A better world.
A better world. Skyrim screenshot

What's in store for us? We're self-isolating and trying to figure it out. This week: weaponized COVID, 2022, and Skyrim.

U.S. enemies will weaponize respiratory viruses against us. This prediction comes courtesy of an offhand comment made by former FDA commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb on Face the Nation last Sunday. Noting that we have 5.11 million confirmed cases of COVID and 163,000 deaths associated with the virus, he said:

This has now posed an asymmetric risk to the United States. Other countries looking in now can conclude that a respiratory pathogen poses a greater danger to the United States than perhaps other nations that have been grappling with this more successfully. It was always thought that a rogue nation would never unleash a pathogen deliberately—and I'm not saying this was a deliberate pathogen, by everything we know it was naturally occurring—it was always thought a nation would never deliberately unleash a pathogen that could blow back on them. That thinking might have to be adjusted now that this has posed such an asymmetric risk to the United States relative to other nations, some of which are our adversaries.

In short, here's the new conservative argument: China didn't unleash this virus to cripple the U.S., but now they know they could. —R.S.

The AMC downtown will be replaced by a Target. Or something worse... I can’t say I ever had a super deep affection for the AMC Pacific Place 11 theater downtown, but it’s where I first saw the motion picture Cats, so it does hold at least somewhat of a special place in my heart. I’ll be sad to see it go, but I just can’t imagine how it’ll endure this horrible endless shutdown. The cost to keep it running has got to be absolutely astronomical, and once Disney proves that people will pay a monthly subscription PLUS an additional $30 to watch new releases online, movie theaters are going to become a novelty rather than booming business. One-screeners like The Egyptian might carry on for art films, community events, and festivals. But the multiplex? That’s going the way of the drive-in. Or at least, that’s what I was about to predict—that in two years the Pacific Place theaters will be turned into a Target—but when I mentioned that to Chase in the Slack he had an even more chilling thought. “All those big movie theaters will be gone soon. Or Amazon PrimePlexes,” he wrote. Oh God. Of course. He’s right. When everything re-opens, we’ll find ourselves paying for popcorn with the bits we earned while livestreaming on Twitch. —M.B.

The pandemic will turn us all into gamers. I hopped on the Animal Crossing-Nintendo Switch train just like every else in the first month of the pandemic. And while the island life simulator lends a sense of productivity to our days spent cooped up inside (and is also selling like hotcakes), the pandemic is getting bleaker with no indication that it will let up anytime soon here. It was this look into the abyss of a future that led me to impulsively buy The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, an open-ended action role-playing game where players are free to follow any quest, storyline, or existence they wish. No longer bound by the edges of my island, a perilous and seemingly unending immersive experience in the game has gulped me right up. As sales for the gaming console continue to shoot through the roof for Nintendo, I think the flush of excitement around real-life simulators like Animal Crossing will give way to the popularity of violent, but open-ended games like Skyrim as the pandemic heads into the fall and winter. The story, side-quests, and fleshed-out world in the game mirrors our protracted fight with the dangerous enemy that is COVID-19. By 2021, everyone and their grandma will be chewing beef jerky and doing dabs in between epic fight sequences, holing up inside, waiting for the pandemic to be over. And gamer culture will rule supreme.—J.K.

Kamala Harris will be vice president. I hope. —C.B.

We're going to reject social media en masse when this is all over. I keep waiting for it to happen. Mark Zuckerberg has destroyed the world, and we all know it. Problem is, we are currently depending on the tools that Zuckerberg created to stay in touch with each other. As soon as this is all over, though? We are going to be so sick of social media we're going to ditch it in favor of the real thing—actually being human beings in space together, looking into each other's eyes, connecting in real ways. Isn't it pretty to think so? —C.F.

Some people might give up their social media accounts, but those will only be people who remember a world without social media. Gen Z will apply for asylum in China if TikTok gets banned. —C.B.

