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Monthly Archives: April 2020

The latest in a series of writers recommending under-appreciated films available to stream highlights a schlocky late 70s Star Wars rip-off

When the Emperor of the First Circle of the Universe (that is, Christopher Plummer, in a patent leather suit beneath silver armor, a cape and oven mitt-like gloves) wants to calm his worried son (David Hasselhoff) during a climactic moment, he steps forward amid a room full of warriors and slain robots and bellows: Imperial Battleship stop the flow of time!!!

It is an apogee of trash brilliance unrivaled anywhere else in the galaxy.

The Star Wars big bang created a universe that is still expanding, but never was the fiery scream of that first eruption felt more furiously than in the late 1970s. Producers far and wide hitched their fortunes to the Millennium Falcons hyperdrive, to varying measures of financial and artistic success.

It got Star Trek (the far superior of the two franchises) back into business, with the curiously terrific Star Trek: The Motion Picture in 1979 and begat Battlestar Galactica in 1978, Flash Gordon in 1980 and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century in 1979.

But these are the more respectable titles. On the lower budget shelf came Battle Beyond the Stars (penned on assignment by John Sayles), Galaxina (starring Playboy playmate Dorothy Stratten) and one of the all-time pieces of junk, Italys Cosmos: War of the Planets.

In the middle of all this is something that demands further study. Mixing low-budget schlock with genuine design brilliance is Starcrash. Produced at Romes Cinecitt Studios in 1978 and distributed by Roger Cormans New World Pictures, Starcrash was directed and co-written by future Dario Argento collaborator Luigi Cozzi (credited as Lewis Coates)

In addition to Plummer (only in a few scenes, whispering his ludicrous lines with a true thespians straight face) and Hasselhoff (dashing, and wielding a cheapo green lightsaber) is a nervous police robot with a wacky American Southern drawl, a goon named Thor with green makeup on his face (but not his neck), and the real reason this movie is as remembered as it is: Caroline Munro.

Munro, already known for appearing in Hammer Studio films, the Ray Harryhausen Golden Voyage of Sinbad and as Bond villainess Naomi in The Spy Who Loved Me, is Stella Star, a bikini clad smuggler with Patrick Nagel-like makeup and eternally blown-out hair. Though her voiced is dubbed by Candy Clark (Plummer referred to her accent as one you could coot with a fookin knife when I asked him about Starcrash in a recent interview), her charisma still blasts through the screen. Yes, it is absurd that all the men are wearing spacesuits or typical high fantasy gowns, but she wears her various skintight, fabric-light outfits with confidence and verve. She is a vision of vertices, a striking image on her own, but even more so against the primary colors of the various interplanetary interiors and spaceship bridges of the film.

At her side is Akton, played by former child preacher (and subject of an Academy Award-winning documentary feature) Marjoe Gortner. Resembling a lovechild of poultry magnate Frank Purdue and Foreigners Lou Gramm during his Jukebox Hero peak, Gortner is a baffling pick as a leading man, but he does have access to cool, neon-like laser magic and a red-and-black rubbery outfit.

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New York (CNN Business)In between all the music performances and prank videos that are staples of YouTube’s trending video section, there are a few that would have made no sense before mid-March.

A recent briefing by New York governor Andrew Cuomo and an “NBC Nightly News” broadcast also cracked YouTube’s list of especially popular videos among users in the United States.
The trending list reflects the evolving nature of the pandemic as stay-at-home orders stretch into a second month in many states.
    “We certainly have seen how our users have changed,” YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki said in an interview for CNN’s “Reliable Sources.”
    At first, she said, users were seeking out “really basic information” about coronavirus. YouTube, a unit of Google, worked with its community of professional video creators to generate stay at home messages, reflecting public health recommendations.
    “I never thought we’d have so many videos of hand-washing, for example,” Wojcicki quipped.
    The types of how-to content have changed over time.
    “Now really interestingly, we’re seeing a lot of users come to us and want to know about life under quarantine,” Wojcicki said in mid-April. “And so we see a lot of interest in things like exercise at home, how do I fix my dishwasher? How do I fix my freezer? How do I give myself a haircut when I’m in quarantine?”
    Sure enough, scores of videos about cutting hair at home have been uploaded in the past few weeks, and some already have millions of views.
    Overall usage of YouTube has skyrocketed in recent weeks, according to Nielsen. Overall streaming video viewing time has doubled in recent weeks compared with the same weeks in 2019. YouTube accounts for about 20 percent of all streaming minutes. So in the first full week of April this year, with most of the country hunkered down, Nielsen counted 32 billion minutes worth of YouTube streaming time, up from 15 billion minutes in the same week a year earlier.
    With great reach comes great responsibility, and YouTube has been widely scrutinized for its handling of bogus and downright dangerously misleading videos for several years. As Covid-19 spread around the world, the company has taken proactive steps to combat medical misinformation, relying in large part on guidelines from the World Health Organization.
    Wojcicki said YouTube is both “raising authoritative information” and removing videos filled with falsehoods.
    “We’ve had to update our policy numerous times associated with Covid-19,” she said.
    “Medically unsubstantiated” claims, like videos promoting miracle cures that are actually bogus, “would be a violation of our policy,” she said. “Anything that would go against World Health Organization recommendations would be a violation of our policy.”
    Since the start of the current health crisis, thousands of videos have been removed, Wojcicki said, without getting into the detailed metrics.
    She also said YouTube has “literally served over 10 billion impressions of information that comes from different public health organizations.”
    The YouTube homepage for users in the United States now includes dedicated areas for CDC videos about Covid-19 as well as learning videos for children.
    Wojcicki said she believes education is “one of the most compelling use cases of YouTube.”
    “We have science courses being livestreamed; history classes; how to play an instrument; how to learn a language,” she said.
    The site has pretty much everything, and that makes content moderation a never-ending challenge.
    But Wojcicki argued that YouTube’s efforts against disinformation and other harmful types of videos, dating back to “the last couple of years,” enabled the company to move quickly when the pandemic became the biggest story in the world.
    On March 20, YouTube announced a Covid-19 “news shelf” on its homepage, surfacing news videos from mainstream sources about the virus.
    During the interview for “Reliable Sources,” Wojcicki was quick to say that these types of efforts will continue. “We’re not saying we’re done,” she said. “We need to continue to work on our responsibility efforts and we will continue to do that over the next couple of years.”
    Everyone’s YouTube experience is different. But Wojcicki pointed out some uses of YouTube that have stood out during the coronavirus crisis. Some churches and other houses of worship have signed up for the first time to live-stream their services, she said. And actor John Krasinski has tapped into a huge audience looking for uplifting stories on his new channel called “Some Good News.”
    Krasinski, like most YouTube creators, is working from home right now. That’s one of the keys to the site’s endless fount of fresh content, Wojcicki pointed out: Many creators “were working from home even before Covid-19.”
    Setting up home studios has been an adjustment for many television broadcasters, but it comes naturally to a generation of vloggers and live-streamers.
      “So they’ve been able to update their content,” Wojcicki said, “and talk about what life has been like under quarantine and give tips and tricks to help people get through this really difficult time.”
      To hear more from Susan Wojcicki about the state of YouTube; the company’s actions against harassment on the platform; and the potential for a TikTok-like component to YouTube, listen to the full interview on the “Reliable Sources” podcast.

