Silver Linings

I’m becoming fascinated by the current moment in history: we are heading into a genuinely unknown situation and it feels like we’re paused on the edge of something, about to slip and go careening violently down into an abyss – or, perhaps, not.

There are people who are greeting this with stupidity and there are others who are staggering along with a wry quip. Since it doesn’t matter what we do, really, we may as well look at the bright side. Here’s my short list (feel free to contribute):

A meme I found on the internet

  • No more Emmys, Oscars, Golden Globes, etc.
  • No more French-style air-kissing greetings (I always slam my nose into the other person’s cheek)
  • Masks are not going to be fashionable now that they are practical
  • Professional football gets sidelined
  • Movie theaters, which have been going downhill for decades, probably have the final nail driven in their coffin
  • Airlines, which have been going downhill for decades, finally get to see how much “customer loyalty” they bought with their baggage fee-squeezing, foolish tiered service (“multi-platinum card holders board first, then gold crunch card…”) and seats that would be uncomfortable for a hobbit. They’re already asking for a bail-out, the big tough capitalists.
  • The Ark Park and Creation Museum are closed down and hopefully leaking money.
  • People are going to listen to virologists. Not right away – but when it’s all over, they will.
  • Handshaking – a stupid ritual – may be finally done.

That depletes my list.

And let me say: I know that the poor and working class are going to suffer the worst from this. There’s a good chance that the republicans will steal elections wildly using the coronavirus as an excuse. I hope that people who are disenfranchised and fucked over remember to thank their republican representatives and bosses appropriately. This is one of those things that brings out the best and the worst simultaneously and the worst are already running the show (and doing a fine job of it!)

I’ve got Leonard Cohen’s You Want It Darker on infinite repeat, which is probably not a great indicator of my mental state. I think I’ll cheer it up a bit by adding Bob Dylan’s A Hard Rain’s A Gonna Fall. Yeah, that’ll do it. What’s on your coronavirus music rotation?

We’re feeling pretty sorry for ourselves, but it’s really peanuts compared to what we inflict on others (Syria, Libya, Yemen, Iraq, Iran) – it’s not as though the North Koreans have sanctioned us by suspending all shipments of toilet paper.

As a replacement for handshaking, I use a Wu Tang-style covered fist bow. This bullshit about bumping elbows or feet: the point is to keep your distance and nothing says “keep your distance” like a martial arts bow.


  1. komarov says

    Well, if we’re that optimistic (spoke the misanthrope), any form of contact-greeting may finally go away to replaced by the Slight Wave or Curt Nod. A potential bad outcome might be the reintroduction of hats for tipping – mandatory, of course, lest you mark yourself as an asocial monster recognisable even from a distance. Merchants of fashion may already be conspiring to that end.

    I’m not at all optimistic about professional sports though. Don’t those famously produce concussions, long term injuries and, every so often, noisy and / or destructive mobs? What’s a little plague on top of that?

    What might genuinely suffer is mass transit. Particularly the public, local branches like busses and subways. In other words, the very things we genuinely need to address other catastrophies in the making.
    Airlines will be fine, however. There’ll be fewer of them, and they’ll be the big ones, which is good for (their) business. The big airlines are already much better equipped to cope with what lies ahead and, the cynic suspects, much more likely to get bailed out than the small ones, because more jobs or something. Eventually it’ll all be whittled down to [National Airways], for a limited list of countries that can still manage to tide NAW over the latest crisis.

    “God has two left hands”

    That… would explain a lot.

  2. says

    chigau – what’s the point of being a god if you can’t mix and match your limbs?

    One of the things I got to enjoy seeing was a right-winger on Twitter lose his shit and wanting to see China punished in some way because his March college basketball got cancelled.

  3. kestrel says

    “God has two left hands.”

    Oops! See, that’s why if you want to be an artist you study anatomy, kids.

    Love the idea of a martial arts bow. Here, everyone does this sort of jutting out of the chin while lifting the head thing to acknowledge or greet someone, although they are also big on hugging. That’s got to stop.

    My addition to the list of positive things: Pollution is going down by quite a lot.

  4. says

    A friend of mine works remotely (online writing, working in hostels for room and board) who moved to Sri Lanka a few months ago, still there now. At least she’s safe. Because of Sri Lanka’s violent civil war lasting 36 years (1983 to 2009), foreign corporations were hesistant to “invest in” (read: buy up and buy out) the country, thus business and tourist travel in and out is minimal. The war just may have saved the country from a massive outbreak.

    Sri Lanka has 59 cases as of today, double what it was a week ago. The government has put the island on lockdown for the next several days, but it’s far from the worst place to be.

    – – – – –

    Remember the 1982 NFL players’ strike? The US was desperate to have any football on TV and broadcast some Canadian Football League games in the US. And back in 1994 when the MLB season was delayed and then cancelled, the two AAA leagues (Pacific Coast and International) were broadcast regularly during summer and fall, including the playoffs and championships.

    That might happen again. Taiwan’s CPBL (AA to AAA baseball in quality) is delaying the start of the season, but plans to have a 120 game schedule starting in April. Sri Lanka’s Lankan Premier League still plans to start its season in August. Imagine Indian, British and SANZA fans tuning in to that.

    Desperate fans will watch anything, and I’ll bet desperate TV networks will pay for any live programming.

  5. chigau (違う) says

    Sorry. Without my reading glasses, it’s like I have two left eyes.

  6. sonofrojblake says

    Now is the time to get into watching cricket. Rain stops play all the time, so fans are used to watching repeats of classic matches instead of live coverage of a storm.

