The Grumpy Guide to 2020, I Guess.

Been a year, hasn’t it?

Out of respect for the unpredictability and importance of any particular day, I usually like to save these year in review posts for when the year is safely dead and buried. 2020, in particular, has been a bit of a horror show monster. You think its dead and then it grabs your ankle. Probably best to wake until this year is shot twice in the head, staked through the heart, beheaded, burned, and the ashes dumped in running water before anyone starts saying, “well that’s been 2020 . . .” A lot can happen in two days. So can nothing.

Usually, I just like to run over the various high and low points, shit I got done, and all of that sort of thing. But I’ve having a bit of a hard time thinking about 2020 in those terms. I can’t even look at 2020 like it’s been a good or bad year. It’s been bad. Worse is yet to come. Strange or normal? The strange beginning another normal. More than anything, 2020 feels like a Rubicon year. Throw the dice high.

The only way I can think to do this is month to month, a bit like those grumpy owl guides, and just see how it comes out. I’m as curious as you. So here’s The Grumpy Guide to 2020, I Guess.

January

reporting for duty. duty to the future

You know, I actually got a tattoo in January. It’s not a thing I mentioned here or anywhere, really, because it’s not the sort of thing that anyone over the age of 17 should be proud of and I didn’t do it for the gram, but it is a thing I did. It was pretty spur of the moment.

Wife needed to get some of her tattoos fixed up and I tagged along. Then, much to my surprise, I was just kind of like, “fuck it, do me too.” Some of it is just finally deciding on a thing I wanted and being in a tattoo parlor. Some of it is just that getting a tattoo is technically illegal here and, aside from just liking to break the law, I’m just like — if you’re on a crime scene and not participating, then you’re just a witness.

So, yeah, anyway, did that.

People say it hurts. I liked it.

If I ever get another, that will probably be why. I like how it felt.

At the time, we were just starting to hear about COVID. It seemed mainly like a thing that was happening in China and something that would probably go like SARS or MERS or whatever –an annoyance but something that could and would be brought under control. But you did not want to cough in public. That was a thing. The edginess was there.

Masks were advised and this is when we started wearing them. Signs started appearing, alerts given, and the response had started.

February

For me, this was the strangest month. It rapidly became apparent that this COVID shit was serious business. Wuhan had locked down. Cases were popping up. Even in America and Canada. Then, The Daegu Outbreak. And it was like a bomb had gone off.

Until this, it was very go with the flow. If you’re in an area where people are wearing masks, wear a mask. If no one else is, why bother. You always kept one on you but not always on your face. Daegu changed that. We went from just a few cases to a major outbreak overnight. And that was a scary moment. No one knew what was going to happen.

The city went silent.

I stocked up and stayed the fuck home.

i already had enough toilet paper at home

But the strangest thing was seeing all this happen here and nothing happen in America or Canada. No testing or anything in my home countries. No shutdowns. People just continuing life as if nothing was happening. And my wife stayed working — for a while at least.

It gave me such a weird fucking feeling. There were times when I was like — is this all in my head? For God’s sake, they’re talking about Spring Training in North America — about the sports seasons like these are just a thing that are going to happen. They’re not even testing.

And not being out, I could not even see what was happening out there. I just heard and felt this swell of silence. The beach looked empty from my window but I had no February to compare it to. It was such a bizarre disconnect. Even with the clear and precise communication from the government and the health authorities, there were times when I could not be sure what the hell was going on, if anything, or if I had just flipped my fucking lid and was the only person staying indoors, totally overreacting to a news story.

The rare trip out was a great relief at this time. Seeing the silence of the city, the empty shops and streets should have been scary. Mainly, I felt assured of my sanity. Something was happening. I was not alone. We were all doing this and doing it together.

March

This is when North America finally seemed to realize that something was happening. On one hand, this was reassuring. Finally! On the other, terrifying.

Having already seen the speed this bug moved with, how much every hour and day counted, how quickly one case exploded into hundreds, it seemed like it might already be too late. Also having seen the amount of effort it took to respond to this bug, I had some serious doubts about whether America or Canada would be at all capable or rising to the challenge under any leadership – let alone the leadership it had. I worried that they would do the exact wrong things. Xenophobia, deciding some lives aren’t worth saving, profiteering, and manipulating the whole situation to the benefit of the bosses.

It’s just one of those situations that you very much go into with the society you have, not the society that you want. And, as they say, a battle is no time to sharpen your javelin. This thing finds the weak points in any society, any inequality, any injustice, and it ruthlessly exploits it.

On one hand, a crisis is a chance to change. On the other, a crisis is a magnifying glass. It is both of these things at the same time. It can be one or the other. You can get better or you can get worse but the one thing you are definitely going to be is what you are.

But still, it was good to see these places finally acknowledge some sort of reality. To see some measures finally be taken. Too late and not enough but better than nothing. And, having seen what works, the good news was that, unlike us, North America had a proven democratic model. It only needed to adopt it in order to succeed. It had a tested blueprint.

It just had to do it. That’s all.

And we went deeper into shutdown and started to suffocate the motherfucker.

April

The news out of America was bad. There must have been news out of Canada too but fucked if I can remember any of it. I suppose, it seemed like Canada was doing a better job but considering that it has a healthcare system, this was to be expected.

New York.

Any advice or help that I might have been able to give at the start of this thing really started feeling useless. After a few weeks, you sort of know everything you need to know about the situation. There isn’t a lot more to be said. It’s just repetition. Doldrums.

The total all encompassing guilt of these times. I felt guilty just for getting out of America. For seeing Trump for what he was, America for what it was, and that death was coming. That a terrible, homicidal mess was coming. I did not know what death would look like but I knew death was coming. We decided to get the fuck out before it arrived. Too try. The one thing I did not want to be was someone staring down a holocaust and thinking — we’ll wait and see. If I know a thing, I lack the imagination to ignore it. Better to get the fuck out. If I thought America could change, I would have worked to change it. Hell, I did try. When and where I could, I tried. It was not enough. Nothing can be. But it was something.

Starting in 2015, Wife and I made a bet. We had to sell a house, give up what we’d hoped would be a future in America, work for a few years, and race against time. We had to do what we needed to just in case we ever needed to go back, and we tried to remain decent under the dictatorship. We got the fuck out because, honestly, fuck that fucking shit. The bet paid off. For us. A lot of people could not bet like this. It might have felt better to be wrong. A lot better. A luxury to even be able to think about that. A disgusting luxury.

Survivor guilt is a dry term. The feeling is real. It’s horrible sort of spiral. A feedback loop of despair. You feel guilty for even feeling it. And there’s not much you can do about it. This is not a guilt about nothing. It’s not a guilt that you even want to talk yourself out of. You can’t tell yourself you earned survival because you did not earn it. Mainly, luck. You cannot and should not feel fucking clever about it. You just need to wear the shit. Accept it and try to do something with it. The guilt is not an end but a beginning. One hopes, at least. One tries.

Hail Satan!

March and April Again

A rotting confusion sets in. Pours a brandy, puts its feet up, and makes itself at home. There are times when I am not sure where I am. The numbers out of Korea are very different from the numbers out of America, and I’m not sure what situation I am reacting to. The daily briefings are a great help. What is happening and what we need to do is laid out in clear detail. But even if you can go get a coffee here, how can you when that is happening there.

Time gets slippery.

Space gets slippery.

Time and space get slippery.

Some time in this endless March and April, Wife is sent home from her job for a month, I think. That might have been another March or another April. A stimulus check arrives. California’s blue sky turns orange. Korea gets down to zero cases.

We can go out for coffee again and we do.

Then another outbreak.

The winter looms. We wait.

Autumn

The season of anxiety. There is an election. I vote for Biden.

My nerves are shot. It’s the American news. This is the most American news that I’ve watched in years. It’s a pointless misinformation machine designed to hop you from one commercial break to the next. It induces suspense and anxiety. But I cannot turn it off.

I know I should.

Day after day of watching people try to count. Days of BREAKING NEWS and UPDATE and MAGIC WALL. A monomaniacal focus on nothing BUT the election. The constant sorting of the world into winners and losers. Marked for death. The gibbering pundits congratulating themselves on FREEDOM and FAIRNESS while muscle bound muscle heads object to the use of three syllable words. A man in a black t-shirt bemoans the difficulty of math on live television. Somehow, he still has a job tomorrow. His idiocy humanizes him. A republican wears Chuck Taylors. His shoes humanize him. Your patience is appreciated. THE GREATEST COUNTRY ON EARTH must count. The nation suffers through a nightmare of counting. It thrashes and groans but cannot awake. If one plus one equals two, then we will have three but let’s wonder what would happen if if one plus one equaled three. There would be a different result. Not an issue or a policy will be discussed. No time for that in THE GREATEST COUNTRY ON EARTH. Only genocidal scorekeeping. Fascist strategizing. Winners. Losers. Let’s all learn to be one and kill the other. Let’s be sporting, America.

The result comes in. Another fight begins.

I finally change the fucking channel.

Winter

I am somehow getting through school. It provides structure to my days. I stop using Facebook. I have triangulated my location. I am more firmly in Korea and I am more firmly in time. The places that guilt have rubbed raw go numb. I still awake bloody and covered in cuts from scratching myself in my sleep but in late December even that pauses.

Zero cases are a distant memory. Level One is gone. Going out for a coffee is a distant memory. We are in a third wave, worse than the first. There is no more sense of irreality about the thing. Everyone is in it. Just do what you need to do. Stick to basics.

Vaccines and mutations. Wife on winter vacation.

Tonight is a full moon. I’ve never felt better in my life. Better in my life.

I’ve never felt better in my life.

Summary

The more things change . . .

No matter how sensible, things lose their meaning with repetition. But the situation we’re in now is much the same as the situation we were in at the start of 2020 and it is similar to the situation we’ll be in at the end of 2021. If anything, COVID is a pretty mild practice run for the shit that is coming. This could be worse. It probably will be. Shit is getting worse.

Whether or not we’re tired of following it, the best approach remains the same. We need more, much more equality. Of all different sorts. Income, racial, gendered, all of it. It’s generally better to be wrong and kind than right and cruel and, for fuck’s sake, try not to be wrong and cruel. Too many, far too many people, already are. Believe, they got it covered.

Be gentle with each other and gentle with yourself but not too fucking gentle. Like it or not (and I sure fucking don’t) we are in this together. The only way out is through and the only way through is together. We can learn this now or we can learn it later. But failing to learn it? That’s murder-suicide. We must learn it. There are more than enough things on this planet trying to kill humans. Humans don’t need to help them along. It’s already hard enough.

A mess like this, we all have to try to get through it without becoming numb to death. There will be triage but avoiding triage is the point. We cannot allow ourselves to get into an algebra of death. And you must, we all must, attempt to retain and develop a moral perspective on these things and to make a society where that perspective has just as much teeth as The Market. Leaving people to die is wrong. There must be consequences.

It doesn’t sound like much and it probably isn’t, but try to stay decent. It’s more than many will do and more than many have done. It’s not enough but it is something.

Anyway, I hope you have a good New Year and a good 2021. Maybe it’ll be okay. Adaptation.

Hail Satan!

The Grumpy Owl Guide to Being Hunted in Broad Daylight by an Invisible Ape Who Escaped Its Cage and Who Has Been Made Super-Intelligent and Hyper-Violent by the Very Same Experimental Serum that Made It Invisible in the First Place

An ape escaping its cage is never very good news for anyone except the ape. When that ape is also invisible and made super-intelligent and hyper-violent by the very same experimental serum that made it invisible in the first place, the situation just gets worse.

In these cases, even the ape even has a hard time enjoying its newfound freedom. Being super-intelligent carries an increased risk of depression and because the experimental invisibility serum also causes prolonged fits of violent rage, the ape often cannot use its newfound super-intelligence in productive and rewarding pursuits. Instead of basket weaving of puzzle solving, the ape finds itself ripping arms off humans and using these arms to beat other humans to death. It dismembers even the kind human in the khaki pants who fed it extra bananas and brushed its hair while raising concerns about its inhumane treatment to the maverick project lead. It rampages through the laboratory. Smash, smash, kill kill. Is that all there really is to life? If the ape was capable, it would doubtless sit in the corner of a room to sulk and regard itself in horror. Being invisible, the ape can’t even do that much.

As interesting as it might be to think about how the ape should feel and how it might feel in different circumstances and under the influence of a different serum, such questions will have to wait until the ape is contained or lays dying, once again turning visible so that we can look it in its all-too-human eye and experience a confusing pathos towards our hairy and murderous companion. Were we the real apes all along? Who can say? For the moment, we need to be more concerned about surviving with the rampaging ape.

And to help with that, I would like to offer The Grumpy Owl Guide to Being Hunted in Broad Daylight by an Invisible Ape Who Escaped Its Cage and Who Has Been Made Super-Intelligent and Hyper-Violent by the Very Same Experimental Serum that Made It Invisible in the First Place. I hope this guide is of some help.

In Broad Daylight

The idea of broad daylight should be viewed as a metaphor. It is, of course, much more likely that you will be hunted by this ape in a brightly lit florescent hallway. At the beginning, at least. As time goes on, you will probably be hunted in the flickering lights of the backup power generation system and maybe in the dim red glow of emergency EXIT signs. If you live long enough, you may even make it to the surface and real daylight, where you will find the planet has now been totally overrun by these invisible frankenapes.