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      We’ve now been in quarantine for over six weeks, and I’m running out of things to watch. What about Netflix, you say? Ha! I laugh in the face of Netflix. Too Hot to Handle? Done! Tiger King? Obviously. Outer Banks? Duh! You name it, I’ve seen it. So now that I’ve exhausted every option, I’m rewatching old movies that I used to have on repeat. Today’s film? He’s Just Not That Into You, which is one of those movies that has many interconnecting stories and features a plethora of A-listers that never were on set at the same time but wanted an easy paycheck. I’m going to recap it for you here, and friends, if you thought this movie was some sexist bullsh*t in 2009, just you WAIT until you watch it in 2020. 

      We open on a playground scene. Baby Ginnifer Goodwin is getting bullied by a little boy, and before you ask, no, I’m not bothering to learn any of these characters’ names, so get used to it. Anyway. Ginnifer’s mom tells her that’s because he likes her. In voiceover, she tells us that for years, our fellow women let us believe this lie that if men are mean to us, it means they’re into us. She says it’s bad advice and just not true. She condemns it! I’ll urge you to bookmark this part right here, because it is the idea upon which the entire movie is built. If he’s mean to you, He’s Just Not That Into You. Remember this moment. 

      We’ve moved off the playground and into a bar, as one does. Ginnifer is an adult on a date with Kevin Connolly, who is riding high off his Entourage success. The waitress asks if they’d like another round. Ginny is eager and Kevin hesitantly agrees. What a lucky girl! They leave the date, he kisses her on the cheek, and it is obvious to anyone with eyes that this is going nowhere. 

      After they part ways, he immediately calls Scarlett Johansson because he’s just tipsy enough to think maybe she’ll suck his dick. Our heroine, Ginnifer Goodwin, thinks that he is calling her to leave a message. WHAT?! This is where I have to point something out, friends. This movie is not about men not being that into us. It is actually about a very sick individual, Ginnifer, who comes up with fantastical scenarios in her head based on little to no evidence, and who truly needs to be committed. Or should at least be forced to sit in the corner wearing a straitjacket for one hour. I will present my case throughout this recap, and I think by closing statements you’ll all be ready to vote to convict. This is Exhibit A. 

      Now we pivot to a grocery store. Scarlett Johansson wins a free cooler and acts like it is her long-lost identical twin sister with whom she has been reunited with after many years of searching. She’s so happy to see this cooler that she cannot contain herself and gives Bradley Cooper, the man in line to check out behind her, a huge hug. I think this is supposed to be a meet-cute? But should meet-cutes make you feel this icky inside? Then they chat outside the Quickchek. 

      Bradley Cooper: I can help you with your music career

      Oh and what do you know, when Bradley gets into the car his buddy Ben Affleck is waiting for him! At least he has a cheating guru to rely on. 

      Ben Affleck then goes home to his girlfriend, Jennifer Aniston. It is now that I start to wonder if we’re in a movie, or is this just the darkest timeline?

      Jennifer nags Ben because her little sister is getting married and they are not yet married after many years together. He tells her that “people who get married are not to be trusted.” WHAT?! That’s the best excuse you could come up with? Not “marriage is a sham of an institution”? “We don’t need a piece of paper to prove our love and commitment to one another”? There are so many pages he could have taken out of the “Man Who Doesn’t Want To Get Married But Can’t Stand Being Alone” playbook that would have been at least a little convincing; this one doesn’t even make any sense.

      Next, we get a montage of Ginnifer acting absolutely out of her mind after her date with Kevin Connolly. She leaves her flip phone (lol) open during yoga (not how that worked, even back in the early 2000s), tells Jennifer Connelly that she knows where he hangs out, and then we see her at work with Jen C and Jen A (my GOD Jennifer is a popular name), and they are psychoanalyzing her date. Ginny! Just pour some wine in that work mug, get loose, and give him a call! As it turns out, that is what she does, and it also turns out that was some very bad advice. Whoops!

      Kevin does not pick up, obviously, and Ginnifer leaves him a voicemail, which I just so happened to find a handy GIF of:

      The ways we women will embarrass ourselves for a mediocre white man under 5’7” are truly astounding.

      After that disaster, Ginnifer goes to the restaurant that Kevin said he hangs out in and tells the hostess that she is meeting someone! Exhibit B. You are not meeting someone, Ginnifer, you’re stalking. You’re working your way toward a restraining order. This is where she meets Justin Long, who will continue to demean women the entire movie in what I can only assume the director thought was a charming way? 

      This is when Justin tells her about “The Rule.” He says, “If a guy is treating you like he doesn’t give a sh*t, he genuinely doesn’t give a sh*t.” I have no problem with the rule in theory; in fact, I think it’s a good rule and one I tell my friends every time they try to triple-text a guy who doesn’t even watch their Instagram stories. The problem, however, is that the movie spends the next hour and change disproving their own rule. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

      So then Ginnifer goes home, eats some mini muffins, and comes to the revelation that if a man cheats on you at the beginning of a relationship, or is otherwise awful, they don’t really care about you at all. That’s all she came up with?! I’ve come up with more profound revelations after chugging two Four Lokos at a frat party my freshman year of college. 

      OMG Drew Barrymore and ScarJo are getting pedicures. I dream of the day I can do that again. My feet do not belong to me anymore. My feet belong to Gollum. Anyway. ScarJo tells Drew about how she wants to pursue a married man (Bradley Cooper). Drew tells her about a homewrecker she knows who got a happy ending, so ScarJo should go for it! Reader, this is bad advice. 

      Bradley Cooper shuts ScarJo down, having not heard the story of the happy homewrecker, I guess. So Scarlett goes right to Kevin Connolly’s house for a foot rub and some compliments. This might be the one realistic aspect of the entire movie.

      Now Jennifer Aniston goes home and picks a fight with Ben Affleck about the marriage thing. She says to him, “I need you to stop being nice to me unless you’re going to marry me after.” How funny, I use that exact line on all my first dates. I think you all can understand why I’m still single now, huh?

      Jen asks Ben if he’s ever going to marry her. He doesn’t answer. It’s okay, Jen! In 2020 he’ll be parading around LA without a mask and calling the paparazzi to take his picture during a global pandemic, so I promise you won’t regret walking out! 

      Bradley Cooper then calls ScarJo back. He apologizes for not wanting to cheat on his wife earlier, he’s ready now. They make a plan to meet up at his office to “talk about her career.”

