Wednesday, June 3, 2020

The Final Solution: Comorbidities

Comorbidity is a word that you may have heard with respect to the pandemic. The idea is that there’s an attendant condition which exacerbates an already potentially life-threatening illness. In a certain sense, the concept of simultaneous insults to homeostasis seems to define the human condition. The meme “the perfect storm” refers to the confluence of two or more threatening contingencies. The staggering giant, Uncle Sam, already wounded by a virus, is doused with a combustible substance whose flammability is exponentially increased—the effects of pernicious and endemic racism being bumped up with the agent of economic inequality. It’s like going from U-238 to U-235 the kind of uranium that’s destabilized enough to create a nuclear reaction. Most experts at the CDC and elsewhere have predicted an upsurge or second wave of coronavirus, when the flu season begins in the fall. This is what occurred if you look at the curve charting the progress of the flu in l918. There was the outbreak followed by a remission before the cases spiked even more precipitously again. A remediation of systemic racism is a high though absolutely necessary bar to jump. Hollow words ring more hollow than ever amidst the current crisis. The need to discover a vaccine that protects against COVID-19 and will also provide immunity from future mutations of the virus proposes a whole different set of challenges. But besides the Sirens and Polyphemus, what other comorbidities will Odysseus confront on his journey home?

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

The Final Solution: Civil Disobedience and Mourning

The exchanging of expressions of grief (as in the case of the recent murder of George Floyd), of horror (at the Tweets like “when the looting starts, the shooting starts”) or rage (at latest presidential order repealing a hard won human advance), can become like a salutation. You may even feel that the emotion is trivialized by its repetition and uniformity. People who prize speech as a unique expression of consciousness become bothered when their words become co-opted or deafened as they become part of a chorus. You may want to do something, but as an individual who lends a particular imprint and set of stipulations on your utterances. Of course, voting comprises the same problem. Say you’re a democrat in a heavily blue state like New York, why bother going to the polls, if it’s not going to make a difference and ditto in a heavily red state where the outcome of elections is often a fait accompli? Some clergymen suggest silence in the face of mourning and grief. What are you going to say to someone who has lost a beloved spouse or relative? Expressions of consolation tend to be pro forma and any attempt to be reassuring or encouraging can be a major irritant to someone who's inundated with darkness. Showing up turns out to be all that you can do and its impact is increased when there’s no attempt to make one’s individual presence felt. Less is more. On a collective level, this is the power of the silent march and the kind of civil disobedience that both Gandhi and Martin Luther King advocated. Of course, the value of civil disobedience is countermanded by those who say that if no one was listening before, silence is like closing the lid on the coffin. And that’s a point that’s equally hard to deny.

Monday, June 1, 2020

Cria cuervos

There's a scene in Carlos Saura’s Cria cuervos (Raise Ravens 1976) where three children re-enact the domestic drama of their deceased parents. The oldest child Irene (Conchi Perez) dresses in her mother's bra, the middle one, Ana (Ana Torrent), the dreamily stolid protagonist, wears her mother’s lipstick and the youngest, Maite (Maite Sanchez), her mother’s heels. The subject is putatively the lying and infidelity of the father, Anselmo (Hector Alterio). The fact that he’s an army officer in the Franco era adds another level of significance. However, the scene recalls the famous moment in Bunuel’s Viridiana (1961) when the local hoi polloi loot the manor. The difference is the role of the servant class is now rendered by children—a statement imprinted with the historical legacy of old family photos, one of the repeated leitmotifs of the film. At one moment, Maria (Geraldine Chaplin) the deceased mother complains that childhood is "an intolerably long and sad time, full of fear.” But more profoundly the subject is the loss of innocence and the duplicity of the fascist society the young have inherited. Even as she's dying and writhing in pain, Geraldine Chaplin is lied to about her condition. “Raise ravens and they will pluck out your eyes,” is the homily on which the film’s English title is based. Is the movie about retribution or accounting for the past? Probably both, but Ana is a complex standard bearer, a doppelgänger and willful clairvoyant, who Hedda Gabler-like brandishes her father's gun. One of the most trenchant images of the film is one in which Ana is depicted playing house in a swimming pool, emptied of water. She's a seer to the extent that she's the emblematic witness to both her family's story as well as history.

