A few thoughts about masks

TL;DR – Wear masks!

As a fan of Korean dramas, I noticed a lot of the big stars would wear cloth masks in public. Are they trying not to be noticed?

Screen grab from SOURCE, note that the date is 2019 (not coronatimes)

I also noticed Asian tourists in Israel wearing masks. They aren’t trying to keep a low profile in public.

I found out that in Korea specifically, but also in other Asian countries, the pollution is so bad they include fine dust warnings in their weather reports. People wear masks on particularly bad days. Masks also are a layer of protection against sun damage – the tourists were often wearing big sun hats and UV protective sleeves on their arms. For this post, I also did a little research about mask wearing in Asia and found an article from 2014 about the culture of wearing masks in Asia. In short, if someone is ill, they will wear a mask to protect others. Apparently this has been part of the culture since the flu pandemic of 1918. Today, it’s a fashion statement.


Now we are in the middle of a pandemic that is not getting better. To update the numbers from last week: There are now 11.2 million cases – up 1.2 million since last week. Incidentally, May 27 was the first day there were more than 100,000 new cases and it’s been steadily going up to 200,000+ new cases every day. The death rate remains stable with 29,500 deaths this week putting the world on track to reach another 100,000 deaths within about 3 weeks.

Israel is officially in the second wave. We’ve doubled the new case rate this week with over 1,000 new cases reported in a single day. It’s directly tied to reopening and people ignoring warnings about how to reopen safely.

The best option for people is to not get exposed to the virus by staying home. That’s not a long term solution. So if we have to go out, we need to protect ourselves and others. That means masks.

My office sent this graphic.

A slightly more colorful comparison was making its way around Facebook.

Masks = Healthy society

I’ve been horrified by the public meltdowns in the US over wearing masks. I can’t understand how a matter of public health became a question of freedom.

I think one good example is smoking. A person is free to smoke as much as they want. That’s a choice they’ve made. Now that science has proven that second-hand smoke causes cancer and puts children in smoking households at a higher risk for respiratory illnesses like asthma, smokers may not like that they can no longer smoke in bars and other public places, but they tend to agree that they don’t have a right to blow smoke into people’s faces and potentially cause cancer or respiratory distress in other people.

What about speed limits and seatbelt laws? They are government-imposed laws for public safety. No one (that I know of) has tried to avoid paying the fines because they have a god-given right to pass other drivers like they’re standing still and smash through their own windshield when they slam on the breaks.

Now compound the danger by making smoking and bad driving contagious.

Yes, masks are uncomfortable. But surgeons and dentists haven’t thrown out sterilization procedures because they are uncomfortable. Coronavirus is also uncomfortable. Many of those who “recover” suffer as much as when they were sick and can’t return to normal life. That’s pretty uncomfortable. If an asymptomatic carrier turns into a super-spreader and people end up hospitalized or dead because they were near that person, that’s not comfortable for anyone.

Your freedom ends at my personal space. Wear a mask.

Global Citizen

Lots of things have been happening in Israel and around the world, but to be honest, the only thing I paid attention to this week was my Chinese drama.

Meteor Garden 2018

I’ve been in the Korean drama world for about 4 years and I dabble in Taiwanese dramas. Once in a long while, if the Korean drama netizens are talking about a Chinese drama, I’ll watch that. But the whole drama world went bananas for this remake (I’ve seen fan sites in English, Chinese, Russian, Thai, and Spanish). The source material is a 1992 manga (serialized graphic novel) from Japan and several remakes have been done, most famously in Taiwan and Korea. This is the kind of drama that launches careers.

manga styleMe as a manga character

Living in Israel, I feel much more like a citizen of the world than I did in the US. But I started to wonder if that was really true. I’m an immigrant, my mom is an immigrant, a majority of the family friends when I was growing up are immigrants (from China, Croatia, UK, Brazil, Argentina, Russia, just off the top of my head) or are at least well-traveled.

I remembered that one of my favorite childhood shows was Star Blazers. At the time, I didn’t know that it was originally a Japanese cartoon that had been dubbed. I was riveted every day and I just thought the long, lean, big-eyed, beautiful people were just part of the style of the cartoon and didn’t think much of the fact that it didn’t look like Super Friends or Scooby Doo.

Star Blazers intro – “Our Star Blazers!”

Long before I moved to Israel, I was aware of Asia; over the years, I’ve had an interest in Tai Chi, Thai food, and Chinese medicine. So when my Greek friend in Israel introduced me to Korean dramas, the cultural anthropologist that I secretly wanted to be took over and my interest in drama spilled into trying to understand the mysteries of Asian culture.

