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Posts Tagged ‘lockdown’

Photo: Mark Naison.
Fordham students who helped launch the Bronx COVID-19 Oral History Project, stand with the project’s faculty adviser and an artist interviewed for the project outside the Crab Shanty Restaurant in the Bronx on May 20, 2021.

It’s hard to predict how anyone will respond to a stressful situation. A tightly controlled person may completely lose it; an anxious individual may find a reservoir of calm. As Harry Bruinius reports at the Christian Science Monitor, there were surprises like that in lockdown. What was clearly a stressful time had an unexpected positive side when kindness and resilience shone through the darkness.

“When Bethany Fernandez first began to document oral histories in the Bronx during the pandemic,” Bruinius writes, “her own life was ‘chaotic.’ … But the past year and a half has become, almost in a strange way, a time of profound personal growth and self-discovery, says Ms. Fernandez, a lifelong resident of the Bronx, a borough of New York City.

“The communities surrounding her were among the most afflicted in the country, and they were being documented relentlessly in the news. But when she decided to join a group of fellow students at Fordham University to launch the Bronx COVID-19 Oral History Project, she found a reality not fully captured in the news, she says.

“ ‘In moments like these, a cynical person might think,”Oh, people are going to be selfish” – resources are scarce, survival of the fittest, or whatever,’ says Ms. Fernandez. ‘But no, it was the complete opposite.’ …

“Far from tales of woe, in fact, she and the five others in the project found their subjects again and again using a particular word to describe their experiences: resilience.

“Resilience in the face of hardship and trauma has always been a part of the human story. But during the past few decades, researchers have probed more deeply into what some scholars call a ‘psychological immune system’ that enables many people to respond to even the worst of situations and to recover from their resulting traumas. …

“ ‘If there is a silver lining that could come out of this, it would be that people are understanding that while the negatives scream at you, the positives – the resilience you can always find in people – these are only whispers,’ says Ken Yeager, director of the Stress, Trauma and Resilience (STAR) Program at The Ohio State University in Columbus.

“Human beings are wired to take particular note of the dangers that surround them and even focus on stories of trauma and fear. ‘The fight-or-flight response actually helps the species as a whole to survive, but it does nothing to make you happy,’ Dr. Yeager says. ‘It does nothing to help you build resilience.’

“The Bronx COVID-19 Oral History Project tells this story.

“[According to] Alison Rini, a senior from New Jersey studying English and Italian … ‘It was such a surprising experience, finding these examples of people describing their resilience in the midst of such hard times – in the Bronx, in particular. …

“ ‘The pandemic has been a test of the global psychological immune system, which appears more robust than we would have guessed,’ wrote scholars Lara Aknin, Jamil Zaki, and Elizabeth Dunn in the Atlantic. ‘In order to make sense of these patterns, we looked back to a classic psychology finding: People are more resilient than they themselves realize.’

“The authors emphasize that such broad trends should not erase ‘the immense pain, overwhelming loss, and financial hardships’ so many have faced over the past year and a half, especially disadvantaged populations. …

“ ‘But [the] pandemic holds its own lessons,’ they wrote. ‘Human beings are not passive victims of change but active stewards of our own well-being.’ …

“In what Ms. Fernandez calls one of her most memorable interviews, the owner of a Bronx restaurant described how she lost nearly 85% of her business and struggled to stay afloat after laying off most of her employees.

“Though the restaurant specializes in Puerto Rican and American cuisine, the owner, Maribel Gonzalez, kept the original name of the restaurant she bought 16 years ago, South of France. …

“Describing herself as a person of faith, Ms. Gonzalez said she had always offered her local community a free buffet every Wednesday. During the pandemic, as she and one or two employees struggled to keep the restaurant open, she kept that tradition alive, providing a free buffet at the height of the shutdown, even if only for an hour or two a week.

