Yes is the Answer

I’ve known this to be true for some time, and yet this article feels like a terrific reminder: negativity is physically and emotionally bad for you. Quantitatively and qualitatively, proven over and over again. “Positive words and thoughts propel the motivational centers of the brain into action and help us build resilience when we are faced with problems.” Yes is the best!

The Older (Not) Worker

This article in the NYTimes points, again, to the increasing difficulty older people are having as they strive to work to a later age. The alternatives, once you have lost your job, do not bode well for a comfortable retirement.

What We Watched July and August 2020

Mr Jones (iTunes)
Linda’s recommendation: Yes
A beautifully filmed work with elements of film noir and magical realism. This film tells the true story of Gareth Jones, a journalist who first reported on the devastating Holodomor famine in the Ukraine in the 1930’s. This is the kind of serious film that drives you to look up a lot of interesting facts on Wikipedia later, like what Holodomor means, and whether the New York Times was found to be complicit in this cover-up. Definitely not a rom-com or a date night movie. Smart and serious.

The Appalachian Trail – A Journey of the Soul (Outdoor Adventures on YouTube)
Linda’s recommendation: Not what I thought it might be
A nice “home movie” about hiking the AT. One man’s view. Uneven, with too much detail in some places and not enough information in others. Food trucks on the trail? Shocking!

The Bureau (SundanceNow)
Linda’s recommendation: Definite yes
When you hear the word taut, this is what they mean. Five seasons of perfection – a smart, complex, psychological drama, well acted, at an extraordinary pace.  So packed that it was not bingeable; I needed to digest every episode.

Nixon
Linda’s recommendation: Yes
An overwrought Oliver Stone film that is highly relevant for our times. What could he have been with a little love?

Greyhound (a Tom Hanks project for Apple TV)
Linda’s recommendation: Numbing
All action, no story – you can’t really care about the characters because you don’t know them at all. Also, poor sound mixing. Not watchable without subtitles. 

First Cow (iTunes)
Linda’s recommendation: Different, enjoyable
“The bird a nest, the spider a web, man friendship.” This is a beautiful, small, and very slow ode to friendship. I really liked it, but it is a small movie to the point of micronization, so maybe not everyone’s cup of tea.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (directed by David Fincher)
Linda’s recommendation: Yes
A very long romantic and mystical film (in which New Orleans is one of the characters), ultimately about love. A three hour story, winding and slow, but very watchable.

The Social Network (directed by David Fincher, screenplay by Aaron Sorkin)
Linda’s recommendation: Great if you haven’t seen it before
I loved this on my first viewing a few years ago, but I didn’t think it aged well. Facebook is a different beast now. Jesse Eisenberg, however, was perfect as Zuck. 

Retired in the Country

Some people want to move to the country after they retire. I think that many of these folks may be operating under some illusions about this lifestyle. Let me share how I have experienced these myths; perhaps it will save you some grief.

Myth 1: It’s quiet in the country
Could it get any noisier? Everyone is mowing, trimming, edging, sawing, welding, wood-splitting, and hammering with their big gas-fired lawn tools. We listen to the roosters sounding off early in the morning, the sound of tires on the newly asphalted road much of the night, and the dogs that everyone seems to own barking all night long. How many times have I been awakened by the screaming of some small animal just below my bedroom window, fighting off the owls or the coyotes?

Myth 2: It is healthy in the country
This is another big one. While there are some terrific organic farmers here, the homeowners that I know are very into landscaping by chemicals. They would rather dump a gallon of something labelled ‘Scott’s” or “Montsanto” than bend over to actually pull a weed. Fertilizing is another thing – enough with the 20-20-20 already. The worst offenders are usually the ones who continually declare their love for the land. And I think it goes without saying that we all drink well water.

Myth 3: I can dial into all my meetings remotely
Yeah, um, for those of you who are thinking you can a jump on the retirement lifestyle early, don’t count technology to help you. 10 Mps down, 0.872 Mps up isn’t even enough for one of us never mind two. And out here the utility companies just politely “put your name on the list” when you call to demand a greater share of access.

