Rachel Miller: The Answer to All of Your Social Distancing Loophole Questions Is No (Vice)
Viruses don’t operate by potential carriers’ best intentions. They operate exclusively by our actions.
No in-person first dates or group exercise classes. No jaunts to your parents’ house or trips back to the city where you actually live from wherever you fled to a month ago. No IRL baby showers or walks with friends or spontaneous trips to the grocery store for "just a few things." The place where you are, at this moment, is the place you need to stay. It’s going to be this way intermittently, and maybe even constantly, until there is a vaccine for COVID-19.
But a lot of folks are still approaching coronavirus from a place of, What are my personal odds of illness, and, if I get sick, of surviving the illness? versus, How can I not harm other people?
As much as this hurts, it is also the way one can expect to feel during a crisis. If it felt mostly fine and easy to manage, it wouldn’t be a once-in-a-lifetime, five-alarm public health disaster. Whenever I am feeling particularly frustrated, I find that it helps me to remember that this, in large part, is what a sacrifice is. Feeling awful is not good, but it is right—that is, it is correct. The collective sense of helplessness and sadness and rage and overwhelming desire for things to be different and “normal” again is the grief. The solution—if we can even call it that—is just to sit with your fury and your despair and your fear for a little while.
But if you know, deep down, that your question is just a fresh rephrasing of, “May I be granted one (1) exception to the CDC recommendations in order to be a little less uncomfortable because I think my needs are more important than others'?” The answer is no. Someday the answer will be yes. I’d say I can’t wait for that day, but I can, and I will—because it’s right and we must.
Jessica Valenti: I Can’t Believe I Have to Vote for Joe Biden (Gen)
Democratic women are once again being asked to help save the country by voting for the deeply problematic former vice president.
Biden is the better choice by a mile, and I’ll do what’s right for the country and vote for him. But I’m still furious: I can’t believe that when faced with the most dangerous president of our lifetime, Democrats are moving ahead with a nearly 80-year-old moderate who has shown himself time and again not up for the fight. I am livid that Democratic women will be called on, once again, to cast our vote in the name of reducing harm to the country rather than moving it forward.
And the truth is that this election is going to be terrible for women, no matter what we do. Feminists have long warned about Biden’s treatment of Anita Hill (along with his decades-late non-apology), his nastiness toward women he doesn’t find sufficiently deferential and sweet, and the former vice president’s trademark handsiness — but we’re still going to see these new allegations weaponized against us should we vote for him.
(Pro tip: If the only time you have spoken out against our country’s culture of sexual violence is to play some sort of perverse “gotcha” game with Democratic women, you do not actually care about this issue.)
So like a lot of American women, if I pop any corks on election night, it won’t be because Joe Biden won — but because Donald Trump lost. I can live with that. But I won’t forget that Democrats put American women in this position. And I won’t ever forgive it.
Drew Magary: Where the Hell Is Barack Obama? (Gen)
The influence that Barack Obama has left on the table during the coronavirus pandemic and economic apocalypse has been staggering, frustrating, and inexplicable.
Obama can do far more than tweet, and he hasn’t. This is by design. While our collective house burns to the ground, Obama has chosen to pull a Phil Jackson: eschewing a timeout and remaining firmly on the bench, trusting us to figure it all out for ourselves. Up until his imminent endorsement of Joe Biden, which itself is not a terribly productive action, he deliberately made a point of not getting in the way, which is delightful because Democrats still working in government have taken his lead and ALSO decided to not get in the way of Republicans, nor of our impending doom. The influence that Obama has left on the table has been so staggering as to be obscene. What’s even worse is that his void has been filled by a bunch of his former operatives who have used the Obama brand name to burnish their own halos while they do and say patently awful shit.
I’m sick of Barack Obama staying above the fray while that fray is swallowing us whole. It’s infuriating. My anger at Trump is a given, but I hold a special anger in my heart for Democrats who were meant to supply vehement opposition but have instead given us nothing but a handful of wet shit. If Obama had any real plan to use his lingering popularity constructively, he would have used it by now. Instead, he insists he cannot be a white knight, and we have to sort this all out on our own. I’m sure every Republican he ever caved to is nodding in vigorous approval at the notion.