“ ‘You know, in all of this devastation, there are also a lot of blessings, because you find that you’re more resilient, that you’re stronger than you may have thought,’ Ms. Gonzalez told the project. She said her restaurant provided hundreds of meals for front-line health workers in partnership with others, supported by donations from a GoFundMe page.

“ ‘When you need to lug that 50 pound bag because you have to make whatever money you can, because maybe some of it can go to feed families that can’t afford it, you find the strength, you get the stamina, you find the chutzpah, if you will, to lift that bag, because there are so many depending on it – myself, my business, my future, the future of my employees, and those of my community.’ …

“The project had a profound effect on Ms. Fernandez as she wrestled with the challenges in her own life. ‘It was the one thing that stood out to me, the generosity that was shown all over, even throughout the time of the pandemic,’ she says. ‘Because when you see how resources are limited, when you’re being stretched out by work, by family obligations, by life and all of that, even with all the suffering going on, people were willing to give, people were willing to offer compassion and kindness.’ ”

More at the Monitor, here.

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Talk about making delicious lemonade out of unwanted lemons! Here’s what two creative friends came up with during lockdown.

Sarah Buttenwieser writes at the Daily Hampshire Gazette, “Like so many of us, artist Katy Schneider worried about how to face quarantine and its uncertainty. Rather than bake sourdough, she reached for a bunch of discarded 3-by-4-inch aluminum slides from Smith College, where she’s taught art for 30 years.

‘I knew I could repurpose the aluminum plates,’ Schneider says. ‘I knew I needed a project to get through quarantine. I like working on things that are the same size.’

“She decided to paint shoes each day. ‘I wanted to play with color and texture,’ she says. ‘These tiny paintings became an exercise to keep me in the studio.’

“After a few weeks, she shared the images with friends, inviting them to write stories or poems about the paintings. … Her most loyal respondent was musician, music teacher and songwriter Jim Armenti.

“ ‘Jim wrote about every single shoe painting,’ Schneider says. There were 40 paintings.

“Schneider moved on from shoes. She began to paint other things she found around her house, like ‘laundry in a laundry basket.’ … Meanwhile, she kept sending Armenti images.

“ ‘Jim continued to write a poem about each painting. It was like we became beholden to one another to complete this daily practice, which has become essential. As soon as I am in my basement sitting with my paints, I feel more relaxed. …

“ ‘Unlike portraiture, which I’ve done so much of, these paintings are of things I’ve never focused upon,’ Schneider says. ‘I feel no pressure to match my best work, because I don’t have best work of these objects; it’s all new discoveries. I’m creating these weirdly joyful images during an abysmal time. It’s energizing. I’m having fun with it.’ …

“Schneider enjoys the fact that the slide dividers worked to protect history — slides — and that she’s repurposing them to create an historical document.

“ ‘These images preserve this time in history, as the slides did before they were digitized,’ she reflects. ‘We are all going through this at once, but alone, and there’s something echoed in that from the tiny images, each divided by squares on the wall, as the dividers kept the slides from one another originally.’ …

“Armenti … loved ‘the solidity of the project right away. It was in my wheelhouse. I just like to do the thing — write the poem — much as I like live performance.’

“He doesn’t watch videos of his musical performances and he doesn’t like to return to the poems he’s written, either. Instead, he considers the poems ‘part of my day.’ …

“Before 8:30 a.m., he responds to email, completes chess moves, takes language lessons online — Spanish, Italian and Turkish — and writes a poem in response to Schneider’s daily painting.

“ ‘I think of her paintings as being of things that are overlooked,’ Armenti conjectures. ‘I like to let a narrative emerge from them, for them to take me on an emotional journey.’ ”

More here.

Photo: Concord Art.
Silver Linings: Paintings, Process and Poetryis an exhibit of Katy Schneider paintings and Jim Armenti poems. Visitors can see it at Concord Art until May 13, 2021. Covid safety rules are in force.

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Photo: The Telegraph.
The United Kingdom’s Marsh family has been singing spoofs of popular songs since the beginning of the pandemic.

