- Glenn Sonnenberg
Musings from the Bunker 4/7/20
Greetings, Happy Tuesday and Happy Musings #25
It’s hard to view something so new and still evolving is celebrating any sort of milestone. And yet, here we are with the 25th edition of Musings from the Bunker. In celebration of this auspicious occasion, I thought that, in addition to my usual pithy commentary, I’d share my favorites from the first 24 editions. I hope you’ll enjoy these—
A FEW PRELIMINARY THOUGHTS
First, I feel like at this marker I should share a few thoughts:
My apologies if my tone comes off preachy. That is not my intent. I’m not a rabbi, psychologist, or futurist. I’m just a guy, standing in front of a screen...with way too many things waiting to pour out of his head.
My apologies if I’ve been too political. I’ve tried not to report the news (AP and Reuters do just fine) and I try not to be too dogmatic (that’s why God invented politicians). When I step over that line, I try to be respectful, though sometimes it’s hard. In the end, however, I’m writing it, so I should be able to say it.
I hope you have had as much fun reading these (and hopefully following some of the suggestions for books, music, TV, distractions) as I have putting them together. It has been a particular pleasure to receive all the recommendations and jokes from all of you. I save these and try to sprinkle them in as we go.
Without a doubt, John, Paul, George and Ringo practicing appropriate physical distancing:
Although Sisyphus with the stone on his couch while in isolation is a close second…
I loved the Robbie Robertson/Ringo Starr worldwide rendition of “The Weight,” so much so that I sent it around twice. So I’ll pick this, also a favorite. This rendition of the Ode to Joy from Beethoven’s Ninth is stirring, particularly in that it comes from the living rooms of the Rottendam Philharmonic:
Fiction. A Gentleman in Moscow, by Amor Towles. Count Rostov is tried by the Bolsheviks and is ordered into exile in a luxury hotel. From this vantage point, he witnesses Russian history from a removed vantage point, interacts with great characters, finds “family.” It’s much more than that but I hear Jake in the back of my head admonishing me not to divulge too much…”let them read it for themselves.” If you haven’t read it, do so.
Non-Fiction. Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI, by David Grann, provides a vivid picture of native American life, the oil boom in the west, the abusive treatment of the Osage nation by profit seekers, a real crime thriller and a great history of how the FBI was founded. It was a National Book Award Finalist and on many “best books” lists for the year.
Biography. Master of the Senate, by Joseph Caro. While one could argue all the Lyndon Johnson biographies are part of a monumental work (and they are), this volume tops them all. These are the years when LBJ expanded the role of Majority Leader and took control of the Senate. He is simultaneously brilliant, ruthless, vulgar, strategic, manipulative, and driven. The book has the added benefit of telling the story of the Senate and its traditions with a clarity and style I haven’t seen in a political book before.
BEST THEATRE RECOMMENDATION
Sondheim. No contest (and see cartoon above). The greatest musical theatre talent ever (with apologies to Lerner & Loewe, Rogers & Hammerstein, et. al.). Company, A Little Night Music, Sweeney Todd. He did it all—an adaptation of Romeo & Juliet on the streets of Harlem (West Side Story), the legendary tale of the demon barber of Fleet Street (Sweeney Todd), a meditation of the joys and challenges of marriage (Company), the story of a stripper and her overbearing mother (Gypsy), a retelling and mixing of fairy tales (Into the Woods), a Seurat painting coming alive (Sunday In the Park with George) and on and on. Here is a sweet article about favorites from his canon:
Here’s a clip from the documentary on recording the cast album of Company, Dean Jones, singing “Being Alive.” It’s stirring. https://www.google.com/search?gs_ssp=eJzj4tVP1zc0TItPqbA0q0ozYPQSS0lNzFPIys9LLVZISs3MS1dIzMksSwUA818M7Q&q=dean+jones+being+alive&rlz=1C5CHFA_enUS738US738&oq=dean+jones+being+alive&aqs=chrome.1.69i57j46j0j69i61.5387j0j4&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8
And from The New York Times, What Are the Stephen Sondheim Songs Close to Your Heart?
BEST TV SHOW
Counterpart. What would it be like if thirty years ago, time was split into two timelines. You lived in one and a duplicate “you” lived in the other. Different things happen and different decisions are made. Then you get to meet. Add this to cold war politics, a spy adventure, and plenty of great acting.
BEST MOVIE RECOMMENDATION
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…” -https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=24qcCD2Cskg
And you will learn not to make critical mistakes - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3EkBuKQEkio
BEST SPOKEN WORD
Esteemed actor Patrick Stewart is reading Shakespeare’s sonnets—one a day! If you love the bard and you love the dulcet tones Captain Picard, tune in: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/patrick-stewart-shakespeare_n_5e79862ec5b63c3b64962d7c or if that link doesn’t work, use this and get to his twitter account: https://comicbook.com/startrek/2020/03/23/star-trek-patrick-stewart-shakespeare-sonnets-quarantine-coronav/
BEST SILLY ACTIVITY
The Getty challenge to recreate great works of art. The rules are pretty straightforward:
Choose your favorite artwork
Find three things lying around your house
Recreate the artwork with those items
Here is an article from CNN that shows some of the “better” examples of great art recreated from home: https://www.cnn.com/2020/03/28/us/getty-museum-recreate-artwork-coronavirus-trnd/index.html
This crazy History of Europe consists of a compilation of bad history written for college classes. This professor had too much time on his hands, and we are the better for it: https://www.wilsonquarterly.com/quarterly/winter-2014-four-decades-of-classic-essays/history-past-life-reeked-with-joy/
How can anything that begins:
“History, as we know, is always bias, because human beings have to be studied by other human beings, not by independent observers of another species”
Not be great! The ending is equally glorious:
“According to Fromm, individuation began historically in medieval times. This was a period of small childhood. There is increasing experience as adolescence experiences its life development. The last stage is us.”
Andrea Dodato’s “no excuses” workout:
BEST HUMOROUS CARTOON
Back to the regular Musings tomorrow.