Transparent plague mask

This actually looks like a pretty good idea:

I found it at This Is Wny I’m Broke, which I make a point of checking out from time to time.

The thing is, masks are annoying, one of the most annoying things about them being that we can’t see lips move when we are talking to each other. The Plague spreads best in confined spaces with prolonged social contact, which is also how a lot of chatting is done. So the temptation is to dump the mask just when it might make a real difference.

Emmanuel Todd on the earthly rewards of aberrant beliefs

I’ve been reading Emmanuel Todd’s book, Lineages of Modernity. For any sort of review of this book by me, you will have to wait. But meanwhile, I did enjoy this snippet, about why people believe the things they do. In it, the historian Rodney Stark is mentioned admiringly, for having written books like A Theory of Religion (co-authored with William Sims Bainbridge).

Here is what Todd says (pp. 95-96):

In this piece of historical anthropology that we are conducting here, it is more reasonable to grasp the dynamics of faith on Earth, and to start from the elementary observation that a religion is not only a personal belief, but above all the sharing of a belief by a group of human beings on Earth. So let us agree that before it rewards us in heaven, a religion rewards us here below. We must understand why sexual asceticism and the love of the poor, extremist and deviant views for Antiquity, gave the individuals constituting the Christian group a positive reward during their lifetime.

To ask the question today, in a Western world that ideologically values sex and wealth, is crucial. For us, sexual asceticism and the love of the poor are now, again, incomprehensible extremist deviations, to be classified perhaps under the rubric of mere masochism. Today, sexual freedom and banking reign. This is where Rodney Stark’s work proves to be essential.

Influenced by the rational choice school, Stark has grasped the fact that the aberrant beliefs and behaviours of religious groups, whether masochistic or not, and the opprobrium that they bring upon their members, can for the individuals concerned be more than compensated by the group cohesion produced by stigmatization. The psychological cost of belonging to a religion, demanding for oneself but ridiculous in the eyes of the outside world, is so high that adherents can be sure that they belong to a group of exceptionally reliable people. The internal loyalty of the group is the true reward of the believing individual. This gratification is immediate, more secure and tangible than the promise of the hereafter. The argument developed by Stark applies to early Christians or Mormons in the United States, but we can see how it can also contribute to a better understanding of the survival of the Jewish people, who no longer appear to have persisted through history despite persecution but because of persecution.

We can reformulate this from a Durkheimian perspective. What the individual finds in the bizarre monotheistic religious groups of Late Antiquity – whether they were circumcised and refused to eat pork, or were disgusted by sexuality and fascinated by the degradation of the body of the poor – is a sense of belonging to a moral human group. In the chaos of the great ancient cities – Alexandria, Antioch and Rome – Judaism and then Christianity were, as Stark says, refuges. Christianity certainly offered, for later on, eternal life, in which its adherents could believe as a group. But what it immediately gave was an end to loneliness, a sense of belonging to a world of solidarity, and – in very concrete terms – psychological and even economic security. The Gospels, if read without prejudice, give the game away: there is a long series of miracles to do with food and health, and these point to a better earthly life rather than to eternal life.

Judaism does not generally promise eternal life, but among its faithful, in Antiquity and the Middle Ages, it fostered a courage and a contempt for death that yield nothing to those of the Christian martyrs. Its enduring power suggests that Homo sapiens is, in the end, more afraid of loneliness than of death.

On how I may now not resume buying classical music magazines

Every month for as long as I can remember, I’ve been buying paper copies of Gramophone and the BBC Music Magazine, “Music” being how the BBC refers to classical music.

All over my home, these magazines have accumulated in shelves and in heaps:

I haven’t had these magazines on order, because I don’t trust my neighbours not to let in burglars through the front door we all share, and because I like the exercise of actually walking to a shop and buying these magazines.

Which means that during the recent Plague, I’ve not been getting either of these magazines. The shops where I would have bought them have all been closed.

