Monday, August 24, 2020

Bloodbath, South Carolina

It was only in the twilight,
When he felt that you had passed the test,
The now-empty bottles of choice liquor,
And the four and a half hours of roots reggae,
That he would admit that he was a prodigal son
Of Bloodbath, South Carolina.

"Raised on the ironic side of the tracks",
He would then clarify for you,
"And steeped in the muddy blues"
That last one delivered matter of fact.

He would keenly watch for the contours of your reaction,
The bloodlit eyes squinting as he nursed his drink.
I must have passed, as I didn't even blink,
And merely asked if he went back home often.

I guess I didn't realize that some people
Ran away from where they came from,
Never mind the curse of the hometown magic
My own roots are now located somewhere in the Atlantic
Not too far from the shores of the Gulf of Guinea
An exiled soul, rather, chased from the land of Aburi

Instead we turned the conversation back to music
Enjoying the bass response on the Tannoy loudspeakers
His favourites came either from the chitlin circuit
On the one hand, or some Caribbean island on the other
Roy C, first and foremost, was a touchstone singer
With his tales about life in Infidelity, Georgia
Burning Spear's Man in the Hills album
Would be on constant repeat, and perhaps the obvious dub plates:
Old Slavery Days or that old faithful refrain
Repeated twice to punctuate the sad claim

No one remember old Marcus Garvey
No one remember old Marcus Garvey

Maroons and borderlands were the order of the day
Any fences erected were for mere display
A reflexive disdain of The System's authority
Our conversations returned inevitably to matters of identity

Like his best friend, Bill, whose second home
Was just a stone's throw away
On the outskirts of Slaughter, Texas
He was quiet as it's kept,
Full of wariness towards outsiders.

Bill, tall, broad-shouldered with his long red mane,
Would only share his last name, Sherman,
When he was comfortable with you, and
"Never in North Carolina, you know,
The old man was rough on them in that campaign"

And the memory hadn't faded one hundred and fifty years on.
Such careless whispers could get you burnt by the sun
That was a thing they shared, a kind of identity crisis
As if the sins of the great-great-grandfathers were visited on the sons
What more someone who had flirted at one stage
On the internet, with a recruiter from ISIS
They'd drop these harrowing pearls
In the middle of the nighttime conversations
Again observing your pupils for involuntary reactions.

The stain of Bloodbath, of course, lay much much deeper
Than even Bill's ancestor's civil war march of the grim reaper.
The river turned crimson and overflowed its banks
Its living memory would never get Hollywood's chance
Like Antebellum, Mudbound and Rosewood,
He weaved a tale of unglamourous and relentless lynching
There was no saving grace, and no stich up by avenging
Watchmen, rescuing set upon folks from Tulsa's Wall Street
They were quick to call Bloodbath, South Carolina ancient history,
And there was no small amount of irony,
For those blood vessels that came to rest on Sordid Creek
Belied the remains of a mass gathering of lost souls,
And presaged a strike for appropriated black gold.




Come Smoke My Herb from Meshell came up next,
Conversation turned to our comfort women
And long ago moments of bliss.
"I swear man, that woman could kiss,
I didn't care about anything else,
I would still die for those lips".

Man, trust him to raise the tenor of the conversation
Just after I had quoted him that Twi proverb
"Ababaawa animuonyam ne ne to"
A young woman's reputation lies in her buttocks.
He continued with a sharper retort,
Steady sipping quinine tonic on the rocks
"You guys keep going on about matters of ass.
I'm telling you, back in my town, we have slightly more class.
You wannabe hustlers talking about big pimping
While the reality of a flesh and blood woman
Would make you flee from her garden of Eden".
Touché, I was bloodied in this game of the dozens
Still, nothing I had said came close to barbershop heresy
I wore my mask of fundamental unseriousness for my own reasons.