The ancient art of letter-writing will have a revival. We’re starved for company and the Post Office needs our help to survive. What’s to be done? Revive the lost art of writing to pen pals, OBVIOUSLY. You can order cute postcards and stamps online (USPS has a small postcard selection, and postcard stamps are cheap), write a few sentences, drop it in the mail, and then in a few days (or weeks, depending on just how ruthless Republicans are about killing mail delivery) you’ll have utterly charmed the person you wrote to. “They’re so quirky,” your addressee will think. “It’s like being friends with Zooey Deschanel without the ukelele.” But the joke’s on them, because your OTHER quarantine project is learning to play the ukelele. Becoming a Postcard Pen Pal weirdo is easy, cheap, and surprisingly fulfilling, and I want everyone to embrace it. —M.B.

Trump will claim victory no matter what happens in November. Since the President's supporters apparently plan to vote in person, and since Democrats apparently plan to vote by mail, the initial vote counts on election night will lean toward Trump in key swing states such as Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. With the final results still pending, Trump will stand in the Rose Garden and declare victory, firing off flamethrowers in both hands and screaming, "American carnage rides again!!" He will characterize every Biden vote counted after election night as fraud perpetuated by undocumented immigrants, and right-wing propaganda networks will echo and support this claim. In the meantime, for a little extra leverage, he'll destroy the post office.

Drag Race will continue its expansion into countries that have learned to deal with COVID, leaving the U.S. behind. RuPaul's Drag Race has been expanding its franchise at an exponential rate in the past few years. First there was The Switch Drag Race in Chile in 2018. Then Drag Race Thailand, Drag Race UK, and Canada's Drag Race, which is airing right now. As recently as last month, Ru announced the premiere season of Drag Race Holland. She's taking drag (and her brand) to, to, to, to the moon. While the Ru Girls may be twirling at a drive-in near you, the way our country is (mis)handling COVID has led to a pause, to our knowledge, on the filming of the 13th season of American Drag Race. I predict that the ever-worsening pandemic stateside will lead to a greater popularity and continued expansion of Drag Race into countries that have more successfully recovered from COVID-19, where filming will have fewer health restrictions. Drag Race New Zealand? Bring it on. Drag Race Vietnam? Let 'em swap spit! Drag Race Iceland? Would love to see how the girls paint up there. RuPaul's hunger for world domination will continue to know no bounds during this global health crisis! —J.K.

"Unprecedented" will be the Word of the Year: Merriam-Webster's Word of the Year for 2019 was "they." Oxford's Word of the Year for 2018 was "toxic." This year, some dictionary board will choose "unprecedented." While I guess "pandemic" could be the word of the year (or "COVID-19"), the word I've seen an unprecedented number of times is so clearly "unprecedented." Look around! Unprecedented! It's everywhere! —C.B.

2022 will be a year of unprecedented creativity and growth: Right now, the bottom is falling out. Businesses fear additional rollbacks. The unemployed have lost their safety nets. Not to mention the mortal cost of our nation's pandemic mismanagement: over 160,000 dead in America and counting. Considering that overwhelming loss and grief, it seems insignificant to mention that many of the restaurants, bars, and venues we love will probably have to close by the time we're vaccinated and grinding up against each other in public again. Still, the thing that gives me hope is thinking about 2022. Eventually, hopefully sooner rather than later, there will be new ideas, new shows, and new clubs to gather around. I hope these new things will be more fair and equitable. They'll probably just be new. But 2022 is something to look forward to. If we can make it there. —C.B.

Black-owned restaurants and bars are going to thrive like never before. After the great culling of restaurants and bars—which is not great at all, it's a nightmare and a travesty—there will be fewer businesses than ever. And the ones that remain and do well will be the ones that have broad support from the community. The website Intentionalist allows you to make informed decisions not about the kind of food you want to eat but about the kind of business owners you want to support. You can search by metrics like Black-owned, Native-owned, Asian-owned, woman-owned, disability-owned, or LGBTQ-owned restaurants, stores, bars, and spas. As we are all being more intentional about where our dollars go, the small-business world is poised for a revolution and a renaissance. —C.F.

• • •

  • Drinking in public, amateur porn stars, and the end of the pandemic
  • Lightning, riots, and TikTok
  • A $200 million dollar money hole and Christ squirts
  • Anti-vaxxers, COVID tattoos, and Elon Musk
  • Trump's health, indie bookstores, and Fortnite
  • Smooth-brained TV, Korean baseball, and eye makeup
  • Bidets, Doomers, and pseudoscience
  • Chimerica, strippers, and FOMO