Coronavirus

Distance Must Be Maintained

Distance Must Be Maintained

We walk to escape the trauma of the pandemic, only to relive it all over again by walking.

We’re told this is temporary, a momentary suspension of normality, and in our hearts we sentimentalists all want to believe the streets will soon be filled once more with stoop dawdlers, grandmas pushing shopping carts, vested business bros with their phones on speaker, fleets of annoying schoolkids, boys and girls out on the prowl, the stench of weed and the cries of desire. (On second thought, let’s consign the business bros to the past.) But we all know the dream of a quick recovery is delusional, that our altered reality will last a year, maybe two.

I Must Leave My House

I Must Leave My House

Roaming through the Covid-19 surveillance state

I walk along towards the north entrance to my neighborhood’s business district. An undulating wave of weed smoke wafts down from open windows of apartments that shed a desolate glow over all the closed shops. It’s been 90 minutes since I last went online, my phone and network devices all at home. What do they know, who do they talk to when I’ve made no purchases at point of sale terminals and have spoken only to myself? I turn the corner towards my block.

Precise and Prescient

Precise and Prescient

On Michael Sorkin, 1948–2020

Sorkin died needlessly, at the hands of a monstrous President he diagnosed better than most back in the summer of 2016, when too many of us dismissed analogy as overstatement. Sorkin began writing for the Village Voice in the late ’70s, his office was up the street from Trump SoHo, and his beat was architecture, money, power, fascism. Of course he understood.

Living Inside

Living Inside

The virus comes to visit

Of course my worrying makes it worse, but it’s not as if one can just turn off a venerable, inherited tradition, refined over the course of generations. My mother calls, frantic, and begs us to go to the hospital. I try to patiently explain that going to the hospital, if not absolutely necessary, would be the worst thing we could do, adding to the nurses’ burden and potentially exposing other patients. I remember what a tree told me once, in a different hallucinatory dream: There are other ways to care about people than worrying about them. You can just ask them how they are.

Coronavirus and Chronopolitics

Coronavirus and Chronopolitics

What matters now is the balance of authority in everyday life—between young and old, worker and boss

Social distancing is an unquestionable necessity and act of solidarity, demanding our fullest commitment. Still, more than submission is needed now. Unemployment is spiraling rapidly, but the displaced—especially the young—can be enlisted through public spending and planning to take on the creation of emergency housing friendly to social distancing and quarantine; cleaning and sanitizing public facilities, most of all transit systems, groceries, pharmacies, and health care institutions; tending to the children of the frontline workers.

“Chinese Virus,” World Market

“Chinese Virus,” World Market

The best safeguard against the novel coronavirus is the ability to voluntarily withdraw oneself from capitalism

What all these stories have in common is how unremarkable they are: this is contemporary global interchange at its most prosaic. Travel to and from countless other cities across Asia and Europe for business meetings and tourism follows a very similar pattern. Whereas the SARS outbreak was blamed on the peculiar, outlandish diets of the Cantonese people and then traveled through the elite cosmopolitan links between major Asian cities, the so-called “Wuhan virus” points to the utterly mundane way that countless nodal points around the world, including “second-tier” Chinese cities, are interwoven more tightly than ever across global circuits of commerce, education, and tourism.

And Then the Brenner Was Closed

18:15 is a stress peak because that’s when La Repubblica publishes the compiled numbers of the day

The day anxiety really kicked in for me was Monday, March 9. I started to feel that my Korean colleague was right. It is a thing you sense, like an animal. Numbers and research are important, but they never convey the urgency that physical human bodies produce upon each other when they interact in uncertainty. When you try to stay casual while your interlocutor is just dead scared. When slips of tongue and gauche gestures trigger second thoughts or mild paranoia.

Smeeze into Your Elbow!

Smeeze into Your Elbow!

I fear that we’re about to see a sharp decline in the number of TikTok videos being made by hospital employees

Once the euphoria of cancelled classes faded (and it faded extremely quickly), TikTok turned to the horror of being stuck with parents indefinitely, unable to see friends or talk to on-campus therapists, getting sent home early from expensive study abroad programs, and paying an in-person tuition rate for online classes—which, students and professors agree, will be a shitshow.

My Lanyarded Brethren

My Lanyarded Brethren

Report from AWP 2020

AWP 2020, sparsely attended compared to the usually robust turnout in years’ past, was spread out on a soft teal green carpet that looked a little like grass. Rows of bright white tables, some empty, others covered in books and candy and tote bags, formed aisle after aisle. Planted in the middle of the broad avenues, where guests wandered, dazed or determined, were old-timey benches presumably for guests to sit and read under the fluorescent lights.