“Why sending cards means more to me than ever in quarantine”

Papier is reporting a monumental surge in the sales of cards (overtaking the likes of Valentine’s Day, no less). Here, one writer explores why sending snail mail means more than ever, especially in a time of quarantine. 

I’ve always been a sucker for stationery. As a youngster, the beginning of every school year would see me stock up on notebooks with the prettiest covers. But as I got older, and friendships became a bigger part of my life, my fascination with papery treasures developed into a firm-rooted love of cards (and gifting my best pals with them at every opportunity).

This enduring love has woven itself through the tapestry of my life in many ways. I’ve spent hours perusing the card section in Liberty, buying designs for people whose birthdays may not be for months because a certain design was just so utterly them I had to. Then there’s the shoe boxes full of cards I keep under my bed (including one from mum on my very first birthday). For me, a card is a thing to be treasured. 

Cards are special because they make an occasion or a moment last forever, immortalising the words of someone you care about at a certain time of your life, ready to be looked back on. 

When my partner and I had our first fall out, he wrote me a card to apologise and I really appreciated it. The act of walking to a shop to find one and taking the time to write down your feelings seems even more meaningful than just saying them. Equally, when my mum – another card fanatic – forgot to give me one on my 22nd birthday my bottom lip wobbled as I told her, “I care more about the card than the present.”

But although they are lovely to receive, it feels even better to find that prized picture which perfectly sums up what you were trying to say, and to make the effort to actually send it through the post. Imagining how excited your friend will be getting some ol’ fashioned snail mail feels good, doesn’t it? It’s what has spurred me on to continue sending Valentine’s Day post to my 10 best friends from school most years since I was at university, and it’s something the rest of the nation seems to feel sentimental about, too.

Not only do we love receiving a handwritten note (for example, this survey says 87% of millennials appreciate a physical letter or card), but sending them actually benefits our wellbeing.

Researchers at the University of Chicago and the University of Texas at Austin found that sending letters, especially those of gratitude, made both the sender and recipient considerably happier.

And now, in a time of quarantine when we’re more removed from our friends, family and perhaps partners than ever, it looks like we’re picking up pen and paper to cross the void.

Personalised stationery brand Papier has reported “unprecedented” levels of card and notecard sales since the beginning of self-isolation, showing how many of us are reverting back to nostalgic methods to make a fuss of our loved ones now that we can’t see them in person.

Holly Chapman, head of PR and community at Papier, said the influx was “heart-warming” and that epically, the amount of people sending cards on their site “outstripped Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day and our peak Christmas period!”

Similarly, illustrator Caz Watson has inspired lots of us to reach out and make someone’s day by sending them a little card to remind them that we’re all in this together. She’s started The Positive Project and for “the price of your morning coffee” (£2.50) has offered to send one of her designs, with a personalised message, first class to whoever you think needs a ray of sunshine right now. 

In her latest post she writes: “I am completely overwhelmed and over the moon with the response and feedback, I could cry. Lets keep the post going round and the vibes high!” Which just shows how many of us love the excuse to send something special to those we care about.

Not only is this unbelievably cute, but to me it makes total sense. Since being in isolation I’ve missed the birthdays of my mum (who you can probably tell I’m close to considering the amount of air time she’s had in this article – hi mum!), my absolute best friend and my most favourite auntie. 

None of them I’ll be able to see in person, hand over their present and give them a special birthday squeeze, so getting to the post office and taking the time to send something across the country feels like a way to show them that I care. 

Yes, cards have always meant a lot to me, but never so much as now when missing the people who mean the most to me is really starting to hit home, and occasions are passing that we’ll never get back.

Emails, texts and e-cards may be handy but they’ll never beat the sound of something landing on the doormat. So, thank you to all the women and men working on the postal service and helping us spread the love all over the UK when we really, truly need it most.

Images: Unsplash 

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D-Nice Can't Wait to Turn 'Club Quarantine' Into a Real-Life Party

Like many of his peers, veteran DJ, rapper, photographer, and producer D-Nice had been living life on the road until the coronavirus pandemic forced everyone to stay home.

