Thursday, March 26, 2020

Corona relief (sort of), in literature

For those of you idle enough to be browsing blog pages during our corona crisis, welcome to our site! 

The site is germ free, but not wiped clean, because, to pass the time in which you are forced to stay put in your house, reading blog posts instead of something more useful to do, here are some relevant reading suggestions:

1.  Albert Camus' The Plague.  Takes place in North Africa, and relates what happened when the country was stricken by a rodent-borne plague.  A short, readable, sobering tale.  Available of course, in English translation

2.  Daniel Defoe's  A Journal of the Plague Year, published in the 1700s, about what happened in England in the 1600s when the plague struck.  Apparently somewhat fictionalized, but still sobering, diary-like account.

3.  Boccaccio's Decameron.  Light relief, as a series of tales are told in turn by members of a group of young people holing up in the countryside outside of Florence as they flee the plague in Italy. 

Thursday, March 19, 2020

On Reappearing.....

Holly has done her typical great job of Mermaiding, during which time we have moved from State College, in central Pennsylvania, to western Massachusetts, near Amherst.  We have close friends here, including an also-retired anthropologist from UMass whom we've known for decades.  We hope to resume regular posts very soon.  But unpacking takes precedence!  Where the h*** is that cord and plug that we need for this keyboard?

Unsurprisingly, there will be things to write about.....once the unpacking is done.  There are even things to rant about (though we'll try to restrain ourselves....somewhat).

So, this is just a place-holding reappearance note.  First, we have to find things wherever we packed them, including various cords and plugs so we can use our computer before it runs out of battery power....

Meanwhile, in addition to looking for cords and plugs, we will try to out-wait the external virus, and will try to avoid creating any electronic viruses in our next post......  We hope all of our readers are safe and virus-free!

This is nearly unprecedented in our lifetimes, and shows our vulnerabilities as individuals and as a species.  Hopefully, it will motivate young people to take up the study of viral and other infectious disease dynamics--and lead to the removal of unsanitary or risky circumstances that lead to this sort of pandemic.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Hard times bring out the best in us: Let us learn from that!

This epidemic, or pandemic, is new to most of us in the western world.  We had to answer exam questions about such things, perhaps, in history class.  But it was abstract.  It happened then, to other people, less advanced than we perhaps, elsewhere, of some other language, way back when.  Well, now we are they!

Can we manage through this with minimal damage, but then remember--remember the good that such trials achieve, and keep them as part of the COVID legacy?  Of mutual care and concern. That would, in some tragic sense, be a good, maybe the only good, that can come from it.

Our daughter and her husband and their infant daughter live in a Ground Zero of the epidemic, in  northern Italy.  They are in a small town, but the number of deaths even in their town has mounted. A neighbor has died of it.  At the same time, many there have rallied to help each other through this, including a local doctor, a friend of theirs, who is running herself ragged, in a burdensome protective space-like suit, caring for the many stricken.

A scientist colleague, someone I've never actually met in person (only in an online science discussion site) offered to send financial help to our daughter and her family.  People are writing to check on each other's well-being.  Very nice!

The toll will be substantial. Jobs will lost (our daughter and her husband are musicians who live in part on the classical music gig economy), but economic loss won't be all.  There will be a psychological toll as well.  How long will it take to recover that?

Even so, the local mutual aid, and the strength of extended families and neighbors, will be gains, if the lessons are remembered when the dust has settled and the dead are underground, no longer visible reminding the survivors of what happened.  Maybe wars have had similar effects on survivors in the ravaged areas?  After the fact, unfortunately, but at least getting something good out of something awful.

Can those of us for whom this is just a minor annoyance (where will we get some toilet paper or do we have to use newspaper?) remember it, too?  If not, what will be the cost of our neglect next time something like this comes around?