October 22, 2020

“The Social Dilemma” – A Must-See Doc on Netflix

Two different people urged me to catch “The Social Dilemma,” an informative and frightening documentary on Netflix. Following their advice, I spent around 90 minutes watching social media insiders warn about the pernicious effects of our electronic devices.

High-level executives from Instagram, Google, Pinterest and other tech companies seemed almost apologetic that they have helped unleash this beast that consumes our time and our brains.

Dramatic scenes are interspersed with talking head confessions. We are told that Silicon Valley moguls discourage their own children from using the apps and hardware from which they derive profit. FaceBook and ilk are highly addictive and encourage people to become myopic in their view of the world. You are only shown material which coincides with what you have already viewed. This selective sharing of information partially explains why we are so divided in our view of truth and governmental policy.

I can’t say this film will be a fun ride, but you will certainly be better informed after catching “The Social Dilemma.” If you feel similarly enlightened after viewing the doc, please spread the word. This might be essential to watch before the election.

“The Vote” on PBS

As a country, we are marking the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution that gave women the right to vote in the 1920 elections.

If you want to learn more about this historic anniversary from the comforts of home, “American Experience” on PBS is featuring a fine documentary, “The Vote,” about the suffragettes and their march toward becoming voting members of our democracy. The show’s tag line provides the theme —“Women were not given the vote. They took it.”

“The Vote” painfully describes the initial coalition and ensuing separation of African-Americans and women to both be awarded the vote after the Civil War. Women were told they had to wait and 43 years elapsed before they were nationally accorded voting rights.

I learned that the Illinois delegation in the Washington, D.C. Women’s March shamefully bowed to racial pressure and denied Ida B. Wells and her group the right to march with white women from “the land of Lincoln.”

Archival photos and film footage are punctuated with short interviews with current-day writers and historians. This is timely information as we examine issues of equality in race, gender and economic status.

The almost four-hour series is separated into Part One and Part Two. Viewing is free now, so catch the programs before they revert to the paid membership catalogue. With that said, a paid Passport membership would not be a waste of money.

The Wall Street Journal: print version

You know those come-ons you receive in the mail where you can use airline miles to subscribe to printed newspapers and magazines? I am not going anywhere for quite some time, so I used my unused miles for a magazine and a newspaper.

I now have a daily delivered subscription to the Wall Street Journal. One friend quipped that I did not seem like the WSJ type. It has been years since I read a “paper” newspaper and I must say that this old world habit is rather nice.

Daily editions feature general news, business and finance sections. Let me confess: I skim the business section, but avidly read the hard news. The opinion pages have a conservative slant (Fox TV owner Rupert Murdoch owns the WSJ) so I read editorials with an open mind, yet skeptical eye.

Other featured sections throughout the week include Mansion, a Friday real estate round-up of extremely upscale properties and Marketplace, coverage of technology, health and media business news.

On Saturdays, the WSJ includes sections called OffDuty and Reviews plus a cultural magazine which just might become must-reading for me. “Inside Frank Sinatra’s Personal Address Book” and “In Images of Ancient Frescoes, Hidden Legacies Are Exposed” were just two of last Saturday’s intriguing articles.

https://www.wsj.com/news/magazine

The WSJ discontinued Sunday editions in 2015, so I just may have to re-subscribe to The New York Times, Sunday edition if this resumption of a paper news habit sticks!

Genius & Anxiety by Norman Lebrecht

This has certainly been a time for book-lovers to get immersed in history and large novels. While some book reviewers have suggested picking up War and Peace or One Hundred Years of Solitude, I chose books to learn more about Jewish and Irish history.

Norman Lebrecht has written a jam-packed history book entitled Genius & Anxiety – How Jews Changed the World, 1847 – 1947. Freud influenced how we view sex and psychology. Einstein pioneered concepts of time and physics. Marx mapped out the elements of communism versus capitalism. Kafka and Proust changed how we view literature. Sarah Bernhardt revolutionized acting and celebrity.

Less well-known people also contributed to our modern world. Karl Landsteiner helped make blood transfusions and major surgery a reality. Paul Ehrlich helped formulate chemotherapy. Rosalind Franklin paved the way for genetic science. Siegfried Marcus may have created the first motor car.

Lebrecht frequently writes about music so there is ample mention of seminal composers like Mendelssohn in the 19th century and Kurt Weill and Leonard Bernstein in the 20th. He highlights Korngold and Eisler on the West coast and Leonard Bernstein in the east. In truth, what would Hollywood or Broadway look and sound like without Jewish creativity? Name three famous American composers and one reels off George Gershwin, Aaron Copland and Bernstein.

The book’s brilliance is particularly in Lebrecht’s description of what was happening in the world as he profiles these creative people. Industrialization, the World Wars, the Russian Revolution, the rise of the Nazis, the McCarthy era, the creation of the state of Israel, all figure into this expansive canvas. Lebrecht does not argue that Jews are genetically smarter and more talented than others but that they have a strong tradition of culture and education. Historically being outsiders may have also caused them to think “out of the box” and push new ideas in everything from science, politics, business and the arts.

Genius & Anxiety is the type of book you could either absorbingly read cover to cover, or skip around in, according to your tastes.

Andrew Cuomo’s Daily Address on YouTube

If you want to feel informed and inspired, catch some of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s daily public addresses. Bear in mind, the state of New York is a few weeks ahead of much of the country in the pandemic curve so their experiences may be predictive for other states with densely populated areas.

I find that a laptop or tablet allows you to exercise or do household tasks while you listen/watch to these broadcasts.

Today’s Friday, May 8, 2020 program was especially informative. COVID-19 most likely came to New York much earlier than we thought through Europe and not China. Fake news? Cuomo endeavors to use hard data and advice from medical and science professionals.

May 8, 2020 broadcast:

Governmental Gratitude

After seeing CNN journalist Anderson Cooper’s interview with Carolyn Goodman, mayor of Las Vegas, I am even more appreciative of Chicago’s capable mayor, Lori Lightfoot.

I am also grateful for reasonable governors, such as J. B. Pritzker of Illinois and Andrew Cuomo of New York State, who give me equal measures of truth and hope.

Let me express particular gratitude to Rep. Jan Schakowsky (Illinois) for her informative constituent emails and her responsive staff members.

Likewise, kudos to Republican governors Larry Hogan (Maryland) and Mike DeWine (Ohio) who have bucked their party line and continue to keep non-essential businesses shuttered.

My admiration also for Sen. Mitt Romney, who having tested negative for COVID-19, nonetheless put himself in self-quarantine for two weeks after being in contact with Sen. Rand Paul (Kentucky) who had tested positive for the coronavirus.

As a musician who thrives on live performances, no one could want the economy to open back up more than me – but not at the expense of countless lives exposed to this dreaded virus.