Three and done.

Saturday, March 28th, 2020

It’s late on Saturday night, and I’ve spent a lot of today researching technical problems and resolutions of screens and display gamuts and type of connectors and so on and so on. (I think Sammy needs a new monitor. It both is and is not as simple as that sounds.) And who knew, right now screen prices are going up because folks are equipping work-from-home setups at a remarkable pace.

I just am not in the mood to plow though any of that any more. I wish I could do the Archaeofacts thing of two or three pictures, a line of copy, on the surface just kinda observational, but on second pass, deeply profound.

It’s a skill.

Boom. Chalk. Ahh, colorful, precise, attention-getting.

Aaagh! Mask. Monochromatic, discarded, portentious.

Third one! Another splash of color! Smeary! Energetic.

I’d like to thank the Poncey Highland neighborhood of Atlanta, just a few blocks from here, for being a constant source of visual interest and amusement, even during a quick walk down to the store to rebourbonize the house. G’night!

Skyrocket.

Friday, March 27th, 2020


There was unanimity of sentiment from the nation’s papers today, the last Friday in March, 2020. Job losses soar. They skyrocket. They have surged. They have done so with so much visual drama that newspaper graphics people played the spike large on the page, taking up most of a column.

If you’re connected with food, or entertainment, or anything involved with the social clustering of human beings, you can feel this—it’s probably old news to you—and more likely than not you have simply lost your job as your workplace has been shuttered. If you are one of the lucky, lucky few where your bosses have vowed to keep people on the payroll in some shape or form, then you have a thread or two of hope that you can come out the other side with a recognizable way of making a living.

Congress and the President, in what seemed like a glacial week-plus of finagling, finally passed a coronavirus relief bill that Speaker Pelosi will be the first to tell you is really only a preamble for the work ahead. It’s huge, and it will help some of the right people and a lot of corporate America that I have less human empathy for at the moment, but at least it’s done and the guy who got elected President attached his illegible sharpie-scrawl to it and it is done. Kind of sounds like they’re now headed for their respective bunkers, although Speaker Pelosi on MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow Show friday night sounded like she didn’t want to take any victory laps—even those surrounding her 80th birthday—until she and everyone can freely hug their loved ones wherever they are.

Sure wish them luck in that challenge.

Target achieved.

Thursday, March 26th, 2020

I rolled our pollen-coated car out of the driveway and went on a quick, efficient grocery/supplies run to a Target and Trader Joe’s here in intown Atlanta.

The streets of the city seemed not barren—without doing any traffic studies, I’d say there were maybe half as many cars as a usual weekday, which means that there were lots of cars, but no traffic jams, except where a construction project at Briarcliff and Rock Springs had one lane open, flaggers and cops running the traffic, and a big gaping hole in the center of the intersection (which seems to be related to sewers, or, y’know, pipes. Something.) Are people working from home? Boy, it’s hard to tell.

Target had a bunch of blue Xs spaced out along the floor from the cashiers to reinforce social distancing, and shoppers seemed to be playing by the rules, and giving each other the very definition of a wide berth while trying to remain cordial.

Trader Joe’s had a guy handing me a cart absolutely freshly wiped down (it smelled sanitizer-y) and admonished me that if I brought in our own bags (I did) then I should be prepared to do my own bagging (we always do.) The TJ inventory was very close to normal, and I scored the important things that we’ve made habitual in our normal intown Atlanta lives.

Target had absolutely no paper products—toilet paper or paper towels—but that wasn’t why I was there anyway (bags of coffee, mostly.) Groceries otherwise were hit and miss, but they did pretty much correspond to what the Target app said would be there at the store. As I rolled down North Druid Hills, I saw a big old Target truck turn into the lot. Paper?

Gas prices are absurdly low—$179.9 for regular. We have two vehicles with filled tanks and nowhere effectively to go, so, ok.

Workers at both places had smiles for me (and they are all working hard under crazy crazy conditions.) When the guy at Target asked “did you find everything you were looking for?” I just started laughing. He said “I know, we’re always supposed to ask.”

I got home and dragged the bags in and washed my hands and washed them again as Sammy looked over the haul.

@jcburns March 26, 2020 at 9:30 am

Why is this political?
Why can’t we say “we’ll do the things the smart people tell us to do, for as long as it takes.”
“It will be hard, but easier if we do it together.”
All of humanity needs our help.
Why is this political?

Survivor.

Wednesday, March 25th, 2020

Previously! On Survivor!

Yes, our content distraction this evening is (in part) the stalwart mainstay of broadcast television, CBS’s Survivor. This is season 40 of the show (since it airs twice a year, more or less).

It has a lot of that comfortable-old-shoe component, with a host and format largely familiar, if aged by the 20 years of airings. It’s also a weekly show that is taped on a far-off island significantly before air dates. In this case, we’re watching TV recorded in June of last year.

So it goes without saying, it’s a story with a lot of people in very close circumstances on a far-off island in a time before pandemic.

Yeah, kinda nice to divert. Kinda nice to pretend for 45 minutes or so that’s the reality in the world.

But we know better.

File footage.

