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March Media Diet: Pandemic edition

April 1, 2020 • 9:20 AM


Here, I’ve listed each book, movie, TV show season, and podcast I finished in March 2020. I’ve only included those works which I’d never completed previously, or which I’d finished so long ago it felt unfamiliar. (See January and February of this year.)

This is not my complete media diet. I also watched plenty of TV that isn’t worth recapping, notably a bunch of Simpsons and Billy on the Street episodes. I also subscribe to several podcasts which I enjoy, but don’t listen to every episode, and the only one I want to listen to, by default, is The Right Time with Bomani Jones.

I don’t have much loyalty to specific websites, but I do try every day to read Kottke, Dear Prudence on Slate (free entries only), and I check ESPN. I subscribe to several newsletters, but actively look forward to the ones from Will Leitch, Anne Helen Petersen, and the Action Cookbook by Scott Hines.

I was in the midst of quitting Facebook, but then a pandemic hit and I found myself relying on it for contact with people outside my immediate household and also for trying out strategies to convince people they ought to follow health experts’ recommendations for staving off Covid-19. I still maintain that someday I’ll find a way to kick my Twitter habit. Instagram sucks, too, but less than the other ones, probably because I’ve resisted following celebrities.

Let’s get to it.

The coronavirus pandemic is a life-changing event

March 18, 2020 • 2:38 PM

That viral Twitter thread about how hard the coronavirus will hit the U.S. is terrifying, but perhaps the most frightening bit is how plainly it makes the case that in order to keep millions of people from dying we must essentially stay in lockdown for more than a year. Even if the federal government pulls its act together and performs heroically in coming months, and we get a miracle reduction in Covid-19 cases, we’re still looking at hundreds of thousands of deaths with lockdown conditions into 2021 to slow the virus’s spread.

That’s bad, and people more in tune with the economy than I am have already explained why we’re in for a good deal of pain in exchange for keeping people alive. But an underreported story is that a big chunk of people who emerge from this experience will be deeply affected by isolation tactics, separate from their respiratory outcomes, especially children who could find themselves next spring having spent a year experiencing anything from a dedicated home-schooling program, to a wide range of “distance learning” methods, to no meaningful education at all.

All that’s to say that even if we avoid total disaster, “only” a couple hundred thousand people die, and isolation tactics get called off the instant a vaccine gets developed and distributed, we’re still going to have a generation of young people whose educational and social paths were disrupted dramatically. What will that do to academic achievement measures? Friendship networks? High school and college students who are implicitly (or explicitly) developing professional networks? And that’s just what I was able to think of off the top of my head.

Maybe the kids will be okay and won’t miss a beat when they resume regular activities. But it’s looking more and more like at some point we’ll have to confront how this pandemic is going to alter the most basic functions of our society for a long time to come.

Photo: "New York National Guard" by The National Guard. Used under CC BY 2.0 license. Original caption: U.S. Army Spc. Reagan Long, a horizontal construction engineer assigned to the 827th Engineer Company, 204th Engineering Battalion, 53rd Troop Command, New York Army National Guard, alongside Pfc. Naomi Velez, a horizontal construction engineer assigned to the 152nd Engineer Support Company, 42nd Infantry Division, register people at a COVID-19 Mobile Testing Center in Glenn Island Park, New Rochelle, Mar. 14, 2020. Members of the Army and Air National Guard from across several states have been activated under Operation COVID-19 to support federal, state and local efforts. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Amouris Coss)

We’ll get through this together, mostly by staying apart

March 12, 2020 • 11:31 PM

I’ve spoken to multiple people in the past couple days who have compared the current coronavirus crisis to 9/11. One person compared the panic they saw in a particular young man in the Bay Area back in 2001 who was convinced more planes would fall out of the sky to panicked people buying up hand sanitizer. Another person described feeling unable to come to an emotional reckoning with the scale and gravity of 9/11, and that they have similar feelings today.

Stray thought on a Wednesday

March 4, 2020 • 10:52 AM

Am I the only person who has Princess Bride quotes pop into my head spoken as if they were written by Tarantino?

Yes?

Carry on.

