Category Archives: Coronavirus

Fran Lebowitz and me

Fran Lebowitz in 2011. Photo by Christopher Macsurak, License

I’ve never met Fran Lebowitz. I enjoy her wit, her humor, and her distinctive point of view. I admire her ability to name whatever elephant is in the room, to say what many think but don’t dare say. I spent a couple of hours in her company (on YouTube) today, so she’s on my mind. In many ways I consider her a kindred soul. She loves words and knows her grammar. So do I, notwithstanding the ungrammatical title of this post. I think that “Fran Lebowitz and I” would be a turnoff to the many people who don’t think proper grammar is necessarily a good thing. Yet I don’t feel right lowering my standards. Actually, these days I don’t feel right about many things.

Like the state of the nation, specifically the impending demise of American democracy. Income and wealth inequality, white supremacy, the shameful state of healthcare in the United States and the alarming diffusion of the Delta variant of the coronavirus are dangers and evils that keep me awake. I deplore the gullibility of the followers of radicalized politicians who lie shamelessly to stay in power. The legislatures and executives who deceive their constituents, encouraging them to indulge, defenseless, in activities that expose them to a deadly virus– these faithless leaders are criminals.

I digress. Back to Fran. She’s decreed that “racism is a fantasy” because under the skin there is no difference among human beings. She’s right. Waving the Confederate flag anywhere, let alone in the Capital (which was largely built by Black slaves) is worse than offensive. It is sickening. Fran believes, and I agree, that if the insurgents who stormed the Capitol on January 6 had been Black, they would have been shot. Justice in America is not blindfolded. Difference in gender, on the other hand, she says cannot be denied. Until men can get pregnant, women will have to resist their domineering. I don’t think there is a woman alive of any color who has not had a “me too” experience.

I love gadgets. Living without my computer is unthinkable and my phone is practically attached to my body. Fran, on the other hand, doesn’t believe that technology has been a boon for mankind. She flaunts her comfortable survival without a smartphone, a computer or a microwave oven. I agree with her that riding the subway and seeing practically every passenger intent on his phone is depressing. According to Fran, eighty percent of even the adults are not reading or talking; they are playing games. They don’t read books or newspapers or talk with other people. In fact, most of the time people use the apps on their phones for anything but talking. Texting has become the preferred mode of communication. Human contact– practically eliminated in deference to Covid-19– is losing the battle as office workers prefer working from home and masking and social distancing conspire to keep strangers from interacting.

In addition to a passion for social justice, I share with Fran the experience of writing block or more like a blockade, as she calls it: “I would not call it a writer’s block. A writer’s block to me is a temporary thing. A month, you know, six weeks. This was more a writer’s blockade. To me, this was very much like the Vietnam War. It was the same timetable, it was on the same schedule as the Vietnam War. I don’t know how I got into it and I couldn’t get out of it.” She has said that writing is “agonizing,” that writing is hardest work there is. “The only job that is worse is coal mining.” And very few people mine coal any more.

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Filed under American Society, Coronavirus, People, Personal

2020 Annus Horribilis

And the stars fell out of heaven and the moon could not be found
The sun was in a million pieces scattered all around
Why did you ever leave me, you knew how it would hurt
And now there’s darkness on the face of the earth

Willie Nelson, Darkness on the Face of the Earth

Palo Alto, California, 9-9-2020. Photo by Evan Baldonado

The apocalyptic events of 2020, all coming together, are overwhelming. People are dying. 200,000 dead! and millions infected. Mind-boggling. As are the fires on the West Coast. Who ever heard of orange skies? The pictures are beautiful, awesome, and horrifying. Disasters of epic proportions. Fire tornadoes, flooding, hurricanes, ashy skies– Loss and death and destruction everywhere.

Loyalton, California. 8-16-2020. Photo by Katelynn & Jordan Hewlett, AP
Ruth Bader Ginsburg at her Senate confirmation hearing, 1996

But all that wasn’t enough. Ruth Bader Ginsburg, feminist icon, extraordinary legal brain, unflagging energy, is GONE. After a long, difficult bout with cancer, we should be happy that she is finally relieved of her pain. She was 87, after all; she lived a full life, by any standard.

But I can’t stop thinking of her, what she achieved, what she meant to me, personally. I can’t stop thinking about her, sobbing in spite of myself. In other times, no one would question that her legacy, the liberation of women and of men too, would live on.

But today the world is upside-down. Truth is becoming an extinct commodity, and half the country is convinced that everyone else is deceptive, cruel, and scheming to take over the government or what’s left of it. The other half believes the others are ripping the country apart, snuffing out democracy, shredding the Constitution. The freedom and the ideals that we aspired to, but never quite reached, are dissolving. A nightmare.

Is the world truly coming to an end?