At length, he got back on track talking about his town's legacy
How you couldn't be wedded to a generation's insanity
Those scrolls he laid out had words written in blood and sin
He deciphered them for us, disdaining the town's eponymous gloom
I began to understand the complexities, that he was no cartoon
A burdened man like him only moved to his own tune
With wist and fortitude, drawing outside the prescribed lines
He lived with an outlaw's sensibility and attitude
A soul forlorn in his fortress of solitude
He preferred prickly cactus to a well-manicured lawn
And so I kept on listening until the crack of dawn
Shooting the breeze with these two children of men.

The soundtrack turned, and we moved away from the Jordan River
To cross the desert of Black Soul, we paused and shivered,
Then, my goodness, shuffle serendipity once again took hold
Her ethereal voice came back on over the futuristic dub undertones
Forgiveness and Love fittingly played for Messers Ebony and Ivory
An odd couple burdened by their parallel, intimate legacies

"Caution, take heed of our insatiable appetites
For even the lion can be brought down by a mosquito's bite
The victors may well write the initial tale with their spoils and glory
But look at you, only a century later, debating these fraught histories.
Narrative closure is an all too human necessity
Storytelling is a given in the affairs of men."
These were my parting comments as I left the two of them
"The tales that we weave will outlast our own timelines.
Bloodbath, South Carolina is a region of the mind."


Gold Coast by Kagyah (2002)

Bloodbath, South Carolina, a playlist


As usual a soundtrack for this note, a musical conversation, perhaps, on the legacies of men.



See previously: Touch

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Tuesday, August 18, 2020

The Second Wave

I have an odd mind. When I read that studies suggested only short-term immunity to our covidious predicament, and pointed to the prospect of a renewed onslaught, the first thing I did was to start a sequel to my herd immunity playlist. Herewith then The Second Wave...

The first track was obvious, The Second Time Around by Shalamar. You can't go wrong with Jody Watley, Jeffrey Daniel and Howard Hewett and their sublime brand of danceable soul. The vocal arrangment, the call and response, the irresistible rhythm guitar, the infectious bass, the production make everything about the song close to perfect. I think of it almost as a twin to Chic's Good Times, but referencing Chic's opus would be argumentative for the purposes of the playlist I had in mind. No, Shalamar it is, and maybe even the extended version fits the bill here.

That previous evening, Questlove's second night tribute to Jam and Lewis had been my pandemic soundtrack and, with the Minneapolis Sound in mind, the next song was also obvious: High Hopes by S.O.S. Band. Apart from beat matching quite suitably with Shalamar's opus, The S.O.S. Band were named quite felicitously in light of an impending second wave. Clearly we have seen some magical thinking by policy makers. The S.O.S. Band ride in on the white horse at the last minute dispensing High Hopes to all, the prelude to a wishful thinking soundtrack.

Then things got complicated, Darn That Dream clearly needed to follow the opening soul salvo, if only to provide respite from the upbeat mood, and inject a touch of magical realism. Darned dreams in opposition to delay/deny decision-making and dereliction of duty from our dubious dictators. But then, which version of Darn That Dream should get priority? After a good ten minutes of thought, I went with Dexter Gordon's version, and I should explain. Miles Davis's from the Birth of the Cool sessions would hit it on the nose too squarely. True, I'm fond of both Nancy Wilson's (backed by The Cannonball Adderley Quintet) and Dinah Washington's renditions (Dinah's jam - pun intended, came complete with Clifford Brown's saxophone stylings) but they both reeked of wine-soaked blues. It was tough, you couldn't argue with Ella Fitzgerald take, what with Nelson Riddle's string arrangments; has anyone ever objected to Ella in history? I was stumped, but at length, however, I decided on Dexter, for he was a beast during his 1960s Blue Note run; the One Flight Up session, recorded in Paris, is incomparable to my ears. This version of Darn that Dream combines regret and wist in equal measure. As a bonus, Coppin' The Haven from the same album is modal perfection.

