Friday, March 27, 2020

Why coronavirus is skyrocketing in the U. S.

Between Trump declaring we'll "all be back at work by Easter" and these massive public gatherings which no one shuts down due to "freedom of religion", the United States' death rate will soon make Italy seem like it is barely affected. They are choosing this and making it happen, as they made Trump happen by voting for him. My main concern is that I'm forced to have them as a next-door neighbor.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Moonstruck Moments

Could there be a better (sweeter, sexier) movie than Moonstruck? It features some of the most charismatic actors of their generation, caught in their prime before they went crazy/ruined themselves with plastic surgery. Perhaps Cher and Nicolas Cage really hated each other, but the chemistry when he shouts "GET! . . .IN!. . .  MY!. . . BED!" quivers in the air like a coming storm.

I just watched this perennial pleasure once again on TCM, and this time had an unexpected reaction to the couple's operatic scenes of passion: I cried. I mean, I REALLY cried, just sobbed. It took me until this moment to realize why: this is the most Italian movie I have ever seen, and right now Italia is sinking, with many hundreds of COVID-19 deaths every day. 

But this movie reminded me of the true nature of this beautiful country, and is my favorite romantic comedy: though calling it that is selling it short. What made me cry was the sincerity of it, the tenderness, the fire - the proclamation that "love wrecks everything", and that we are here to RUIN OURSELVES. . . well, how big a slice of reality is that? And we respond most profoundly to that which is most real.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

More wretched news from Italy

Opera singer Placido Domingo tests positive for novel coronavirus

From CNN's Natasha Chen

Opera singer Placido Domingo performs in Hamburg, Germany, in 2019. Christian Charisius/picture-alliance/dpa/AP

Opera singer Placido Domingo has tested positive for Covid-19, the artist confirmed on his Facebook page.

"I feel it is my moral duty to announce to you that I have tested positive for COVID19. My Family and I are all in self-isolation for as long as it is deemed medically necessary," the Spanish singer said.

Domingo added he is currently in good health but had experienced "fever and cough symptoms."

Placido Domingo here excels himself, singing better than he knows how. When I saw this performance years ago, I was astonished. It went beyond art. Please God, don't take him away from us! At this moment, the negative press swirling around him seems unimportant. This is his life.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Love in the time of COVID

A Trevor Noah comedy video asked viewers what their favorite song about the end of the world is (cheery thought, no?). I immediately thought of this one, then realized I had no idea who sang it. It was one Skeeter Davis, and I was very pleasantly surprised to find out how much I liked it. The song is simple, beautifully sung, and affecting in a way that reaches across the barriers of time. 

I don't even think I've heard this since its heyday in the '60s. This came out when I was eight years old, so I apprehended it with eight-year-old sensibilities - in other words, it probably hardly registered at all. But now I hear it with new ears. It's not about anything apocalyptic, of course (though one's first major heartbreak might fit into that category). Otherwise it would be too much, no matter how well-sung or heartfelt. What made me a bit queasy is that all the comments were posted in the last few hours, on a video uploaded in 2011! 

People have the end of the world on their minds. Comedy shows are becoming a bit forced, and more than a bit distasteful. I don't want to hear the "lighter side" of coronavirus, with visions of truckloads of dead bodies in Italy with nowhere to bury them. There isn't one, and that's final.

I am also miffed at all the "six simple steps to feel better under quarantine" and "how to improve your attitude" and "look on the bright side". Walking outside will soon be prohibited, so perhaps we will just have to walk in place. People with treadmills are prescient, obviously.

I don't know, I find myself hunkering down in a way which is sometimes scary, and sometimes almost enjoyable. I feel grateful that we have enough - so far, anyway. That my people, my close family are OK. I care about the world, and it is aching now, and infected. It's hard to drive the thoughts out of my head. I had a dream I was visiting with Bill's brother and his wife - we hadn't seen them in more than ten years - then suddenly jumped back, realizing I had to keep a "social distance" between us.

Seems to me the world is alienated enough, with technology standing in for human contact. But at the moment, it's the best we can do. Without it, the word wouldn't be getting out. It STILL isn't, not sufficiently to flatten the curve as we are expected to do. 

My office is now my cocoon, my doll haven and my troll village, Trollandia, a state of mind as much as a collection. They relax me palpably, and I don't question that. We were amazed and a little overwhelmed at how crowded Lafarge Lake was today, though for most people it's the only avenue left for any sort of outing. The ducks were fed to bursting point. Kids ran around as if they hadn't run around in days. It was heartwarming - and a little scary.