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Filed under Coronavirus, Environment, People, Personal, Women

Japan celebrates ghost of Olympic Games

Screen Shot 2020-08-17 at 4.36.36 PM

Fireworks in Tokyo planned for the cancelled Olympic Games

The fireworks were prepared by Tokyo for the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games this year. The Olympics are not taking place because of the Covid-19 pandemic, but these fireworks cannot be stored until 2021. The Japanese put the show on anyway. Enjoy the outstanding Olympic fireworks under Mount Fuji.

Go to YouTube.com and watch https://youtu.be/r9fSwpZtUu8   And turn up the volume.

#Fireworks #Olympics 2020

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Cognitive dissonance

From the idyllic

Sitting in the garden, watching the green leaves flutter overhead, matching the birdsong to the red cardinal in the apple tree, listening to the rustle of the pines in the gentle breeze, I marvel at the absence of the sounds of city traffic, ambulance, police and fire engine sirens. I am in a world far removed from “real life.” The contrast between the microcosm to the macrocosm could not be greater. Though now the occasional plane is resuming its drone overhead, the only real disturbance is the roaring of the motorized lawn mowers.

To the gruesome 

Hundreds of thousands dead and dying from a relentless disease, millions of lonely people suffocating in their sickbeds, and the as yet uninfected constrained to wear masks and keep others at a distance. Many millions more out of work, unable to return to their jobs which no longer exist… Institutions that were the heartbeat of the city: theaters, restaurants, music, museums and movie theaters, street artists, exhibitions of human creativity, schools and great universities — gone: some never to return, some irretrievably altered, only a few managing to hold on— for now.

To the unthinkable

The earth is dying and there is no collective will to save it. The air we breathe and the water we drink become more toxic every day. The oceans are rising, reclaiming the land that was home to about 40 percent of the world’s population, exiling them and forcing their migration into the territory of people inland. The seas are warming, increasing the frequency and intensity of death-dealing storms and dispersing previously tropical diseases into the temperate zones. Deserts are expanding and the supply of fresh water and arable land is shrinking. The over 400 million tons of plastic produced annually are choking the oceans and killing marine life. Every human being alive today has plastic in his or her body.

To the signs of hope and change

Black Lives Matter. At last, white people are struggling to understand and begin to acknowledge the legacy of slavery, the systematic racism that pollutes every aspect of American life. Peaceful protests and the eradication of icons of the Confederacy are symbolic actions, but it will take much more to atone for the sins of 400 years and to build a society that fulfills the premise that all men [and women] are created equal and that each has the absolute right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

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Filed under Coronavirus, Global Warming, Musings, Personal

No celebrations

Fourth of July Solitary bonfire

On Independence Day we should be celebrating the American spirit that strove to cast off burdensome chains and gave birth to a new country unlike any that came before. But not this year.

This year there are no spectacular fireworks, no beach parties, no barbecues— nothing to mark what many fear may be the last gasp of American democracy. Will the American electorate succeed in loosening Trump’s chokehold on us and the traditions we hold most dear? Will the deadly Coronavirus wring the life out of hundreds of thousands more?

We can’t breathe!

The plague can’t last forever, but the devastation Trump has wrought will be difficult, if not impossible, to repair. His Administration has snuffed out the beacon of hope that the world used to covet, sullied our ideals and accelerated the despoliation of the planet. We have become the home of the incarcerated, the tortured, the hungry and the sick.

We are teetering on the cusp of an inflection point— we can continue our decline into ignominy or aspire to revive and finally realize the ideals of Jeffersonian democracy. 

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Filed under American Society, Coronavirus, Trump

America has a death wish

How else to explain that at least 40 percent of Americans are comfortable not wearing masks, blithely attempting to return to life as it was before the pandemic invaded the nation? Is it possible they don’t understand that the Coronavirus spreads when people are close together, especially in enclosed spaces? That wearing face masks inhibits some of that contagion? That close to 120,000 Americans (that we know of) have already died from Covid-19, that the virus is still raging and infections are spiking in states that ignore the warnings of scientists?

Most Americans can’t afford to get sick. They cannot pay for the hospitals, doctors and medicines that serious illnesses require. Do they know that the U.S. is the only one of 33 developed countries that lacks universal healthcare?

Almost a third of Americans own guns, an average of three each. Over 50 percent of suicides in 2018 were executed with firearms. Though “mass shooting” is variously defined, in 2019, there were 417 mass shootings in the US, more than the number of days in a year. According to the Small Arms Survey of 2017, U.S. Civilians have more firearms per capita than any other country, double the rate of its closest competitor. Assault weapons, designed for the military to kill enemy combatants efficiently, are wielded by civilians and enable domestic terrorism.

Some American cities, like Detroit, poison their inhabitants with contaminated water. Some burn coal, polluting the air with asthma-producing fumes. They allowed government to dismantle the regulations that protected drinking water and the air we breathe.

It is time— past time— to resuscitate the life force that gave rise to American ingenuity and determination. To revive the love of knowledge and respect for science that empowered earlier generations to reach the moon and ours to sequence the human genome. We must rebuild the institutions that made the American experiment the envy of the world.

