Bob Schwartz

Month: January, 2022

Music: Ronnie Spector is gone and hearts break

Ronnie Spector died this past week.

It profanes talking about her by starting with Phil Spector, but it is an unavoidable preface.

Phil Spector was a genius record producer who changed pop music. He helped turn Ronnie’s extraordinary talent into memorable hits with the Ronettes. He was also a very strange man who abused women, including Ronnie after marrying her, and including another woman he murdered.

Adolescent boys (boys of any age) loved Ronnie Spector. Crush love. It was the pure voice, strong but soft, kittenish but grown cat. It was the songs, tuneful and romantic, about how she wanted you (Be My Baby) or was looking for someone like you (Walking in the Rain) or knew that after you split up it would be better than ever (Best Part of Breaking Up).

Just as much, it was the look. There was and are plenty of beautiful sexy women around, some in your real life, more in the world of entertainment. But none of them looked like Ronnie Spector. Maybe the beauty was a bonus on top of the voice, maybe the other way round. Either way, it is a gift that is cherished.

November 2020: “What 240,000 Covid Deaths Look Like”

In November 2020 I was frustrated about the American response to covid. There was a hopeful prospect of a vaccine, but in the meantime, some leaders and citizens were not at all helping. So I posted this, headlined with the above photo of 1,000 matchsticks for those who think better with pictures:

“Right now there at least 240,000 Covid deaths and 10 million Covid cases counted in America. Without major behavioral and policy interventions, there may be 400,000 deaths and 1 million cases a week by the end of year. Yet some governors insist on staying the course, and some people think that even the current restrictions are too much.”

By the end of the following year (2021), even with vaccines, there were about 1 million deaths, and we are on our way to 1 million cases a day, not a week. And, since some things never change, “some governors insist on staying the course, and some people think that even the current restrictions are too much.”

Please feel free to pass this picture on for those who understandably have trouble conceiving big numbers:

1,000 matchsticks X 1,000 = 1 million

Covid War: America has never suffered a war on its entire homeland and we are not doing well with this one

Only once since the War of Independence has there been war on much of the American homeland. And even the armed conflict of the Civil War was not everywhere.

The Covid War is everywhere in America. We talk about battles we have won, we talk about the tide of war turning, but the truth is we are up against a brutal enemy we still don’t completely understand and that hasn’t been stopped yet.

In places around the world, there are two things well understood about a homeland engulfed in war: it involves suffering and sacrifice. Of course the citizens of occupied nations are exhausted. Of course their lives have been turned upside down and inside out. Of course they have suffered and sacrificed. That’s what war on the homeland is like. But they don’t have the luxury of pretending that the war is nearly over, based on some magical thinking or spinning of numbers. Because exhausted as they are, aching for things to get back to normal, the enemy is still right outside their door.

The first snow of 2022: Time passes slowly

First Snow 2022

Time passes slowly up here in the mountains
We sit beside bridges and walk beside fountains
Catch the wild fishes that float through the stream
Time passes slowly when you’re lost in a dream

Once I had a sweetheart, she was fine and good-lookin’
We sat in her kitchen while her mama was cookin’
Stared out the window to the stars high above
Time passes slowly when you’re searchin’ for love

Ain’t no reason to go in a wagon to town
Ain’t no reason to go to the fair
Ain’t no reason to go up, ain’t no reason to go down
Ain’t no reason to go anywhere

Time passes slowly up here in the daylight
We stare straight ahead and try so hard to stay right
Like the red rose of summer that blooms in the day
Time passes slowly and fades away

Bob Dylan, Time Passes Slowly (1970)

Of course, if you follow just the science, time actually passes faster in the mountains than it does at sea level:

“Let’s begin with a simple fact: time passes faster in the mountains than it does at sea level.

“The difference is small but can be measured with precision timepieces that can be bought today on the internet for a few thousand dollars. With practice, anyone can witness the slowing down of time. With the timepieces of specialized laboratories, this slowing down of time can be detected between levels just a few centimeters apart: a clock placed on the floor runs a little more slowly than one on a table.”

Carlo Rovelli, The Order of Time

You may follow just the science, or you may follow just the poetry, or you may follow the first snow of the year. You may believe that no two snowflakes are alike, each one unique, even though we can’t know that for certain since we do not observe each and every snowflake. There is the wisdom from writer William Goldman who observed Hollywood and concluded “Nobody knows anything.” He also wrote The Princess Bride, one of the most magical and unscientific stories ever. Maybe knowledge is sometimes overrated or at least misplaced. Time will tell.