The quar

Says Science Friday:

Officials in the Venetian-controlled port city of Ragusa (now Dubrovnik, Croatia) passed a law establishing trentino, or a 30-day period of isolation for ships arriving from plague-affected areas. No one from Ragusa was allowed to visit those ships under trentino, and if someone broke the law, they too would be isolated for the mandatory 30 days. The law caught on. Over the next 80 years, Marseilles, Pisa, and various other cities adopted similar measures.

Within a century, cities extended the isolation period from 30 to 40 days, and the term changed from trentino to quarantino—the root of the English word quarantine that we use today.

By my count today, Sunday, is day 22.

Halftime?

It took me this long to lock into some good habits and practices.  The first weeks were decadent and messy.  A key rule for me: must something positive before I’m allowed to pick up at my phone and chug horrific news and takes.

Some changes and observations from Hunker Down Times:

  • really appreciating and being careful with my use of paper products.  Paper towels.  Used to be really free with the paper towels, I hope I’m learning paper towel discipline that will last.  In years to come, perhaps some psychology will be done on why people seemed to be so focused on toilet paper.  Freudian?

 

 

  • Part of the Zoom revolution.  Why is Zoom so good when Facetime and Skype I bristle at?  I don’t know.  Easy to use I guess, not forcing me to link it with my Facebook or whatnot.  Zoom, in my opinion, is really good for work but bad for socializing.  We’ve been achieving great results – efficient with time, focused – with four or so person Zoom work meetings.  But a Zoom hang feels oppressive.  There’s no breaking off into and reforming from small groups, the organic flow that drives a larger social gathering.

 

  • Before this all happened, I’d had some conversations re: a possible movie about Bob Hope.  Why did they love Bob Hope enough to name the airport after him?  By the time I was alive Bob Hope was beyong a relic. A lot of aspects of his personal character were unpleasant.  He was cheap, mean, selfish, self-absorbed, an off-the-charts womanizer and #MeToo bad guy.  His later USO tours were really just an elaborate way to avoid his wife and score poon and work in front of an easy audience when no one was paying.  His comedy doesn’t stand up.  But during ‘rona times, I’m understanding (a bit) why Bob Hope was so important at the time.

If anyone could consistently make me laugh right now I’d be into it.

If anyone could consistently make me laugh right now I’d be into it.

  • Loving the DJ sets of D-Nice.  (We watch by screenmirroring Instagram story onto Apple TV?).  Dancing and plagues go together.  What about the tarantella, which you were supposed to dance to cure yourself of a tarantula bite?

In the Italian province of Taranto, Apulia, the bite of a locally common type of wolf spider, named “tarantula” after the region, was popularly believed to be highly venomous and to lead to a hysterical condition known as tarantism. This became known as the Tarantella. R. Lowe Thompson proposed that the dance is a survival from a “Dianic or Dionysiac cult”, driven underground. John Compton later proposed that the Roman Senate had suppressed these ancient Bacchanalian rites. In 186 BC the tarantella went underground, reappearing under the guise of emergency therapy for bite victims.

What was going on with the dancing plague of 1518?

When I read about it it sounds like maybe we’re misunderstanding anti-dance party propaganda?

Bruegel was a good dance painter:

  • I liked the Queen’s speech:

I hope in the years to come everyone will be able to take pride in how they responded to this challenge.

And those who come after us will say the Britons of this generation were as strong as any.

That the attributes of self-discipline, of quiet good-humoured resolve and of fellow-feeling still characterise this country.

The pride in who we are is not a part of our past, it defines our present and our future.

I like when leaders comprehend that tone, cheer, humor, is part of the job.  All the greats knew that.  If your guy has a nasty, sarcastic, unpleasant tone, you’ve got the wrong guy.

  • In other news, I found this to be a cool friendship:

Hope all Helytimes readers are keeping it chill.


Fire In The Lake

The photos of refrigerated trucks ready for bodies in New York City reminded me of this memorable passage in Fire In The Lake by Frances Fitzgerald:

The sight of the coffins reassured the soldiers because it showed them not only that the Front cared about their future, but that it could fulfill its promises. The provision of the coffins was, after all, a logistical triumph, and, as such, a sign that the Front had the power to reweave the society and restore its continuity through past, present and future.

Seeing refrigerated morgue trucks on the news does not reassure me, nor does it convince me that the authorities can fulfill their promises!

Dark stuff, we’ll return to more whimsical subject matter soon, we know no one is coming to Helytimes to get bummed out!

 


House on Hely Road

Can’t abandon my mandate to be the #1 source of Hely news on the Internet.  There’s a lovely house on 24 Hely Road in Port Elizabeth, South Africa for sale.  2.2 mill rands (about $122,602 USD?)


Not the Van Gogh painting I would’ve stolen

A bit dreary?  But you take what you can get I guess!


Plague Lit

Have only gotten through the introduction to this one, big daddy of ’em all.  Am now on the cusp of chapter One (“I – Man The Hunter”).