      Meanwhile, Ginnifer is at happy hour. She meets a guy. She gives him her number, he gives her his, and then he says he looks forward to hearing from her. Instead of playing it cool, Ginnifer immediately chases him out and interrogates him like she is Carrie Mathison trying to figure out the mole. This is Exhibit C

      ScarJo goes to Bradley Cooper’s office and asks him why he is married. God, Karen, you can’t just ask people why they’re married! He said that he and Jennifer Connelly dated in college and then she gave him an ultimatum that they get married or break up. What a beautiful love story! Can I submit it to The Way We Met? Then he paces around his office telling her that she’s hot. I will say, the writers really nailed the lines for dudes that like to cheat on their significant others, because I’ve never once had a man with a partner that’s attempting to pursue me text that he loves my personality. 

      And now the very unstable Ginnifer is taping the card, which she ripped up, of happy hour dude back together so that she can call him. I guess she’s really looking forward to some less-than-mediocre conversation where he talks about his high salary before he makes her split the check, falls asleep on top of her after two pumps, and then texts her the next day asking if she’s on birth control

      Instead, she calls Justin Long because she needs someone to emotionally slap her across the face. 

      That’ll do the trick!

      Now Ginnifer is on a different date and making out with a guy on his couch. He tells her he’s leaving tomorrow so he’ll be out of touch for a little bit. Better have sex tonight! It’s at this point that I’ve got to wonder how this woman presumably made it to adulthood in one piece being so naive. She goes to the bathroom to call Justin Long for advice. He tells her that she needs to go home, this guy is a liar, and doesn’t like her. He also tells her to take her time in the bathroom and make him sweat. WHAT IS THAT ADVICE?! Make him think you have bowel troubles and you’re just sh*tting uncontrollably in his bathroom? Just leave! You don’t have to make him think your IBS is flaring up just to get out of f*cking him! This is Exhibit D.

      Bradley Cooper and Ben Affleck go boating. Bradley tells Ben that no guy actually wants to get married. And if they do, all they can think about is all the girls they’re going to miss out on. Wow, I didn’t know that trash was physically capable of sailing a boat.

      Our favorite maniac, Ginnifer, goes to meet up with Justin Long and a friend he is setting her up with. His friend doesn’t show because Justin “mixed up the dates”, so instead he spends the whole evening telling her that women are dramatic, she’s pathetic like a basset hound (don’t you drag innocent puppies into this, Justin!!) and that if a girl doesn’t like him he just finds another girl with smaller pores and bigger implants. Wait, what? You judge your date on the size of their pores? No one should be taking this man’s advice.

      Now we’re at ScarJo’s apartment and Bradley is there, and I guess they just had sex. Did I miss something? I mean, I did zone out for about 90 seconds to reevaluate all the life decisions that lead me to what is clearly the Bad Place, so maybe I missed a transition of some kind. Or perhaps this movie really is that clunky. Either could be true!

      Ginnifer is sitting on her couch with her landline next to her. Is this 2009 or is this 1999? Because in 2009 I legit had my third iPhone. 2009 was the future! Justin Long calls and invites her to his party, where I can only assume they will be watching movies they rented from Blockbuster, playing on Tamagotchis, and listening to Pearl Jam. 

      Then the next day, she goes to work and she tells all her friends that Justin Long is into her because he… *checks notes*… invited her to his party. Exhibit E. 

      Justin, probably:

      She’s also convinced that Justin mixing up the dates for his friend wasn’t actually a mistake, he has no friend named Bill, and that he just wanted to go out with her. So the man that has advocated for being upfront this entire movie, albeit in a pretty dickish way, is trying to mind trick her into going on a date? Now I’m not just concerned about her mental capacity, I also think she needs hearing aids. But I’m the only skeptical one here, because she convinces the Jennifers at work it’s true. Idiots abound!

      Now we’re at Home Depot with Jennifer Connelly and Bradley Cooper. Jen and Brad are fighting over hardwood floors. She says fake wood is a liar and she doesn’t like that it’s pretending to be real wood. What a metaphor! It’s so profound, Bradley tells her he cheated on her. And then he’s basically like, “so I guess you hate me, I’m gonna move out so I can f*ck ScarJo in peace.” But then she tells him not to move out, and he somehow gets roped into staying together. I feel like this conversation about the state of their marriage probably should have been longer and not conducted next to thousands of tiny little shiplap samples, but ok.

      Now we’re at this party. Ginnifer is snacking and telling people that something is going to happen between her and Justin and that she is “more than a guest.” Justin asks Ginnifer for some help and she asks “kind of like co-hosting?” This is Exhibit F. It is here that I must say I do not know any single women that would ever act this way. We just don’t happen to have boyfriends, we’re not deranged. I feel like this movie is really painting us in a false light. Also, nobody goes to a party wanting to host, that’s just extra work. 

      After the party is over, Ginnifer cleans up Justin’s entire apartment while he plays video games with a Blake Lively look-alike. They couldn’t get the actual Blake for this movie? They sprung for everyone else. Ginnifer says that it’s 3am, so the Blake-a-like leaves. Ginnifer lingers. Justin tells her he has to go to bed, clearly blowing her off, and so naturally she jumps him. She says she thinks they are in a relationship (Exhibit G; at this point, I fully expect to make it to the end of the alphabet and then into some numbers), and he reiterates that he told her if a guy is into a girl he would make it happen. He calls her insane (fair) and they get into a big fight and she finally goes home, which probably involves getting on a spaceship to whatever foreign planet she lives on.

      That scene was the most horrifying thing that has been on my TV in years, and I fall asleep to Dateline every Friday night. And the writers really got it wrong. Sure, sometimes women and men start out as friends and end up dating. I mean, it’s never happened to me, but I’ve heard about it on the internet! But I just don’t think that after Justin telling her all this time that a guy would make it happen if he’s interested, that she would just throw herself at him when he’s not even acting interested. He’d rather play Call of Duty than acknowledge her presence! This would never happen.

      Now we’re at the office, and Jennifer Connelly is telling Ginnifer that Bradley Cooper is cheating on her. She says she needs to take responsibility because she forced him into getting married and now she’s not fun anymore. And that they never have sex anymore. Ginnifer tells Jennifer that it is not her fault (yes, that sentence killed me inside too). This is the only not insane thing Ginnifer has said this whole movie, and I am proud of her brief moment of clarity. I mean, even a broken clock is right twice a day.

      OH NO, THIS SCENE. Bradley Cooper has Scarlett in his office and her positive career meeting is making them hornier than the idea of losing $20,000 is to those kids on Too Hot To Handle. They start to get frisky in his office when his wife shows up! He shoves Scarlett in the closet, screws his wife, and she leaves. That office has an awful lot of windows for the amount of sex going on it, but who am I to judge?

      Scarlett comes out of the closet and tells Bradley he’s a disgusting excuse for a man. But like, you knew he was married? And you were about to do the same thing with him? 