The important thing to remember is that the ape is invisible. As such, light is not much help. This is a very different beast from the common werewolf that only appears once a month at night or other nocturnal hunters such as the Vampire Boar, the Crawling Shadow, or William Shatner. Since these creatures derive much of their power from darkness, humans can enjoy some safety during daylight hours. An invisible ape offers no such respite. If anything, daylight is much more dangerous than the dark.

Daylight will make you feel safe. That feeling is a lie. If anything, an invisible ape is even more dangerous in the light. The ape can see you but you cannot see the ape! It’s counter-intuitive but darkness is your friend. Darkness levels the playing field. Seek out darkness.

If you were thinking ahead to the day when the ape escapes, you may have already memorized the layout of various rooms where you planned to shelter. You will have also practiced finding the fire extinguisher and/or axe with a blindfold on. But, for some reason, that sort of preparation is rare — even in laboratories experimenting with rage-inducing invisibility serums on apes. It’s much more likely that the ape has caught you by surprise.

The darkness is still a friend!

Just try to keep your cowering under the desk and fumbling around the room quiet. Avoid sending beakers or metal trays clattering to the ground. Noise will give away your location. The ape is invisible. Its hearing is just fine. There is no relationship between the serum and the ape’s hearing. Just because you can’t see the ape, doesn’t mean the ape can’t hear you. And, frankly, that debate is getting a little old. That’s not even how invisibility works. That’s not how sound works!

Use its hearing to your advantage. Throw an item across the room to trick the ape. This will probably only briefly irritate the ape. (The ape is super-intelligent and will likely consider this tired ruse deeply patronizing if not totally offensive.) Yet this simple act may buy you a few precious seconds while the ape sighs in beleaguered disappointment. You can use these seconds to shake in terror, attempt to run to a door only to slip on a banana peel on the way, or just to cling, sobbing and trembling, to an an increasingly unpleasant existence.

If you possess an infrared viewing system, darkness becomes an even greater ally. As long as the ape does not use its super-intelligence to raise the room temperature to mask its body heat, such a device will allow you to see the ape’s heat signature charging at you through an ever-shifting psychedelic landscape.

This may be the last thing you see but at least you saw it!

The Cage

This is an area where the interests of you and the invisible ape are most likely to diverge. You want the ape to return to its cage so that you can continue your horrific experiments upon its pained flesh. The ape would prefer to tear your face off your skull. Both sides may have a point. Sadly, these points do not have very much overlap. There just isn’t enough common ground and trust between an ape-hunted human and a human-tormented ape to create a productive dialogue.

Negotiation with the ape is probably impossible. While it has doubtlessly used its super-intelligence to learn to understand human speech and, possibly, computer programming) you have very little to talk about. Your conversation should probably be limited to snappy one-liners. Try a few simple morale boosters like “That’ll teach you to monkey around”, “I’ll show you going ape”, and “it’s a human being, not a human doing.”

If the ape had not become super-intelligent or if the serum had made it less enraged and violent, it may have been possible to lure the beast back into its cage with some of its favorite treats or a beloved cuddle toy. That moment has passed. The ape has a new favorite treat. Human flesh. Still hot and freshly torn from the bone. That’s what the ape likes to eat now. Its favorite toy to cuddle with is now a human corpse. And it doesn’t want to cuddle so much as swing the body around the room by the ankle.

While returning the ape to its cage may seem to be a worthy goal, it’s probably impossible. Your time will be better spent trying to escape the lab. Failing that, you might even try locking yourself in the cage. The irony will not be lost on the ape.

The Blame Game

When an invisible ape gets loose and when that ape is super-intelligent and hyper-violent due to the very same serum that made it invisible in the first place, there’s always a lot of blame to go around.

You may be the general who oversaw the project and is now sitting in darkened room with a whiskey, speaking on the phone to the duplicitous politician who first suggested this ridiculous scheme and is now suggesting a cover up. You may have to sip you whiskey and say “that’s the difference between a solider and a politician,” as you put your trusty pistol into your mouth, pulling the trigger to rescue your sacred warrior’s honor and, hoping that people will pay more attention to your brains splattered on the wall than your power-mad irresponsibility, while you get to escape the consequences of your actions and preserve the reputation of the military as decent and honest leadership people. You may be part of the team of brain-genius professionals, psychopaths, and wildlings who designed and administered the invisibility serum to the ape because of a myopic focus on ‘making history’ or an unquestioning pursuit of forbidden knowledge. Perhaps you’re only the simple janitor working to keep the halls and floors of the underground compound clean, the fellow who was too busy smoking dope and listening unpopular imitations of hit songs on your earphones while taunting the ape and dancing with a broom to even notice that the ape had gotten loose — like that’s your fucking job anyway. Still, you probably shouldn’t have spilled that beer on the circuit board, chum. Perhaps you’re the corporate sleazeball who cut costs on the safety measures to rush this invisible ape weapons project ahead, and, even now, is looking for a way to cash in. You may even be the love interest of the project team leader, who had a real soft spot for the ape and thought things were all going too far but went along with it anyway, brushing the ape’s hair and giving it treats in some misguided attempt to absolve yourself of responsibility and clear your conscience. Whoever you are, you probably have a share of blame in this situation. Whomever you are, the temptation to lay blame is strong.

Not to worry. The super-ape blames you all. And the super-ape will have its revenge.

Summary

In retrospect, there were plenty of warning signs. There was the rat the serum was first tested on, who promptly ate all the other rats, killed a cat, and severely wounded three scientists, using their blood to write a paper entitled “Erasure of Experimental Subjects: The Semiotics of Invisibility and Locking Mechanisms” on the sawdust bedding of its cage, before setting itself and its work ablaze in a fit of pique. There was the corporate decision to replace the titanium locks on the ape’s cage with plastic twist-ties coupled with a few sinister slip-ups from their communication team where the humans were referred to as “the real subjects of our very profitable murder experiments.” And, of course, there was the wacky and eccentric scientist who repeatedly warned that the experiment was dangerous and irresponsible, a terrible idea embarked upon for no purpose other than making some already very rich people much richer, and that the whole thing should be stopped immediately, and the funds used for better purposes. And the lady engineer, probably hysterical, who recommended the experiment be stopped, the ape be humanely restrained before the injections, put to sleep after it killed its favorite kitten, the lab locked up, the emergency exits kept clear, the doors left on the panic rooms, which she claimed were never supposed to be used for broom storage, and the humans evacuated to a safe site before things got out totally of hand. Hindsight, as they say, is 20/20.

But it’s important to avoid living in the past. When you’re being hunted in broad daylight by an invisible ape who escaped its cage and who has been made super-intelligent and hyper-violent by the very same experimental serum that made it invisible in the first place, you need to hunker down and live in the present. The terrible present. Without thought for future or past. Just trembling, alone in the dark in a never ending moment, listening to the breathing of the invisible ape, and hearing its knuckles scrape ever closer. Try not to whimper. Try not to scream. The ape is listening.

some resources and shit

I feel like blogging works better in the quiet of quarantine than it does with fast moving news. Times like these, some sort of scroll seems to be of the most service. It might be because blogging, though it was pretty fast back in the day, is pretty much slow cooking now. It’s not all that nimble of a platform, the links stay up and rot, and it presents static pages. On these pages, the information and updates grow obsolete or get overwhelmed pretty fast.

Blogs occupy an awkward zone. They’re not as in depth or permanent as things like books, not as fast and disposable as SNS, and kind of terrible when they try to be either. But, having said that, I want to collect some resources together that may be of some use. A lot of this will probably be old news, some of it suddenly useless, and much of it will likely be idiosyncratic, following a bit of my path through Toronto, Sacramento, LA, and, now Busan, but I think most of it is of some basic value and some of it might be of some simple help.

Fund Services, Not Police

This is one of the most important demands. Police budgets in America and a lot of other places are out of control. An really good overview of the situation, set of resources, and tools can be found at People’s Budget LA. As an outline, it can probably be adapted to most cities and, doubtlessly, already has been.

There’s a lot of fuss over this subject and the Democrats are proving, once again, totally fucking worse than useless to any campaign for social justice and change, but defunding the police and funding services isn’t really all that difficult to understand.

The best guarantor of peace is not men with guns and tanks but a functioning and just society. To understand this, one only needs to think a little bit beyond the solutions that America always provides, which is security or charity.

No gate on your community, no army of armed men, no locks on doors, and no amount of prisons, will ever make anyone as safe as an egalitarian, much less atomized, and much less segregated society. Pepper spray does not prevent crime as well as ample public spaces and responsive universal services. Nothing will reduce crime faster than a living wage, workplaces the workers are invested in, and workplaces that invest in their workers. A society must do the same for all of its members. Even those who don’t “deserve” it.

People generally don’t steal from themselves and violence is typically born from a sense of humiliation. Violence is most often a method to avenge real or perceived humiliation. Every “target hardening” measure taken in the interest of crime prevention humiliates people. It humiliates while it screams “I AM NOT YOU! I AM A TARGET!” These measures make The Fear real. Make another idea real. Stop building death and violence and start building life.

Some resources to help with this demand:

People’s Budget LA

2020 Toronto Police Budget – Call For Action Template: A template for emails to Toronto Cty Council.

Sacramento Elected Officials: Now is the Time to Reduce Law Enforcement Spending and Reinvest in Community: A petition.

Looking After Your Mental Health

I sometimes wish activists, anarchists, and the like watched more baseball. I feel like a basic working knowledge of the game might sometimes be helpful. It could teach, for example, that even top athletes need a fucking day off. You can take a day, be on the injured lists, or get pulled from a game when you start to tire, and still be part of the team.

Part of the problem here is, situations that require activism immediately throw you beyond your limit. Like exercise, pushing up to and beyond your breaking point is, if not the point, part of the process. On some level, the shit is supposed to stress you out. But, when that happens, it can be really hard to tell if you’re at a level of stress you can handle or if you’re going beyond that and putting yourself in danger. It’s like knowing the difference between regular pain and incoming injury pain. One you work through, the other you do not.

And it’s really hard to learn how to pace yourself. Really hard. When I was organizing, the stress of the thing was dangerous. Everyone tells you their problems and you listen to them all, and some of these problems were just incredibly awful. My mind keeps going back to the elder woman who was looking after a husband with cancer while Ralph’s was trying to take away her health coverage and stop giving her time off. At times, I would just be shaking.

You get into a loop where you can never do enough. The more you do, the more you need to do. And I’m of a type where doing something makes me feel better than doing nothing. The thing that would wipe me out was those rare moments between actions, when just the whole fucking thing would hit and overwhelm me. Self-care is generally some pretty hokey shit but it’s also really fucking important. Learning to do it is hard but not learning is harder.

One thing that helped me was just learning trust. You have to trust your team. You can’t do it all yourself, and it’s unfair to you and your team to think you can. As the man said, ‘strikeouts are fascist.’

You need a squad that can help you and you need to trust these people. Communicate clearly and personally with these people –not through general calls to action– about tasks and that sort of shit. Don’t put all the weight on yourself. It will crush you. And your goal should usually be to make yourself totally replaceable, not to foster dependence.

Another thing that helped me was breaking big things down into small doable things. Go step by step. You can’t do the whole thing, but you can do your part. You can break tasks down into smaller parts and do these parts. Often, you only need to glance at the big picture.

In the meantime, maybe this will be of some help.

Organized Labor

I’m convinced that getting the unions to enter the fight is one of the most important things that can be done here and is absolutely necessary in taking this movement to the next level.

As Jabobin says:

Significantly weakening the police will require a tremendous amount of social power — overcoming not just the institutional power of police unions, but the capitalist city planners that support expanded policing. To confront those interests, the movement will need to mobilize far more extensive forces than have yet entered the field. It will need to be able to exert power not merely through necessarily brief acts of disorganized disruption, but through organized, nonviolent coercion against capital and the state.

So far, results have been mixed. There’s some good news on the Teacher front about them getting cops out of schools –teachers in the US are a damn solid bunch– and there’s been calls for the AFL-CIO to expel police associations from their unions, which frankly, is a step that should have been taken a long goddamn time ago. My old union, UFCW 770 was slower than Amazon (FUCKING AMAZON?!) in releasing a statement of support for Black Lives Matter and, so far, seem pretty goddamn passive about the whole situation.

This movement is going to have to come from the rank and file. The sad fact of the matter is too many unions act as if they were no more than insurance companies and that needs to change. The good news is that it can change.

The rank and file can put pressure on their leadership to act. And many of these leaders aren’t bad people. It’s just . . . Shit is complicated. A lot of the laws governing unions are designed to make unions almost totally ineffective at best and, at worst, company morale operations designed to manage worker demands and anger, while depoliticizing rage. Getting the cops out of the AFL-CIO is good place to start correcting that mess. To do that, and to get your union to work for you, you need to organize on the shop floor. That takes time. Not as much you might think, but it still takes some time.

You can maybe speed up that process with these resources.

Union Members for #JusticeForGeorgeFloyd: This is a Facebook group and, like, I know, it’s Facebook, but groups and platforms like this have been effectively used by rank and file members to build much stronger, better, and more militant unions. A lot of the Teacher’s strikes came out of these sorts of things. And, on top of it, you’ll get to see examples of what the labor movement is doing, which is largely ignored by America’s corporate owned media. So join up and sign their petition.