Probably at some point during the pandemic, you saw the Marsh family’s early 2020 spoof of the song “One Day More” from Les Miserables. But did you know the funny, sometimes off-key, UK family has kept going?

Isabella Kwai has the backstory at the New York Times. “The family of six is lined up in front of microphones, ready to perform. The stage: their living room, complete with flowery curtains and family photos. The costumes: for the children, pajamas and bathrobes. The song: Bonnie Tyler’s 1983 raspy-voiced power ballad ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’ [below], tweaked for the pandemic era.

“ ‘Third lockdown,’ the father croons, before his son Alfie cuts in: ‘2021 … and it’s a little bit lonely, no one’s ever coming ’round.’

“Meet the Marshes — Ben, Danielle, and their four children Alfie, 14, Thomas, 13, Ella, 11 and Tess, 9 — a family from the English town of Faversham that has gained unexpected fame for their revamped, tongue-in-cheek cover tunes about life in times of Covid. This six-voice choir, with its sweet harmonies and the occasional wobbly note, is creating songs that dramatize the mundane moments of lockdown life, from too much screen time to the horrors of remote learning.

” In their version of ‘One Day More,’ from the musical Les Misérables, the parents groan about grocery shopping online during the first lockdown as the children lament: ‘Our grandparents can’t Skype, we’re brokenhearted.’ …

“And with England crawling through a third national lockdown, they felt the time was ripe for ‘Total Eclipse’ — ‘Used to be bright eyes. Struggling to tell the days apart. Now we’re Lords of Flies.’ …

“In a time when there has been little cause for celebration, the Marshes are just some of the many people around the world who have embraced music as a way to boost morale or income, and to cope with a pandemic that has confined many people inside. During the first wave, Italians sang from their balconies, mariachi bands in Mexico played in the streets, and the percussion of people banging pots to celebrate frontline workers became a nightly soundtrack in New York and other cities.

The Marshes have not limited themselves to song; their performances have included moments of bickering, dance — captioned ‘interpretive angst dance’ — and dramatic flourishes that have amused an audience around the world.

“ ‘This is the first thing that made me not just smile but laugh out loud,’ said one fan online who had been depressed about Germany’s extending restrictions. ‘Can you adopt me?’ another joked.

“The fame is new but the singing isn’t. Mr. Marsh, 44, and Mrs. Marsh, 43, who both work at the University of Kent, met as students at Cambridge, where they sang in low-budget university productions. Reworking lyrics was a family affair even pre-pandemic. … The difference is those earlier spoofs were mainly for their own entertainment. Then the pandemic hit.

“In late March [2020], the family was searching for ways to celebrate some birthdays that suddenly had to go remote, including that of Mrs. Marsh’s mother. Their gift, they decided, would have to go virtual.

“ ‘There was no schoolwork, there was no nothing,’ Mrs. Marsh said. ‘That’s when the music became a focus for us all.’ …

“So now they’re famous, but are they cool? Well, no, Mr. Marsh said. ‘I think if we tried to do “cool,” it would all fall apart.’ But at a time when ‘so few can sing together in one place,’ the family members hope to use their sudden fame, which Mr. Marsh called ‘bewildering and incredible,’ to do some good.

“They said they are donating the proceeds from guest appearances to the W.H.O. Covid-19 Solidarity Response Fund, which supports efforts to end the pandemic, and Save the Children. But recently they also decided to take a chance by encouraging people to get vaccines, a departure from their more comedic fare. …

“How did they deliver the message? Try replacing ‘Hallelujah’ in Leonard Cohen’s iconic song with this: ‘Have the new jab. Have the new jab. Have the new jab. Have the new-ew-ew-ew jab.’ (Sung by Tess, in fuzzy p.j.’s, as her father strums the guitar.) …

“ ‘I would have never spent this much time with my 14-year-old,’ said Mrs. Marsh.”

More at the New York Times, here.

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Photo: Bee and Tom Rivett-Carnac.
A painting by Bee Rivett-Carnac in the free digital children’s book
What happened when we all stopped.

