The People’s Republic of China’s country-wide mass surveillance system has perhaps never been so prominent in the public consciousness as it is today, in a pandemic-stricken landscape where the state’s ability to track and trace citizens is instrumental to preventing the spread of Covid-19. Indeed, the ubiquity of state surveillance in China has become something of a bragging right, rather than a cause for suspicion. After all, the comprehensiveness of China’s Covid-19 prevention system is perhaps only achievable with China’s level of disregard for personal privacy and particular civil liberties.
“Can reading make you happier?” Ceridwen Dovey asks in the headline of her 2015 article for the New Yorker, where she describes her experience with bibliotherapist from the London-based School of Life. At its most basic, bibliotherapy, or book therapy, uses reading as a method of emotional and psychological support. Dovey was gifted an appointment with bibliotherapist Ella Berthoud, who sent her a questionnaire to help establish Dovey’s needs, including the question “What is preoccupying you right now?” Dovey wrote back that she was concerned about not having the “spiritual resources” to be able to weather grief when it inevitably arrived in her life. With this in mind, Berthoud sent her a list of books to help guide her through this worry.
As we find ourselves in the midst of a global pandemic, the film-festival-going crowd of the modern era may notice that the process of premiere attendnce and film submission is now out of the ordinary. We know people have to stand six feet apart, and being in a literal ‘audience’ is generally frowned upon. Even with the effects of COVID-19 in place, one must take the same steps in order to submit a film to a festival. If you were making and submitting shorts or features a couple of years ago, you would have used a website called Withoutabox to send your film, but this website is now defunct. If you submit a film to a festival now, you use FilmFreeway to connect with thousands of film festivals around the world.
The problem of the personal essay is bridging the massive gap between me and you. Many personal essays, especially those written by queer people whose experiences are so varied and idiosyncratic, tend to share an almost unmediated picture of experience. I sometimes express dissatisfaction when an essay glances off me and leaves no lasting trace. I don’t get it. Then I’m reminded that that’s sort of the point. You read the piece, and if you share the experience, you empathize. If not, too bad. It was not for you anyway. But a melancholy taste is left in my mouth.
Anno Domini 1522: Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan’s Victoria returns to harbour in Spain after circumnavigating the globe, tying up the world with a golden girdle—which is a necklace, which is a collar, which is a garotte. Magellan himself had so famously expired many months ago on the island of Mactan in the Philippines—speared to death like a fish, by all accounts—but, alas, the flat-earth, anti-Cartographic forces of the universe were too late. Magellan’s will be done: the globe is complete.