    Other upsides :
    Pollution is down.
    In possibly related news, my mother’s persistent cough that she’s had for about 30 wars that resisted /defied diagnosis or treatment has almost completely gone. Coincidence?
    Brexit means vaccines will reach the UK more slowly than they would otherwise have done. This will hugely disproportionately kill leave voters, proving karma is indeed a misogynist slur.
    I get to spend a lot more time with my 19 month old son, who has no clue that anything is wrong.
    I have a letter officially certifying that I am a key worker. My wife, who is an NHS nurse, doesn’t need one.

    A colleague observed that the list of key workers is long, and seems to include everyone. I observed that you’d be amazed how many people are stealing a living as digital media marketing consultants or similar, and those people can go fuck themselves.

    A reckoning followed both worlds wars. A similar reckoning may follow this.

  7. sonofrojblake says

    When I said 30 wars, I meant “years”… But now I look at it I was probably about right.

  8. springa73 says

    The main silver linings I can see are that

    1. People might be reminded of the value of vaccines, after seeing what it’s like to be hit with a new disease that we don’t have a vaccine for

    2. Perhaps listening to scientists about this health crisis might translate into listening more to scientists about other threats to humanity

    3. Companies and employees discover that more work can be done remotely, leading to long term drop in commuting and related pollution that long outlasts the pandemic

    4. In the US specifically, Trump’s inept early handling of the crisis makes it less likely that he’ll win re-election, and taints the entire Republican Party. This one is very doubtful, though – the people who have bought into supporting him don’t seem receptive to any evidence to the contrary.

  9. Sunday Afternoon says

    What’s on your coronavirus music rotation?

    When I’m sitting at the computer as I am now (either my own or for work, it’s just a question of which laptop is plugged into the docking station), I’m finding myself listening to a lot (it helps if you have a subtle subwoofer in your audio setup).

    Though for some reason, there is no piece following Bach’s Fuga in G minor (BWV 578) that just played. Perhaps they’re indicating that nothing can follow that – sheer perfection!

  10. lochaber says

    I was a bit dismissive of this earlier, based on the early reports, I didn’t think it was much more severe than the flu, and was just a lot of media panic and fearmongering…

    But, even before the shut downs and such, I was trying to wash my hands more frequently, more thoroughly, and be the first/last thing I did when leaving/arriving at home, work, etc., as well as trying to be more mindful of touching my face, and touching things in public.

    I’ve also never gotten the flu, so that probably doesn’t help my personal attitude/risk assessment…

    I’m primarily worried about how this is going to affect the poorer segment of the population (which is a pretty big segment…), but lately I’ve been hearing that there are some people clamoring for moratoriums, exemptions, and even direct financial relief, so hopefully something on that front happens quickly before people start going homeless and bankrupt.

    I’m also concerned about small businesses, and this is probably going to be a huge boon to and other huge corporations, at the expense of all the smaller businesses that can’t afford the losses.

    I do hope some good comes out of this, but I’m not convinced it will, or that it will be even close to the amount of bad that happens.

    Depending on how long these shut-downs carry on, I might be okay. I’m new enough at my current job that I only have something like ~7 hours of accumulated sick time, but they just approved ~3 weeks worth of admin leave for everyone affected by this. I could probably weather a couple weeks, maybe a month without pay and still make rent, but beyond that, I’m probably going to be in trouble. Although, at that point, I think most of the U.S. will be in trouble as well, so maybe there will be more incentives to do something about it… To bad I wasn’t still at my prior job, I had like 3 or 4 months of accumulated sick leave there…

  11. jimmf says

    I don’t get too upset over the current calamity, but “We’ve Been Through Some Crappy Times Before” by The Austin Lounge Lizards ( has buoyed me up since 2016. It’d take a month of Dr. Demento if I had to suffer through any more Leonard Cohen. Not disputing his brilliance, I just don’t like pedaling into a headwind.

  12. says

    Every time people mention the Ark Park closing I can’t shake the feeling that it probably loses less money closed than it does open. The whole thing is a grift anyway, I expect they’re glad of an excuse to not pay staff and utilities for a few months.

  13. lorn says

    While not accepted by everyone I think it is well established by economists who study retail that in terms of square footage retail space is massively overbuilt. Compared with other western economies we have somewhere between 30% and 50% too much retail space available. Ironically, and counter intuitively, prices and rents have not fallen to keep the space filled. It has to do with the terms and assumptions in loans taken out to build these spaces. They simply can’t rent for less per square foot without having the loans called. The builders/developers have kicked this can down the road for years by maintaining the illusion that the assumptions will play out, and sometimes offering the too high rent with other compensations. It isn’t a play they can maintain indefinitely.

    I suspect that the present economic hardships related to the Trump virus are going to become the trigger, reason, opportunity for folding. Look for the previous years of small and medium business closures to explode. Commercial real estate, and banks, are going to have to deal with having to write down the losses. This is as good a time as any. If everyone is hurting they think few will note losses. Or that several decades worth of expansion and capital growth has been a hollow illusion. Rents, land, and capital are going to take a painful but well deserved beating.

    Unfortunately, as usual, the poor and less well connected are going to get the worse of it. Marginal retail businesses, and many that people are assuming were doing well enough, are going to go down and simply not reopen when the Trump virus passes. Taking the bailout money and running if they can get away with it. They are going to leave a lot of destruction in their wake. Unemployment being the more important issue.

    I expect a whole lot of empty strip malls, malls, and developments. Communities hollowed out and left to rot. Local and state governments left with huge bills for infrastructure repairs and upkeep all coming due at the same time.

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