Children are really good at understanding the need to protect Nature. When I read about this free book and the video featuring Jane Goodall, I knew they would make good ammunition for kids needing to convince skeptical adults. The Covid angle was cool, too, and made the book seem even more timely.

Rohini Kejrwal has a report at Hyperallergic.

“ ‘No time for sorry, we’re building tomorrow,’ writes author, climate policy strategist, and former Buddist monk Tom Rivett-Carnac in his new and free digital book, What happened when we all stopped. The book emerged during the lockdown as a collaboration between Tom and his sister Bee Rivett-Carnac, who illustrated his poem.

“When the COVID-19 pandemic hit and the entire world was forced to stay home, it became an opportunity for Mother Nature to heal, for the smog to melt, the birds to sing, and the rivers to run clear. As the world began to phase out lockdown measures, Tom’s message to his readers, young and old, was this: Let’s choose well.

“Talking about the inspiration, he says:

‘The creative process is just a mystery to me. But I was thinking a lot and feeling inspired by the idea of a trillion trees — this idea that we can replant a trillion trees and reforest the earth. There were no planes in the sky; people were noticing the birds and remembering a better way of living. It was a strangely optimistic time, and the book was written out of a hope that we need to do things differently.’

“One evening, he sat and wrote the poem in a stream of consciousness. A few edits later, he invited Bee to illustrate it. ‘We were at Mum’s house in Devon, having breakfast, when Tom asked me if I’d fancy illustrating his poem. …

“Bee chose the medium of watercolor paintings to create a sense of lightness and depict the connection to nature. … Being someone who divides her time between spending time with her children, gardening and illustrating, and her shamanic practice, her personal style naturally lent itself to the inspiration and imagery for the book. To make the poem more accessible to children, she introduced two primary characters — a little girl and an owl — who carry the story forward. …

“As the book shaped up, it opened the door to further collaborations. It was developed into a beautiful, animated poem by TED-Ed, an auxiliary of the renowned conference organization geared toward teachers and students. Jane Goodall, celebrated anthropologist and United Nations Messenger of Peace, offered narration. …

“The two collaborations happened fairly organically, owing to Tom’s role as the UN’s chief political strategist and his work as one of the architects of the landmark Paris Agreement on climate change. …

“Tom reiterates that the book is a reminder of the urgent need for change. ‘The next 10 years are the most consequential in the history of humanity. We have to do something, or we’ll lose control over the climatic systems and never get it back,’ he says. ‘We need to reclaim a sense of agency in climate change, which has been deliberately undermined by fossil fuel companies.

“We all have a choice as to who we want to be during this time. Do we want to look back 30 years from now and say we gave up because it was difficult or say that we did everything possible to make a difference even if we don’t succeed? And why won’t we succeed? Real, genuine success is possible!’ he wraps up, firm optimism in his voice.”

More here. Check out the illustrations. Especially the owls.

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Map: Britannica
New Zealand is seeing a renaissance in the magazine business.

Sometimes a small, well-networked country or state can do a better job making challenging things happen than the big guys can. I’m thinking, for example, about West Virginia’s remarkable success in getting the Covid vaccine into people’s arms. (NBC has a cool story about Mom & Pop drugstores and the advantage of knowing your community.)

Today’s story comes from a very different part of the world and concerns a very different topic: the struggling print-magazine industry.

Elle Hunt reports at the Guardian, “At 8.31am on a Thursday, Henry Oliver received a text message from his employer, alerting him to a company-wide Zoom call in 29 minutes’ time.

“The day was 2 April 2020, a week into New Zealand’s national lockdown to control the spread of coronavirus. Oliver, who is the editor of Metro magazine, and his team had been scrambling to adjust to remote working and – with magazine publishing not among the ‘essential services’ permitted to continue through the pandemic – a new digital-first operation.

