The coronavirus pandemic is a life-changing event

March 18, 2020

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

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

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


Carry on.

Media Diet: February 2020

March 1, 2020

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.