      ScarJo is sad after being forced to listen to Bradley Cooper’s muffled grunts and Jennifer Connelly’s unenthused heavy breathing, so she calls up Kevin Connolly and finally lets him bang her again. She says she wants to be with him, but as we zoom in on her cold, empty eyes in the middle of the night, her face reveals the truth. Once again, this plot line is the only one in the whole film that captures the truth. 

      Jennifer Connelly goes back to her house and realizes that Bradley Cooper has been lying to her all along. She smashes a mirror, which is foolish because it means seven years of bad luck! But I guess she did have to be married to a dude who picks up mistresses at the bodega for the last seven years, so maybe she’s already done her penance.

      Jennifer Aniston and Ben get back together and she says she doesn’t need to get married, he just needs to let her eat Wheat Thins in bed. Amen, sister! But maybe dream bigger. Eat a four-course meal in bed. Beds are the new tables! I mean all of that hypothetically of course, haven’t done it myself lately, no way. 

      Kevin Connolly takes ScarJo to visit a house and he says he wants to buy it. Well, that escalated quickly. She can no longer hide her disgust for him and dumps him. I hope he can get that deposit back! 

      Bradley comes back to his house and finds his sh*t nicely packed and left on the stairs. Wow. If neatly folding your cheating spouse’s items as a way of telling them you want a divorce is not the sign of a sociopath, I don’t know what is. 

      Ginnifer gets back from her date with Bill. So Bill does exist!  Justin Long knocks on her door. He tells her he fell for her and he kisses her. He tells her she is the exception to the rule. WHAT? You mean to tell me that the 120 minutes this movie just spent telling me that women are the rule and not the exception is actually completely going back on its word?! I AM SHOOK. 

      AND THEN! Ben Affleck proposes to Jennifer Aniston. She is also the exception! I’m suing for my time back and emotional distress.

      Finally, we cut to ScarJo singing a sad song in a bar and wearing ostentatious red lipstick, obviously to remind us that homewreckers end up alone. Bradley Cooper is back at the Quickchek buying beer, and Jennifer Connelly moves into a new house to begin a new life with an unsmashed mirror. 

      This part of the movie is where I really lose it. It just spent HOURS telling us that if a man is mean to you, he doesn’t like you. And then in 30 seconds it dismantles that entire premise with the equivalent of a “jk lol” text. While I know I shouldn’t expect too much out of a movie whose script was clearly written on the back of a napkin, I can’t help but think that this sends a horrible message to us single women around the world. He doesn’t act into you, but he really is (Ginnifer!), he says he won’t marry you but then he does (Jennifer!), I’m confused. Do I believe what men say, or do I not? In fact, the only single woman that seems remotely real to me, the one who is enticed by a hot married man, and dates a guy she doesn’t actually like because she wants to be loved, is the only woman who gets an ending that seems sad and hopeless. But she’s the only woman who even partially understands the message of “he’s just not that into you.” The movie actually punishes the idea it presents. They should have just called it He’s Definitely Into You: How To Snag A Lying Liar Who Doesn’t Want To Get Married.

      We end with Ginnifer finally co-hosting a party, and telling us in voiceover to “never, ever give up hope that you’ll find love.” Sure! That, or you could just beat a man down into loving out in what can only be some form of Stockholm Syndrome!

      I hope you all enjoyed reminiscing as much as I did, now I’m off to text the dude who was rude to me at Shop Rite yesterday. He totally wants it.

      Images: Netflix; Giphy (5)

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      Many TikTok videos don’t start from scratch, so neither can its competitors. TikTok is all about remixes where users shoot a new video to recontextualize audio pulled from someone else’s clip, or riff on an existing meme or concept. That only works because TikTok’s had time to build up an immense armory of content to draw inspiration from.

      Creators will find themselves unequipped trying to get started on TikTok copycats including Facebook Lasso, and Instagram Reels which is testing in Brazil. Direct competitors like Triller and Dubsmash are racing to build up their archives. YouTube Shorts, which The Information today reported is in development, only has a shot if Google lets users harness the 5 billion videos people already watch on YouTube each day.

      This is the power of what I call “content network effect”: Each piece of content adds value to the rest. That’s TikTok.

      You’re likely familiar with traditional network effect — ‘a phenomenon whereby a product or service gains additional value as more people use it.’ It’s not just the network itself that gains value, as the value delivered to each user increases too. Today’s top social networks are shining examples. The more people there are on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, the more people you can connect to, and the more material their relevance algorithms can draw on to fill your feeds.

      If you had to choose between using two identical social networks, you’re probably going to pick the one with more friends or creators already onboard. Network effects raise the switching cost of moving to a different network. Even if it has better features, fewer ads, or less misinformation and bullying, you’re unlikely to leave a robust network behind and decamp to a sparser one. That makes scaled social networks difficult to Disrupt. All the top ones have been around for almost a decade or more.

      Except for TikTok. The Chinese music/video app has managed to demonstrate a new concept of “content network effect”. In its case, each video uploaded to the app makes every future potential video more valuable. That’s because all the content on TikTok serves as remix fodder for the rest. Every song, dance, joke, prank, and monologue generates resources for other creators to exploit. It’s a bottomless well of inspiration.

      Remixability, the ultimate creative tool

      TikTok productizes remix culture by making it easy to “use this sound”. Tap the audio button on any video and it becomes yours. Click through and you’ll see all the other videos that use it. TikTok even offers a whole search engine for sorting through sounds by categories like Trending, Greatest Hits, Love, Gaming, and travel. Sometimes remixes are based on an idea rather than an audio. #FlipTheSwitch sees couples instantly swapping clothes when the light flicks off, and has collected over 3.6 billion videos across over 500,000 remixed versions of the video.

      You can even duet with the original creator, sharing your video and theirs side-by-side simultaneously. A solo performance becomes a chorus as more duets are hitched together. Meanwhile, remixes of remixes of remixes provide an esoteric reward for hardcore users who recognize how a gag has evolved or spiraled into absurdity.

      Other apps in the past have spawned video responses, hashtags, quote-tweets, surveys, and chain letters and other ways for pieces of content to interact or iterate. And there’s always been parodies. But TikTok proves the power of forging a social app with content network effect at its core.

      Facilitating remixes offers a way to lower the bar for producing user generated content. You’d don’t have to be astoundingly creative or original to make something entertaining. Each individual’s life experiences inform their perspective that could let them interpret an idea in a new way.

      What began with someone ripping audio of two people chanting “don’t be Suspicious, don’t be suspicious” while sneaking through a graveyard in TV show Parks & Recs led to people lipsyncing it while trying to escape their infant’s room without waking them up, leaving the house wearing clothes they stole from their sister’s closet, trying to keep a llama as a pet, and photoshopping themselves to look taller. Unless someone’s already done the work to record an audio clip, there’s nothing to inspire and enable others to put their spin on it.

