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  • Glenn Sonnenberg

Musings from the Bunker 4/20/20

Good morning,

First things first—HAPPY ANNIVERSARY to my smart, beautiful, talented, generous, patient bride of 29 years! I never posted a birthday or anniversary notice (or anything personal, for that matter) on social media. But desperate times call for desperate measures and I’m pretty sure Mark Zuckerberg and his minions aren’t watching, So I think I’m safe.

If there is one thing that proves Andrea’s perseverance is that, while you’ve only had to deal with these musings for 38 days, she’s had to deal with the random thoughts bouncing around in my head (which are shared, whether she wants to hear them or not) for many years…

The above picture reminds me that it was a great (albeit abbreviated) ski season this year. Looking forward to the next one…



I think it important to remind ourselves that most of those reading this are blessed with comfortable homes, adequate savings, and an abundance of food, clothing, space and hobbies. Many also have the benefit of a spouse or significant other and many also have the unexpected pleasure of adult children spending time with them.

In addition to these blessings, many of us are saving money on some of our regular indulgences:

  • Eating out. For many of us, particularly the “empty nesters,” we are eating at home more, saving the cost of eating out several times a week.

  • Barbers/hair stylists. We’re all learning the rudiments of personal hair care. Whether it’s learning to snip around the ears or apply coloring manually, it’s a helluva lot cheaper than employing the services of a stylist.

  • Gas and maintenance. Think of all the gallons and gallons of gas we’re not consuming.

  • Dry cleaning and laundry. Given that we’re not going to the office and don’t need multiple changes of clothes that require cleaning, we are saving on that.

  • Green and cart fees. For those of us who enjoy the pleasures of the greatest game, we’re definitely saving money on golf.

  • Gardeners, pool cleaners, housekeeping. All of these services have been decreased or eliminated.

That’s a partial list of the savings inuring to our benefit during this period. Oddly, for many of us, life is less expensive now than before the crisis. And while that’s great, remember that someone whom we previously paid to provide these services is suffering a loss of earnings. These are people who want to work and whose livelihood is at risk. I think those of us with means should be reaching out to these people—and others—to help them through our collective challenge. It is unfair that, while this pandemic affects us all, it affects some profoundly. And we can do something about it. Okay, end of sermon.



I offer two unrelated books, whose recommenders (Scrap Marshall and Peter Bain) are eclectic readers, whose thoughtful reviews are included:

  • Evicted - Poverty and Profit In the American City, by Matthew Desmond. A disturbing and extraordinary piece of work that marries field research and academic rigor with insightful observation. Here Dr. Matthew Desmond, a sociologist and ethnographer, exposes the facets - indeed mechanisms - of the housing crisis in the US and the social and economic impact it has on a whole swath of society . Having been born into poverty, his academic research is obviously personal but exhaustive and unbiased, and as part of the research lives for several years in some of the most squalid conditions in Milwaukee. There he meets and tries to understand the people and families stuck in systems of poverty beyond their control. Pulitzer and MacArthur ‘Genius’ Prize Winner. (SM)

  • Founding Brothers, by Joseph Ellis. A nice blending of history and biography, a great study of how we came to be. As an aside, I think we may look back on the first two decades of the 21st century as a bit of a golden era for fans of historians of American culture. Interesting, and perhaps ironic, as the last two decades have seen a concerted focus in the academy to tear down American mythology and recast us as a racist, classist, misogynist, genocidal, imperialist, exploitive oppressor (not that there isn’t important truth to that, warranting recognition and reckoning). Yet throughout this period, we have been blessed with Doris Kearns Goodwin, David McCullough, Michael Beschloss, Jon Meacham, Joseph Ellis, Edmund Morris, Robert Caro, Walter Isaacson, Ron Chernow, and others. They have all added mightily to the canon of American history and cultural understanding. It warrants our taking a moment to pause and recognize this (which this time undoubtedly provides). (PB)

As to Peter’s observations in reviewing this thoughtful book, he is right the teaching of American history has moved from the “Abe Lincoln could never tell a lie” and the “winning of the West” version to a revisionist reconsideration of the negative aspects of our history (e.g., slavery, Jim Crow, the forced removal of indigenous populations). Some would suggest that we now focus too much on the negative, without recalling America’s revolutionary enlightenment ideals and its successes in reaching toward those goals. America and the form of government established by those whom Ellis writes about, flawed as they may be, have been an aspirational model for generations of people around the world. Both of these ideas can coexist in our minds simultaneously—an America conceived in greatness and an America often falling short of that greatness—but trying.



A couple of folks suggested the 1973 Soylent Green as an excellent post-apocalyptic movie. The film was set in 2022, in a world of food shortages, humidity and euthanasia, all brought about by the effects of greenhouse gases. While we are living through a different crisis, the environmental catastrophe posited 47 years ago remains a threat today.

Some may recall that when Edward G. Robinson’s character is ushered out of life to nature scenes and beautiful music, that music was Beethoven’s Sixth. Here is the LA Philharmonic performing the first movement of this triumphant symphony: It’s 11 minutes long—whether you love classical music, prefer picking out themes you heard in classic cartoons, or just like the background music, it’s worth the investment.



Today is the 40th full day of our “bunkering.” As I think about all those days and the days to come, I am reminded of the positive attitude of Ralph Waldo Emerson, who suggests beginning each new day refreshed and renewed:

“Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.”

Have a great week,


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