Five Things: June 17, 2020

It’s my wedding anniversary today, so I’m zooming through this one. I’m sure you’ll understand. Here’s today’s five!

Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben head toward retirement: Because 2020 is the year when companies finally realized brands explicitly referencing slavery times and/or peddling racially submissive stereotypes are just not cool. Which, I mean, yes? Good? It would be easy for me to be snarky and say “was anyone really asking for Aunt Jemima to go into retirement?” but as it turns out, yes, they have been, and for some time now, so this is another place where my privileged white ass meant I had a blind spot in my understanding of the world. Funny about that. I’ll be interested to see what brand name replaces both items — I don’t see either PepsiCo or Mars, the companies retiring the brands, being all that keen to relinquish market share for these products.

Covid is spiking in 21 states: again, funny how when you don’t actually solve your virus problem before you open back up, the virus comes back as if you didn’t actually solve your problem. So strange! Also, it does seem the current political solution for this is “(shrug) guess people will die, then.” So, yeah, if you were hoping for this all to be over with quickly, at least here in the US, I’ve got bad news for you. And I hope you weren’t planning to do any international travel any time soon. Krissy and I had big plans to celebrate our 25th anniversary in Iceland. At this rate, we might be considered lucky to make it there for our 27th or28th.

Juneteenth an official holiday? It’s happening in Chicago, and there appears to be some momentum to make it a national holiday (if you’re going, uhhhhh, whatteenth now?, here’s a backgrounder for you). Personally I’m totally down with making Juneteenth a national holiday; some people want to swap it out for Columbus Day, and while I’m not opposed to that I think it’d be fine to have Juneteenth and take the current Columbus Day spot and make it a National Indigenous People’s Day/Enrico Fermi Day joint celebration.

“Homegrown”: If you were randomly thinking to yourself that you wanted to listen to a never-released 45-year-old Neil Young album, then today’s your day. Also, you have weirdly specific desires. I’m listening to it right now, and, yup, it sure sounds like Neil Young at his most Neil Youngish. As the kids say, if this is the sort of thing you like, then you’ll like this sort of thing. The direct link to the album stream on Young’s site is here.

Next July in Disneyland: In case you were wondering when the Happiest Place on Earth was planning to dip its toe back in. It’s also worth noting the things Disney plans to make their resorts safe, which include full masking and reduced capacity. Since Disney is a corporation intensely aware of its potential liability, it’s probably not out of line to suggest that Disney’s best practices here are probably a good minumum standard for other places to follow. Especially about the masks. Wear your damn masks, people!


54 Comments on “Five Things: June 17, 2020”

  1. Juneteenth would at least give us a national holiday in an otherwise bare month.

  2. Enjoy your anniversary – and thanks for the Neil Young link. I’ve some of his old stuff and never get tired of listening to it.

  3. Enrico Fermi, because “the Italian Navigator has just landed in the New World”? Some unfortunate resonances there.

  4. When we moved to Utah in 1996 and to Kentucky in 2001 I was amazed that no one knew what Juneteenth was. Having grown up in Texas it was a known date every year. I think it should be. I agree with @Theophylact that we could use a June holiday.

  5. Um, Theophylact, I hope you’re pulling our leg on the Enrico Fermi thing. If so, kudos, and pull the other one; it has bells on. If not, you might want to know that Fermi Labs is a thing and he sort of tinkered with these big boomy things out in Alamagordo, NM, about 75-80 years ago.

  6. I liked the first Neil Young song on his album. Separate Ways. Others not so much. Thanks.
    Bryan, this ignorant white guy had to Google Juneteenth as I did not know what day of the month it was on. Now I know.

  7. What does it say about me that my reaction to Uncle Ben being retired is that I wondered how someone who died in 1962 would go about retiring in 2020, and what was Peter going to Angst about now?

    Ah well, I have to grow old, but I refuse to grow up.

  8. Will they go to the same retirement home as the Land-o-Lakes butter maiden?

  9. Jack Whitehurst: That was a code phrase used used in the Manhattan Project because the security people would have been irked if they said “We have achieved a self-sustained nuclear chain reaction” over the phone.

