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# 1 WATCHED: “CBS Sunday Morning” — It must be crazy hard to put together a news/variety TV program in the Time of Pandemic but CBS does a very good job with “Sunday Morning.”
They tend to interview a lot of celebrities, artists, and actors which is fine. That’s probably what people want to see on Sunday mornings with their coffee and bagels.
But they — like a lot of other TV shows — have got to stop asking these people how they are getting on. It is obvious when you look at their surroundings that they are doing just fine — though they all miss the attention. But the answers are the ones you’d expect from a working class family in a single-room walkup with no electricity: Stuff like “making do” and “hunkering down.”
Movie stars and rock stars should say something like, “How do you think I’m doing? I’m rich and I live in this giant fucking house on five acres with a fishing pond out back and a giant tv screen bigger than your living room. Ask me something that matters.”
#2 WALKING MEDITATION: I took a break from my virtual Camino walk to follow an actual walking meditation at Deer Park Monastery in Escondido, California. This sprawling complex in the scrub hills outside the city is part of the Thich Nhat Hahn community.
I would go there occasionally on Sunday mornings, especially if Thich Nhat Hahn was in town and delivering a dharma talk. It is a wonderful, warm, and welcoming place. My regret is that I never was able to join the monastery for a one-month silent work-retreat.
Watching the monks trod those familiar hillsides in real-time this morning was a homecoming of sorts and a lovely way to get in the day’s meditation.
A) “The Mission,” The New Yorker magazine, 4/13/20 A young white Christian girl is “called by God” to serve in Uganda where malnutrition is rampant. She forms an NGO to feed kids and hires doctors and nurses to tend to these often near-death kids. She makes bureaucratic mistakes along the way and some children die despite very good care. Many more live and are sent home.
Government doctors and nurses who work with the NGO and send kids there for treatment extoll the work being done.
But success breeds resentment and Internet trolls and pretty soon Renee Bach is being pilloried and a new group called No White Saviors takes aim at Bach. Soon, two women who lost children sue and claim Bach was pretending to be a doctor — something an independent investigation says was unfounded.
Bureaucrats step in and in the course of closing down the operation, much to the dismay of the medical/health community, some young lives were lost in the process.
Naturally, global media ran with the quick and easy story and Bach was crucified, forced to flee Uganda to save her life and those of her two children. Writer Ariel Levy does an incredible investigative job. Like many stories of this type, there is more than one side and some facts are as shifty as quicksand. Superb journalism in the end.
B) “The Man Who Runs 365 Marathons a Year” Outdoor magazine, April 29, 2020, by Stephanie Pearson — Since early high school days, Michael Shattuck was a party animal, no other way to put it. He smoked, he doped, he drank — and he also ran but not enough obviously.
It took nearly being killed by a drugged-up pal and seeing an old high school chum die of alcohol poisoning to shock Shattuck into change — that, and a couple of inspirational podcasts by former Navy SEALS.
Shattuck also discovered it wasn’t depression he was running from, it was a bipolar disorder. (Think Carrie on “Homeland” without her meds.) Meds helped but Shattuck decided to go it alone — nutrition, marathon runs, ultra-marathon runs, and Navy SEAL “No Quit” grit.
He decided to run a marathon a day FOR THE REST OF HIS LIFE — in Wisconsin, which gives winters their bad reputation.
He made it to 423 days — 423 marathons — before his body gave out. But he’s not done. On May 19 he will start up again and has lowered his goal to 2,103 days of consecutive marathons.
#4 HEY, RED!: It seemed like a good idea at the time: Spend part of the afternoon up on the rooftop terrace, basking in the sun, soaking up all the good Vitamin D. How hot can it be?
Ask my sunburn. I feel like a rookie sunbather. After 30 years in San Diego and five in Belize, you’d think I’d remember a thing or two about the potency of the sun.
If you see me on the street, DO NOT slap me on the shoulder or I will punch you. Yes, it is that bad.
#5: FACE-TIME FROLICS: Tonight was the first meetup of my siblings, their spouses, and a bunch of nieces and nephews — on ZOOM. Six of my brothers and my sister made it. One brother didn’t, the same one that usually doesn’t but, yes, we all love him just the same.
Because my connection was pretty weak, the family was spared my peculiar brand of humor, quips, smart-ass comments, and really clever asides. But I could hear them all well enough and it was a joy to just listen in.
ZOOM without a voice is like looking into a fish tank filled with colorful creatures zooming in and out of view. So relaxing and meditative that I really didn’t have to hear what anyone was saying. It was enough to see so many smiles, laughs, nodding heads, and the long-distance interactions of a loving family.
All are doing well enough in the Age of Pandemic and some are being freed from home sequestration on Monday. Others have no interest in heading out until doctors, scientists, and medical researchers give a green light.
“Live by the politicians, die by the politicians,” I want to say as a warning but all I could do is nod grimly. I love ’em all and wish them well.
I had much better luck on Saturday when my son Ryan celebrated his birthday! We used FaceTime and Ryan and my grandson Augie, the happiest child on Earth, came in loud and clear.
#6 KILLING THEM SOFTLY: “The Music of the Beatles” News York Review of Books, by Ned Rorem 1/18/1968. If I were teaching a journalism class, this essay would be a must-read for all students. Rorem’s acidy prose spurts ever upward in a pyrotechnic display of his own vast knowledge of ancient, avantgarde, and obscure musicians and, while it sounds like he is placing the Beatles in the pantheon of the greats, he’s really calling them commonplace shite.
And most of their pop and rock contemporaries, of whom the Beatles are the very best f a very sorry lot.
You might expect as much from a high-brow culture mag, especially in 1968. The Beatles were doing things (“Rubber Soul,” “Revolver,” “Sgt. Pepper”) nobody really understood at the time.
But Rorem, a composer and critic, “praises” the Fab4 with back-handed finesse. Before even mentioning the Beatles, Rorem presides over an orgy of name-dropping — some of whom even lived in the same century as the Beatles. Many of whom are longer remembered, as Beatle songs keep playing on and on.
I don’t know how a man could write so much while holding his crotch with one hand and his nose with the other. It is a talent. I’ll give Rorem that.
In his private life, Rorem took pleasure in screwing the likes of Leonard Bernstein, Noel Coward, and John Cheever. I guess this essay was the next best thing an aging rake like Rorem could do to getting the lads in the sack.
A stunning piece of work, worthy of dissection — like any ripe cadaver.