It would be nice, for a change, if Barack Obama could emerge from his cave and offer — no wait, DEMAND — a way forward. It would be nice if he went Full Chicago and fucking fought for answers. But he hasn’t, and he won’t. THIS is what his legacy should be now. In office, Obama did very little to significantly alter a status quo designed to protect itself. Now, out of power but certainly not out of political capital, our brightest star remains in the shadows. Meanwhile, the current president would like virus death to become an accepted and perpetual fact of life here so that his favorite teevee show — AMERICA: IT’S GREAT!— can return from hiatus.
Know who else is comfortable right now? Barack Obama. The man is all hope and no change. And the longer he refuses to take any public action, the more I’ll remember him as a man who said all the right things while, in his cherished long run, not having much to show for it. Wake the fuck up, Mr. President. The arc of the moral universe is no longer long. It is terrifyingly short, and guess which way it’s bending?
Media-bashing robocalls, chloroquine Twitter trolls, briefing-room propaganda—how the president and his allies are trying to convince America he was right all along.
As reality continues to assert itself in the coming months—whether in the form of rising death tolls, or clinical drug trials, or shifting White House policy—Trump’s information warriors will likely retreat from some of their current positions. (They may also notch a few “wins” as the facts catch up to their narratives.) In the meantime, they are staying cautiously on message.
The public deserves the most complete data available about COVID-19 in the US. No official source is providing it, so we are.
Every day, our volunteers compile the latest numbers on tests, cases, hospitalizations, and patient outcomes from every US state and territory.
The fight against the coronavirus won’t be over when the U.S. reopens. Here’s how the nation must prepare itself.
The pandemic is not a hurricane or a wildfire. It is not comparable to Pearl Harbor or 9/11. Such disasters are confined in time and space. The SARS-CoV-2 virus will linger through the year and across the world. “Everyone wants to know when this will end,” said Devi Sridhar, a public-health expert at the University of Edinburgh. “That’s not the right question. The right question is: How do we continue?”
These problems—the continuing testing debacle, the drying supply chains, the relentless pressure on hospitals—should temper any impatience about reopening the country. There won’t be an obvious moment when everything is under control and regular life can safely resume. Even after case counts and death rates fall, the pandemic’s challenges will continue, and will not automatically subside on their own. After all, despite ample warning, the U.S. failed to anticipate what would happen when the coronavirus knocked on its door. It cannot afford to make that mistake again. Before the spring is over, it needs a plan for the summer and fall.
Even in the optimistic scenario, a quick and complete return to normalcy would be ill-advised. And even in the pessimistic scenario, controlling future outbreaks should still be possible, but only through an immense public-health effort. Epidemiologists would need to run diagnostic tests on anyone with COVID-19–like symptoms, quarantine infected people, trace everyone those people had contact with in the previous week or so, and either quarantine those contacts or test them too. These are the standard pillars of public health, but they’re complicated by the coronavirus’s ability to spread for days before causing symptoms. Every infected person has a lot of potential contacts, and may have unknowingly infected many of them.
The U.S. is still a scientific and biomedical powerhouse. To marshal that power, it needs a massive, coordinated, government-led initiative to find the cleverest ways of controlling COVID-19—a modern-day Apollo program. No such program is afoot. Former Trump- and Obama-era officials have published detailed plans. Elizabeth Warren is on her third iteration. But the White House either has no strategy or has chosen not to disclose it.
Without a unifying vision, governors and mayors have been forced to handle the pandemic themselves. Ludicrously, states are bidding against one another—and the federal government—for precious supplies. Six states still haven’t issued any kind of stay-at-home order, while those that moved late, such as Florida, may have seeded infections in the rest of the country.
With COVID-19, I fear that the U.S. might enter the neglect phase before the panic part is even finished. If the current shutdown succeeds in flattening the curve, sparing the health-care system and minimizing deaths, it will feel like an overreaction. Contrarians will use the diminished body count to argue that the panic was needless and that the public was misled. Some are already saying that.
The virus is disproportionately killing people in low-income jobs who don’t have the privilege of working from home, but who will nonetheless be shamed for not distancing themselves. The virus is disproportionately killing black people, whose health had already been impoverished through centuries of structural racism, but who will nonetheless be personally blamed for their fate. The virus is disproportionately killing elderly people, who had already been shunted to the fringes of society, but who will nonetheless be told to endure further loneliness so that everyone else can be freer.
