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Category: Culture

Okay, this sucks. The pandemic sucks. The inequality sucks. The rise of ugliness and stupidity sucks. Let’s skip over the sad details for the moment, and just admit that we are in a time of multiple crises. And let’s also admit there’s a lot that needs to be done, including in our own hearts, to make things right again.

In the face of all that hard truth, though, I can’t help hoping that some good will come from this trial. We are in a crisis, but aren’t crises supposed to be catalysts for change?

Well, there’s no harm in hoping, anyway. It’s a free country, and surely that includes the freedom to hope. For instance, I hope that all this time we are spending at home will re-awaken the natural centrality of home in our lives. Our families are there, and our gardens and dinner tables and bedrooms. Our lives begin and end there. It is our island of sanity in a crazy world.

The pandemic has forced us into our homes, and I am going to say that that might turn out to be a very good thing. We don’t need it as a place to meditate, or find our nourishment, or be with our loved ones, or recharge our spirits, or focus on creating beauty. There are plenty of other places to do all those things, but home is the only place that you can do all of them. Plus, you don’t have to get in your car and drive to get there.

That’s another thing. The pandemic has curtailed our ability to travel, and the result has been a steep drop in greenhouse emissions. My hope in this regard is that somehow, once the virus is behind us, we can bring our society back in a less toxic form. Perhaps those who are now working productively from home can simply continue to do so. I even dare to hope that the dawning realization that we are all in this together will facilitate an increased focus on the welfare of our planet as a whole. It is our home just as surely as our individual castles are…even more so, I would argue.

And, as long as we’re allowing ourselves to stretch hope to the limit, why not dare to imagine that we can take the cruelty and runaway greed, the irrationality and racial hatred, and cast them out of our home? Not for good, because we are all flawed humans, but as part of a broad enlightenment of our society?

I know. That is a lot to hope for. But if any change is to come out of the multiple crises we are enduring, I say why not make it something good and lasting? Is that too much to hope for? No. If ever there was a time for big hope, this is it.
Brave New World
I’ve had an idea, and I’m looking for some partners to make it happen. They will have to be special people, I think, people with the courage to undertake a bold vision and dare to look beyond the conventions of inside-the-box thinking.

Let me explain. I have found myself fantasizing about the day I get vaccinated for the coronavirus. I imagine going back out into the world and doing all the things I cannot not do now. Even in my fantasies, though, I know that the world I re-enter will not be the same as it was when I left it. There will be changes to that world, and some of them are likely to be permanent.

One change will be a heightened awareness to the threat from viruses. You just know there will be more coming down the pike. Apparently, they are eager to upgrade from bats, pigs, and birds and land gigs with the human race. That is where the action is, right? There might even be more epidemics. If that happens, then masks and other safety measures are likely to become part of the new normal. I think we should be ready for that.

In the old days (a couple of months ago) I had assumed that someone wearing a mask was trying to protect themselves against the germs coming from others. Come to find out, their motives were altruistic. Those masks were meant to protect other people — us — from some contagion the wearer had. It’s always nice to get an upgrade to your faith in human nature, especially these days.

On the other hand, I was disappointed to learn that ordinary masks were pretty useless if you did want protection. That kind of mask is kind of expensive, it turns out, and pretty hard to get. Just ask the health care workers about the N95. Shouldn’t there be some kind of push to make these self-protecting masks available to everyone in the new future? You know, in case this happens again?

Which got me to thinking about nose hairs. I think we can all agree that, of all the hairs on the human body, none is more admirable than the nose hair. Its chief function, like that of the N95, is to deny admittance to any item that is not welcome in our lungs. When one considers what might be inadvertently sucked into our delicate inner passages, it’s hard to deny the importance of such work. Without the these gentle sentinels, anything from tainted motes of dust to swarms of murder hornets might be finding their ways into our soft private regions.

Nose hairs are the first line of defense against all potentially deadly intruders. I count in that dark confederacy the panoply of viruses that are out there plotting our misery. Including the damnable Covid-19.

So far, mere follicles have not been the equal of the clouds of tiny Covid globules now swirling among us in their menacing Brownian dance. We need something stronger and perhaps more dense to protect us. If masks are indeed going to be with us for a while, why not follow the lead of Mother Nature herself as we search for new solutions to the viral threat?

And so, my idea. It is, I dare to say, a possibly game-changing notion. With far-reaching ramifications. And nose hairs are at the very center of my vision.

