(The Silva family lives in the Copacabana section of Rio. He is a writer....and a Yankee fan....and my friend. I asked Altenir to write something he was sensing about these Olympic Games, taking place all around them.)
"Yes, We Have Problems”
By Altenir Silva
Rio de Janeiro is a divided city in its complexities. There are two sides in Rio de Janeiro and we can put these terms in a musical context: the sadness of Bossa Nova and the happiness of the Samba.
The Rio of "Bossa Nova” is a movement musical that shows the soul of existence of the middle class on the ways of sadness. There's a poem by Vinicius de Moraes with a melody by Tom Jobim, "Tristeza Não Tem Fim; Felicidade Sim” (Sadness Doesn’t End, Happiness Does) that shows the broken heart of Bossa Nova, formed by composers who lived in the South Zone of Rio, a rich region.
And there's a Rio of Samba, our African musical heritage, where the music is sung with joy about the heartaches and the cultural characteristics of the place.
Samba has its origin in the North Zone and the favelas, which are poor regions, but with a great vocation to be happy. There’s a samba that is very meaningful by songwriter Zé Keti, “A Voz do Morro” (A Voice of the Hill) that says on its verses "I’m samba; I’m native from here, from Rio de Janeiro; I’m the one who brings joy to millions of Brazilian hearts”. Even in different contexts, the Bossa Nova is a softer way of singing and playing Samba.
The Olympic Games in Rio are happening on this musical equator: for one side is the image of a city that is all right, but is sad because we know that this city is temporary - it finishes after the Olympics Games. This city is Bossa Nova.
There's a Rio of Samba, where the people know that this feast isn't made to them, but they are being happy because they believe that the glee is the matter of the soul. The life is difficult and the smile makes it bearable. The paradox is our essence: the Brazilian smiles to not cry.
All the world knows that there’s a breakdown of the State of Rio de Janeiro and the City Hall as well. This real city is out of our media, but has been shown relatively in the international media.
Anyway, we have to take advantage of this unique moment in our city and sing the song of Braguinha & Alberto Ribeiro that was sung by Almirante: “Yes, We Have Bananas.” Now the song is: “Yes, We Have Olympics Games," also.
Roger Cohen, who has lived and worked in Brazil, finds the positive side of Rio's hosting the Games:
Works by Altenir Silva:
Links to the music Silva references:
A Felicidade - Tom & Vinícius:
Yes, Nós Temos Bananas - Braguinha & Alberto Ribeiro:
A Voz do Morro - Ze Keti:
Michael Powell's excellent column on the favelas:
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.