I have not seen any of the movies nominated for Academy Awards this year.
When I read that Steven Spielberg – Steven Spielberg! – does not think it important whether Connecticut legislators voted for or against slavery, I’m not putting my money down to watch his movie. (My wife is from Connecticut; you should hear her.)
However, we did see a movie Saturday night that won an Academy Award in 2008. The public television station in our region, WNET, Channel 13, has a Saturday night series of indies that keeps us close to the tube. Many of these movies are true and accurate in the best sense – emotionally.
The indies follow another series of so-called classics featuring Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Fred Astaire and Gary Cooper that we find hopelessly brittle and out-dated., But the indies touch us almost every week.
Saturday night we caught up with Once, the John Carney film, about an Irish busker and a Czech immigrant who meet on the streets of Dublin and within a week make music and change each other’s lives. How did we miss it when it came out?
Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova won the Oscar for best original song, Falling Slowly. On Saturday I realized the movie has been turned into a Broadway musical (I’m a little slow.)
The caliber of the indies series is consistently high -- an American Indian man going home to die (Barking Water), a young Spanish woman working for an aging intellectual (Amador), and two young teachers in New York, one Muslim, one Orthodox Jewish, whose lives and values are so similar (Arranged.) The films take us places both exotic and as real as the inside of our own hearts.
How did we not know of all these films? I guess because of the money-making machine that produces blockbusters that get hyped for mass audiences -- and the awards.
But I am resistant – this year, more than ever, when I hear that Spielberg shrugs off an historic vote in Congress, or Ben Affleck invents a phony chase in Iran, or Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal hype torture because it heightens the plot, .
Goodness knows we have enough birthers and climate-change deniers out there. Can we afford a disdain of facts in pop movies? Facts matter. So do insights into the human heart. We stay home Saturdays for the indies on WNET.
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.