Creativity During COVID-19 Pandemic

CREATIVITY DURING COVID-19 PANDEMIC

The Mother of Inventions

By Trevor K. McNeil

Kick At the Darkness

There is a prevailing theory that times of turmoil lead to an increase in creativity. An idea supported by the warehouse’s worth of material created around the Nixon and George W. Bush administrations. Trump himself has countless examples of opposition in the public sphere. Despite having, so far, been in office half as long as the previous two. The COVID-19 pandemic is no exception. Aside from the suicidal fools denying the very existence of the virus killing hundreds of thousands around the world, there are three basic approaches to creating in the age of COVID-19. Survive, improve and thrive.

Survive

The most high-profile examples of creativity during the pandemic are those that engender a sense of community with each other and defiance against our common enemy. These include the now famous “Patio Concerts” that were started by opera singers in Italy. An idea taken into the digital realm by bands such as Blink-182 and Chvrches. Releasing socially distanced songs and sessions with the members distanced from each other and their fans. A theme filtering into albums, such as The Lockdown Sessions by The Coral. The Daily Show with Trevor Noah has changed its name to The Daily Social Distancing Show. A tactic also adopted by Full-Frontal with Samantha Bee and Conan hosted by Conan O’Brian. Though in O’Brian’s case, rather than being recorded in his home, the production has moved to an empty theater space.

Stronger Than Death

Others have taken the opportunity at self-isolation to really focus on their work. A tradition stretching back to Shakespeare who wrote King Lear under lockdown during a different outbreak and The Marquis De Sade, who worked under lockdown of a different kind. Having spent much of his life in prison or asylums. Standouts from the modern crop of self-isolated work include How I’m Feeling Now by Charli XCX and Folklore by Taylor Swift.

Lives Pulled Apart

Of the two, How I’m Feeling Now resonates most with the times. While pandemic and its effects aren’t mentioned by name, this only makes the effect all the more potent. While her work has always been urgent, songs like “Pink Diamond” have a raging, desperate, tiger-pacing-in-a-cage aspect to them. Gentler tracks like “I’ll Love You Forever” have a tinge of tragedy. Strongly implying lives pulled apart by isolation, lockdowns and death, yet still with a glimmer of hope. Love being stronger than death.

Clear Blue Sky

I’m not sure what happened to Taylor Swift while under self-isolation but I’m glad it did. Anyone familiar with my previous work won’t be surprised that I’m not the biggest fan of pop music. Particularly in terms of overproduced, corporate products. Folklore is the anti-matter of that. Released without promotion and recorded in self-isolation just months after her 30th birthday, Folklore is a huge step forward.

Wow, She’s Good

Swift having the time and focus to do her best work and sweet Thor in Asgard is it good! The raw talent only glimpsed previously, now on full show. The album is categorized as “Alternative” which, while vague, is the perfect way to describe this befuddling experience. Veering from the darkly bouncy “The Last American Dynasty” to Hozier-levels of poetic melancholy on “Exile” to the delicious word play on “The Lakes.” A bonus track which evokes the Romantic poets better than any song in recent memory.

Get Your Passes!

The pandemic also hasn’t been able to keep cultural events down. While some, like the San Diego ComicCon have been cancelled for the first time in decades, others have found new ways to exist. The Chelsea Flower Show, a major event in London often attended by The Queen, has gone online. Video tours of this year’s displays available on their event’s website. The Toronto International Film Festival, one of the oldest film festivals in North America on par with Cannes, has done something similar. Film buffs can see every film that was going to be shown in this year’s festival by buying a single digital-pass. Not only making the whole experience cheaper but a lot more accessible to those unable to get to Toronto for whatever reason.

 

COVID-19 And Murder In Minneapolis

Police form ranks to break up protests in Portland, Or

COVID & Murder In Minneapolis

By D. S. Mitchell

Grasping At Sanity

I hadn’t known, until I stayed home that the mailman stopped at my mailbox everyday at 11:30, like clockwork. Never before did I start planning dinner at breakfast time, but, I do now. I wash my hands at least twelve times a day, once for every hour I’m awake, unless I have to go out, or I get a delivery, then I hand wash compulsively every five minutes for at least an hour. Sometimes, I wonder how long I can hold onto my sanity.