Picture, if you will, a mask woven of the finest and most practical of natural materials - tightly knit nasal tresses. Yes, nose hairs! They have evolved over millions of years to perform the very task we now so desperately need. I am not suggesting that such a mask needs to be woven from your own nose hairs. Those hairs are busy doing their essential work 24/7. Instead, I propose that these incredible natural filterers be grown and harvested here in the U.S. using our abundant technical savvy — paired with good, old-fashioned American enterprise.

Good, you’re still with me. I salute your conceptual spunk. That kind of can-do attitude will be vital in seeing this project to its conclusion. So, what’s next? I’ll bet you’ve already guessed the answer. That’s right, nose hair farms! Where once there were amber waves of grain rippling in the sun, now imagine great rolling fields of follicles growing and thriving as far as the eye can see. All of it would be rooted in the finest man-made meat. That technology, we know, already exists. It just has to be scaled up to cover a third of our American land mass.

I may have lost a few of you with that last suggestion, but so be it. We are on the far frontier of public health theory, and it’s not for everyone. All right, then. We must dare to push on. Our next issue is keeping those millions of acres of meat moist — what I call the mucus conundrum. We’re going to need over 50 million barrels of it each year in order for this project to succeed.

Hey. Where’d everybody go?
Are you thinking what I'm thinking? Probably not, I suppose. We don't have a common frame of reference.

Except we do. We're stuck at home worrying about cooties. Covid cooties. And I, at least, am thinking that I'm going to be here for a while. To be specific: I won't be coming back out until there's a vaccine.

That's over a year from now. Forget the apex, never mind the reopening, don't talk to me about returning to normal. And if you are now thinking that I'm a fraidy-cat, well, I can live with that.

See you in July. July 2021, that is.
Back (Again) to the Future
There was a time when I fretted that the proliferation of Star Trek spin-offs would dilute the glory of the original series. Deep Space Nine, Enterprise, and Voyager never matched the boldly go that Kirk and Spock delivered. The aliens in these shows, moreover, were substandard. A human with an ugly rubber forehead is not my idea of a little green man…even if he is painted green. Some of the science ideas were kind of interesting, but that’s only one out of the three legs needed to support my footstool of science fiction fandom. If you know what I mean.

I do not include the The Next Generation in that string of disappointments. It boldly went, and the acting wasn’t half bad for a space opera. It also got points for upgrading the aliens from the original (hi, Warf), and for introducing a high quality android character in Data. It also kept the nifty science themes coming, so I rate it right up there with Gene Roddenberry’s original creation from the 60s.

Discovery, sadly, did nothing to stem the tide of my despair. After Season 1, I had hailed it as the best Star Trek ever. I see now that my judgment was tainted by wishful thinking. The alien upgrades were good, and in Season 1 the science was cool, but the whole mess collapsed in Season 2. Spectacularly, in my view.

I was devastated. A long time had passed since the last TV Star Trek, and I was really hoping it would succeed. In the end, it did worse than fail. It killed my hope and badly damaged my love of science fiction itself. Until last night, I had even imagined that my inner trekkie might wither and die.

Enter Star Trek: Picard, and with it a new hope for the 24th century. I am on guard this time, but I can’t help but be encouraged by this new take on Roddenberry’s aging version of the future. For starters, the show logo uses the familiar Federation logo for the “a” in Picard. I bit hard on that. Then there’s Jean-Luc himself. Thanks to Patrick Stewart and his Shakespearean training, the now-retired Admiral Picard channels some of the best acting ever to grace the Star Trek universe. Plus, he’s a geezer now, which I count as a plus. Stewart, it should be noted, is also the show’s executive producer. What’s more, the writing is top notch. None other than the Pulitzer, Hugo, and Nebula Award-winning Michael Chabon is at the helm, and his chops are clearly evident…at least in the first episode.

As I have said, I am reserving judgment this time. Once phasered, twice shy, as they say. I see from the previews of Episode 2 that Picard will be accompanied on his current effort to save the universe by what appears to be a crew of misfits and oddballs. That concerns me. These characters may provide entertainment, but I worry that they might do something stupid and upend my footstool of fanhood.

Furthermore, there hasn’t been much of an alien presence as yet (unless you count Romulans, who are practically human anyway). Until I see what they’re offering as little green men this time, I am hesitant to go all in. There hasn’t been much in the way of science, either. Most of the quasi tech talk has involved android technology, and that brand of science gets pretty thin pretty fast.

And so, I wait…until the next episode. Hope is alive, but it will take more than flashy CGI and a parade of old actors from series past to win me over. I must be careful; I don’t think my inner trekkie can survive another letdown.
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Trump supporters are people who know what they believe.
~ JC, Bonny Doon