Two years ago to the day, and roughly two months after the novel coronavirus pandemic arrived in Iowa in 2020, I published a post titled Coping With the Reality of COVID-19. One year ago to the day, and roughly two months after the national vaccine rollout, I published a follow-up post titled Coping With the Persistence of COVID-19. In this post, as we enter the third year of the COVID-19 pandemic, I want to take stock of the progress we have made in fighting the disease, and explain why you should remain vigilant even if your immediate personal risk of hospitalization and death now seems relatively remote. [ Read more ]
Since we’re still committed as a nation to mowing down roomfuls of elementary students — along with citizens in every other age group and demographic — in order to protect the emotional fragility of gun owners, I wanted to point readers to a series of posts I wrote almost a decade ago about America’s insatiable lust for violence, and our penchant for denying and obfuscating the root cause.
In the aftermath of Monday’s ritual atrocity in Texas I confess I am not at all interested in hearing anyone talk about what’s wrong or what they’re going to do about it or what they need (usually cash) in order to do something about it. Absent new rulings by the United States Supreme Court — effectively overturning prior foundational perversions of the Constitution as wrongly decided — I don’t expect anything to change in my lifetime, even if I live another twenty or thirty years.
That said, my current mindset is also informed by the thinking I did close to a decade ago, which exposed the degree to which everyone but the actual victims and their families plays a self-serving role. (That was particularly evident on social media over the past twenty-four hours, as everyone used yesterday’s act of violence to burnish their own brand — like every other day of the year.) Reading the series won’t make you feel better or prevent any future deaths, but it might help put your powerlessness in context, and make it harder for people to exploit your raw emotions for their ends.
You can read the first post here.
Update 05/27/22: We’re only three days out now from the latest firearms massacre at an elementary school in the United States, and both the press and general public are already distracting and comforting themselves by focusing on the fact that the local police department demonstrated gross dereliction and cowardice when faced with weapons of war. In the real world, however, that’s actually a rational response to those weapons regardless of your level of training, yet we insist on making those weapons absurdly easy for any citizen to procure and wield. Then, when something horrific inevitably does happen, we blame law enforcement because they don’t want to step in front of military-grade firepower which is designed to explode the human body with every impact.
It’s not that the guns are a problem, it’s just that we need more heroic and selfless law enforcement officers. Anything to avoid doing something about the availability of those weapons.
As for the killer, again we’re only three days about but law enforcement is already on the hunt for a motive, and of curse the profit-driven press will undoubtedly follow. (If you haven’t read the series of posts linked above, read the series of posts linked above.)
As for what you can do, I am under no illusion that anything will ever change. What I can say is that if you have not been radicalized by now — both by gun violence and by the governmental refusal to do anything about gun violence — to the point that you support the repeal of the 2nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, then you’re part of the problem.
Update 05/31/22: One week later.
— Mark Barrett
At my advanced age it is not very often that I read something I find viscerally disturbing, but that proved to be the case with an otherwise excellent report from Cooper Worth at the Daily Iowan on 05/12/22: UI student accused of attempted murder, robbery had multiple UIPD reports made before arrest. In reporting additional information about the psycho who strangled and robbed a female student on the University of Iowa campus, including multiple prior contacts said psycho had with the UI Department of Public Safety, one of those prior incidents was related by the victim in the passage excerpted below. [ Read more ]
In a press release today, Iowa State University (ISU) announced that “it has concluded its membership in the Association of American Universities (AAU)“. For those not steeped in the arcane associations which drive meaning and relevance in much of higher education, the AAU in question is an exclusive research collective which provides no actual benefits to member schools, but nonetheless commands and confers a great deal of prestige in an industry which values tokens of esteem to an embarrassing degree. To that point, while ISU is putting the best possible gloss on this breakup, the truth is that Iowa State would not abandon its AAU membership if it was not already under threat of imminent expulsion. [ Read more ]
Whatever your feelings about Apple as a corporation, former CEO Steve Jobs is rightly credited with exploiting the intersection of technology and fashion. The iPhone, for example, was not simply a revolutionary device, it quickly came to signify cultural cachet. If you were obsessively checking another portable device you were a dweeb, but if you were obsessively checking an iPhone you were hip.
Because of my feelings about Apple as a corporation I have only owned one Apple product in my long life — an iPod Mini, which was received as a welcome and generous gift. In terms of music storage it was functional, in terms of sound quality it was tolerable, but in terms of design it was as cutting-edge as a device could be at the time. Unfortunately, a foundational precept of Apple’s cutting-edge design aesthetic involves obscuring and abstracting device functionality to the point of incomprehension, leaving new users in the dark about how their sophisticated devices actually function.
