Corona Time

Yes: “Corona Time”. I just heard this phrase, from the all-the-rage-just-now Icelandic classical pianist Víkingur Ólafsson. He was being interviewed on Radio 3’s Music Matters, and talking about how he’ll be juggling his work during the next few months, in the face of the tornado of cancellations that he and others like him now face. Far fewer public performances and lots more time spent studying and practising, and recording.

A lot of people are about to have a lot of Corona Time in the next few months.

Some people are going to be more deranged than others. Basically, the more sociable you are, and the less solitary and virtual in the way you live, the worse it will be. I especially like this Babylon Bee title:

Nation’s Nerds Wake Up In Utopia Where Everyone Stays Inside, Sports Are Canceled, Social Interaction Forbidden

Nerds have always had lots of Corona Time.

LATER: More Corona Time advice. I have in mind to write, like he says.

Trees and other Things

I’ve not being doing much out-and-abouting lately. But yesterday the weather looked good and I managed a photo-expedition. My odyssey was a familiar one. I walked past the Channel 4 TV headquarters building to Victoria Street, checked out the progress of The Broadway. (That seems to e its name, by the way. It’s not One Broadwy or Ten Broadway, just The Broadway.) Then I walked down Victoria Street to Westminster Abbey and Parliament Square, and then across Westminster Bridge and along the South Bank, and then back across the River to Embankment Tube and home again.

But I knew there’d be new stuff to see, or maybe old stuff that I had seen many times before but not noticed. Stuff like … trees. Here are sixteen of the photos I photoed, involving trees:

Trees look as they do, especially when uninterrupted by leaves, not because trees naturally look like that, but because a not-that-small and very full-time army of tree barbers and tree surgeons (that being the word they prefer), caused them to be so. Every twist and turn of a branch is a decision made by someone wielding a chainsaw (this time click on “Gallery”) or commanding someone wielding a chainsaw. If trees ever do grow “naturally”, that too is a string of decisions that someone made and went on making. Every tree in London is a clutch of design decisions.

And as I say, no leaves. Which means that other things were to be seen also. The Broadway, the Wheel, the Crimea statue, stuff around Parliament Square (much of it smothered in scaffolding), the Wheel from closer up, Big Ben (smothered in scaffolding), the sign outside Foyles saying “FOYLES”, a big puddle, and so forth and so on. Lovely.

Steven Pinker: “Don’t confuse pessimism with profundity …”

See the world through Pinker-tinted spectacles than you may be inclined to:

Keep some perspective. Not every problem is a Crisis, Plague, Epidemic, or Existential Threat, and not every change is the End of This, the Death of That, or the Dawn of a Post-Something Era. Don’t confuse pessimism with profundity: problems are inevitable, but problems are solvable, and diagnosing every setback as a symptom of a sick society is a cheap grab for gravitas.

My sentiments exactly.

That’s to be read on page 452 of my paperback edition of Enlightenment Now, Pinker’s most recent book.

Meanwhile:

Those were a couple of the day before yesterday’s headlines. Let’s hope it soon becomes yesterday’s news. Problems are, as Pinker says, solvable, and let’s hope this one too is soon sorted.

Pinker is particularly aware of the way that the news is in the habit of putting a pessimistic spin on everything. If it bleeds it leads, and so on. Good news, meanwhile, creeps up on the world more gradually.

This snake ate a towel and watching it being removed is oddly mesmerising

Here.

LATER: Fox on a Russian lady’s shoulder in the underground.

EVEN LATER: Ducks v locusts. Two problems with this. First, when the ducks have killed all the locusts, would there not then be a swarm of ducks? Oh. This guy got there first.

And second, the claim was that ducks would go to Pakistan to kill Pakistani locusts, but actually, according to an “expert” that won’t work, because there isn’t enough water in Pakistan and the ducks would die.

Waiting for the plague to arrive

Life in London and places like it is, just now, strange. It is not now like this:

But will it soon become like this?

That’s a photo taken just over a century ago in Seattle. The Shorpy caption reads:

Ca. 1918-1919. “Precautions taken in Seattle, Wash., during the Spanish Influenza Epidemic would not permit anyone to ride on the street cars without wearing a mask. 260,000 of these were made by the Seattle Chapter of the Red Cross which consisted of 120 workers, in three days.”

