding in a dorm room, unsure how to name what happened to you but afraid you’ll be pregnant and lose everything you’ve fought so hard for, that thing women so rarely get — freedom.

Anti-abortion rhetoric only works if you don’t know that your sister has a medical condition that could mean death if she gets pregnant. Anti-abortion rhetoric only works if you’ve never seen your friend recover from a violent beating at the hands of her boyfriend. Never worked at a women’s shelter and seen the wives of pastors come in sobbing, secretly on birth control, because they cannot afford to have another child.

So, how did I, the indoctrinated daughter of the American conservative right, grow up to champion the very cause I had been told was evil? Simple: I lived life as an American woman.

Meanwhile, my colleague John Burn-Murdoch put together this comparison chart:

Piers Morgan update

Remember when I said Piers Morgan was trying to be the UK’s answer to Fox News outrage merchant Tucker Carlson? I may have to rescind that take — I hadn’t anticipated him being this bad at it:

China’s ‘marvel’

The New York Times’ Asia tech reporter Paul Mozur with a remarkable look at the most impactful Chinese tech innovation since the Great Firewall. I’d urge you to read the full thread, or Mozur’s reporting here.

Where people are getting their news on Ukraine

Here’s a good dive by the Reuters Institute into how people are consuming news about Ukraine, and what they think of the quality of coverage. The findings are based on a YouGov poll of more than 5,000 news consumers spread across Brazil, Germany, Poland, the UK, and the US:

These countries were selected because they represent different levels of proximity to the conflict, ranging from Poland, which borders Ukraine, to Brazil and the US, which are on different continents.

Some encouraging findings for the news biz. The poll found interest in the conflict was still, even in today’s fast-paced environment, pretty high: a majority of citizens in all of the countries polled were following developments; Germans apparently the most intently.

And while much is made of people getting most of their news from social media “these days”, the overwhelming source being turned to is traditional broadcast news. That follows a long-established pattern of citizens turning to trusted TV in times of crisis, the researchers conclude, but noting that social’s share of attention is increasing, particularly among the young. In Brazil in particular, 23 per cent of those surveyed said they paid the most attention to social media when following news of the conflict.

Overall, those surveyed gave the news organisations they follow a pretty decent report card -- with the exception of the US, where fewer than half of respondents felt the media was failing them on a number of key responsibilities:

My money doesn’t jiggle jiggle

A moment of viral fame for Louis Theroux, the documentary filmmaker (and a personal hero). From the New York Times today:

His agent has been fielding dozens of requests for personal appearances and invitations to perform. Mr. Theroux, a 52-year-old British American documentary filmmaker with a bookish, somewhat anxious demeanor, has turned them all down, not least because, as he put it in a video interview from his London home, “I am not trying to make it as a rapper.”

But in a way, he already has: Mr. Theroux is the man behind “Jiggle Jiggle,” a sensation on TikTok and YouTube, where it has been streamed hundreds of millions of times. He delivers the rap in an understated voice that bears traces of his Oxford education, giving an amusing lilt to the lines “My money don’t jiggle jiggle, it folds/I’d like to see you wiggle, wiggle, for sure.”

It’s a great craze, one of the best in TikTok’s short history. Here’s a good one, with a mere 13 million views:

But as amused as Theroux is about all this, he can’t help feeling a little downbeat. He’s become a one-hit wonder… without ever actually releasing a record. The fame he’s long sought in America has come for the wrong reason:

“I’m pleased that people are enjoying the rap,” he said. “At the same time, there’s a part of me that has a degree of mixed feelings. It’s a bittersweet thing to experience a breakthrough moment of virality through something that, on the face of it, seems so disposable and so out of keeping with what it is that I actually do in my work. But there we are.”

It’s always baffled me that Theroux’s work, which shines an incredibly intimate light on America, its quirks and its problems, has never found much of an audience here. Theroux’s work on the prison system, religious extremism and the right-to-die was groundbreaking. His film on paedophilia was one of the most disturbing pieces of television I’ve seen — yet riveting. But somehow, few here seem familiar with his work.

Maybe his slow style doesn’t land. Or maybe Americans are averse to having people they perceive as outsiders give their take on how they live and the problems they face. I don’t know. All I hope is that this jiggle-jiggle fun leads people to discover his documentaries too. Right now, some of the very best of them are on HBO Max.

Land grab

“Too many tech-adjacent businesses lifted top line growth merely by adding expensively-incentivised sales and marketing staff. With capital so abundant, growth-oriented investors had pushed them to expand, expecting profits to materialise following the land grab.”

— FT’s Lex on the tech jobs bloodbath