The Top 5 Longreads of the Week

This week, we’re sharing stories from Wright Thompson, Mitch Moxley, Patrick Radden Keefe, Joshua Sokol, and Ariane Todes.

Here are five stories that moved us this week, and the reasons why.

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1. Inside Kyiv on the Night of Ukraine’s Stunning World Cup Qualifier Victory

Wright Thompson | ESPN | June 2nd, 2022 | 4,282 words

“I came to Kyiv to watch a city watch a game,” writes Wright Thompson. And watch he does, while absorbing and documenting all he can as he wanders the capital and spends time with Ukrainians in this gem of a piece. Thompson captures the air in Kyiv on this first day of summer: the fear felt when air raid sirens go off, the tension that builds in the hour before the men’s national team plays Scotland in a must-win World Cup playoff semifinal, and the strangeness of life, of everything now. “But still there is an unspoken feeling hovering over everything, a mixture of worry that the success they’ve known so far could turn to defeat, that the destruction of war might return to Kyiv.” Everything in this piece feels raw and immediate: the scenes, the conversations, the moments. “History is being written in real time and nobody knows how things will end. These could be the last days of a regional war or the first days of a world war.” What a snapshot of this night, and a fleeting portrait of the city in a time of war. —CLR

2. Two Fathers

Mitch Moxley | Esquire | June 2nd, 2022 | 5,756 words

I remember the Humboldt tragedy vividly. When a semitruck plowed into the bus carrying the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team, killing 16, it dominated the Canadian news — the country mourning alongside the small prairie town that lost so much. In this report for Esquire, Mitch Moxley takes us deeper, giving us a glimpse into the raw pain of those closest to the lost boys. I inhaled sharply at his account of the severity of the injuries incurred that day — so disfiguring that in one case, a family held vigil by the bed of a boy who was not their son, learning later that their boy was in the morgue. It’s a difficult read. From that excruciating time, Moxley examines the paths the families take as they follow the court case of the semitruck driver, Jaskirat Singh Sidhu. Distracted, Sidhu passed five warning signs before hitting the team bus at an intersection, and many families could not forgive him. Chris Joseph, who lost his son Jaxon, became a strong advocate for both prison and then deportation: “Joseph’s feelings about Sidhu weren’t motivated by malice or hatred, he says. They were motivated by a sense of justice and, more than that, by his unimaginable grief.” Scott Thomas’ son Evan was also killed, but Thomas found a different way, writing a forgiveness letter to Sidhu, passed on to him during the trial. Sidhu asked to see him: “Thomas turned around to see that Sidhu was already down on one knee, sobbing. He took Thomas’s hands, and Thomas lifted Sidhu. The two embraced and cried.” An emotional, searing account of a tragedy and how different families experience grief in the aftermath. It’s worth your time. —CW

3. The Surreal Case of a C.I.A. Hacker’s Revenge

Patrick Radden Keefe | The New Yorker | June 6th, 2022 | 11,064 words

A CIA hacker with a grudge, poor impulse control, and access to troves of extremely sensitive government data makes for a particularly dangerous combination. After an ongoing spat with a colleague escalated, former CIA hacker Josh Schulte believed that the organization had not treated him fairly. He is alleged to have used WikiLeaks to exact his revenge, not only exposing the CIA’s hacking methods and ongoing projects in a huge data dump, but also endangering the lives of assets embedded with foreign targets. While giving away government secrets is one thing, what investigators discovered about his activities outside of work revealed that Schulte had a dark secret of his own: a huge collection of child pornography. At The New Yorker, Patrick Radden Keefe gives us a front-row seat to the “theatre of secrecy.” —KS

4. The Stargazers

Joshua Sokol | Science | June 2nd, 2022 | 4,000 words

“We found a large number of books. As they contained nothing in which there were not to be seen superstition and lies of the devil, we burned them all.” So wrote a Catholic priest in the Yucatán, describing the destruction of Mayan texts after the arrival of European colonizers in the 1500s. It will come as no surprise that the priest was dead wrong — about what the texts contained, and about their erasure. As this feature details, over many generations, descendants of the ancient Maya quietly preserved their forebears’ unparalleled astronomical knowledge. Today, Indigenous people are working with Western scholars to identify and again record this mastery of the cosmos. (For example: A graphic designer who is also a “daykeeper,” a person who tracks the 260-day calendar around which Mayan ritual is oriented, and travels to communities in Central American highlands to ask people what they know about the stars.) This story, full of astounding scientific tidbits, is also a moving reminder of the cultural and intellectual resilience of Indigenous communities. —SD

5. Just How Important Is Eye Contact Between Musicians? And What Does It Signal?

Ariane Todes | Classical Music | May 27th, 2022 | 2,015 words

I play bass in a band. When my lead guitarist and I lock eyes, it’s because a) we’re counting up to make sure we both hit the chorus of Albert King’s “Born Under a Bad Sign” correctly, each time b) our singer decided to sing an additional verse before the guitar solo usually starts, or c) our singer accidentally skipped a verse and we’re taking the song home early. It’s these quick glances and smiles — camaraderie across the stage — that averts disaster mid-song and helps us stay in the moment with our singer, who is often deep in the thrall of the Blues. This is why I was fascinated by Ariane Todes’ dive into orchestral eye contact at Classical Music. While the members of the orchestra outnumber our little four-piece by dozens, the purpose of eye contact from the conductor to various musicians and sections conveys something quite a bit different: “Basically, a conductor only has six things to tell the orchestra: it’s either faster or slower, longer or shorter, or louder or softer, and everything else is based on that. The eyes and face are what communicates all the other things.” And, while the Blues and classical music differ vastly in style, strong eye contact among the musicians pays off in good vibes on-stage and off. “But occasionally there are fleeting moments where something passes wordlessly – friendship, encouragement, solidarity, shared endeavour, perhaps even love – and maybe that makes eye contact the very essence of music.” —KS