tell me more

Red alert, day 71. Lockdown, day 61.

Friday of spring Bank Holiday weekend in the UK, Helluntai weekend in Finland [1] and Memorial Day weekend in the US. Today I met T in the park for a chat again. There were some other small groups meeting – families, dog walkers, flower sketchers – but quite scattered. Ipswich Borough Council has sent out an e-mail setting out once again the blurry lines for interaction as the weather tempts people outside:

What is missing from this list? Masks. The kind of mask regulation we are seeing in my blended, semivirtual, Anglo-Euro-American space is local and privatized and tentative: Sajid Javid has proposed mask requirements for London transport; shops and workplaces may be able to require masks for entry but it is by no means widespread. I saw only a couple of masks in my hour out in Ipswich, which included a shopping stop.

Suspicion of face coverings is fairly deep seated in our society and I’m sure there are or will be cultural studies of Covid masking citing bank robbery traditions as well as, on the civil liberties side, V for Vendetta, Pussy Riot and the niqab. I remember a review of Star Wars years ago pointing out the code that “the good guys have their faces hanging out in plain view,” while the bad guys, in particular the Stormtroopers, are masked. For our health, we need to finally get over this. If you’d like to normalize variation in dress or confound everyday surveillance, that’s a side benefit.

Trump has been photographed for the first time this week wearing a mask, a plain black one. Twitter is making jokes about redesigning masks to be more acceptable masculine wear. It is true that most of the masks on social media are fancy fabric and made by women. The mask I just got from Etsy is one of those neck sleeve masks, plain black fading to a navy geometric print, can be worn either way up, chic and goes with everything. The main problem is that the polyester fabric is going to be very hot in the summer.

On the morning social Zoom, two people met up in person on camera for a book handover, which was exciting for everyone else. Some other Zoomers had just had their first takeaway coffee and rolls in two months. Small breweries and pubs are reported to be doing parking-lot business in boxed and bottled beer. People also said they had been hearing ice cream trucks, which seems like exactly the kind of operation that could spread the virus, but I guess no more so than handing out food from a restaurant.

If I had not had prior commitments, I could have been watching a Zoom thesis defense in Finland. People who did watch said it was Zoom-bombed and had to be restarted. Who are these people who bomb Zooms? one of the spectators asked on Facebook. Would they have run naked and screaming through the live event? Yes. Yes they might have. It was called streaking when I was a child.

Facebook is using remote working as a way to cut salaries of employees living in cheaper locations, which is a) a violation of equal pay for equal work; and b) a barrier to mobility, or savings, or whatever you want to do with any surplus value of labor you can carve out to keep.

Tourism in Japan dropped 99.9% in April to 2,900 travelers, its lowest in 56 years. Tokyo is planning to subsidize tourism for a bit once the world opens up. Following.

[0] Tell Me More is also the title of the second volume of memoirs by Fred Archer, a Melbourne hotel worker who was a friend of my mother’s. I think either he or his wife was a former patient from her nursing years.
[1] Yesterday was Helatorstai, and I have never been able make any more literal sense of these names than Hella Thursday and Hella Sunday – or, whose fershlugginer idea was it to close workplaces on Thursday and open them compensatorily on Saturday, because that’s what Finnish employment law said should happen. In practice, of course, people took a four day weekend.

Posted on by Diana ben-Aaron
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