TV and the Pandemic

Broadcast network TV has returned. There has been a mix in the way shows have dealt with the pandemic. Some shows(Seal Team, several sitcoms) have decided to completely ignore the pandemic. Some shows(Prodigal Son, Blue Bloods, Magnum) have acknowledged that the pandemic happened but the action takes place post-pandemic. Last Man Standing started the first episode mid-pandemic and then flashed forward a couple of years. I prefer these two types of shows. I agree with the Seal Team show runner who said people want to watch TV to forget the troubles of the real world. I don’t want TV to remind me how bad thing are in the real world. The other reason I prefer this approach is that many of the “pandemic” shows are doing such a bad job with depicting the pandemic they might as well have just ignored it completely.

Grey’s Anatomy has probably done the best of the shows I watch. Most of the show takes place in the hospital so people are wearing masks regularly. The companion show, Station 19 is not so good. It’s the same universe, but the characters rarely wear masks. They take their masks off to talk to people in public. They only wear masks completely when on a call.

We watched the first episode of FBI. No one was wearing a mask in the crowded office or on the crime scene. Right when I said they must not be doing the pandemic, the main characters put on masks to question a witness.

Some shows seem to go back and forth with it. SWAT mentioned it multiple times early, but in the last episode only a couple of people here and there wore masks. I couldn’t tell if it is supposed to be early in the pandemic before masks were normal or if it is post pandemic and some people are still more comfortable wearing masks. Chicago Fire also seems to have gone away from any mention of the pandemic or masks.

911 Lone Star is allegedly in the pandemic, but the entire fire department and EMT crew go maskless around each other at work, have maskless social gatherings, and then go home to their families. Rob Lowe’s character has cancer and they are more concerned about him breathing in ash than catching Covid. There was a large party in the last episode with one or two people in masks while the rest were maskless and a family played mini golf with no masks.

The Connors is one sitcom I watch that takes place in the pandemic. Everyone constantly has their mask on their chin if they are wearing one. They have masks on at work but take them off in the break room with coworkers.

Superstore does a better job with pandemic stories, but still have people without masks on around each other more than would possibly happen in real life.

I’m not one of those people who claims to get stressed out when I see fictional people on TV not wearing a mask(especially during old shows. That’s weird) I get that networks probably want us to see the faces of the actors who are making a lot of money. I just think there are only two real choices;

  1. If you insist on being topical and having the pandemic as part of your show, be realistic. Don’t just have a token mask here and there. Show what it is really like. People distancing and wearing masks. People actually worried about getting sick.
  2. If you can’t deal with your cast in masks or with doing realistic storylines, just don’t do it. Pretend you are an alternate universe where it never happened or go the Magnum route, acknowledge it happened, but you are in the future after it is over.

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Politics and the Vaccine

I was going to avoid this topic, but since it is mostly what is in my head this morning, here we go. I will begin by saying that I am on the very bottom of the list of who will get the vaccine. It makes sense. I don’t have to leave the house to work. I’m 52 years old and relatively healthy. Even when I did go to work, I didn’t work with the public. I worked in a building with a small group of people with masks and distancing with an administration who has no plans to open to the public until the virus is gone. None of this is about me wanting to jump the line(though I would get the shot today if someone offered it to me). I’m not mad at the people who are getting the vaccine. You should definitely get it when it is offered.

I am tired of all of the politics involved in all of this. Constant fighting over who should be first in line. People in certain professions declaring that they should be considered essential. Pushing and shoving and shouting about being more important than others so you can get the shot first. Local jurisdictions complaining that the state won’t give them enough vaccines while the state complains that the feds aren’t giving them enough vaccines while the feds are justifying a very low vaccination goal that is basically status quo. If we are depending on politicians to save us we are all doomed.

If we base vaccinations on what jobs are declared essential we are saying industries with the most powerful lobby get to jump the line. My former industry very loudly say they are essential during funding, then very loudly said they weren’t essential when it came to opening during the pandemic and now are very loudly proclaiming they are essential again now that they want the vaccine. Can we have a rule that if you closed to the public in March and never even considered reopening regardless of the numbers that you have sacrificed your claim to essential? Especially when you even refused to consider curbside pick up of printing or any expansion of services past online programs and curbside pickup of books? Now, this might all be bitterness about how all of the issues I dealt with while there were ignored and swept under the rug. It might be me being mad that I would leave a job because of the issues and thus sacrificed a chance at a vaccination. I think most people would agree, though, that if you don’t actually work with the public and have no plan to work with the public any time soon you should not be jumping the line for the vaccine. This issue is also highlighted by the situation in Fairfax County, VA where the teachers all signed up to be first for the vaccine but then said they still wouldn’t go back to work until kids can be vaccinated. Despicable.