As the rest of the U.S. comes to terms with the same restless impermanence, it must abandon the question When do we go back to normal? That outlook ignores the immense disparities in what different Americans experience as normal. It wastes the rare opportunity to reimagine what a fairer and less vulnerable society might look like. It glosses over the ongoing nature of the coronavirus threat. There is no going back. The only way out is through—past a turbulent spring, across an unusual summer, and into an unsettled year beyond.
Sam Anderson: The Weirdly Enduring Appeal of Weird Al Yankovic (NYT)
National economies collapse; species go extinct; political movements rise and fizzle. But — somehow, for some reason — Weird Al keeps rocking.
Onstage, Weird Al sat on a wooden stool and started to snap like a lounge singer. With an orchestra swelling behind him— the tour was called “Strings attached”— he kicked into a soulful medley of 1980s parodies. If that does not sound great to you, if it in fact sounds like a very particular flavor of sonic hell, I’m here to tell you something, Weird Al was absolutely belting. He was singing the bejesus out of this ridiculous music. I leaned back in my chair, reassessing core assumptions I’d made about life. Was this somehow part of the joke? That Weird Al was an amazing singer? His voice was athletic and precise. It was rippling through intricate trills and runs. By the time he reached the medley’s climax, “Like a Surgeon,” his 1985 parody of Madonna’s “Like a Virgin,” Yankovic was stretching for high notes and holding them over his head for the crowd to admire, like an Olympic weightlifter, who had just snatched 500 pounds.
But it turns out that Weird Al approaches the composition of his music with something like the holy passion of Michelangelo painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Looking through the “White & Nerdy” file felt like watching a supercomputer crunch through possible chess moves. Every single variable had to be considered, in every single line. The song begins with a simple sentence — “They see me mowing my front lawn” — and even here Yankovic agonized over “lawn” versus “yard” and “my” versus “the.” He sifted through phrases in gradations so small, they were almost invisible.
Weird Al likes to say that every one of his albums is a comeback album. That’s because a parody career is not like a normal career. It has no internal momentum. Everyone always expects you to go away.
Weird Al’s bond with his fans is atomic. He will stop and speak with them anywhere — at airports, outside the tour bus — for so long that it becomes a logistical problem. The fans approach him like a guru, and Weird Al responds with sweet, open, validating energy.
The connection is so deep that it is more like a merging, and after a while it struck me that Weird Al has spent basically his whole life making his music for exactly these people, which is to say for his childhood self. For many decades, he has been trying to delight Alfred Yankovic, the bright, painfully shy kid who grew up alone in his tiny bedroom. For the benefit of that lonely boy, he reshaped the whole world of pop culture. His ridiculous music sent out a pulse, a signal, and these were the people it drew: the odd, the left out. A crowd of friends for that lonely kid.
Kiel Johnson: “We cannot afford to go back to the way things were”: An open letter to PBOT Commissioner Chloe Eudaly (BikePortland)
Right now we need city leaders who can unite people around a vision of what the post-coronavirus city looks like. Listen to your most visionary planners at PBOT and ask advocates to help the city engage and build that vision. Could we roll out a temporary version of the complete 2030 Bike Plan this summer? Can we transform PBOT to do the work of Better Block on a citywide scale?
Right now we need government to work better than it ever has. We need to try big, bold, new ideas and not be afraid to adapt them as conditions change. We need to work closely with the most vulnerable people in our communities and make sure changes elevate and fulfill their needs. Most importantly, we need the government and our elected leaders to act.
Jenn Pelly: Fiona Apple — Fetch the Bolt Cutters (Pitchfork)
She will not be silenced. That’s patently clear from the start of Fetch the Bolt Cutters. In gnarled breaths on its opening song—feet on the ground and mind as her might—Apple articulates exactly what she wants: “Blast the music! Bang it! Bite it! Bruise it!” It’s not pretty. It’s free
Laura Bradley: If You Have Anxiety and Depression but Feel Better During Coronavirus, You’re Not Alone (The Daily Beast)
The coronavirus pandemic is a devastating mass trauma—but some people with anxiety and depression have seen their symptoms improve.