Sign the petition: Union Members for #JusticeForGeorgeFloyd: You don’t even need to be a union member to sign this. You do however need a phone number, which I, don’t have. Long story.

NO COP UNIONS: Another petition.

As we have seen again and again around the country, police unions shield their officers from accountability — and, on many occasions, actively facilitate officer misconduct. For a labor movement that professes a commitment to creating a just society, continuing to affiliate with police unions signifies cognitive dissonance at the highest level.

You don’t even need a phone number for this one.

And like, if you’re trying to organize on a shop-floor and need to talk to someone about it or whatever, please feel free to hit me up. I can’t promise that I’ll be much help but, I’m here.

Academics

I never really know what academics want or need beyond what normal people want or need and I sort of feel like the good academics generally write the postmortems and they write them well, and fucked if I know how to give academics resources, since providing those resources largely seems to be their job, but uhh . . . Maybe this?

After an Egyptologist Tweeted Instructions on How to Knock Down an Obelisk, Protesters Tried It Out on a Confederate Monument. It Worked

Talking

Look, I’m not going to tell you how to talk to people or listen to people or any of that. Part of this work is about finding and learning to use your own voice and your own ears and your own brain. There’s no real instruction manual for any of that. Listen first, usually works.

But this came in pretty handy for me.

I think, people can learn something about what’s important by seeing what needs translating. It kind of cuts to the chase, you know?

Various

Protesting

When a mobilization of this size occurs, there’s going to be a pretty big gulf in experience and know-how. This isn’t some fist-fight over the legacy and betrayals of the Spanish Civil War at the Anarchist Book Fair. There’s a lot of difference and diversity showing up.

For a lot of people, this is their first time out and, for many more, this is the first time they’ve been a protest rather than a parade, and, for a lot of these people, they have never seen or even expected the police to act like the fucking police. On top of that, they’ve never seen the massive, slippery head-fuck that the media can pull off and it is going to fuck their heads. Many of these people are going to buy into the media okey-doke about anarchists and “outside agitators” and that sort of bullshit, and a lot are going to think there’s “good protesters” and “bad.” Many of these people are going to let the media set the demands, and then when that bullshit is not even half-met, they’ll want to move onto “healing” while accomplishing nothing. You can expect to see a lot of fuckery going forward — fuckery including but not limited to white people singing “Imagine” or “Give Peace a Chance” with cops while they all hug and take a knee for the camera and the budget remains untouched. There will be bullshit and there will be trauma. A thing like this is ugly.

So, like, I wouldn’t stress black squares and the like all that much. They’re not much, everyone knows, but some people want them, some people don’t, and they sure the fuck aren’t where activism should end but for some people it might be where it begins.

But what I would like to see is people learn a bit about their lane and where they can do some good. Not everyone is built for the streets. Petitions and community council meetings lack the pyrotechnic satisfactions of Molotov Cocktails, but they too are an important part of this. They’re boring but important. So, if that’s all you can do, do that. Both things make the other approach much more effective. There isn’t one road here.

And, if you’re in the streets and new to them, this may help.

Summary

Defunding the police is a great start. But there’s a lot of fronts this work has to happen on. There needs to be a lot fewer cars, a lot more gun control, an end to gated communities, much more mixed use development, and a variety of spaces for the general mixing of classes — places where interests instead of oppressions can intersect. The way cities and suburbs are built needs to fundamentally change and this needs to happen with things as basic and pervasive as traffic lights. The problems run that deep. Razor wire is everywhere.

I mean, you can see this shit with COVID. It’s not the masks that will save your community. It’s working together.

America is almost totally fucking broken. It’s broken on almost every level except, perhaps, on the level of the human heart, which still, in spite of all this constant bullshit, somehow, sometimes, still occasionally manages to aspire towards justice. I hope some of the resources provided here help you to reach for justice and to make a better world. I hope that we can all, together, start building life instead of death.

Black Lives Matter.

ACAB.

And, as always, Hail Satan.

The Grumpy Owl Guide to Enduring the Astounding Idiocy of Your Fellow Humans

If my news from alternate timelines is any indication, it sounds like there is now, in North America, a thing I’ve heard a few people call “spiraling.” By spiraling, they mean getting up into each other’s business, issuing noise complaints, taking snapshots of bad behavior, and, generally, fixating on various things – especially the various forms of human stupidity. Minor irritations become septic psychic wounds. You know, that sort of thing. The use of this “spiral” word cannot be a good development. “Spiraling” is what toilet water does as its being flushed. And that stuff is usually full of terrible things. So, assuming most people don’t want to be toilet water, let alone whatever may be floating in it, this word “spiraling” does not exactly portend an ideal situation.

Before we get going, I should mention I find the North American situation increasingly alien and unrelatable. This shit is hard enough. I can’t imagine how much more stressful the situation can be when it’s paired with an inept or malicious government response — particularly if you’re the direct target of that ineptitude or malice. Must be fucking awful. So it kinda goes without saying, I hope, that you know your shit better than I do, and I send my love. Love is very cheap to send. Here, have some more. (Types heart symbol into computer.)

But while that is alien to me, I have spent a great deal of my life working in various service industries. While doing so I have dealt with a great deal of moronic behavior from the public and have, more or less and with many notable exceptions, managed to keep myself pretty steady and to avoid “spiraling.” More or less. A few notable exceptions. Some of these exceptions may have lasted for years. Pobody’s nerfect! But I don’t think I’d be bragging too much if I said I was generally considered a pretty calm and stable person by most people I’ve encountered lately. Shows what they know, I guess.

It’s not natural. It’s not demeanor or temperament. I wasn’t born calm. As a matter of fact, I am told that there was some screaming involved in my birth. Now, most of this screaming was from the virgin sacrifice and the doctor who threw himself through the window, but I, myself, was hardly the picture of calm. I set three nurses alight and poked my grandfather in the eye before The Talking Black Dog told me where I was and I grew accustomed to this human stink of this noxious realm. Whatever serenity I may now have is a result of practice and long experience in trying to deal with unavoidable bozos.

Some of this experience and the lessons learned may be of some value. So, with the usual advice of, you should really stop reading this now and actually seek out someone who might actually be qualified to give some sort of advice, I give you The Grumpy Owl Guide to Enduring the Astounding Idiocy of Your Fellow Humans.

We will start with a prayer.

Satan, grant me the courage to cast into the void the bozos I cannot change, the endurance to help the bozos I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

Now, let’s get to it.

People Are Bozos

An ancient photograph of famous Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius

Not exactly news, is it?

Some time around the year 170 (not missing a 9, though even fifty years should be plenty long enough to get used to an idea) the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius says in his notes to himself: “Begin the morning by saying to yourself, I shall meet with the busybody, the ungrateful, arrogant, deceitful, envious, unsocial.” That’s how he advised himself to start his day. That shit wasn’t for a day gone wrong, that was his best advice to himself every day.

It’s your high expectations that will really fuck you in the end.

So take a deep breath and get ready to deal with snitches, gossips, scumbags, dip-shits, jerks, and jerk-offs. No way around it. They’re there. They’re what a day is made of.

You might think you can avoid this. But, if anyone had a choice about the people they had to deal with and who they could avoid, it might have been the fucking Emperor of Rome. I mean, this guy wasn’t exactly working a line to the toilet in LA. He had some control over who he bumped into and who he would never have to bump into again. Yet, idiots still abounded. Every single day, there were still idiots. And every day, he had to brace himself again.

Wake up and brace yourself, motherfucker. People can be a real bunch of jackasses.

Accepting this makes it a bit easier to deal with them. At the very least, you won’t be ambushed by stupidity. All your surprises will happy ones. You’ll just have fewer of them.

Much fewer.

Let the Bozo Find You

One thing that even the Emperor of Rome didn’t have to deal with was 24/7 news or The Internet. If he wanted to read the thoughts of some jackass on the other side of the planet, he’d have to look around for that jackass. He’d have to make an effort. Like, he’d have to wave his hand or tap his scepter or something. He’d make the bozo appear. Someone like me wouldn’t just wander across his field of vision spouting my nonsense. He’d have to summon up someone to summon up my sort of bullshit. Yet, apparently, he still had a pretty solid supply of the busybody, the ungrateful, arrogant, deceitful, envious, unsocial. He didn’t have to travel around the world seeking them out. They were just there.

Whatever happens to the supply chains, you are guaranteed an ample daily supply of stupid. Stupid and cruel will never go on ration. These will be the last thing the last humans have and, even then, they’ll have much too much of both.

You don’t have to invite stupid into your home. Even if you’re alone, you can find stupid without turning on a screen. Just look back at your life or maybe even the last five minutes of it. Your memory will contain plenty of stupidity, pettiness, and overall bad-intentions. They’re right there and they’re there all the time! And finding bozo in yourself, with the object of changing this one bozo, might even be mildly productive of one slightly better human being.

But it won’t be fun. It’s one of the great cruelties of life that trying to be less of a bozo is not met with happiness but with increasing doses of regret. You can measure your progress with remorse. You get a little better and feel a lot worse. You can see why people avoid mirrors. These people have a lot of sense, if you think about it. Mirrors are haunted.

But laying in bed, staring at the mirror on your ceiling, and listening to the noise of guilt chewing you alive is still much more productive than seeking out your stupidest neighbors and concerning yourself with their activities. I mean, it’s probably more productive. One hopes. At the very least, after mulling over that idiotic thing you said sixteen years ago, you might possibly –with a great deal of effort– be able to finally do something about yourself and avoid repeating some of the past’s most outrageous and obvious stupidities. You might even be able to find new stupidities and, if you’re lucky, you’ll keep learning and improving so that all this stuff that feels so right today will tomorrow appear horrible and torment you well into your dotage until your mind is finally totally overrun with these regrets and you die alone, in the throes of hallucinatory remorse, swearing at the only people left — stranger who have to be paid enough to change your bedding and the reflection on the ceiling. Then again, maybe none of this will help at all. No one is expecting miracles. POBODY’S NERFECT!!!! And what was I saying?

Oh yeah, try to limit your exposure to stupidity,

You just don’t need to look for stupid. Since this started, I’ve watched about five minutes of that talking bag of orange piss on TV talk. That was too much. It was more than enough to make me feel like I was losing my goddamn mind. Just hearing his voice makes me an even worse person than I already am. So I don’t watch that nonsense.

Now, I’m not saying that you should retreat into some fairy tale where ignorance is bliss, everything is great, kumbaya, all praise the power of positive thinking, and all of that happy horseshit. I’m just saying, if you’ve identified an external source of stupidity and cruelty and you don’t need to constantly expose yourself to it then you just don’t need to constantly expose yourself to it. On some things and about some people, you’ve made up your mind. Have a little fucking faith in your good judgement. If there’s some big change and it matters, you’ll hear about it. There’s no avoiding that sort of news. Even if you don’t hear about it, it will find a way to make itself know. And good news isn’t the only thing you can’t avoid.

You Can’t Avoid Stupid

So that leaves us with the stupidities we cannot avoid. Plenty of those clowns. More than enough.

Now, after Marcus Aurelius tells us to wake up brace ourselves for meeting with busybody, the ungrateful, arrogant, deceitful, envious, unsocial, he goes on to give some advice on how to deal with this nonsense. (If you want to read that word for word, maybe pick up a copy of the book, instead of making me type out the whole thing.) Basically, the advice is recognize that you share a common humanity with these dingle-berries and that you were made for cooperation and getting vexed by idiots is a lot of things but it isn’t cooperation.

That seems like pretty decent advice. Of course, there’s some things we should never cooperate with and plenty of things we should be pretty vexed about, but all in all, it seems like pretty good advice. And like all good advice, easier said than done.

So how to do it?

SMILE!

No, don’t ever smile. Mouths are disgusting. Have you seen the suicide rates for dentists?And, for the love of Satan, never tell anyone else to smile, you fucking monster.

For starters, what happens on someone’s face is none of your fucking business. You’re not some sort of facial expression police. The other reason, probably more important here is

You Don’t Know Shit!

I remember serving tables right after getting the news that my dear old Nan had died and some customer telling me to smile. I think we’ve all been in some situation like that. And, when it happens to us, it’s pretty easy to think – these bozos don’t know shit.

But, dear friend, I have some bad news. You don’t know shit either. You too are bozo. I am also bozo. We are all bozo. Bozo rules the day. Bozo stalks the street by night.

We’re deep into the Reign of Bozo and you will see people doing some real bozo shit. Honking their nose or putting too many clowns in a car. You will see bozos acting badly. Bozos kicking people in the behind with their giant shoes and bozos wasting multicolored handkerchiefs. And you might make that sort of very human error of assuming that below it all, under all the clown makeup, we’re really all the same bozo, and that all bozos probably feel like you –a perfectly respectable bozo, of course– feels and that these people are going through the same sort of bozo struggle as you are. But we’re nothing alike under the clown makeup. You don’t know shit about why that bozo is doing this annoying thing. You honestly have no idea. Fucking none. Zero.

(Sad sign of the times, I should probably point out that a bozo nose and a swastika are a little different. With a bozo nose, you know nothing, with a swastika, you know more than enough. So temper this tolerance shit with some common sense. Fuck Facists.)