  10. Theophylact’s reference is not unknown to me, having read Richard Rhodes’ “The Making of the Atomic Bomb” when was published in 1986. It’s not pulling legs at all I think, but a reminder of what Fermi proved about the subject of that book. Not that I think it was unfortunate, at least back then when Nazi Germany was pursuing the same goal that Fermi was.

  11. Regarding Columbus->Indigenous People’s Day: when we were in Australia on Australia Day (the first landing) a decade or so ago, we also saw a counter-celebration from the indigenous Australians calling it “Invasion Day”. Love didgeridoos, and had one sent home.

  12. My only concern with Disneyland reopening is that, if the opening of Disney Springs is anything to go by, masks and social distancing are quickly forgotten in the heat and excitement of all things Disney. And apparently Disney Springs is already closing stores again, although no one seems to know the real reason why. Until we can move past the “it’s all about me” attitude, we’re going to be up a certain creek without a paddle and with a poor excuse for a canoe.

  13. The Chicago Juneteenth observation is completely voluntary, for a handful of companies. Making it an official city holiday was just shot down by the mayor today.

  14. Thanks for the link on Juneteenth. Sounds like dressing up, eating BBQ, and learning something is what’s on for the holiday.

    Me, I’m planning to BBQ some ribs and chicken; dress up as nice as I can based on heat; and continue to practice my bass.

  15. Heh, having large numbers of Asian supermarkets in the neighbourhood, I’m one to buy way better and cheaper rice than “Uncle Ben.”

    A more interesting curiosity is that John Schneider, “Bo Duke” of the show Dukes of Hazzard, has been asking if people considered the show to have been in any way racist. The answer was pretty well a self-evident “no” in that they stayed well out of having racial controversies presented.

    The use of the Confederate flag on the “General Lee” car alongside the “good ‘ol boy” moonshine runners whooping as they get the car to jump bridges in rebellion against the corrupt town and police officials is pretty well the perfect poster-child for the way that Southern folk can look at the flag and say everything is all AOK. It’s all fine if we pretend there’s nothing problematic off-stage…

  16. “Oh, no. We couldn’t find that page.” Or, no Neil Young for me.

    Gov. Cuomo declared Juneteenth a NYS Holiday for State employees and is planning to make it a law by next year.

    Yeah, my wife feels your pain. We were supposed to go to London for our 50th as we did for our delayed honeymoon, but that isn’t happening this year. Ditto for the backup plan – New Orleans or Las Vegas. There’s always next year, or not.

  17. When I was living in Oakland back in the 90s-early 2000’s, Juneteenth was a *huge* deal. Families and friends all around Lake Merritt, grilling out and having a good time. Which makes the appearance of nooses in some of the trees around Lake Merritt today especially chilling.

  18. Got the Neil on the laptop. Thanks. My preferred version of “Love is a Rose” is Linda Ronstadt’s cover, of course.

  19. When we went to Iceland last year I said at the time it was probably our last really long-haul flight (bottom of the world to top of the world) — COVID-19 is not however the reason I said that…
    We had a great time there though, really nice place. The best food we had was from a caravan at a petrol station, funnily enough — the box they were growing the hydroponic lettuces in was sitting next to the caravan. I’d go again.

  20. Get your flights in early, in this lifetime. My dad stopped flying due to the risk of thrombosis.

    As for Covid spiking, the Canada-US border closing has been extended, from June 21 to July 21, closing non essential (read noncommercial) travel. Canada is too vast for a soundbite, but I think it is all getting better, Covid-wise. How vast? Five and a half timezones.

    There are rumours today in the Guardian that US people cross into Canada “to get to Alaska,” but secretly stay in Canada.
    Trivia: Last time I looked, Alaska had two time zones, with one being a sliver to the west.

  21. We replaced Columbus Day with Frances Cabrini Day in Colorado just this year.

  22. I was raised in Minnesota and still live here. The news about Land o’ Lakes changing their branding to remove the “Indian Maid” character was welcome news to me.