Tuesday, March 24th, 2020

One of the things I’ve noticed since watching (arguably?) more television during our period of Staying At Home is how many commercials we’re seeing now contain footage from…back then. Before the crisis. before the great Distancing. The commercials, be they for cars, lawyers, prescription drugs or banks, show a delighted multicultural America hugging and hanging on each others’ arms as they walk down a crowded street or go off on a refreshing cruise.

Maybe only in the bast few days have I seen any ads themselves (unless you count news promos—network, cable, local) that discuss the new normal. One I saw today was for an Atlanta heating and air contractor, who wanted us to know three ways from Sunday that their crews practice distancing, are super-sanitary, and will wipe down everything they touch with gallons of sanitizer.

I picture these ad agencies and production companies with vast reserves of this sort of happy footage, asking themselves if they get to use it again in the months ahead.

I sure don’t know, but it might be as anachronistic as pre-9/11 episodes of shows that show families greeting and dropping their loved ones off at airport gates.

Battle lines.

Monday, March 23rd, 2020

As the battle (and why should it be a battle?) to disperse a big pile of money and relief to those who need it most goes on in Congress, I find myself arguing, jcbsplaining, and just plain trying to communicate with people (well, sometimes they’re people) on Twitter. Angry people. People who really don’t like those “demonrats.”

Well, let me be a bit more frank. I take this on myself, and I shouldn’t, for all sorts of mental health reasons, but the past several days when I could be learning new cool 3d modeling things, I am instead (I tell myself) speaking up for the working poor, for health care workers, for those maligned by the right’s very very broad brush.

And though I think of myself as someone who tries to follow enough of a spectrum of the American body politic (and even some Europeans where I can parse some of the language), I am blown away when this app opens a small door into a world that I don’t willfully turn away from, but clearly it’s outside of my day-to-day viewscape.

So I get some nasty comment from this one user on Twitter, ‘Coalonel‘ (no real name given.)

Like so many of these folks, his one-line biography is a secret decoder ring full of emojis:

Husband to 5⭐️DAR⭐️, DAD to 2 young ladies😇 and the Pretty Princess🤴🏻…….. 🏈is life🤙

And look at his 90 followers. Without their names, here are a handful of the bio lines:

Wife. Momma. Small Biz Owner. Speaker. Christ follower. Improv. Satire. Conservative.

TXT ME your name to stay updated 929-XXX-XXXX. ↓ Sub to my Podcast

Father🇺🇸Husband🇺🇸US Marine🇺🇸American🇺🇸Patriot🇺🇸

Video editor. http://MemeWorld.com contributor. I support President Donald J. Trump!

#ConservativeTHUG™ #RepubliCAN #liberaltearssipper #MAGAtron Pot Smoking Patriot

Campaign Manager for @realdonaldtrump 2020 Presidential Campaign. #MAGA #KAG #Trump2020

(yes, that last one’s Brad Parscale. Apparently he’ll follow anyone.)

This is the part of America that (apparently), if I followed just one or two of these folks on Twitter or created a Facebook account, would be the very political air I breathe every day. These are people that at my most empirical have to say are echoing ideas they’ve heard elsewhere (the bio lines give you a clue) and when those folks hear hey, no big deal if 3% of Americans die from this, then that’s what they say with as many exclamation marks as they can cram in. For them, socialism is a pure evil that only manifests on the Democratic side and powerful women leaders (again, Democrats) are “shrill”, “headstrong”, “bimbos.”

There’s a part of me that says I shouldn’t tune these people out. They’re people with bills to pay (health care bills mostly), kids to raise, fears and dreams. Car payments. Pickup truck payments.

They are as human as the people in Ireland, France, Italy, or Alabama that I follow.

But they’re also an embarassment to me as an American. So I try.

Fruitless picking.

Sunday, March 22nd, 2020

The title of my post three nights or so ago was “Picking fights.” I’m sitting here after a late afternoon of fiction watching (with an interesting documentary on typography thrown in) and I’m trying to have arguments with a mixture of idiots, zealots, and bots on Twitter. It’s like the 2016 campaign, but the stakes seem more…mortal.

Why (I ask myself) do I spend so much energy on such a fruitless pursuit?

I think the near real-time nature of the Twitterland gives me hope that one thing I write and push out there oh so quickly will touch a hardened heart and make them think a tiny bit more compassionately about their fellow human.

The power of ideas? I dunno.

* * * * *

Let me leave you with two or three of my browser tabs as I call it a night:

* * * * *

A Science magazine interview with Anthony Fauci. Somehow this quote is unsettling even as I have great respect for the guy: “I know, but what do you want me to do? I mean, seriously Jon, let’s get real, what do you want me to do?” You can imagine the question.

* * * * *

Harsh Steps Are Needed to Stop the Coronavirus, Experts Say in the New York Times, again by Donald G. McNeil, Jr, wise voice in the wilderness. Consider Extreme Social Distancing: “If it were possible to wave a magic wand and make all Americans freeze in place for 14 days while sitting six feet apart, epidemiologists say, the whole epidemic would sputter to a halt.”

* * * * *

One more from the NYT: Rupert Murdoch Put His Son in Charge of Fox. It Was a Dangerous Mistake. …which pretty much gives it to you in the headline.