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an endless succession of beans and nuts.

Forced into acting by a steady diet of chicken patties and canned peas.

I'm reading this obituary of a character actor:


That's from 1946. I was interested in Charles Butterworth because I just watched the 1932 movie "Love Me Tonight." I was going on about that movie in the comments to yesterday's post about 3 movies from the 1930s. The other 2 were "The Smiling Lieutenant" and "One Hour With You." 

All 3 starred Maurice Chevalier, and all 3 featured the character actor Charles Ruggles, but this morning I was clicking around and reading about Charles Butterworth, reading his Wikipedia page, wondering if he killed himself and fascinated by the information that "His distinctive voice was the inspiration for the Cap'n Crunch commercials created by the Jay Ward studio."


In the comments to yesterday's post, I linked to video of the entire movie "Love Me Tonight" (which was directed by Rouben Mamoulian). I specified that I loved the first 18 minutes, which features some brilliant use of what I think is called musique concrète. Sound effects like hammering and street noise converge into music. I'll just embed the video below.

We're introduced to Paris in general and then Maurice Chevalier specifically and to his highly sexualized relationship to Paris. Eventually, the montage of sound and the music carries us to the Princess who's longing for love but cloistered in her chateau (and singing her lungs out).

The 18 minutes I love are completed as a ladder comes into view. Scroll to that point and you'll experience the entrance of Charles Butterworth (as the Comte de Savignac, the extreme opposite of a desirable lover):

Here's something interesting about Butterworth: He was friends with Robert Benchley and other literary wits of the time and "became so famous for his dry quips and cynical asides that Hollywood screenwriters began writing only fragmentary scripts for him, hoping that the actor would 'fill in the blanks' with his own bon mots." We're told he once "complained," exclaiming, "I need material as much as anyone else!" 

Was that a complaint or an example of the wit?

"I always thought when you got to be a certain age, you’d give anything to be younger. But I am so excited to be dead in, like, 20 years. Because there’s not much more of this I can take."

Said David Sedaris — after he was asked about A.I. taking over the jobs of writers — quoted in "Could the Next Great Author Be a Robot? We Asked (Human) Writers. At the PEN America Literary Awards, David Sedaris, Judith Thurman and others discussed the role A.I. could play in literature" (NYT).

When you're young, you want there to be a lot of space between now and where you're picturing your death day. It's never distant enough — and, of course, it's always potentially today — and you cling to a vague fantasy of immortality. But when you are old, you continually notice benefits in the short time line: These problems are not mine to solve. I do not exist much further out on this trajectory.

If you are young, you should know that old people are mostly keeping this secret. We don't want to demoralize you as you shoulder the burdens of life, and we don't want to seem as though we don't care. 

Look how J.K. Rowling got lambasted 2 weeks ago when she said "I do not walk around my house, thinking about my legacy. You know, what a pompous way to live your life walking around thinking, 'What will my legacy be?' Whatever, I’ll be dead. I care about now. I care about the living."

She was saying that she cared about the living and didn't worry about herself or the ghost of a self that would remain out there in the future. Yet that curt "Whatever, I’ll be dead" really hit younger people.

"[T]he gap between Covid-19 mortality and overall excess mortality has proved remarkably, and mystifyingly, persistent...."

Writes David Wallace-Wells, in "Why Are So Many Americans Dying Right Now?" (NYT).

[A]lmost every week for more than six months, the agency has calculated that total excess mortality was 50 percent larger than and often almost twice as large as the number of official Covid-19 deaths.... What are the hypotheses? 

The first is delayed care [caused by the pandemic]....

A second hypothesis is about the indirect effects of pandemic restrictions... social isolation, anxiety... unemployment, which can worsen a wide range of conditions, as well as, potentially, suicide and homicide and even car accidents and overdoses....

A third hypothesis is that Covid-19 infection does harm to the body that can linger after recovery for some people....

If you are waiting for "a fourth hypothesis, the vaccine," I can tell you it is not in this article. The vaccine is mentioned but not as a possible cause of the excess deaths. But Wallace-Wells discusses a subset of the "third hypothesis" as "another hypothesis":

Another hypothesis is that Covid infection damages immune function in some patients in a long-lasting way....

So the damage to the immune function, if any, is presumed to come from the disease and not the vaccine. Wallace-Wells notes that there is "a lot of contestation and pushback against — and contextualizing," but only about the effect of the disease. Questioning the vaccine cannot even be a hypothesis. He proceeds to talk about how our emotions drive our thinking on the subject:

Among the many lessons of the pandemic, for me, has been how much more complicated and baffling disease severity and death are.... how simplistic it often feels to apply a single cause of death.... Yet we’ve wanted stories we drew from the pandemic to be straightforward and legible, no matter how messy and nuanced so many cases turned out to be....