“Within an hour of that text, Oliver and the 300-odd other employees of Bauer Media New Zealand were told they were being made redundant, the titles they worked on would be put up for sale, and the entire company was to close. …

“A privately owned German company operational in 13 countries, including the US, UK and Australia, Bauer had been a pillar of the New Zealand magazine industry since 2012. In particular it was known for its current affairs and long-form features journalism, as the home of the Auckland-centric Metro, North & South and The Listener – titles with steady subscriber bases and some of the most experienced and awarded journalists in the country on staff.

“In its suddenness and its sweep, Bauer’s decision seemed to sound a death knell for an entire industry. … Yet less than a year later, not only have Bauer magazines been brought back to life under new ownership, but also new titles have been launched – reflecting a flurry of investment and innovation in New Zealand media precipitated by the pandemic.

“Sydney private equity firm Mercury Capital purchased Bauer NZ for an unspecified sum in June (later renaming it Are Media) – extending a lifeline to The Listener and four other mastheads.

Metro and North & South were both acquired by independent investors seeking to preserve New Zealand’s tradition of long-form features journalism.

“Meanwhile, four entirely new monthly titles – staffed by former Bauer editors and writers, with former CEO Paul Dykzeul advising – were launched by School Road Publishing in November.

“The recovery, since the dire outlook in April, has exceeded all expectations: testament to the appetite of New Zealanders not just to read magazines, but to make them.

“The day after he was made redundant, Oliver started work on a zine. With a budget procured from property developer Britomart Group, he was able to deploy the talents of many of the journalists and designers who had been let go with him from Bauer. He gave it the tongue-in-cheek title Essential Services, describing it as a ‘small affirmation of life in the face of media industry collapse.’

“Oliver went on to produce two more issues with funding from government agency Creative New Zealand. … ‘I just thought to myself, it’s not really up to a German billionaire whether I get to make magazines or not.’

“Others too had spied opportunity in among the rubble. German-born journalists Konstantin Richter and Verena Friederike Hasel … made a ‘spontaneous’ offer on North & South to ensure its survival, as subscribers themselves. Richter is also a board member of the Swiss media giant TX Group, founded by his family, and splits his time between the two countries. …

“Richter describes their vision as ‘a mix of change and tradition’: retaining North & South’s time-honoured focus on issues that span the length of New Zealand, bridging the urban-rural divide – while injecting news and perspectives from further afield. He sees an opportunity to build on the tradition of investigative and long-form features journalism in a nation that is more receptive than others to the concept.

Metro, meanwhile, was bought by media entrepreneur Simon Chesterman, who retained Oliver as editor and moved the magazine to quarterly publishing. It relaunched with a splash in November with an exclusive essay from Lorde.

“Oliver says they were aligned on the importance of an Auckland-centric title in the age of coronavirus. ‘We’re going to be living in a more local world for the foreseeable future, so a city magazine, an authority on a specific place, can be more relevant than ever.’

“Plus, at a moment of up-to-the-minute, pandemic-driven doom-scrolling, ‘here is space for a slower media,’ says Oliver. ‘That was really what was taken away with the shutdown of the magazines.’

“To [Colin Peacock, host of Radio New Zealand’s Mediawatch programme], the industry’s reinvention suggests a new era of ‘start-up-style media’ in New Zealand. … Peacock points to Shepherdess – a new quarterly magazine for rural women, which launched in mid-March – and the free ‘mountain culture’ publication 1964 as examples of how print might be reinvented to serve a specific, perhaps localised audience. …

“In April, Bauer’s Australia and New Zealand chief executive Brendon Hill had said magazines would be ‘untenable’ in New Zealand through the pandemic: ‘Publishing in New Zealand is very dependent on advertising revenue and it is highly unlikely that demand will ever return to pre-crisis levels.’