I'm  posting cats and cherry blossoms, because I always do this time of year - but with a difference. When I post one of them on Facebook, suddenly everyone "likes" them, when NOBODY likes my stuff, period! It's because people are nearly desperate for something that will make them feel good, if even for a moment. This led to a truly nasty little article about HOW TO AVOID COMFORT-EATING in this time of cholera. It's a pandemic, folks. I can eat whatever the fuck I want with impunity, because soon it may turn to famine. 

These are ramblings only, and I never expected to make them, at 1:30 in the morning. I had a surgery planned for next month which will likely be postponed. I am concerned, very, about my daughter's colleague, a wonderful reporter named Michelle Brunaro, who underwent months and months of chemotherapy and overcame Stage 4 breast cancer. She came back to work and was reporting on stories, almost like before. But today I thought about that, and the bottom dropped out. She should not be going out to work. Not at all. Even my daughter, totally fried with stress and nearly hysterical with anxiety, is penned at home, stuck to her computer, trying to stay employed.

I hope Michelle can go home now, stay home, stay safe. It was really good to see her again, but it was plain she was not quite the same. Her hair was short, her face a little puffy. I just hope this thing passes her by. I think of that weird thing in the Bible where somebody marked the doorway with an x in blood - could that be it? This sounds insane! - so that the pestilence would pass that house by.

I had better stop now, since I do not plan to edit this AT ALL and want to go to bed. This is a mixed-up time, and emotions are turned upside-down. People are doing weird things, like putting up their Christmas lights (!), claiming it will help to spread good cheer in the time of cholera. (I don't mean literal cholera, folks, I'm referring to the title of that novel.) If I saw Christmas lights and inflatable Santas now, it would weird me out so badly that I'd want to run home again. But that's what people are doing. To me, it's desperation: we'd better put our lights up NOW, because come December. . . Maybe that's not what they mean. But to me, Christmas lights in the first bloom of spring can mean only one thing. The world has been turned on its head, and it may be a very long time before it rights itself again.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Ti amo, Italia

Italy is one of the few foreign countries I have ever visited. To think about it now, the loveliest country in the world, the heart of music and culture, under siege as never before since the Black Death, makes my heart sink. I had a thought as I was riding in the car today: Why don't I do something different, post a "smackdown" of various singers interpreting the same song? What a great idea as a diversion from all this hell. 

But my mind had other ideas. Before I even realized what I was doing, I was downloading different legendary tenors singing my favorite operatic aria, E Lucevan le Stelle. Puccini, perhaps the ultimate Italian composer. When I began to listen to these men sing, each with their own soul-baring interpretation, I began to realize it was both tribute and farewell. 

I don't know how many opera singers and artists of all kinds are sick and dying of this horrendous thing, this reaper of souls, but I know the arts will be gutted like everything else in Italia. But I post these singers anyway, praying for their welfare, because I don't know what else to do - and even though I gave up on praying a long time ago.

Monday, March 16, 2020

PANDEMIC: the fragile web

Most of my writing energy lately seems to go into the comments sections of YouTube and Facebook. I think it's a way to get my thoughts together, figure out how I feel about things, and sometimes even discharge some static in my brain. 

This is a response to one of those"Ask a Doctor!" videos of which there are so many thousands. These "doctors" do not need to show any credentials, but in this age of anxiety people are hungry for accurate information and advice. This one, like almost all of them, began with, "OK! Is this coronavirus likely to affect you? No, it isn't." 

He then spends eleven minutes recounting what is actually going on in the world, contradicting his initial statement in the space of a few seconds. People are  hungry for reassurance and crave some sort of de-escalation of their emotions, but many are being told they're silly and alarmist to be so concerned. It's minimizing, a form of denial which is often seen as healthy. It isn't. In this case, it may even be deadly. 

Here is what I had to say about all this in response to a particularly infuriating video, and it is NOT a popular view. It's not a polished essay, though I will say it took me more time to write than a hundred badly-spelled Presidential tweets. 

"I find this video not just misleading, but infuriating. How can you say "don't worry, this won't affect you", then in the next SECOND say there are cancellations and shortages everywhere, with even necessities becoming less and less available? People are blandly being told, "Oh, just be patient and wait until the store restocks their shelves." But warehouses are closing, factories are closing, and we are finding out just how dependent we all are on overseas sources for everything, including medical supplies and food. 
All our vegetables and fruit are imported at this time of year. ALL. But we need to keep up our nutrition, right? Can't live on macaroni (if we are lucky enough to have it).