2nd Wave by Surface was next. The entire album seemed appropriate when contemplating the prospect of a second wave. Again, it was difficult, but I forced myself to pick a single track and went with I Missed. The chorus: "I missed. I must admit" is apt. I wish that many who messed up during the first wave would simply admit it and move forward and let those who have expertise do their job. As the wise Kodjo Crobsen was fond of noting as things kept going bad in Ghana's history, "At this point, subsequent horrific events are still reversible". Observers are worried.

the second wave

Thinking things through, Anticipation by Dazz Band would be thematically and musically compatible to kick off the b-side. It features the mid-80s production values that erstwhile funk bands adopted as they flirted, first with disco, and then with boogie. Funk bands from Cameo through Kool & the Gang and Earth, Wind & Fire all went through this - man's got to eat. And the chorus is contagious:

Do I hear the sound of anticipation?
Hold on, cause I'm coming back to you.

Anticipation by The Bar-Kay's would have to be on the reserve team as it was simply too mellow - a sad fate for a bonafide classic slow jam. DJ Krush's Anticipation trip-hop instrumental would come in for those late nights as we get ready to watch the numbers from daily news, or whatever covid tracker we follow.

Woo Hah!! Got You All in Check by Busta Rhymes hit a trifecta of serendipity for the playlist. Namely:

  1. Woo Hah was in aural proximity to Wu Han - a case of onomatopoeic delight.
  2. The "I got you all in check" catchphrase was doubly ironic especially if you interrogate the "you" in question.

    Is Busta rapping from the covidious perspective? Is he the clump of viral RNA seeking solely to reproduce? Or is the "you" rather humanity, those held in check by faithless leadership and their dubious preparations?

    Or is it the reverse, should we construe it as a hopeful soundtrack? Are we all New Zealander, Singaporean or Vietnamese Busta Rhymes who now have the coronavirus in check?

  3. The song features the ever memorable Ol' Dirty Bastard and is the best track of The Coming album. The album's title makes for a perfect segue from Anticipation while embodying rapture and, depending on your perspective, the dread of the end times or apocalypse. The fierce drum track also leads the way to the next item of business.

1,000 Deaths by D'Angelo seamlessly slides in the Leader of the New School's wake. The muddied militaristic drums, the lyrical perspective of the cannon fodder, the essential worker on the frontlines, the soulful vocals buried in the mix, the afrofuturist funk, that electrifying guitar solo at the end, all these things underscore the point:

The US has been more or less averaging 1,000 deaths during the first wave of this coronavirus pandemic even before the onset of the flu season.

Beyond the outrage, and the human cost of the pandemic is infuriatingly outrageous, D'Angelo's tour to support the Black Messiah album was quite appropriately named: The Second Coming. Perhaps I could pick further tracks from it, I'm spoiled for choice, Prayer? Ain't That Easy?, Til it's done?. Ah, dilemmas. Songs like The Charade were the initial soundtrack for the Black Lives Matter movement, and the global wave of protests following George Floyd's murder have been a factor in life in a covidious time.

the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2

Once Bitten Twice Shy by Vesta Williams is the only logical choice for the next song in our playlist. Those Americans lucky enough to survive until November's election will no doubt have Vesta Williams in mind as they try to cast their ballot. Will the death cult fund the post office to allow them to vote by mail, or will they have to run the gauntlet of in-person voting? True it has been done, South Korea and Singapore have managed two rounds of elections, after all, during this covidious interlude. And therein lies the crux of the matter. Both the US and South Korea recognized their first coronavirus cases on the same day. The trajectory of the two countries speaks for itself (302 total deaths in South Korea as I'm writing this and well, the USA is losing that many people every few hours). There's considerable collateral damage to American exceptionalism.

Vesta's message also speaks to those countries that had to deal with the first SARS pandemic, and the MERS disaster, the Ebola and other epidemics. They all knew that you couldn't afford the human costs without a serious reaction to a pandemic, and, in East Asia especially, their emergency preparedness was second to none. Culturally, the response to those earlier pandemics was adopting the norm of universal mask wearing. Structurally many countries went for resilience and adaptability. There was the propensity to heed public health interventions that humanity has learned through painful experience are necessary adaptations to daily life. We all need to heed the lessons of The Mosquito Principle.