“But the industry’s bounceback from catastrophe reflects New Zealand readers’ loyalty to their long-standing magazines – potentially to a fault, Peacock suggests. … The resurrection of The Listener, almost identical in form and focus, suggests there was next to no enthusiasm for a refresh, says Peacock. …

“Richter and Friederike Hasel are hopeful that North & South readers will embrace a new global perspective – especially at this time of transition, not just for New Zealand’s media but New Zealand itself. Bauer’s exit was ‘a shock to many,’ says Friederike Hasel – ‘but I think something good might come out of that.’ ”

More at the Guardian, here.

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Photo: Crown Office Communications/PA
These Bronze Age objects were found buried underground by a Scotsman with a metal detector who was obliged to work near home during the pandemic.

And speaking of discoveries made when plague regulations keep folks close to home … how about this significant find by a Scotsman with a metal detector!

As Amy Walker reports at the Guardian, “Metal detectorists, it’s fair to say, have had a good lockdown. Last month it emerged that amateur treasure hunters had unearthed dozens of rare finds in their back gardens while restrictions kept them at home.

“Now a detectorist in the Scottish Borders has uncovered a haul of bronze age artefacts – including a complete horse harness and preserved leather and wood – in what is described as a ‘nationally significant’ discovery.

“Among items also pulled from the ground after Mariusz Stepien’s initial find in a field near Peebles was a sword dated from 1000 to 900BC.

“Stepien had been metal detecting with friends on 21 June when he came across a bronze object buried half a metre underground. As he received such strong signals from the earth around the object, he reported the find to the Treasure Trove unit.

“The moment of the find was emotional.

‘I felt from the very beginning that this might be something spectacular and I’ve just discovered a big part of Scottish history. I was over the moon, shaking with happiness,’ he said.

“Archeologists spent 22 days investigating the site, during which Stepien and his friends camped in the field. ‘We wanted to be a part of the excavation from the beginning to the end,’ he said. ‘Every day there were new objects coming out which changed the context of the find, every day we learned something new. I’m so pleased that the earth revealed to me something that was hidden for more than 3,000 years.’

“The archeologists found the sword, still in its scabbard, which had been adorned with straps, buckles and chariot-wheel axle caps, alongside remnants of a decorative ‘rattle pendant’ that would have hung off the horse’s harness – the first to be found in Scotland and only the third in the UK.

“Treasure Trove, which is overseeing the recovery and assessment of the find, said the soil had preserved the leather and wood found among the items, allowing experts to trace the straps that connected the rings and buckles together to make the harness, something that has ‘never been seen before in Britain.’ …

“With detecting in the open off limits between March and May, many amateurs looked closer to home during lockdown … Peter Reavill, a finds liaison officer from Shropshire, said: ‘With so many people spending so much more time in their gardens, there have been some really interesting finds. …’

“Simon Maslin, a finds liaison officer in Surrey and Hampshire, [said], “It’s the stuff that appears more humdrum that actually tends to be more archeologically important.’ ”

More at the Guardian, here.

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Photo: Devin Muñoz
” ‘Cooped-Up’ is a contemporary dance performance viewed entirely from behind car windows,” reports Margo Vansynghel at
Crosscut.

I’m fascinated by all the different ways the arts are reaching out during our lockdown. Some efforts come off better than others, and a given organization may be kind of lame on one evening and on another delightful. We’re all learning as we go.

In this story, Seattle dancers offer performances for an audience in cars.

Margo Vansynghel writes at Crosscut, “Gedney Barclay sat in her idling car in a North Seattle Safeway parking lot, awaiting instructions. She could feel herself getting anxious. … She looked around — unsure of what would happen next — and glanced at the phone in her hand. The call from an unknown number would come anytime now. And then there would be no turning back.

“Barclay wasn’t involved in some kind of nefarious plot. She was about to participate in ‘Cooped-Up: Drive-in Dances for Cooped Up People,’ a contemporary dance performance by local company LanDforms, in which audience members view the proceedings through their own car windows. …

“Guided by pins on a digital map and a downloaded soundtrack — featuring songs,  poetry, a couple of old voicemail messages and mysterious clues — ticketed audience members drive through the city and visit performers at their homes. The dancers perform from porches, sun rooms, front yards, alleys and balconies while the audience, cocooned in 20 cars (one per household), drives up to watch at 10-minute intervals.

