The Bad News Bears (1976) was one of the seminal movies from my childhood, and I think of it this week during the worldwide coronavirus meltdown because it really does prove the old adage that you can’t hide your worst player. Eventually, the ball will be hit to that person. And they’ll have to make a play.
In the Bad News Bears, Timmy Lupus, pint-sized rightfielder and tagged by his teammates as a “booger-eating spaz,” gets to the championship game against the Yankees having not caught a ball all season. In the top of the final inning, a rival from the Yankee team blasts a ball to deep right and all the parents in the stands and Lupus’s teammates cover their eyes. The Bears are clearly doomed. Lupus ducks away, averts his eyes, sticks his glove out … and the ball magically settles in the pocket.
Brilliant, dumb Hollywood-contrived luck. Crisis averted.
Three years into his presidency, coronavirus just blasted a very deep drive in Donald J. Trump’s direction. It was inevitable that at some point in his term, Mr. Trump would be asked to stop golfing (booger-digging) and make a difficult play.
I am under no illusion that Mr. Trump will catch the ball. Like many of his fellow world leaders, he didn’t get a good read on the ball as it left the bat, and it’s way over his head. But what I am hoping is that he’ll stop looking around for someone to blame, stop pointing fingers … and start hauling ass to the outfield fence to retrieve the ball. Try to mitigate the damage and hold the play to a triple.
I was all set to attend the first lecture in the White Mountain Research Station lecture series on Tuesday, but when I got to the parking lot, I was told the lecture had been cancelled – in fact, the entire spring series had been cancelled. A foreshadowing of things to come within the next 48 hours.
But instead of turning around and going home, I essentially invited myself to an “after-party” (or should it be termed a never-party, since the lecture never took place) at Bill Albright’s home in Bishop and attended by a handful of research scientists, including Dr. Allen Glazner, whose lecture had been cancelled.
Glazner has authored several in a popular series of “Geology Underfoot” books, and co-wrote Geology Underfoot in Death Valley and the Owens Valley with Robert Sharp.
And as I’m listening to folks trade ideas and observations about geological formations, what was learned by observation and research of the Mt. St. Helens eruption in 1980, et. al., it became pretty apparent why the coronavirus panic wasn’t front-and-center in this setting like it was in every other conversation I had this week.
At one point Dr. Glazner referenced the Toba volcanic eruption in Sumatra which occurred approximately 70,000 years ago and caused a global volcanic winter that almost wiped out humanity. From wikipedia on Toba: “According to the genetic bottleneck theory, between 50,000 and 100,000 years ago, human populations sharply decreased to 3,000–10,000 surviving individuals.
So by comparison, a pandemic which may threaten loss of a small percentage of the total human population just … doesn’t rate.
Big thinkers aren’t much for small talk.
Coronavirus, as you can imagine, inspires its fair share of gallows humor. But as author/pundit Charlie Sykes was quoted as saying this week, “When people start dying, the entertainment value wears off.”
Diane Eagle Kataoka was certainly not pleased with Hite for riffing last Thursday, “It only kills old people, so who cares?”
*Diane, I believe he was being a tad facetious.
Another reader urged me to run a blank page this week so that The Sheet could help alleviate the toilet paper shortage (see p. 18).
Sheet for the Sheet. Clever.
And of course, there’s the Outlaw Saloon advertisement on this page featuring a clever bit of marketing.
Old friend Abagael Giles was in town this week. The former Sheet reporter is now working for Vermont Public Radio, and she made a very frank observation when it came to talking about people following protocol and staying home when they’re sick. When she lived here, she went to work no matter how she felt. She couldn’t afford not to. The specter of coronavirus will probably not affect individual choices.
And finally, a pretty interesting take in The Economist this week about how the coronavirus outbreak may affect the very nature of work. But I’ll need to back up first.
I visited my friend Steve Linde in San Francisco last October for the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival and then joined him on Monday morning as I was leaving town so he could tour me through the spectacular Google offices downtown.
And he made this offhand remark that there was more of a bias about having employees on-site (perhaps this was Steve’s bias). That there was a particular creative energy about having folks physically proximate versus telecommuting or working remotely.
But then, at a recent Bishiop City Council meeting, Councilman Stephen Muchovej and Planner Elaine Kabala told me this was dead wrong – that tbey worked remotely, and knew of many others who worked remotely, and that this was accelerating.
Their view was supported by the Economist story.
“The next few months are set to be a giant experiment in whether new technologies can allow successful mass remote working for employees, speeding up reinvention of the office,” stated the column, which talked about the ongoing assessment and analysis of the true necessity of travel, conferences, even the office itself. “Big British and American firms pay on average $5,000 per employee in annual rental costs. Just 40-50% of desks are actually used during working hours.”
‘Course, I have a few concerns about what the above evolution will bring (never mind the housing component – sounds like a population boom in the making), as we’re already becoming more solitary and disconnected from each other.
For example, I see very little of my staff during the week – until we congregate all day Thursday to put this sucker together. Thursdays (and beer from Spike) is what makes us a tighter editorial unit. Hard to imagine not seeing the crew at least once a week and still being able to retain Sheet culture (or lack thereof).
Or maybe work is work and no one cares about the rest.
In regard to compensation, I would think that the more isolated the staff is from the mothership, the harder it would be to gauge one’s value, and properly figure out how much to ask for. Yeah, I’m sure there are online surveys one could read to figure out a suggested number, but the only people who seem to be able to convince someone to pay that suggested number work in local government.