“Life was great,” he tells Rolling Stone of his touring career, calling from his Los Angeles home. “For it to abruptly end because of the lockdown, that was different. I don’t think any of us were expecting that, but my situation isn’t unique.”

The NYC native got his start in the late Eighties as a member of legendary hip-hop group Boogie Down Productions alongside KRS-One, producer Lee Smith, and the late Scott La Rock. The group became one of the most influential hip-hop groups of the late Eighties, blending politically minded lyrics with intense, confrontational themes that earned them massive critical praise. (The D-Nice-produced “Self-Destruction” in 1989, featuring KRS-One, Public Enemy, and Heavy D, among others, was a leading track in the movement against violence in the black community.) Before the group officially disbanded in 1992, D-Nice, whose real name is Derrick Jones, dropped two solo albums, including the successful Call Me D-Nice that spawned an underground classic in the title track. His less-successful follow-up, To Tha Rescue, was released a year later.

Around that time, the producer-rapper discovered Kid Rock, who began rapping as part of a group called the Beast Crew, and invited him to open for Boogie Down Productions. Jones would eventually sign Kid Rock for his then-home Jive Records, and is credited as a producer on Rock’s 1990 debut, Grits Sandwiches for Breakfast. Despite this, it was a low point for the rap multihyphenate, who told journalist Combat Jack in 2014 that during this time, he was homeless and battled depression. He was left with an abandoned contract and an inability to relaunch his career as a rapper.

Today, though, Jones has found himself in a comfortable moment in his career. While the mid-Nineties saw him pivoting to a new passion in photography — he’s shot everyone from Diddy to Snoop Dogg, among countless other superstars — he eventually would go on to become your favorite celebrity’s favorite DJ. (He was the official DJ for President Obama during his time in office — including Obama’s 2012 inauguration — and has shared the stage with numerous Hall of Famers like Billy Joel and Stevie Wonder.)

So when his packed touring schedule slowed down, Jones decided to find a unique way to revisit his past as well as his favorite tunes with friends and fans while maintaining the social distancing orders. On March 17th, he hopped on Instagram Live to play some music for his followers, with about 200 friends and friends of friends tuning in to hear him talk about records he had produced and the music he loves. Like any good party, word spread quickly.

“The next day it was 1,000 and it just started to grow,” he says. That Friday, the party raked in roughly 25,000 viewers with the likes of Jennifer Lopez and Drake stepping into the live chat feature. Dubbed as both “Club Quarantine” and “Homeschool,” Jones began to treat the party more officially with a mix board hooked up to his laptop as he kept the camera positioned on him giving shout outs to famous and non-famous viewers alike.

The next Saturday, the party grew exponentially: 100,000 Instagram users watched him spin a blend of golden age hip-hop, Nineties R&B and more recent Top 40 party staples as Democratic presidential nominee contenders Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden as well as Oprah Winfrey, Michelle Obama, Rihanna and Will Smith watched.

Jones reckons there were even more people than the numbers showed. “People go in and out of IG Live, but that number stayed consistent. People are leaving and new people are coming,” he explains. “We’re talking millions of people that was able to hear me play music.”

Jones’ Saturday set was not just ambitious in terms of viewership: he played for nine hours straight. “I tend to get caught up in playing, but I’m not going to do another nine-hour set,” he says, laughing. Though it wasn’t his intention to play that long, he’s glad he didn’t stop after only two. Not only did it allow for word to spread, but it also reminded him of the passionate, lengthy sets he used to put on when he was just cutting his teeth as a DJ.

“I’d play for six hours! I didn’t have an opener or a closer,” he reminisces. “I’ve always had the stamina to do it.”

The music in Jones’ set was diverse, as made clear by the Homeschool playlist he partnered with Spotify to create in honor of his virtual club: a mix of soul, rock, dancehall, pop and hip-hop peppered the afternoon-into-evening. “The only song I played twice was “Ye” from Burna Boy. I had played it earlier [in the set] but when Rihanna stepped in, I know that’s her favorite song,” he adds. “I just played it to make her feel good and welcome her to the party.”

