My weekly collection of the provocative, intriguing, or curious, in a world where the house is falling down. The contextual, the cultural, and other things that catch my eye.

Hugh Masakela playing in 2007. Image: Scorpius 73, CC BY-SA-2.0

Hard to avoid Coronavirus this week, so here’s a set of articles that get beyond the health headlines.

History suggests that epidemics are a leveller. Even when their effects are short-lived they shed light on aspects of life we tend to take for granted

The richest commentary I’ve seen is on a Chinese blog. Chuang has a long, long piece reflecting on this epidemic (and the history of epidemics) through a Chinese lens: “Some things only become clear when everything grinds to an unexpected halt”.

Every new technology brings forth its own accident. L.M. Sacasas channels the late Paul Virilio as he makes sense of the virus.

The world looks different when cities are deserted. The Atlantic does a quick round the world tour.

President Ramaphosa, Hugh Masakela, and ‘Thula Mina’. A song by the great trumpeter Hugh Masakela was used by Ramaphosa in his inaugural speech to signal a shift in [the purpose of South African politics. Thanks to Tanja Hichert. Free, registration may be required.

Shakespeare in a divided America. Colour blind casting has pushed Shakespeare into the middle of America’s culture wars.

AI is more stupid than we think it is. Janelle Shane talks AI giraffes and knock-knock jokes with Gayle Allen. (Podcast, 43 minutes).

“The whole world’s at sixes and sevens, and why the house hasn’t fallen down about our ears long ago is a miracle to me.” (Thornton Wilder)