      TikTok’s archive vs the world

      That’s why I wrote that Mark Zuckerberg misunderstands the huge threat of TikTok after the CEO told Facebook’s staff that “I kind of think about TikTok as if it were Explore for Stories”. Facebook and Instagram found massive success cloning Snapchat Stories because all they had to do was copy its features. Stories are autobiographical life vlogging. All you need are the creative tools, which Instagram and Facebook rebuilt, and people to share to, which the apps had billions of.

      Zuckerberg misunderstands the huge threat of TikTok

      But TikTok isn’t about sharing what you’re up to like Stories that typically start from scratch since each user’s life is different. It’s micro-entertainment powered by content network effect. If TikTok competitors give people the same video recording features and distribution potential, they’ll still be missing the archive of source material.

      Facebook’s Lasso looks just like TikTok but it’s failed to gain steam since launching in November 2018. Instagram Reels smartly copies TikTok’s remixing tools, but if the Brazilian tests go well and it eventually launches in English, it will start out flat footed.

      When YouTube launches Shorts, as The Information’s Alex Heath and Jessica Toonkel report it’s planning to do before the end of the year, it will be buried inside its main app. That could make it impossible to compete with a dedicated app like TikTok that opens straight to its For You page. Its one saving grace would be if YouTube unlocks its entire database of videos for remixing.

      Thanks to its position as the default place to host videos and its experience with searchability that Facebook and Instagram lack, YouTube Shorts could at least have all the ingredients necessary. But given YouTube’s non-stop failures in social with everything from Google+ to YouTube Stories to its dozen deadpooled messaging apps, it may not have the chef skills necessary to combine them.

      [Postscript: Or maybe YouTube will be worse at cloning TikTok than anyone. Record labels and YouTube should understand that short videos promote rather than pirate music, as TikTok propelling Lil Nas X and many other musicians up the charts prove. But if YouTube ruthlessly applies Content ID and takes down Shorts with unauthorized audio, the feature is dead in the water.]

      Other social networks should consider how the concept applies to them. Could Facebook turn your friends’ photos into collage materials? Could Instagram let you share themed collections of your favorite posts? Remix culture isn’t going away, so neither will the value of fostering content network effects. With video consumption outpacing professional production, remixes are how the world will stay entertained and how amateurs can contribute creations worthy of going viral.

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      (CNN)Are you losing your mind in quarantine? Because I am losing my mind in quarantine.

      Those of us who are just stuck in self-isolation, and not hooked up to a respirator or the next-of-kin of someone who is, are the lucky ones. And no, what’s being asked of us is not excessive: We just need to stay home.
      So why does this feel so hard?
        Around the world, people report feeling stressed, anxious and generally discombobulated by this whole mess. Parents and other caregivers for young children are particularly stretched thin. People have canceled trips, concerts, weddings; new babies are being brought up without the help of extended family or community members; big life milestones like graduations go publicly uncelebrated. We miss the friends and family we can’t see. We miss dinners out, parties in, museums, live music, theater, even the gym. I miss being able to walk through my neighborhood without the stress of staying six feet away from bikers, joggers, cooped-up children gone wild on scooters, and other pedestrians.
        It’s not just working from home. I’ve worked from home for close to a decade, in many different cities and multiple countries. But the general rules of work-from-home life no longer apply. For example: Do something social, or at least that forces you to interact with other human beings, every day, even if that’s just going to the grocery store or the gym. Or: Create a separate dedicated workspace, even if it’s only a particular cushion on your couch; reserve your bed for sleeping (and other recreational activities). Or: Get outside at least once a day.
        That’s all harder when your whole family is stuck inside on top of each other; when there are no gyms to go to; when, at least in dense cities, even going for a walk outside is a stressful (and masked) experience.
        No, we are not being asked to go to war or survive one. But what we are being asked to do is profoundly antithetical to our natures as human beings; it is profoundly destabilizing and difficult. There is little more human than the desire for connection, touch, stimulation and novelty. This is all so hard because in going without those things, it’s not hyperbole to say we have to find new ways of being — or at least feeling — human.
        Esther Perel, a psychotherapist and best-selling author, tells viewers in a brief but compelling video for The New York Times that it’s no wonder we are feeling a sense of grief and anxiety. It’s not just that we’re missing out on travel, dates, or dinners. It’s that we’re also losing the meaning behind all of those things. A date isn’t just a date; it’s the possibility of a romantic future. A trip isn’t just a trip; it’s a new and stimulating experience, a chance to understand oneself in a different context, an opportunity to see things that before you could have only observed through a screen. A dinner out isn’t just a dinner out; it’s a moment of indulgence, pleasure and connection with the person across the table. A longing to hug a friend, a loved one, a far-away child, your mom is more than just “I want a hug” — it’s a primal and fundamental longing for the way touch is so often short-hand for everything we don’t find the words to say.
        Even in the midst of catastrophe — war, natural disaster, destruction — human beings continue to forge connections; we perhaps especially forge connections in the most trying of times so we can survive. In the most dire of circumstances — in war zones and refugee camps, in towns leveled by earthquakes and communities pocked by violence — people create art, paint in bright colors, plant seeds. They play music. They feed their beloveds. They tell stories. They fall in love.

          Esther Perel on life and love under quarantine

        The isolation that this pandemic has forced upon us doesn’t prevent all of those things, but it certainly hinders them. In the days after September 11, 2001, New Yorkers defied stay-at-home suggestions to congregate in bars and restaurants; the city teemed with life and energy (and, for once, not with car horns — a little bit of softness in the aftermath of such brutality). That collective gathering was very much a collective middle finger to those who attacked us: No, we are not scared. Yes, we are still here, and guess what? We’re going to live.
        What is being asked of us now is not quite so satisfying; it does not meet our need, in a time of anxiety and grief, to come together and seek comfort. To touch each other. To even smile at a stranger — you can’t see a person’s expression behind a mask.
        Compared to illness and death, these are small things. Being alive matters more, and so of course we have to continue to live this way for as long as is necessary to keep ourselves and others safe and healthy.
        But it’s also OK to grieve the pieces of life that we’re missing, to express the feeling so many of us have that we can’t take it anymore. It’s necessary to understand that missing the fullness of life, including pleasure and connection, doesn’t make us selfish. Feeling destabilized and disoriented or pushed to a breaking point doesn’t make us flaky or weak. It makes us human.

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          And perverse as it may sound, those of us who are anxious, frustrated and disoriented can be grateful for that exact experience — in disorienting and disconnected times, this reaction is a rational one. It means we’re warm. We love. We’re curious. We seek pleasure, and we revel in it when we experience it. It means we live.
          This article has been corrected to clarify that three million people have been infected, not killed, by the coronavirus.

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          (CNN)A Native American woman will no longer adorn the packages of Land O’Lakes butter.