Coincidence that they just happened to be posting that, earlier this month? Presumably: not. (Here is a clutch of recent Coronoavirus links.)

Shorpy, one of the many things photographic that I have learned about from Mick Hartley, is now a regular www destination of mine.

Creature tweets

Lost of animal stuff on Twitter lately, as always, with much of the stuff I liked best involving dogs.

First, a dog’s unique way of getting past a gate.

Next, a reunion.

I looked up “cats and dogs” on Twitter, to see what epic confrontations would materialise, but instead found my way to #Dogandcat, which is full of dogs and cats getting along with one another, although some of the cats seem to be getting a bit irritated. Dogs, on the other hand … There’s just nothing they won’t do to oblige their humans. They’ll even like cats, if the humans tell them to.

I also learned of Dog and Cat, which is a TV show from the seventies about two humans called that. A young Kim Basinger is involved, presumably playing Cat. This never made it to England, first time around.

Moving away from dogs, horses are reminded not to overstep boundaries.

Next, because I know you’ve always had your doubts about this, ostriches:

… do not bury their heads in sand to hide from danger. They actually dig holes to bury their eggs and the myth came about from people seeing ostriches putting their heads in the holes to turn the eggs to ensure they are evenly heated.

Final full stop added there. Twitter is great for animal videos, but is ruining punctuation.

Finally, news from a fox. Well, actually a Fox:

A Twatter pile on I can deal with.

Extremely painful upper left molar, not so much.

Oh dear god, the agony.

Lots of suggested remedies follow. I trust the agony will abate soon.

The Chinese government shoots itself in the social media

Glenn Reynolds, writing about the Chinese government’s handling of the Coronavirus outbreak:

The Chinese government continues to censor news and social media. This not only keeps the rest of the world from knowing what’s going on, it also makes it harder for the government itself to keep track of what’s really happening, as opposed to what underlings are reporting to their superiors.

Interesting way of looking at social media, I think. What this is saying is that the government in the world that is most keen on mass surveillance has totally crapped all over the world’s greatest ever system of mass surveillance, and rendered it useless for that purpose. Ironic, when you think about it.

FaceID

Back in my Alternative Bookshop days, I and my libertarian pals used to joke about things that were both compulsory and illegal. It would appear that face masks in China are pretty close to being that, because of the conflicting demands of plague protection and facial recognition.

But at least, according to this report (at the top of which appears the above photo), I have (when displaying photos like these ones here) been getting how “FaceID” does and does not work approximately right:

Most complaints are about unlocking mobile devices. Apple confirmed to Quartz that an unobstructed view of a user’s eyes, nose, and mouth is needed for FaceID to work properly. Similarly, Huawei says that its efforts to develop a feature that recognizes partially-covered faces has fallen short. “There are too few feature points for the eyes and the head so it’s impossible to ensure security,” explains Huawei vice president Bruce Lee, in a Jan 21 post on Weibo.”We gave up on facial unlock for mask or scarf wearing [users].”

Or have I? The software used by mere people, for unlocking their mobile phones, may not now work if you are wearing a face mask. But what if the governments of the world have graciously permitted themselves to use far better software, which can easily see past a face mask?

Laughing at the plague

TRIGGERnometry:

Last night on our live stream we made some jokes about the Corona Virus. Now some people are upset.

We would like to apologise sincerely to anyone who might have been given the impression by our comments that we care in any way about you being offended. We don’t. Have a nice day

I am offended by the lack of a full stop at the end of that. I think it was this:

The Corona Virus is so toxic it’s probably a Straight White Male.

This is a podcast, and now they are talking about tattoos, like they are both Theodore Dalrymple. They sound like two old geeezers. But they are young. Oh, now they just made a crack about someone designing a virus that only wipes out old people. That’s me told. I am offended.

Corona says:

Everyone stop fucking asking us about the virus.

Says commenter Alan:

It’s okay, they’re rebranding:

I find all this very, very offensive. And quite funny.

As I recall Dame Edna Everage once upon a time saying:

I’ve always had the ability to laugh at the misfortunes of others.

Haven’t we all. No question mark there, because it’s not a question.