Myth 4: I will spend my days gardening, cooking exotic meals, or reading all those books I have saved up
Maybe. It’s more likely you will spend your time driving back and forth looking for ingredients (anyone know where I can find some fresh fennel?) or waiting for your daily Amazon order to arrive. Or waiting for vendors who promised to swing by, but are too busy to even prepare bids on smaller jobs.

Sure its beautiful sometimes, and the weather can be dramatic. But you might consider transitioning slowly, until you understand the real costs of giving up your urban or suburban lifestyle.

It’s your journey. Choose carefully.

An Ode to Insomnia

I recommend this poem by James Parker in the July/August 2020 issue of the Atlantic Monthly. The use of language is terrific; I love this line: The sea of anxiety loves a horizontal human; it pours over your toes and surges up you like a tide.

What We Watched May and June 2020

Still socially isolated, still watching 😊 You can see the quality slipping a bit as we try to accommodate several generations of viewers.

Fauda (Netflix, 3 seasons)
Linda’s recommendation: Made for tv binge-watching
I loved the actors and their energy, who make this series compulsively watchable. This series portrays the endless violence, testosterone, and horror of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, along with a river of grief, sadness, and cigarette smoke. The background to the series and the “filming of” story are also very interesting (no film for that, just via interviews on YouTube). The voice over for English version cannot compare to the original actors’ voices in Hebrew and Arabic. Highly recommended that you watch in Hebrew, with sub-titles.

Richard Jewel
Linda’s recommendation: Enjoyable
Directed by Clint Eastwood, this film is slow but very engaging. Builds to a satisfying conclusion.

Cooked (Amazon Prime)
Linda’s recommendation: Yes
A film about what the real natural disaster was following the heat event in Chicago in 1996. Bears on our current situation in 2020.

Knives Out
Linda’s recommendation: watch with your grandmother
Cute who-done-it; nothing special.

Locke
Linda’s recommendation: I didn’t get it
This very slow moving film is shot in a car at night, while a man drives and talks on the phone. I thought it had potential, but it never really developed.

Quiz Show
Linda’s recommendation: Just okay
Given the star power and topic of this film, it didn’t feel very dynamic. Hard to follow storyline, but some fine acting.

Paddington and Paddington II
Linda’s recommendation: Sweet, and reassuring in anxious times. For someone.
The second one has a perfect Rotten Tomatoes score, and a huge recommendation from the Slate Culture Gabfest crew. It was okay.

Ramy (Hulu, 2 seasons)
Linda’s recommendation: Interesting
I subscribed to Hulu specifically to watch this Bob Lefsetz recommendation, and while I’m glad to have learned some things about the modern Muslim experience in America, I was incredibly distracted by the immaturity, indecision, and generally lazy personality of the main character, Ramy.

Layers of Awakening

The insects are amassing on the other side of the screen.
Their wings brush out a call to action, a low drum beat.
The song dogs still sing at night, but now they sing of war.
The trees sigh their reluctant assent, weary of the heat.

103° in the arctic and the planet, our only gift, suffers from knowing us.
Cyclical spirals, layers of awakening, understanding is slow.
All sentient beings fear us. And we fear each other.
Our contribution has been ideas and inventions, of no use at all,
No improvements are possible when they are all brain, no heart or soul.
Most humans live so far from nature they do not see a thing amiss.
Our alignment to nature is not just off, it is gone entirely.

The otter and beaver are clear on their intent to join.
The red fox and wolf will march together, and the black bear is ready for the call.
The sand hill cranes will trumpet the first cry; while the eagles look out from on high.
Those who run, and those that fly, and even those who crawl.

Heat rises, thunderbolts ensue. Human privilege really was a thing.
You only feel the coming battles out here. The cities are numb, and ever dumb.
Humans fight each other there, based on the color of skin and bits of colored ribbon.
When I listen closely, I feel the gentle beat of all those wings.

Written by Linda Gottschalk during the last week of May 2020, a sad dark time

Charles Eisenstein

I first learned of Charles Eisenstein this week when I read his essay The Coronation. Since then, I have been doing a deep dive into his recent work. He is a thoughtful and articulate speaker, and I was particularly taken with his comments in a Rebel Wisdom interview on April 11, 2020 titled An Epidemic of Control. I made some notes on this interview – each one is something to think about – and I share them below.