When I broached the topic of guilt and shame over feeling good—both with Cohen and Visceglia and, during several sessions, with my own therapist—all three encouraged me to embrace the personal insights this time has provided. The key, it seems, will be carrying this sense of connection and gratitude into the future.
Laurie Penny: This Is Not the Apocalypse You Were Looking For (Wired)
Pop culture has been inundated with catastrophe porn for decades. None of it has prepared us for our new reality.
Capitalism cannot imagine a future beyond itself that isn’t utter butchery.
This is because late capitalism has always been a death cult. The tiny-minded incompetents in charge cannot handle a problem that can’t be fixed simply by sacrificing poor, vulnerable, and otherwise expendable individuals. Faced with a crisis they can’t solve with violence, they dithered and whined and wasted time that can and will be counted in corpses. There has been no vision, because these men never imagined the future beyond the image of themselves on top of the human heap, cast in gold. For weeks, the speeches from podiums have suggested that a certain amount of brutal death is a reasonable price for other people to pay to protect the current financial system. The airwaves have been full of spineless right-wing zealots so focused on putting the win in social Darwinism that they keep accidentally saying the quiet bit out loud.
The quiet bit is this: To the rich and stupid, many of the economic measures necessary to stop this virus are so unthinkable that it would be preferable for millions to die. This is extravagantly wrong on more than just a moral level—forcing sick and contagious people back to work to save Wall Street puts all of us at risk. It is not only easier for these overpromoted imbeciles to imagine the end of the world than a single restriction on capitalism—they would actively prefer it.
In Singapore, tape is being used as a sort of architectural element to denote closure of public spaces and promote & enforce proper social distancing practices. The @tape_measures account on Instagram is documenting instances of this practice around the city.
Just because something is going to break in the end, doesn't mean that it can't have an effect that lasts into the future. Joy, wonder, laughter, hope—the world can be better because of what you built in the past.
This is a real parody and a real screensaver. It is a real screen saver. It is obviously a parody of our lives right now.
Long ago in a land far far away the people of earth were able to leave their houses. They had meetings that were in person and did not have to do every social interaction over a video conference.
Today, that world is dead. We now live in a video conference sort of world. To make sure that we fully engage our new world, we made this screensaver. It will make sure that even when you are not using your computer, it will be participating in our new world with full compliance.
Chloe I. Cooney: The Parents Are Not All Right (Gen)
The coronavirus pandemic exposes how even the most privileged households, with two working parents, are struggling to make it work.
Viruses, or in this case, global pandemics, expose and exacerbate the existing dynamics of a society — good and bad. They are like a fun-house mirror, grossly reflecting ourselves back to us. One of those dynamics is the burden we put on individual parents and families. We ask individuals to solve problems that are systemically created.
This cannot be solved by tweaks to the schedule, helpful routines, and virtual activities. We have to collectively recognize that parents — and any caregivers right now — have less to give at work. A lot less. The assumptions seem to be that parents have “settled into a routine” and “are doing okay now.”
It exposes everything from the lack of paid sick leave and parental leave to the fact that the school day ends at 3 p.m. when the typical workday goes several hours longer — yet aftercare is not universally available. And that says nothing of our need for universal health care, irrespective of employment. Parents pour endless energy into solving for systems that don’t make sense and don’t work.
This current situation is almost prophetically designed to showcase the farce of our societal approach to separating work and family lives. We are expected to work from home full time. And care for our children full time. And we cannot have anyone outside our immediate household help. It can’t work and we all are suffering at the illusion that it does.
Our kids are losing out — on peace of mind, education, engagement, the socialization for which they are built.
Our employers are losing out, too. Whether the office policy is to expect full-time work or whether, like in my experience, we are offered a lot of flexibility — work is less good, there is less of it, and returns will be diminishing the longer this juggle goes on.
Max Nesterak: Land O’Lakes quietly gets rid of iconic Indian maiden mascot (Minnesota Reformer)
“It’s a great move,” said Adrienne Keene, a professor at Brown University, author of the popular Native Appropriations blog and citizen of the Cherokee Nation. “It makes me really happy to think that there’s now going to be an entire generation of folks that are growing up without having to see that every time they walk in the grocery store.”