One of the many changes I am now contemplating in my life is: Not resuming buying these magazines. Are many people now contemplating a similar decision with regard to these or other such printed publications? Surely, they are. Are many people contemplating buying printed publications they do not now buy? I doubt this very much.

If “normal” ever returns, it will, for most of us, in big ways and in small ways, be a different normal, not least among those who publish the magazines like the ones in my photo. It’s not just the obvious ways in which we will remain nervous of the Plague returning, though that will definitely happen also. It’s that by being jolted into doing this for the first time, and not doing that any more, we are all now shedding old habits and being pushed towards acquiring different habits. I try to resist generalisations involving words like “we all now …”, but I really do think that the above generalisations are largely right. (You need only look at the recent numbers for postings here per month at this blog, on the left, to see this kind of thing happening to me and maybe therefore also for you.)

So, habits are being dropped, and acquired. And, are you, like me, and provoked by the above experiences, going beneath and beyond such changes of habit, and asking yourself: What other habits should I now decide to shed, and decide to acquire?

After all, and especially for the likes of me, life has just got shorter.

He just walks it off and goes straight into the pub

Here, via David Thompson.

As a commenter comments: adrenalin is a wonderful thing. Because actually, as another commenter reports:

“Mr Smith suffered two fractures to his shoulder and ribs, as well as some internal bruising.”

The psycho bus driver has been “sentenced”. Mostly to never being allowed to drive a bus ever again, I devoutly hope.

Seeing this reminds you of how well and how carefully most bus drivers do drive.

Lockdown chat with Patrick

On June 2nd, Patrick Crozier and I had another of our recorded conversations, this time about Lockdown.

In the course of this, I refer to a photo that I did take, and a photo that I didn’t take. The photo that I did take was this:

That being me, and another bloke, recording the fact of empty shelves in Sainsburys. The photo that I didn’t take, but talk about with Patrick, is the one I should also have taken of how the shelves laden with less healthy food – crisps, chocky bickies etc. – were crammed with yet-to-be-sold stuff, a lot of it offered at discount prices.

Patrick, in his posting about this chat, mentions something he thought of afterwards but didn’t say during, which is that what may have been going on with the crisps and bickies was not that people were shunning unhealthy food, but rather that they were shunning party food, on account of there suddenly being no parties being had. Good point. In my photo above, you can see in the distance, the drinks section. Plenty of drink still to be had also.

I remember, when I used to do chat radio, I used to regret not having said things I should have said, either because I had them in mind but forgot, or because I only thought of them afterwards. But, in due course, I realised that what mattered was what I did say. If that was reasonably intelligent and reasonably well put, then I did okay. People wouldn’t say: Ooh, but he forgot to mention blah blah. They would merely decide whether they liked, or not, what I did say.

Well, this time around, I think there was a huge elephant in the virtual room that we didn’t discuss, which I am sure some listeners would expect us to have at least mentioned. Sport. As in: There hasn’t been any! Patrick and I are both sports obsessives. He is a Watford fan. But he has had no Premier League relegation battle to warm his heart during the last few months. I love cricket, not just England but also Surrey. Likewise for me: nothing, despite some truly wonderful weather at a time when it’s often very grim. But, not a single sporting thing, other than ancient sportsmen reminiscing about sports contests of yesteryear on the telly. Yet we never mentioned any of that. Since a lot of the point of our chat wasn’t to yell at politicians and scientists, hut rather just to remember the oddities of our own lives now, this was a major omission. We talked, as we always do whether that’s the actual topic or not, about war, this time in connection with the question of which economic policy attitudes will prevail during whatever attempts at an economic recovery start being made in the months to come. Yet sport, the thing that has replaced war in so many people’s lives, got no mention by us.

