The other day I found myself musing how much fun Shakespeare would have with the assorted knaves, brigands, fools, strumpets, cutpurses and buffoons in our sight today.
Then I noticed “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” is on Broadway, and I flicked on the Web and saw a familiar facial expression – a sullen youth who can never get enough, of anything.
These are all stock characters for the ages, from the open-air theaters of London in the 16th and 17th Century to the films and plays today.
Roald Dahl captured it in his book that inspired the movie with Gene Wilder, leading to the Broadway musical of today. Dahl created a character described on the school-prep web site, gradesaver.com
Gloop is incredibly greedy and the first child to find a Golden Ticket. He is also the first child to fail Wonka’s tests. Gloop eats an extraordinary amount of chocolate, so much that his mother says it would have been impossible for him not to have eventually found a Golden Ticket. While his origin is unknown in the book, he tends to be thought of as German, since he is from Germany in both movies. His mother seems to delight in her son’s gluttonous habits and encourages them. Augustus leaves the factory when he drinks from the chocolate river, and falls in, getting sucked up a pipe and sent to the Fudge Room.
These days we have a public figure, indulged by his family but, when he was discovered hiding knives, was banished to a military school, hence the unsated appetite for attention, for love, for respect.
The irony is that in the original movie, the Gloop family hails from Bavaria. Today the leader of Germany is a dignified woman who has put up with two boy-men presidents from America.
And by the way, the comparison of Dahl’s Gloop and our current Gloop is not about excess weight – it’s the neediness, the meanness, the emptiness.
Our Gloop is capable of generosity, but only to himself and his associates for the moment, as witnessed by his proposed plan that would cut taxes for the gunnysack guys he has assembled -- people like him.
Going on 100 days, I am waiting for a Willy Wonka figure to emerge from Congress and inspect the new Augustus Gloop with a gimlet eye.
Savvy Europeans have figured out Ivanka the Brand; one of these days maybe some law agency will take a look at Jared Kushner and his dodgy investors.
As for our contemporary Gloop, where, when we really need it, is the pipe to the Fudge Room?
(check out the antlers over the newscaster's head)
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.