But Keene thinks the company missed an important opportunity in not explaining why they removed the image of the Indian maiden from their brand.
“It could have been a very strong and positive message to have publicly said, ‘We realized after a hundred years that our image was harmful and so we decided to remove it,’” Keene said. “In our current cultural moment, that’s something people would really respond to.”
I like pizza, and I make it often. You also like pizza. Perhaps you’d like to make it as well? Here’s the recipe for my sourdough pizza, ideal for Neapolitan or NYC-style pies, baked in a home oven with a baking steel or stone, or in an outdoor oven. Scroll past the recipe if you’d like to learn more!
Zeynep Tufekci: Keep the Parks Open (The Atlantic)
Public green spaces are good for the immune system and the mind—and they can be rationed to allow for social distancing.
Mental health is also a crucial part of the resilience we need to fight this pandemic. Keeping people’s spirits up in the long haul will be important, and exercise and the outdoors are among the strongest antidepressants and mental-health boosters we know of, often equaling or surpassing drugs and/or therapy in clinical trials.
If pandemic theater gets mixed up with scientifically sound practices, we will not be able to persuade people to continue with the latter.
Even if health authorities close some parks temporarily while they assess and develop evidence-based policies and best practices, they should do so with transparency and a timeline or conditions under which the parks will reopen. That’s the best of all possible worlds: The authorities will preserve much-needed legitimacy, and the public will retain access to the outdoors under sensible conditions that reduce risk while promoting health, well-being, and resilience—and we will certainly need all of that to get through the next many months.
Beth Mole: Don’t Panic: The comprehensive Ars Technica guide to the coronavirus (Ars Technica)
More than 1.2 million people have been infected with a new coronavirus that has spread widely from its origin in China over the past few months. Over 67,000 have already died. Our comprehensive guide for understanding and navigating this global public health threat is below.
This is a fast-moving epidemic—we'll update this guide periodically.
“Mindfulness is the ability to know what’s happening in your head at any moment without getting carried away by it.”
“The proposition here is not that you should be rendered by mindfulness into some lifeless, non-judgmental blob. The proposition is that you should learn how to respond _wisely_ to things that happen to you rather than just reacting blindly.”
“Rarely can a _response_ make something better. What makes something better is connection.”
What is the best way to ease someone's pain and suffering? In this beautifully animated RSA Short, Dr Brené Brown reminds us that we can only create a genuine empathic connection if we are brave enough to really get in touch with our own fragilities.
Animation: Katy Davis (AKA Gobblynne) www.gobblynne.com
McKay Coppins: The Social-Distancing Culture War Has Begun (The Atlantic)
Across the country, social distancing is morphing from a public-health to political act. The consequences could be disastrous.
Trump, having apparently grown impatient with all the quarantines and lockdowns, began last week to call for a quick return to business as usual. “WE CANNOT LET THE CURE BE WORSE THAN THE PROBLEM ITSELF,” he tweeted, in characteristic caps lock. Speaking to Fox News, he added that he would “love” to see businesses and churches reopened by Easter. Though Trump would later walk them back, the comments set off a familiar sequence—a Democratic backlash, a pile-on in the press, and a rush in MAGA-world to defend the president. As the coronavirus now emerges as another front in the culture war, social distancing has come to be viewed in some quarters as a political act—a way to signal which side you’re on.
Andy Cush: How Slowed + Reverb Remixes Became the Melancholy Heart of Music YouTube (Pitchfork)
Houston hip-hop’s chopped and screwed sound has inspired one of the internet’s loneliest and most beguiling corners.
Moore, known to his 24,000 subscribers as Slater, is regarded among aficionados as the originator of the “slowed + reverb” phenomenon, a simple DIY remixing style that has thrived on YouTube in recent years. Slater provided a blueprint that many others have followed: Start with a moody song that’s already popular on YouTube; ratchet up the sense of druggy melancholy by slowing it down and adding a touch of digital echo; pair it with similarly wistful animation; watch the views pour in.
The songs that people want to hear, in other words, often owe a sonic debt to Screw before they’ve even been slowed, having absorbed it directly or through Screw-influenced artists.