Sidenote: apropos bitten... We had a serpentine visitor at our front door on the 4th of July - the consensus on Facebook was that this was a Texas rat snake, probably non-poisonous, who was simply disturbed by the fireworks. Most of the American friends seemed to take it as a good omen, a snake that would deal with various pests in the vicinity. Most of the African contingent recommended vigilance, a stick or club, and swift retaliatory action. Different strokes for different folks, cultural relativism perhaps.

snake at the door

Sidenote the second: Vesta also kicked things off in the Rent is Due playlist, she was a message singer evidently, and it pays to listen to her closely.

Vesta's presence in this playlist is primarily for reasons of avoidance. Luther Vandross would normally come in with his version of The Second Time Around, but he also has the following chorus in I Won't Let You Do That To Me which seemed more on topic

The first time, a mistake
Second time, a bad decision
Third time, there won't be one
'Cause I won't let you do that to me

My job was basically done at that point, Ahmad Jamal Trio performed both The Second Time Around and Darn that Dream back to back in the Live At The Blackhawk album, and that seemed to round things out quite well. Throw in a little bit of 'Ol Blue Eyes himself, Frank Sinatra, and a touch of Fleetwood Mac (Peter Green's death stings), and we were all set. The rest was organizing the various remixes and live and extended versions that one could throw in to the mix to spice things up, as one tends to do when you are in the grip of musical obsession.

The second thought, as it were, was a vigorous internal debate, and it wasn't about politics, public health or prognostication, no, rather it was about whether the playlist should be called The Second Wave or, more properly, The Second Coming. The latter of course would relate this notion to my ongoing series that echoes the words of William Butler Yeats's magnum opus, the one that Chinua Achebe would echo so memorably. For indeed, I have only dealt with Yeats's Second Coming in one of the hundred odd variations on the theme of Things Fall Apart I have attempted, and obliquely at that: The Game of the Rough Beast. Perhaps it is just as well, my take on that beautiful piece of poetry was that we should interrogate who is writing the script. All in good time, I suppose I shall expand on that thought at a later time. I leave the question out there: who is writing the script about these covidious times?

When you think about the second wave of a new disease that we have barely characterized, to which humanity has no immunity, you can only prepare yourself for the worst. I submit it is best to do everything to mitigate the effects, for the cost of the pursuit of herd immunity is measured in precious human lives. Often, in a tsunami or say in earlier influenza epidemics, the second wave has proved to be more deadly than the first, a sobering prospect. This notion rhymes with Frank Sinatra's notion that

Love is lovelier the second time around
Just as wonderful with both feet on the ground

Upon reflection, I believe I made the right decision to deal with the reality of The Second Wave first, The Second Coming will have to wait.

the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2

The Second Wave, a playlist


Do let me know what you think of the soundtrack to this note. I'm quite proud of it, if you don't mind my saying.

This note is part of a series: In a covidious time.


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Thursday, August 13, 2020

A Splinter of Ice

There is a splinter of ice in the heart of a writer. I watched and listened. There was something which one day I might need: the woman speaking, uttering the banalities she must have remembered from some woman's magazine, a genuine grief that could communicate only in clichés.

— Graham Greene, A Sort of Life
"All my companions but not myself". Greene observes before arriving at his notorious image of writerly detachment...

This is the retrospective expression of a writer’s ambivalence. The world has come suddenly apart, split in two, into the inhabited and the observed.

Julian Evans on the Graham Greene's worldliness and moral ambiguity

I was reminded of Graham Greene's quote as I found myself mining my own grief this past week, as a kind of exorcism by prose and poetry. There was an initial residue of conflict as I started writing my testimony. But then I acquiesced, and made my peace with it, for I have long been afflicted with the journalistic impulse. The words came easily, and I poured my soul into my tribute; I was told the end result was moving and much appreciated. A few days later, the prescribed ceremonies took place. By necessity, I could only watch from afar, so I simply observed and, while watching, wrote the following...


What more when one could view the spectacle
Of a Ghanaian funeral in a covidious time?
You could escape from your corporate battles,
And join in the trans-Atlantic mourning
Further, it was made so easy for you on that Saturday morning,
A WhatsApp message, one click, and a live stream appeared online.

