Posts Tagged ‘Isolation’

I’m going stir crazy, and I presume damn near everyone else is too — and after only two weeks.

After thinking about how much you dislike this mild form of isolation, please think about all of the prisoners subjected to total isolation for months or years on end think about how they feel, what it does to them. And then think about how the government you support subjects people to such psychological torture.

Whatever. Here are a few things that might help you pass the time in your mild form of lockdown:

  •  has a very large library of classic films, including a very nice collection of films noir. All are free.
  • Kanopy features the Criterion collection of films and many others, and is free on many public library sites. The film I’ve seen most recently that I’d recommend is Harrod Blank’s (son of legendary countercultural director Mel Blank) Wild Wheels, a wonderful documentary about art cars and their creators. If nothing else will do it, this will leave with a kinder view of humanity, its creativity, and a smile on your face.
  • Learn the night sky. The best free tool to help you do this is Stellarium (free download). Probably the best planetarium program, regardless of cost. Even if you just have your naked eyes, you can learn the constellations and follow the planets. If you have even cheap, small binoculars, Stellarium will open a whole new world of deep sky objects to you; and if you have even a cheap kid’s 60 mm telescope, wow are you in for some fun — especially as both air pollution and light pollution abate with the coronavirus tragedy. (Always look on the bright side of life.)
  • Learn to sing or play an instrument. Even if you just have your voice, there are a lot of vocal lessons available on Youtube. Singing is also a great shame-attacking exercise. If you have even a cheap instrument available, there are likewise a hell of a lot of useful instructional videos. One Youtube channel that I’ve found particularly useful is GuitarPilgrim, though to take full advantage of the videos you need to be at least an intermediate-level player. Whatever, the guy is an incredibly good guitarist and also incredibly good at explaining how to do things. I can’t recommend this more highly — it’s head-and-shoulders above all of the other instructional guitar videos I’ve seen.
  • Write. If you’re reading this, you have the means to do it. Nowadays, there are an incredible number of aids available, both in your word processing program and online. My favorite tool is probably the self-explanatory And buck up — today, you have it good: take advantage of all the tools. For both nonfiction and fiction, it’s a great idea to write a highly detailed outline before you start writing. You won’t follow it, but it’s a great jumping-off point.
  • Garden. As long as the water stays on, you’re good. Even if you’ve never done it before, it should be pretty easy. I live in one of the most hostile environments in the U.S. for gardening (alkaline, nutrient-deficient soil, low rainfall, brutal sun), and I still get good yields. If I can do it here, you can do it anywhere. A lot of public libraries have seed catalogs which will help to get you started. Helpful hints: start small — if you’ve never gardened before, start with a garden of under 100 s.f.; buy seeds or get them free from a seed catalog — do not buy individual plants for $3 or $4 apiece from a big-box store. They’re an incredible rip. Six-packs for $3 or so aren’t a bad way to go (far from great, but not terrible), but spending three bucks or more for a start is obscene. And then start saving seeds and saving money next year. (Sorry to sound so mercenary, but cost is a consideration, even with treating Mother Earth well. And I hate ripoffs.)

Much more on all this later.

For now, please meditate on how the government tortures your fellow human beings with solitary confinement.


As I was biking the other day, I rode past the site of a long-abandoned house. It was a large, well constructed, two-storey stone home built in the 1940s or 1950s, set on three acres, with a few small, poorly built abandoned houses also on the property. They were all gone, replaced by modern horrors of the type shown above.

What’s wrong with this picture? “Everything” is an acceptable answer, but there are a number of specific things, some visible, some invisible. As for the invisible, these are “piñata” houses, stucco (gunite) sprayed on chicken wire attached to particle board. As for how well they’re insulated, god alone knows. One thing I do know is that I wouldn’t want to own one twenty or thirty years down the road. (Actually, I wouldn’t want to own one now.)

The visible problems include their orientation and gross ecological unfriendliness. These homes face south, but do they take advantage of the abundant sunshine in southern Arizona for heat during the winter? No. They have a few small windows facing south, and no roof overhang, which would allow sun in in the winter, and would shade the windows during the summer. Then notice that their front “yards” are concrete driveways that soak up heat during the summer, and also reflect the sun directly onto the homes. Compounding matters, there’s no shade at all in front of these south-facing houses, aggravating the summer heat problem. Unless these places are extremely well insulated, which I doubt, their owners will be paying very large cooling and heating bills during the summer and winter.

Still another problem is the lack of a water collection system. Tucson gets about twelve inches of rain a year, so water harvesting (for use in landscaping and gardens–both of which keep homes cooler during the summer) should be a given. Here, the rain that falls on the houses and their driveways simply runs into the street. It’s pure waste.

But as bad as all this is, the social ramifications of this type of design are worse. It’s a design suited to cars, not people. It’s designed to minimize social interaction among neighbors, not foster it. It’s entirely possible for someone to live in on of these, get into their vehicle in the morning, leave without getting out of their car, and at night get home, activate the garage door opener, and drive in–all without ever seeing their neighbors.  Someone living in one of these could go weeks at a time without seeing another living human being during the hours they spend at home.

Then notice that there’s no front porch, no front patio, nowhere homeowners can spend leisure time and have a decent chance of seeing their neighbors. These houses are designed to isolate people. Their owners–like most Americans–undoubtedly complain about being lonely; and they don’t have a clue that their houses contribute greatly to the problem.

At times I despair of humanity. Housing like this is part of the reason.