“ ‘It’s a wild journey all over Seattle,’ says LanDforms’ Leah Crosby. She and co-director Danielle Doell describe the show as a whimsical mashup of a drive-in movie, scavenger hunt, escape room and ‘durational performance’ tailored to and inspired by COVID-19 restrictions. Basically, they say, it’s like curbside pickup of food-to-go, but for dance. The first, mid-April performance of Cooped-Up sold out almost instantly. …

“Crosby and Doell are among the many local artists finding front yard and window workarounds to the stay-at-home order and ban on gatherings.

“Earlier in March, artist Rachel Kessler and On the Boards director Betsey Brock staged a citywide performance titled ‘Going the Social Distance,’ for which they collected song requests (and home addresses) from participants, donned cheerful costumes and biked to people’s houses blasting the songs through Bluetooth speakers. Isolated fine art photographers are venturing out to photograph people from a safe distance either outdoors or behind windows. In late April, KEXP radio DJ John Richards started broadcasting live concerts from his front yard. …

“Cooped-Up deals explicitly with our new corona-colored reality. In seven different dances created collaboratively over Zoom, the participating dancers bring their personal quarantine experiences (and corresponding cocktail of emotions) to the makeshift stage. However whimsical, the show doesn’t shy away from expressing the loneliness and the boredom specific to this cultural moment. …

“On a Zoom call with production manager (and frequent collaborator) Ari Kaufman in late March, the duo wondered: ‘How can we make a live performance right now?’ Doell says. …

“When Doell, who is also a youth educator, noticed that cooped-up kids in her neighborhood had been hunting for the stuffed animals neighbors placed in windows as a way to pass the time, she wondered, ‘Maybe we can make kind of a dance teddy bear hunt?’ …

“These are not improvised performances. Everything is timed to the minute, if not to the second: when the first audience member’s car leaves; when they should arrive at the next location; where every car should theoretically be at each point in the performance; when the next song is supposed to start; and when each dancer resumes their short loop. ….

‘At any given time during the show, there are basically seven miniperformances happening simultaneously, Crosby says. That’s a lot to keep track of.

“During the five-hour run of the show, she sits in her room in West Seattle, headphones on, surveying multiple screens and spreadsheets like an air traffic controller. Meanwhile, pacing in his kitchen about a dozen miles away, production manager Kaufman has his phone at the ready, in case a car gets lost or runs into any trouble. …

“The dancers, including Doell, say [they] miss the collective warmups and preshow rituals, the murmur as the audience trickles into the theater. When they’re done, there’s no applause. It’s a new shade of loneliness. But also one that has Doell reconnecting with her neighborhood, she says.

“ ‘A lot of neighbors were poking their heads out and being like: “Wow, what is happening?” ‘ Doell recalls. …

” ‘Normally, the audience member’s job is to pay money and then sit face-forward in a dark room where their identity is masked,’ she says. [In this performance, they] have to figure out where to go. Follow the clues. Find the dancer. Park by the gray garbage bin, not the green one — and don’t knock it over while backing up. …

“[Audience member Barclay] hadn’t ventured outside her neighborhood for a long time. Driving through the city was a poignant reminder of something she already knew: So many people, in house after apartment after studio, were going through the same isolation, the same loneliness. But for a few hours, from the relative safety of her car, Barclay felt like she’d made a connection — rekindled the kind of mutual appreciation between dancer and audience that electrifies live performance.

” ‘It made me feel way less alone,’ she says.”

More here.

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karnad-indiapollutioncoronavirus

Photo: Manjunath Kiran / AFP / Getty
A nationwide lockdown has had positive effects on India’s air quality. Says the
New Yorker magazine, “The sky is clearer, rivers are less contaminated, and people have awakened to possible change.”

