📰 Noteworthy stories for today #25

A life through French hip-hop, how pop culture changed pop music & the Punk Florist

This weeks round up is a feast of rhythmic reads, enjoy.

A Life Through French Hip-Hop

In my early 20s I spent some time living in Paris and was no stranger to Nova Radio as a way to improve my French. The counter culture station was like an untapped vein of exciting and off-beat music, Jesse McCarthy brilliant captures growing up in Paris through the lens of hip-hop as it grew from emulating East Coast West Coast styles to a genre in its own right from RER to banlieue. Read on The Guardian.

How Pop Culture Changed Pop Music

Some Data Viz appreciation for The New York Times, constantly re-imagining complex subjects effortlessly - this week we have a piece on the evolution of music from strict structured stanzas to expressive and experimental song formats catered to modern listening habits. Check it out here and get some good headphones to experience it too.

The Punk Florist

To round off our unintentional musically theme long-reads this weekend is a piece from The New Yorker on Azuma Makoto, the Punk Florist, the Johnny Rotten of the Blossom. The Japanese got his start as a penniless bassist before falling in love with the traditional art of ikebana (flower arranging). The New Yorker has a nice write up on the short documentary Alison Klayman directed (also included!).

See ya next week


📰 Noteworthy stories for today #24

The Fentanyl dealing doctor, Computer updates on Mars & 5-Star abandoned buildings.

I’m back, after a brief reprieve from a couple of busy weeks we’re back with another long-reads round-up. I have a few long term Data Viz projects, I’ll hopefully be able to share with you in the next month or so, subscribe to be the first to hear about them.

The Doctor Pumping Toronto Full Of Fentanyl

For years George Otto worked hard as an immigrant doctor in Toronto to create the life he always dreamed of in Uganda but behind the curtain the lengths he’d go to keeping the money flowing contributed to one of the biggest Fentanyl dealing rings in Toronto. Read on Toronto Life about how a tiny gang of Doctors, Pharmacists and Dealers did so much damage and how they kept getting away with it.

Update Now. Remind Me Tomorrow.

In the insane world of Space exploration, the most exciting advances are usually the big technological leaps, the distance travelled, crewed missions etc but for me the most interesting stories are the mundane problems and solutions that become make-or-break when trying to accomplish across planets. This week the Ingenuity will make it’s first powered flight on Mars – but first it needs a software update… from Earth… Read on Vice how NASA are planning to achieve that.

Five-Star Abandoned Buildings

New York, 1930 - The Pierre opened and apart from a brief closure remained opened for 89 years, all 44 floors of it - until March 2020 when the world shut it’s doors and the hotel and travel sector was forced to do so as well. For a building like The Pierre, the staff not only lost their jobs but their family as well. The New Yorker has a really nice profile on the hotel and the staff that remained on to witness it’s emptiness.

As well always, if you enjoy the round-ups and original content please share and subscribe, I appreciate every subscription paid or not.

See ya


📰 Noteworthy stories for today #23

The Super Bowl Heist, Horse Meat Militia and an Air Pollution Instagram Filter

Today’s round-up of interesting reads.

The Super Bowl Heist

On ESPN last week I read this fun story about the self proclaimed Master Thief Sean Murphy, one of the most meticulous and prolific grifters in Massachusetts. A team of thieves reminiscent of the cast from an Ocean’s Eleven film conspire to rob the newly crowned New York Giant’s Super Bowl Rings. Find out how he was caught on ESPN.

The Florida Horse-Meat Vigilantes

It wasn’t so long ago that the UK had its own Horse-meat scandal and it seems Florida has a growing underground market of criminal butchers doing the same, a shady world of stealing horses, buying them under the table from race stables and hacking them up for sale. Meet the small time militia breaking the rules, and the law, to bring down illegal horse butchers in Florida on Bloomberg Businessweek.

Visualising Air Pollution Around The World

Last week, I finished the last touches to an AR Instagram filter visualising the levels of PM 2.5 (fine toxic particles) in the air around different major cities. You can read the full Quick Dive of what PM 2.5 is and how dangerous it is here for free. You can try out the filter here on Instagram in our Stories highlight, tag @thedivenewsletter so I can see what you’ve got up to with it.

If you haven’t already, please subscribe to the newsletter it’s hugely appreciated and lets me experiment with more Data Viz ideas in the future.



🔎 Quick Dive: How much microscopic pollution do we breath in?

Measuring the levels of PM 2.5 pollution in our lungs.

What would our air pollution look like if you could see it with the naked eye?

Looking back, I consider myself lucky not to have been brought up in London for very long, I yearn for the open fields, creeks and fresh air that I spent my time around as a kid. I was born in London and spent 7 years there before leaving, enough time to have felt the effects of stunted lung growth according to a six year study on air pollution.