I still remember fiddling with my new iPod Mini and being soundly rebuffed in my various attempts to understand the interface. I also remember reading the curt instructions in the enclosed insert, and finding no information which explained how to reliably navigate the various menus. I even remember trying to fight may way into the iPod Mini menu system in the hope that there might be some onboard instructions — even a README file — but again I was defeated. Only when i logged on to the internet and conducted a wide search did I find a demonstration of the distinctive thumb swirl which was critical to the functionality of the iPod Mini interface. [ Read more ]
I was reminded recently that conventional wisdom has no inherent connection to reason or fact, or even to simple math. Over the span of a few days I ran across several individuals on social media who were talking about upcoming milestone birthdays, and as is often the case those impending dates were being viewed with a mixture of resignation and dread. In fact, such sentiments seem to be particularly common at decennial birthdays, when turning a single year older ushers in an entirely new decade of numerical ages, along with varying cultural cliches about what a given decennial portends. (Spoiler: it’s usually not good.) [ Read more ]
Whether you consider yourself an aspiring, practicing or recovering writer, or are emotionally enmeshed with same, one perquisite which greatly appeals to many wordsmiths is the socially sanctioned synergy between creature comfort and presumed performance. Where pajama pants and a baggy T-shirt would be inappropriate for an attorney or banker, that ensemble not only ensures the necessary ease of movement over long hours spent shifting and slouching in a chair, it also provides the minimum necessary coverage to avoid arrest during excursions to various therapists. (Even for writers working regular hours in an office setting, there is usually a certain sartorial latitude granted in day-to-day practice, as compared to executives, managers or customer-facing staff.)
While there are certainly occasions when a writer should be presentable — say, in court, or at their own funeral — almost everyone agrees that what writers need to be is productive. In that context it seems axiomatic that if your work involves plumbing the depths of your imagination, psyche or intellect, you might have a hard time doing so if your senses are aggrieved. While a compelling need to limit distractions can also lead to compulsive rituals, if not histrionic demands of fellow employees, family members or random citizens — and may be motivated more by procrastination or a morbid fear of failure than any valid grievance — here we are concerned not with mental anguish about fashion but actual physical discomfort. So if you are currently debating whether to wear your new beret at a tilt or dead-level, or whether it might be time to transition to a full-blown dandy, we commend questions of both style and sanity to your personal support community. [ Read more ]
As fate would have it, while I was drafting a post about writers and keyboard comfort an email arrived reminding me that October is buy-one, get-one month for pink Wristies.
If you’re not familiar with Wristies — and most people are not — they are soft glove-like coverings for the wrists and palms, which leave your fingers free to do nifty things like press keyboard keys or buttons on a remote control. And yes that probably sounds like a product of interest only to people who have perpetually cold hands, but I am here to tell you that if you spend a lot of time typing on a computer keyboard you should definitely give Wristies a try. (Also good for working reporters who have to venture outside in colder weather, but leave their fingers free to take copious notes.)
One year ago to the day I published a post titled ‘Coping With the Reality of COVID-19’. In a rational world that post would not have been necessary because every nation would have implemented strict policies to suppress the virus, but we humans do not live in a rational world. Instead, we live in a world constrained by our individual and collective narratives, and for the greater majority those narratives do not allow for intrusions. And a pandemic is an intrusion. [ Read more ]
After five years, eight months and fourteen days of blithering administrative idiocy, illegitimate University of Iowa president J. Bruce Harreld is now Iowa’s former illegitimate president. As warranted I will log any lingering developments on the Harreld front in this post, but I honestly don’t expect to hear from him again unless he is called to testify in court. (When this post scrolls you can find it by searching for ‘epilogue’, or clicking the ‘Harreld’ tag in any other Harreld post.)
08/09/21 — Just flagging this for the everlasting shame — as reported by Cleo Krejci at the Iowa City Press-Citizen: UIowa only Big Ten university without masking requirement for fall semester.
The bureaucratic perversion of the Iowa Board of Regents by right-wing politicians has been complete for close to a decade now, so there is little chance that new University of Iowa President Barbara Wilson will be able to convince the board to change its masking policy. (At least not until the regents have suckered as many revenue-generating students as possible to the UI campus, much as they did last year before providing the vast majority of classes online.) Adding irony to insult, the Board of Regents promotes its current president as a former physician, while at the same time allowing him to omit from his bio the fact that he is currently a casino owner and big-money Republican donor. What a world we live in when a former practicing physician is more than willing to abandon his Hippocratic Oath in service of Iowa’s thrill-killing governor, who can’t enough blood on her hands — so now she’s determined to make sure students of all ages across the state end up contracting and spreading the Delta variant.
Speaking of which…we’re only a few weeks out now from the recent tradition of the UI football program ingratiating itself to sports fans by leading The Wave at sick children looking down from the upper floors of the new UI children’s hospital. No word yet on whether the university plans to announce how many of the children at that hospital are on life support because three months ago Iowa’s Republican politicians also passed a law which makes it illegal to mandate masks for K-12. [ Read more ]