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  • Glenn Sonnenberg

Musings from the Bunker 3/19/20


Happy Thursday!

Let me begin today by thanking YOU. I cannot describe how much many of you have filled my heart with joy with your comments, suggestions, corrections, and appreciations. It makes this all worthwhile and serves to connect me to many of you. One of the best comments sent so far (of many heartfelt and witty comments to choose from) has to be:

“Enjoying these very much, and I prefer to think of you down in a real bunker, a secure, undisclosed location with a single bulb hanging from a concrete ceiling, worthy of Churchill’s War Rooms!”


What’s Wrong with Me…?

I’ve gotten a few comments about what’s keeping me going, what time to I actually get up (yes, early), and what sort of deep-seated (and twisted) need to stay busy motivates me to do this. The fact is that I have always toyed with the idea of writing a column and this seemed like the right time. Besides it is gratifying to provide entertainment/information/diversion to friends and act as something of a connector in tough times.


Virtual Get Togethers

Speaking of connections, this Tuesday evening marked a milestone—my first after work virtual cocktail with a friend on Facetime. Thank you, Mark Greenfield, for making this happen. And thank you, also, for clarifying that we should not call it “social distancing” and instead refer to it as “physical distancing”—reminding us that we need not separate socially in these critical times.

To that point, tonight I’m going to a Virtual Cocktail Party on Zoom with some friends. The organizer suggests that we “party like it’s 1348!” I imagine there will be similar “gatherings,” binding us together in new and novel ways. I’m game for anyone who wants to pour themselves a glass of wine and shoot the breeze together!

In the meantime, it’s clear that all the “Nighthawks” are home at Virtual Cocktail Parties right now, reading these musings:


Soap or Sanitizer?

Thanks, Adam Torson (teacher and head of the debate program at the Marlborough School, nationally renowned debate maven, and distributor of the “Quotation of the Day”) for reminding us that not all is as it appears to be and good old soap still does the trick:


Highlight on Short Stories

In this era of short attention spans, I have found myself turning to short stories for brief reads that still offer food for thought. Perhaps an author’s idea isn’t capable of sustaining a novel-length story but is perfect for the level of depth a short story can provide. In some sense, a short story can be a “quick fix,” where the author gets to the point, explores the issue and gets to resolution (or lack thereof) quickly.

Recently I had the pleasure of reading Exhalation, ostensibly a compilation of short form science fiction, by Ted Chiang. But it is so much more. The stories are a contemplations of the human condition, our place in the universe, and “what ifs.” It was one of the New York Times’s 10 best books of the year and was on President Obama’s reading list. In a related vein, I still find Ray Bradbury’s stories (The Martian Chronicles, I Sing the Body Electric, etc.) to be marvelous diversions.

Another that is sitting on my bedside is How Long ‘til Black Future Month, by N.K. Jemison. Again science fiction; again, well reviewed. I’m also in the middle of Heathcliff, Redux, by a National Book Award winner and a quick read. Above average but not over-the-top fantastic.

If you have a favorite book of short stories, let me know; I’ll build a list for next week.


Greatest Movies Ever

Peter Bain, a former colleague of mine from Legg Mason days, suggests two movies worth another watch. Since I couldn’t agree with him more, here they are:

  • The Princess Bride. Do I really need to add anything here? “I don’t think that word means what you think it means...” Watch this to laugh and cry. You will tear up when the words “as you wish,” are uttered by Peter Falk (who went to Ossining High in New York and dated my mother). You will be moved each time Mandy Patinkin begins with “my name is Inigo Montoya…” And you will learn not to make critical mistakes

  • My Favorite Year. (This commentary is “all Peter”) This may require a bit of explanation. I don’t know that it is possible to be nostalgic for a period one did not experience. Having said that, there is a part of me that always wishes I could have lived in mid-50’s Manhattan. This movie is a completely over-the-top paean to the “golden age of television.” It spans one week during which an aspiring comedy writer working as a gopher on a live weekly comedy show (think Sid Caesar) is assigned to try to handle that week’s guest star, a fading British film star (a transcendent Peter O’Toole), who has a deep and meaningful relationship with the opposite sex and single malt. Throw in a mob boss, the young gopher’s Brooklyn family, the show’s writers, and O’Toole’s underlying pathos, and you have one of my favorite films.

Thank you, Lee Gordon, for reminding us of the truly fine Cedar Rapids, loaded with comedic stars and centered around a trade convention in the eponymous city and the crazy things that happen at and around that conference.

And then who could forget Lost in America, the Albert Brooks classic (amongst his many). His other great movies are Broadcast News, worth watching just to see his first, damp, on-camera experience in the newsroom, and Defending Your Life, with Meryl Streep.


Culture from your Couch

Thank you, Ed Nahmias, for again coming through with something special and beautiful that can be visited from the comfort of our own homes. It is the rare Broadway play that is filmed and archived. Yet there are great works available for your enjoyment (well, maybe not enjoyment in all cases—one of these, after all, is Cats). But here are the links, provided by Playbill:

Finding Inner Peace

Paul Brindley alerted me to the fact that a product called “Inner Peace” (whatever that is) is sold out at Erewhon Market. By the way, can someone explain how they managed to misspell “nowhere” backwards? Regardless, amid all this craziness in these challenging times, all the news and opinion, all the hyperbole and fear, hopefully we all can find some inner peace at our homes. As the Dalai Lama teaches:

“Do not let the behavior of others destroy your inner peace.”

Or as the Dude teaches:

“At least I’m housebroken.”

And remember that the Dude Abides!


Musings Housekeeping

Please keep sending ideas. If you send something, I’ll try to fit it in within a couple of days. If I miss attributing something, apologies to the contributor. Also:

  1. If you want the first five musings in Word form to forward to friends, e-mail me

  2. If you want to add someone, e-mail me

  3. Going to try to steer clear of politics and doom and gloom—Let’s collectively agree to work on positive thoughts, positive pursuits and positive ways to help!


Concluding Humor

People were overwhelmingly effusive on the George Carlin bit a few days ago; here’s one of his early bests, the Seven Dirty Words You Can’t Say on Television (still funny, still dirty). It really doesn’t get to the actual words until around half way in:

From Toby Waldorf, this is a great commentary on how everyday items have taken on greater value in the “new normal”:

Finally, in addition to the beauty of nature, the companionship of loved ones and you, and the presence of music, literature and entertainment, there is yet another essential of life:

Peet’s Coffee is providing free delivery if you want to stock up on coffee or tea.

Stay safe and positive.

With love and good wishes,


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