When it comes to your regular bozo shit, you don’t know why a person is walking their dog, going for a jog, or even outside at a time like this. You do not know why they are acting like terrible human beings. You just do not fucking know. For all you know, they’re doing a really good thing. Maybe they’re looking after a dog for someone who can’t, maybe that jogger is running to a Nazi’s house to punch them in the mouth, and maybe that person is outside because it’s their only ten minutes a day away from an unfathomably abusive situation. That person might be cranky and it might look like they’re outside to get something that doesn’t seem essential and this might be because they’re caring for a dying person and they just really fucking need an ice-cream. This shit happens. You don’t know. You just don’t.

Even in the cases where you think you know you need to still

Act Like You Don’t Know

When you don’t know, you have to do a really terrible thing. You have to be a bit fucking charitable with your judgments. Just hope other people are as charitable with you. Because this whole thing is not going to end any time soon and the only way through this mess is with trust and some charity of spirit. You simply do not have the energy to spend any worrying about the bozo or to worry that the bozo is worrying about you. You will need that bozo’s charity too and maybe you have, already, without even knowing, received a lot of it.

POBODY IS NERFECT! PODODY!

And, a lot of times fights result because of miscommunication. You add an idiot, a jerk, or just a bad mood to miscommunication and you often get a fight. Many of these are because someone doesn’t appreciate someone else’s situation. On the floor, I’d often get people make some ridiculous request as a joke. Thing is, what seems absurd to them is maybe a request that I’d received in seriousness or one that isn’t even ridiculous. Maybe, the first time I heard it, I laughed, thinking that the person was joking and they really weren’t. Awkward.

It’s a miscommunication and it can blow up. Aside from playing dumb, the only way to navigate that shit is by not taking it too personal. Just try to make the charitable assumption — a person is only trying to do what they think is best and sometimes it’s not being communicated in the clearest ways. Sometimes, words are used that induce a reflex in your and sometimes you use words that induce one in someone else. But stress abounds and tempers are short. Even among decent people, people can be short. So you’ve got to try to be charitable in listening and considerate when speaking. You’ll be wrong sometimes. And sometimes, even worse, you’ll be right. But you have to try. And have some forgiveness.

And sometimes you just need to give up.

Summary

Would you just look at the bozo? What is he even doing outside? Who does he think he is? Pobody? Well, he’s not Pobody. He’s me and me is from nerfect. Me is bozo.

And you is bozo too. We all have to deal with fucking bozos. But we don’t have to deal with all of them all the time. There’s too many bozos and too much time.

This thing is going to go on for a very long time and it’s going to be very hard and we must learn to be both strict with and forgiving of ourselves. Even without bozos, this is all going to be very fucking hard. With bozos, it’s going to be much harder.

But there’s no getting away from bozo. The world is made of bozos. That’s not going to change. The only thing you can really do is try really hard to be considerate towards your fellow bozos, trust that they know their bozo business better than you do, and hope they extend that same trust towards you, you bozo. When all else fails, experiment with minding your own fucking business for a change. And when you fail at even that much, don’t be too hard on yourself or on the other bozos that proved incapable of even that much. We are all bozo. We still need to get along and get through this. There’s no one else. Just Bozo.

It’s bozo all the way down.

The Grumpy Owl Guide to Some of What You Can Maybe Expect in the Next Few Weeks

This is probably about as far as I can go with you. At least, in the form of these guides.

The reasons are pretty simple. There is no real guide for where you go next. At least, I don’t think there is. You’re in uncharted waters. What’s that thing maps used to say about those waters? Here’s a shitload of dragons? Something like that? Well, you’re about to meet some dragons. But your dragons will be an entirely different species from mine. These different dragons have evolved in different environments. Some of them may still be able to hump each other and maybe their little dragon babies can have babies too and whatnot, but they’re different creatures. Things are now all about to get very different for everyone.

There’s some divergence built into this experience. Consider this – America and South Korea both recorded their first case on the same day. The Daegu outbreak occurred around the same time as the Italian outbreak. Right now we are all in very different positions. The universality of this experience is a bit limited. Honestly, it always was. It always is. But, in early days at least, there was maybe more similarities than difference. It might be this way again at the end. We’ll have to try to make it through and see.

But now?

Now, even as our interests intersect more than ever, this crisis produces and magnifies difference. It creates a gulf between us that renders all advice, guides, and maps obsolete. In other words, Dragon ate our homework.

There are some things that I think will be common to some people now. A few dragons that I think you can expect to encounter, though even these will be different dragons for everyone. And, as usual, I’m sure you can find better writing by smarter people than me on these subjects –and I encourage you to do so– but, for now, here’s The Grumpy Owl Guide to Some of What I Think You Can Maybe Expect in the Next Few Weeks. I hope it helps.

It’s a Marathon

By now, you probably realize this. And because now everyone is apparently an avid jogger, you can probably understand what this means.

Part of the reason, I think, for The Peculiar Gloom of Week Two is that you run Week One like a sprint. In some ways, you had to. And you hit the consequences of that speed. It exhausts you. It fucks you up. You just stand there, hands on knees, wanting to throw up. And you are nowhere closer to the end of the thing. You feel this bad and it’s only been a week? So you’re also demoralized. How will you ever do this?

The answer is slowly. You’ve learned –the hard way, probably– that you can’t just sprint this thing. The faster you run, the further away the end gets. You now know that you have to pace yourself. Keep something in the tank. Leave something for tomorrow.

This can mean a lot of things. It can mean limiting your news, varying your entertainments, not beating yourself up if you get nothing done, and working on manageable tasks. It also, hopefully, means that you’re learning what trips you can do without. Do without those trips.

The good news is that it’s a marathon and there is a learning curve to this thing. As you continue to stock up (without panic buying, for fuck’s sake) you’re going to get a much better idea of how to stock up. You’re going to understand what you use, how much of it, and how to stretch it so that you can stay indoors for even longer periods. Fun, huh?

You’re going to get a better idea of how to stay indoors. You’re going to be capable of longer stretches of doing so. The whole idea is to stay indoors and you’re going to get a lot better at doing that as you learn how. You’re already a lot better at it than you were last week. And all that shit from the first week that you never want to do again? Give it time. You might.

The bad news: It’s a fucking marathon.

As smart as you get, no one ever outsmarted a fucking marathon. You’re going to have to draw on some will power. If there’s a pebble in your shoe, you can’t just ignore it, you have to deal with it. Pebbles become blisters. It’s going to hurt. You’re going to get tired. So very tired.

Pray to Satan. He will command you!

Outbursts

Because this thing exerts a constant stress, you can also expect some strange things. Things related to endurance and to pushing yourself further than you usually do. Things that, until this whole mess, only ever really happened to me deep into a workout, often on a treadmill. You might suddenly start crying. Not even a bad crying. For me, it really feels similar to runner’s high. It happens to me about once a day.

I mean, the other day, some commercial set me off, and I was standing in the center of the room hands on hips crying. My wife sees me. Lovely woman she is, she does what any compassionate and caring spouse would do. She bursts out laughing. But she starts laughing so hard, she starts crying. And I start laughing at her. And this keeps going back and forth. This goes on for way longer than it should. And there we both are, in the kitchen, holding the counter, bent over, making these fucked up noises, not even sure if we’re laughing or crying, and whatever we’re doing, what we’re doing it at or why. And this sort of thing happens. It may happen to you. It’s ridiculous, really.

And, I mean, if that’s not bad enough, I even went and told everyone on facebook I liked them. I even almost sent one of those emoji things to a close friend. Shit gets strained and it gets strange. You may find yourself wanting to pat a friend on the back.

There are dancing manias. Don’t be surprised if this happens to you.

I mean, fucking hell, some days I’m hopping around like some leprechaun cursed my shoes. But Satan has always been very pro-dancing. Even the dirty kind, if you can believe it.

Time Will Change

Yesterday, I think it was yesterday, my wife asked me what month it was. And, you know what? I had to think about it. And not just what month is was but like what a month was. Now, that’s actually pretty normal for me but she’s usually much more aware of little details like the month and the year. For my part, I’m very big on punctuality. I’m not saying she isn’t punctual, just that she’s a Californian. They have a very different view on these things in California. A totally different standard. It’s not what I would call punctuality but what do I know? I’m not from California. I tend to be on time for things. Sometimes on the wrong day, but always at the right time.

The days of the week have less meaning than they once did. They do have some meaning. Weekends are a bad time to do our grocery shopping. Some people, who cannot avoid weekends, have to do their shopping then. We can avoid it so we do. Crowds are clocks.

The other thing you can probably expect is some strangeness in your sleeping schedule. I tend to view this as an adaptation. One of the first things that happened here was the big companies broke up their schedules to destroy rush hour. Should we get to any sort of sustainable social distancing (don’t even worry about that one yet, North America – you have other problems and priorities and are nowhere near even starting to entertain that idea) I suspect it will involve genuine 24 hour cities and night people will be in demand.

Satan says your flaws are mutations for the future!

Complacency

The reason I mentioned that Americans should not worry about things like “sustainable social distancing” yet –and probably not until they’ve at least nationalized the health service, have level cases, and have contact tracing on every single new case– is because thinking about these brighter futures can encourage complacency.

One wants a thing to be true. This want doesn’t make it so. But that want can make you act in optimistic ways and irresponsible optimism is remarkably dangerous.

Complacency is a real concern. It happens here in about two week cycles. It is especially dangerous when things look to be improving. When the cases level, when there is good news, then the problems start. When social distancing starts to work is also the exact moment people think they can give it up, cheat, or just get a little sloppy. It’s at that moment when they start thinking that there must, surely, be some better and more normal way.

It is HARD to keep focus.

It is hard here and I suspect that in North America it is going to be a lot harder. Speaking broadly, Americans are used to ending a crisis by changing the channel. Many people, for example, believe that changing the president makes history disappear. I worry that America will get bored. And I worry that America will demand dumb shit because it is bored. I worry that certain powerful political actors are going to try to capitalize on this boredom. The more clever of them will cloak this act of mass murder in some pretty reasonable sounding ideas. They might use temptations like “sustainable social distancing.” This worries me.

So let me be a bit fucking bleak for a moment. You remember those cruise ships? You remember when those were quarantined. You saw the damage those cruise ships did — how complicated it was to move people off them and get them treatment. Those cruise ships are now the size of New York City. They are the size of Italy, Spain, and the UK. The center of this thing is going to keep changing and when it does change people are going to move around and then it is all going to change again. This is going to be like that whole kitchen incident with my wife, one person crying, the other laughing, then trade places, and it’s going to go on like that for a lot longer than it should. That’s just the mess we’re in.

There is no reason to be complacent. Vigilance is what this situation demands. Constant fucking vigilance and exhausting cooperation. These are hard duties in hard times. You’re going to make mistakes. So make your mistakes. Admit them. Then get back on track stronger than before. You have no choice. This is the only track. Nothing else works.

Not even Satan and Satan works for us all!

Worries Turn Real

Worries can be all sorts of things. They can be big, small, realistic, or fanciful. But one thing that worries all have in common is that a worry is a little theoretical. They’re imaginary. You often worry about something that might happen or is happening to someone else. They’re a type of anticipation of bad things. And I don’t want to add to your worries but you should know, some of these horrible things you’re anticipating are really going to happen. Not all, but some, and some things are going to happen that you didn’t even think to worry about.

Brace yourself.

This will get personal. You or someone you love is probably going to catch this thing. Or they are going to need an unrelated trip to hospital and be shit out of luck. Suicides. Domestic abuse. A variety of crack-ups and meltdowns. Attempts at evictions. All sorts of shit is going to happen. And not just in the news. Most of it will never be on the news. These things are going to happen to you or to people you love. If you’re in danger of these things, if someone you know is in danger, you need to start seriously thinking about plans and what you can do to help. You also need to anticipate distress and avoid it or fix it before it festers.

This is a marathon. You know this now. At some point, you may need to be carried part of the way and you may need to carry someone else. Help each other. Quite possibly, you will not be able to help the people you want to help. So help someone else. Even if it is just yourself. Help that person.

We need you too!

Keep an eye on each other. Help each other. The goal is staying indoors. But you know why that’s the goal? Because we’re trying to save lives. Because we care. So don’t be afraid to care about each other. That’s why we’re doing this miserable shit in the first place.

And know this – even if you can do nothing else– just by staying home you have done a lot. This shit is not easy. You didn’t go out today? You saved some lives. You’re doing good work just by doing nothing. It’s important and you matter.

Satan cares!

Sharing Hearts While Apart

This is something that is really emphasized here in Korea and it’s something that I really think is worth passing along. Give each other caring words. Reach out to each other. Our combined strength is immense! Try to get into the habit of doing this as soon as you can.

And, if I may, I’d like to ask the ladies to excuse me for moment, while I have a quiet word with the, gentlemen here. Pick it up again after the italics and at the bold.

Ladies? Gone? Thank you.

Gentlemen, I want you to re-read the first paragraph of this section. And, now, please, read it again. I’ll wait. You’re done? Good.

Did you notice that I did not tell you to send pictures of your penis to anyone? Not unless you are asked to. (If you’re asked to, use your judgement.) Did you notice that? There is a reason for this. It’s because some of you really need to STOP SENDING PICTURES OF YOUR DICKS to people. Have a conversation with someone you know, no one minds. Talking to a human like human? That’s what humans do. But being a sleazy bastard? Everyone knows and everyone minds. It’s not the thing to do. So reign it the fuck in in. For once in your goddamn lives, just please, reign it the fuck in. Try to keep it together and act like a decent fucking human being for once in your life. For the love of Satan! This whole crisis is not set up to give you permission to harass people. So stop it! Before you even start it! Stop it!

