Month: January 2021

On Masks

Physicians in 17th-century Europe who cared for plague victims wore a mask with a long, bird-like beak that now has a menacing implication. The reason behind the beaked plague mask was to protect the doctor from miasma: before knowledge of germs, physicians believed that the plague spread through poisoned air. Sweet and pungent perfumes were thought to fumigate plague-stricken areas. Plague doctors filled masks with theriac, a compound of 55 plus herbs and other components like myrrh and honey. The beak shape of the mask would give the air sufficient time to be immersed by the protective herbs before it hit the doctor’s nostrils and lungs.[1]

“Wear a mask.” In 2020, this was a really loaded declaration (and will likely continue to be in 2021 and beyond). As The Washington Post reported in July of that year[2], “at the heart of the dismal U.S. coronavirus response” is a “fraught relationship with masks” as well as “faulty guidance from health authorities, a cultural aversion to masks and a deeply polarized politics have all contributed.” National Geographic noted that humans are experts at interpreting faces and generally use the whole face to interpret emotion which is why wearing masks for health and safety can present some social and cultural obstacles.

Widespread use of masks is critical not just for health reasons but also for social ones. According to researcher Mitsutoshi Horii, when only sick or vulnerable people wear masks, it singles them out, making them targets for fear and stigma. By fostering a culture of mask-wearing, people are showing solidarity with each other and cooperating to ease the strain on their fellow humans. [3]

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[1] Blakemore, Erin. “Why Plague Doctors Wore Those Strange Beaked Masks.” National Geographic, 31 Mar. 2020, http://www.nationalgeographic.com/history/reference/european-history/plague-doctors-beaked-masks-coronavirus/.

[2] Witte, Griff Witte, et al. “At the Heart of Dismal U.S. Coronavirus Response, a Fraught Relationship with Masks.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 29 July 2020, http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/at-the-heart-of-dismal-us-coronavirus-response-a-fraught-relationship-with-masks/2020/07/28/f47eccd0-cde4-11ea-bc6a-6841b28d9093_story.html.

[3] Witte, Griff Witte, et al. “At the Heart of Dismal U.S. Coronavirus Response, a Fraught Relationship with Masks.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 29 July 2020, http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/at-the-heart-of-dismal-us-coronavirus-response-a-fraught-relationship-with-masks/2020/07/28/f47eccd0-cde4-11ea-bc6a-6841b28d9093_story.html.

The Perfect Playlist: Goodbye 1990

The modern playlist is the descendant of the mix tape. And like my mix tapes, I make a significant effort to make sure they are right—and by right, I mean that there is a certain cohesion and shared texture that inspires me. What I love about digital versus tape is the great flexibility for experimentation (though, sometimes I do miss walking around Manhattan with my old yellow cassette Sports Walkman).

Thirty years ago, tonight, the world bid farewell to 1990. It was quite the year for me.

I will never forget how 1990 started: I was working for The New York City Department of Parks and Recreation Parks Enforcement Patrol (PEP) and was stationed alone in Tompkins Square Park at the stroke of midnight. PEP was part of the disgusting war, fostered by gentrification (i.e., the wealthy), on homeless people. PEP’s presence in Tompkins Square Park was part of the aftermath of the 1988 riots. I am deeply ashamed of essentially working against the homeless and working indirectly for the gentrifiers, but I will save that for another blog entry.

My life changed a lot in 1990, notably marked by a devastating heartbreak. Thirty years later, I reflect on this key year in my life with the music that defined the time as I am once again facing similar challenges. Not all of the songs on this playlist are from 1990; some are from 1989 and 1991, but they embody what I was going through, the heartache with moments of exuberance.

On December 31, 1990, I was thankfully off from my job with PEP and was able to spend time with my friends. Earlier that week, I had visited Tower Records and picked up the album, Red Hot + Blue, a compilation album from the Red Hot Organization dedicated to fighting AIDS through pop culture. I first listened to the album while getting ready to go out for the coming New Year. The last song, “Do I Love You?” by Aztec Camera was perhaps the best way to conclude that year as well as 2020.

I am proud that I was able to put this playlist together. Just a few years ago, I could not listen to some of these songs because of the memories they stirred. Today I embrace them as  a comprehensive part of the soundtrack of my life.

Let The Beat Hit ‘Em” by Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam from Clivillés and Cole Greatest Hits

Bad Beats Suite” by Sybil from Walk on By

I Wanna Be Where You Are” by Sybil from Walk on By

Power of Love” by Deee-Lite from World Clique

Strike it Up” by Black Box from Dreamland

That’s The Way of the World” by D Mob from That’s The Way of the World

Dancing On The Fire” by India from Breaking Night

The Breeze” by Two Without Hats from Two Without Hats

Together Forever” by Lisette Melendez from Pure 80’s Dance

Come Into My House” by Queen Latifah from All Hail The Queen

Good Life” by Inner City from Good Life

Vogue” by Madonna from I’m Breathless: Music from and Inspired by the Film Dick Tracy

A Dream’s a Dream” by Soul II Soul from Vol. 2, A New Decade

Body To Body” by 2 In a Room from Wiggle It

Tell Me Why (Remix)” by Expose from Arista Heritage Series: Expose

Love Will Never Do (Without You)” by Janet Jackson from Rhythm Nation

Someone In The Dark” by TKA from Scars of Love

Promise Me” by The Cover Girls from Show Me

To Be With You” by Noel from Noel

Here We Are” by Gloria Estefan from Cuts Both Ways

Love Will Lead You Back” by Taylor Dayne from Can’t Fight Fate

I Don’t Have the Heart” by James Ingram from It’s Real

Till the End of Time” by Mariah Carey from Emotions

The Wind” by Mariah Carey from Emotions

Do I Love You?” by Aztec Camera from Red Hot + Blue

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