- Glenn Sonnenberg
Musings from the Bunker 3/17/20
Happy Tuesday, everyone!
Isolation and House Arrest
You’re all reading the news as much as I am. So I won’t try to summarize it.
It seems we’re looking at a month of isolation. But remember we have precedents. If Felicity Huffman can do two weeks of prison, I think I can handle a month at home with loved ones (and wine cellar). Laura Loughlin is making a huge mistake. She lives on the second fairway at BelAir. Agree to a couple of months of house arrest and you’ll be no worse off than the rest of us and out in no time!
Sure it has its challenges, but isolation isn’t that bad. It has given me the opportunity to spend more time with Andrea and Lauren, time to reflect, time to read, time to exercise, time to walk, and (perhaps annoyingly for you) time to write.
Lord help us but some nay-sayers continue to downplay the severity of the concept of social distancing. Here’s Devon Nunes, with perhaps the stupidest quote from the weekend:
“… one of the things you can do: if you’re healthy, you and your family, it’s a great time to go out and go to a local restaurant, likely you can get in easy,” said Nunes. “Let’s not hurt the working people in this country that are relying on wages and tips to keep their small business going… Go to your local pub.”
Thankfully in most jurisdictions people cannot act on this helpful advice. More on nay-sayers tomorrow…
Don’t Try Going to Mexico
Meanwhile, in the ultimate irony, the border with Mexico finally is locked down—by Mexico!
Meanwhile, to the North
From the Scientific American comes a wonderful story, “Time Has No Meaning at the North Pole.” Here’s a great passage:
"At the North Pole, 24 time zones collide at a single point, rendering them meaningless. It’s simultaneously all of Earth’s time zones and none of them. There are no boundaries of any kind in this abyss, in part because there is no land and no people. The sun rises and sets just once per year, so “time of day” is irrelevant as well."
While the article is worth a read, the message of timelessness resonates in these times. Things are moving just a little slower, more deliberately—just like at the North Pole, time is irrelevant. We humans seem uncomfortable with timelessness. We find comfort and purpose in establishing boundaries and in establishing categorizing all things in nature, not just time. Since the time of Aristotle’s 10 categories (and probably even earlier), we have been establishing categories and rules. Even in isolation we need these boundaries and rhythms—still getting up on time, eating at set times, exercising at regular intervals. But we also must strive not to run from timelessness, but to embrace it in nature and in moments of solitude, with “no boundaries of any kind.”
Another thing we will no doubt find a challenge is the desire for purpose. At times during this isolation, some of us may feel less than fulfilled and struggling for meaning. I don’t know about you, but I find myself positively gleeful when someone emails that there is a conference call being scheduled. The anticipation of that call is an endorphin thrill (okay, yes, I know that I’m Type A and need to talk to professionals about this). Increasingly, we will have to find purpose and meaning in books, activities, music, nature, and those whom we love.
Apologies to Eddie Murphy
I have received a fair bit of commentary on my list of great comedies of the modern era. Mark Shpall was quite helpful in jogging my memory (he is Head of de Toledo High School, a job that apparently requires viewing endless juvenile comedies). Here are a few classics inadvertently left off yesterday’s list, as suggested by Mark, Chris Maling and myself, by category:
Eddie Murphy. Coming to America and Trading Places
Christopher Guest. This is Spinal Tap, Best in Show, and For Your Consideration (who doesn’t love the movie-within-the movie, “Home for Purim”?)
Mel Brooks. History of the World, Part 1 and Young Frankenstein. Sadly, some of Mel’s works do not really stand the test of time (e.g., Blazing Saddles)
School Days. Old School and Back to School (missing Rodney Dangerfield)
Swingers. How did I forget?