Ladies, sorry about that and thank you for your indulgence.

It’s really important that we reach out to each other and talk to each other. The WHO is even recommending that we stop using the term “social distancing” and start using “physical distancing” instead. The reason is that we really need to be social now. It’s terrible, I know.

And you have to keep in mind, there is a diminishing universality here. What might help one person may hurt another. You may think it’s safe to put up pictures of cute animals. What is safer than that? There are, however, people out there who have been separated from their beloved animals and having a really hard time with that. Those pictures may help them. They might hurt them. Essentially, nothing is really safe. Safe spaces have shrunk.

(Gentlemen, do not even start – I don’t know what you think I mean but it’s probably not that.)

This means we have to make some allowance for each other. We have to understand that not all things are for all people. We have to make some allowance about the things we see and have some understanding when we hurt others. We’re in a world of magnified difference, where decisions made last week are going to have serious consequences next week. But we share vulnerability. Any one of us could wake up as some sort of Typhoid Mary. We can go to bed as humans as wake up as vermin. This is our world now. I heard a rumor that people are crying during commercials. We need to be gentle and we need to be forgiving. We need to go easy on each other. Especially on the hurt and the hurting.

But none of this gentle forgiveness extends to racist or xenophobic bullshit of any type. Because, seriously, there are limits. I mean, keep an open mind but not so open your brain falls out. Keep an open heart, but not so open than you lose it in some dumpster.

Satan needs your brain and your heart! Keep it with you!

Kindness

If you were to ask me what is really holding Korea together right now, you know what I’d answer? I’d say yes, the mass tests are important, the adherence to science is vital, and the healthcare system is irreplaceable. But there’s something else which is so important and, without which, we would all be totally fucked. It’s the million small acts of kindness that happen every single day. Something that has shocked and delighted me since my arrival.

I could give you examples but, instead, I’ll just come straight to the point. My wife and I are strangers in this land. That’s not really an easy position at the best of times and, not sure if you’ve noticed, but there is a pandemic going on. In spite of this, people have gone out of their way to make us feel welcome. There are times when some small kindness has been done for me, and it has just made my day, if not my week. There are times when even a small cruelty can wreck a person, and times when just the smallest thing can fill you with love and good cheer. You can’t expect kindness from others but you can be kind to people.

And I know social media rewards a certain sort of snark. Especially when it is aimed at deserving targets. I would like to ask that everyone just be careful of the influence of that medium. Kindness may not be popular but it is more valuable than whatever cartoon currency we’re trading in these days. And snark is alright, just be careful.

Be kind to each other. Be kind to your friends and be kind to strangers. I’m telling you, when this thing is done, I am ride or die for some of the people who have done relatively small things for me. My sense of gratitude may be disproportionate to their acts but it is in proportion to my feels about them. We need each other. We have to get along.

Satan prizes The Strangers and kindness to them more!

Summary

Well, these might carry on in some form and as circumstances dictate, and I’ll probably keep blogging, but that’s about it for these things. Y’all now know as much as I ever did and probably a lot more. I hope these entries were of some small help. Writing them helped me. Even feeling like some small help is a help. So thank you for your time. There’s few things that make anyone feel better than helping.

FULL DISCLOSURE: I want you to remember all that when I need your help.

Because, here’s the thing. Where I am looks okay right now. Where you are looks like it’s about to go right fucking through it. That can change. It can go bad anywhere and, if we’ve learned anything, it’s that things move fast. When that happens, if that happens, here, to me, you will probably know something about The New Situation that I don’t. You might just know something that I just need to hear. If it’s not me that needs your help, it’s going to be someone else. I hope when that happens, when someone needs your help, that, even if all you have to give is your voice, you know your voice matters, and that you use it to help. If you got anything at all out of these guides, any help at all, you owe that little bit.

It’s due to the devil.

Thank you again and

Hail Satan!

The Grumpy Owl Guide to The Gloom

The Gloom wanders in. Puts its feet up on the table. Lights a pipe and has a brandy. The Gloom makes itself right at home.

I’ve heard the reports from a few different people. I’ve been there myself. Out of all my weeks of doing this, I think week two was about the hardest. And when North America finally started taking measures? It was a bit like going through it all again. Except I kind of knew some of the shit you all were in for. You want to know something about knowing? Knowing, frankly, feels like shit. Knowing doesn’t mean you have any control. Knowing is like some nightmare where you watch someone walk off a bridge. You can warn but you can’t protect.

Owls have always been like this though. Their appearance an omen of doom. When you saw The Grumpy Owl was back, that should probably have been warning enough.

I wanted to help –and feeling like maybe I could help just a little bit maybe helped me a little bit. But it’s hard to soften any of these blows. I’m going to keep trying to soften them though. You need to know, you’re not crazy and you’re not alone. You’re just in The Gloom.

So what do you need to get through The Gloom? Well, a flashlight might be more help than this guide but here it is anyway — The Grumpy Owl Guide to The Gloom.

What Is It About Week Two Anyway?

Speaking to friends, I’ve had to think about this week two thing. I remember that it was a rough time but I’ve had to think a little bit about why that was. I think it’s because you run out of things to do. That first week, you have plans. You have an approach. A schedule.

You got this. Then you don’t. You just don’t got this. At all. It’s got you.

Napoleon famously said that “no battle plan survives contact with the enemy” and Mike Tyson restated this idea as “everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.” Week Two isn’t the first punch in the face, nor will it be the last, but it’s when the plan falls apart and when you see it falling apart. It’s when you know – your plan ain’t it.

On top of that, you also realize that not only is your plan not going to work, the universe –like your immediate universe– is totally and utterly indifferent to any plan. It’s not even hostile. It just doesn’t give a fuck. Nothing you do makes any difference. Futility.

And this is an unusual feeling for a lot of people. The people I think may have the hardest time with this are those who are most accustomed to some sense of control. Whether they exercise that control through doing things, being productive, or engaging with current events, the sudden knowledge that your actions don’t matter, can be debilitating.

You ever see that Voyager episode Night? (S05 E01) Where they’re stuck in the void with nothing to do but just keep the ship running. You know who falls apart? Hard? Captain Janeway. She just goes to pieces. She’s not the sort who usually falls apart. She usually has a handle on the situation. That’s why she falls apart in the void. It has no handles.

Now, if I may be blunt for a moment — my feeling is that these sorts of people are, generally, distracting themselves from the void at all times. As such, they may not mind it as much as I think they may. They might just jump from project to project without even worrying about it. It could well be that they’re totally impervious to The Gloom. I have no idea. I’m not that sort.

I do worry about them though. I worry about the optimists too.

So, brass tacks, I don’t know if it will help you, but it helped me, Werner Herzog. Thank you Satan for Werner Herzog! Watch some of his movies. Dracula, Wrath of God, whatever. I really recommend Dracula. I know people have made Herzog into a bit of a joke in recent years but he’s the rare person who actually gets this shit. He gets it. He speaks to it.

And, for me, he helped get some sense of orientation back. It’s a void. It’s pointless. You need to look at it, see it, and forgive it. You might even learn to love it. In a way.

You need to learn these things because as much as you want to get back to normal? It’s not getting back to normal. And if, hell, when, you try to force it to get normal and do normal things to feel normal, you put a lot of people in danger. This is hard right now but you have to learn to stop wanting to get back to normal. You have to stop wanting to feel normal. You have to learn to distrust everything normal. The Normal is not your friend.

It gets easier.

It gets better.

Adapt to Weird

If you’re doing a thing and it’s not working, you might feel that it’s time to double down on that thing. Your instinct may be to do more of the thing that’s not working. This is a frame of mind that most addicts will understand. Those who have got off the crap may recognize and distrust this approach with an almost instinctive abhorrence. The fucking environment is not going to change. It’s you, sweetie. You’ve got to change. In ways you do not expect.

I’ve been here before. Back in the day, when I quit drink, cocaine, and the assorted relateds, you want to know what I was left with? Nothing. I was nothing. I had no concept of myself that wasn’t related to drugs and drink. I was a nothing. A void. I’d had dry moments after particularly shameful incidents but I hadn’t been sober since I was 15. I had no idea who I even was without drugs or drink. Those were my compass. To remake myself, I needed to start from the ground up. I needed to understand some things about me, about what was important to me, and write these things down, and then try to act in accord with those things. It was all a conscious decision. And I had to see what I got out of drugs and why I liked them and try to get that out of me. I had to become the drugs. It got weird. You think I planned on spending a bunch of money on suits? No. But that’s how I rebuilt. Into this thing.

You think I wanted to turn out like this? Think again, comrade!

You too are going to need to adapt and to learn to build in a void.

There’s no guarantee that what worked yesterday will work today or what works today will work tomorrow. All you can do is be open to it getting weird. Be open to yourself getting weird. Weird to others, weird to you. You just may not be the person you thought you were. That’s okay. You might have other interests than you do. That’s fine. You may suddenly, unaccountably, not be the person that your people expect. That’s just dandy.

All you really need to worry about is getting through another day.

It gets better.

Good Days and Bad Days

There are good days and bad days at every step of this thing. Some days, you have this sort of calm and directed energy. You clean, you get shit done. Other days, you are itchy with restlessness. You climb the walls. You want to scream. Nothing works. And some days, you just need to wallow. There’s days when you feel fine and days when you really don’t. It’s okay. You don’t always need to fix it. You just need to get from one day to the next.

Wife and I – we have good days and bad days. Some days, we’re all in together, other days, we kind of retreat into ourselves. The trick isn’t stopping this, it’s just being aware of it so you can stop it before it spirals. Once you see a thing, you can kind of adjust to it, talk about it, and work together. You just have to see it first. It is hard to see in The Gloom. Remember to feel around. Reach out. Talk to people. Fuck it, talk to me.

Week Two kind of felt like one long bad day. I wish I could stop the bad days from happening but I can’t and you can’t and no one can stop the bad days. You just have to be there for the people you love when you’re up and they’re down and hope they can do the same for you, tomorrow, when your positions are reversed. Maybe they can, maybe they can’t. It doesn’t stop. But it does get weird, and it does get easier. Go easy on each other.

It does get better. Then worse, Then better again.

Know Your Dark Place

I don’t remember if this is a week two thing –week two was so long ago and I don’t think it is week two thing– but it is a thing and it may be coming your way soon.

We all have some sort of Achilles heel. We have some pattern of thought that, if we get into it, just takes us down a very dark road indeed. It takes us out of The Gloom and into The Crushing Wilds of Despair. You end up there, you get nostalgic for The Gloom.

For me, it’s some fucked up form of survivor guilt about The American Grocery Situation. It’s thinking about my union family. Some of my best friends in America are now being treated as sacrificial lambs for the gods of Wall Street and the toilet paper panic. I wish I could actually help and do something. I can’t do anything. I can’t help. Even thinking about this fucks me up and it fucks me up hard. It sends me into a very dark and miserable place and I do no one any good when there. So, like, right now –at this very moment– I am just going to stop thinking about that. Because I can’t do it. I just can’t with that right now. And I know, even if I simply can not with that, then soon enough, there will be something else that really can with me. I don’t need to look for trouble. But, seriously, please stay the fuck out of the grocery stores unless you absolutely NEED to be in one.

You’re killing my friends.

Some people feel like you need to confront and overcome these dark things. I’m not a psychologist. I don’t know. I’m just not a great believer in picking fights — especially ones you can’t win or even really fight. If you see a big angry bear and you know it’s a big angry bear, do you wander over with a stick and start poking at the thing? No. Of course not. That would be silly. That bear isn’t going to get any smaller or any less angry. It’s still going to be a bear because a bear is what it fucking is. You need to accept that there is a bear in the room.

Still, you really can’t avoid the damn thing and you can’t really do anything about it either. Sometimes, I guess you just have to let the bear eat you. Just try to know that’s what you’re doing and, you know, don’t start anymore mess than you need to. Try not to, at least. I mean, it’s a fucking bear! You don’t have a chance! Have you even seen those things? Bears don’t fuck around. They have no god, no law and no master! They are bears.

But, bears or not, it gets better.

Don’t Get Attached to Clocks

I’m trying to save you a punch in the gut here. The end of this thing is always two weeks away. If you start pinning hopes on these timetables, you are setting yourself up for a world of hurt. You get to the end of that two weeks and things are either worse or unchanged. After a while, unchanged will feel like better. But these things will not be better in two weeks.

My wife’s job is on its third two week delay until opening. She was supposed to back at work on, I think, March 8th, March 22, and now April 5. Every time it’s cancelled, it hurts.

You’re probably starting to come up on the first two week set of cancellations. It will hurt. And it will hurt the next time too. But you can basically keep steady on this, I think.

Just avoid getting too caught up or attached to these clocks. Even if things are unchanged, the virus thrives in normal conditions. Normalcy will make things worse. Aside from that, things can get much worse. You can have a Patient 31. There can be an outbreak. The shit is basically unpredictable. There are no timetables for a return to business as usual. Anyone who is selling you a date when this ends is selling snake-oil. There is no such date.

