They are a matched pair, Bob Dylan in Oslo for the Nobel Prize, and Dario Fo, who already had a Nobel Prize, on his way to the Great Beyond for a reunion with Franca Rame.
Dylan and Fo, a couple of troublemakers. Dylan upset the establishment with his macaw singing voice and his confrontational lyrics; Fo upset entire nations with his anarchic words.
Which one of them wrote, “Something is happening, but you don’t know what it is, do you, Signore Rossi?”
My wife saw Rame, a true survivor, on stage in London a few decades ago, performing a short Fo play about a woman locked in her apartment by her husband, wearing a shortie negligee, ironing endlessly. It was an allegory.
After that, we cheered when the United States lifted a 15-year ban on Fo and Rame for their political views. (What, you think Trump invented this stuff?) They were heroes to us for thumbing their noses at convention, and hardship.
Dylan was more accessible here in the Stati Uniti, honking on his harmonica, rasping into the microphone, an outsider.
I have never met Dylan, exactly, but I annoyed the heck out of him in 1974 when I covered the great tour by him and The Band. Dylan did not do interviews but Bill Graham, the great promoter, slipped me into a highly secure sound check in an empty Madison Square Garden. I mean, even ushers and security people had to wait outside. But I was crouched down behind a chair, observing Zim as he checked out the acoustics and the lighting, uneventfully, as I described in my early space-holder story.
That evening, the joint was throbbing, like when Clyde and Willis were at their best. Dylan came out on stage and in a rare aside to the audience, he rasped it was “An honnuh to be here.” Wow! Dylan speaks!
That night, after a knockout show, Dylan was back in his hotel suite, perusing the early edition of the Times. He reached for the phone and called David Geffen, the uber-promoter, in Europe, to report: He Had Been Observed.
Dylan was so mad that the next day Graham sidled up to me and said he had to tell them that I sneaked in there on my own. Absolutely, Bill, I said.
I’ve always been proud that an innocuous little early story could spur Dylan into phone rage.
Now he is a Nobel winner, deservedly, for all the songs he gave us.
The best description Dylan was written by Joan Baez in Diamonds and Rust,” describing their love affair between “the unwashed phenomenon” and “the Madonna” who was his for free.
One of the most romantic sentences in pop music:
“Speaking strictly for me
We both could have died then and there.”
Then Baez sums up her vision of Dylan:
“Now you're telling me
You're not nostalgic
Then give me another word for it
You who are so good with words
And at keeping things vague
Because I need some of that vagueness now
It's all come back too clearly
Yes I loved you dearly
And if you're offering me diamonds and rust
I've already paid.”
Dylan and Baez, matched in their temporary way. I like to think of Fo and Rame, performing again.
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.