Comet Fragments

News roundup.

The writing moment: Three difficulties with writing in this time of upheaval: Coming via Paul Raven, this piece talks about the difficulties of writing and thinking about society at a time like this. For my part, I’m enjoying reading sociological work –some of it seems like sci-fi artifacts from some strange planet– and on the other, I’m currently taking a class in Meso American art history. There’s a lot about the Aztecs that suddenly seems a lot more comprehensible and resonant. Oh, and happy mother’s day.

The Hammer and the Dance: Why Reopening Now Will Kill: Look, we all want shit to be open. But there is a way of getting to the point where you can do that and it’s an uncertain and difficult way and, until you do that at least that much, there is just no way to reopen, and even if you do that much, it is difficult and maybe impossible. It’s the hammer and the dance.

If we reopen now, without nearly enough testing and virtually no contact tracing, we will have to lock down again once the next wave of the pandemic hits. We might be facing many months, possibly even years, of seeing cities and states open up their economies, followed by another eruption of cases, followed by yet another lockdown.

Coronavirus: Lessons From Asia: I had hoped that, by this time, some version of common sense (never very common but that’s another story) would prevail and that everyone would be learning from each other. Like, Europe and NA would see what happened in South Korea and China, learn from that, come up with something even better, that the next countries would learn from, and the response would just build and build, getting smarter at every step of the way. That’s not really how things turned out. But this short documentary has a pretty good overview of the different responses in Asia and what has happened. I would say though, the South Korean response is also a lot like Taiwan’s. You should probably view both of these countries as representing different components of the same response.

Live from WHO Headquarters – COVID-19 daily press briefing 11 May 2020: One thing that I really thinks helps to deal with this –not only in assessing local claims but also in keeping your head– is clear communication from people who actually have some idea what the fuck they’re talking about. It’s a little boring and dull but that’s kind of how it should be.

And, if you don’t have time for that whole thing, free up just a couple of minutes just to watch this bit of it –starting at 47:52– where so-called “herd immunity” is discussed.

Why Humanity Will Probably Botch the Next Pandemic, Too: An interview with Mike Davis about the whole mess. I really like Mike Davis. His book “City of Quartz” is about the best history of LA that you’ll ever read and, really, should be read by anyone and everyone. (Oddly enough, I think it was Paul Raven who first recommended this book to me – so thanks Paul, and it took me years to get around to reading it, as does, but I did, which I usually eventually do.) He really nails LA, fucking exactly, with that book.

The real Lord of the Flies: what happened when six boys were shipwrecked for 15 months: If you’re looking for a reason to be optimistic or just to have a little hope — this is a good one. A sort of real life Lord of the Flies happened and the kids were alright. They acted decent.

But the general reaction to this makes me wonder if I have some problem with my basic reading comprehension. Like, everyone is saying that Lord of the Flies is some broad statement about “human nature” in general that this incident disproves its thesis. That Lord f the Flies is about a descent into barbarism and out of civilization, where the human soul is supposed to be shown. I never read it that way. I always read Lord of the Flies it as a critique of British society, and the kids as not so much descending into being “primitive” but re-inventing their perverse civilization from the ground up, rendering not their souls but that civilization naked — in all its monstrosity. Seems that I often get the totally wrong message out of books. That said, I usually prefer my reading.


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