Vacant Streets

The strange thing about the COVID-19 pandemic has been the quietness of the streets. The 24 hour buzz of the busy freeways is gone. The roads have been  almost vacant. Not in a post-apocalyptic sense, but certainly a sense of disturbing, quiet unfamiliarity. There is, however, an awareness of danger. A danger lurking on every surface and every person. The danger, although  invisible, has been scary enough to have people locked down in their homes, until Monday, May 25th.

Silent Killer

Someone called it, a “willing paralysis.” I’m not sure what to call it. Physical contact with another person could be a death sentence. The bullet, nothing more than a cough. As we have social distanced, we have heard new sounds. The sound of chirping birds. The sound of a singular child bouncing a ball against a wall. A neighbor, whom I’ve never met, playing his acoustic guitar, like a resurrected Michael Hedges. Not all killers are silent, or invisible. Some are intentionally visible and they kill with impunity for the camera. And now our country hears a new sound. A cry, a great and powerful cry.

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OPINION: Rules For Thee, Not For Me

OPINION:

RULES FOR THEE, NOT FOR ME

By Trevor K. McNeil

Power Of Perception

Perception can be powerful. As Mark Twain said, give someone a reputation as “an early riser” and he can stay in bed until noon. Though, as with most things powerful, such perceptions can also be exceedingly dangerous. Like the “honest man” who turns out to be a con man or thief. Or the “quiet guy” who turns out to be a serial killer. Perceptions, especially unverified ones, make it very easy to deceive, particularly ourselves. Such is the case with American Isolationism.

Divided We Stand

The idea of American independence goes back to the beginning. Not only in terms of the country but with the individual states. At the time of founding, the United in United States was more wishful thinking on the part of the founders than expectation. The reality was less a nation than a loose collection of essentially independent British colonies, each with it’s own local government, and usually a militia group, the British being absentee landlords at best.

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BASIC NEEDS: When Self-Isolating

BASIC NEEDS:

When Self-Isolating

By Trevor K. McNeil

Priorities

I am self-isolating. I have to admit I am rethinking some old assumptions. Such as, what is important? What is not important? Since I was a kid, adults have told me to “sort out your priorities.” Something that is usually easier said than done. Not least because the reasons for my priorities tend to be individualized to me. What I want, and what my mother, or my neighbor, for that matter, are not the same. Certainly the individualization of priorities makes the notion of shared or “fundamental” values, as applies to the human race, something of an absurdity.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

The closest thing to a ranking of needs or priorities, is Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs”.  Abraham Maslow was an American psychologist, who wrote about human needs.  In 1943 he wrote, “Theory of Human Motivation”.   He admitted some of his work and writings were based on observation and some good old-fashioned guess work.  Maslow believed people are motivated to fulfill a certain set of basic needs. Maslow used a five tier pyramid to depict those needs.The base of the pyramid is physiological, the most basic of needs: air, food, water, excrement and sex.

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OPINION: Vote By Mail

Vote by Mail:
Sealed and Delivered

Vote by mail has been a staple of voting in the United States as far back as the 1930's

Vote by mail has been a staple of voting in the United States since the 1930’s. It is now time to expand the system. Democrats are pushing to make it law, in every state.

OPINION: Vote By Mail 

Sealed and Delivered

By Trevor K. McNeil

Last month several Democratic Senators and Representatives introduced legislation that would require all voters to mail in or drop off paper ballots if 25 percent of states declare a state of emergency because of the COVID-19 outbreak. 

New World Order

A lot has changed in recent months. A surprising number of people, who should really know better, have started referring to this as “the new normal.”  If there is a glimmer of hope amidst the fear and the death surrounding COVID-19, it is that we humans are a highly adaptive species. The fact that we still exist is  testament to our adaptability and resourcefulness.  The coronavirus has changed our environment, but that doesn’t mean we need to stop doing what is important, including performing our civil duty by voting.

Changes

“Stay at home, stay safe” orders have changed our lives. One of the biggest changes is a switch towards remote work, app banking, grocery delivery, and home schooling. This is life in the age of social distancing. There are, however, things that are not so simply accounted for as work, shopping, banking or education. These activities have had an established correspondence system for years.  One of the major issues that has arisen, in this election year, is how people are supposed to vote when they have to stay at home and self-isolate.

