A reader has some recommendations and anti-recommendations:
I really enjoy The Atlantic. I read it online and at the public library. Some covers I really enjoy: Dianne Reeves’ version of “River” (Joni Mitchell) and Stefon Harris’ cover of “Summertime” (George Gershwin).
There’s also Jimmy Fallon performing the fun-in-the-sun “Swimming Song.” I wallow in the melancholy of Antony singing “Go Leave” [embedded above] and Krystle Warren’s rendition of “I Don’t Know” (“You ask me what it’s all about/ I say I don’t know/ Should you stay and work it out/ I say I don’t think so”)—either of these versions could be good additions to your cover-song series. “Jacques et Gilles” is a story and a history lesson combined. And there are plenty of other songs in addition to the ones I’ve listed.
I have always liked folk music, so McGarrigle fits right into my preferences. But there’s also a little extra memory fillip regarding the Wainwrights that shows my age: Rufus and Martha are the children of Loudon S. Wainwright III (of “Dead Skunk” notoriety and the creator of “Swimming Song”), who is the son of Loudon Wainwright, Jr., whose work I grew up reading regularly in Life magazine. I absorbed certain lessons about writing from Time, Sports Illustrated, and Life without realizing it, and the writing of Loudon Wainwright, Jr., was work I particularly looked for and enjoyed.
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Reader Barry highlights a band of two young kids and their father that became a YouTube sensation several years ago:
DMK is a Depeche Mode cover band from Bogotá. They have a ton of videos, including a concert in Poland from last year. “Enjoy the Silence” when the kids were still pretty small and really cute.
Likewise with “Everything Counts,” the band’s mega-hit embedded above. More details on DMK (short for trio’s names—Dicken, Milah, Korben) from their Wiki page:
DMK is noted for crudely emulating the sounds of Depeche Mode using an old keyboard and various toys and household items as instruments. … The band was featured in MTV Iggy’s “10 Colombian bands on the rise” article, by JetSet Magazine as the most famous Colombians in YouTube, and their remake of “Everything Counts” has been selected by Electronic Beats magazine as one of the ten best Depeche Mode covers ever.
Here’s a much more produced video with a wonderful dream-like vibe:
“The first video we made was kind of an act of psychomagic,” he said. “We never expected that it would evolve beyond that. I made one video and I invited my kids to join me and sing a song with me. I am not a professional musician. I have never taken a music lesson in my life. Everything I know about music is just for the love of it; it’s empirical. … We never expected [the fame]. It was organic and natural.”
(Submit a song via hello@. Track of the Day archive here. Pre-Notes archive here.)
What happens if you take Raw Power and rip it out of the socket? That’s the landmark 1973 album from the Stooges, a fierce burst of electric guitar that prefigured punk and hard rock.
But guitarist James Williamson, who wrote the songs with Iggy Pop, actually composed the guitar parts without amplification. “We were in a little mews house in London and you couldn’t be loud in there anyway, so I used acoustic to write the songs,” Williamson told me this week. “I got so I liked it better because you can really hear the notes really well.” The reason for his preference is even a little punk: “Sometimes the electric doesn’t have the same kind of punch that acoustic does. Acoustic is a little bit percussive, and sometimes the electric has the big sound, but it isn’t always as percussive.” (There are also some acoustic guitars on the David Bowie-produced record, notably on “Gimme Danger.”)
What would those classic songs sound like played unplugged? There’s no need to wonder, because on a new EP, Williamson teamed up with Deniz Tek, the guitarist in Radio Birdman and the Visitors, to record a handful of acoustic versions of songs Williamson wrote with Iggy Pop, including “Penetration.” Here’s the premiere of that track:
Acoustic K.O. (the name is a joke on the live Stooges release Metallic K.O.) also includes “I Need Somebody” from Raw Power as well as “Night Theme” and “No Sense of Crime” from the 1977 Pop/Williamson album Kill City, the former of which gets a full orchestration.
Williamson said the new EP represented the confluence of a couple currents. A Stooges superfan named Hakan Beckman (“He kinda knows what I had for breakfast in 1970,” Williamson chuckled) had long advocated for an acoustic record, and the duo of aging rockers Williamson and Tek decided to to do it after joking about playing lounge gigs together.
On “Penetration,” Williamson laid down an acoustic guitar part as well as some licks on Weissenborn lap slide. The recording process went a lot more smoothly than Raw Power. “At this point in time I think we have a clue as to what to do, and back in the day, that was my first album on Raw Power, so I had no idea what I was doing,” he said. The only hitch came when he sent his tracks to Tek, and the singer discovered they were out of concert pitch, thanks to a miscalibrated electronic tuner. It was an easy fix, though. Plus, the weird tuning was an echo of the way the Stooges did things: Eschewing tuners, they just tuned to each other’s instruments.
