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Reading, watching, playing, using: April 2020

Here's the media I consumed and found interesting in April.

Apps

Untitled Goose Game. I'm late to the party, but this is super-fun with exactly my level of silly.

Novlr. I'm writing this again, and for whatever reason, I find this a better environment than Scrivener. Maybe it's something about being a web-native writer?

Drizly. Yes, I ordered delivery alcohol for the first time this month. I'm not proud of it. I'm also not not-proud of it.

Streaming

The Plot Against America. Atmospheric, unsettling, and one of the most tense last hours of television I've ever seen. Unfortunately hugely relevant.

Sex Education. Silly, in a good-natured way. I just wish everyone wasn't so incredibly posh.

Notable Articles

The Pandemic

'People are panic-buying cocaine': the drug dealer, spaceman, therapist and others on life after coronavirus. 16 very different people explain how life under Coronavirus has changed.

The Contrarian Coronavirus Theory That Informed the Trump Administration. An infuriating interview with Richard Epstein, a Professor at New York University School of Law, who Trump administration officials have been listening to for reasons I cannot understand.

If I Wrote a Coronavirus Episode. "Tina Fey, Mike Schur, and 35 more TV writers on what their characters would do in a pandemic." Transcendantly good.

This Pandemic Is Not Your Vacation. "All over the United States, people are fleeing urban areas with high infection rates for the perceived safety and natural beauty of rural areas. [...] The virus, some people have taken to saying, “does not discriminate.” But that’s not quite true. It is putting our class and racial hierarchies in harsh relief — systems that favor the rich and the globally mobile while declaring the work of so many of the working class “essential.” Wealth is the vector. And the economically precarious will suffer because of it — whether they’re cleaning the offices of the infected in New York or checking groceries in Blaine County, Idaho."

Apricot Stone Will FaceTime You to Recreate the Restaurant Experience at Home. "At the agreed-upon day and time, Ishkhanian calls via video chat: FaceTime, Duo, or Skype. Answer and you’ll see him standing at the restaurant next to a table set with water and wine glasses. Music plays in the background as he guides you through the menu and takes your order." I can't decide if this is weird or great. Maybe both?

The Americans defying Palm Sunday quarantines: 'Satan's trying to keep us apart'. America.

Coronavirus in New York: A paramedic's diary. "There's only one patient we've seen so far who I feel wasn't Covid-19 and that's because it was a suicide. Imagine: I was there and my brain felt relief. This person's dead and it's a suicide. I felt relief that it was a regular job."

The unkindest cut: Last call for a Zabar’s lox slicer. "“Look, Len,” he said. “I love you, but you’re over 90 years old and you’re in the group that is most susceptible to the virus and if you got it, if anything happened to you, I could never forgive myself.”"

California launches nation's first disaster relief fund for undocumented immigrants. "New $125m fund will support those ineligible for federal support, but who make up 10% of the state’s workforce, largely in essential services." I'm very grateful to live in a more compassionate state than most.

"It'll all be over by Christmas". "Trump is shooting for May 1st because he's been told the economy will take 6 months to recover, minimum, and he's shooting for the November election deadline. This is laughably optimistic, even if the pandemic had burned out by May 1st: we're in Greatest Depression territory already, the hospitality sector has crashed 75%, airlines have crashed 90%, etcetera. It's not going to be back to normal by November, even if the Fairy Godmother shows up and banishes the horrid virus with a wave of her wand. Period." Let's look the crisis in the face, rather than tell stories to ourselves.

The Media’s Coronavirus Coverage Exposes Its Ignorance About the Working Class. "A reporter who thinks they hold no positions is much more dangerous than one with strong opinions, because at least the latter might have a hope of understanding what they are reporting and why. Perhaps most dangerous of all is a reporter who sees the structures of capitalism—bosses wishing they could force their workers to work through a pandemic, workers still unable to feed their families without opened businesses, immigrants pitted against native workers—and sees them as an immutable and unchallengeable fact, as inevitable as the sunrise, and just as comforting."

Lockdowns flatten the “economic curve,” too. "Cities that locked down faster in 1918 bounced back better."

Sinking feeling. "I clung to the middle class as I aged. The pandemic pulled me under."

Media & Society

The Terror Of The Umpty Ums. A lovely, and surprisingly meta, Doctor Who short story from Steven Moffat.

The Character of the Doctor Is More Important to Me Than Doctor Who Will Ever Be. More Doctor Who - this is a great encapsulation of why the show means so much to me.

The Weirdly Enduring Appeal of Weird Al Yankovic. What an amazing portrait. I was super into Weird Al as a kid, and I still love his attitude and irreverence. I finally got to see him live about ten years ago, and he was a revelation.

Technology

Facebook Wanted NSO Spyware to Monitor Users, NSO CEO Claims. "Facebook representatives approached controversial surveillance vendor NSO Group to try and buy a tool that could help Facebook better monitor a subset of its users, according to an extraordinary court filing from NSO in an ongoing lawsuit."

Utah attorney general suspends state contract with Banjo in light of founder’s KKK past. "The Utah attorney general’s office will suspend use of a massive surveillance system after a news report showed that the founder of the company behind the effort was once an active participant in a white supremacist group and was involved in the shooting of a synagogue."

What’s Missing From Zoom Reminds Us What It Means to Be Human. "While we’ve discovered that in many cases it can, more importantly we’ve discovered that, regardless of bandwidth and video resolution, these apps are missing the cues humans use when they communicate. While we might be spending the same amount of time in meetings, we’re finding we’re less productive, social interactions are less satisfying and distance learning is less effective. And we’re frustrated that we don’t know why."

How a handful of Apple and Google employees came together to help health officials trace coronavirus. The fascinating story of how the contact tracing apps came to be.