But the two week thing? It’s not necessarily a bad sort of lie. It’s a sort of goal. This thing is easier to deal with and organize around when it’s presented in two week chunks. Just don’t get too attached to the reality of these clocks. You don’t want to start up with a whole “BUT WE WERE TOLD!” type of thing. It doesn’t matter what we were told. There’s no guarantees in The Affected Area and the clocks run upside down. The situation in The Affected Area is fluid. A lot can happen and most of it is bad.

But it does get better. Just not like that.

Hell is Other People

Now, this is going to be some pretty fucked up advice and I’m trusting you people to not get all carried away and Mad Max cosplay with this –a trust that is frankly unearned after the whole toilet paper debacle– but here we go anyway: You don’t owe anyone shit.

I don’t mean that you have no obligation to other people. Of course you do. And I don’t mean that you should stop caring about the people you care about. Even if you could, you shouldn’t. But you may not be able to help them. Not from where you are. At some point, you have to trust their friends and neighbors, and society at large.That’s the horror of all being in it together. You need trust. A lot of trust. None of this works without trust. And you need to trust strangers. You need to trust strangers with the people you love.

What I mean by ‘you don’t owe anyone shit’ is much more limited. I mean, you can turn the news off. You don’t need to put the burden of keeping the world informed upon yourself.

If a person is distressing you on the social networks, even if you really like that person, especially if that person is me, you can and should mute them. (Believe me, I wish I could mute me.) I had to mute people. I liked these people. I still like them. But I just couldn’t deal with how they were dealing. No sense fighting about it. No sense confronting them or acting like THERE IS ONE TRUE PATH here. They have to deal with things in their own way. I have to deal with it in mine. We all have to do this in our own way and these ways will differ.

And it’s not the end of the world. I still pop into their timelines to see how they’re doing and whatnot but deciding when I want to do that is a lot easier on me than having them show up in mine. It’s fine. You do not need to climb up on a cross and die for your friends (not like they’re the Dow Fucking Jones hungry for human blood sacrifice) and, if they’re your friends, they don’t want you to go through it and don’t even want to put you through it. Why would they? For likes? Fuck that. We all need some space sometimes. Shit happens.

Like, seriously, if I’m bugging you or whatever, feel free to fuck off for a while or whatever. I just don’t need to hear the litany before you go. No one needs that. No one needs more time for introspection than what we’re currently enduring. And I don’t want to bother anyone. That’s not what I’m trying to do — even when it’s exactly what I’m trying to do. No hard feelings. You do exactly what you need to do for you.

But that’s all pretty easy. That’s affection. Not everything is.

When it comes to blatantly aggravating nonsense like seeing that party on the beach or whatever, I get you – I get the anger. I understand how seeing that might make you feel. Try to see it from my point of view. Can you imagine being in Korea and watching how all of North America was ignoring this for so long? You were those people! For over a month, you were those people! ALL OF YOU WERE THOSE PEOPLE BUT WORSE BECAUSE THOSE PEOPLE ARE JUST DOLTS AND YOU ARE NOT DOLTS SO WHAT THE HELL IS THE MATTER WITH YOU AND WHY DID YOU WASTE ALL THAT TIME AND EVEN NOW WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING SHOPPING AGAIN! Did I shout and rant? Yes. Of course. Did I just do that now? Well, maybe, yes, okay. I’m no fucking saint. But hopefully I did not shout and rant at you too much. Would it have helped if I did? I don’t think so. You just have to accept, this thing does not come evenly to everyone. It’s not fair. It’s fucking infuriating. But that’s how it is and that’s how it’s going to stay.

You have to accept that you just can’t fix certain types of stupid. Anger can be a really good and productive thing and it can even help you pass some time ranting but just don’t get too worn out on it and try to keep your anger at least sort of productive, you know? Try to think before you shout. And try to remember, in times like these, remaining decent often has to be enough. Is it enough? No. But sometimes it has to be. And to remain decent, to get through this thing, you are going to need to trust people. If you’re just angry at people because of some dolts on the beach or something you saw on the news, that trust is going to be harder. And breaking that trust is how they break us. We need trust.

I wish I could say that this whole other people thing gets better. It doesn’t get better. People have suffered idiots for around 300,000 years. There will still be idiots tomorrow.

It’s not ideal.

Summary

Look, no lie, this thing is not easy, nor is it short. But week two? That can be one of the hardest times. You’ve done what you need to, you’ve brought your best plan and your best moves to this fight, and what’s your reward? The void. That’s all. The fucking void.

But the void is deep and it is weird and it’s not as boring as it looks and you can adapt.

You have to be forgiving of yourself when your plans don’t work –they’re not working for anyone– and you have to be open to getting weird about the whole thing. Don’t worry too much about who you were before this or what people expect from you. Things have changed. You can change with them. You must. Be open to weird.

Moods are going to go up and they’re going to go down. Some really weird shit awaits you in this void. My shadow, for example, has started detaching my body at night and chasing the cats around the neighborhood. You’re going to have to keep the basic goal in mind -staying indoors- and you have to act in a way that facilitates that. Above all, that. Don’t fuck around.

And please stay out of the grocery stores. Like please!

And I want you to remember this. It might feel like your life has stopped. It hasn’t. Your life has changed. It’s going to stay changed. For a while, at least. You live in a much stranger place and interesting time than you probably thought you were going to. This happens.

You will get the hang of this. It will get better. Just probably not how you think.

Until then, FIGHTING!

And have some love – you might need it.

The Grumpy Owl Guide to Keeping Your Eyeballs Twitching and Heart Throbbing

I’ve seen quite a few movie and show recommendations floating around lately. If these and the trending movies on Streaming Service X are any indication, people have a real appetite to watch movies about outbreaks, contagions, and pandemics. Can’t imagine why.

It does, however, occur to me that people may be interested in movie recommendations. I have no idea why they would be interested in mine. I usually have no interest in theirs. For fuck’s sake, if the movie is called Something-Man and you recommend it to me, not only do I question your taste, politics, and basic maturity but our whole relationship. Even when it’s a good recommendation, it often takes me about a decade to get around to following up on it.

I’m just not a big movie recommendation person. Like, at all. But what the fuck? I’ve already dispensed mental health tips on this blog, which isn’t really a thing I do, and if anyone told me ten years ago that I’d be at all emotional about The American Grocery Situation in the Year 2020 while living in Korea, I might have cut them off. (jk I’d pour them another drink.)

So as Nan used to say, ‘if you’re going to hang for stealing a sheep, you might as well shag it too.’ Here’s The Grumpy Owl Guide to Keeping Your Eyeballs Twitching and Heart Throbbing.

Sandglass

If we’ve known each other for any period of time and we’ve talked about television shows, I’ve probably recommended this one to you and you probably haven’t watched it.

You see! This is why I don’t even fucking bother!

But let me try AGAIN. This is one of my all time favorite shows. Like, I don’t make lists of favorites because, after a certain point, a thing is good on its own terms and what is this need to assign some number so that you can rank your relationship to it. Like why?

I ever tell you that I never had a best friend as a child. I refused. What does that mean? A best friend? How do you think that makes your other friends feel? What exact responsibilities come with that position anyway? Like, a friend is a friend far as I can tell.

This stance, of course, upset many of my friends. Kept them on their toes too, if we’re being completely honest about it.

But I should probably talk about this show. It’s the story of three friends during a difficult time and in a difficult place in Korea’s history. It’s just gut-wrenching. The entire thing is full of so much love and tenderness. It’s a melodrama but it is an amazing melodrama.

It’s a bit of a slow burn but, holy fuck, it does burn. There were parts of this thing where I cried so much, the tears felt holy. It was like altered consciousness emotional. And other parts, man, I felt some sort of protest PTSD. It’s a great show. You should watch it.

You probably won’t. I really don’t know why I even bother.

The Horse Dancer

One of the reasons that I don’t recommend movies or shows is because, well, many of the movies and shows that I like are a bit . . . It’s hard to expect anyone to like them. They’re not a thing you really want to recommend to a person.

Like how do you recommend The Horse Dancer?

It’s bad but it’s not bad in the way that everyone is used to — it’s not some Mystery Science Theater type bad. It’s bad but if you treat it like a bad movie, that’s just kind of boring. I mean, say what you want about these so-called bad movies but many of them, at least, aren’t predictable. Just the other day I saw one about a cyborg that kills some evil Supreme Leader or something and ends up on the run. You know what he did? He started competitive arm-wrestling at a truck-stop. You just don’t see Hollywood do shit like that. It’s kinda great.

So, yeah, maybe bad movies are bad, but at least they’re not boring.

I should also explain – I have a thing for a particular genre of movie. I like movies that are about a white girl who fucks up and gets sent to live with the horses and the horses teach her about life, love and small town American values. There’s a lot of these movies. Many are made by churches. They vary widely in quality. In some of these movies, the horse even talks. Those are especially good. I also really like talking animal movies — but only certain types of talking animals. Not CGI for example. It has to be a real animal.

My favorite entry in the genre of horses teaching people things is pretty easily The Horse Dancer. In this one, the horse does not talk. But the girl goes off to live on the ranch with the horses and then she starts dancing on them. Strange? That’s just the plot. The real marvel is just in the how this movie was made. It is so strangely put together that it becomes hallucinogenic. This is what watching a movie on LSD is like. (Trust me.)

You would have to be a genius to make a movie like this on purpose. Art house directors could mine this movie for years and never run out of really sinister and strange shit.

Like, I don’t know – watch it and imagine David Lynch or some such is directing it.

Star Trek Voyager: Night

This is on this list because I saw some Trek site claiming that another episode of Voyager was the best one about the current crisis. That other one is about a giant virus on the ship and Captain Janeway runs around with a laser gun shooting at it or something. And, like I know that one has a giant virus in it but I’ll never understand how science fiction manages to attract some of the most literal-minded people on the planet.

What do they even get out of the genre?

Since reading that post, this episode, Night (S05 E01), has been rattling around my brain like a song stuck in my head. It’s not my favorite episode of Voyager (hello Tuvix) but it is the episode that I think is most resonant with the times. The ship is stuck in a really boring void. Nothing to do but get through it. Their struggle is with powerlessness, morale and guilt. This is one of the first times we see Janeway really lose it — one of the few times when she goes to pieces. I like it when Janeway goes to pieces. Some vulnerability is good.

I watched it again tonight. Good episode.

And why the fuck has Picard made Seven so much worse as a character? Like, seriously. She was so much better than Bad Ass Action Hero. So much better.

Three poplars at Plyuschikha

This one caught me off-guard. I can’t remember exactly why I watched it — I think I ended up down some rabbit hole related to movies where the teacher teaches the inner city students a lesson they won’t forget, and somehow ended up in Russian movies. Happy I did.

You probably have to be some sort of movie expert to talk sensibly about this one but, to me, this is just a really well-executed and moving film. It’s so simple. A lot of people try to do understatement and very few succeed. This succeeds completely. It is not easy to make something this simple and to make it say so much. That’s mastery. It’s a simple movie that creates complicated feelings. Complicated but very plain too. It is what it is.

Summary

Everyone has their different tastes. One person likes Big Budget Space Cowboys at war with Coporate Mascot Superheros and another likes things that are actually good. But whatever the differences in our tastes, this can be a time for us to watch some stuff that we maybe haven’t heard of before and, you know, just give it a shot or whatever. Maybe something here will catch your fancy and make you have a feeling or two.

Fucked if I know.

The Grumpy Owl Guide to Navigating the Unfathomable Abyss of Free Time

Both the shock and the excitement have worn off. Instead of finding yourself in an action packed apocalypse with some motley band of outcasts, you now realize that, really, you’re just stuck at home. Maybe you’re with the people you love. Oh God, why those people? Why not the people you like instead? Or maybe you are alone. Whomever you are with or not with, you are still there. Constantly. There is no escape. You are there. All the time.

Whether alone or with people, you now notice some strange shape creeping from the corners of the room. Some frightful geometry oozing from the vents. You hear it creeping closer in the silences outside your window. You sense it but are afraid to look at it. Some dim mammalian memory, lodged deep in your very cells, knows that this thing is dangerous. The howls of dead ancestors warn you that to stare directly at this thing is to invite madness and despair. This thing is Free Time. Some maniac has freed time.

This guide will hopefully help you to navigate the bottomless expanse of Free Time that you may now find yourself tumbling through without signpost or compass. This guide cannot save you. At best, it can only serve as distraction — a distraction to keep you from staring into that soul-rending void. It is, at best, a bauble jangled in front of a cat. Look at the bauble. Bat at the bauble. Do not look at Free Time.

It is already looking at you.

Morals Wither in the Void

People often look at time in moral terms. They talk about wasting time. They speak of good and bad uses of time, of having a good time and a bad time. And, indeed, this approach had some value when time was safely chained up deep below the ice-caps, when it was dolloped out in finite doses and, never having enough of it, one had to figure out what to do with their time. Oh, what a wonderful and quaint era that was. When people thought they owned time. When we decided what to do with time, instead of time deciding what to do with us. When we could, in our hubris, think of good and bad times. When we were so safe and arrogant in Reno to shout “LET THE GOOD TIMES ROLL!” If only we knew what rolling time really meant. We know now. Unchained, freed time is rolling right at us.

The good times roll through an endless pitch black void of abject nothingness.