Disease and parasitism play a pervasive role in all of life.  A successful search for food on the part of one organism becomes for its host a nasty infection or disease.  All animals depend on other living things for food, and human beings are no exception.  Problems of finding food and the changing ways human communities have done so are familiar enough in economic histories.  The problems of avoiding becoming food for some other organism are less familiar, largely because from very early times human beings ceased to have much to fear from large-bodied animal predators like lions or wolves.  Nevertheless, one can properly think of most human lives as caught in a precarious equilibrium between the microparasitism of disease organisms and the macroparasitism of large-bodied predators, chief among which have been other human beings.
Humans, virusing on each other!
Later, when food production became a way of life for some human communities, a modulated macroparasitism became possible.  A conquerer could seize food from those who produced it, and by consuming it himself become a parasite of a new sort on those who did the work… Early civilizations, in fact, were built upon the possibility of taking only a part of the harvest from subjected communities, leaving enough behind to allow the plundered community to survive indefinitely, year after year.
I might treat this book more like as a longterm project.

Defoe! Now he’s fun at least.

In 1685 he joined the rebel army of the Duke of Monmouth, the illegitimate son of Charles II… the revolt failed, but Defoe managed to escape unscathed and unidentified – riding to greet the new King William III and Queen Mary II in 1688, becoming a sort of informal adviser to them.  Then things get rocky.

Switching sides!  How did he pull that off?  That’s from the intro by Cynthia Wall.  I usually don’t read the introductions until after diving in, often never, but this is a good one.  Defoe, a wine merchant, pampleteer, always in debt, Robison Crusoe, Moll Flanders.  He died “of a lethargy” (what a way to go!  although I’m told it probably meant “stroke”) while hiding from people he owed huge amounts of money to.

Defoe was already a prolific and well-known author by the time he wrote A Journal of the Plague Year.  At the age of sixty-two he had had careers as a merchant, a spy, a political journalist, a religious and social satirist, a poet, a travel writer, an economist, an author of conduct books, and a novelist.

Journal of the Plague Year (the year was 1665, the book was written in 1720) is a kind of narrative non-fiction (half fiction?  that’s the whole joke with Defoe) narrated (sometimes?) by H. F., who’s probably based on Defoe’s uncle.
This is like a collection of horror stories, a little hard to read, but spicy.

I have heard also of some, who on the Death of their Relations, have grown stupid with the insupportable Sorrow, and of one in particular; who was so absolutely overcome with the Pressure upon his Spirirts, that by Degrees, his Head sunk into his Body, so between his Shoulders, that the Crown of his Head was very little seen above the Bones of his Shoulders; and by Degrees, loseing both Voice and Sense, his Face looking forward, lay against his Collar-Bone; and cou’d not be kept up any otherwise, unless held up by the Hands of other People; and the poor Man never came to himself again, but languished near a Year in that Condition and Died

Anthony Burgess in his 1966 introduction, included in this edition:

This is what it reads like and is meant to read like – a rapid, colloquial, sometimes clumsy setting-down of reminiscences of a great historical event… in reality it is a rather cunning work of art, a confidence trick of the imagination.

OK here we go!  The summer of 1348, ten young people flee Florence, go to the countryside, and tell one hundred stories, some of them funny, some of them sexy.

Trying to learn storytelling a few years ago, I dove into this one, but now I couldn’t find my copy.  This book is impressive for the sheer number of storytelling twists and plots:

but this go, can’t say I found it all that compelling.

Not to put it down, this is obviously an incredible achievement.

At the end Boccaccio has an epilogue that’s like a pre-attack on any possible criticisms.  Maybe more books should have that.

My favorite story remains the tenth story of the third day, about a virgin who is taught by a monk how to put the Devil back in Hell.

Don’t have a copy of this one in my house.  It sounds good!

Joseph Grand: Joseph Grand is a fifty-year-old clerk for the city government. He is tall and thin. Poorly paid, he lives an austere life, but he is capable of deep affection. In his spare time, Grand polishes up his Latin, and he is also writing a book, but he is such a perfectionist that he continually rewrites the first sentence and can get no further.

Hope to get to it eventually, but right now looking for something more amusing.

When I remember this era, will surely associate the early period more with Tiger King on Netflix.


Spreading the virus

There’s a phenomenon on social media I’ve been meaning to discuss on Helytimes, but I don’t know how to bring it up without being guilty of what I’m talking about.  Maybe it doesn’t matter.  It’s this: sharing something that’s bad.

This is incredibly common on Twitter.  It might be the main driving engine on Twitter.  “Dunking on” stuff might be the most common category. of this.  You see something you don’t like, or that’s bad, or wrong, and you make fun of it.  But in doing so, you are also of course spreading it further.  Here’s an example:

Here’s another one:

 

 

One more:

I don’t mean to pick on these people, these are all pretty innocent examples (and I’ve done the same or worse), but you see what I’m talking about.  It’s when you go, look at this shit!  It sucks!

And I’m like well maybe I wouldn’t have even seen the shit if you didn’t tell me about it.

Sometime around 2014 or so I heard someone point out that Twitter has outsized power because every journalist is on it.  Non-stop.  It almost just a chat room for journalists (and media people).  Journalists are drawn to spread the news, good and bad.  Spreading the news is their job and I hope their passion.  But what if what you’re spreading is bad, or unhelpful?

Probably the answer is just to get off Twitter, but I’m addicted to the news.  It’s very addicting!  I’m trying to work on not spreading anything bad, even if it’s funny or entertaining or exciting or, maybe most tempting of all, outrageous.


cause a scene

via

You’re the Speaker of the House, you’re eighty years old, two trillion dollars on the line, and the problem is someone might “cause a scene.”

The idea of “causing a scene worth thinking about!