spoilt hope

The 1969 feature film They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? (directed by Sidney Pollack with an Oscar-winning supporting actor performance by Gig Young) has, to my mind, been one of the best illustrations of desperate people giving their last best effort to catch a financial break. The movie focuses on a depression-era dance marathon that purportedly will award a prize for the pair of dancers that stays on their feet the longest. It turns out to be something of a scam.

I think of this movie often when I think of people hoping against hope that they’ll find ways to support themselves and their families through troubled times only to find out again and again that the cards are apparently stacked against them. The recent Booker Prize Winning novel Shuggie Bain is, perhaps, a more current example.

During the pandemic, more people than usual have been looking for the smallest shred of hope that they will survive this, all of this from COVID itself, to the bankruptcies and lost jobs caused by lockdowns and other restrictions, to seeing hospitalized and nursing home separated loved ones again.

It takes grit and courage to keep trying, doesn’t it? To keep scanning the news for stories that say things are getting better. For most of the pandemic, the news has been bad and that as bad as the news is now, we can expect it to get worse. Now we hear that the vaccines seem to be helping while simultaneously hearing that a lot of people are still waiting for their turn for a shot. 

I am surprised at how quickly a handful of companies have created viable vaccines and equally surprised at how inept society has become that these vaccines haven’t been available in a fraction of the time it’s taking. Today’s news informs us that the U.S. is about to reach 500,000 deaths. Yet solutions continue to appear at a snail’s pace. The availability of vaccines that most of us still cannot get is an example of spoilt hope. These are the times of government negligence and felt-serving partisan “solutions” that show dereliction of duty at both the state and federal level

The U. S. could have done better. Meanwhile, our world is collapsing around us while red tape ensures quick solutions are unimportant. One can understand why dance marathon entrant Jane Fonda would tell another character to shoot her at the end of They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?

–Malcolm

2020: Get out before midnight or else

There once was a year named 2020
That conspired to plague us aplenty,
Whenever we thought the bad times were said and done,
We were told, “the worst has just begun.”

I’m sure something good happened during the year. Okay, two of us at Thomas-Jacob Publishing released new novels. And we had some good meals even though we had to cook them ourselves. There was some good stuff on TV such as “The Queen’s Gambit.”

But all in all, from questionable police shootings to rioters/looters upstaging protesters to COVID cases/deaths, the news was bad. It got a little better when several COVID vaccines (one not yet available in the U.S.) were announced.

Too many people died, though, and the Feds are sending vaccine doses to Congressmen/women and/or criminals before attending to the nursing home population and the elderly. I cringe whenever I see the announced death of an “old” person who’s my age, followed by the usual hoo-haw, “Well, they had a full life.”

And then there were those with critical illnesses who were denied treatment because people with COVID–usually not life-threatening or even obvious–had first dibs on hospital beds. Triage sort of got forgotten.

Yet, as cynical as I usually sound, I think we can beat the damages of 2020 (for those who are still living) and get on top of all that ails us. We will cure and protect more people. We will stop pointless police shootings. We will acknowledge that Black lives matter. We will start protecting our environment again after rolling back protections that took decades to get approved. We will get people working again and our stores open once more.

So, I feel sane enough to wish you a happy new year that brings you the best dreams you can imagine.

Malcolm

Is my number up today?

Some say that doing something risky is absolutely safe unless “your number’s up,” and further that if your number is up you’re toast even if you stay home in bed.

Wikipedia Photos

COVID seems like that. On Facebook and elsewhere, people tell others to “stay safe.” The thing is, we’re not sure how. Some people, for example, are telling us to start wearing masks indoors while others are saying the masks don’t really help all that much anyway. For heaven’s sakes, which is it, or are the three stooges dispensing our nation’s response and the advice we’re getting?

The fact that we might have a viable vaccine soon is a rare bright spot in the chaos of the pandemic. On this, I agree that front-line health care workers should be among the first in line. They are taking risks that are tantamount to volunteering for combat duty in a dangerous foreign war.  Some say people in nursing homes and the elderly in general should come next. I have no data to support the sense of that, but it seems right.

Meanwhile, we all seem to be muddling through. Personally, I go to the grocery store, the pharmacy, and the service station. That’s about it.  I wear a mask and try not to stand too close to anyone. Yes, I suppose I’m washing my hands more often. Is that it, then? Is that my defense against COVID. Yep. Is it enough? I have no clue and the guidance from the experts isn’t conclusive.

The days are getting darker and colder now and that doesn’t improve the mood of most people I know. We’re used to more people getting sick, generally speaking, in the Winter. Or, we’re fighting a bit of Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and think things are more depressing and dangerous than we did several months ago. And to top it off, the pandemic is now worse.

I’m really not so cynical that I believe in the “number’s up” approach to life, but this pandemic is making me wonder. I’m trying to stay safe, even though I don’t know exactly how, and hope you are, too.

Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of contemporary fantasy, paranormal, and magical realism short stories and novels.