If we depend on politics some of us are doomed by having a governor who is positioning himself to run for president and a county executive who is positioning himself to run for governor. The day our governor scheduled a press conference to say he was opening the vaccinations to 75 and up my county executive made a big pronouncement ahead of time that he wasn’t waiting for the state and that he was opening up vaccinations to 75 up in our county. It is obvious he knew what was coming and wanted to look like the savior. Now, today, the governor has scheduled a 2pm press conference to talk about vaccinations and my county executive has scheduled one for 11am. Probably more of the same. Our vaccination pace sucks and everyone is playing political games instead of working together to speed up the process.

The vaccine schedule should have been health care workers and first responders and then all age based. Moving down the age scale as supply allows. If you don’t have enough 75 ups one day to fill the appointments, don’t hold the doses waiting for them. Call 65 ups until the slots are filled. Doses should not be on the shelf while you wait for the “right people” to sign up to get the shots. Move the vaccinations away from health departments and hospitals and into places in neighborhoods where people go to get the flu shot. It shouldn’t take people hours to figure out where to go to sign up for a vaccination. Government run vaccinations should be at mass vaccination sites run by FEMA and the military and open long hours 7 days a week. Covid doesn’t take weekends off, neither should we.

We need to stop playing politics and start worrying about saving lives.

Am I Ready for the Post Pandemic World?

I just read this article from Drew Magary. He talks about going to DC to do a self guided walking tour and how he was not ready to be out and about even outside where everyone was wearing masks. He says this tells him he won’t be ready to fully embrace post pandemic life when it is possible.

I’m learning it’d be unwise to shock my system back to life in The After.
— Read on

It made me think about how I will react to post pandemic life. I am different than Drew in that I have worked outside of the house during the pandemic. I have driven to Kentucky and back. I also didn’t really do much outside of the house before the pandemic anyway so I wouldn’t rush out to do all the things.

I might not rush out to take long plane rides full of strangers. I might not rush out to a packed indoor concert. I would go see family in Kentucky. I would get together with friends. I would take some day trips to cities nearby.

I don’t think my senses would be overwhelmed or that I would have a panic attack. It will probably feel weird, but I think it will be a good weird. A freeing weird. I hope it comes sooner rather than later.

Trading News for Nostalgia

For pretty much my entire adult working life I have had the same morning routine.

Wake up. Make coffee. Turn on the local news. Read the newspaper. Watch The Today Show. Go to work.

As the pandemic has dragged on, I started to adjust his a little. Coffee is a constant. The newspaper is still a constant, though I sometimes pick and choose what stories I read in detail now. Some days I spend more time on the comics than I do the rest of the paper.

I stopped my daily viewing of Today mid-pandemic. There was only so much news I could take.

I just recently started turning off the local news after the weather. I could get the weather from an app(and I do) but I still like to see what the local person has to say. Every other story is pandemic related. I just can’t deal with that right now.

So, here has been my new routine of late:

Wake up. Make coffee. Read the newspaper. Watch the local news until the weather. Turn the channel to the stations showing old shows. Watch The Partridge Family. Watch Gilligan’s Island. Go to work.

If I am working from home and need TV noise in the background I might turn back to Today for the more human interest type stories, but a lot of those are also pandemic related.

Trading news for nostalgia has helped my stress and anxiety levels.

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Tater Talks TV Doctors

I watch the news a lot. Probably too much, even now when I’ve tried to cut don on news for the sake of my mental health. I’ve always been a little irritated with the TV doctors who pop up on the talk shows to discuss medical issues. With Covid, they are all over the place.

My attempt to have the lighter shows like Kelly Clarkson and Ellen on in the background while I work was interrupted today with a special report on Trump being released from the hospital today. The news was followed by NBC bringing on their three doctors to give the expert opinion. I have thoughts from that, but before I start two things to make clear:

I am not a fan of Trump.

I believe the virus is real and dangerous.

I don’t want anyone to interpret anything here as me saying anything different.

