I downloaded TikTok, curious about anything that draws the ire of narcissitic authoritarians. What I found browsing the public feed (I did not make an account) was random Americans, playful and goofing off, in 30 second increments. It was like everyone in the country was getting silly at a party with their friends and I was being teleported between them. There’s no doubt that it was a horrible attention sink that had to come off my phone immediately, but I have to admit, there was something beautiful about it.
Years ago, I stayed with the family of a college roommate for a weekend. While browsing their bookshelves, I came across a slim little book that drew me in: To Know a Fly by Vincent Dethier. As I recall, I sunk into an armchair and read it in a single sitting. Dethier was an entomologist and the book is an irreverent memoir on experimental methods available on a shoestring budget. I got my hands on my own copy recently.
Ada Palmer published a delightful, sprawling essay on comparisons between the COVID-19 pandemic and the Black Death / Renaissance. This morning, I needed to read this paragraph very badly (emphasis mine): This year, 2020, this is the first time in the history of this planet that any species has faced a pandemic knowing what it is, and how to take effective action. We aren’t taking perfect action, and we absolutely should be criticizing and condemning the many flaws—some small, some huge—in how it’s being dealt with, but there is real, efficacious action we can take.
Peter Heller’s novel The Dog Stars is narrated by a man named Hig bunkered up at Colorado airport nine years after a pandemic has killed ninety-nine percent of humanity, including his wife. His only companions are a bloodthirsty survivalist he shares the airport with and his aging dog. So maybe not the absolute best reading choice for the times. On the other hand, maybe exactly what I needed was a meditation on continuing to live through collapse.