Image credit: oNline Web Fonts

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It Matters, 7 o’clock cheering

Andy Newman, New York Times

I left the city a few weeks ago to eke out the shelter-in-place mandate where I can take long walks without wearing a mask or having to worry much about social distancing. Far from the city, it’s easy to maintain a safe distance from the few people I encounter outdoors.

Though I realize how lucky I am to be able to do this, I miss the city, especially at 7 p.m. I used to set the alarm for 6:55 every evening so we wouldn’t accidentally miss the time when New York opens its windows to cheer, clap and crash pots and pans. We thank and show our appreciation to health care workers and all the others who risk their lives to perform the essential services that make it possible for the rest of us to quarantine ourselves safely at home.

CIMEDICALCENTER.org

Even though we could barely hear or see our neighbors from the 35th floor, we joined the chorus in the hope that the intended audience would feel our support and recognition of their selfless service.

My alarm still rings daily to remind me that it is 7:00 and New York is cheering. But now, even farther away from neighbors who could hear and be heard, I give thanks in silence.

Tonight I read a post on the Upper West Side Nextdoor blog that affected me deeply. I still have tears in my eyes. I hope Julie Brickman won’t mind that I repost it here:

Tonight, as I was standing at my open balcony window at 7 o’clock, clapping and cheering as the health care workers returned home from their long 12-hour shifts, risking their lives to save ours, a young man in shorts stopped to talk to me. My balcony is only one story up and the window is 8-feet high and leads onto a little Juliet balcony, so everyone can see me there; sometimes people shout something from their cars or give me thumbs up in return.

But tonight, this young man left me in tears.

“I think I’m one of the people this is for,” he said. “And I want to tell you how much it means to me.”

I was stunned. So little to give for all that he’s doing, and yet I can’t stop crying. I wish I could tell him how deep is the gratitude in my heart to see such dedication and bravery at a time when there is so much else that I won’t name, because I’m not going to stain the wonder of this moment, of seeing the kind of humanity I have admired and respected all my life, standing in front of me and speaking with heartfelt gratitude about the decency he feels coming from all of us, locked down in this “joyless” city, yet showing up from our diverse solitudes to cheer those who are using their skills, energy, heart and moral courage on our behalf.

I thought it was worth sharing with all of you who are cheering too.

Yes, there is decency out there. Yes, I had the chance to see it tonight. Yes, it made a difference.

It made me believe in the long arc again; of justice or “what love looks like in public,” and especially of goodness. It made me believe we will survive this and create, if not a better world, at least a decent one again.

All I want to say is: Bless this health care worker who spoke out. Bless everyone who is helping get us through. Bless Upper West Siders and New Yorkers and everyone suffering through this lonely pandemic. May you stay well, safe, happy and find your own ways to give to our community following in the spirit of this amazing young man.

Like Julie, I want to believe that after Covid-19 the world will be better: more just, harmonious and cleaner. Looking beyond the catastrophe in Washington, it’s easy to find generosity and selflessness. Look no further than the Pennsylvania workers who volunteered to labor round the clock in 12-hour shifts for a month at their factory. Without ever going home, they slept on makeshift beds and produced millions of pounds of PPE materials, uncontaminated by the virus.

Self-sacrifice and the American can-do spirit are alive and well.

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Coronavirus News

Princess Sofia of Sweden
  • Princess Sophia of Sweden became a medical assistant to aid in the fight against the novel coronavirus and is now working in a hospital, cleaning and cooking.
  • Trending on Twitter: #ObamaCommencement2020. President Barack Obama is being besieged by thousands of high school and college seniors who want him to deliver a national, online commencement address to the Class of 2020. Because of social distancing and quarantine the students will will be deprived of the traditional graduations and proms. “In an unprecedented time, it would give us great comfort to hear your voice,” tweeted high-school senior Lincoln Debenham, 17. His tweet has been liked by 218,500 and retweeted 44,400 times.

  • Respirators may not be the ideal treatment for Covid-19, as evidenced by the 80 percent mortality rate of patients on ventilators in New York City. Some doctors argue that respirators do more harm than good. The high mortality rate may also be due to the scarcity of lung specialists. It takes special training to master the subtle adjustments required. Covid-19 patients have lung damage that may not respond well to mechanical respiration. AP News
  • President Trump is encouraging resistance against quarantine and social distancing in states where his supporters have been clamoring for “liberation” from these restrictions. In a series of tweets, he also specifically names– in all caps– states with Democratic governors who want to extend these measures and delay “reopening.” The Democratic governors are heeding doctors who warn that quarantine and social distancing are resulting in fewer hospitalizations and that discontinuing them too soon will result in a new wave of infections. It seems that Trump embraces tactics that will, he believes, jumpstart the economy (to improve his chances for reelection), though they are potentially harmful to the public.

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