Hello, world. I’m MacDara Conroy, and this is my blog.

Tag: longreads

Trial by Fire

Bee shared this one with me, from 10 years ago: a quietly furious tale of prejudice where pride — in one’s self-appointed expertise (in this case, junk science about arson investigations), in one’s convictions (the failings of eyewitness testimony), whatever it may be — comes before truth and justice. #link

The Day the Music Burned

“The vault fire was not, as UMG suggested, a minor mishap, a matter of a few tapes stuck in a musty warehouse. It was the biggest disaster in the history of the music business.” #link

The spectacular power of Big Lens

There’s a lot to unpack here: the portrait of Luxottica's founder as the Vince McMahon of the spectacle frame world; rising rates of myopia tied to lack of sunlight and tech-related dopamine hits; the world at the mercy of an optics giant that “can choose to interpret its mission more or less however it wants”. #link

The Great Awokening: What happens to culture in an era of identity politics?

“[Sensitivity] to the experiences of racial, cultural, sexual, and gender identities besides one’s own, and [being] attuned to the injustices that shape our world” is the best definition I’ve seen for the concept of ‘woke’, and this is a good essay about the related societal shift. It is ironic, though, that this article has since been affected by the very shifts it examines; that section about Aziz Ansari’s Master of None doesn’t sit too comfortably today next to the excoriation of Louis CK. #link

Google Maps’ Moat

This is incredible stuff. But I’m not the only one given pause by the scale of detail here, am I? #link

Ten Long Years of Trying to Make Armie Hammer Happen

It’s amazing to me how many people took this article as a personal attack when it’s really about ‘Armie Hammer’ the carefully crafted phenomenon, not necessarily a judgement of the person. I mean, there’s no doubt he’s one of a long line of white male Hollywood stars who’ve benefitted from the privilege that gives them the chances so often denied to others, whether through unconscious bias or Weinstein-esque bad faith acting. #link

Jenny Odell: How to do nothing

Do take the time to read these various but connected musings on the value of ‘nothingness’, of removal from the noise and bustle of life — and the demands of Work with a capital W — for deeper reflection, within and without, to exist. It's cut with an endearing wit, as per her observation on birdwatching: “Actually, I’ve always found it weird that it’s called birdwatching, because half if not more of birdwatching is actually birdlistening. I personally think they should just rename it birdnoticing.” #link

How Checkers Was Solved

“For Tinsley, the spiritualist, the metaphor of checkers as a well without end was both poetic and true. But Schaeffer, the engineer, knew that no well is bottomless. And humans will always sound the depth.” #link

The age of banter

When you combine the refusal to take anything seriously with the refusal to take responsibility, this is what you get. #link

The people GoFundMe leaves behind

“More than 90 percent of GoFundMe campaigns never meet their goal.” And for those who are successful, it’s as much a matter of luck as careful planning — even more so for those raising crisis funds, to pay for medical bills and the like. #link

Torching the Modern-Day Library of Alexandria

It’s a maddening catch-22 situation. Such mass preservation of knowledge is the kind of thing governments should be doing, but they can’t justify the expense. Private enterprises like Google can, but the fear of proprietary ownership of knowledge shuts the whole thing down. Gah! The best we can hope for is that Google (or someone else) continues the project for a future generation that will see its value to the whole over the objections of the few. #link

The Atlantic: Welcome to Pleistocene Park

Ross Andersen on a fascinating project in Siberia, already decades old, that’s attempting to resurrect the Mammoth Steppe ecosystem. It’s not just the scale of the biome itself in terms of both the space and time required (it’s a ‘Long Now’ kind of deal, for sure, when we’re talking about “a global land war” between grasses and forests over tens of millions of years) but the mind-boggling accelerated futurism involved in creating the approximation of an extinct species that might be the key to such a biome thriving beyond human hands. That’s not to mention the intersections of and implications for climate science and geopolitics and biotechnology and ethical philosophy. Wow, just wow. #link

The Guardian weighs in on the big bike helmet debate

Whatever the perceived benefits of wearing a helmet (which I do) or high-vis clothing (which I don’t), let’s be honest here: drivers are getting off scot-free on this ‘debate’. We in Ireland and the UK live in a car-centric culture, not to the extent of the US but real enough to stymie any real investment in and commitment to cycling safety via proper infrastructure and legislation. By the way, how about also factoring into safety studies the kind of driver that passes closely: in my anecdotal experience, it’s usually a taxi or similar professional road user, or a private individual in an expensive saloon like a Mercedes or a BMW. Let the sociologists unpack that one. #link

Wrestling with Demons: The Story of Chyna’s Final Days

Chyna’s story needs to be told, beyond the exploitation of the woman, Joanie Laurer, and her memory. But what also needs to be said, amid all the historical revisionism, is that there’s a reason she was billed as ‘the ninth wonder of the world’: like Andre the Giant, she was booked as a novelty, a freak-show attraction. Any boundaries she might have broken for women are only in hindsight, or out of context. Few are willing to address that; wrestling remains deeply problematic. #link

The Village Voice: White America has lost its mind

Steven Thrasher nailed it, six years ago. But is it insanity? Or just plain old bigotry? I vote the latter; it explains not only what’s happened in the horror clown’s America since last year, but also the omnishambles of contemporary British socio-politics. [c/o @maura] #link

The Guardian on PPE, ‘the Oxford degree that runs Britain’

A fascinating read about a genuine issue — a single university degree as a training course for the British political class, more or less — that loses its way a bit when it mistakes balance for fairness in giving space to critical right-wing voices without explicit context for their own biases. (That Tariq Ali reference is money, though.) #link

Vice Sports looks inside WWE’s ‘unlikely business empire’

I won’t say it’s not gratifying that more mainstream outlets are finally grokking what makes WWE so compelling, and not purely from a ‘business’ standpoint. I’m talking about investigating things often glossed over or even missed entirely by fans or fan media, like Vince’s compulsion to inflate attendance figures, or Shane’s friendship with noted fake memoirist James Frey. (Factual errors aside: Ali didn’t fight at the first WrestleMania; he was a guest referee, being already diagnosed with Parkinson’s.) #link

The man who squeezes muscles

So many stories going on here: the meaning of consent; how urban legends take on lives of their own; how notoriety masks tragedy. A wonderful design job by the BBC team here, too. #link

My Son, the Prince of Fashion

It’s not even about fashion, really; it’s a touching tribute by a father (the novelist Michael Chabon) to his son, a young man he doesn’t fathom at all and yet understands profoundly. #link