(Thursday: I can put one foot after the other, partially because of thoughtful columns by Nicholas Kristof and Gail Collins, and also because of the poem from Altenir Silva, writer friend from Rio:
“I want to dedicate this poem written by the Brazilian poet Carlos Drummond de Andrade (October 31, 1902 – August 17, 1987). Here in Brazil, we always read it, when we are looking for better days. Best – Altenir.”)
What Now, José?
By Carlos Drummond de Andrade
The party’s over,
the lights are off,
the crowd’s gone,
the night’s gone cold,
what now, José?
what now, you?
You without a name,
who mocks the others,
you who write poetry
who love, protest?
what now, José?
You have no wife,
you have no speech
you have no affection,
you can’t drink,
you can’t smoke,
you can’t even spit,
the night’s gone cold,
the day didn’t come,
the tram didn’t come,
laughter didn’t come
utopia didn’t come
and everything ended
and everything fled
and everything rotted
what now, José?
What now, José?
Your sweet words,
your instance of fever,
your feasting and fasting,
your gold mine,
your glass suit,
your hate – what now?
Key in hand
you want to open the door,
but no door exists;
you want to die in the sea,
but the sea has dried;
you want to go to Minas
but Minas is no longer there.
José, what now?
If you screamed,
if you moaned,
if you played
a Viennese waltz,
if you slept,
if you tired,
if you died…
But you don’t die,
you’re stubborn, José!
Alone in the dark
like a wild animal,
without a naked wall
to lean against,
without a black horse
that flees galloping,
you march, José!
José, where to?
* * *
(Wednesday: All right, Joey Nichols is elected. I have nothing coherent to say as of Wednesday but may bounce back soon. Meantime, all comments, suggestions, verbal hugs, second-guesses or flat-out told-you-sos are welcome in Comments. I'm turning on classical music. GV.)
Monday: I have never watched any reality show, intentionally, but one time I accidentally clicked on somebody named Simon, who was cruelly dissecting a guest.
“What a horrible person,” I thought, pushing the clicker. “Who would let him into their house?”
Of course, I never watched Trump on his show because almost everybody in New York knew him as a dolt and a poseur, a punch line. He was Joey Nichols to our collective Alvy Singer.
Say it together: “What an asshole.” We knew.
Now it turns out that a significant chunk of the country does not know, cannot process information about Trump’s business dealings, is not offended by his ugly boasting about sexual misconduct.
The country, founded by patriots and enlightened leaders, has been dumbed down by the reality-show persona.
At the same time, people stopped reading newspapers. They cannot tell the difference between news-gatherers and the comedians on the tube. Grown people repeat stuff that has been proven false.
Go into a school sometime and talk about issues on the front page (or web site) of the Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, the Guardian. Blank looks. Trump is putting journalists in pens and mocking them.
As he rolled over the cardboard Maginot Line of Republican challengers, Trump unleashed a barrage of incomplete sentences, incomplete thoughts, utter untruths, in the sing-song voice of an undeveloped human being.
In a sing-song voice. Trust me, I’m telling you, in a sing-song voice.
I have developed earworm, the condition when some piece of music is repeated so often that it bores its way into the eardrum, and stays there, repeating itself.
It keeps repeating itself, believe me, in a sing-song voice.
Other people are reporting earworm from this endless election. In the last catatonic days, I have been flopping in front of the tube like a beached whale, hoping that Steve Kornacki and Joy Reid on MSNBC, or maybe John King on CNN, will point at the state that confirms it is almost over.
I’ve heard this condition described as “a great national nightmare” or a “societal nervous breakdown.”
On Sunday evening, I made a break for it. I went upstairs and put chamber music on the CD player and read a new book I discovered in the library: “The Face of Britain: A History of the Nation Through Its Portraits” by Simon Schama – great stuff about Winston Churchill and Henry VIII and John and Yoko and the artists who tried to represent them.
For a few hours, the earworm went away.
Measuring Covid Deaths, by David Leonhardt. July 17, 2023. NYT online.
The United States has reached a milestone in the long struggle against Covid: The total number of Americans dying each day — from any cause — is no longer historically abnormal….
After three horrific years, in which Covid has killed more than one million Americans and transformed parts of daily life, the virus has turned into an ordinary illness.
The progress stems mostly from three factors:
First, about three-quarters of U.S. adults have received at least one vaccine shot.
Second, more than three-quarters of Americans have been infected with Covid, providing natural immunity from future symptoms. (About 97 percent of adults fall into at least one of those first two categories.)
Third, post-infection treatments like Paxlovid, which can reduce the severity of symptoms, became widely available last year.
“Nearly every death is preventable,” Dr. Ashish Jha, who was until recently President Biden’s top Covid adviser, told me. “We are at a point where almost everybody who’s up to date on their vaccines and gets treated if they have Covid, they rarely end up in the hospital, they almost never die.”
That is also true for most high-risk people, Jha pointed out, including older adults — like his parents, who are in their 80s — and people whose immune systems are compromised. “Even for most — not all but most —immuno-compromised people, vaccines are actually still quite effective at preventing against serious illness,” he said. “There has been a lot of bad information out there that somehow if you’re immuno-compromised that vaccines don’t work.”
That excess deaths have fallen close to zero helps make this point: If Covid were still a dire threat to large numbers of people, that would show up in the data.
One point of confusion, I think, has been the way that many Americans — including we in the media — have talked about the immuno-compromised. They are a more diverse group than casual discussion often imagines.
Most immuno-compromised people are at little additional risk from Covid — even people with serious conditions, such as multiple sclerosis or a history of many cancers. A much smaller group, such as people who have received kidney transplants or are undergoing active chemotherapy, face higher risks.
Covid’s toll, to be clear, has not fallen to zero. The C.D.C.’s main Covid webpage estimates that about 80 people per day have been dying from the virus in recent weeks, which is equal to about 1 percent of overall daily deaths.
The official number is probably an exaggeration because it includes some people who had virus when they died even though it was not the underlying cause of death. Other C.D.C. data suggests that almost one-third of official recent Covid deaths have fallen into this category. A study published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases came to similar conclusions.
Dr. Shira Doron, the chief infection control officer at Tufts Medicine in Massachusetts, told me that “age is clearly the most substantial risk factor.” Covid’s victims are both older and disproportionately unvaccinated. Given the politics of vaccination, the recent victims are also disproportionately
Republican and white.
Each of these deaths is a tragedy. The deaths that were preventable — because somebody had not received available vaccines and treatments — seem particularly tragic. (Here’s a Times guide to help you think about when to get your next booster shot.)
From the great Maureen Dowd:
As I write this, I’m in a deserted newsroom in The Times’s D.C. office. After working at home for two years during Covid, I was elated to get back, so I could wander around and pick up the latest scoop.
But in the last year, there has been only a smattering of people whenever I’m here, with row upon row of empty desks. Sometimes a larger group gets lured in for a meeting with a platter of bagels."
--- Dowd writes about the lost world of journalists clustered in newsrooms at all hours, smoking, drinking, gossipping, making phone calls, typing, editing.
"Putting out the paper," we called it.
Much more than nostalgia.