    I suspect that it wasn’t a difficult decision to implement. The character is not referenced in the brand name. The new labels simply show a very Minnesotan landscape of a lake–the literal visual image of the brand name. (Which was essentially the image background to the Indian Maid character on the old labels.)

    I’ll be very curious to watch how they rebrand for Uncle Ben and Aunt Jemima, where the character’s name *is* the brand name.

  23. Dear John,

    The news isn’t all bad on the Covid-19 front. In fact I am feeling very cautiously optimistic. Yes, for the US as a whole, the likely real number of diagnosed cases is up for the past month. Hard to be sure of exact numbers, because it is almost impossible to parse out increased testing and testing demographics from the numbers, but most regions are definitely showing increases that can’t be due to testing changes.

    So why am I cautiously optimistic? Because I’ve been tracking daily hospitalization and death figures since the end of March . Since things started to loosen up at the beginning of May, they have been consistently dropping. The daily numbers for both are half of what they were a month ago.

    This is what we really care about, whether we wind up in the hospital or dead. If it weren’t for that, this would just be another annoying illness.

    Hospitalizations are the best indicator of the state of the plague, because they are much less affected by testing. They lag 1-2 weeks behind the time of infection, so they are current into the first week of June. Deaths lag by almost a month, so they wouldn’t reflect the effect of opening up (or the protests), but since the mortality rate for those hospitalized doesn’t seem to have changed in the past month, it’s likely we won’t suddenly see those jump up (not for at least a couple of weeks, anyway).

    Also, dexamethasone looks like the real deal for a change, and should reduce the death rate by about 25%.

    None of this means we are in good shape yet! At the current rate, we’d still be losing a quarter of a million people a year. For those flint-hearted folks who only care about money, the Chicago School economists — that bastion of liberality — calculate that would cost us almost 2 months of GDP. If you think “opening faster” will save the economy, think again. You’ll still throw people into poverty plus you’ll kill a bunch outright.

    There are going to be hotspots, serious hotspots. Think of every different jurisdiction as a different petri dish running a slightly different experiment on plague control. Some of them will do it very well. Some of them will do it very badly. We need to stay vigilant.

    And flogging this particular horse because it needs to be continually flogged — the covid-19 curves are NOT a predictor of future performance. They are a reflection of how our past behavior. Hospitalizations and deaths are declining, but we are not sliding down a slope that continues on its own. If we change our behavior too much for the worse, it becomes an upward slope.

    We are only back to where things were in March. Let’s be careful out there!

    – pax \ Ctein
    [ Please excuse any word-salad. Dragon Dictate in training! ]
    — Ctein’s Online Gallery. 
    — Digital Restorations. 

  24. Probably a brain fart, but didn’t the song “Homegrown” show up elsewhere?

  25. I hate the freaking masks.

    In spite of that, I do follow my state’s requirement to wear them in any enclosed spaces, but it does change my behavior a bit. When shopping, I get specific items on a written list and get the hell out as fast as I can. No browsing to discover things I didn’t realize I needed.

    As far as Disneyland, concerts, movie theaters, indoor restaurants, or any other place with a mask requirement, I’ll pass and stay home. I guess I’m fortunate/privileged in the sense that I can work from home. But I really don’t think I should be hassled about not wearing a mask when walking outside about my low density neighborhood…..I stay well away from anyone I encounter….

  26. Dear Craig,

    If the Health Official rules in your jurisdiction are that you should wear a mask whenever you are out in public, then too damn bad — you SHOULD be hassled for not wearing one. It’s not your call.

    If it’s not mandatory, well… humans are pack animals. We tend to do what other humans do without thinking about it. So, yeah, you should be wearing a mask to help set the example others will be inclined to follow.

    Can’t say I’ve ever met anyone who likes wearing the freakin’ masks. So not the point. If you’re getting hassled, I’m heartened that people in your area are that much in tune with good medical practices.

    pax / Ctein

  27. I’d rather wear a mask than catch the plague. Or give it.
    About Juneteenth, I’m in favor of it (I’m also in favor of swapping out Columbus Day for Election Day as a national holiday), but wonder if HI will have to eliminate Kamehameha Day, June 11 in exchange :P

  28. Happy Anniversary, hope the HVAC got fixed for it.

    Pence said that we are done with the virus and there will not be a second wave. Meanwhile Florida has had their three highest days of COVID in the last three days. That looks like a wave to me. Of course Trump then said we have a vaccine for AIDS

    Juneteenth should be a National Holiday, I would give up Columbus Day for it.