Signs of our time

Regulars here will know that I love to photo signs and notices. So evocative. So precise for defining a time, a place, a mood, or an official attitude. And never more so than right now:

Those are some signs I photoed yesterday, inside the entrance to Oval tube, and on the side of a bus. Right now, such verbals are commonplace. Soon, we must all hope, they’ll become an impossibly weird reminder of an impossibly weird time.

Here are three more that I photoed in April, of signs in shops windows:

On the left, the bog standard sign that happened in nearly every shop. We’re shut for the duration. Sorry. In the middle, the regular signage at the front of my local chemist, and on the door, a scrimmage of irregular signage, concerning this and that. And on the right, one of the signs saying: We’re still open. Come in. Buy stuff.

Finally, one of my favourites, from way back in March at the Wigmore Hall, at one of the last public events I attended, a performance of all the Beethoven String Trios, as I recall. Superb. We were up in the socially distanced seats at the top and back of the hall. Normally the Wigmore would have been packed out for a show like this, but this time, there were empty seats. If we’d known then blah blah, we’d surely not have gone.

They don’t allow photoing of performances, but at the beginning and at the end, you can photo away, so I photoed this, at the beginning:

And we obeyed. My impression, as I recall it, was that there was actually less coughing than usual.

A great souvenir sign, from pretty much the exact moment when it all suddenly kicked off and got serious.

BMNB QotD: Silence

Michael Tracey:

I don’t think it’s accurate that “silence” automatically equals “complicity” or “violence.” Sometimes people are “silent” because they have complicated views about a complicated subject, and decline to mindlessly repeat whatever clich├ęs you are trying to force down their throat.

Which I only got to read because Steve Stewart-Williams (plus another of my followees Claire Lehmann) liked it. (See also: this posting here (also made possible by SS-W liking and linking to something) which told me about this bit of video about dentistry.)

Am now following Michael Tracey. So far? Disappointed. Says he’s “friend to all dogs”, but have scrolled and scrolled, but have found no canine references at all. Just him not being silent about all the rioting and posturing. But it’s all good knockabout stuff, and he’s still right about silence.

Rioters and the ending of the Lockdown

Scott Adams:

Serious question: Did any Republican lose a business to rioters?

I began thinking of my answer, but the first tweet-in-response said it for me:

I bet some future Republicans did.

I’ve been suspecting for some time now that Antifa – or “Fa”, as I prefer to think of them – could be a project put together by Trumpsters to ensure his re-election. I mean, if they really were that, what would they be doing differently? (Take a gander at this bit of video, to see what I mean.)

On a more serious note, all these demos will speed up the process of discovering if ending Lockdown makes sense. I already think it does make sense. If, as I am now betting, no Coronoavirus spike now materialises among the demonstrating classes, others will likewise be convinced.

Meanwhile, a huge chunk of people are now behaving as if the only thing they’re scared of is dirty looks from other people. They aren’t scared of The Bug itself anymore. Lockdown is ending. You can feel it. You can see it, for real and on the news and social media. Two months ago, no matter who had done what, there’d have been no demos about it because almost everyone was truly scared of The Bug. Now, The Bug is right down there with car accidents and getting struck by lightning.

It’s almost as if no government action was required, either to make Lockdown start when that made sense, or now, to make it stop.

See also what Johnathan Pearce, has to say about these US rioters. JP links to all these videos, which I am now about to sample.

Quota photo of the BT Tower advertising Follicular Lymphoma

Haven’t had many quota photos here lately, have I? But I am now about to go on what could be a long photo-walk, and don’t want to be worrying about not yet having stuck anything up here.

So:

Photoed from the top of my block of flats, last November. Ah, those were the days, when people worried about lots of diseases instead of just the one.

What is Follicular Lymphoma?

Follicular lymphoma (FL) is a slow-growing type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. It develops when B-cells (also called B-lymphocytes) become abnormal. B-cells are white blood cells that fight infection.

The abnormal B-cells (lymphoma cells) usually build up in lymph nodes, but they can affect other parts of the body.

Have a nice day. I intend to.