Sunday, May 3rd, 2020


Voices in Your Head

"It feels like everybody here is trying so hard to be cheerful, but boy does it take an effort. The other day was supposed to be the beginning of baseball season, and I love baseball, and the anchor came onto the local news and said: 'Let's all try to look on the bright side! Let's find a way to celebrate Opening Day even though nobody is playing.' He showed pictures of fans wearing their Minnesota Twins T-shirts, or rubbing hand sanitizer onto a baseball to play catch, and I thought: You know what I'd really like to do right now if I'm being honest? I'd like to find a bat and a ball and go break a few windows. I apologize to God for feeling this way, but he made me how I am. I'm over this whole thing. I used to be an optimist, but I'm not anymore." During this pandemic, there's nothing more powerful than hearing the unfiltered voices of ordinary people, some of whom are doing extraordinary things, some of whom are enduring extraordinary pain, and those who are just experiencing it all and hanging on. No one captures those voices better than WaPo's Eli Saslow. Gloria Jackson, on being 75, alone, and thought of as expendable.

+ Here's a look at the whole series so far, a perfect Sunday read. Voices from the Pandemic.

+ And if you need some new nightstand material, Saslow wrote one of the most informative and interesting books that I've read in the past few years. Rising Out of Hatred: The Awakening of a Former White Nationalist.


Prophet Sharing

"I've heard from every C.D.C. in the world — the European C.D.C., the African C.D.C., China C.D.C. — and they say, ‘Normally our first call is to Atlanta, but we ain't hearing back.' There's nothing going on down there. They've gutted that place. They've gagged that place. I can't get calls returned anymore. Nobody down there is feeling like it's safe to talk. Have you even seen anything important and vital coming out of the C.D.C.?" The NYT's Frank Bruni talks to Laurie Garrett, the prophet of this pandemic. "Having long followed Garrett's work, I can attest that it's not driven by partisanship. She praised George W. Bush for fighting H.I.V. in Africa. But she called Trump 'the most incompetent, foolhardy buffoon imaginable.'" (I could have closed my eyes and copied and pasted a great pull quote from this piece.)


Oxi Gen

"Addiction and recovery advocates say the U.S. is now battling two epidemics at once. From 1999 to 2018, opioid overdoses involving prescription and illicit drugs have killed nearly 450,000 Americans." And the new one is having a negative impact on the one we ignored for years. The Daily Beast: Don't Forget the Other Pandemic Killing Thousands of Americans. (Certain politicians are spending a lot of time trying to find someone to blame for Covid-19. We know exactly who unleashed the opioid death machine in America. They made El Chapo look like an amateur.)

+ An excellent, recent book on this topic. Death in Mud Lick: A Coal Country Fight against the Drug Companies That Delivered the Opioid Epidemic, by Eric Eyre.


Location, Location, Location

"The coronavirus has touched almost every country on earth, but its impact has seemed capricious. Global metropolises like New York, Paris and London have been devastated, while teeming cities like Bangkok, Baghdad, New Delhi and Lagos have, so far, largely been spared." NYT: The Covid-19 Riddle: Why Does the Virus Wallop Some Places and Spare Others?


The Fix Isn’t In

What happens if a coronavirus vaccine is never developed? "It's a path rarely publicly countenanced by politicians, who are speaking optimistically about human trials already underway to find a vaccine. But the possibility is taken very seriously by many experts -- because it's happened before. Several times." (Some days, even experts get sick of experts.)


Flu Jab

"She has good reason to keep busy: Within less than a month the fate of a project that she has been working on for some two decades will be decided. It is meant to provide a comprehensive, long-lasting solution to one of the world's most widespread diseases: Influenza." Haaretz: Could the Flu Become History? An Israeli Vaccine May Make It a Reality. (Hat tip to Eda Pell who tipped me off on this article while we chatted, as she sat behind a window screen in my old room, and I stood the driveway, masked up and 10 feet away. A little pandemic isn't gonna keep the Pells from keeping you informed.)


An Open and Shit Case

"Marc Short, chief of staff to Vice President Pence, exerted significant influence over the coronavirus task force, setting the agenda and determining seating arrangements for meetings as well as helping to orchestrate press briefings. Short also is one of the White House's most vocal skeptics of how bad the pandemic would be. He repeatedly questioned the data being shared with Trump, and in internal discussions said he did not believe the death toll would ever get to 60,000 and that the administration was overreacting, damaging the economy and the president's chances for reelection, according to people who have heard his arguments. Day after day, Short pressed other officials to reopen the entire country." 34 days of pandemic: Inside Trump's desperate attempts to reopen America. Jared Kushner: "When history looks back on this, they'll say, man, the federal government acted really quickly and creatively, they threw a lot at the problem and saved a lot of lives." (When history looks back on this, history will puke its guts out.)

+ "Propaganda also works best in a vacuum, when there are no competing messages, or when the available alternative messengers inspire no trust. Since mid-March, China has been sending messages out into precisely this kind of vacuum: a world that has been profoundly changed not just by the virus, but by the American president's simultaneously catastrophic and ridiculous failure to cope with it." Anne Applebaum: The Rest of the World Is Laughing at Trump.


Mountain G.O.A.T.

Hafthor Bjornsson, better known to Game of Thrones fans as The Mountain, broke the world deadlift record by hoisting 1,104lbs. My son was most impressed by his measurement: 6'9. 420. Two great numbers, apparently.


Feel Good Sunday

"'It's just great,' Joette says. 'Before I go to sleep at night, I look up at the ceiling and think, Ahhh. Got a roof over my head, and don't have 50 people sleeping beside me coughing.' It's wonderful.'" She and her dog lived in a shopping center for two years. Then along came a stranger.

+ "An I.C.U. doctor felt despair at how little could be done for the sick. Soon, she had musicians playing over the phone in hospital rooms." NYT: These Are the Bedside Concerts Comforting Virus Patients.

+ Here's a short film about spreading a message of hope from 62 different windows during the coronavirus pandemic.

+ Left without its normal content, ESPN has been showing events such as cherry pit spitting. It's gotta be a little hard spitting pits through one's mask. (This either represents the seed of something new or a bottomless pit of despair.)


The Pod Complex

The most excellent Damon Lindelof (Creator of Lost, Watchmen, and The Leftovers) has kindly offered to share a serialized story with NextDraft readers to help us, and him, through the quarantine. The first 15 chapters are here.

+ While you're waiting for the next installment, check out the new podcast from Steve Bodow, the former head writer and exec producer at The Daily Show, who goes through a bottle of sanitizer a day just cleaning his Emmys. It's about how creative people are living - both personally and professionally - in this very weird time. In Quarantine with Steve Bodow. (I'm guessing that title gives Steve's family chills...)