  29. TheMadLibrarian: I grew up with Discoverer’s Day instead of Columbus Day – meant to include Polynesian navigators, etc.

    But, from what I remember, we lost Discoverer’s Day as a state holiday when we took on Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a state holiday instead. The rumor at the time was that setting up the MLK holiday was tied to federal highway funding.

    So Columbus Day is a federal holiday in Hawaii as in the rest of the country, but there’s no Hawaii state holiday in October. We do already have a state holiday in June – Kamehameha Day – so unfortunately that might make Juneteenth a tougher sell here. On the other hand, we really should not have Good Friday as a state holiday (and it’s often close to Kūhiō Day anyway). If we got rid of the Good Friday holiday maybe we could do two holidays in June.

  30. Also, my brain wants to read “Next July” as July 2021…but I don’t see Disney doing that. :p

  31. @possibly-punctuated I’ll take Discoverers’ Day; that would give everyone in HI one official holiday per month! :D I do enjoy the state holidays that give us holidays in off months like Admissions Day in August. Still feel Election Day ought to be a federal holiday, considering how many people get dicked over by having to work through it currently; I would sacrifice Good Friday for that.

  32. Now they’re going to change Mrs. Butterworth, too. It never occurred to me that she was Black…I thought she was just some kind of non alcoholic secular Frangelico.

    Masks; I fly (corporate turboprops) for a living, so modified an industrial respirator by installing a microphone in it so I could use the radio. This transmits breathing noises as well. Recently an air traffic controller asked me. “are you wearing some kind of mask up there?” I could not resist answering, “Luke…I am your father,” and he was cool enough to respond, “Nooooo! That’s not possible! “

  33. Dear Formerly just Craig,

    Wellll, Pence might be right… seeing as we have yet to extricate ourselves from the FIRST wave (he said wryly).

    Honestly, when it comes to this Admin and science — if they were to say the earth was round, I’d start to think the flat-earthers were on to something.

    pax / Ctein

  34. To be honest, I never understood what a black woman (stereotyped or not) had to do with maple syrup. Isn’t that an essentially a Northeastern American thing, mostly Canada? The original icon looks like she’s from the deep south!

  35. They should rebrand Aunt Jemima “Aunt Becky” and slip free tuition to USC into a few pancake mix boxes Willy Wonka style.

  36. I to, “hate the freaking masks.”

    Aside from the breathing difficulties, there is also the matter of inhaling then needing but not being able to blow out fabric fibers because public.

    It’s gotten so that we only go out in the early morning or late evening; oppressive heat and humidity + reduced oxygen = dizziness and mild nausea.

    Add to that the dry and itchy sensation in the nose and throat and you’ve got a trillionth of a modicum of empathy for a small segment of the “never maskers.”

    Still, a pox (and there may very well be a pox) on the houses of all who go barefaced in public.

    Bitch and moan about masks all you like (I certainly will), but put them and your grownup pants on if you’re going to share space with your fellow humans.

    And. For. The. Love. Of. All. That. Is. Good, make your children wear *theirs*, especially if you haven’t taught them how to behave in a grocery store.

    There’s nothing more irritating than a barefaced child sniffing and pawing everything she or he see’s as her/his equally barefaced guardian or parental unit looks on.

    Lucky for us, there are grocery stores and other places where children aren’t permitted. This has brought me and other bored folks endless entertainment of the” entitled people flip lid in public and go viral when their antics hit YouTube” variety.

    There’s also the added bonus of watching them get permanently banned for acting the fool; we saw this firsthand at our local Ralph’s.

    Also, I think people vowing to shame/boycott establishments with mask requirements are cute, especially if they’re aiming to make examples of big-box places.