Making everyone feel good was his only intention, but the sets have caused a significant boost in his visibility as a DJ. He had under 200,000 Instagram followers when he first opened up Club Quarantine’s doors. He now has over 1.8 million. He did a Sunday set after his historic Saturday marathon and later partnered with Michelle Obama for a voter registration party via IG Live. Even with the demand from a brand new legion of fans who are stuck at home and itching to dance, D-Nice is determined to not burn out from DJ-ing too much. He took a break this weekend and is currently figuring out how often he wants to make his parties.

“I plan on slowing down and making it weekly,” he says. “I don’t want to lose the love I have for it. I really do love playing music.”

He is also thinking about what life will look like after lockdown. He’s been dreaming of the first parties he will be able to put on once this is over, parties that will celebrate survival as well as a newfound leg of his success.

“Once we’re able to be able to be together again, I want to pick three cities to actually do a Club Quarantine party live,” Jones says. New York and Los Angeles are in mind with Miami, Atlanta and other major cities in the mix. “Play that same vibe and celebrate with the same people we’ve been celebrating with virtually. Just to be able to see them face-to-face, play that music and feel that bass, that’s the ultimate goal that I have.”

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Dolly Parton Tells Fans to Keep the Faith During Coronavirus Pandemic

Dolly Parton is sheltering in place during the coronavirus pandemic like the rest of us, and on Friday she sent out an uplifting message to fans to get them through their anxiety.

At the bottom of the stairs in her house, the 74-year-old country star begins by singing, “Climbing the stairway to heaven, because this virus has scared the H-E-L-L out of out us.”

But then she continues, “I’m not making light out of the situation. Well, maybe I am, because it’s the light, I believe, that’s gonna dissolve the situation. I think God is in this, I really do. I think he’s trying to hold us up to the light so we can see ourselves and see each other through the eyes of love. And I hope we learn that lesson.”

Parton says she believes that “we’re gonna all be better people” once the COVID-19 pandemic passes. “So just keep the faith, don’t be too scared. It’s gonna be alright, God loves us.”

Last week, Parton released a video tribute to the late Kenny Rogers, who died from natural causes at the age of 81. The pair collaborated on the chart-topping 1983 duet “Islands in the Stream,” which was recently covered by Orville Peck during a livestream.

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J Balvin Reports From Quarantine, Talks Radiant New LP 'Colores'

It’s safe to say that J Balvin leads one charmed life. The Medellín-born artist entered 2020 as a second-time Grammy nominee for 2019’s Oasis, his joint album with Puerto Rican comrade Bad Bunny. At the year’s onset, Balvin’s reggaeton-house single featuring the Black Eyed Peas, “Ritmo (Bad Boys for Life),” had topped several charts across the globe, from the U.S. to Romania. Then at this year’s Super Bowl Halftime Show, where Jennifer Lopez and Shakira proudly flaunted their Latinidad before millions of American viewers, Balvin was there to preach the gospel of the New Latino Gang, or, the next generation of Latin pop geniuses.

Then came the COVID-19 pandemic.

Felíz cuarentena, everybody,” Balvin tells Rolling Stone, however sardonically, from his home in Medellín, where he’s been camped out for days. It’s not lost on the 34-year-old that he dropped his fourth studio album, Colores, in the midst of a global health and humanitarian crisis. In lieu of throwing the usual album launch bacchanal expected of a reggaeton star, Balvin has instead invited all 37.6 million of his Instagram followers inside his luxe home in Colombia — but only virtually. In the week since releasing Colores, he’s hosted meditation sessions and video chats with friends via Instagram Live. The day after we speak on the phone, he indulges his “I Like It” co-star Cardi B in a Colombian alt-rock singalong; together, they sing fragmented lines from Juanes’ 2004 rockero anthem, “La Camisa Negra.”

“We have to learn how to promote music in this moment,” he says. “I’ve always been competitive; I want to make records, and sell them. But I’m [saving] that competitive vibe for another time. It’s time to bring more color to the world.”

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How have you been spending your quarantine?
Well normally when I drop an album, we’ll throw a huge party, I’ll do all these interviews, I’ll go to Jimmy Fallon. But everything was canceled, you know? I’m doing some Instagram Live [videos], which I think is dope and different. This is what we have, so I’m gonna play with it.

