March Ends.

[Priya Gupta] Wednesday, April 1, 2020

As of April 1, 2020 there are over one million confirmed cases of COVID-19 worldwide.

Homes.

Zurich & Lucerne. On March 24, The Washington Post had a story about a hotel in Switzerland offering a luxury “COVID-19 SERVICE”: a personal quarantine in a high-end, serviced apartment. The hotel’s new webpage for the service explains that one can “convert” an apartment into a “private health center” by adding services such as “nursing, food delivery, and personal chef service” and even in-room COVID-19 testing priced around $500. They also tell us that one could convert an apartment to a “home office” by availing services such as “high-speed fiber-quality internet, food delivery, and a staff-free check-in.”

The new COVID-19 SERVICE webpage assures us that we have come to the right place:

The best option now: quarantine apartments

The conversion of a luxury living space to a luxury personal quarantine seems almost intuitive now. Such spaces – from hotels to luxury high-rises – are designed to provide the privilege of anonymity, invisible service, and a closed, private world for oneself.

Toronto. On March 29, the City of Toronto announced that it would make use of hundreds of rooms in hotels for the city’s homeless. The Globe & Mail reported that the city would lease the rooms; CityNews reported that hotels themselves would be acquired.

New York. In yet another manifestation of the death logic of finance capitalism and its reliance on real estate, construction of luxury properties continued in New York for one week after the state went on lockdown. The governor’s executive order exempting “essential services” from closing included an unqualified category of “construction.” Workers had to report to construction sites with scant sanitation, much less protective equipment or social distancing. The New York Times reported the observation of one construction manager:

You have these people getting paid very little and being forced to work to build condos for $20 million each.”

After much uproar and the New York Times article, the guidance for the executive order was revised to qualify that only “emergency” or specifically-enumerated essential construction was exempt, which might include “roads, bridges, transit facilities, utilities, hospitals or health care facilities, affordable housing, and homeless shelters.”

Everywhere and nowhere in Zoom University. So many of us have moved to online teaching. So many of us now use Zoom as if it had already been a part of daily life. We see into each other’s homes, we see each other’s children, partners, pets. Zoom has rather problematic privacy terms, including the collection of an astoundingly wide range of personal data and the potential for unchecked surveillance. It is also the subject of a complaint with the US Federal Trade Commission by the Electronic Privacy Information Center for a number of deceptive practices, including that it “intentionally designed its web conferencing service to bypass browser security settings and remotely enable a user’s web camera without the knowledge or consent of the user.” Last summer it had to “fix” its use of Macs as secret crowd-provided servers, even when users were not signed on and even after they had deleted the application.

This week’s New Yorker cover.
Social / Media.

Yo-Yo Ma has been tweeting videos of daily “songs of comfort.” Someone on twitter posted this marvelous video from 1962: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dNvAUobb1y4.

The wonderful Powell’s bookstore in Portland made the incredibly difficult decision to lay off over 100 workers on March 17; on March 27 they announced that they have been so overwhelmed by support and online orders that they re-hired them all back.

I’ve been getting online ads for cremation “preplanning” services.

Community.

Consider buying yourself or someone else a gift certificate so your favorite shops get income now without having to provide anything immediately. Here are a few independent bookstores:

Prairie Lights: Iowa City, Iowa https://www.prairielights.com/

Politics & Prose: Washington, DC: https://www.politics-prose.com/

McNally Jackson: New York, NY: https://www.mcnallyjackson.com/

In other news.

SZ has been enthusiastically drawing our attention to a new neighbor’s place lately with a daily announcement of “CAA[T]! CAAAA[T]!!!” The little snuffleupagus finally made an appearance to the rest of us today. To say that SZ made no attempt to hide her vindication would be putting it mildly.

Priya Gupta | Los Angeles | April 1, 2020

PS. Please contribute to this collective diary. Let’s really do this thing together.

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