And so you got a glimpse of what it meant as you had read
"All COVID-19 protocols and directives will be strictly observed"
But if the preacher's wife dies, it can hardly be a small affair,
Let alone for a woman as remarkable as her.

dela-funeral-01

The images came forth.
This was your third zoom funeral
First London, then Philadelphia
This time the service and burial
Would be held at Sakumono in Accra
The previously onerous funeral restrictions that we'd suffered
Had just been lifted throughout Ghana

In the church they observed the dress code, it was quite the sight
The shimmering white lace and other fabrics in black and white
And the masks, you could see the sanitizer stations
Even as you caught the occasional glimpse of your relations

dela-funeral-03

But then you'd notice the occasional few
Whose masks had slipped, sitting in the pews
It's no use wearing face shields and masks, all that money spent
It just takes one infected mourner to make this a superspreading event.

dela-funeral-08

Thankfully they hadn't hired the dancing pallbearers
But this crew seemed like they were working up to it
To the eyes of this exiled chief mourner.
Who knows with this kind of practice, one day they'll catch the holy spirit

dela-funeral-06

You noticed that everyone's natural impulse to touch
Had to be curtailed, it was all too much
And beyond the prevailing masks worn, styled with the church's logo,
The parade of unnatural public mourning wasn't bringing much relief
Perhaps it was best to be 6,000 miles away, offscreen with your private grief.

The only hugs that you observed in the hourlong broadcast
Were of a mother and daughter, your aunt and cousin.
Even then, you could see the pointed eyes on them
Why are they breaching the new normalcy?
Before understanding prevailed,
And the critical mourners saw reason
How you yearned to be there hugging them yourself,
You tried, but the screen held fast.

dela-funeral-13-akua-susie

But then, you couldn't help yourself, you're a writer
And you hearkened back to Graham Greene's splinter
For in your watching, you made sure you snatched a few pearls
These are the scribbled wages of a detached observer
Even as indelible images of grief pierced your retina
There you were thinking that "I might get another stanza":

dela-funeral-16-grief

My aunt, I hadn't realized it was the night of your marriage
31st December 1981
That came the military coup that would cause us all such damage
Could it really be that you, ever since, had to celebrate that strife?
Irony is the key register of African life


See also: Dela


A Spinter of Ice, a playlist


As usual a soundtrack for this note, a musical meditation perhaps on detachment and solitude and the obsessive ironies of the creative process.

See also: The Joy of Small Things

This note is part of a series: In a covidious time.


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Saturday, August 08, 2020

After Tom Sawyer

The fence was in a state of disrepair
A household with some children going crazy with stir
The self isolation blues reminded one of Tom Sawyer
Inspiration struck: cue a one-click order
Some paint was duly delivered a few days later
You would have liked to tip Amazon's essential worker
But the software's design favored capitalism over labour
But you know, it's really not a lot of money to spend
Further, the property values will work out in the end
Maybe we'll foster some Picassos or Da Vincis
Or rather our own Wizs, Glovers and El Anatsuis
We might even discover a pot of black gold
These minor art pieces, perhaps, a prelude to riches untold
Back to basics, Nyame had suggested, it's about nuts and bolts
The cement of society by way of Home Depots
A saving grace, and a morning's fun activity
Behind the yam, a respite from the outside agony
The memories here are painted in colors at the rainbow's end
Fence painting as a covidious dividend.

After Tom Sawyer... in a covidious time...

Further Reading


  • The Restraint of Beasts by Magnus Mills
    I enjoyed the bleakest humour in this absurd tale of the alienation of work, a perfectly observed fable about the cultural dissonance of life between England and Scotland. If Colson Whitehead wrote the definitive book about elevator inspectors, Magnus Mills is the Tolstoy of the fence installation trade.
  • Fences by August Wilson
    This play was the work of a master and stands out even among his considerable oeuvre. Parenting is a fencewalk. The later movie, featuring Denzel Washington and Viola Davis, is a labour of love. That "I ain't got to like you scene" stands in the pantheon.