Does this want cause you to exclude the complicating factor that is the vaccine? As I write this, I am feeling the fear of questioning the vaccine. 

Here's the parenthetical in the article where Wallace-Wells excludes the vaccine:

If long Covid or post-acute sequelae were primarily responsible [for the excess deaths], we might expect to see a spike in non-Covid excess deaths at some interval following each particular wave of infection — perhaps a few weeks or perhaps a few months later. (If vaccination risk was playing a role, it might create the same pattern, but that’s not what the curves show.) 

There is also the idea that the excess mortality is really made up of deaths from Covid that were not registered as Covid deaths because they died at home and why test for Covid when the death certificate can say heart disease?

Throughout the pandemic, about 20 percent of in-hospital deaths have been attributed to Covid-19, compared to barely 2 percent of deaths at home. If you roughly triple the share of at-home deaths attributed to Covid — still well short of the share in hospitals — you make the Covid death toll a bit larger but almost entirely eliminate the excess excess gap. And if you adjust it to match the share of deaths attributed to Covid everywhere but homes — hospitals, outpatient clinics, nursing homes — you actually overshoot the gap....

That sounds quite plausible, but I note the emotion in my desire to embrace it. It's the most comforting thought. People who died were old and already in bad health, and Covid knocked them off relatively peacefully. They died at home. And they were expected to die. They'd reached the end of their life. Nothing strange is going on. Rest easy.

"Where does this leave us?," the last paragraph of the article begins. And here comes the one other mention of the vaccine:

More Americans are still dying than expected, which means at some point the United States may have to reset its expectations for how many will die in a given year at least a bit higher. The country long ago walked away from most mitigation measures beyond vaccination. (And even there, booster uptake has been quite low.)...

You can see that the reference to the vaccine is entirely positive. The only fault is only in us: We're not continuing to take it.

"Sitting around in my own mess, pissed off at the world, disdainful of the people in it, and thinking my contempt for things somehow amounted to something..."

"... had some kind of nobility, hating this thing here, and that thing there, and that other thing over there, and making sure that everybody around me knew it, not just knew, but felt it too, contemptuous of beauty, contemptuous of joy, contemptuous of happiness in others, well, this whole attitude just felt, I don’t know, in the end, sort of dumb."

Writes Nick Cave, responding to a fan who asked "When did you become a Hallmark card hippie? Joy, love, peace. Puke! Where’s the rage, anger, hatred? Reading these lately is like listening to an old preacher drone on and on at Sunday mass" — at The Red Hand Files. 

After his younger son Arthur, aged 15, fell off a cliff and died, Cave thought about "the precarious and vulnerable position of the world" and felt he ought to try to help the world, "instead of merely vilifying it, and sitting in judgement of it."

In 2022, his older son Jethro died, aged 31.

"What’s with all this whingeing about the raising of the retirement age? Ye gods, what a bunch of..."

"... lazy, workshy, good-for-nothing, stay-at-home, Deliveroo-scoffing, unproductive, couch potato cry-babies we have become. Well, you have become. I’m fine. Work is good! Work is fun! Work is what you were made for! What the hell else do you think you’re supposed to be doing with your time: surfing the internet for good deals on comfy tracksuits, posting your lunchtime sarnie on TikTok and nipping up to Scotland every three months to flip genders on a whim?... What do you want to do when you’re old, anyway? Work is the only thing. You want to play golf or bridge or mahjong all day or go on some awful cruise? Or sit alone in the pub staring into the bottom of one of the three pints you can afford, that you have to make last all afternoon?...  Come off it. We all know what happens when you retire: you die. Because the cessation of work famously accelerates the decline of physical and cognitive functioning...."

If someone dies and I see fit to blog about it and you might be the first commenter, don't just write something showing you don't know or care much at all...

... about this person. That's really rude. I just deleted a comment but I wanted to state the general principle on the front page so everyone can see it. Stop doing this please. You don't have to comment. Plus, there's always a link to something you can read. This is a special subcategory of my general rule for the first comment — or first few comments — on a post. Here's how I word it to myself: Don't shit on the post.

"'Died Suddenly'? More Than 1-in-4 Think Someone They Know Died From COVID-19 Vaccines."

Rasmussen reports.

The documentary Died Suddenly has been criticized as promoting “debunked” anti-vaccine conspiracy theories but has been seen by some 15 million people.

Forty-eight percent (48%) of Americans believe there are legitimate reasons to be concerned about the safety of COVID-19 vaccines, while 37% think people who worry about vaccine safety are spreading conspiracy theories. Another 15% are not sure.

