Musings from the Bunker 11/18/20
Musings from the Bunker #250 (Wednesday November 18)
Dear Friends, We have now hit the 250 day milestone! 250 days in a row with Musings from the Bunker. Many of you have indicated your surprise both that the pandemic has affected us this long and that I’ve refused to give up. I’m not entirely sure how long this keeps up, but so far I still have a pretty good head of steam—plus so many of you are providing ideas to keep us all engaged.
As always at the 25 day increment, here are some “bests”—both new material and some stuff from the last four weeks. BEST POPULAR MUSIC John Fogerty, performing many of the CCR classics, amusingly talking only ten days into the pandemic lockdown: https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-news/john-fogerty-in-my-room-971618/ And here are the Doobie Brothers themselves doing “Listen to the Music,” live in isolation from their homes: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=etGV7D3hYoY BEST CLASSICAL MUSIC Here is a wonderful performance of Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony by the L.A. Philharmonic at an empty Hollywood Bowl: https://soundstage.laphil.com/beethoven/ BEST POETRY Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, by Robert Frost Whose woods these are I think I know. His house is in the village though; He will not see me stopping here To watch his woods fill up with snow. My little horse must think it queer To stop without a farmhouse near Between the woods and frozen lake The darkest evening of the year. He gives his harness bells a shake To ask if there is some mistake. The only other sound's the sweep Of easy wind and downy flake. The woods are lovely, dark and deep. But I have promises to keep, And miles to go before I sleep, And miles to go before I sleep.
BEST UNKNOWN HERO
In this era when voter suppression is a real issue, let’s celebrate the memory of Thomas Mundy Peterson, the first black man to vote after passage of the 15th amendment. A school janitor, who also was the first Black person to serve on a jury, was a lifelong Republican (back when that party was just a tad different than today's party...) and Prohibition Party member. BEST BOOKS ABOUT A PRESIDENT AND AN ERA For a biography of Andrew Johnson, Lincoln’s compromise running-mate tapped to show his brought attempts to bind the nation together by choosing a Southerner, go with Andrew Johnson, by Annette Gordon-Reed. It is one volume of the American Presidents series, clocking in at less than 150 pages. How can you not love a biography dedicated “To Vernon E. Jordan, Jr., and to the memory of Mary Belle Jordan, for standing against everything Andrew Johnson stood for”?! Gordon-Reed won the Pulitzer Prize in History for The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family.” As Frederick Douglass sad, “Whatever Andrew Johnson may be, he is no friend of our race.” No reason to waste time on any greater analysis of this racist accidental president than the brief analysis of Gordon-Reed. To learn more about the Era of Reconstruction, its hope and its ultimate failure, through the Gilded Age, read something great on that era. A solid volume is The Republic For Which It Stands, by Richard White. It is part of the Oxford History of the United States. BEST BIOGRAPHIES John Meacham’s American Lion (about Andrew Jackson), and Ron Chernow’s Thomas Jefferson, The Art of Power. BEST MOVIE The Prestige. This is the best. What an amazing movie with an amazing cast. Christopher Nolan film starring Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman. Twists and turns galore and a great period piece. I think Jake, Brad and I watched this a dozen times… BEST QUOTE ON POLITICS—BERTOLT BRECHT “The worst illiterate is the political illiterate... He doesn’t know the cost of life, the price of the bean, of the fish, of the flour, of the rent, of the shoes and of the medicine, all depends on political decisions. The political illiterate is so stupid that he is proud and swells his chest saying that he hates politics. The imbecile doesn’t know that, from his political ignorance is born the prostitute, the abandoned child, and the worst thieves of all, the bad politician, corrupted and flunky of the national and multinational companies.”
THE STRANGEST TREND The attraction of authoritarianism. Here’s a fascinating article about how authoritarianism may be at the heart of much of the President’s support: https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/10/12/trump-voter-authoritarian-research/. I don’t think most people love authoritarians. But I do believe people are looking for “quick fixes”—what pill do I take—what thing do I buy—quickly, to make my life better. I also believe people really are happier not accepting responsibility for their actions. At heart, I think passing the buck to someone else who maintains “only they” can solve the problem, is comforting. Knowing that there is someone with a steady hand at the helm might seem desirable but, of course, it depends on whose hand and the motivation of that hand. BEST REMINDER OF STATESMANSHIP Here are John McCain’s words of concession to Barack Obama 12 years ago: “Sen. [Barack] Obama has achieved a great thing for himself and for his country. I applaud him for it, and offer my sincere sympathy that his beloved grandmother did not live to see this day — though our faith assures us she is at rest in the presence of her Creator and so very proud of the good man she helped raise. . . . And my heart is filled with nothing but gratitude . . . to the American people for giving me a fair hearing before deciding that Sen. Obama and my old friend, Sen. Joe Biden, should have the honor of leading us for the next four years.” BEST MEME
BEST TV SHOW
Sacha Baron Cohen is the talk of the town. Sure he is well known for his over-the-top characters, Ali G and Borat, and the humiliations of the great and not-so-great in these and other characters (he once had a bar in Arizona chant “throw the Jews down the well” and had a state legislator bare his butt to ward off Muslim extremists). But he also is a serious actor in his own right, with a star turn in Spy, the true story of an Israeli spy who infiltrated the highest levels of power in Syria. He also has become an outspoken critic of antisemitism in America. Today, Mr. Cohen is starring as Abbie Hoffman in the Aaron Sorkin-written Trial of the Chicago Seven. Here is a New York Times story: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/16/movies/chicago-7-trial.html The indictment was of conspiracy to cross state lines to incite a riot. This topic seems of particular relevance these days, as extremists of all types seem to be gathering throughout the country. This is a great story of an era.
The Loudest Voice in the Room. Russell Crowe, to my mind one of the greatest actors of his generation, in a star turn as Roger Ailes. See the vanity, vision and ultimate destruction of this choreographer of the demonic Fox News, untethering the news from any pretense of objectivity and seeing (presciently) that it was all about popularity, ratings, personalities and stowing people’s deepest fears. Sean Hannity is a character of minimal importance in this series, laughably vacuous and incoherent.
Thanks, as always, for your participation in this community exercise. Apologies, as always, for errors and unreasonableness. Onward! Glenn