Media Diet: February 2020

March 1, 2020 • 7:27 PM


This year I’m aiming to reflect on the media I consumed each month. Here, I’ve listed each book, movie, TV show season, and podcast I finished in February 2020. I’ve only included those works which I’d never completed previously, or which I’d finished so long ago it felt unfamiliar.

This is not my complete media diet. I also watched a lot of TV that isn’t worth recapping, notably a bunch of Simpsons episodes, plus NBA games. I also subscribe to several podcasts which I enjoy, but don’t listen to every episode: The Right Time with Bomani Jones, The Lowe Post, and WTF with Marc Maron. I also listened to a bunch of back episodes of the Grierson and Leitch movies podcast, focusing on their Reboot segments in which they discussed movies I’d seen before.

I don’t have much loyalty to specific websites, but I do make sure every day to read Kottke, Dear Prudence on Slate (free entries only), and I check ESPN. I subscribe to several newsletters, but actively look forward to the ones from Will Leitch, Anne Helen Petersen, and the Action Cookbook by Scott Hines.

I’m in the midst of quitting Facebook as much as work allows, and someday I’ll find a way to kick my Twitter habit. Instagram sucks, too, but less than the other ones, probably because I’ve resisted following celebrities. This month, I think got through a lot less media than usual, probably because I took a significant vacation and on my flights I was mostly trying to sleep (unsuccessfully).

Let’s get to it.

What was different 16 1/2 years ago

February 26, 2020 • 8:50 PM

I just got back from a wonderful vacation to a couple cities I last visited in 2003, while a college student. It was the first time my co-pilot and daughter had been there, and they had a wonderful time exploring the cities and seeing many of their topline attractions.

Throughout the trip, I kept thinking about what was different from 16 1/2 years ago. The cities, themselves, have slightly different skylines, but many of the most important landmarks we wanted to see are hundreds, if not thousands, of years old. By the end, I decided the biggest change was the phone I carried in my pocket, because it completely changed how I engaged with new places.

The Red Sox traded Mookie Betts because they don't care about you

February 4, 2020 • 7:00 PM

Mookie Betts is one of the five or six best baseball players in the world right now, and is likely to remain one of the best 10 or so players in the world over the next few seasons.

The Boston Red Sox just traded him away because they want to get under Major League Baseball's "competitive balance" tax, which serves as a deterrent against teams spending above...


Thanks, Bill. That's what I was preparing to spend 3,000 words explaining, but you did a much better job.

Let today's transaction wire serve as a reminder that even the Boston Red Sox, which has long defined itself in large part as an organization built upon the unusually intense passion of its fan base, doesn't actually care about its fans. Betts is exactly the player that a team should spend the most money it possibly can to keep, in that he's both an amazing player and BELOVED.

The Red Sox were about $17 million over the tax threshold as of January 11, 2020, per Cot's Contracts. You're telling me no team would take Chris Sale along with David Price? Or just Sale by himself? Even if you got less of a haul -- and I use "haul" liberally, given that Alex Verdugo is a good Major League player right now, but expecting him to be a superstar is folly -- you'd still have Betts! The best player on your team right now and for the foreseeable future! Why wouldn't you want that guy?

(Photo: "mookie betts" by Rob Larsen. Used under CC BY 2.0 license.)

Media Diet: January 2020

February 4, 2020 • 3:45 PM

This year I’m aiming to reflect on the media I consumed each month. Here, I’ve listed each book, movie, TV show season, and podcast I finished in January 2020. I’ve only included those works which I’d never completed previously, or which I’d finished so long ago it felt unfamiliar.

This is not my complete media diet. I also watched a lot of TV that isn’t worth recapping, notably a bunch of Simpsons episodes, plus NBA games. I also subscribe to several podcasts which I enjoy, but don’t listen to every episode: The Right Time with Bomani Jones, The Lowe Post, and WTF with Marc Maron.

I don’t have much loyalty to specific websites, but I do make sure every day to read Kottke, Dear Prudence on Slate (free entries only), and I check ESPN. I subscribe to several newsletters, but actively look forward to the ones from Will Leitch, Anne Helen Petersen, and the Action Cookbook by Scott Hines.

I’m in the midst of quitting Facebook as much as work allows, and someday I’ll find a way to kick my Twitter habit. Instagram sucks, too, but less than the other ones, probably because I’ve resisted following celebrities.

Let’s get to it.

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