Friday, March 20th, 2020


Check In Time Is Now

After days of build-up, America finds itself down at the end of Lonely Street at Heartbreak Hotel. In the Bay Area, we checked in several days ago. On Thursday night, Governor Gavin Newsom expanded the stay at home order to all of California. It's the right call. What a difference it makes to see a good leader become great when history calls. On Friday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo made a similar move. And like the Hotel California, in NY, you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave. For those not yet sheltering in place, get ready. It's coming. From California to the New York island, from the Redwood Forest, to the gulf stream waters, this land was made for you and me to flatten the curve.

+ Vox: The testing failure has forced us to rely more on painful social distancing.

+ Here are a couple of excellent pieces to explain where we're at, how we got here, and how long we have to stay. The Atlantic: This Is How We Can Beat the Coronavirus. "If we screen everyone, and do so regularly, we can let most people return to a more normal life. We can reopen schools and places where people gather. If we can be assured that the people who congregate aren't infectious, they can socialize." And Tomas Pueyo: Coronavirus: The Hammer and the Dance. (We'll get to the dance, but for now, it's hammer time.)

+ Reminder, NextDraft is going 7 days during the crisis. Take a second and spread the word to keep people informed, and hopefully to give them a few immunity-building laughs.


An Act of Plod

"The president told Schumer he would, then could be heard on the telephone seeming to make the order. He yelled to someone in his office to do it now." Trump moves on invoking Defense Production Act to spur virus supplies. (How invoked it will be is another matter.) The tax filing deadline has been moved to July 15, Cuomo says, "Ventilators are to this war what missiles were to World War II," and Trump insists he doesn't think a national lockdown will be necessary "because you go out to the midwest and other locations and they're watching their television but they don't have the same problems." (Editor's note: Just wait.) Here's the latest from CNN.


Weekend Whats

What to Read: If you want a great novel by a great person, Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name by Vendela Vida. If you want to read about another pandemic, The Ghost Map by Steven Johnson.

+ What to Rock: Live music? No. Streaming live music? Yes. Springsteen released a full concert, London Calling: Live in Hyde Park. NPR is updating Live Sessions (including Brandi Carlile), and Billboard is tracking all the upcoming live shows online.

+ What to Give: Donors Choose is helping teachers and students brave this unprecedented situation. (In some cases, we're learning who we can count on. In the case of DonorsChoose, we always knew.)

+ What to Dave: I wandered lonely as a cloud, as the CDC advised. If you missed it, I wrote a thing for McSweeney's. Famous Lines of Poetry Revised for the Age of Coronavirus. (No way this virus is gonna stop my self-promotion. Fight the power!)


Insider Shading

Slate: "Republican North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr and Republican Georgia Sen. Kelly Loeffler sold a combined $2 million to $4 million in stock after attending private briefings about the coronavirus pandemic, even as they publicly amplified the Trump administration line that the virus did not pose a major threat to public health or the economy." Long term, Lawmakers shouldn't own individual stocks. Short term, resignations should be forced.


Doubletake Me to Your Leader

"The status of the United States as a global leader over the past seven decades has been built not just on wealth and power but also, and just as important, on the legitimacy that flows from the United States' domestic governance, provision of global public goods, and ability and willingness to muster and coordinate a global response to crises. The coronavirus pandemic is testing all three elements of U.S. leadership. So far, Washington is failing the test." (The trifecta from hell: Iraq war. 2008 self-inflicted financial crisis. Covid19.) Foreign Affairs: The Coronavirus Could Reshape Global Order.

+ Politico Mag talked to 34 big thinkers. Coronavirus Will Change the World Permanently. Here's How.


A Drug in the System

"I imagine this is what it felt like to be in wartime efforts like the Enigma code-breaking group during World War II, and our team is similarly hoping to disarm our enemy by understanding its inner workings." What's up at UCSF? A COVID-19 treatment might already exist in old drugs – we're using pieces of the coronavirus itself to find them. (OK, then let me write the articles, you just go team go!)

+ "The antibodies generated by these recovered patients' immune systems will protect them from reinfection, at least for a while. And if those same antibodies can be harvested from their blood and repackaged safely for administration to others, they may do something more remarkable." LA Times: How the blood of coronavirus survivors may protect others from COVID-19.

+ Want to go deep understanding our enemy? Ed Yong has you covered. Why the Coronavirus Has Been So Successful. (It's really true that success breeds contempt.)


A Star is Borne

WaPo: "As the United States enters a critical phase in fighting the coronavirus pandemic, the country's leading public health agency, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, appears to be on the sidelines, with its messages increasingly disrupted or overtaken by the White House." (This administration's show can have only one star. And sadly, the show must go on...)


I’m OK, You’re OK, We’re Not 4K

We're all online all day now. And that could cause a slowdown. Europe is getting ahead of the curve by asking video streamers to switch all content to standard definition by default. (Oh shit. Can we go back to the virus being a hoax?)