          The change was made in February and received little notice until this week. It comes as many businesses, universities and sports teams have begun to drop Native American images and symbols from logos.
          The new packaging was launched ahead of the company’s 100th anniversary next year. And the company says it’s shifting the focus of the packaging to farmers which is borne out by the words “Farmer Owned” in large text on one side.
            Land O’ Lakes, Inc. is a farmer-owned cooperative founded by a group of Minnesota dairy farmers in 1921. According to a company press release, the change was made to highlight the company’s roots as a farmer-owned business ahead of its 100th anniversary in 2021.
            In announcing the change, the company made no mention of the removal of the Native American woman.
            Some products, including stick butter, will include photos of Land O’Lakes farmers and co-op members and copy that reads “Since 1921” and “Proud to be Farmer-Owned: As a farmer-owned co-op, we stand together to bring you the very best in dairy,” the company said.
            Land O’ Lakes CEO Beth Ford said in a statement that the company is trying to have packaging that reflects the foundation and heart of the company’s culture. “And nothing does that better than our farmer-owners whose milk is used to produce Land O’Lakes’ dairy products,” Ford said.
            “As a farmer-owned co-op, we strongly feel the need to better connect the men and women who grow our food with those who consume it. Our farmer-to-fork structure gives us a unique ability to bridge this divide,” she added.
            Minnesota Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan welcomed the change. She tweeted: “Thank you to Land O’Lakes for making this important and needed change. Native people are not mascots or logos. We are very much still here.”
            The company says they have been making an effort to better tell its farmer-owned story in recent years. This includes remaking the classic song “Old MacDonald Had a Farm” with country music star Maggie Rose and featuring Land O’Lakes member farms in the music video.
            Heather Anfang, senior vice president of Land O’Lakes US Dairy Foods, says consumers care about the fact that the company is farmer owned.
              “Extending that farmer-owned story to our packaging is arguably our most direct vehicle to communicate with consumers,” she said.
              The company says the new farmer-owned packaging has already started to appear on several products is expected to be fully rolled out across all its products by the end of 2020.

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              YouTuber Vocal Synthesis says rappers label Roc Nation filed copyright notices against their AI impersonations

              Jay-Zs company Roc Nation have filed takedown notices against deepfake videos that use artificial intelligence to make him rap Billy Joels We Didnt Start the Fire and Hamlets To be or not to be soliloquy.

              The anonymous creator of the YouTube-hosted videos, known as Vocal Synthesis, has said that copyright notices were filed by Roc Nation, stating: This content unlawfully uses an AI to impersonate our clients voice. The two aforementioned videos have been removed, though others remain, including one of the rapper taking on the Book of Genesis.

              Vocal Synthesis said via a deepfake video using the ersatz voices of Barack Obama and Donald Trump that they had no malicious purpose and were disappointed that Jay-Z and Roc Nation have decided to bully a small YouTuber in this way.

              The Guardian has contacted Roc Nation for comment.

              Deepfake videos have already caused great controversy in political and celebrity circles, with California outlawing them in 2018, and Facebook banning them in January. The technology has most notoriously been used to create fake pornographic videos featuring famous actors the PornHub website banned deepfakes in 2018.

              Deepfakes differ from so-called cheapfakes, which dont involve AI and instead feature re-edited footage with the aim of distorting the truth. Famous examples include a video of Nancy Pelosi doctored to make her look drunk, and one of Keir Starmer created by the Tory party for social media where he appeared unable to answer a question. Posting on Twitter this week, Donald Trump shared a fake gif of Joe Biden sticking his tongue out.

              There are debates over the copyright implications of AI-created videos such as the Jay-Z performances, with digital access advocates Creative Commons arguing: It is ill-advised to force the application of the copyright system an antiquated system that has yet to adapt to the digital environment on to AI.

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              The original Pixel Buds weren’t very good. No way around it. Here’s a thing I wrote about them in a review titled “A disappointing debut for Google’s Pixel Buds“: As recently as a couple of years ago, they would have been a contender for the most compelling Bluetooth headphones on the market. But given the strides much of the competition has made, they mostly land with a dull thud.”

              And we weren’t alone. Google’s first attempt at wireless earbuds were met with a pretty resounding “meh,” when they arrived in 2017. It’s probably an understatement to suggest that the company went back to the drawing board on this one. The line required a rethink from the ground up.

              Google teases fully wireless Pixel Buds, arriving Spring 2020

              It took another two and a half years to deliver their successor. And Google seemingly sought to wipe the slate clean entirely, even going so far as not listing a “2” in the name. The new Pixel Buds are simply Pixel Buds. Anything else you remember with that name was clearly a figment of your own imagination.

              Those original Pixel Buds that definitely didn’t exist already felt outdated when they hit the market. And while a clean slate was certainly required, Google didn’t do itself any favors by waiting that long. The landscape for wireless earbuds has grown by leaps and bounds in that time. The market has been saturated and the products feel more of a necessity than a luxury.

              Six months after their introduction at a Pixel event in New York, the Buds are finally available for purchase in the U.S. — in Clearly White, at least. The other, more fun colors — Oh So Orange, Almost Black and Quite Mint — are not yet on the market. A minor quibble for those who have waited this long for a decent pair of Google headphones.

              Color issues aside, I’m pretty into the design language here. It feels fresh in a way most earbuds don’t — the case in particular. It would have been easy to knock-off Apple or Samsung or any number of competitors, but the new Pixel Buds manage to pull off a fresh aesthetic built on top of the same basic concept of charging case that’s essentially universal across the board, at this point.

              A disappointing debut for Google’s Pixel Buds

              I actually prefer the matte black to the AirPod gloss. It’s better to look at and feels nice to the touch. Jury’s still out on how easily it will scratch. Full disclosure, I haven’t really left my apartment since the Buds arrived — because, well, life. The case is ovular — a flattened egg, if you will. The top of the case opens with an easy flip. There’s a black accent running around the lid, easily showing where to stick your thumb.

              The case is fairly long in relation to the Buds themselves, owing, one imagines, to the size of the battery. All told, the Buds should get 24 hours with the case. There’s a USB-C port on the bottom (they’re wirelessly chargable, too) and a pairing button on the rear. The charging light flips on when open — white for full, orange for low battery.

              Flipping the case open with the Buds in will also trigger a pairing dialog box on Pixel phones and other handsets running Android 6.0 and up. It’s a super simple pairing process — one akin to what you’ll get with AirPods on iOS. And once the headphones are registered to you, the box will pop up with the info on your other devices.

              The Buds themselves are also aesthetically distinct from most of the competition. They feature a round button surface sporting a small, engraved Google “G.” The surface gives you space for the touch controls, which are as follows:

              • Tap to play/pause media, answer calls
              • Double tap to skip track, end/reject call, stop the Assistant
              • Triple tap to rewind/go to previous track
              • Swipe forward to increase volume
              • Swipe backward to decrease volume

              The Buds felt good in my ears with the default medium tips. There are a larger and smaller pair in the box, as well, so you can play around to get a better fit. They’ve been in for the better part of four hours and my ears feel fine — not something I can say with every pair of earbuds I’ve tested. They’re not too large or heavy, so they don’t pull on or press the ear. There’s also a small, removable silicone wing at the top to keep them in place.

