Welcome to the Wednesday Walk Around the Web, where we weave & wind through weblinks weekly. Hopefully you will find the links on offer amusing, interesting, or informative.
This week is mostly pandemic-related items. Take care of yourself and your loved ones.
- Every prayer a devout Muslim recites in their life is directed toward one central location, al Kabaa, a pilgrimage site the importance and holiness of which can hardly be described. It regularly sees millions of adherents fulfilling one of the pillars of Islam and performing Hajj. Amid the current COVID-19 pandemic, the Great Mosque of Mecca is empty, because saving lives is more holy.
- Religious communities are making drastic adjustments for our troubling times — al Kabaa is empty, go-bags are being delivered to people who can’t leave their houses to go to Pesach seders (I have never been more thankful that I don’t keep kosher and especially don’t keep kosher-for-Passover), and PTBN’s very own Jordan Duncan has taken to preaching via Facebook streams — but fear not! There is an automated robot mouth chanting algorithmically-generated prayers to fill in for whatever sect you want.
- Of course, tons of people are taking the current crisis as just another focal point for ludicrous, vicious racism, as they’ll take literally anything as a new focal point for ludicrous, vicious racism. If this is the first time you’ve heard of Wuhan, learn a little about it from someone who was born there.
- If you’re struggling with stress and anxiety during this time, perhaps you can take some solace in a calm, pleasant reading of the lyrics of “Imagine” arranged in reverse alphabetical order. Or might I interest you in a kindly old man reading The Hobbit on a YouTube live stream as if we’re all six years old and he’s putting us to bed?
- Some folks are self-isolating for very good reasons, and must find fun a productive things to do while quarantined. They’re playing along at home!
- Another thing you can do if you’re feeling at all cooped up is to help libraries and other archival repositories that need volunteers to transcribe old handwritten documents and recorded interviews, so more of the past can be unlocked as a fully searchable resource.
- Meanwhile, some people are under quarantine without knowing about the existence of COVID-19 at all, such as the cast of Germany’s Big Brother.
- Some, in contrast, are instructed to continue business as usual despite significant risks and actual symptoms, such as postal workers. I’m sure this is fine.
- This Week in Looking for the Helpers: Australia’s Sikh community is hard at work bringing food to those in need.
- Since colleges & universities across the world have experienced deep disruptions, JSTOR, a huge archive of academic literature, is expanding the portion of its database that’s available to the public. Before we applaud JSTOR, though, let’s remember that this is getting pretty close to what JSTOR and criminal prosecutors hounded Aaron Swartz to death for doing.
- This week’s Wednesday Walk Top Tip: If people in some places are being ordered to shelter in place and people in other places are afraid they might be so ordered sooner than later, and your priority is figuring out how to evict a tenant you don’t like, you ought to consider the life choices that have made you who you are and think about what you can do to be a better person.
- Love in a time of COVID-19 can force us to get creative with our socially-distanced gatherings, such as a glorious New York wedding that took place in the street, with 90 minutes’ notice, after the Marriage Bureau closed, through a sunroof, with the officiant yelling down from a fourth-story window.
- The Case of the Missing Hit is making the rounds of the whole wide internet, for good reason. It begins as your typical twee public-radio-style story about a dude who can’t find a song he has stuck in his head, and spirals from there to a sprawling tale of memory, musical reconstruction, the flash of influence exerted by the Barenaked Ladies, help from unexpected places, and the mechanisms of the music industry in the late 90s that can allow a song to get mainstream radio airplay and then recede so deep into the memory hole that only a handful of people on the whole internet know literally anything about it.