Feel Good Friday

"When I first saw a tape of J.B., it gave me flashbacks to when I was in college and decided to smoke opium and listen to a Jimi Hendrix album. The opium didn't work, but the Hendrix did. I'd never heard anything like it, and that's what I felt when I first heard J.B." The Freestyle Brilliance of J.B. Smoove.

+ In one day, 1,000 NYC doctors and nurses enlist to battle coronavirus. (That makes this Mike Luckovich comic even more poignant.)

+ Minnesota and Vermont just classified grocery clerks as emergency workers.

+ Photos of People Helping Others During The Coronavirus Pandemic.


Something, Something, Something Murder (4)

The most excellent Damon Lindelof has kindly offered to share a serialized story with NextDraft readers to help us, and him, through the quarantine. To be continued, daily...

Chapter 4: You Got Mad At Me For Making Up LOST As We Went Along But You're Okay With THIS Shit?

There was nothing more mysterious than an eyepatch.

When Elizabeth was nine, she came down with a bad case of mono and for two glorious weeks, her mother took off work to care for her. Despite the discomfort of the illness, this was the only time in her life Elizabeth had her mother's full attention and it was nothing short of magical. Mono was contagious… not nearly as contagious as COVID-19… but aggressive enough to try to put its hand up your shirt if you weren't careful. Regardless, Elizabeth's mother wrapped her up in a warm quilt and cozied up right beside her on the couch as they slurped chicken noodle soup and watched hours upon hours of daytime TV. It was here they both discovered Patch.

Patch surely had a name… Elizabeth recalled it was maybe Scott or Steve… but no one called him that. They called him Patch because he wore one over his left eye. It was black, just like his leather jacket and his tight jeans. His hair was blonde and lustrous. He wore boots and his jeans were tight. He had a gravelly voice and moved like a jungle cat, a jungle cat wearing tight jeans. "How can you tell if he's blinking or winking?" Elizabeth asked her mom.

"You can't." her mom responded.

These were in the days before Wikipedia, so the two were left to speculate as to how Patch lost his eye. No one on the show ever asked him, and who could blame them? He was surly and hot under the collar… he was a man with secrets, a man in pain… he had depth, but no depth perception… "…and men like that," Elizabeth's mom said with a slightly lower voice than she normally spoke with, "are dangerous."

Elizabeth eventually got better and her mother went back to work. The mono had made them a duo, but the normal rhythms of life fell back into place and while they would always remain mother and daughter, they were never really that close again. Even when Elizabeth held her mom's hand on the other side of the protective plastic, bundled into a blue Tyvek suit with faceshield and gloves bound to her wrists with tape, she still longed for the comfort of being wrapped up in that quilt all those years ago. It was in that moment… that very moment… that Elizabeth swore she would avenge her mother's death. No – she would do better than that.

She would prevent her mother's death.

All paradoxes start with a single act of hubris. Not an action, but an idea. An individual vowing to bend the laws of time and space to their own selfish whim with no fear nor regard of consequence. The very moment such a decision is made, there is an audible crack as quantum realties spill out across the multiverse, each possibility a grain of sand freed from the hourglass formerly imprisoning it.

So are the days of our lives.

Years would pass before Elizabeth beta-tested her first chronoceutical. Dozens of failed attempts to alter the series of events leading up to that dreaded day in November would follow. But then, finally, she would succeed… and in succession, a rather phenomenal serendipity would occur.

For when Hillary gave her acceptance speech at the Javits that night, she spoke of her own mother, Dorothy.

She said that Dorothy's parents had abandoned her at the age of eight, left her and her baby sister to fend for themselves as they were put on a train to be raised by relatives they had never met. Hillary paused in her speech and said, "If I could go back in time and tell anyone in history about becoming president, I would tell my mom."

Elizabeth was there at the Javits… of course she was there for she was the one who had made this happen. She had pulled apart cosmic strings and shat upon the Godel metric to make this happen. She had defied the laws of nature and gravity and decency to make this happen and there she was, up on the stage, the one she had done it all for… and she was talking about TIME TRAVEL?!? Tears streaked down Elizabeth's cheeks, her body trembling… she swore she could actually hear the cracks in the glass ceiling above her as Hillary brought the room to near silence in anticipation, her voice low and confident and true as she said –

"I think about my mom on that train. I wish I could walk down the aisle and find the little wooden seats where she sat, holding tight to her even younger sister, alone, terrified. She doesn't yet know how much she will suffer ... I dream of going up to her, and sitting down next to her ... and saying, ‘Look at me. Listen to me. You will survive. You will have a good family of your own, and three children. And as hard as it might be to imagine, your daughter will grow up and become the President of the United States.'"

The crowd at the Javits exploded. Elizabeth was screaming with them, screaming like a teenager when the Beatles played Ed Sullivan, screaming and pulling at her hair with joy and relief and rapture.

Hillary raised up her arms in victory.

She was, of course, wearing an eyepatch.

To be continued...


- Chapter 1

- Chapter 2

- Chapter 3