The political breakdown is interesting:

More Democrats (85%) than Republicans (63%) or those not affiliated with either major party (64%) have been vaccinated against COVID-19. More Republicans (60%) than Democrats (44%) or the unaffiliated (43%) think there are legitimate reasons to be concerned about the safety of COVID-19 vaccines. However, there is less political difference in the number who suspect someone they know might have died from vaccine side effects – 33% of Democrats and 26% of both Republicans and the unaffiliated. 

Rasmussen downplayed the most significant discrepancy — there are 27% more Democrats who say they know someone who "might have died from vaccine side effects." That's a lot of political difference, especially since the difference seems to go in the opposite direction from the support for the vaccine, with Republicans much more likely to be worried about vaccine safety and to have resisted getting the vaccination. 

Now, maybe it's that Democrats tend to know more people who've taken the vaccine or to know more people who've died recently. Maybe Democrats simply know more people. Maybe Democrats have more of a tendency to interpret the question differently.

When people you know die, do you know why they died? There may be cultural differences about conveying the cause of death. When do you just absorb the news of the death and figure it must be from one of those things that kill people — old age, drugs, suicide, heart trouble? If you do that, then if someone asks you do you think it could have been a side effect of the vaccine, you might easily and without thinking much, say, sure. It might not mean you're particularly concerned about the vaccine. 

Another way to look at this is that supporters of the vaccine may think of course some people are going to die from it but, overall, more lives will be saved, so what's important is for everyone to do their part and contribute to the general good by getting the vaccine as prescribed. Yes, you might be one of the unlucky ones who dies because of the vaccine, but you'll never know if you would have been one of the unlucky ones who dies because you did not get the vaccine, so please just cooperate and accept the vaccine.

I would guess that Democrats are more likely to have that attitude, and that might mean that even when they hear of deaths that they think could be traced to the vaccine they tend to continue to think that there are no "legitimate reasons to be concerned about the safety of COVID-19 vaccine."

Pope Benedict and Barbara Walters join the Pelé death triad.

This is one of the greatest death triads I have ever seen. Perhaps the greatest.

Goodbye to 3 greats, in 3 different fields — religion, journalism, and sports. All 3 died after a long, productive life — Pelé, a little young, at 82, Walters at 93, and the Pope at 95.

"She had no map, compass, or matches. No flashlight or headlamp, though her parents said she used her phone as a light...."

"[S]he had granola bars, a banana and water that likely froze very early on.... She wore long underwear but only light pants and a jacket. She had heated gloves and a neck warmer but no hat. Her shoes were for trail running.... She had planned to hike alone for three days, have her mother join her on the Wednesday and celebrate [climbing all 48 peaks] with a dinner at the grand Mount Washington Hotel. She told her mom she had checked the weather, as did her mother, but only saw the forecast for where they were staying in Franconia. 'It was cold, but ... I didn't know anything about the mountains or anything else. It did not look bad,' [the mother] said. The pair shopped for food that afternoon, and Emily did some school work before setting an alarm for 4am. The following morning her mother dropped her off at a trailhead at 4:30am, with plans to pick her up eight hours later....."

From the Daily Mail article, "Grieving doctor couple's daughter, 19, died on winter hike through snowy New Hampshire after setting out in thin clothing and sneakers with just granola bars and water for sustenance/Emily Sotelo, 19, was found dead on a New Hampshire mountain trail on what would have been her 20th birthday... Her goal was to summit all 48 peaks over 4,000 feet by her 20th birthday...."

"In a well-covered incident at the tournament, Wahl was detained by Qatari security guards at a stadium when he arrived to a game wearing a rainbow soccer ball T-shirt."

"Homosexuality is illegal in Qatar. Wahl, on his Substack, wrote that security guards refused to let him in, held him for 25 minutes and demanded he remove his shirt."

From "U.S. soccer journalist Grant Wahl dies after collapsing at World Cup match" (WaPo). 

Wahl, 48, had written about some of his health issues in Qatar in the days leading up to his passing. Earlier this week, he wrote: “My body finally broke down on me. Three weeks of little sleep, high stress and lots of work can do that to you.”

He said he had a cold turn into something more serious on the night the United States played the Netherlands. “I could feel my upper chest take on a new level of pressure and discomfort,” he wrote.

ADDED: The Daily Mail puts it far more luridly: "Grant Wahl complained of 'death rattle' cough day before his shock death at World Cup and received 20 minutes of frantic CPR before dying in hospital: Gay brother suggests he was murdered."

Forced into acting by a steady diet of chicken patties and canned peas.

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