Ok, now, number one – I think it is irresponsible for a medical professional to go on TV to speculate about the health of patient they have not examined. They can give a broad opinion about the disease in general, but without examining the patient in question you really should have no opinion on their treatment or release.

Two – I find most TV experts suspect. I imagine you can find an expert to say whatever you want them to say if you pat them enough money. I imagine FOX News can find experts to say the complete opposite of that the NBC experts are saying. I trust no one.

Third – they actually brought Joseph Fair on to give his opinion. I wrote about him here. He is the NBC guy who was all over the Today Show talking about how he had a severe case of Covid an how he had to have gotten it through his tear ducts because he had been so careful. Problem was, he tested negative multiple times and also tested negative for antibodies. Was he sick? Yes, probably. Did he have Covid? Apparently not. Did that stop him from saying he did over and over again on TV? Nope. Did they ever admit that on air? Not sure. Does he still get to go on TV and be an expert on the disease? Apparently so. Why would I trust him now?

Don’t even get me started on Dr. Oz.

In a nutshell – I don’t think you should automatically believe someone on TV just because they have Dr in their name. Same goes for Twitter and Facebook posts. Do research. Gather facts. Don’t just believe people who are being paid to give an opinion.

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Ready to Rip Van Winkle

I recently watched 28 Days Later. At the beginning of the movie the main character wakes from a coma to discover he missed the zombie apocalypse. After that, on Twitter, I saw a conversation where someone mentioned they would like to be like Rip Van Winkle and sleep until all of this is over. I get how they feel. I don’t want to be like the 28 Days Later guy and wake up to the end of the world. I don’t really want to be in an accident that causes a coma, but waking up to this being over is a pleasant idea. A pandemic, a bad work situation, the realization that you have no circle besides your immediate family. It’s a really tough time. Why wouldn’t I want to Rip Van Winkle my way past it?

This isn’t the first time this idea has popped in my head. Various times over the years when I have struggled I’ve thought about how I wish I could fast forward to better times. Sometimes that thought involved some sort of sleeping until it was over thought. Why don’t we have the technology we see in sci-fi where we can go into some sort f cryo sleep and be revived years later without aging? It’s probably not healthy to want to sleep through your problems, but I think 2020 is something I would gladly miss.

Of course, it is less of a desire now that I have a family. With a family, I would miss more than the pandemic. I would miss time with my kids. Maybe they could cryo sleep with me.

Am I the only one? Anyone else wish they could Rip Van Winkle their way past all of this?

In College, Football is All That Matters

Big 10 football is back The Big 10 has reversed course and has unpostponed the season. Football will start next month. They say they are able to do this because of improvement in testing. They will be able to test players every day with the quick tests and isolate the positives to slow the spread. I love football. I will enjoy watching Kentucky football when it starts next week. I do have questions, though.

My daughter is at a Big 10 school. She lives in an apartment near campus. I wrote about her college and coronavirus here. Every student had to be tested before arriving. They were also required to be tested again once they arrived. After that it was a couple of weeks before they were tested again. My daughter was tested again yesterday. Meantime, in person classes started.

My questions

– why is it OK for the football players to have access to daily testing while the students on campus get tested every couple of weeks?

– why is it OK for the football players to have access to quick tests when the rest of the students have to wait several days for results?

– at my daughter’s school they are telling them they should go home to isolate if they test positive. Will the same hold true for players or will they get special isolation housing with daily access to university health care?

– are we done pretending college sports is really college sports?

– will colleges be more likely to shut down campus to give football a bubble?

The pandemic and the response really highlights what we see as important. Football obviously trumps education in this case.

Looking Forward – Some Answers

During my time at home in the spring I had some questions as I looked forward to whatever the future brings. Let’s see what answers I have.

Can I really spend more than a few more months working somewhere that steals my joy?

The answer mentally and emotionally is no. Unfortunately, I really don’t have a choice. Now is not a great time to consider changing jobs/careers. I’m stuck.

Can I figure out a way to take a sabbatical and figure out what I want to do with the rest of my life?

Technically, the answer is yes. Realistically, the answer is no. I can’t do this without buy in from others and others aren’t buying it. Early retirement does not appear to be considered a valid life plan. Quitting and figuring things out for a few months before moving on is also not seen as a valid life plan. Again, I am stuck.

Are the people I spend my time with the people I should be spending my time with?