Computers Can’t Solve This One

Online voting has proponents, but more opponents.

Online voting has proponents, but many opponents. Most argue it is to easy to hack.

One of the proposed solutions for voting, during COVID-19 is online voting.  Online voting has been debated for years. Proponents stress the convenience, mobility and accessibility of an online, or phone voting system, while detractors hype the risks.  Opponents most reasonable argument centers on the risk of hacking.  Many opponents claim online voting would spell the end of democracy. Of course, these also tend to be the same folks who are suspicious in general, who extol the wonders of the good old days of typewriters and whiteout. Neither the pro or con position is particularly helpful in terms of solving the issue of finding the safest and most efficient voting system.

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Switching Gears

Switching Gears

I thumbed through Stephen Shapiro's classic while sitting alone on the beach.

I sat on a deserted beach in front of my vacation home and reread “Goal Free Living: How To Have The Life You Want Now” by Stephen Shapiro.

Switching Gears

D. S. Mitchell

A Box Of Books

While pawing through a box of books I found Stephen Shapiro's classic,

I found several boxes of books in the garage.

Yesterday, I was pawing through a box of books I had stored in the garage.  I have looked around the house, searching for some “keep me busy” tasks to occupy my time during this “stay home, stay safe” order. As I looked at the books I was trying to decide if they were something I should drop off at The Salvation Army when the pandemic passes. Or, should I bring them into the house and find space for them on one of several bookcases.

Self Help

As I was trying to decide, whether it was time to part with the books or find space for them, I came upon Stephen Shapiro’s 2006 self-help gem, “Goal Free Living: How To Have The Life You Want Now.”  It has been more than a decade since I read the book. As I slowly flipped through the pages I remembered it distinctly, and wondered how I had allowed this little treasure to end up in a box in the garage. Standing there, in PJ’s and slippers, I thought the lessons from Mr. Shapiro’s book were so valuable that I should share them with  my Calamity Politics readers.

It’s Okay

Creating lists and setting goals is a typically American mind set.

Setting goals is a near religion in America.

Stephen Shapiro is the first person in my memory who gave me permission to reject the religion of goal setting that permeates the American culture.  His book encourages readers to live without the restrictions, structure and confining limits of a set of goals. His promise is that when you jettison the goal setting, you can find happiness.

If You Can Visualize It

I have been told since I was a kid, that goals of all kinds, big, small, wildly ambitious were all within my reach. I just had to want them bad enough. The rule was, if you can visualize it, you can have it; if you don’t know what you want (can’t visualize it), you might as well be lost at sea without a life-preserver. It was essential to develop a five-year-plan, kind of like China under Mao.

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WTF Moments

I am still connected via media

Despite the government order to stay at home, I am still connected to the world via newspaper, wi-fi, streaming TV, Facebook, Twitter and cell phone.

WTF Moments

D. S. Mitchell

Staying Connected

Despite being on “stay home, stay safe” orders; I am still attached to the world via newspaper, cable television, Twitter, wi-fi and cell phone. Things are coming at me too fast and too furious for my liking. I am bobbing and weaving, when I should be writing, researching, petitioning and organizing.

Task Force

I watched the Trumpster conduct another overly long and contentious Coronavirus Task Force press briefing this afternoon. Trump, was arguing and fighting with the reporters. Insulting their race, their intent, and their talent. At one point, Trump pushed Dr. Fauci aside, telling a reporter to stop asking “the same question.”  “He’s answered that question, fifteen times.”

The Question

I read some place when you hire a clown, expect a circus..

A clever person once said, “elect a clown, expect a circus.”

The question reporters and the public keep asking is why is Trump touting the  unapproved anti-malarial medication, hydroxycloroquine for coronavirus treatment?  If these briefings were ever informative they have dissolved into what one reporter described as a “three-ring circus with Trump as the deranged ringmaster”. This is what happens when a narcissist takes over the government of a country.