Friday, May 29, 2020

The Final Solution: Porn Hub and Coronavirus

Pornography has its uses, especially for those who are sexually inhibited or need stimulation for other therapeutic reasons. And there is artful smut, to wit the literary works of Henry Miller and Charles Bukowski. But pornography can also be an addiction and up until the current pandemic Porn Hub loomed high amongst those who had found their lives being consumed by easily accessible stimulation and escape. Porn Hub commands such a huge following that it wouldn’t be surprising if the company didn’t occupy one of those huge towers on the New York, Chicago or LA skylines with its logo emblazoned on the façade. Imagine seeing Porn Hub in neon on the horizon as you fly into JFK! But now with life so circumscribed X-rated sites are beginning to provide a new service. Porn Hub may be one of the only places on earth free of coronavirus. When you type in a proclivity and find yourself on the site, you're in a world totally free of worries about contagion or anything else. The subjects in a porn video have only one function, which is to complete a sexual transaction that will provide a turn-on to a particular demographic. It doesn’t matter whether you like tall ones or short ones, fat ones or skinny ones, MILFs, DP shots, gay or straight or trans, the one requirement in the auditioning of actors for X-rated videos might be the ability to act like the virus doesn’t exist (to their own peril if it's been filmed during the pandemic). In our current day and age Porn Hub promises a kind of utopia, a vacation spot where you don’t even have to wear a mask (unless it’s leather).

Thursday, May 28, 2020

The Final Solution: The New Normal

What if things never get back to normal? What if the coronavirus has a resurge, which occurs before a vaccine is discovered and tested (as is currently predicted? Or what if by the time a vaccine is discovered a new strain breaks out which is even more deadly and virulent? Due to global warming and melting of the Arctic icecaps, there are floods which wipe out those coastal civilizations which haven't yet been eradicate due to tornadoes, cyclones and hurricanes. Amidst all this, faults in the earth’s crust deepen causing major earthquakes. Social distancing no longer is a question. It’s essential for the survival of even the most renegade hyper individualist biker. Places of congregation like theaters and houses of worship themselves become museum pieces and the human race is reduced to living in self-enclosed pods, biospheres in which procreation is facilitated simply through the exchange of sperm and egg. Remember those times in the history of civilization when male offspring were prized? Now the reverse is true.  If you have a daughter, her child will populate your brood. If you have a son, no such luck. Eventually life as a biologic form becomes too difficult to maintain and consciousness is freed from the body to inhabit the blogisphere. Humans are suspended in an ether and live in a permanent state of virtual reality. Of course, this new normal will have everything that once comprised the old life. Romance will bloom with such intensity that would be lovers, in their moment of passion, forget that their corporeal essence has already been expended.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

The Final Solution: Mr. Clean

Children are taught to clean up the mess they’ve made—soon after they get out of the high chair and are no longer allowed to think it’s funny when they throw their food. But the operation involves prehensile motor skills that are part of human development and allow for a fairly expeditious remedying of most spills. You tip over a class of milk and you learn to get a sponge or washcloth to wipe away the puddle. That’s what’s disconcerting about life in a pandemic like the one the world is currently enduring. There aren’t simple solutions. Corona appears to be a wily virus which is able to attack many different vulnerabilities of the immune system at the same time. The latest evidence comes by way of a number of cases of Kawasaki Disease--that involves inflammation of the blood vessels in children who have contracted Covid-19. The MTA is closing subways from 1-5 in the morning to allow for sanitization of cars. New Yorkers and inhabitants of most populated areas are cautioned to shelter-in-place and social distance by keeping six feet away  from others. Masks are de rigueur. However, one problem leads to another. South Korea lauded for its comprehensive testing which allowed an opening up the country experienced a resurgence of the outbreak, which catalyzed a return to more restrictive social distancing policies ("As South Korea Eases Limits, Virus Cluster Prompts Seoul to Close Bars,NYT, 5/9/20). Hurricanes leave paths of destruction in their wake, but once the storm has gone away the protocols are usually clear. In the case of the virus, no obvious plan or path is suggested. As soon as one mess has been cleaned up, another manifests.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Is Florida the Problem?

When someone moves to Florida and then starts to decline the tendency is to blame the move on the more sedentary lifestyle. The fact is, a move to Florida is often occasioned by climate. Plainly cause and effect have become confused. It's a good idea for a person who's increasingly sensitive to harsh winters (due to their age or health) to move to Florida. The logical fallacy is rendered with the Latin words post hoc ergo propter hoc. If something follows then it's caused by the preceding factor. He got fat because he ate too much is another form of the same misplaced causality. These kinds of misdiagnoses lead to eating disorders. He may have gotten fat because he had a problem with his metabolism. Similarly, the snowbird’s decline may have been hastened further if he or she insisted on sticking it out up North. One of the reasons why this kind of fallacious thinking is often deployed is to distance the renderer of such analysis from an upsetting condition, i.e., the fact that human beings are mortal. Cancer is another condition which fishes for causes. At first one commiserates with a victim. Then quickly there’s a shift to blame. They got cancer because they smoked or drank liquor or diet coke or ate fatty foods or failed to exercise. The fact is that in many instances people unfortunately contract diseases and it has little to do with their behavior or habits and the same is true for those who die at a young age and indeed those who stay way beyond their welcome. It may be an awful thought, but how long or short one lives is something which is often out of control of the person who's the beneficiary of such good or bad news.