Face Masks In Paradise

Read to the end for a good Tumblr post

I’m spending the day before the US election on the beach in Belize. When the votes start coming in tomorrow, I’ll be making my way back through airports. This will actually be the second US presidential election I’ve missed being overseas. I’ve been to over a dozen other ones in other countries, though. And as luck would have it, Belize is in the throes of their own big election right now too.

It’s been a strange but really eye-opening experience to see another country’s COVID-19 protocols. Belize hasn’t handled the crisis perfectly, but also my hometown in Massachusetts has had around 30 deaths, the entire country of Belize has had 60. 

On October 1, the country slightly eased its virus restrictions, but they are still incredibly strict. Which means this has not been the carefree island getaway my father was expecting when he decided to set off last week. We’re down here because he and a few friends decided to invest in some property. My dad set aside a bit of his retirement and purchased one of the lots. My mom, sister, and I decided that it would be smart for me to come down here and make sure he wasn’t getting fleeced. I’ve now seen the land. I have absolutely no idea what my dad intends to do with it but it’s very lovely. It can also currently only be accessed by boat 🤷🏼‍♂️. 

Arriving in Belize on Friday, we were put in a line outside the airport. After about an hour of waiting in line, we presented health officials with the negative COVID tests we had to take within 72 hours of our departure that were required to enter the country. We also had the QR codes on our national Belizean contact tracing app scanned. I don’t know what the app does or where that all goes, so I can’t tell you if it’s all just security theater, but our test results were looked over by a doctor at the border and it was determined they weren’t good enough to enter.

We were then taken to a different corridor of the airport and a woman using rubber gloves through thick plexiglass gave each of us another nose swab. She went so deep into my brain that I saw stars. It was brutal. From there we were taken to a small cabin on the tarmac where we awaited our results. About 25 minutes later we had fresh negative tests and were allowed to fully exit customs. My dad is an almost pathological optimist, but I could tell he was starting to get a bit deflated.

Day-to-day moving around on the island of San Pedro where our property is hasn’t been easy for him either. He’s also hard of hearing to boot, so without the ability to read lips through marks, he’s been discombobulated to say the least. 

The strictness of Belizean mask laws is, for Americans, almost impossible to comprehend. Right now, it is illegal here to not wear a mask in public. Not just stores, not just walking around a restaurant, if you are in public, you have to wear a mask. If you’re caught without one, it’s a fine of around $2500 USD or possibly up to two years in prison. The arrests for face masks happen at such a rate here that local media literally just publishes bulk arrest figures now.

It’s been an interesting weekend to say the least. And the meditations I’ve had on where the line should be between personal freedoms and fighting coronavirus are definitely more nuanced than they used to be. But more than anything, I’m overwhelmed with a feeling I’m calling dystopia guilt. By all accounts, it’s probably the fault of my father’s generation that the world is in the mess it is. But also, as a son, I have this tremendous feeling of guilt that the retirement life he dreamed of while working his whole life isn’t easier for him. Maybe that’s the real underlying emotion between the generation war discourse in places like Twitter. Yes, boomers fucked the Earth, but they’re our parents and I don’t personally have the resources to make things better for them as they reach old age.

These are all very complicated thoughts to be having sitting on the beach in literally the most beautiful place I’ve ever been in my life, but also I listened to a lot of emo in high school, so maybe regardless of the pandemic-fueled fascist creep spreading across the world right now, my brain would still work this way. 

As for Belize tourist tips, I’d suggest you try the conch fritters and the ceviche and check out a restaurant in Secret Beach called Blue Bayou.

Alright, time for some internet stuff.

One Last Spooky Thing Before Spooky Season Ends

According to the Google Translation of the tweet, this was made with two bags of 300 yen ($3.00 USD) plastic pumpkins. It’s wired together and it glows.

The Cheese Fountain Guy Finally Got His Cheese Fountain To Work

If you aren’t familiar with the world of mukbang, it first became popular in Korea. It’s similar to ASMR, but instead of an emphasis on pleasing sounds, it’s a type of internet video where you watch someone (typically a thin beautiful woman) eat an incredible amount of food. There have been a few instances over the years of mukbang influencers getting in trouble for eating live octopuses on stream.

This week, a Mukbang influencer named Tasty Hoon has spent the week trying to turn a chocolate fountain into a fondue fountain.

In his first video, he gets it to work, but as you can see, the cheese goes nuts. Thankfully, the story has a very beautiful ending. In a second video, Tasty Hoon, successfully gets the cheese fountain to work.

Sadly, The CUM Merch Isn’t Real

Here’s one of those things that is just too good to be true. A bunch of these shirts went viral on Twitter this week. Users were claiming that the officially merchandise for Concordia University of Michigan — a Lutheran school — said “CUM”. Obviously, this is hilarious and great. Sad, it is not true. Both Snopes and Mashable have good debunks. The confusion appears to have started because the website selling the cum shirts isn’t officially affiliated with the school. Also, Concordia University’s full name is Concordia University of Ann Arbor and its official acronym is CUAA. But but but the good news in all of this is that you can still buy the CUM shirts. Here’s my personal favorite.

Pretty sure I saw CUM Cheer Dad open for Pill Friends and Tigers Jaw in the basement of Space Jam House in Philadelphia in 2013.

And Lastly, A Quick Election Thing

I’m not going to guess what’s going to happen in the US tomorrow. I can only assume that it’s going to be exhausting and annoying and there most likely won’t be any clearcut immediate answers. I don’t want to contribute to the pre-election madness. I don’t think it’s healthy and useful. Elections have consequences, politics isn’t a video game, and reading the news on Twitter isn’t a personality.

But I will highlight one really interesting story I don’t want anyone to miss amid all the madness this week. According to Reuters, Russian chaos agents have been heavily involved in promoting and guiding the direction of the QAnon movement since at least 2017. Reuters points to right-wing influencer Tracy Diaz (@TracyBeanz) as the main first node that led to QAnon initially spreading beyond 4chan. Here’s a good pull quote:

From November 2017 on, QAnon was the single most frequent hashtag tweeted by accounts that Twitter has since identified as Russian-backed, a Reuters analysis of the archive shows, with the term used some 17,000 times.

The archives contain more than 4,000 accounts that Twitter suspended for spreading Russian government disinformation in 2018 and 2019 but preserved for researchers.

The trove shows that some of the Russian accounts tweeted about [@TracyBeanz] even before the anonymous figure known as Q emerged, then rewarded her with more promotion when she put videos about Q on YouTube.

Like I said, if Biden wins, I don’t think we’re going to wake up on November 4th and the world will magically be like it was in 2016. And I don’t feel like QAnon is going away, but at the same time, at least we’re finally getting a clearer picture of what’s happened to us over the last four years and, most importantly, who did it to us.

P.S. here’s a good Tumblr post.

***Any typos in this email are on purpose actually***