Will less air travel, commuting, and industrial smoke mean long-term improvement in global warming and pollution? One expert I heard on the radio said no because there has also been a slowdown in work on alternate energy.

But I do think if people see a difference in their skies, they may be more motivated to keep carbon reduction going. When they can see that clear skies are not a hopeless dream, it makes an impression.

In the New Yorker, Raghu Karnad has written about what people in India are seeing.

“On the morning of April 3rd, residents of Jalandhar, an industrial town in the Indian state of Punjab, woke to a startling sight: a panorama of snowcapped mountains across the eastern sky. The peaks and slopes of the Dhauladhars—a range in the lesser Himalayas—were not new, but the visibility was. … On March 24th, as a national lockdown was imposed to stop the spread of the coronavirus, nearly all of Jalandhar’s road traffic came to a halt, along with its manufacture of auto parts, hand tools, and sports equipment.

“Ten days later, suspended particulates had dispersed from the air, and the Himalayas were unveiled. Residents gathered on their rooftops, posting photos of far, icy elevations towering behind water tanks and clotheslines.

‘Never seen Dhauladhar range from my home rooftop in Jalandhar,’ the international cricketer Harbhajan Singh, who was born there forty years ago, tweeted. ‘Never could imagine that’s possible.’

“The view from my own rooftop, fifteen hundred miles to the south, in Bangalore, has not revealed any equivalent surprises. Instead, there is the birdsong. … I could never have imagined it possible, in an Indian city, to wake up not to the sounds of traffic but to the sovereignty of bulbuls and mynahs over the morning air. …

“The silence on the street may be therapeutic, but it can also feel grim, suspenseful. It suggests the held breath of a country bracing for disaster — not only for the brunt of a pandemic but for empty savings accounts, purses, and pantries. Millions of Indians eat only if they are paid wages each day, which means that when the lockdown was announced, a second epidemic, of hunger, began to unfold. …

“Of the thirty cities with the worst air pollution in the world, twenty-one are in northern India. … The World Health Organization has linked exposure to PM2.5—particles with a diameter of 2.5 micrometres or less—to a hundred thousand deaths in India each year, and that’s just among children below the age of five.

“The coronavirus will only compound these morbidities. Studies of viral pandemics such as the 1918 flu, or the 2003 SARS outbreak, found that residents of areas with more polluted air were far more likely to die. … The worst of the smog is seasonal, drifting over the city when the farmers of the Indo-Gangetic plain burn crop stubble after the harvest, in October. …

“The lockdown, whatever its effect on the virus, has given Indian cities the kiss of life. In a week, Delhi’s PM2.5 count dropped by seventy-one per cent. The sky is bluer now, the Yamuna River less black, and my friends say that the stars are out at night. ..

“The lockdown is also improving our understanding of the complex phenomena that contribute to pollution. ‘From a research viewpoint, this is a fantastic experiment,’ Sarath Guttikunda, a founder and director of UrbanEmissions.info, told me over the phone. …

‘What we’re seeing now is unprecedented: drops in commercial activity, industrial activity, and transport, all at the same time — not just in a city but, significantly, across a region,’ he said. The past few weeks have allowed his team to assess, for example, how responsible a given city is for its air quality. …

” ‘Now we don’t have to blindly say, ‘Look, you are responsible for seventy per cent of your pollution. Please do something about it,” Guttikunda said. ‘We have that proof.’ …

“To truly revitalize our air, we need to change how we cook, build, farm, travel, consume, and produce—bearing in mind, through it all, how we breathe.

“Such comprehensive action can seem impossible. Guttikunda’s hopeful analogy is to the 2008 Summer Olympic Games, a turning point for Beijing. …

” ‘For two months, people got to see the change possible in the city. … As soon as the Games were over, the restrictions were lifted and the PM2.5 levels shot back up,’ Guttikunda said. ‘But now there was a public outcry saying, “Look, we could have those blue skies for longer. We don’t mind the restrictions.” ‘ ”

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