Musings from the Bunker 9/29/20
It’s hard to believe it’s been 200 days of Musings from the Bunker. The world of 200 days ago certainly looked different than it does today. And the Musings have changed a fair bit since this began. In the first Musing, I promised to keep politics to a minimum…yet I think I’ve been true to that goal, in that my focus has been not on politics but on the challenges to our elections, government and free society. I’m going to endeavor to reduce the intrusion of politics to no more than once a week (other than each Sunday’s “in his own words”).
As I’ve done at every 25 Musing mark, I’m presenting some of my favorite stuff—some new and some from prior Musings. I hope you enjoy them. People ask how long I can keep going on a daily basis (as some may recall, I said I was cutting back when I hit 100). I think I can hang on through the election, at a minimum. By my count, that’s Musing # 236. I’m guessing there will be fireworks after that, so maybe until the Electoral College meets in December!
BEST MEME OR CARTOON
From the New Yorker (of course…)
“There are two ways to be fooled
One to believe what isn’t true
The other is to refuse to believe what is true.”
BEST CLASSICAL MUSIC
I would argue Candide (“it’s the best of all possible worlds”) may be Leonard Bernstein’s greatest work. Here he is conducting the short Overture from Candide: https://www.kennedy-center.org/education/resources-for-educators/classroom-resources/media-and-interactives/media/opera/candide/
BEST POPULAR MUSIC
Here’s a great new socially distanced acoustic version of Brandy, sung by Elliot Lurie, the songwriter and lead singer, together with the Yonge Guns: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Acywr3k9lck
And…“Stuck in the Middle with You”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JKYiTg6_J-M, performed by Jimmy Fallon and the Roots.
A Voice from I Don’t Know Where
By Mary Oliver
It seems you love this world very much.
“Yes,” I said. “This beautiful world.”
And you don’t mind the mind, that keeps you
Busy all the time with its dark and bright wonderings?
“No, I’m quite used to it. Busy, busy,
all the time.”
And you don’t mind living with those questions,
I mean the hard ones, that no one can answer?
“Actually, they’re the most interesting.”
And you have a person in your life whose hand
you like to hold?
“Yes, I do.”
It must surely, then, be very happy down there
in your heart.
“Yes,” I said. “It is.”
Howard Rodman suggests The Sympathizer, by Viet Nguyen, winner of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize. His commentary: “It’s a spy novel and more—think Graham Greene—set among the Vietnamese diaspora in Southern California. Bitterly funny, deeply insightful, bleak.” I agree. I heard Mr. Nguyen speak. He is intelligent and witty and this book that tracks the stories of three Vietnamese young men caught on both sides during the war and their travels after the war is an excellent read.
BEST HISTORICAL FICTION
An Officer and a Spy. The story of the Dreyfus Affair, told in novel form. The interesting thing is that it’s told from the perspective of an army officer who risks everything to do what he thinks is right—proving an innocent man was framed and convicted. This is brilliant on so many levels, including the corruption of the French military establishment, the willingness of good men to allow an innocent man to be punished, the unwillingness of a system to admit its wrong, the stoic acceptance of his fate by Dreyfus, and what one good person with ideals can accomplish. A supporting character is, of course, the free press and Emile Zola, now of course viewed by some as the “enemy of the people.”
Team of Rivals, by Doris Kearns Goodwin. Several of you have recommended this book, subtitled “the Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln.” I enjoy Ms. Goodwin’s style and insights. The observation upon which this book revolves is the notion that Mr. Lincoln brought into his administration many of his rivals—not only for the Republican nomination but generally. He used the “best and the brightest,” utilized their strengths and advice and effectively neutered competition from within the party at a time when a unity government was most needed.
BEST FUN MOVIE
Actually three movies! Back to the Future, I, II and III—There are no better time travel movies and there arguably are no better movies. Everything—time travel with minimal internal inconsistency, humor, great acting, romance.
BEST DRAMATIC MOVIE
The movie 42. It is the story of the only player whose number has been retired by all the teams in major league baseball, Jackie Robinson. The movie tells the story of two heroes—Jackie Robinson and Branch Rickey. Branch Rickey was General Manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, the man who orchestrated Robinson’s hiring and acceptance by organized baseball and the public.
BEST SPORTS MOVIE
The Natural. Bernard Malamud, Robert Redford and Glenn Close—together! Okay, so maybe not the original ending from the book but wow. The lady in white and the lady in black. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J0lof7tFKtE. And here’s Redford pitching to “the Whacker” (presumably a barnstorming Babe Ruth), with Robert Duvall: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qdtCFKVtSls. This movie is as much about good and evil, temptation and choices as it is about baseball.
BEST CONTEMPLATION ON THE MEANING OF LIFE
Many might say “42,” which was the conclusion of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, but I like this from Robert Frost:
“In three words, I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life. It goes on. In all the confusions of today, with all our troubles . . . with politicians and people slinging the word fear around, all of us become discouraged . . . tempted to say this is the end, the finish. But life — it goes on. It always has. It always will. Don’t forget that.”
BEST “PICTURE IS WORTH 1000 WORDS”
The letter from Republican senators stating why they felt the Senate shouldn’t consider the Merrick Garland nomination to the Court:
CRAZIEST QUESTION TO ASK A TEENAGER
From the proposed California Ethnic Studies curriculum:
“Students will write a paper detailing certain events in American history that have led to Jewish and Irish Americans gaining racial privilege.”
FUNNY DEFENSES OF BAD GUYS, REAL AND FICTIONAL
This is passed on by Glenn Raines, from comedian Greg Larsen’s Twitter feed:
Buffalo ramming Tom Carter’s car in 2015. We went to college together; Tom is a former Yellowstone tour guide who wrote the book (literally) on Yellowstone trails: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=srLjIZK2y_8
SCARIEST FOLKS ON THE INTERNET
There are so many, including QAnon, which will have at least one sitting U.S. Representative in Congress in January. But these guys are up there: https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2020/07/american-boogaloo-meme-or-terrorist-movement/613843/. Some allegedly are trying to sell arms to Hamas to help support their movement here in the U.S. Can it get any stranger…or scarier? https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/salvadorhernandez/boogaloo-boys-charges-hamas
Mark Rothko, and I’ll explain why before #225!
Wishing you all happiness and joy amidst the disease, climate disasters, challenges to our democracy, and lunacy, because there also is love, beauty and decency,