But who has thought of that? We haven't had time to think.

People are having to cancel their weddings here. But that's just what immediately comes to mind. Yes, it's affecting ALL of us, A LOT. That doesn't mean "we'll all die". It means that these reassuring, "informative" videos by doctors do more harm than good, because they are so misleading. My doctor sent me an email saying they can't test everyone, not to come in unless you're really sick, and that "this story is changing moment by moment" so she could give us no meaningful projections at all, which is at least honest. 

If what we're seeing is overreaction, think of this: how are parents going to get child care? MANY day cares have had to close at a time when they are needed most. Will parents lose their jobs from just not being able to come to work? Will they get paid leave (almost surely not)? How many small businesses have already died from this, leading to still more unemployment? How will families with their income cut off get food in communities where it is already scarce?  The more I think about this, the more dire it seems. 

My daughter, a hard-headed, seasoned TV news reporter for 15 years, phoned me in a panic yesterday to say the local Superstore had a lineup of carts that stretched all the way around the store, and the shelves were almost bare. I have never known her to react like this, EVER, about a story she is covering. Today she stated we will very likely be on lockdown within a week, like most major cities in Europe. She has her finger on the pulse of world events as no one else I know, and she's finding it hard to sleep at night. Every time I get an update from her, my stomach turns over.

We live in a fragile web, and it is seriously breaking down worldwide. These "informative", "reassuring" videos, designed to keep silly old people like us from developing ridiculous, outlandish ideas, do MUCH more harm than good, because they are not realistic. People are shoulder to shoulder at O'Hare airport, fresh in from Europe and statistically MUCH more likely to be carrying and spreading the disease, many with no symptoms at all. The three feet of social distance and finger-wagging admonishments to "wash your hands" are like trying to put out a forest fire by pissing on it.

Are we not supposed to consider what will happen next? How are people on multiple meds (like me) going to be sure they can even get a refill? Many, if not most drugs are made overseas. Pharmaceutical warehouses are closing down everywhere, as are factories. Shipping is not happening. Whole countries are shutting down. What about deaths from people not being able to get their medications? My guess is that it will lead to a second wave of fatalities. The horrible, insensitive jokes people always make about psychiatric patients "going off their meds" are going to be a lot less funny to those assholes when it actually happens and people's mental health collapses. It might even happen to "someone you know". 

In Italy, a developed country with a fine health care system, the death rate of those infected is now 7%, and HUNDREDS died in the space of one day. Many people quote flu deaths as being many times higher. No. Flu deaths are approximately one tenth of one per cent of those infected. (I had to check that with my daughter, thinking it was one per cent.) Seven is just a little bit higher, and worldwide it is well over three. Those numbers are  only going in one direction.

If you're passing through O'Hare airport right now, as we speak, it is almost literally a petri dish for potentially fatal disease. If ONE person says, "oh, you're obsessed with this" and "you need to find something to do with your time", fuck them. I am sick of seeing these remarks every time I post a literate and carefully thought-out comment.  But there are worse things going on. What I hate most of all are pandemic experts getting up there at press conferences and urgently saying, "Don't touch your face!", then MOMENTS later licking their fingers, swiping their hands across their noses and rubbing around and around their mouths. One smoothed back her hair, her hand swiping across her face, AS SHE SPOKE. 

Another queasy moment came when I saw an item on the news about your phone being nothing but a tiny toilet constantly contaminated by your nose and mouth. It should be cleaned many times a day, as often as you use it. How to do this? "Just take a disinfectant wipe. . ." Oh yes. From that empty shelf over there! This is a sort of entitled "cake-ism", a feeling we'll always have a wipe handy because we. . . because we always have, haven't we? The thought that those literal billions of wipes should be saved for medical purposes never enters anyone's mind.

The truth is, we don't know what is happening here. And we don't know what WILL happen. Lack of information is the most stressful thing there is, and the human brain is wired to fill in the gaping hole because it abhors a vacuum. But constant reassurances that it "won't affect us" and admonishing people for their silliness is WRONG. Saying "just wash your hands" as a sort of magic charm is bullshit, and I am tired of all those earnest videos showing me how to do it. I predict the statistics quoted in this comment are already obsolete. It's not either/or (a choice between panic and denial). We need to be realistic, stay open, change our perceptions as well as our habits, and stop reassuring ourselves and each other that everything is going to be just fine. It won't. My hope is that we will, somehow or other, as we have with everything else, get through it. But we can't even be sure of that yet."