Friday, March 13, 2020

Dark Ages Descending

This is for readers who regularly visit this blog, an explanation why my theatre reviews will cease, hopefully only for a while, and my writing in general will be curtailed.  I hope this is merely an “intermission.”  COVID-19 is the reason.  My wife and I have decided to begin immediate social distancing, and this includes the activities I’ll go as far to say defines our very existence.

Since writing a draft of this entry, everything is being appropriately cancelled anyhow. We love all things cultural, but these are extensive social activities and until this pandemic gets under control, we and presumably many of you, are staying in place, nearly hostages of our home.  It means not going to NYC, where my heart is, and the area our two sons and daughter-in-law live.  It looks almost certain we will miss celebrating our 50th wedding anniversary there with family and attending the 50th anniversary of Sondheim’s Company, one of my favorite shows.  It opened on our wedding day.  Our “kids” surprised us with tickets for that very day.  But compared to sacrifices other families will be forced to make, and some with serious economic consequences as well, it is something we accept.

Regional theatres will be cancelling their productions. They are particularly vulnerable and those of us who have subscriptions, and we have several, will be asked to donate them back to the theatre rather than asking for a refund. They need our support to survive and if you care about the future of the performing arts, it would be wise to donate and not refund.

More than three years ago, when I was writing more about the serious deficiencies in Donald Trump’s experience and psychological nature to handle the responsibilities of the Presidency, I said (Feb. 16, 2017) “I merely thought [his] behavior ‘crazy making’ but it may be more -- preparation for almost anything, totalitarian rule by the Plutocracy, religious wars, the demolition of the Republic, a nuclear winter, or all rolled up into the Trumpocalypse….Instinctively, even if we survive we all know this will not end well.  I hope I am very wrong, and that the next four years will be bigly amazing, devoid of losers, with tremendous, terrific winners, but I fear it’s not gonna happen, zero percent.”

As long as he was riding on the coattails of international agreements made over decades before, and had the rising economic prosperity that was already underway before he became President, my secret hope was we might stagger to the finish line of November 2020, no matter what he does. But he was ill prepared to handle a truly national Black Swan emergency. 

His failures relating to COVID-19 have again exposed him as a worthless incompetent, now with very serious consequences. His Oval Office speech was incoherent and lacked what we needed to hear: how the Federal government was going to provide massive support for our medical infrastructure, and the resources needed to ramp up immediate testing, more ICU beds and ventilators, protection for our medical personnel, as well as concrete guidelines for social distancing in the midst of this crisis.

As he said when this crisis was first gaining attention, he didn’t want that cruise ship off the west coast to dock because the COVID-19 “numbers would go up,” the implication that it makes HIM look bad.  If there ever was a case for impeachment it is this:  his failure to take this seriously, listen to the experts, and take actions to protect the American people, all of which is an egregious breach of his Presidential responsibilities.  So, instead of a “nuclear winter” we have a COVID-19 winter ahead.

The thrust of his speech was to build a figurative wall across the Atlantic that will somehow protect us from Europe. This virus is not only already here, but is probably many-fold pervasive than reported.  Ironically, while he was talking about keeping people out of the country from those areas (and even that was unclear), a JetBlue plane was landing from NYC at Palm Beach Airport (his and my airport too), with an elderly man who had just tested positive for COVID-19 and after feeling ill during the flight a medical emergency was declared.  After landing he and his wife were deplaned, while the other 100 passengers were delayed for 2-3 hours as I guess officials were wondering what to do.  Refuel it and make it circle as a cruise ship? In the absence of guidelines, they released all the passengers into the general population and advised them to contact local health officials if they felt ill.  We know symptoms may not manifest themselves for weeks, so all these passengers are now free to mingle throughout our area with no self quarantining or monitoring?   This is how such a virus spreads like wild fire.

Trump’s address did nothing to ameliorate this crisis.  He may even have exacerbated it as he mumbled meaningless measures from the teleprompter.  He likes to use the stock market as a barometer of his “winning.” How’s that going, Mr. President?

Meanwhile, back in the fall I had explained that my I was working on a second book which although derivative from my blog would be highly edited and focused.  This has been slowly and painstakingly moving forward although in the shadow of COVID-19 everything seems pretty meaningless.  But this is the culmination of a my work for decades, so I feel compelled to follow through, and now I will turn to it more full time.  Hopefully, by the time it is published, probably spring or summer, this crisis will be a fading memory (doubtful) and we will all be able to return to a semblance of our former BC (Before C-19) lives.

I have a final title, ISBN and a nearly final structure: Explaining It to Someone: Learning From the Arts ISBN: 978-0-578-65465-2.  It is much larger than my prior work.  Here is a tentative blurb:

“This is a companion work to “Waiting for Someone to Explain It: The Rise of Contempt and the Decline of Sense” (Lacunae Musing, 2019) which focused on the political and economic landscape at the beginning of the 21st century.  While I was writing about those issues, I was also writing about what I was personally experiencing in my cultural life, particularly the literature, music, and theatre of the same period.  If I was seeking “answers” in my previous work from politicians or economists, perhaps better clues can be found in the works of some of our most creative people.  I think of them as our greatest philosophers.

Unlike most other works of literary or theatrical examination, this one is clearly idiosyncratic.  The works covered are tied together by the unique thread of my own life and times.  Sometimes I wonder whether I chose these works, or whether they chose me. Hundreds of dramatic and literary works are reviewed, along with impressions of musical performances and composers, mostly focused on the genres of The Great American Songbook and Jazz.

Together, these give a unique view of our times as well as a much needed respite from the economic and political morass we find ourselves in at the beginning of the 21st century.”

So while my blog will be relatively quiet, this is what I’m working on.  I’m hoping to resume my theatre work when and if the coast is clear.  I also hope anyone who reads this stays safe and avoids this virus.