Friday 22 July, 2022

Bread and Circuses

Arles, on a July evening.

Quote of the Day

”I was mistaken for a prostitute once in the last war. When a GI asked me what I charged, I said, ‘Well, dear, what do your mother and sisters normally ask for?’”

  • Thora Hird

Musical alternative to the morning’s radio news

Fleetwood Mac | Monday Morning | Live in Japan | December 1977


One of the great rock bands of my lifetime.

Long Read of the Day

 Endemic Covid-19 Looks Pretty Brutal

If you’re puzzled about where we are now with Covid, then join the club. I’ve been trying to get a long view of the pandemic. My amateurish intuition is that it will become like a much more dangerous kind of flu — and one that we haven’t yet figured out how to live with it. Which is why I found this essay by David Wallace-Wells interesting.

Wallace-Wells has talked a lot to Michael Mina, an epidemiologist who used to be at Harvard and is now Chief Scientist at the online health portal eMed. This part of their conversation provided what looks to be a helpful metaphor:

Before the pandemic, Mina’s research was focused on the development of immunity in babies and children, and his mental model for our collective experience here is the same. “I’ve always said that we have to grow out of this pandemic,” he said. “We have to literally just build up enough immunity for us to get out of the pandemic as a human species.” Right now, he said, we are the equivalent of 2- or 3-year-olds immunologically speaking — having passed through “the real risk zone,” we are now for the first time able to navigate a world of viruses and bacteria without the same acute medical risks as before. “We know that 3-year-olds still go to the hospital a lot, but we know that given the same infections, 3-year-olds do a lot better than 1-year-olds. And that’s because of immunity.”

The novel coronavirus is no longer novel to us, in other words. Our immunity to Covid-19 is growing up. “That’s where we are as humans,” Mina says.

For many of us, he says, the process will continue. The immunological gains aren’t necessarily huge anymore, given how many times most of us have been exposed — and will be, going forward. “Those who get through it will probably actually have then seen the virus, maybe 10 or 15 times over the next five years,” he says.

My reading of it is that we will —— or should — be wearing masks for many more years.

It’s long, but worth your attention.


A nicely ironic take by Imogen West-Knights in Slate arguing that London’s hottest day ever brought on madness that far exceeded the temperature.


The hotter it got, the more insane the advice trotted out to deal with the heat became. Don’t put an ice pop in any of the body’s less salubrious holes, carry frozen vegetables under your top on the train, rub yourself with a raw onion. And look, some of the heatwave madness is funny—of course it is. It’s funny to see videos of a burnt Englishman yelling at a passerby about their right to enjoy a cocktail in their own wheelie bin filled up with water undisturbed. It’s funny that Sky News ran splitscreen coverage of the heatwave with a livestream of the sun on one side like it was O.J. Simpson on the freeway. With all due respect to the animals involved, it is funny that Welsh pigs had to be lathered with suncream ahead of an agricultural fair. It’s funny that one cinema chain offered free tickets to ginger people. It’s funny that chocolate deliveries were suspended because makers remembered the summer of 1990 when the entire stock of a chocolate factory in Liverpool melted.

I really liked another of her observations:

Sir John Hayes, one of the nation’s large supporting cast of grisled Tory MPs and (yes) the former energy and climate change minister, said that “this is not a brave new world but a cowardly new world where we live in a country where we are frightened of the heat.” Hayes has been given a £50,000 salary by an oil company since 2018.

Sir Herbert Gusset, where are you when Britain needs you?

My commonplace booklet

ARIA — the ‘Advanced Research and Invention Agency’ (i.e. the UK’s attempt to learn from the ideas underpinning the US’s DARPA) is hiring. Link

This Blog is also available as a daily email. If you think that might suit you better, why not subscribe? One email a day, Monday through Friday, delivered to your inbox. It’s free, and you can always unsubscribe if you conclude your inbox is full enough already!