Change happens through crisis – the breakdown of normal gives us the opportunity to see what we had been unconsciously choosing before. “To interrupt a habit is to make it visible; it is to turn it from a compulsion to a choice.”

Our reactions to coronavirus are all intensifications of trends that were well under way before coronavirus, including:
– the migration of social interactions online
– online commerce
– a regime of hygiene and fear of germs
– the movement of life to indoors (especially for kids)
– restriction of political freedom and censorship of information
– destruction of small businesses
– increasing medicalization of life

Is this how we want to live? Or would now be a good time to opt out of the “regime of control” that sets to control every variable in an effort to minimize risk (and forestall death)?

Charles uses the metaphor of intervention for an addict, to illustrate how we are addicted to control (controlling our pain, emotion, other people) through eating, pill-taking, war-making, and ultimately, totalitarianism. When it doesn’t work, we do more of it, and pay a greater and greater price (half of all Americans have some serious psychological disturbance). Coronavirus is our intervention, the interruption of the whole addictive system. For just a moment, we can see clearly just how estranged we are from the lives we could be living.

Instead, we aren’t healthy, we don’t feel secure, our lifespan is declining, and we don’t trust anyone or any information. Corona virus is not going to save us, it is just going to make our choice starkly apparent.

It’s the governing stories of our civilization that prepare us to go along with the psychopaths in power – primarily the stories of separation and control. What is the story we want to tell ourselves? What are the values we want to actually live?

And importantly, are we ready for the death of the old system? Are we ready to let go of comfort and familiarity? Am I willing to do things differently? (Am I ready to let go of ordering supplements?)

This is the time for righteous anger – the authorities have redirected our anger onto false targets and false solutions over and over. We could be living in a beautiful abundant world right now. There is enough for everyone. Instead we are living in a society of intensifying artificial scarcity.

Targeting our righteous anger won’t fix the problem; scapegoating is a diversion. People who look like the perpetrators are just functionaries, playing a necessary role. Compassion and forgiveness are demanded, and they are not the opposite of anger.

“You aren’t going to outgun the military-industrial complex. You have to rely on a change of heart.”

We aren’t going to survive life. A brush with death can resurrect the meaningful questions … why am I here?

What we watched April 2020

I never expected to have this much time to watch stories on-screen, but it’s coronavirus social isolation time in Michigan, and time is mostly available!

Giri/ Haji (Duty/Shame)
Linda’s recommendation: Watch if you like the avant garde
I really enjoyed this series. Set in Tokyo and London, it follows a detective from Tokyo searching for his brother in London, and the assorted cast of characters he meets. I especially liked how the director was unafraid to frame shots, and even film long sequences, differently. The pace was slower which I appreciated in a story like this with lots of characters and tangled storylines. And the casting of Charlie Creed-Miles as Abbott, the impatient, tattooed hoodlum is just genius.

Kingpin
Linda’s recommendation: Not my style
This is the goofiest film I have seen in years, with moments of crass and touches of genius. With this movie, one of my many movie guidelines has fallen and one still stands. “Films with Bill Murray do not appeal to me.” That remains true. “I like any film with Woody Harrelson in it.” Cannot really say this with 100% certainty now. (Also the credits have Woody Harrelson’s name misspelled?!?!)

Three Identical Strangers 
Linda’s recommendation: interesting and worth watching. 
This 90 minute documentary is carefully constructed to not reveal all its secrets right at the beginning. Looks at the question of nature versus nurture in the raising of children.

Unorthodox (Netflix)
Linda’s recommendation: interesting and worth watching
This 4-part series is about a woman breaking free from her orthodox Jewish community, and fleeing from Brooklyn to Berlin. The star, Shira Haas, is mesmerizing- it’s impossible to look away when she is on the screen. (The “Making of” video is also good.)

Bosch (Season 6)
Linda’s recommendation: Always
This series, on Amazon Prime, has been consistently enjoyable. I like the use of older actors in the show, and the collective experience of the ensemble really adds polish to the show. The 10 episodes of Season 6 went by very quickly.

Get Low
Linda’s Recommendation: Yes
Robert Duvall is Felix Bush as well as the executive producer on this film that was satisfying on many levels. This film is not complex, all the questions posed are answered, and it’s not very sexy; it is just one of those small films that are a treasure.