After Tom Sawyer, a playlist


When conjuring a soundtrack for this note, I could only think of one song to start and end it. Mandrill was a fearsome funk band and a hard act to follow. Fencewalk is their magnum opus to my ears.

See also: Colors, a playlist

Previously: Nuts and Bolts

Note: a Harry Potter motif was a later addition, The 9 year old insisted on a departure from the original maternal suggestion. Needless to say. I approved of this redirection.

This note is part of a series: In a covidious time.


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Tuesday, August 04, 2020

In A Covidious Time

in a covidious time

A few curious readers spotted me collecting various fragments on the web over the course of this covidious interlude, and a couple pointedly asked what I had in mind. I would have thought that the title rather gave the game away, but I might as well admit I've been mulling a series to collect the toli I've been curating about the new normalcy. Oh, I hear you say, but you're still going on about your Things Fall Apart series 14 years after that weeklong exercise started. How many variations can you come up with, man? And now, another one? Well, this time I'll thought I'd go with lots of photos to keep things moving, and playlists too - they're always popular soothers. You know, eschew the arch concept, aim for brevity, short cuts, slices of life and impressionistic entertainments. In any case, back when I started this collection in earnest in March, Mr Trump was promising an Easter reopening of the US economy. Thus you have presidential assurance that this will be a brief interlude, many people are saying this. There's bound to be a time limit on this situation, and you will be returned to your regular programming in short order, so I've been told. Herewith then, some musings on life in a covidious time...

The New Normalcy

April 8 2020 is as good a marker as any to lay down as the start of the new normalcy. That was a day of the formal relaxation of the restrictions imposed on the community that had borne the initial brunt of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. The rest of the world was comforted by this development but, as the images emerged on our screens, we all got a sense that a few things had changed, and perhaps for good. The headline that piqued my interest read Exit from Wuhan.

Exit from Wuhan

Things are back to normal at Wuhan airport apparently. There was a visible sense of relief after 76 days of lockdown ended and restrictions on movement were relaxed. Still, there was a new aesthetic on display.

Years ago, while singing the West Nile Blues, I "welcomed the United States to the fun of the Third World", bemoaning, as I did then, the state of my own country of birth, where we were simultaneously living in 3 different centuries. The new normalcy that we got a glimpse of from Wuhan and other places pointed to a similar kind of dialectic. The virus would set the timeline, and there would be a wide spectrum of responses. Different countries and communities would be living different realities simultaneously. You could envision any number of futures depending on the competence of your public health response, the political and economic choices your leaders made, the evolution of the virus and its underpinning, the biology in short, and, as always, luck. It was an all-consuming simultaneous global experience, yet, as ever, everything was local.

Parts of Wuhan and New Zealand, Vietnam, Taiwan and South Korea would now be the First World, the first countries to control the disease and return to a constrained normalcy. In April, one could foresee parts of the US becoming the Lombardy or Catalonia of just weeks past, or even Wuhan of the February timeframe. American lockdowns had barely begun, and indeed the great Northeast cities were beginning to suffer in earnest; New York would become the most worrying hotspot. From my Austin, Texas vantage point, however, I hadn't really noticed much change in behavior, and only middling adherence to social distancing. Certainly there was nothing like the rigor imposed in China and other countries; there was no similar mobilization.

indian hairdresser in a covidious time

By the end of May, perhaps encouraged by Trump's example in the US, not to mention The Grand Reopening of Texas, countries like India, Israel and South Africa were relaxing their own lockdowns in earnest. Hairdressers in India were wanting to get back to business and The Grand Reopening of India seemed to be on track. Again, the visuals coming out of India seemed to indicate a more serious attitude towards the disease than in the US even though the country didn't have the capacity and resources of the more developed nations. But there was a dissonance between those parts of that society that were ready to reopen, and those that had been quite literally left behind. The plight of the 100 million+ migrant workers stranded by Modi's abruptly announced lockdown couldn't be denied. India's Supreme Court would step in to remind the government about its responsibilities to its people, ordering state governments and union territories to send migrants home and provide employment. The court enjoined them further

to withdraw any complaint or prosecution lodged against migrant labourers who had set out on foot from big cities for their native villages to escape starvation, unemployment and disease during the pandemic.

