WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)--Accusing it of treating him "very unfairly," Donald Trump lashed out on Wednesday at the widely used spelling tool spell-check. "Almost every time I type a word, spell-check puts a red squiggly line under it," he tweeted. "It never put a red squiggly line under Obama's words." "Spell-check is rigged against conservatives," he charged. Trump accused spell-check of infringing on his First Amendment rights by interfering with what he called "freedom of spelling."
In January, a Swedish entrepreneur named Joakim Hultin co-founded Sidehide, a new digital app intended to streamline hotel reservations. Weeks later, some of the first confirmed cases of COVID-19 were reported in Europe. Almost instantly, Hultin told me, "demand stopped." Before the pandemic, Sidehide was working with a London-based company called Onfido, which uses artificial intelligence and facial recognition to verify identities. Hultin learned that Onfido had created a way for users to upload a serology test to a private server and use facial biometric data to unlock the data and display the results.
Your story "The Afterlife" opens as a group of passengers are riding a bus to the afterlife. When did that image first come to mind? I'm forced to admit that ninety per cent of this story came to me in a dream, in January this year. It was a semi-lucid dream, one in which I experience a kind of meta-commentary layer in which I thought about how much the elements might comprise a short story if I woke up and wrote them down. I've had that luck, if it is luck, just three or four other times.
Again and again, the mistakes that the Trump Administration makes in handling the coronavirus crisis seem to break in the worst possible direction. The latest example concerns antibody tests, which are meant to show whether someone has had COVID-19, but, in practice, often do not. There are more than two hundred tests out there now, produced by a wide range of companies and labs, with little control over how they are marketed; only a dozen have even gone through the process of getting what's known as an Emergency Use Authorization, or E.U.A., from the Food and Drug Administration, which is less rigorous than a normal approval. The F.D.A. has told other companies that they can go ahead and peddle their tests based on self-reported measures of accuracy to clinics, doctors' offices, businesses, or state and local governments. Some tests are not just imperfect but shoddy; "terrible" is the word one researcher used in describing certain tests to CNN.
The critic Raymond Williams once wrote that every historical period has its own "structure of feeling." How everything seemed in the nineteen-sixties, the way the Victorians understood one another, the chivalry of the Middle Ages, the world view of Tang-dynasty China: each period, Williams thought, had a distinct way of organizing basic human emotions into an overarching cultural system. Each had its own way of experiencing being alive. In mid-March, in a prior age, I spent a week rafting down the Grand Canyon. When I left for the trip, the United States was still beginning to grapple with the reality of the coronavirus pandemic.
As the coronavirus began to creep into our lives--but before it came to define them entirely--e-mails from across the world included the cheery phrase "Crazy times!" Messages from friends here in Los Angeles tended to favor something locally sourced, courtesy of Jim Morrison and the Doors: "Strange Days." Strange days, indeed, as we waited for the result of my wife's test, hoping that it would be positive. Can you think of any other illness for which a positive result might be eagerly anticipated? Unable to do anything but lie in bed, she experienced symptoms that were severe by any usual standard but most welcome by the newly enhanced metrics of affliction ushered in by the virus.
The nature of basketball is such that its most cathartic moment--when the ball goes decisively and irretrievably through the hoop--is the same every time. The ball piercing the basket is both a discrete event and a continuous waterfall of motion that, for active players, is constant throughout their careers. They shoot in practice, they shoot in the game, they shoot and shoot and shoot. The motion becomes so ingrained in their muscle memory that the gesture requires only its activation; everything else--the elevation, the aiming at the basket, the cocking of the elbow and the follow-through of the hand--is programmed. I found myself thinking about the waterfall of shots in the wake of one of the more dramatic ones in recent N.B.A. history: Damian Lillard, of the Portland Trail Blazers, hitting the game-winning, series-ending shot against the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game Five.
On a recent Tuesday evening, the experimental musician Julianna Barwick checked into Sister City, a new two-hundred-room boutique hotel on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. If you're having the sort of day that makes you want to minimize human interaction, Sister City is a merciful oasis: there are self-service registration kiosks in the lobby, and each floor features a supply closet containing the sorts of sundries that you'd usually have to request from the concierge. The lobby has sparse but careful décor--clean white walls, cherry-wood furniture, floor tiles in muted shades of green and gray--suggesting a Scandinavian sauna, or perhaps the careful serenity of a Japanese stationery store; the vibe is "Serenity Now!" filtered through Instagram. Barwick, who has long, dark hair and inquisitive eyes, is using the sky immediately above the hotel as a source for a new composition. A camera mounted to the roof of the building sends information about the goings-on in the airspace above the hotel (rain, clouds, pigeons, airplanes, wind, sun, moonlight, drones, helicopters, constellations, what have you) to Pereira's program, which uses Microsoft's artificial intelligence to cue sounds written and recorded by Barwick.
A former electronics whiz kid, he has squandered his youth on dilettantish studies in physics and anthropology, followed by a series of botched get-rich-quick schemes. His parents are dead, his friends (if they exist) go unmentioned, and his employment consists of forex trading on an old laptop in his two-room apartment. He seems to leave home only to buy chocolate at a local newsstand or, once, after noticing a pain in his foot, to have an ingrown toenail removed, an apt literalization of his enervating self-involvement. Perhaps out of some desire for correction, Charlie sells his mother's house to finance the purchase of Adam, one of twenty-five cutting-edge androids built to serve as an "intellectual sparring partner, friend and factotum." The impulsive slacker is all too ready to exchange his birthright for a mess of wattage.
It was a hot February morning at Wish Farms, a large strawberry-growing operation outside Plant City, Florida. Gary Wishnatzki, the proprietor, met me at one of the farm offices. In the high season, Wish Farms picks, chills, and ships some twenty million berries--all handpicked by a seasonal workforce of six hundred and fifty farm laborers. Wishnatzki is a genial sixty-three-year-old third-generation berry man, who wears a white goatee and speaks softly, with a Southern drawl. His grandfather Harris Wishnatzki was a penniless Russian immigrant who started out peddling fruits and vegetables from a pushcart in New York's Washington Street Market in 1904.