Trump Circus

Watching the now daily Trump “circus” via television is like so many of those other WTF moments I’ve experienced during my life. I’ve thought how things, common things, deliver a “doesn’t that figure moment.” So, I decided that maybe, just for laughs, I should point out some of the those WTF moments. Here are a few that I came up with. I’m sure everyone has a list of their own.

Here’s Those WTF Moments:

  1. Having a bathroom so close to the living room that anybody sitting on my couch can hear my urine splashing in the toilet bowl.
  2. Knowing that I was doing 85 in a 70 mile per hour zone with no plausible or believable explanation.
  3. People whose only contribution to the political conversation is, “Lock her up.”
  4. Accidentally setting my alarm for 3 a.m. instead of 8 a.m.
  5. When the only thing in the fridge is a bottle of Perrier and two empty ice trays.
  6. Not finding toilet paper on three visits to the grocery store.
  7. Realizing that I am center brained.
  8. When some old lady yells at me from across the street, “Why don’t you get a job?”
  9. Finding out my significant other hid my birthday gift in the pocket of the old coat I packed up yesterday and sent to the Goodwill.
  10. A dog that only comes when it wants to.
  11. Having a strong physical attraction to John Heilemann and Steve Schmidt.
  12. Knowing that bullies are often financially successful, or sentenced to life plus 30 years.
  13. Trying to stop thinking about every word I said in that nasty argument.
  14. Realizing that I was in all black the last time I saw him, and all black again, today.
  15. When I start thinking about what I’ll have for lunch at 7 a.m.
  16. The last day of my vacation, getting grounded in Iceland and can’t return to the U.S. because the country has suspended flights from the UK.
  17. Knowing that “I don’t know,” is not an acceptable answer.
  18. Suddenly realizing who I am talking to on the phone, isn’t who I thought I was talking to.
  19. Saving 100’s of old decorating magazines, because I may decide to redecorate.
  20. Keeping a secret, only to find out that everybody else already knows the secret.
  21. Going to a movie made from a great book and after the showing wondering why someone wasted so much money to ruin something beautiful.
  22. Aware that serial murder guarantees instant fame.
  23. When Tonya Harding is the most famous person I’ve ever met.
  24. When my cell phone reception is so bad I have to hang out the dining room window to talk to my son fifteen miles away.
  25. Knowing that $20.00 won’t cover a 4 oz bottle of hand sanitizer.

Trump Crazy

My list of WTF moments are really just daily irritations and small injustices. Most are funny and a bit annoying, but not life threatening.  I wish I could say the same about what I am hearing come out of the mouth of Donald Trump. I am convinced more every day, that he is the most dangerous president we have ever had.

RESIST, it is more important today that ever before.

Isolated And Loving It

ISOLATED AND LOVING IT

By Trevor K. McNeil 

As Bad As It Seems?

Humans are social animals. So we are repeatedly told. As with most sweeping generalizations, however, the earlier statement isn’t really true. Do humans show a tendency toward preferring social groups? Certainly. There is also a sizable minority, known by many, usually derisive names; that do not easily fit into the standard “social” description.  It is these people who are likely to fare best in the current situation, in which self-isolation and social distancing have become the order of the day. They have been social distancing and in a state of self-isolation for years.

Just A Little Bit Different

People who purposefully isolate, or at the very least don’t mind if they are isolated, include many of the estimated 700,000 individuals on the Autism spectrum. While every case is different one of the main features of most forms of Autism is a degree of social awkwardness. This usually stems from a difficulty reading social cues, even if such cues are understood. Which can easily lead to social gaffs when interacting with others. As such, many on the spectrum avoid social contact. There are also people who self-isolate because they are introverts, and prefer to keep their own company. These folks, when given a choice, would rather stay home and read, or go on-line, than go to a party on Friday night.

Digital Connection

There is nothing wrong with willful self-isolation, particularly in terms of the on-line world.  A high percentage of modern internet technology was specifically designed to connect people. As the first half of the term “social media” indicates. It is easy to forget, with all the wi-bang hype and spectacle, but the internet was, originally, an extension of the telephone. The connection was made through a land line in something called “dial-up.” People were once skeptical of the telephone, certain that people would stop talking face-to-face. Just as with other predictions regarding new technology this forecast turned out to be dead wrong.

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