February 21, 2021

City of Richardson worker Kaleb Love breaks ice on a frozen fountain Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021, in Richardson, Texas. Temperatures dropped into the single digits as snow shut down air travel and grocery stores. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

Everybody talks about the weather, but no one does anything about it. I wish I could take credit for that particular bon mot, but it’s been floating around for more than a century, attributed to various Edwardian era wits, most frequently Mark Twain. Sometimes I think I missed my century; that I was born to sit around a splendid drawing room in evening wear with a snifter of brandy and a cigar trading epigrams with celebrated names. And then I think of general standards of public health and hygiene at the time and feel thankful to have come of age in post war America. Besides which, I’m not nearly as witty on my feet as I like to think I am. I do my best when scripted or in character in some way. When I’m just being me, my general introversion and insecurities tend to take over.

The weather around here has been cold, but relatively pleasant following the snow and ice of last Tuesday (which was gone by Wednesday). Not so much in Texas where the deep freeze continues to bedevil the population with power outages and lack of potable water. If I understand things correctly, plans were drawn up ten years ago following the last bad winter storm to hit the state but nothing was done to implement any of the recommendations as that would be expensive and cut into profits. The wholesale transfer of the commons to private corporations for purposes of enriching stockholders of the last forty years has consequences. It’s been cast in political terms as a battle between capitalism and socialism but it’s really more about a battle between private greed and public good. To my mind, there are certain sectors of the economy that should be kept public and not for profit because when they become private for profit concerns, the law of unintended consequences hurts us all. These include health care, education, corrections, the military and utilities.

On the Covid front, I remain cautiously optimistic. The numbers continue to decline nationwide. No one is quite certain why. Is it the presence of vaccinated individuals interrupting transmission chains, the surge caused by holiday behaviors being finally behind us (and only to increase again with some new social trend), the numbers of infected individuals rising as a percentage of the population (28 million official cases in the US – about 9% of the population but this is almost certainly a significant undercount), some new and as yet unidentified factor? Inquiring minds want to know. We are at 498,500 deaths today, meaning we will pass the half million mark tomorrow or the day after, less than a year since the pandemic really established itself in North America. It’s hard to understand just what sort of number that is. It’s big enough that the US as a whole lost a whole year of life expectancy during the first six months of 2020 (and that’s before the winter surge – when the final numbers are in for 2020 we may have lost as many as three years in total – something that hasn’t happened in generations).

People don’t really understand what that life expectancy number is. It’s been hovering in the high 70s for the last couple of decades, inching up a bit here and there. It doesn’t mean, obviously, that everyone only lives to that age. It’s the statistical mean age to which the cohort of babies born in that year will live. So the babies born in the first half of 2020 can expect a year shorter life than those born in 2019 due to the impact of Covid on society. Life expectancy is driven down by disease processes that kill the young. It was only in the mid 40s a century ago, not because people died of old age at 50 but because so many babies and children died of what, with public health measures and antibiotics, became preventable diseases. Covid is a preventable disease with proper public health measures but politics got in the way. We can tell that mitigation measures are working, even the imperfect ones we have in place by looking at this year’s flu statistics. The number of flu cases this year is less than 1% of what is seen in a typical year. Socail distancing and masking prevents influenza from being transmitted as well as Covid.

Tartuffe concludes filming this next week and will be available in mid March for your amusement. I’ve auditioned for a few other projects and am waiting to hear. I’m also starting outdoor, socially distanced and masked rehearsals for a condensed production of The Pirates of Penzance later this next week. I have not yet been informed if I am a pirate, a policeman, or one of Major General Stanley’s daughters – or perhaps all three. And last night, I was the MC for the church’s annual fundraising evening – on zoom rather than live this year – 19 years after I first did it (my first Birmingham acting gig and the first appearance of what becaome the Politically Incorrect Cabaret Ansager). I paid an homage to previous years by continuously changing my coats. There’s only so much you can do in front of the webcam. Work has been somewhat busy the last few weeks with various minor projects coming due so between those and theater, I’ve been pretty nose to the grindstone and will be into early March. At that point, it will be time to take up the second edit on the book to try and trim it down to appropriate size so as to stay on schedule for a summer publication. I’ll be looking for early readers after the second edit is finished.

I wrote a compelling essay on why you can’t find a geritarician for your aging parent which I will post, but it’s embargoed until after it goes live on the website I wrote it for. You will all just have to wait. In the meantime, keep those hands washed, those masks on, and that space between you.

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