Is it because I live in Israel, hear multiple languages in the street and meet people of different ethnic backgrounds, and feel like I am at the crossroads of civilizations between Europe and Asia that I have recently found myself drawn to explore more and more about Asia?

Or would my love of subtitled movies, natural cultural curiosity, and the easy internet access to subtitled dramas have led me down this road eventually even if I lived in the US?

world map china center Best of Map Shop Hema Maps Buy Maps line Mapworld Australia
A different view of the world

I think it’s because I live in Israel. This is a small country with many immigrants and a citizenry that values traveling and seeing the world. In Israel, my American-ness makes me foreign, and somehow more of a global citizen. In the US, I was foreign, but spent so much time and effort in being American, I didn’t value my foreignness and so by default rejected global citizenry. All the potential was there, but it was only in Israel where I could be myself – a person in the cultural margins – that I could plant my roots and grow in different cultural directions.

My deep roots are in the US and Israel, I have cultural sprouts in Russia and Ukraine, and I’m growing branches in Korea, Taiwan, China, and Hong Kong. Yes, I’m a global citizen indeed.

“Living in a Film”

Real life is overwhelmingly busy right now and the news is just crazy, so I’ll do what I do best and turn to fantasy.  My fantasy world exists in Korean dramas.  Yes, you read that correctly.  I really, really enjoy Korean dramas (k-drama for short).  So this post will seem like it is completely out of left field, except that I’ve titled it using Israeli slang:  חי בסרט (hay b’seret), which means “living in a film (or movie).”  Usually it refers to someone being a drama queen and having everything be overly dramatic all the time, but I’m going to use it literally.

*cultural note:  If you’ve never seen a k-drama, you can just as easily substitute rom-com, but k-dramas have some special features that adapt really well to my life in Israel.

My life is a (failed) k-drama.

When I use the term “failed,” I don’t mean it in a negative way.  It’s just that the k-drama set-up is all there and then . . . nothing happens.  So if you’ll follow my logic here: my regular life is quite uneventful but fully set up for something fantastical.  And that is a lot better than following the news and seeing what’s going on in the “real” world, which feels like someone took a page from // insert name of your favorite TV show of intrigue//.

Heroines in k-dramas often live in rooftop apartments with a great view.

I live in a rooftop apartment with a great view. (Rooftop is not to be confused with penthouse.  A rooftop apartment means that it’s a possibly illegal addition to the building and they are tiny.)

rooftopK-drama rooftop

Heroines in k-dramas often work a lot of part-time jobs and have joie de vivre.

I work on a wide variety of projects and have a lot of joie de vivre.

The cast of most, if not all, k-dramas wear coats in the house during the winter.

I’ve already explained the cold in Jerusalem, and I find I often wear my coat in the house.  (Their sets aren’t heated and they have many more coats than I do, but I think I wear my coat inside in part because my dad wore his coat in the house too.)

heirs22   heirs
Coats inside.

rihannaLyrics to Rihanna’s song “Umbrella” (this may be more familiar some readers)

Scene: Outside.  On a street corner.  Waiting for the light to change in the pouring rain.

I approached the corner thankful that I had remembered to bring my big umbrella.  I saw him standing there and the rain really started coming down just as we realized that we had a full cycle to wait before the light changed.

He was very tall, thin, wearing a well-fitting suit, but no overcoat or hat to protect his bald (shaved?) head.  I noticed that his shoulders were already wet from the rain.

As he stepped back away from the curb to avoid getting splashed, I stepped forward and shared my giant umbrella.  (Cue music!)

The top of my head was several inches below his shoulder, so I had to lift my umbrella quite high.  He was surprised as he looked down at me, and mumbled something about not minding the rain so much – but he still stayed under my umbrella.

We commented on how long the traffic cycle was until our crosswalk sign would turn green.  But mostly it was just traffic noise and the plopping of rain on the umbrella.  (Erm, awk-ward!)

Then the light changed and since his legs were so much longer than mine, he reached the other side before I did – without the shelter of my umbrella.  He wished me a “Shabbat shalom u’mevurach” (a peaceful and blessed Sabbath).

He went his way and I went mine.

And then . . . nothing.  Absolutely nothing happened.  (Unless, we have a time jump to 5 years later . . .)

umbrellaThis is not my meme.  It was just out there on the internet.

This interlude is an absolutely 100% true thing that happened to me last week.  The set up was all there and then #kdramafail.