    The fact is, you’re a huge liability, and I don’t expect that many stores are going to lose their shirts because a bunch of never-maskers decide to take their potentially deadly business elsewhere.

  37. TheMadLibrarian: I thought we were doing statewide mail-in voting starting this year – or is it only Honolulu County? If it’s statewide, I’m not sure we need an election-day state holiday, except to watch the results come in for the national races. A holiday would definitely make sense for locations where people have to physically go and vote, although I’m not sure it would actually help with voter turnout.

    (Yes, Mom & I are both registered.)

    Relevant to John’s post: a very happy anniversary to you both.

    I don’t think anyone actually likes wearing a mask but what I can’t understand is the people wearing a mask over the mouth only (nostrils exposed). Most people breathe with their noses as well as their mouths…

  38. It is progress to eliminate brands steeped in slave-ist mentality/ imagery… yet, do not discount totally contributions of African Americans in cuisine and culinary to American culture… find a way to celebrate that aspect.

  39. My whole family is planning to go to Bali in December for the matriarch’s 85th birthday. I was hoping but now I’m starting to think that no rational country will let USA’n in, even 6 months from now.

    The holiday swap I prefer is Columbus Day for Election Day.

  40. Well, you can probably come to Iceland in July, the border is somewhat open (you need a covid-test — 100-150USD or to go into self quarantine for 14 days), so you can come, and I think this is the best time to visit beause there are so few tourists around.

  41. Masking:
    236 people infected at a Oregon church that was holding services in defiance of a stay-at-home order.

    Pinal County (AZ, of course) Sheriff Mark Lamb (R, of course) proclaimed that the state’s attempt to stop the spread of covid-19 was unconstitutional. Guess who’s tested positive for covid-19?

    Meanwhile in Springfield, Mo 2 hairstylists had close contact with at least 140 people and an estimated 200 to 300 more people had been inside the salon. Everyone wore masks, and no one was infected.

    Wear the damn mask.

  42. Growing up as I did in western Nebraska a long time ago, I had no exposure to African Americans except for those brands of fancy store-bought food we never bought, so I associated them with unattainable luxury. That and very odd occasional bits in movies and TV, seen very seldom. I arrived at my current location on June 19, and thought of instigating an annual Juneteenth party, having by that time heard of the occasion, but being fairly non-social anyway and thinking it would rub some people the wrong way I never did it. I would support such a holiday.

  43. Ctein- “We are only back to where things were in March. Let’s be careful out there!”
    That’s because today is in fact March 110th

  44. Talk about a natural conclusion!

    Serves them right.

    I’m sorry, but with 113,000 Americans dead in five months and a house full of vulnerable people, I’m not prepared to be compassionate when this virus makes examples of covidiots.

    This includes the thumpers who believe that Jesus will protect them and others from infection, no matter how stupid or irresponsible they are.

    I’ll gladly be uncomfortable for the length of an essential outing than grief-stricken for a lifetime because I brought home more than groceries and murdered my entire household.

    I’d much rather strangers be uncomfortable for the length of an essential outing than infect me or my friends, relatives and neighbors.

    I have and will continue to go out of my way to make sure people in my and nearby communities don’t suffer needlessly during this time but, I’ll be damned if I volunteer to contract and spread covid for the benefit of never-maskers and covidiots who can’t stand to endure temporary discomfort because pride/white supremacy-tinged patriotism /Trump said so/macho posturing.

    If their “medical conditions” mean wearing masks is dangerous, it’s time to either figure out remote shopping or get someone else to run their errands.

    People are sick to death (no pun intended) of waiting longer in already long entrance lines while entitled never-maskers and covidiots have futile arguments with store employees who, like a lot of us, couldn’t care less why they “just can’t wear a mask.”

    Furthermore, if their “medical conditions” are such that wearing masks will “kill them!”, why are they going bare faced into a petri-dish loaded with folks from whom they can contract a potentially deadly respiratory disease?

    I said it in April and I’ll say it again; their comfort/values/beliefs/politics will never be as important as my and my family’s safety.

    Likewise, my and my family’s comfort will never be as important as other peoples’ safety.