Are you with family?
I’m at my house in Medellín, with the team. My mom and my dad are in their house — I told them not to go anywhere. My dad came over and surprised me with balloons, because of the album launch and everything. I was happy, but at the same time I was like, “What are you doing here, man? ¡Quédate en casa!” Just be precautious. I know they do it for the love of course, and I love them so much. But I want them to be OK, too.

You have become the zen master of reggaeton. What would you recommend people do for their peace of mind right now during this crisis?
I’m just a student learning every day… But I learned that you really have to connect with yourself. I meditate twice a day. I can’t deny that sometimes I get frustrated… But then I’m grateful that I have a place to sleep, food to eat, people to talk to. I’m healthy. So I start from being grateful. When you start by being grateful for every little detail, then you see how blessed you are. Do exercise. I mean, you can also do pushups in your house, just walk around the room. You don’t need a gym. But your body and your mind have to be connected.

Your last solo album, Vibras, sounded so international — it was hard to place. But in Colores, especially in songs like “Azul” and “Gris,” we get the character of Medellín. I think it’s in the guitar sounds.
We recorded mostly in Medellín, but we also took the album to New York and Miami. I want to take reggaeton to new and different places. I want this album to keep making reggaeton more global.

That global mindset came through the strongest in “Arcoíris,” with [Nigerian artist] Mr Eazi. You also collaborated with him on “Como Un Bebé” from Oasis — in these songs you connect Latin music with its African roots.
That’s what we need! That’s why the song’s called “Arcoíris,” because it’s a mix of colors. Mixing Afrobeats and reggaeton. Mr Eazi, myself, Michael Brun on the production… We want to keep refreshing the game. I’m so proud of being Latino, but besides that, we need to take Latino Gang to another level. Hopefully one day people will embrace that. We make music for the world.

You invited a few producers to collaborate in Medellín, including Diplo, Michael Brun and Tainy — but you also had some fun. What did you guys do there?
We went to a friend’s farm to work on the album. We were also playing football, driving motorcycles and four wheelers. After all that came the music. We had to enjoy the process of doing the album, too.

What was one of the craziest moments you guys had together?
We got stuck on the motorcycles for hours. Diplo is definitely crazy, he’s a wild dude. [laughs] We got home and [realized] one of the producers got lost — this producer Dee Mad from Paris — and it took us four hours to find him.

Your most consistent producer, Sky Rompiendo, raps in the song “Verde.” Was this the first time he ever recorded his own vocals?
Absolutely, and he sounds super dope. And the beat is crazy too — in every beat is a different world. You will hear more from Sky real soon.

Can you tell me about making the video for “Rojo”? How did it feel to depict such a traumatic event [as a car crash]?
Everything I do with [director] Colin Tilley is just out of this world, it’s different, it’s fresh. Of course, with the theme being colors, we could play a lot. And when thinking of this video, of red… I saw fire. I’m grateful that [Tilley] connected the video to the way I dreamed it, and that people could feel connected to me when they see it. It’s about more than just the music — I want to make people to really think about what is life.

Would you consider ever acting in a movie?
One-hundred percent! But I know that acting is an art and we’ve got to respect every art — so if I do it, I would have to do it right.

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COVID-19 by the numbers: confirmed coronavirus cases in Victoria

Three deaths, more than 500 cases, millions in lockdown – and this is just the beginning. As the number of people diagnosed with coronavirus in Victoria continues to rise, we are presenting state health department data and will walk you through how to understand it. This data tells us where the cases are being recorded within the state, the severity of the infections, how the numbers have been rising and which age groups have so far been the most susceptible to COVID-19.

How many cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in Victoria?

As of Thursday, a total of 520 coronavirus cases had been confirmed by the state’s health department.

That means the number of cases in Victoria has more than doubled since Saturday (March 21). The graph above shows the running total of cases this month. The light blue line shows the number of people who have recovered. The dot on the bottom-right of the chart shows the number of people that have died.

The total number of cases has increased by 54 since Wednesday (March 26) – that’s more cases added in single day than the total number of recorded cases in the first two weeks of March.

How is coronavirus spreading in Victoria?

The health department says the overwhelming majority of confirmed cases in Victoria so far have been in overseas travellers (who were infected while out of the country) or people who have been in close personal contact with someone known to be infected.