Undetermined. It seems it will be a long time before I spend time with anyone not in my immediate family. Maybe it is better this way.

Who am I finding I miss seeing and who are the ones I’ve figured out I don’t miss at all?

Mainly, at this point I only miss my kids and my family in Kentucky. I was pretty solitary before this. I’m solitary now. Hard to miss what you never had.

Am I living a life that makes a difference?

No. That is one thing that would change if I could take a sabbatical. Even though some think I would “sit around and do nothing” what I would do is volunteer to help in the community where needed. There are plenty of places that could use my help these days.

Would I be happy coming out of this the same me I was when it started?

No. I have gone as far as looking up therapists covered by my insurance. I just can’t bring myself to make the call. If I can’t change my circumstances I can at least work on coping with them.

What things in my life am I finding I don’t miss?

Rush hour traffic. Some social obligations.

What things do I miss more than I expected?

The little things. Coffee out while reading my book and people watching. Going to football games. The possibility of going to a live concert. Travel, even domestic. The feeling of normal.

So, no real answers. Same old same old.

A Defense of Distraction

We are just a few days removed from the anniversary of 9/11. Someone mentioned on Facebook how all the TV networks covered the aftermath 24/7 and cable networks went dark, I remember the days of television being 24/7 coverage of the recovery efforts and stories of the day. I remember for a time it was necessary. I also remember a point where I voiced the opinion on a listserv that I thought it was time for the 24/7 coverage to stop and for entertainment television to return. I also remember someone writing back an angry response calling me insensitive. I still stand by my thought at the time that it was better for people to have the distraction of random television shows if they so chose.

We are now in the middle of a pandemic. There are massive fires out west. There is social unrest. In the midst of this we also have NBA basketball, NFL football, MLB baseball and the US Open. There was a article in the paper recently where the columnist implied that no one really cared about sports these days and that it was all just background noise. He is probably right that many people don’t care about sports. Many people didn’t care about sports before the pandemic and they wasn’t start now. There are some people who probably used to care about sports who now don’t. There are some like me who do care if their team wins and loves having sports back. Even if it is just background noise isn’t that important as well?

When we were in lockdown and I was working from home all day I would have the news on in the background. It didn’t take ling for me to realize that this was not healthy for me. I switched over to game shows and once the NBA started I had that on in the background while I worked. I needed a break from the stress of the news. I’ve binged shows on Netflix. We are catching up on shows we had on the DVR. I’m watching and caring about sports. I still read the newspaper every morning and I watch the morning news. I check my state’s Covid numbers every day. I’m not ignoring the news. I just find things to take my mind off the stress of all of the bad news.

Distraction isn’t insensitive. It’s a vital mental health need.

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College and Corona

There is a lot in the news about colleges and corona. Campuses that have had large outbreaks and have sent students home. Colleges that have suspended in person learning. Colleges that are doing OK so far(not that they make the news). Debate about sending students home once there is an outbreak. I agree with Dr Fauci on that one. It makes no sense to send students back to multiple communities to spread the virus. It seems better to keep them on isolated on campus. I thought that was what my daughter’s school was doing until yesterday.

My daughter’s school has a Covid dashboard and one number they report is quarantine and isolation housing numbers. I had heard one story of someone who was possible exposed and was quarantining in an on campus apartment. It seemed like they were not sending them home. Then, yesterday, we received an email from the university with information on Covid procedures. In the letter it says that students who test positive should isolate at their permanent address unless there are extenuating It says the same for people who need to quarantine for contact with someone with Covid. So, her school has decided it makes sense to bring all the students to campus and then, once they get Covid or are exposed to Covid, send them off to their homes to infect their families. Smart move.

They also said this also pertains to students in off campus housing unless the University Health Center decides they are allowed to quarantine in place. I’m confused about how they think they have control over this. If a student is paying rent in a place not owned by the university how does the university get to decide if they an quarantine there? I have noticed that they seem to treat the apartments where my daughter lives like it is on campus housing. I guess because it is right across the street from campus and is basically all student residents. Still, I’m not sure how they can tell someone to vacate while they are still obligated to pay rent to a private company. I feel some lawsuits coming.

So, I guess if my daughter comes into contact with someone with Covid it will mean that I will also be in quarantine since I will have to drive her home and she will be in the same house as me.

Funny how we all say follow the science until the science says keep the students there and then we ignore it.