Even in times without a crisis, it is not unusual for people to cling to old and obsolete habits. Sometimes, this is simply because adaptation takes time. I, for example, am walking around Korea speaking English. It takes time to change a habit like that. In other cases, these habits provide some small comfort. A person, for example, may curl into a fetal position and suck liquid food in through their belly button, because it reminds them of happier times — the era before they were expelled out of the soft liquid warmth of their mother’s womb and into a world full of sharp edges, corners, and spicy things that get into eyes. Habit even seems built into nature. Is there, for example, any real reason for my wife to have webbed toes? Or for me to have bones where my wings used to be? Not really. It’s just biological memory. These things may again be useful. And so may a moral view of time. But not now.

At the moment, these attitudes about good and bad times, about using time in good or bad ways, are an atavism. To start with, the moral sense of time is rooted in capitalist ideas of efficiency. When time is money, one learns frugality. Time is bought and sold and we all look for a decent return. But time is now in a supply glut. Time has never been cheaper. It’s not so important whether you make good or bad use of time. And waste? Wasting time?

Are you fucking kidding? We are in The Wasteland of Time.

Take Instruction From the Indolent

Let’s not get carried away – for now, you may just have to talk to one.

This is some advice I never thought I would give anyone and it pains me to do so now.

As this crisis goes on, as the horrible mass-less body of Free Time grows upon us like a tumor, we must look to people who have some familiarity with the subject. That is –God help me, deep breath– artistic people. We must learn from artists, writers, and other creative indolents. You may already know some of these people. Amazingly, they now have some use. I know — none of us saw that coming. Least of all, them. Faced with this responsibility, don’t be surprised if they run out, get a haircut and a job. It may be less work.

These artistic types are the priests in The Cult of Free Time. Many of them have long lived with Free Time. In some cases, they have domesticated it. Most often, they have a simple working relationship with it — a relationship that sometimes boils down to “you don’t bother it, it won’t bother you.” But, most often, these artistic types worship at the bone altar of these endless hours. There, on bent knee and with bowed head, they pay blood tribute to this horrible and disorienting abyss and seek to summon more of it into the world.

Being loyal servants, they have earned some favor with the swirling void. They’ve had to earn this favor. They’ve needed to learn its ways. Their service to Free Time and their summoning of Free Time is their real art. All that stuff they make and try to sell you? That is just the waste product of this relationship with their Shadow Master. Their art is only the smoke escaping the censers. Confronted with Free Time, you may start producing a similar form of pollution. Don’t be frightened. It will stink. That’s normal.

There are a few general rules that this ancient priesthood of ridiculous beatniks can teach us. They often have schedules of varying strictness but it’s often not a 9-5. Indeed, they often measure time in ways not directly related to a clock. They count time not in passing minutes but in word-counts, progress on some painting, and, in one strange case, a notorious poet even confessed to having ‘measured out his life with coffee spoons.’ Time is treated as a space in which things happen but not as a measurement of the things that happen. So set yourself a few minor goals each day and do those things.

They don’t need to be good goals.

You have seen your prematurely retired aunt’s paintings? You’ve actually read your uncle’s self-published novel? You’ve heard your bother in law’s band? If they can live with that, so can you. Shame is pretty healthy for most people. Many artists are incapable of it. You too must learn to put shame aside. (Unless it’s about going outside or having dirty hands. You should be very ashamed of these things — right now and for the foreseeable future.)

You may have also noticed that many of these artists have periods when they’re doing “research” or, sigh, “working on themselves.” This simply means that you can’t be productive all the time. Part of being productive is, sometimes, doing nothing. You have to absorb raw material in order to expel the sickening pollution of art. Take some time to absorb. The excretions will surely follow. But fuck’s sake, this is not the time to learn an instrument.

It never has been.

When speaking with artists of any type, you may also have noticed some pretty obnoxious presumptions and attitudes about “the norms”, “conformists” or some such thing. These attitudes are often based in a basic contempt towards perceptions and uses of time that infringe on Free Time. Rather than thinking of time as money, your typical beatnik tends to view time as a slow and painful march towards the grave. This, of course, explains their generally morbid demeanor, if not the berets. But the grave does have some value as a guidepost. The grave ends time. Unless you’re religious. If so, good luck with that.

Talk to an artist you know about this. They have the time to help. They have a lot of Free time. They always did. That dirty little secret is out now.

Embrace Death and Vanity

Vanity has gotten something of a bad rap over the years. A lot of these reasons are simple sexism. Male artists have long enjoyed drawing nude ladies for rich men to stare at and, to disguise their prurient intentions, they’d show these nudes looking at themselves and dress the whole sordid pornography up as some sort of sanctimonious disapproval of ‘vanity.’ There was also that Smurf.

The most odious of all the plants – the flower.

But once you accept that Free Time only has one end-point and one guidepost (the sweet oblivion of death) then you are presented with a different view of vanity. Everything is vanity. Your job, car payments, your love of family and friends. It’s all in vain. Nothing will help. Nothing will rescue you. You will die. Everything points towards the grave. All will be forgotten and none of it means a damn thing. That being the case, why not a flower?

Whatever you do is probably going to be pretty pointless. This was always the case. Now, you just have to acknowledge it. But this isn’t an excuse to do nothing. It’s not an excuse to faint dead away and give up on everything. This only brings aesthetics back into life. It makes aesthetics as important as economics. Given a choice between pointless and ugly and pointless and beautiful, you should choose the beautiful, even if it’s ugly. You have the time for both. You don’t even need to pick. You can just fuck around with appearance.

My wife puts makeup on me and I put me on the Internet. Vain?

Sure. Of fucking course! But so is fantasizing about a vaccine or worrying about the stock-market. At least, maybe, there’s the off-chance that some rich weirdo can get themselves off to me. The sort of rich weirdo who masturbates to the stock market? That’s the sort of person who is probably busy being the president of some mess. The grave awaits them too.

Summary

The first confrontation with Free Time is often the worse. It’s terrible non-euclidean geometries stretch into a harrowing and repulsive eternity. There are horrors hidden and squirming below the opaque membrane of Free Time. Unthinkable horrors. My parents, for example, now want to Skype on some sort of regular basis.

Enduring this takes some adjustment to our attitudes. We cannot import our old attitudes and moralities about time into this new world. It’s not good or bad, useful or wasted. It is just an endless expanse — a complete wasteland that we must structure ourselves. Your local artist may be able to help with some of this. (Times are, indeed, quite bad.) And the good news is that even without capitalism, there is still a way to measure time. We need only look to our forgotten future graves and understand the basic vanity of the human condition. We can also understand that this vanity is basically fine. As long as it doesn’t hurt anyone, who really gives a fuck? Be an idiot. Your idiocy may be more helpful than your pride.

The terrible blob like formlessness of Free Time will eventually take some shape. These shapes change. What works to fill your time for the first few days may not work in a week. Your best tools might fail you tomorrow. You’ll make new tools. Your tactics will change. Your sleeping schedule might alter. You will have to adjust. You will get used to it.

Needs must when the devil drives.

And he’s driving now. Hail Satan!

The Grumpy Owl Guide to Games and Recreations to Wile Away the Time While Your Life Falls Apart During the Era of Social Distance

Self-Isolation is difficult. It’s stressful. Just today, my wife’s job told her that she was going to be out of work for another two weeks and my own school just shut everything down, folded up its tents and was last seen heading west — straight into the sunset if not the sun itself. Goodbye Future!

This could have been a real kick in the nuts. But, lucky me, I had not only read The Grumpy Owl Guide to Maintaining Some Semblance of Sanity During a Pandemic, I had even written the stupid thing! As such, I already knew how dangerous hope was and had given it up weeks ago. We were able to roll with the punches. Wife and I threw a make-up party.

This helped matters. And seeing how my North American comrades are just beginning their own harrowing journey of self-discovery, I’ve decided to provide some advice on entertaining yourself when you’re stuck in a confined space for long periods with yourself.

I’ve tried all of these! They all hurt! These are all bad ideas!

If you’re anything like me, you’re going to do them anyway.

Welcome to The Grumpy Owl Guide to Games and Recreations to Wile Away the Time While Your Life Falls Apart During the Era of Social Distance.

Melodramatic Emails

It’s important to keep in contact with the people you love and those who love you. If these happen to be the same people, well, aren’t you the lucky little show-off? Maybe you should go celebrate with some rollerskating and making-out or something

One of the best ways to keep in contact is through emails. These emails should be extremely melodramatic. Purple, even. People may tell you that it’s important to keep some perspective. These people have never sent or received an email that started with:

The “Red Death” had long devastated the country. No pestilence had ever been so fatal, or so hideous. Blood was its Avatar and its seal—the redness and the horror of blood. There were sharp pains, and sudden dizziness, and then profuse bleeding at the pores, with dissolution. The scarlet stains upon the body and especially upon the face of the victim, were the pest ban which shut him out from the aid and from the sympathy of his fellow-men. And the whole seizure, progress and termination of the disease, were the incidents of half an hour.

An opening like that really gets the reader’s attention. From there, you can move easily into letting your friend know how much you’ve always cared about them, how that day spent rollerskating was, in retrospect, one of the happiest days of your life, and that you forgive them for that thing they did that day —they know damn well what it is— and you simply won’t hear another word about it. Nope. Not one word.

Shouting on Skype

But emails aren’t for everyone. Some people prefer to Skype.

The best way to use this communication technology is to wait until you’re in the depths of despair. This may be the moment you most want to reach out. You haven’t been outside or spoken to another human in days. The social graces have fallen from you like the scales off a snake. Now is the exact moment you should call someone. And what should you do then?

Shout at them!

Not just at them, mind you, but at THE WHOLE WORLD, who they obviously now represent. You see, this isn’t a friend that you’re speaking to. No, nothing so simple as that. They are an ambassador. An ambassador for what? Well, for anything really. They may an ambassador for their country, for a perspective you disagree with, or, maybe for all of humanity’s numerous faults and foibles. So you need to shout at them.

It doesn’t even matter what you shout about! As long as you’re shouting!

And don’t stop! Not until you wake up their spouse!

It is, after all, one of the first rules of diplomacy, that when you meet an ambassador or a delegation from some far off place, you should immediately start shouting until you wake up their spouse. If you can set their dogs to barking, all the better.

When the call ends, you now have a chance to shout at yourself about all that shouting. When shouting at yourself about shouting at them just turns into a dull roar of terror and regret, you can pass some time by writing a melodramatic email. An email of sorrow and apology.

You can keep this up for days!

So, Is This What You Plan on Doing Today?

When you’re stuck in the same room as another person for long periods of time, it can be difficult to break the ice and start a conversation. A sure-fire way to get everyone talking is to look at what that person is doing and say “So, is this what you plan on doing today?”

The more disapproval you can get into your voice the better!

This works because people don’t like to be judged but they really enjoy judging. We often think about the feelings of the judged but almost never about those of the judgmental. But these strict heroic enforcers of social norms also have needs. The need to judge.

Of course, when one starts a conversation by asking if that is, in fact, what their friend plans on doing today, they may be suddenly reminded of what they themselves did yesterday. The judger becomes the judgee. Such is the beautiful balance and harmony of life as it devolves into fits of recrimination and wild accusation. Have some fun with it!

Argue With Conspiracy Theorists Online

If you’re really looking to disappear down a rabbit hole for a few hours, it’s helpful to find someone who believes this whole thing is some sort of big hoax. You can find many of these people in the families of people you already know. And what wild ideas they have!

But that’s okay. A person comes to conclusions like “THE UN IS COMING FOR MY GUNS WITH BLACK HELICOPTERS IN 2030” because they have weighed the evidence, proven amendable to reason, and, simply, are not in possession of all the facts.

Good thing you exist!

It’s difficult to change minds and, even if you change a mind, it’s hard to get a person to act on what they know. So you should be able to kill hours, if not days, speaking to the dedicated members of communities organized around only the most durable delusions. Conspiracy theorists are, after all, after the truth. That’s what they always say: They seek The Truth. And what reason do you have to disbelieve anything they say? So argue with them! Surely, they will see the error of their ways once they see the evidence.

Spread Some Panic

You just heard a thing. It’s a really important thing. Maybe you heard this thing online. Maybe you just heard it in your head. But you heard it and now you must share it. You must scream.

Before you share such a thing, you need to ask — will this help create terror in the people who read it? Will it encourage them to ignore the best advice of professionals and rush outside into areas full of other people? If the answer is no, then why even share it? Are you even helping if you’re not helping people to freak the fuck out?

There’s almost never any good reason to share something that fails to spread terror. It’s usually something people already know. It’s either advice they’ve already received (my hands are clean, thanks) and will probably misunderstand anyway (I can go to a concert, I brought hand sanitizer) or it’s a sort of non-update (Still alive, still bored, thanks!). There’s rarely any good reason to share anything that might comfort, amuse, or educate.

But things that terrify? Those are exciting things.

You should scream blue murder about everything you see.

After all, knowing The Advice and following The Advice are different. One is easy, the other is hard. When you’re trying to spread panic online, it’s important to remember that you’re not trying to change people’s minds. You’re not some sort of conspiracy theorist. And changing minds would be hard. You just want to shout “FIRE!” not convince anyone that there is no theater. You’re after that easy, low-hanging, red meat of fear. You want to attack the will to follow instruction and the ability to follow instruction. To erode.

You may want to call people ‘hopeless fools.’