Williamson said he hasn’t talked to Pop about the new version. “I doubt if he cares. It’s just another version,” he said. But Williamson likes the way it compares to the 44-year-old original. “I think it stacks up very favorably. The original of course is the original. This one has more of a rhythmic thing going on with it.”
For comparison, here’s the original version:
Do you have a favorite reworking of an electric tune for acoustic instruments? Let us know at email@example.com.
(Track of the Day archive here. Pre-Notes archive here.)
The U.S. may end up with the worst COVID-19 outbreak in the industrialized world. This is how it’s going to play out.
Three months ago, no one knew that SARS-CoV-2 existed. Now the virus has spread to almost every country, infecting at least 446,000 people whom we know about, and many more whom we do not. It has crashed economies and broken health-care systems, filled hospitals and emptied public spaces. It has separated people from their workplaces and their friends. It has disrupted modern society on a scale that most living people have never witnessed. Soon, most everyone in the United States will know someone who has been infected. Like World War II or the 9/11 attacks, this pandemic has already imprinted itself upon the nation’s psyche.
A global pandemic of this scale was inevitable. In recent years, hundreds of health experts have written books, white papers, and op-eds warning of the possibility. Bill Gates has been telling anyone who would listen, including the 18 million viewers of his TED Talk. In 2018, I wrote a story for The Atlantic arguing that America was not ready for the pandemic that would eventually come. In October, the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security war-gamed what might happen if a new coronavirus swept the globe. And then one did. Hypotheticals became reality. “What if?” became “Now what?”
China warned Italy. Italy warned us. We didn’t listen. Now the onus is on the rest of America to listen to New York.
In the emergency-department waiting room, 150 people worry about a fever. Some just want a test, others badly need medical treatment. Those not at the brink of death have to wait six, eight, 10 hours before they can see a doctor. Those admitted to the hospital might wait a full day for a bed.
I am an emergency-medicine doctor who practices in both Manhattan and Queens; at the moment, I’m in Queens. Normally, I love coming to work here, even though in the best of times, my co-residents and I take care of one of New York City’s most vulnerable, underinsured patient populations. Many have underlying illnesses and a language barrier, and lack primary care.
The coronavirus outbreak may last for a year or two, but some elements of pre-pandemic life will likely be won back in the meantime.
The new coronavirus has brought American life to a near standstill, closing businesses, canceling large gatherings, and keeping people at home. All of those people must surely be wondering: When will things return to normal?
The answer is simple, if not exactly satisfying: when enough of the population—possibly 60 or 80 percent of people—is resistant to COVID-19 to stifle the disease’s spread from person to person. That is the end goal, although no one knows exactly how long it will take to get there.
There are two realistic paths to achieving this “population-level immunity.” One is the development of a vaccine. The other is for the disease to work its way through the population, surely killing many, but also leaving many others—those who contract the disease and then recover—immune. “They’re just Teflon at that point,” meaning they can’t get infected again and they won’t pass on the disease, explains Andrew Noymer, a public-health professor at the University of California at Irvine. Once enough people reach Teflon status—though we don’t yet know if recovering from the disease confers any immunity at all, let alone lifelong immunity—normalcy will be restored.
Trump is utterly unsuited to deal with this crisis, either intellectually or temperamentally.
For his entire adult life, and for his entire presidency, Donald Trump has created his own alternate reality, complete with his own alternate set of facts. He has shown himself to be erratic, impulsive, narcissistic, vindictive, cruel, mendacious, and devoid of empathy. None of that is new.
But we’re now entering the most dangerous phase of the Trump presidency. The pain and hardship that the United States is only beginning to experience stem from a crisis that the president is utterly unsuited to deal with, either intellectually or temperamentally. When things were going relatively well, the nation could more easily absorb the costs of Trump’s psychological and moral distortions and disfigurements. But those days are behind us. The coronavirus pandemic has created the conditions that can catalyze a destructive set of responses from an individual with Trump’s characterological defects and disordered personality.
“The thought of simply breathing in and out without coughing and reuniting with my children ... is goal enough. To—literally—live and let live will be enough.”
I can pinpoint the exact moment I started feeling off. My partner, Will, and I were on a bike ride on the afternoon of Wednesday, March 18, to escape our apartment and get some exercise. This was back when leaving a New York City apartment to get some exercise was still okay, or at least that’s what we’d read, or at least that’s what we thought? If the coronavirus pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that what is considered dogma today might change tomorrow.
