2020年3月27日 星期五

The Daily: ‘Why Can’t We Go to Chuck E. Cheese?’

We asked kids to send us their questions about the coronavirus.
Questions from a 9-year-old in Chicago who hosts “The Show about Science.”Bianca Giaever/The New York Times

A few weeks ago, science writer Carl Zimmer reached out to producer Annie Brown, offering his expertise to The Daily. He had just written an article, filled with colorful graphics, about how the coronavirus hijacks cells.

Producers Adizah Eghan and Sydney Harper called Carl to map out a potential episode. “We really liked how Carl talked about what a virus is, how it enters the body and how we might find a cure for the coronavirus,” Adizah remembers.

Nothing materialized at first.

Soon after, the team began discussing the possibility of a special episode that would tackle kids’ questions about the pandemic, Magic School Bus-style.

What if Carl was the guest for that episode? He was game.

The biggest challenge would be collecting questions. The producers knew they wanted the inquiries recorded in the voices of children, so we could hear them on the show.

Producer Bianca Giaever wrote a call-out, which we shared on social media, seeking voice messages from children. Bianca listened to them all, even the ones that had nothing to do with the coronavirus. (“Did the dinosaurs know the meteor was coming? Do animals know their names?”)

Bianca and Adizah then auditioned Carl with a “test.” Bianca recalls, “We asked him some questions we received from kids to see how he answered them. He passed the test.”

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Adizah, Bianca and Annie selected the best voice messages and began sketching out the interview with Carl, focusing on the kinds of questions that, if we’re being honest, we all have in this moment. What is a virus, and how does it make us sick?

During the interview, conducted remotely, the producers played the kids’ questions over Google Hangout so Carl and I could hear them and incorporate them into our conversation.

Then came the really creative part. Adizah, Bianca and Annie worked with engineer (and wildly talented composer) Dan Powell to create original theme music and sound effects throughout the episode that would bring the virus and its inner workings to life.

“Dan came up with some great slimy sounds and whooshy effects to represent the inside of the body,” Annie recalls. After brainstorming with the producers, he created three different layers of music — one to represent healthy cells before the virus enters them, another for infected cells after the virus enters, and a third for the response by the immune system.

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In the end, we couldn’t include as many of the smart, curious and adorable questions as we had wanted, but we were able to conclude the episode with a heartwarming favorite, from Oliver:

“I’m 6 years old. My question is: Why can’t we go to Chuck E. Cheese when the coronavirus is around?”

Talk to Michael on Twitter: @mikiebarb.

Routines from quarantine

Producer Bianca Giaever’s quarantine bucket list.Bianca Giaever/The New York Times

Like much of the world, The Daily team is adjusting to the reality of working from home — indefinitely — and to life in a global crisis. Amid the anxiety and uncertainty, we’ve taken up new hobbies and routines to help us cope, at least for now.

Other than making the show, here’s what our team has been up to:

When it’s not The End Times, I’m a workout junkie. I normally go to independently-owned gyms, and I’m trying to support them from quarantine in the ways that I can. The gyms have been posting Instagram videos for people to stay active at home. Kickboxing gyms @ckoparkslope @chelseacko have been boosting my endorphins remotely, and @c1mmafitness is helping me with my footwork (from my living room) Nora Keller, Special Projects Manager

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Nora in her new gym.Nora Keller/The New York Times
Since moving to the suburbs last year, my commute into Manhattan takes about two hours each way. This leaves less time to do much of anything, especially yard work. I’ve always loved doing yard work! Now that I have more time for it, I’ve been getting my 2-year-old son involved. He really just wants wheelbarrow rides and to hang out with me, but I’ll take it. Brad Fisher, Technical Manager
A Daily toddler takes on yard work.
I discovered QuarantineChat on the first day of quarantine. It’s a hotline that sets you up on phone conversations with strangers. I sensed that I would need some connection over the coming weeks and a break in the monotony of hanging out in my apartment alone.
My first call was with someone from Chicago. She described a boring scene (her words) outside her window, and I described the cherry blossom tree growing in my neighbor’s backyard. She had watched “Contagion” the night before and said it made her feel better because, “Things could be worse.” I hope everyone is taking the time to talk to strangers, friends and family. — Sayre Quevedo, Associate Producer

A piece of good news

There’s a new season of Still Processing! Recording from their own homes, Wesley Morris, who you heard on a recent episode of The Daily, and Jenna Wortham are back to chat about how our culture adapts to the coronavirus era. On the first episode, they talk routines, dreams and what’s on their screens — because when we can’t physically gather together, screens are all we have left.

New episodes drop on Thursdays. Subscribe wherever you listen to podcasts.

On ‘The Daily’ this week

Monday: The campaign is essentially frozen in place.” Alexander Burns looks at how the pandemic has changed the Democratic primary in a way that nobody could have anticipated.

Tuesday: The American approach to fighting coronavirus has become “a giant patchwork across the country.” Donald G. McNeil Jr. explains why the government is failing to coordinate an effective response.

Wednesday: Maggie Haberman on President Trump’s intention to reopen the U.S. economy by Easter: “The president is taking a really large gamble.”

Friday: “My name is Marlo. I live in Alabama. And I’m 7. Here’s my question: How does the coronavirus get on earth? Bye!” Kids around the country ask Carl Zimmer their questions.

That’s it for The Daily newsletter. See you next week.

Have thoughts about the show? Tell us what you think at thedaily@nytimes.com.

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