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  • Glenn Sonnenberg

Musings from the Bunker 4/6/20


Happy Monday!

While most of us are bunkered-up, working from home, and maintaining social distancing, nine states have yet to issue stay-at-home orders (although some cities in Utah and Oklahoma have issued such restrictions). The delays in the South and the Midwest are absurd and based in large measure on an unwillingness to act before the Federal government and/or for fear of upsetting the Governors’ base of support. Not only putting their citizens at risk, but the rest of the country as well.

 

THE HISTORICAL CONTEXT OF COVID-19 (PART I)

On a walk with Lauren the other day, we passed some kids playing in front of their house. Lauren remarked, “I wonder what they’ll say as adults. Will it be, ‘I lived through the pandemic but I only know what my parents told me’?” The conversation then turned to imagining what historians in the future will say about the history we currently are living and what her generation might take from the pandemic.

What will the focus be? Will it be on the many flaws in our preparedness for such events; or will be the manner in which non-profits, governments, corporate leaders and others mobilized to address the crisis; perhaps it will be the steadfast dedication to “winning the war” through domestic sacrifice (a la London during the Blitz); or maybe our inability to mobilize quickly; perhaps it will be the “Manhattan Project”-like global rush to find a vaccine; and perhaps it will be the myriad stories of heroism by first responders, medical professionals, and others.

It will be many years before historians have the luxury of reviewing the journalism, parsing the facts, analyzing the data and assessing the cost and ramifications of this event. Still we can ponder how will it compare to other events we have lived through.

Obsessive as I am about categorization and lists, I feel recent historic events can be broadly characterized as follows:

  • The first is singular events and their aftermath (e.g., the assassination of President Kennedy, the Manson Family murders, the Challenger disaster, the attacks of 9/11). They happen in a moment.

  • The second is events that stretch over some period of time (e.g, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the war in Vietnam, the S&L crisis, the Global Financial Crisis, the AIDS crisis).

  • But this feels like a third category—a category in which the history is lived, very personally, day to day, for some time. This is not to diminish the real personal crises of the various financial disasters, sacrifices in war, or losing battles to AIDS. It just seems this is such a ubiquitous collective crisis.

We thankfully have had few of these long-term major society-wide crises in our history. But each shaped the participants (to varying degree, based upon age and circumstance) in profound ways. One thinks of the Civil War era, which shaped our society—for good and ill—for generations. Another of course is the Great Depression. Those of us whose parents lived through the Great Depression could see how that experience molded them, from frugality, to delight in previous unaffordable or unavailable foods, to a conservatism prudence that, while it didn’t shun pleasure, certainly did not value it as highly as duty and responsibility. My grandfather (the proprietor of “Eddie’s Shell” on Route 9 in Croton) would tell stories of gas rationing during the Second World War, of my grandmother sewing bandages, and of ordinary citizens near the shore with binoculars, looking for signs of invasion. The point is that these events were wide-reaching and affected society and behaviors for years.

There are so many questions worth pondering. Will this continue to be a shared experience that we’re in together? Will it devolve further? Will there be civil unrest? How will society will change because of what we are living through? Will the responsibility we feel toward our gardeners, hair stylists, waitstaff, and others, blossom into a new shared community? Will small acts of kindness evolve into lives of kindness?

How we will change from the experience, and, perhaps most important, how the younger generations—the college kids forced back to the next and the kids playing in their front yards—will view this shared experience will forever alter our view of our place in the world. This is the past in which our children and our grandchildren are growing up.

 

I’M SO VERY CONCERNED FOR JARED

Poor Jared Kushner. Here we are concerned for those who contract this virus, when we need to be equally worried about the health of Jared. On the heels of managing relations with Mexico, China, with Iran, and his great success in generating the long-sought-after Middle East peace plan, now he has to take on the COVID-19 pandemic. He has tirelessly been offering his insightful and creative proposals in contradiction to those meddlesome scientists and doctors. He needs his rest—how much can be on one person’s plate all at once?!

 

NOT-SO-GREAT MOVIES

We’ve had a number of movie recommendations in the past few weeks, but there are those occasional clunkers (including some that others loved). Last week I mentioned I felt Cats (the much derided movie but much beloved stage production) was the most overrated play ever. But what about movies? First, of course, Cats rates highly (or lowly) in both the stage and screen categories for awfulness. Here are a few others that some people loved that make my head hurt just thinking about them:

  • St. Elmo’s Fire. The Big Chill was a great ensemble cast that lived through some pretty tough times (e.g., William Hurt’s character). St. Elmo’s Fire, of a slightly younger crew, was the story of a bunch of whining yuppies.

  • Titanic. Andrea was working at Paramount Pictures at the time. We went to the premiere. As the credits began to roll at the end, we turned to each other and remarked, “could we be the only people here who thought this was kitschy and awful?” Apparently. Besides a 103 year old’s suicide and no explanation for why Leonardi diCaprio’s character couldn’t fit on the obviously large enough piece of wood, it was predictably saccharine.

  • Avatar. Lots of blue people with tails lecturing us about protecting the planet.

  • Fast & Furious (all of them). All action; way too loud.

  • Spaceballs. Lacking the imagination, dialog and humor of Young Frankenstein. For slapstick, stick with Laurel & Hardy or the Marx Brothers.

  • Waterworld and The Postman. Kevin Costner probably has the greatest swing between great (Field of Dreams, the Untouchables, Bull Durham, and Silverado) and these two train wrecks.

For a truly amazing an memorable depiction of the making of the “worst movie ever,” check out The Disaster Artist. It is a great movie about the making of a terrible movie. It is riveting. Check out the trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cMKX2tE5Luk. And make sure to see the comparison of various scenes from this movie to the actual movie that are shown during the credits.

Please send in your suggestions for terrible cinema, for inclusion in a later Musing.

Have a great week,

Glenn

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