              The battery on the buds is a bit lacking. After the aforementioned amount of time, I just got a low battery notification on the right bud. Curiously, they’ve run down at different rates. The right is at 14%, the left at 34%. Time to stick them back in the case for a recharge.

              The sound is decent. Not the best sounding pair I’ve tried and certainly not the worst. I’d say they’re pretty middle of the pack in terms of the price point. If audio is (understandably) you’re biggest concern, I’d recommend opting for a pricier model from Sony, Sennheiser or Apple’s AirPods Pro. There’s no active noise canceling here, either. The “Hey Google” microphone array works as advertised whether activated by voice or a long press with a finger. The connection was mostly solid. I was able to keep the music playing while walking into another room, though I did hit a few rough patches here and there.

              At $179, the new Pixel Buds are priced close to the middle of the pack. That feels about right. The models are a big upgrade over their disappointing predecessors, but are still a pretty middle of the road choice for Android users.

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              (CNN)Never before have so many people in the world lived in such tiny bubbles. With billions across the globe now under coronavirus-related restrictions, it has been weeks or even months for some since we socialized with anyone outside our homes.

              But these small bubbles could soon get a little bigger. Governments around the world are beginning to gradually lift their lockdowns, and as they do, they are mulling just how much and how widely they should advise people they can socialize.
              The Belgian government has reportedly been considering allowing people to form “social bubbles” of 10 people, according to Belgium’s Le Soir citing a leaked memo. The memo proposed that a bubble of people could spend time together on weekends, as long as all 10 people agreed to socialize exclusively with each other. Overlapping bubbles would not be allowed. The Belgian government did not respond to CNN’s request for comment.
                Forming our own bubbles would no doubt be socially awkward — not unlike leaving that friend or relative off your wedding guest list — and it would also be difficult to enforce. Some experts see the idea as too risky and too premature, given the lack of adequate testing capacity in many countries around the world.
                But some sociologists see it as a logical way to emerge from isolation. If you limit the people you spend time with, you naturally limit the chances of spreading the coronavirus widely.
                Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said last week that her government was looking at the social bubble as an option.
                “Every country is going through these decisions, none of us are through this pandemic yet, but some countries are starting to look at slightly expanding what people would define as their household — encouraging people who live alone to maybe match up with somebody else who is on their own or a couple of other people to have almost kind of bubbles of people,” she told BBC Radio Scotland.
                Keeping the current social distancing measures would be more effective in containing the virus, but some experts argue that such restrictive measure have time limits, as people will inevitably become fatigued by them, as well as the economic impacts they bring.

                So, how could you form a bubble?

                In a new study led by Oxford University sociologists say that changing the way our social networks are structured — rather than simply reducing the amount we socialize — could be effective in flattening the curve. (Flattening the curve is a term used to describe slowing the virus’ spread so heath systems can cope with the number of people needing treatment.)
                One of the study’s authors, Per Block, said that forcing people to stay at home for such long periods of time wasn’t sustainable and brought about problems of its own, including mental health issues.
                “There must be a middle ground between all of us staying at home and all of us meeting the people we want in the ways we want to,” he told CNN.
                “Our main aim here is to give people guidance on how they can structure their social surroundings so that hopefully in a year’s time we are there, and not that people at some point just give up completely on social distancing, and that we are back in a second wave by the end of the year and have to start this whole staying at home business all over again.”
                At the heart of the study, which is yet to be peer reviewed, is the idea that societies should make the paths along which the virus might travel longer than they currently are. One way to think of it is by considering the well-known concept that there are six degrees of separation between everyone in the world (yes, including Kevin Bacon). As people start socializing again, they should increase those degrees of separation, the study proposes.
                Creating a bubble with a small number of people to interact with, rather than allowing unfettered socializing, is one way of doing that.
                The study proposes a “birds of a feather” strategy, in which people of a particular group or demography socialize exclusively. Block says it isn’t practical to expect segregation by age or gender, but starting by geography could help. People could begin by creating bubbles, or clusters, with others in their neighborhoods. The strategy relies on people already interacting with others from the same area, or on people forming new networks with neighbors.
                In the longer term, other parts of society could be structured to protect these bubbles, the study proposes. Workplaces and schools, for example, may be able to keep workers or students who live in one particular area in the same room, and separate them from people who live in other areas, essentially getting rid of this “shortcut” for the virus to spread between clusters.
                In creating a bubble, something to consider is how much contact people in it might have with each other, in what’s known as “triadic closure.” This refers to the idea that contact partners of an individual are often connected themselves, which is what you often see with families.
                So if you include your parents, and your sibling and their partner in your group of 10, for example, that’s a good thing, because they likely already have contact with each other. This lowers the risk level for infection in the community as a whole, the study finds.
                Another factor is the care vulnerable people receive. It’s best if just one person provides all the care for that person, whether it’s a professional or relative. So it’s better if someone receiving healthcare is seen by the same doctor or nurse each time they visit a practice or get seen at home, as this can also reduce infection risk.
                But the idea of social bubbles is not without risk, some experts say, and a major problem with it is that it depends largely on trust.
                “I think this is a situation where you have to look at your individual situation and weigh how well you know the person you are potentially forming that ‘bubble’ with. How sure are you that the person isn’t interacting or socializing with someone that you do not know or that could be at risk for having Covid-19? Because that is the real risk and you could be putting yourself or your loved ones at risk for getting the disease,” said Dr. Krutika Kuppalli, an infectious diseases physician and biosecurity fellow at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.
                “I think we need to look at the data and let science guide us before we start making recommendations about socialization. Most importantly, we need to have adequate testing in place and make sure that people who need testing are getting it. When that happens, we need to make sure the numbers of cases are actually going down.
                “Finally, we need to have the ability to contact trace, test, and quarantine people who may be contacts of positive cases because that will be the only way to prevent large outbreaks from taking off again. When we have those things in place we can start talking about letting people socializing in a modest way.”
                William Hanage, an associate professor of epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health, also warned that social bubbles could still be significant sources of infection.
                “I think that approaches like this to refine distancing are an important part of how we move past the initial surge and get into the space beyond it that will define the rest of the pandemic. I also think that there are multiple reasons to be cautious, from the obvious fact that some people will be more at risk, for example, the elderly, and should not participate, to the fact that some people may be more at risk of already being infected themselves, people working in health care for instance,” he told CNN.

                Could children play in bubbles?