In December 2020, a landmark ruling was made that admitted “exposure to excessive air pollution” had contributed to the death of 9 year old Ella Kissi-Debrah in Lewisham.

The city’s level of NO2, PM 10 and PM 2.5 had been consistently above the legal limits for toxic particles suggested by the World Health Organisation. The ruling was important as it directly attributed the city’s failure on air pollution as a possible cause of death. 

Six years on from Ella’s death and I found myself back in London making the commute across trains, buses and traffic jams that thousands of others make every day - breathing in the city.

I’ve been working on this idea for some time now, a simple way to visualise some of the pollutants we breathe in daily but first needed to get my head around the science.

Try the AR filter out on The Dive’s instagram page here.

What is PM?

Particulate Matter (or PM) is a term to describe a collection of microscopic clumps of varying size and shape which have combined together to form dangerous particles that can be inhaled. There is no fixed term for what constitutes Particulate Matter as its breakdown is dependent on when and where it is found; but it can be roughly split into a few categories - dust, dirt, soot, smoke and droplets of liquid.

PM 2.5 and 10 refer to, in microns (μm), the diameter of the particle. With PM 10μm being roughly 5-7 times smaller than an average human hair in diameter and PM 2.5μm being about 4 times smaller than that.

Whilst PM 10 often deposits in the nose or throat as we inhale, PM 2.5 is so small that it can make its way into the lungs and blood cells once inside the body.

Breath in, breath out

Returning to London for the first time in decades, the change in air was intangible. I knew it was worse but didn’t feel it was worse, like being forced to unknowingly smoke without seeing the exhale.

Long term exposure to Particulate Matter increases the risk of lung and heart complications, with the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifying it as carcinogenic and contributing to lung cancer. 

It has long been known that such pollution can exacerbate existing health conditions such as asthma but according to the UK government there is emerging research showing associations with dementia, low birth-weight, stunted lung growth in children and Type 2 diabetes. 

In 2013, Ella Kissi-Debrah suffered her last asthma attack after 27 hospital admissions and 6 different consultants, her parents unaware of the things that floated in the air they lived in.

How polluted was your city in 2019?

The New York Times have an interactive from 2019 that shows the levels of PM 2.5 on the worst day of your location. It’s from this dataset that I expanded my idea to visualise the air in AR through Instagram.

In 2019, on its worst day London air was actually almost 50% more polluted with PM 2.5 than Manhattan was on its worst day of the year.

Delhi reigns top of the scale with 988µg/m3 of fine particulate matter recorded in a single day putting it in the “extreme” category as classified by the United State Environmental Protection Agency. Currently the UK government has no clear guidelines on safe levels of PM 2.5.

Try the AR filter out on The Dive’s instagram page here. Click on the story called City Air AR and try the filter in the top left corner of the story.

Use the Instagram filter to see how much PM 2.5 you could be inhaling across different cities and tag @thedivenewsletter so I can see how you’re experiencing the filter.

📰 Noteworthy stories for today #22

NASA Pirates, Unequal suffering, Uncharted territory & a Rookie's Guide

Dive Originals: Rookie’s Guide #2

How I made the “Portraits of Lives Lost” series

A year on from the unjust murder of Breonna Taylor and with the trial of George Floyd’s killer Derek Chauvin beginning it's preparations - it seemed apt to take a look back at the Portraits of Live Lost series I put together at the end of last year and show how I created them and some of the design decisions I made. This is a Paid Subscriber post so if you haven’t yet you can subscribe for £5 a month to access it. Read the second of the Rookie’s Guide to Data Viz here.

NASA Pirates

Here’s an issue I had never considered, when completing NASA’s long awaited James Webb Space Telescope (started in 2007!) there were, and still are, serious discussions about it being stolen by pirates on its trip to French Guiana where it is to be launched. So much so that the exact date of departure is being kept a closely guarded secret. Turns out, as proved by previous “lens-nappings”, this isn’t that far out of the realms of possibility. Continue reading about the threat of NASA pirates on The Atlantic.

Unequal Suffering

Yaryna Serkez at The New York Times has written a really stark and poignant piece on how the suffering felt by different communities was far from equal in 2020. Illustrated with a series of damning charts through-out, the style of data visuals adds a really human feel - which Yaryna actually commented on in a twitter thread was her original intention. Read on The New York Times to see how different sections of the population fared during the pandemic.

Uncharted Territory

Another Data Viz themed piece, this time from my old haunt The Economist’s new Data newsletter “Off The Charts” where they’ve taken a look at the different hoops they have to jump through when creating maps - including having someone paste black labels over selected maps in every issue. Even though I worked with them fairly frequently last year I didn’t quite realise the lengths they sometimes need to go to, to avoid getting entire shipments of an issue seized by a country that has disputed borders. Read more on the Off The Charts (and subscribe to it too, while you’re at it, come on guys get it together).

That’s all, see ya


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