So far, nine of the confirmed coronavirus cases have been people who had not been overseas or in close contact with someone already known to have the disease, which suggests they picked it up within the community. For 46 cases, the source of the infection is still being investigated.

Who is being diagnosed with coronavirus?

At this stage, 300 males and 216 females have been infected. For another four cases, this information is not yet known. The most common age group for Victoria's confirmed cases is 25-29, with 54 cases (or one in nine) over the past month.

But once we adjust for the state's population distribution, it shows that Victorian men aged in their mid to late 60s have the highest rate of coronavirus infections so far. This graph (below) shows the number of males and females in each age group in Victoria who have been diagnosed with coronavirus:

How many people have died of coronavirus in Victoria?

Three Victorian men aged in their 70s have died from coronavirus. There are still 14 people recovering in hospital, three of whom are in intensive care. The state government expects the number of infections – and with it the number of hospitalisations – to keep rising.

Of the people in intensive care, one is aged in their 30s, the other in their 60s. The age of the third person does not appear to have been released at this stage.

Where have the cases been confirmed in Victoria?

So far the overwhelming majority of cases have been confirmed in the Melbourne metropolitan region. A total of 441 cases have been recorded in Greater Melbourne, while 67 have been recorded elsewhere in Victoria. For the remainder of cases, this information is not yet available.

On Thursday, the health department provided a breakdown of the number of confirmed cases in every Victorian local government area for the first time since the outbreak started. This map shows the areas where cases have been recorded:

If you are having trouble viewing the map, you can also view this data as a table here.

At least one case of COVID-19 has been confirmed in 54 of the state's 79 local government areas.

The City of Melbourne, Melbourne's inner-east, Melbourne's south and the Geelong area have recorded the highest number of cases.

A total of 57 cases have been recorded in Stonnington, 36 on the Mornington Peninsula, 32 in the City of Melbourne, 29 in Boroondara, 26 in Glen Eira and 25 in Port Phillip.

Outside of Melbourne, there have been 21 confirmed cases in Greater Geelong, five in Ballarat and five in Mitchell.

Please keep in mind that this local government area data is based on the place of residence of the person diagnosed and not the number of confirmed cases currently residing in a particular area.

If you have any questions about what the data shows for coronavirus cases in Victoria, please send me an email at craig.butt@theage.com.au. We will aim to regularly update the online version of this article with new data as it comes to hand.

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Ronnie Wood Shares Message for People in Recovery Who Are Self-Isolating

After decades of drug and alcohol abuse, Ronnie Wood got clean in 2010 and has been in recovery for 10 years. “It’s like having a second chance at life,” the Rolling Stones guitarist said last year. “Seeing everything with clarity, gratitude; it’s unbelievable. I feel so good. And to have these little blessings is the icing on the cake.”

But with many countries and communities on lockdown due to the coronavirus, Wood has spoken out in support of people who can’t make it to their meetings. Holding up “one of my books that help me get through every day” (it appears to be Keep It Simple: Daily Meditations for Twelve-Step Beginnings and Renewal), Wood reads one of his favorite passages. 

“I will share my hope for the future with myself, my higher power, and my friends,” Wood said. “I will also share this with someone who has lost hope. Now, if anything, we have tended to be people who have wanted it all now. To hope is not to demand. Maybe we were a bit demanding. Maybe we were a bit impatient. Maybe that’s why we had such little hope. Hope is believing good will come, even in bad times; hope is knowing that ‘this too shall pass.’ Hope is knowing that no matter how afraid we are, our higher power will be with us. Hope is knowing we never have to be alone again. It is knowing that time is on our side. Hope is giving up control. Hope is knowing we never had control in the first place. I hope this helps you get through another day.”

Wood was set to hit the road with the Rolling Stones on their second straight U.S. summer tour, beginning in May. But those plans are off due to the spread of COVID-19. “We’re hugely disappointed to have to postpone the tour,” the band said in a statement. “We are sorry to all the fans who were looking forward to it as much as we were, but the health and safety of everyone has to take priority. We will all get through this together — and we’ll see you very soon.” 

Prior to the pandemic, Wood had been playing solo gigs in support of Mad Lad, a live Chuck Berry tribute album.

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