The Sunday Magazine

The Sunday Magazine for January 24, 2021

Guest host David Common speaks with Nicholson Baker about the COVID-19 investigation, chats with author William Deresiewicz about his latest book, talks to biologist Emily Willingham about her research into animal penises, looks at the surprising role of skating rinks in our lives, and delves into stories about murder and mayhem.

This week on The Sunday Magazine with guest host David Common:

The lab leak hypothesis: The World Health Organization has a team of experts on the ground in Wuhan, China, to investigate how COVID-19 started. The prevailing theory in the scientific community has been that the virus occurred naturally — jumping from animals to humans. But writer and journalist Nicholson Baker says another hypothesis, which many scientists have largely dismissed, should be considered: that the virus may have originated in a lab, and accidentally leaked out. Baker, who has studied the history of lab leaks, laid out his "lab leak hypothesis" in a New York Magazine cover story earlier this month. He speaks to guest host David Common about why it shouldn't be ruled out without further investigation — and addresses the criticism he has faced for saying so.

The death of the artist: Being a professional artist has never been a career choice for the faint of heart. But there was a time, maybe a decade or so ago, when that was all supposed to have changed. The online world meant anyone could find an audience — and financial security — doing what they loved. It was supposed to be the best time to be an artist. Today, it's the worst, according to William Deresiewicz, author of The Death of the Artist. After interviewing well over a hundred people attempting to make a living in the arts, he concludes that the Internet and economic forces are crushing them — and the way things are going, the profession of "artist" will soon be obtainable by only a very few, much to everyone's detriment. Deresiewicz gets into it all with Common — including what he thinks needs to happen to turn the tide.

Life lessons from the animal penis: Science writer and biologist Emily Willingham speaks to Common about her book Phallacy: Life Lessons from the Animal Penis. She takes us through the wide world of penises in the animal kingdom and how they compare to the relatively-boring human penis, how the penis plays such an outsized role in our conception of masculinity — and what's at stake for men, boys and society at large when we reduce a person down to a body part.

READ: Spiky, hypodermic, or long: Biologist who studied animal penises says it shouldn't be a 'measure of a man'

The social life of the skating rink: For a lot of Canadians, skating and winter go hand in hand. And now, with communities across the country battling COVID-19, outdoor skating rinks are one of the few outlets many of us have, even if they are operating under restricted conditions. But there's more to outdoor recreational skating rinks than just getting outside for some exercise and fun, according to Mervyn Horgan, Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at the University of Guelph in Ontario. Horgan and his colleagues spent time observing what happens at recreational skating rinks, and he joins Common to talk about the (sometimes surprising) role these rinks can play in our lives.

Crime fiction comfort: Finding comfort during this long, cold pandemic winter may come in the form of warm blankets, a long braise, some hot chocolate... or perhaps stories about murder and mayhem! Author Emily Winslow and Dalhousie University English professor Rohan Maitzen talk about the counterintuitive allure of crime fiction during times of uncertainty like the one we're living through now.

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