[In…] my tiny little walnut brain I am imagining that we’re about to see, as vaccinations climb and people return to normal, a culture war between those that believe workers should be in the office and those who believe that there should be a “hybrid approach,” by which they most likely mean you get a few days a week at home. It’ll start by saying “oh just a day or two here and there,” but it’ll grow into either a full of mostly full return to the office.
To live in Los Angeles is to exist in a selfish place full of self-helping people: the cliché persists partly because it’s true. But the Southland is also so vast, so diverse, it repels single stories. I asked one staff member, a woman who’d risen to become one of the managers, what she did prior to working at Dodgers. “I lunched,” she said flatly. “I’m a lady who lunches. I mean, I used to be.” My reasons to volunteer were selfish and self-serving: I needed to get out of the house, I enjoyed making new friends. It’s weird. For several years, I’d been crisscrossing L.A. for a book, interviewing dozens of people from the county’s many communities to grasp at some idea of its soul. The Armenian nation state of Glendale. The Vietnamese community in Garden Grove. Suddenly, Saturday mornings, everyone was coming to see me.
Word comes to us from M.G. Siegler of one cinema’s … gutsy… approach to what we hope is the beginning of the end of the pandemic:
Taking cues from amusement-park rides, blocks of seats have motion effects that pitch, twist, vibrate, and roll in coordination with action happening on screen. And, there are “atmospherics” that include bursts of air and squirts of water on your face, to go along with the movie action, and scent effects that drift out of the seats into the theater as well. Also: fog and bubble machines that fill up the auditorium, and actual snow and rainstorm effects, when needed.
I mean… what the literal fuck? In much of the U.S. we’re just now leaving a world ravaged by a pandemic. A pandemic which has absolutely destroyedmovie theaters. A pandemic which has taught us all to be wary of our activity indoors, especially where people might be vocal. And Regal’s move here is to open an amusement park-style movie theater. With moving seats and bursts of air and squirts of water aimed at your vulnerable face. The first screening may as well be titled: ‘COVID: The Experience’.
I have a sneaking feeling that the truth of this will turn out to be that the plan to revamp the seating in this cinema was in place well before the pandemic came along and management have insisted on seeing if customers will go for it, rather than undo what was already budgeted for – and possibly even partly done – without even giving it a try.
The local management very likely have already drawn up their plan for the next step, when they have to go back to senior management and report that sales on that screen were so low that the initial plan to roll out these seats more widely will have to be scrapped: can’t argue with those dismal numbers. Good idea, terrible timing beyond the control of the local management. What can you do?
I found myself sat in our local bus interchange this morning, with every second seat holding a sticker reminding passengers to maintain social distancing. This is a much nicer1 approach:
The restaurant at Izu Shabonten Zoo in Shizuoka, Japan is crowded! But those seats aren’t occupied by people. They’re occupied by stuffed animal Capybaras that have been strategically placed throughout the restaurant to maintain appropriate social distancing.
YouTube’s algorithm has been suggesting this video for a couple of days now but I’d been ignoring it until a comment at Charlie’s Diary gave me a nudge towards it.
Granted, the Current Situation provides comedians with a target-rich environment,1 so it’s more of a whistle-stop tour than the in-depth charge sheet that some of the individuals deserve, but it’s still a decent reminder of how keen so many incumbents are to rush past lockdown and rush into what comes afterwards. You know, the return of ‘normality’.
In many respects the charge sheet probably needs expanding to cover every pusher of neoliberal bullshit over the last five decades or so, but it seems very reasonable to start with the current incumbents and work backwards from there as required until the job is done. ↩
Even if we don’t get another lockdown for 10 years, the fact it’s a maybe means that our behaviour will change to account for the possibility.
So I wonder about the long-term effects not of lockdown itself, but the continuous risk of lockdown. Like, will you book a holiday for 6 months time, or will you book simply the option to go somewhere? Would you ever start a business that had a reliance on in-person meetings, or a supply chain that wasn’t tolerant to an unexpected 3 month stop? Of course not. How do you invest in friendships? Do you ever move far away from ageing parents if there’s a risk that planes won’t fly – or does distance no longer matter when you wouldn’t be able to meet in person anyway?
Pretty soon, as the country begins to figure out how we “open back up” and move forward, very powerful forces will try to convince us all to get back to normal. (That never happened. What are you talking about?) Billions of dollars will be spent on advertising, messaging, and television and media content to make you feel comfortable again. It will come in the traditional forms — a billboard here, a hundred commercials there — and in new-media forms: a 2020–2021 generation of memes to remind you that what you want again is normalcy. In truth, you want the feeling of normalcy, and we all want it. We want desperately to feel good again, to get back to the routines of life , to not lie in bed at night wondering how we’re going to afford our rent and bills, to not wake to an endless scroll of human tragedy on our phones , to have a cup of perfectly brewed coffee and simply leave the house for work. The need for comfort will be real, and it will be strong. And every brand in America will come to your rescue, dear consumer, to help take away that darkness and get life back to the way it was before the crisis. I urge you to be well aware of what is coming.
Nowadays I keep on running into articles in which the author deploys some variant of Lenin’s remark1 that “There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen.”
I can but deploy another oft-cited (and very possibly equally misattributed) curse: “We live in interesting times.”
I hope Matt Webb is right, but the hunger from all sides to declare that post-lockdown2“Business As Usual” is the order of the day is going to be hard to resist.
Sadly I haven’t found a source for it confirming authorship. Given that it’s very likely an English translation of something expressed slightly differently in Russian I suspect that at best it’s a slightly mangled version of the notion as originally expressed. Sit on it for a few decades and who knows, perhaps everyone will be citing it as one of the sayings of Keir Starmer. Or was it Rishi Sunak? Margaret Thatcher? Barbara Castle?3↩
The first time, at any rate. Perhaps it’s going to take a bunch of lockdowns over a period of a few years to hammer home the message that Business Is Not As Usual. ↩
I dunno. Definitely sounds like someone from the pre-Former United Kingdom era, anyway. ↩