More thoughts (in isolation)

As pandemic life continues I thought I’d offer up some more random thoughts on how things are going.

Much as I disliked it the first time, shouldn’t Ontario be in lockdown again? Our numbers are as bad as they were when this took off, and experts say they’re only likely to climb as the cold weather hits. So why are gyms still open?

Is there some rationale behind rendering it COVID-19 instead of Covid-19? I see both used, but I’m not sure what the principle is. The “CO” stands for corona, “VI” for virus and “D” for disease, so it should be CoViD-19 or CoviD-19 (“Coronavirus Disease”). This is the way the virus that causes the disease is written (SARS-CoV-2).

Face masks have become our new plastic bags. You see them everywhere now. Even hanging from trees. I don’t imagine they’re very environmentally friendly either.

When we first entered lockdown it seemed like Amazon was one of the big winners. I’m sure they still are, but I think I’ve only ordered from them once since this started. Their prices for everything are higher and their delivery times (unless you’re on Prime) are slow and unreliable. I don’t even bother with them anymore. But then Costco is no fun either since they stopped giving out samples. The golden age of retail may be over.

So many small local businesses are going under. And where are these people going to go? Time for a Universal Basic Income, whether we like it or not.

Is every “milestone” a “grim” milestone? It seems no other adjective works, at least when it comes to the death count in a pandemic.

Why do so many people drive around with their masks on? People alone, in their cars. I’m all for wearing masks, but only when I go into some public place. Driving with a mask on seems overkill.

Schoolkids are getting screwed. I’ve been talking to a lot of teachers over the last several months. Public school and high school students aren’t even getting a second-rate education. I guess if the kids are really motivated they can still be doing the work and learning something, but I strongly suspect that many of them are basically taking the year off while still picking up their credits. In university I’ve heard that small classes work, since you can run them as Zoom seminars. But again I suspect a lot of students in larger, introductory classes are just floating along and not learning much. In programs involving lab work the amount of lab time is getting cut back. Again, it’s a second-rate sort of education.

And I think it’s even worse than that. With more emphasis being put on online learning we’re pushing young people into taking on even more screen time as a substitute for direct human interaction. Kids in Grade 2 are having to learn to navigate their school’s class portals. Which is a useful skill, I suppose, but I feel like we’re embarking on a giant social psychology experiment whose results we already know are going to be disastrous. Things have come to a sad pass when you start feeling sorry for young people, but I really do.

Departures, no arrivals

Hang in there, Karen. You still have House of 1000 Corpses to get through.

Over at Alex on Film I’ve been watching the Airport tetralogy: Airport (1970), Airport 1975 (1974), Airport ’77 (1977), and The Concorde . . . Airport ’79 (1979). I was surprised at how much I enjoyed them. Yes they’re trash, but it’s trash that has aged well, and each film has its own silly identity. I actually went to see The Concorde on its initial release, so many years ago now. Of course, after this it was on to Airplane! and other send-ups, since there was no place left to go. And Airplane! is still very funny today too. But don’t sleep on the originals.

Rage on

rageI recently reviewed Bob Woodward’s Rage, his second book on the Trump presidency (the first was Fear). It’s not a flattering portrait, though I thought he did his best to cast his subject in the best possible light, including excerpts from over a dozen lengthy interviews. What it made me think about though was what an official biography of Trump, when we get it, will look like. You’d have to think it will be flattering, but since no amount of flattery can satisfy a narcissist Trump will still object to it. Putting lipstick on the pig of this presidency, however, will be no easy task. Who will say anything good about Trump’s handling of the job? Not people like Rex Tillerson or John Kelly or James Mattis, who all held high positions in his administration but were cashiered or resigned in (quiet) protest, only to be insulted by their boss on the way out. I anticipate a truly Herculean feat of apologetics.

If certain tendencies proceed unchecked

From The Modern Century (1967) by Northrop Frye:

If certain tendencies within our civilization were to proceed unchecked, they would rapidly take us towards a society which, like that of a prison, would be both completely introverted and completely without privacy. The last stand of privacy has always been, traditionally, the inner mind. It is quite possible however for communications media, especially the newer electronic ones, to break down the associative structures of the inner mind and replace them by the prefabricated structures of the media. A society entirely controlled by their slogans and exhortations would be introverted because nobody would be saying  anything: there would only be echo, and Echo was the mistress of Narcissus. It would also be without privacy, because it would frustrate the effort of the healthy mind to develop a view of the world which is private but not introverted, accommodating itself to opposing views. The triumph of communication is the death of communication: where communication forms a total environment, there is nothing to be communicated.

Bond’s law of billiards

From From Russia With Love (1957) by Ian Fleming:

Kerim turned and faced Bond. His voice became insistent. “Listen, my friend,” he put a huge hand on Bond’s shoulder. “This is a billiard table. An easy, flat, green billiard table. And you have hit your white ball and it is travelling easily and quietly towards the red. The pocket is alongside. Fatally, inevitably, you are going to hit the red and the red is going into that pocket. It is the law of the billiard table, the law of the billiard room. But, outside the orbit of these things, a jet pilot has fainted and his plane is diving straight at that billiard room, or a gas main is about to explode, or lightning is about to strike. And the building collapses on top of you and on top of the billiard table. Then what has happened to that white ball that could not miss the red ball, and to the red ball that could not miss the pocket? The white ball could not miss according to the laws of the billiard table. But the laws of the billiard table are not the only laws, and the laws governing the progress of this train, and of you to your destination, are also not the only laws in this particular game.”

Michael Reeves

Over at Alex on Film I’ve been watching the movies — three in total, not counting Castle of the Living Dead that he only got called on to finish — of Michael Reeves. The three movies are She Beast (1966), The Sorcerers (1967) and Witchfinder General (1968). Aside from dying young, Reeves’ reputation rests mainly on Witchfinder General, which is a really good period piece. The Sorcerers is more a curiosity and She Beast barely that.

This chair rocks

This morning I was surprised to read, in Sue Roe’s The Private Lives of the Impressionists, that in Paris’s Universal Exposition in 1867 “The Americans exhibited an amazing new invention: the ‘rocking-chair.'”

Could that be true? I mean, it seems like such an obvious and fun bit of furniture as a rocking chair would have been around forever. And in fact it does seem to have an earlier provenance. Surprisingly enough, however, they were indeed an American invention. That’s where they apparently got their start in the early 1700s. Though cradles had been rocking since the days of ancient Rome. I wonder why the idea took so long to catch on.

I think Roe must have been thinking of Michael Thonet’s first bentwood rocking chair, which premiered in 1860. Which was a breakthrough but technically wasn’t the first rocking chair. Still, a much later development than I’d thought.