The court said "society as a whole was moved by their miseries and difficulties".
indian hairdresser in a covidious time

But that was India, the world's largest democracy, "moved by their miseries", what about the rest of the world? The obvious solution, pay everyone to stay home until we get everything under control is far too obvious to contemplate. There were the examples of Denmark and other countries that did the social democratic thing of supporting the labor market by furloughing and supporting basic income and maintaining the labor market, keeping workers connected to the employers. The American decision was to let unemployment reign.

Politicians and leaders in many societies bristled at the loss of control in the face of the disease; it was a matter of power and the raw exercise of it. It was quite intolerable to have mere epidemiologists and technocrats taking the stage and leading the response. It was the uncertainty of it all. Epidemiologists are a special breed, they are congenitally incapable of giving you a straight answer; they speak of exponentials, probabilities, and weighing risk. The most eloquent always hedge their bets, and will invoke the "balance of probabilities"; uncertainty is their daily bread. Then, there are their shifting judgements as the science evolves, as it must do. It's frankly a messy business at the best of times. Politicians like slogans and do well with action plans, not with uncertainty, and definitely not with these shifting sands. Capitalists don't like to see labor have a minute to gather and consider their options, they'd rather keep turning the screws. The daily grind of pre-Covid life didn't leave time for much contemplation but the global pause is revelatory. We all have nothing better to do than contemplate.

You would have a mild mannered Ethiopian doctor at the World Health Organization with a name like Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus imploring you to test, test, test, implying that you should mobilize your economy and health care system in a certain direction. What gall, such people needed to be put in their place. Four months later, you can still have leaders saying that "if you test more, you'll have more cases". Implying a kind of gotcha that wholly misses that point that if you don't know where the bombs are, you can hardly defuse or mitigate them, that it is pointless to drive out of your driveway into the traffic if improvised explosive devices are exploding every few intersections during your commute (or if their analog, superspreading events, are occuring all over the community). Perhaps there's a certain intelligence behind those recommendations, they are a challenge that should be embraced. But well, amateur epidemiology has never been a crime in human history. We are finding out in real time, however, that nostalgia and wishful thinking can be fatal diseases.

indian hairdresser in a covidious time

But enough about the things that fall by the wayside, the cracks in the cement of society. All these are being heartily exposed by the actions of those who fail to heed the lessons of The Mosquito Principle. There's already a surfeit of contemplation in our covidious present that I need not add more to the pile. I continue to hope that this will be as advertised, a brief interlude, and I am rather resolved to capture a few thoughts about life in this time. I also retrospectively nominate some of previous notes published on the theme of the ongoing pandemic for this collection - albeit these earlier pieces are more earnest. Going forward though, you should expect more emphasis on the slices of life and the bite-sized triumphs. In any case, welcome to the new normalcy.


In A Covidious Time


The phantom thread of greed lies at the heart of the matter
Uneasy rests the soul of a society reliant on money culture
Their "human capital stock" is held hostage until they yield
The prize is to hold out for corporate liability shields

The threat is of forced evictions, and ultimately, starvation
Honor and dignity absent in the strange architecture of misdirection
A conscious choice, yet it reeks of amateur epidemiology
The social disease here is a curious free market ideology

Wishful thinking and mixed metaphors, their magic realism
The disaster profits and seduction of shell game capitalism
Manifest Destiny and its favorite cousin, Social Darwinism
The propaganda holds that the victims are themselves to blame
America's real herd immunity is to shame


Rent is Due, a playlist


I was going to start with a covidious playlist but I think it is more timely to focus on the economic insecurity that is currently focusing the minds of many around the world. In the US, the political class is willing to hold millions of lives hostage, and force Faustian pacts that no one should face. We should be clear that it is a choice - and most other societies have chosen otherwise. In any case less talk more music, rent is due.

In A Covidious Time - Series Index


Slices of Life

Creature Comforts

Internal Displacements

Backstories

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