    May all never-maskers everywhere face public ridicule and service denials everywhere they tread.

  45. @possibly-punctuated HI is ahead of the trend, nevermind what the Rage Mango in Washington says about mail-in voting. I support making Election Day a national holiday, until and unless all US elections have safe and reliable mail in or other voting that makes standing in line for hours unnecessary.

  46. I’d like to add a note that very many people can’t handle a complete shutdown of their income stream. It means they’ll be out of medicine, food, housing, vehicles, everything. They might well die without the cash flow. So, I know it’s a bad situation but, the reopening of businesses is vital. People are going to die either way but, you really don’t want to lose all of your money and resources.

  47. You can’t spread poverty but you can damn sure spread a virus. Resources can be replaced. People cannot.

    That said, you’re right that, either way, people are going to die.

    Poverty is going to result from this, no matter what, as many of the sickened and dead are going to take their income streams with them when they go.

    Households will either be beheaded entirely or kneecapped to the point of misery; dependents are going to go hungry and lose their homes.

    Meanwhile, those brave enough to go out and support non-essential businesses aren’t likely to be well represented, especially when bodies begin to pile up in refrigerated trucks.

    We’re likely going to see a much more severe disruption of supply chains as workers fall ill and die.

    Hospitals are going to be overrun and medical staff overwhelmed, sickened and killed.

    Between the tanking economy (anyone who thinks this economy will withstand another wave of this pandemic has blinders on), inept federal leadership, police rage quitting in support of their murderous and racist colleagues and the resurgence of panic buying, American society is on its last leg.

    I’m hoping I survive what’s coming, because it isn’t going to be pretty.

    Every chance to get this right has been blown, and only the strongest and most fortunate are going to survive.

    I guess that’s how some folks want it. ☹

  48. Dear Thomas,

    The problem, though, is that it’s not “guns vs. butter.”

    You’re absolutely right about the devastating effect of unemployment and poverty. The GDP is going to decline by over 40% in the second quarter, and that’s falling most heavily on the disadvantaged, the ones who are more likely to have been laid off, had lower-paying jobs to begin with, and have few to no financial resources to fall back on. The ones who society shits upon are getting excessively shat upon by the plague. And when recovery funds do get allocated — too little and too late — they will be the least likely ones to receive what they need because… did I mention shat upon?

    They also get the least effective medical treatment because… okay now I’m just repeating myself.


    (You knew there was an “but” coming.)

    The plague, all by itself, causes economic dislocation and collapse. The economists at the University of Chicago ran those numbers, they have an econometric model that calculates the cost to the GDP of plague deaths (taking into account age, economic and other demographic factors). Keep in mind that the Chicago School of economics is a bastion of conservatism. You’re not going to find left-wing Democratic propaganda there.

    Here’s what happens if we can’t push the death rate below the current level (which is back to where it was in March). It’s an ongoing loss to the GDP of 15%. That sounds a hell of a lot better than 40+%, except it goes on forever. Well, until there’s a cure or vaccine, which is indefinitely far away — we can’t count on either.

    That loss disproportionately hits the same businesses that were hit by the sheltering orders. The same groups of people who have been slammed so far. Worse, a lot of businesses have survived by taking out loans, getting forgiveness on bills and rent, using up their savings, etc. Those are short-term patches. If the situation is long-term, they’re dead.

    Opening up faster because “it’s the economy, stupid” isn’t going to work, because it’s STILL the economy.

    Plus additional hundreds of thousands of people will end up dying unnecessarily.

    – pax \ Ctein
    [ Please excuse any word-salad. Dragon Dictate in training! ]
    — Ctein’s Online Gallery. 
    — Digital Restorations. 

  49. The problem with marrying the perfect woman is that when anything goes wrong, it’s your fault.

    The sooner we all wear masks all the time when away from home, the sooner we will be able to partially open businesses. Meanwhile there’s some employment opportunities born of the pandemic: contact tracers, deliverers, stockers, etc. And then there’s the safety net that we can help hold up, particularly donating cash to foodbanks and to other organizations that help get food to people.

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