Ten minutes into our bike ride, I was overcome by an intense fatigue. “I think I have to go back,” I said.
Back home, I felt chilled. Took my temperature: 99.1. I’m normally 97.1, but still, not a huge deal. We’d been so careful about wiping down doorknobs, washing our hands, and keeping everyone except for our family out of our apartment. I’d been ambiently worried enough that my 13-year-old son could be a silent carrier of the virus that I’d yanked him out of his public middle school and off the crowded subways four days before Mayor Bill de Blasio pulled the plug– (far too belatedly, in my opinion). I was getting over a urinary-tract infection, so my fever, I thought, must be from that.
The government is showing how not to handle a pandemic.
By now, the global timeline of the coronavirus’s development has been well established: The first case reportedly appeared in mid-November; in December, the Chinese government was still attributing hospitalizations to a peculiar form of pneumonia; through January and February, the outbreak began spreading around the world; and its epicenter is today firmly in Europe and the United States.
Throughout, another set of events were occurring here in India. Late last year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu-nationalist government introduced and passed a controversial new law, ostensibly in support of minorities in neighboring countries, that in fact openly discriminated against Muslims and undermined India’s secular foundations. Then, early this year, protests over that new law snowballed into a pogrom in which dozens of people—mostly Muslims—have been killed.
It has taken a good deal longer than it should have, but Americans have now seen the con man behind the curtain.
When, in January 2016, I wrote that despite being a lifelong Republican who worked in the previous three GOP administrations, I would never vote for Donald Trump, even though his administration would align much more with my policy views than a Hillary Clinton presidency would, a lot of my Republican friends were befuddled. How could I not vote for a person who checked far more of my policy boxes than his opponent?
What I explained then, and what I have said many times since, is that Trump is fundamentally unfit—intellectually, morally, temperamentally, and psychologically—for office. For me, that is the paramount consideration in electing a president, in part because at some point it’s reasonable to expect that a president will face an unexpected crisis—and at that point, the president’s judgment and discernment, his character and leadership ability, will really matter.
The president can’t simply cancel the fall balloting, but his state-level allies could still deliver him a second term.
Even under a normal president, the coronavirus pandemic would present real challenges to the 2020 American election. Everything about in-person voting could be dangerous. Waiting in line, touching a voting machine, and working in polling stations all run afoul of social-distancing mandates. Already, Maryland, Kentucky, Georgia, and Louisiana have postponed their presidential primaries, while Wyoming, New York, and Ohio have altered their voting procedures. Of course, other democracies face similar problems; the United Kingdom has postponed local elections for one year.
But under President Donald Trump, the possibilities for how the coronavirus could wreak havoc on the election are all the more concerning. This is not a president who cares about the sanctity of the electoral process. After all, he has never seemed particularly concerned about Russia’s efforts to manipulate the 2016 outcome (presumably because they were on his behalf), and he was impeached for demanding Ukrainian help in his reelection efforts.
Unless the country does dramatically more to provide them with the equipment they need to do their job safely, it risks disaster.
The morning before my shift, I try to stay busy with emails, writing, cleaning the house, anything really. If I sit and think about it too long, undisturbed, I get nervous. I’m afraid to go to work, and yet I’m told I must. The flitting anxiety swells as I pull on my scrubs and head to the car. The streets are empty. I drive alone into the epicenter. It peaks when I first step through the door into the jumble of patients in chairs, stretchers, and beds crowded around our cramped workstation, staff jammed together discussing care, writing notes, calling reports. Then I start, surrounded by my colleagues, and am too busy to think about it. The fear is as much for my family and friends as for me. Probably more. I’m a physician who works in an emergency department in Washington, D.C., and the coronavirus is spreading.
The coronavirus is making me experience what Germans poetically call heimweh, the hurt of being far from your native land.
In times of upheaval or natural catastrophe, the State Department often advises Americans to avoid some of the world’s poorest nations. When ISIS took over large parts of Syria and Mali descended into civil war, the federal government implored Americans not to go to those countries. One of the pieces of advice it offers to those who insist on visiting them anyway is rather blunt: “Draft a will.”
These warnings speak to a set of assumptions so obvious, they seem almost silly to spell out. America is a rich and stable country. So long as U.S. citizens stay home—or restrict their travel to other developed nations—they are likely to remain safe. Travel warnings tend to flow from north to south, rich to poor, democracy to dictatorship.