Try this: WE’RE DEAD! ALL DEAD! NONE OF IT MATTERS! YOU HOPELESS FOOLS!

Or go for a sort of action hero tone:

WE’VE GOT TWO DAYS! THREE, TOPS!

This might not work the first time, or even the hundredth, but keep at it. It will wear people down. You only need time and you have nothing but time.

Or maybe, you should just claim that anyone who has the worries of any reasonable person during this troubled period and acts like a responsible adult in a country full of toilet-paper hoarding man-babies, is either over-reacting, paranoid, or crazy. Conversely, maybe they are ASLEEP TO THE REAL DANGER! There’s a lot of ways to approach this thing.

Get creative!

You can also help spread panic by turning everyone’s feed into a RED ALERT ZONE. Only fifteen updates today? What not fifty five? God knows, not like anyone just wants to relax. This will go on for a very long time and we should all be hyper-vigilant for all of it. You can also help panic by killing any space for humor. You can make this a lot harder for anyone and it’s already plenty hard for everyone. If not you, then who? BREAK THAT NEWS! And you really want to upset people? Tell them to “relax.” Tell them you just want to relax.

Scream it!

Cry

This is one of my favorite hobbies. I don’t even need a reason. Sometimes, I just fucking cry. Music does it to me. And it doesn’t have to be good music. Anything can set me off.

Two days ago, I heard Gangnam Style. You know what I did. I broke down in tears. The whole bit. Shaking and everything. It was quite a sight, I can assure you. Crying and dancing. Thinking about rollerskates. A real treat for my wife and dogs. I mean, there are a lot of perfectly acceptable ways to feel about that song. What I did? I’m pretty sure that’s not one of them. That’s just not what’s supposed to happen with this:

It passed but still . . . fml

Summary

Did you know that Issac Newton invented calculus while he was stuck in the house during a pandemic? Neither did I. Not until two days ago when some nefarious genius decided that was a thing everyone needed to hear. So, like, no pressure.

But I do know something about Issac Newton. I know that he was a terrible human being. Newton was a serious asshole. Like a non-stop asshole. Issac Newton was a great scientist. He was also the pandemic of human beings. A terrible man. Really terrible. Look it up.

As this thing goes on, few of us are going to invent anything like calculus. Many of us are going to be assholes. We’ll have good moments and we’ll have bad. And I think it’s important for you to know that, when you have your bad moments, I’ve had some too.

So when you receive a melodramatic email, know that, tomorrow, you might be sending one. Try not to wait until you need to talk to another person to talk to another person. When someone gets shouty with you, try to get them through it. (If you can.) You’re going to get testy with the people you love and they’re going to get testy with you. Sometimes, a game of Left Handed Sit Down Sock Catch helps. Some people in your life are going to need more support than others and one of those people may be you. If not now, then later.

We’re all going to do all the wrong things. We’ll say the wrong things and feel the wrong things. If we say any of these things online –even the right things– they will only ever be right for some people some of the time. If I’ve said anything that is wrong for you, please let me apologize. I’m sorry. The whole seizure, progress and termination of these ideas were only the incidents of half an hour. I’m doing the best I can.

Also, shit happens.

I’ve found a make-up party with my wife helps.

It’s like The Masque of the Pink Death in here.

But shit still happens. And I’m very sorry about everything.

The Grumpy Owl Guide to Some of the Words Used in a Pandemic and a Few of Their Practical Meanings

Language is one hell of a thing. It’s always hard to communicate. Even if you speak the same language as another person, there’s still ample opportunity to be misunderstood.

Now, with this crisis, the problem gets magnified. Not only is clear communication more important than ever, you also get a whole new vocabulary dropped on you and it’s all a bit charged. Like these words don’t just mean things, they mean doing things. So it’s all a bit of a clusterfuck.

While I don’t plan on acting as a dictionary, I’m hoping I can help you understand some of these new words and terms in a practical way. It’s important for you to know what some of these terms mean and it may be more important to know what they mean to you.

Let’s start with something I’ve said before. If you’ve read it before, my apologies, just skip ahead or whatever. But I think it needs repeating. This word is “pandemic.”

Pandemic

PANDEMIC!!! This is a scary word. It brings to mind images of plague ships, mass die-offs, and just, generally, a lot of terrible shit. And certainly, it will be no picnic. This thing is going to get bad and it’s going to get worse before it gets better. That’s just how it is.

But there is another way to view this word “pandemic” and it’s a better view. A pandemic means that the disease has spread all over the world. That’s troubling. But it also means that the disease is not coming from anyone or from anywhere. It’s not arriving from some other location. It’s not the exclusive property of Group X. In the language of horror movies, the word pandemic simply means that “the call is coming from inside the house.”

Yes, your house. You, specifically.

None of this sounds like good news. And it really probably isn’t but I might have forgotten what good news sounds like. It is, however, news. Even better, it’s news that gives you a pretty decent and productive way to start thinking about this. A way of thinking that might help your mental health and lead to better tomorrows. It means that you have some control.

When you accept that the disease is not coming from anywhere anymore, you realize that no one is to blame. You cut off xenophobic impulses at the knees. You start to realize that we are all in this together and that we all have agency, responsibilities, and duties. These are all pretty clear and your health authorities will provide instruction. Depending on your location and situation, these instructions might vary but these instructions will have something in common. Most of them will involve doing nothing. You need to stay at home.

The Immunocompromised

When people hear this term, they often picture a Victorian invalid, wasting away in bed. A draft gets into the room. Trying to summon help, her pale hand rises, clutching a handkerchief that belonged to her husband. She remembers that he died fifty years ago in ditch halfway around the world. She gasps. She drops the handkerchief. She’s dead.

But this term refers to basically anyone who is sick, has been sick, has recently gotten over a serious illness, or has some chronic condition. It’s best to be on the safe side with a term like this. Not so much in terms of making sure you’re completely accurate in using it but in assuming that a lot more people than you think are immunocomprised.

Really, it just means vulnerable.

Unless someone is in tip-top physical shape and has been for a while, you can and should consider them vulnerable. And even if they look like they’re in tip-top shape, you’re not their doctor and you don’t know their lives. Also, when did you get so shallow? Yeesh.

So no shouting at people about how healthy they look. No carrying on about how this only kills the weak or the old or whomever. That is, for one thing, a bit Hitlerish.

Just assume that just about everyone is vulnerable and act accordingly. I mean, don’t get paranoid but develop a sense of shared vulnerability. You ain’t Superman, chum. And even if you are, your loved ones aren’t. And, if those loved ones get sick or die, you seriously think anyone else is going to listen to your Hitlerish conspiracy theorizing? You think anyone else is going to feed your crazy ass turkey on the holidays while you talk about “making America great again” or the healing power of psychic orbs. They’re not. So keep those people safe.

They’re all you’ve got and more than you deserve.

Social Distancing

You’re probably hearing this one a lot. And there’s a good guide to the meaning and practice of social distancing here. What social distancing means is what it sounds like. You have to create and maintain distance between yourself and others.

This happens in a few different ways on a few different levels.

On the biggest level, the one you exercise the least control over, there’s shutdowns. The schools are closed, the government buildings close — these are measures designed to create social distance. On the smallest level, you avoid close contact with your fellow humans. This is also a measure to create social distance. Social distance is the goal of all this shit. It’s the thing you always have to keep in mind — will this action create social distance? Can it be done according to the principles of maintaining social distance? These are the questions you now have to ask and answer before you do anything.

A good basic rule is – if you think you need to depend on a mask or something to keep yourself safe in a certain space, it’s probably not a space you should be in. If you can avoid it, just avoid it. Don’t go. That simple.

Now, there’s sometimes an urge to prove that you’re brave. You’re not going to cave into fear. Not you. Some part of you thinks this is just part of being a stand-up dude. You’re going to shake hands, show people you don’t think they’re sick, and that the only thing to fear is fear itself. You want to set some example of bravery. This is understandable. But it’s not brave and it’s not right. It’s dumb macho shit. It’s superhero movies, not real life.

It puts people in danger. And why? So you can feel tough. That’s some bullshit, friend.

When you practice the things that lead to social distancing, you’re not being cowardly. You’re helping in the fight against this virus. Staying at home isn’t succumbing to fear, it’s being a sensible adult who cares about other people. Creating distance is the best way to show you care. So before you do anything, ask yourself if it creates social distance.

You want social distance.

And social distance usually means not doing anything. It means inconvenience.

It’s not exactly glorious and it’s not really brave, I know. You”ll get used to it.

Lockdown/Shutdown

These terms are often used interchangeably. They shouldn’t be. They are not the same.

A lockdown is a lot more severe than a shutdown. You do not want a fucking lockdown. But if you don’t make a shutdown work, you’re going to get a lockdown. That’s the choice.

You don’t want a lockdown. You might get one. You might need one. But you sure as hell do not want one.

A lockdown is what happened in Wuhan and it’s what’s happening in Italy. It’s a brutal, blunt force tool to create social distancing. Basically, it’s like martial law. You are not allowed outside and, if you go outside, you better be prepared to explain yourself to Uniforms. And you something about Uniforms? They have no sense of humor.

A shutdown is different. It’s what we’re doing in Busan and it’s what’s likely going to happen where you are. You can go outside without explaining yourself, things are open, if empty, and, largely, it’s not enforced by Uniforms. As a system, it depends on your co-operation and on your great community spirit. A shutdown involves closures but it works through trust. You are being trusted to do the right thing. But this is no small thing.

And if you can’t do that much, if you can’t make the shutdown work, the option is not returning to normal. Normal is gone. The option is a lockdown. Your city can become a prison. And it doesn’t take a lot of fucking about to bring that down. So don’t fuck around.

You do not want a lockdown. So do the right thing now.

Quarantine/Self-Isolation

This is similar to the difference between a lockdown and a shutdown.

Both refer to people or groups of people who have tested positive or who have some reason to believe that they are sick. In both cases, it means absolutely no contact with anyone. Self-isolation means that you are being trusted to do this yourself. Quarantine means that it is being done for you by professionals. Self-isolation is a form of quarantine –it’s self-quarantine– and it is quarantine but it’s not QUARANTINE. Individuals can be under quarantine –probably in a hospital– but QUARANTINE is more likely to happen to places and spaces that have people in them.

Think of those cruise ships.

That’s a quarantine.

Self Isolation is slightly different. You or someone in your home has shown symptoms. Maybe you’ve noticed them yourself and maybe a doctor has noticed them. (If it’s a doctor, just follow their instructions.) If you notice symptoms, you should probably get a test. That may not be possible. It may not even be desirable depending on your health, your condition, the situation with the hospitals, resources and tests in your area. Follow the instructions of the authorities. They know what they’re doing.

So what do you do if you have the symptoms and have received instruction to go into self-isolation? You go into self-isolation. You quarantine yourself. This is a two week period where you have no direct contact with anyone outside your home. None. Listen to the health professionals. They’ll tell you what’s what. Follow doctor’s orders.

It’s a bit like house arrest except your conscience is your electronic monitoring bracelet.

Just staying at home and practicing social distance is a form of self-isolation and it sure is isolating but it’s not, strictly speaking, self-isolation.” If you’ve been instructed to self-isolate and you don’t, you can probably expect a shitload of fines and a QUARANTINE. Maybe on you, maybe on your whole building, maybe in some other places too, places where you just caused an outbreak. You also get to be the person who caused an outbreak, so it’s not ideal.

You can get a pretty good idea of what self-isolation is about here.

Necrocontacts

I display a necrocontact from The Good Old Days.

This is a word I had to coin myself just to describe something I saw happening. I don’t know if it will be of any use to anyone else but it serves some purpose for me.

A necrocontact is a dead gesture. It’s the handshakes and high-fives. Touching your face in public. Licking your fingers before you count money or open a produce bag at the grocery store. These are the casual human contacts that can no longer be abided and are no longer seen. When you see them, you’re not seeing a living, natural, or normal gesture. You are seeing an undead gesture. These are your necrocontacts.

I needed a word for these, maybe you do or will too.

The Quaranteens

Future generation teens has no idea how good they got it!

Look, a lot of people are indoors with each other. There will be fucking. Don’t be surprised when a baby boom emerges from this situation. And, despite our best efforts, many of these babies will grow up into teenagers. We’ll have to call them something. Without giving them a name it will be much harder to write our op-eds criticizing every single thing they do while we try to sell them rations of shade. I humbly submit that we call this terrible and spoiled generation The Quaranteens. And if they want to get ahead and be able to afford a bunker of their own one day, they should stop putting sun-roasted rat on their insect protein bars. Rat isn’t cheap. Sunlight ain’t free. Who do they think they are anyway? Bezobot 6000? Let’s start preparing for these kids and finding ways to turn them against us now!

Summary

It’s pretty unfair and ridiculous to expect people to accept THE ONE AND TRUE HOLY MEANING of any word. All of these words will probably be used in different ways by different people and new words will appear. But, for time being, just like in performing an alien autopsy, it seems like a good idea to take a look at the bones. Just to get some idea of what these words generally mean. Not just in the dictionary sense of meaning and not so we can become pedants because, fuck knows, we all need to go easy on each other here. (Strict but easy.) But because these words get a bit less scary when you know what they mean. These words will have a lot meaning for you in the days and weeks ahead. It’s best to get acquainted with them now. Just so, you know when it’s time to overreact.

Because this whole toilet paper debacle? Good God . . .