Saturday Linkages: Advent 3/4

Shadowbox project by Creatiedroom

George Orwell describes the ideal pub

Fit for a king: true glory of 1,000-year-old cross buried in Scottish field is revealed at last

How to watch the conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter

Make a Christmas shadowbox

A podcast about Arthur Machen’s weird vision of art

Watch Peter Follansbee carve a shallow relief pattern

From Instagram to Insistent Goats: Another Life After Social Media Case Study

Slavoj Žižek on the “screen new deal”

My wife just confessed that for her entire childhood she thought Colonel Sanders’ bow tie was his whole body and now I can’t stop seeing a tiny stick body every time I look at him

Saturday Linkages: The King’s Hand

Tsunami Warnings, Written in Stone

What Is Metabolic Rift? The Ecosocialist idea you’ve never heard of and might need

Infected after 5 minutes, from 20 feet away: South Korea study shows coronavirus’ spread indoors

How Previous Epidemics Impacted Home Design

Luxury Sneaker Markets Are a Preview of Capitalist Dystopia

Farmers Reject Biden’s Pro-Corporate Rural Advisers

Out in the wild: how Ken Layne created an alternative to clickbait in the desert

Playing God: I sold my wife’s clothes to build a Christmas village in my parents’ basement

I had a dream where there was a food called “King’s Hand”, a hollow hand made of m&m cookie, filled with Greek salad. I could not stop thinking about it. Here is the culmination of a week long effort.

Pfizer Vaccine Trial Update

The Pfizer vaccine trial I’m a part of went up for review yesterday before a review panel of outside experts convened by the Federal Drug Administration. The panel recommended that the vaccine be approved. Odds are the F.D.A. will grant approval later this evening.

This comes at a very dark period in which we’re seeing an exponential increase in cases and deaths here in Los Angeles and the rest of the country. As more than one panelist noted yesterday, we’re looking at many hospitalizations, deaths and a strained hospital system in the days and weeks ahead. In short the virus is out of control. The vaccine will take many months to roll out and things aren’t returning to normal anytime soon.

Chart of side effects of the Pfizer vaccine from their presentation.

The good news is that the Pfizer vaccine is very safe and 95% effective. Before I decided to participate in the third stage of this trial I carefully went through the results of the first stage as well as the release forms that I had to sign. I’ve since closely followed the results of the third stage and can assure readers of this blog that it’s safe and that side effects are mild to moderate. I’ve heard similar good results from the other mRNA vaccine being developed by Moderna. Yes, there have been a handful of allergic reactions, but those incidents have been exceedingly rare. Your chances of getting Covid are much, much greater than any side effects from the vaccine. Most importantly, by getting the vaccine we express our love and solidarity with health care workers and respect for our elders, the two most vulnerable populations to this disease. Nobody should have to spend their last moments saying goodbye to their loved ones on an iPad especially the doctors and nurses who take care of us when we get sick.

Screen shot of TrialMax app.

My participation in the trial involved a checkup, two blood tests and two injections. This is a placebo controlled study so there’s a 50/50 chance of getting the vaccine or a saline injection. Each week I check in with an app to report if I’ve had any symptoms such as fever or sore throat. The study is projected to last for two years and I will, periodically, go in to have blood taken to monitor for antibodies. The study is blind do I won’t know the results of the antibody tests.

Both the FDA and Pfizer are considering what to do with the placebo group since it would be unethical to ask those in that group to stay un-vaccinated. Some in the F.D.A. suggested keeping the study blind and giving the vaccine to the placebo group and giving the placebo to the already vaccinated group. Pfizer balked at the cost and logistics of doing this and countered with simply vaccinating the placebo group and continuing the study to monitor for long term effectiveness of the vaccine. If this happens the study will no longer be blind and will lose some safety data, but will still yield results on long term effectiveness.

I’m going to guess that Pfizer will get their way. Pfizer proposed vaccinating the placebo group in the order that everyone else in a given state or municipality is vaccinated. This would start with health care workers, who make up around 20% of the third stage trial as well as nursing home residents. Judging from my lack of side effects, I think I’m in the placebo group and I’m more than happy to stay a part of the placebo group until my turn comes up for vaccination. I don’t think I should get special treatment and jump ahead of the line just because I’m in the clinical trial. Right now we need healthy nurses more than we need healthy bloggers (Is their anytime that equation is reversed? Probably not). Pfizer suggested that those of us in the study would jump to the head of the vaccination line within our respective age/need groups as the vaccine becomes available.

The silver lining to any crisis is that it forces us to do things once deemed not possible. A crisis, of course, can be exploited for good or bad. My hope is that one of the lessons we will take from this difficult period will be a sense that we all need to work together. The press tends to focus on anti-maskers and Covid deniers but I think, at least where I live, most people know that the reason we take precautions is for the sake of other people, particularly those who grow and deliver food as well as health care workers who take care of us when we get sick.

Enzo Mari’s Autoprogettazione

Thanks to friend of the blog Mosscarpet for a tip on another modernist DIY manual, by the Italian artist and furniture designer Enzo Mari. Following in the footsteps of William Morris, Mari’s Marxist design philosophy is both liberatory and egalitarian. Unlike Morris, Mari embraces the materials of industrial culture, 2x4s and nails, to offer designs that anyone can make without specialized training. Comrades can download Mari’s 1974 manual Autoprogettazione (roughly translatable as “self design”).

The goal of Autoprogettazione is not to just offer measured drawings, rather it’s a manual to teach a vocabulary you can use to design and build your own furniture. Mari says,

Therefore the way should be to involve the user of a consumer item in the design and realization of the item designed. Only by actually touching the diverse contradictions of the job is it possible to start to be free from . . . deeply rooted conditioning.

It’s no easy feat to make attractive furniture from 2x4s and nails but, especially with his tables, Mari succeeds, in my opinion. Some clever folks have even, in a subversive judo move, made Enzo Mari pieces with Ikea furniture parts.

The 1918 flu epidemic claimed the lives of many creative people including Egon Schiele and Gustav Klimt. I’m sorry to report that we lost Mari to Covid-19 in October.

Thanks again to Mosscarpet–I’ve already used some of Mari’s ideas to design a roof for our adobe oven.

Saturday Linkages: New Root Simple Compound?

Just in case you’re in the market for a very strange Goldfield Nevada property complete with pipe organ

If you do buy that compound you’ll want to watch this movie filmed, partly, in Goldfield

Yes, there’s a subreddit dedicated to power washing

How to Tap Less on Your Phone (but Get More Done)

A room, a bar and a classroom: how the coronavirus is spread through the air