Chris Maling Fave. In addition to the above, he suggests (although I question) Throw Mama From the Train
Great TV Binge Viewing
Thank you, Dana Gordon, for reminding me of the guilty pleasures of the TV series, Schitt’s Creek. In a sense it is a story of isolation—a wealthy family fallen on hard times that is forced to live in small town America, leaving behind all the trappings of civilization as they understood it. Besides starring the incomparable due of Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara from all the Christopher Guest movies (see above), it is a delightful spin on family dynamics, small town America, acceptance of diversity, and just plain fun. The last episode of the penultimate season, the local staging of Cabaret, is classic. It’s great for casual watching while in the gym. The NY Times loved it.
Thank you, Mike Sfregola, for turning me on to Occupation, the first show I’ve watched in Norwegian (thank goodness for the English subtitles—it would be hell to have to hire a translator). It is the story of the “soft occupation” of Norway by Russia, to secure Norway’s oil production. It has all the political intrigue and spy versus spy excitement you would expect. The first two seasons are great. The third…I’ll let you know if I ever finish it. Sometimes less is more…
Ron Stern recommends Money Heist. I watched some but really couldn’t get into it. Based on opinions I’ve heard, I’m in the minority.
Manhattan Beach, by Jennifer Egan, is a treasure. You won’t regret reading this novel. A story of female empowerment, crime in 30’s New York, the effects of World War II—beautifully written. I just finished The King at the End of the World. It’s great historical fiction about a doctor to the Ottoman Sultan in the late 16th century, who travels with the ambassador to the court of Elizabeth and gets entangled in the intrigues of Elizabethan England and the religious issues surrounding the potential (and ultimately successful) ascension of James VI of Scotland to the throne.
Thanks to Jeff Grant, who suggests that we try to exclude apocalyptic/dystopian novels, arguing for nothing more traumatic than Anne of Green Gables. He also suggests copious doses of Macallan’s. Since he’s a doctor, perhaps we should listen!
News from the Sonnenberg Compound
The last person I hugged was Jake back on Sunday after the LA Marathon (seems like years ago). For those wondering, it was Jake and not I who was competing! So I’m nine days in after that. And I’m now six days “clean” since my last meaningful personal interaction, when I played golf with Ben Resnick on Wednesday. There was no touching. Thankfully Ben passed on his usual full-on hug and hardy kiss when he sank his birdie putt.
Lauren is still staying in the guest house (as we euphemistically refer to the room above the garage, as yet un-remodeled and complete with a semi-functional bathroom). In an act of mercy to the displaced, we also have surrendered the living room to her, so she has a little more room to spread out. She is busily writing for Cheddar (her work day begins at 5:00 a.m. PDT). Our isolation from each other will end soon.
I hope you’re counting your days of isolation with the same anticipation as I am. That said, changes in behavior likely will follow us through the rest of the year. I think that if the President says we’re going to have to live with social distance through July, it’s a good bet to last even longer. We can only soldier on!
Okay, so I’m a Luddite—and Errata
Lauren tells me my reference to iTunes yesterday was much like referring to the Dewey Decimal System or the Sears Catalog, urging me to “get with the times.” I take it she means the physical copy of the New York Times that I read every day. I’m a dinosaur. Mea culpa.
Thanks, Richard Sandler, pointing out that “Send in the Clowns,” is from A Little Night Music (not Follies, as I reported). Richard, you continue to make me better! And for those reading carefully like Richard, we are not regulated to waiting. We are relegated to doing so.
This Should Be a Group Enterprise
Thank you for all the kind notes. And for those of you who have asked me to add friends and family, I have done so.
More importantly, it has been wonderful to receive suggestions from many of you about books, movies and musings. I will try to include many of these in coming days. Please keep them coming!
If you have articles, graphs, ideas on what to do in these times, please also send them on and I’ll try to include them in future musings.
Importantly, I am going to include ideas on helping those in need this Thursday or Friday. If you have suggestions about food banks and organizations that can use our help, please send them on.
And as Steve Fishman has pointed out, amidst all the shortages we may experience, I’m guessing this is something we needn’t worry about:
One last funny:
"My wife has always been at the forefront of medical epidemiology. She started practicing social distancing with me about 20 years ago."
Remember that all this soap and Purel will dry out your hands. Don’t forget to moisturize!