                Social bubbles is something that New Zealand is already trying. The country, which announced it had eliminated the virus, moved Tuesday into a less restrictive phase in its response, with 400,000 more New Zealanders heading back to work and 75% of the country’s economy operating.
                In the very comfortable position of recording just one new infection on Monday, the government there announced that people could begin expanding their bubbles, without even needing to specify by how many people.
                “People must stay within their household bubble but can expand this to reconnect with close family … or bring in caregivers, or support isolated people,” the government wrote in its guidance.
                “It’s important to protect your bubble if you extend it. Keep your bubble exclusive and only include people where it will keep you and them safe and well. If anyone within your bubble feels unwell, they should self-isolate from everyone else within your bubble.”
                This approach could also be valuable for young children, according to Stefan Flasche from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. In an article, he argues that while we all need to reduce our contacts, small and exclusive playgroups would help children’s social development.
                “The agreement of exclusivity in this is central to success, as it limits the risk for transmission chains. As a result, such social contact clustering for children would allow them to mingle with their friends while only adding a rather marginal risk for coronavirus infection from, or transmission to, those outside of the play group and their respective households,” he wrote.
                He added that it would be sensible to use the same approach for people without children, particularly single people who may be feeling lonely or people who want to visit family, as long as their bubbles remain exclusive.
                But many countries are still quite far away from making these changes and, as Dr. Kuppalli pointed out, haven’t tested at the level to have a good grasp of how prevalent the virus is.
                Many experts argue that the reproduction rate — how many people one person is infecting, on average — needs to be below 1.0 before any lockdown restrictions are eased, as was the case in Germany.
                A recent model by Imperial College London showed the reproduction rate in the UK and US to be an estimated 2.4.
                In the UK, which has now reported more than 21,000 deaths in hospitals the government has said it will announce its plan to ease out of lockdown on May 7. It would not confirm to CNN whether the idea of social bubbles was being discussed as an option.
                Most European nations and US states that have eased lockdowns have retained social distancing rules, which oblige people to only socialize with others in their homes and keep distances of between one and two meters from other people in public spaces.
                  It doesn’t look like football matches, concerts in stadiums and visiting friends in other countries are on the cards just yet. But Block is hopeful that we can in the future at least start visit friends’ and relatives’ homes, Block said.
                  “I guess this will take quite a long time, but the better we all are at adhering to this, at reorganizing our social lives in such a way that it’s doable in the long run, the better the chances are that in a year’s time, maybe we can go to a music concert together.”

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                  In the weeks since sport came to an abrupt ending, its only significant story has been its own cancellation

                  The best way to annoy a group of scholarly historians, if you ever have an urgent need to annoy scholarly historians perhaps in some kind of emergency situation is to propose a counterfactual analysis of events.

                  You know the kind of thing. What if Winston Churchill had died of a heart attack in 1941? What if skiffle, rather than the music of the Beatles, had seized the imagination of the world in 1963?

                  This is an inflammatory line of reasoning, interesting to readers of alarming pulp novels about the Third Reich taking over the world, but likely to cause an outbreak of pipe-chewing, tweed-flapping rage within the common rooms of Big History. It is also an interesting dynamic when applied to sports writing and sports analysis. Most of it would collapse if the counterfactual analysis were outlawed.

                  What is Expected Goals, or the Expected Points Table, or a counterintuitive stats-based gallery of the leading creative left-backs in Europe (No 5 will surprise you!) if not the type of unhistorical shit that so enraged the 20th-century historian EP Thompson? What is a revisionist colour sidebar take on the managerial achievements of Jos Mourinho, but the kind of counterfactual parlour game EH Carr, chronicler of the early Soviet Union, would have raged against?

                  And yet right now counter-facts are all sport has. In the Guardians pages this week you will have seen detailed analysis of a significant staging point: 100 days since coronavirus took hold and changed the world. This has mainly been a business of hard facts, sifted out from an overload of actual real-world news.

                  But not in sport. It is a month now since the first cancelled Premier League Saturday, a month since sport basically stopped. And this is the one significant event sport has to offer, its own cancellation. The story didnt happen. Thats the story. It feels like counterfactual history in action. The best way to understand what happened in sport between March and April 2020, is to understand what didnt happen.

                  At which point wind chimes tinkle, the screen starts to dissolve, and were back in the undoctored timeline, the one where sport still exists, where the talk of an illness in China remained talk of an illness in China, and where the wheels of Big Sport have continued to grind on.

                  In counterfactual April 2020 more than 300 unplayed professional mens and womens football fixtures have been played in the last four weeks. Close to 1bn in revenue has still been raked in.

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                  In the Premier League Liverpool stuttered a little, then romped across the line, clinching the title with victory at Manchester City on 5 April, a moment that confirmed once again in its sheer operatic sweep that Premier League football is, and always will be, the most important thing currently happening to human civilisation.

                  Pep Guardiola declared himself so very, very happy, albeit in a murderous, glassy-eyed sarcastic whisper. The Liverpool board announced that the title win was vindication for a community club where finances take second place to our football family and lets face it nothings ever likely to test this idea so there you go.

                  Elsewhere news of Cristiano Ronaldos agreement to sign for Manchester United on a world record weekly wage led to questions in parliament over footballers salaries. We have always backed the right of the market to decide how much individuals earn, this is all good for Britain, Matt Hancock, MP for West Suffolk, announced, to cheers from the benches.

                  Englands cricketers continued to rebuild the Test team along strict attritional lines, battling out all 10 days of the two-match series in Sri Lanka to seal a triumphant 0-0 series draw. At home the ECB continued to plan for the Hundred, the nonexistent tournament involving nonexistent teams played out in front of nonexistent fans, which actually doesnt sound such a weird idea these days.

                  Meanwhile, in the one really astonishing turn of the non-Covid timeline, Formula One announced that it would cease to function with immediate effect, having re-evaluated its place in human society, renounced its role as a carbon-fed playground for the mega-rich, and apologised in particular for the last decade of watching the best car win in dubiously-framed locations around the world. So congratulations, there, Formula One.

                  Away from all this the real business of sport didnt un continue. It was announced that a combined one million miles would not go un-run in the postponed London Marathon, and 50m of charity donations not be deferred in the process. Around the country 350,000 amateur cricketers would not miss their final winter nets, and continue to look forward to another endless summer.

                  The FA would not cancel completely the seasons of at least 100 leagues in mens and womens non-league football. Similarly the results of the entire sub-pyramid of the amateur game hundreds of leagues, thousands of clubs were not declared null and void and scrubbed from the record.

                  In the wider world hundreds of thousands of coaches, teachers and volunteers did not stop working away at grassroots sport and the shared health of the nation. A combined two million people from the age of four upwards didnt fail to participate in cancelled parkruns. And beyond this an unquantifiable mass did not fail to take their first step into sport or to come back to some kind of a more active life.

                  This, then, is the counterfactual history of sport March-April 2020, a month of urgent unhappenings and eventful nonevents. There will be quite a bit more of this to come from here. The important part, when it all starts up again, will be to remember which of those absences seemed to matter the most.

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