What I’m Watching

Not counting the just completed Open Championship and the Tour de France, overlapping highlights of the sporting calendar that seriously taxed my DVR and remote control skills.

I’m deep into Shtisel on Netflix. I may as well be living in Jerusalem. The three season series was a huge hit among American Jews, but this gentile digs it too.

Tonight I watched Season 1, Episode 11 which is my favorite so far. The series beautifully depicts the costs and benefits of strict religious community. And also, the costs and benefits of extremely close families.

The slower pacing, the incredible background music, the covert sexuality all make for an incredibly unique and rewarding experience.

Unless you’re hopelessly modern, book your flight for Jerusalem soon, you won’t be disappointed.

The Biebs Ditches His Dreads

Before and after pictures and the story here.

The Bieb’s experience highlights how the lines between cultural appreciation and cultural appropriation can be blurry.

Here’s a helpful start in distinguishing between the two.

“Appreciation is when someone seeks to understand and learn about another culture in an effort to broaden their perspective and connect with others cross-culturally. Appropriation on the other hand, is simply taking one aspect of a culture that is not your own and using it for your own personal interest.”

The social media mob immediately decided Bieber was not broadening his perspective or connecting with others cross-culturally, instead he was using his dreads for his own personal interest.

However, even if that assumption was correct, a few minutes of research into the history of dreads would’ve muddied the water considerably:

“One account claims that dreadlocks originated in India (unlike most who cite Egypt as their birth place) with the dreadlocked diety Shiva and his followers. It is likely that this is the spirituality origin of dreadlocks in Indian culture. However, the first archeological proof of people wearing dreadlocks came from Egypt where mummies have been recovered with their dreadlocks still in tact.

Regardless of their origin, dreadlocks have been worn by nearly every culture at some point in time or another. Roman accounts stated that the Celts wore their hair ‘like snakes’. The Germanic tribes and Vikings were also known to wear their hair in dreadlocks. Dreadlocks have been worn by the monks of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, the Nazarites of Judiasm, Qalandri’s Sufi’s, the Sadhu’s of Hinduism, and the Dervishes of Islam, and many more! There are even strong suggestions that many early Christians wore dreadlocks; most notably Sampson who was said to have seven locks of hair which gave him his inhuman strength.”  Source.

Which makes me wonder, why didn’t JB try to enlighten the mob with a similarly brief history lesson? It’s too bad he opted for hair clippers instead of the teachable moment.

Maybe I should take the baton and grow some dreads. I’ll report on my progress same time next decade.

‘Stop, Drop, Shut’em Down, Open Up Shop’

The Good Wife has taken to teasing me about becoming a monarchist as a result of liking Netflix’s The Crown so much. If that was true, this remembrance would be about “Prince” Philip, not DMX who also died today at age 50 after suffering a heart attack two weeks ago.

Nice tribute from Otto Von Biz Markie @Passionweiss:

“RIP DMX. No one radiated more agony, pain, and atomic energy. The Cerberus from Yonkers, who suffered for all of our sins and his own. Maybe the rawest rapper of all-time, no pretense or frills, just pure adrenaline, lawless genius, and reckless abandon. The struggle incarnate.”

Nomadland Reconsidered

This Joshua Keating critique of Nomadland is excellent. He starts off praising it.

“The film Nomadland, which cemented its status as the front-runner for Best Picture with six Oscar nominations this week, includes unforgettable characters and images. It heralds the arrival of a major directing talent in Chloé Zhao, nominated for Best Director, and features yet another masterful turn from Frances McDormand, nominated for Best Actress. But for anyone who has read its source material, Jessica Bruder’s 2017 nonfiction book Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century, the film feels oddly incomplete. The filmmakers chose to jettison the book’s muckraking journalistic spirit and economic critique, ending up with a film that’s supposedly an examination of contemporary society, but feels politically inert.”

Lucid, critical, respectful, the phrases “oddly incomplete” and “politically inert” strike the perfect chord.

His main critique:

“These are people who are adamant that they are not victims, have chosen the lifestyle they lead of their own free will, and are grateful for the opportunities they get. This is admirable in some sense, but in the case of modern nomadism, it’s part of the problem. As Bruder’s reporting shows, one of the reasons companies like Amazon like to hire retirement-age “workampers” for physically demanding jobs that seem better suited for young bodies is that they “demand little in the way of benefits or protections. … Most expressed appreciation for whatever semblance of stability their short-term jobs offered.” The scrappy, no-complaints stoicism that makes these people appealing movie characters also makes them extremely exploitable.”

Keating convinces me that a very good film could’ve been even better.

Fake It, Til’ You Make It

I have a great appreciation for all types of music, but as my inability to comprehend entire swaths of this thorough and thoughtful obituary of former Met Opera maestro, James Levine illustrates, I have no feel for it. To be clear, I am about as non-musical as they come; well, except for my dad, for whom I have no memory of him ever listening to music.

Of Levine, Tommasini writes:

“His performances were clearheaded, rhythmically incisive without being hard-driven, and cogently structured, while still allowing melodic lines ample room to breathe.”

My thoughts exactly. No seriously, someone enlighten me, what on earth does that even mean? I may be clueless, but I know how to “borrow” from Tommasini to pretend to know way more than I actually do. Very shortly, when I return to the party circuit post-pan, I intend on asking this cogently structured question of other party goers, “Why, oh why do so many contemporary composers routinely suffocate melodic lines?” Of course, I’ll need you to throw me a life preserver as soon as any of my conversational partners reply.

With respect to this descriptive sentence, if I only was more familiar with Wagner (I deserve partial credit for at least knowing how to pronounce ‘Vaagnr’ correctly) and Mahler, meaning a little, I could follow Tommasini:

“Above all, Mr. Levine valued naturalness, with nothing sounding forced, whether a stormy outburst in a Wagner opera or a ruminative passage of a Mahler symphony.”

Here is faux-sophisticated music party line #2 I’m filing away. “I like how Levine valued naturalness, with nothing sounding forced, whether a stormy outburst in a Wagner opera or a ruminative passage of a Mahler symphony.”

I just hope my convo partners haven’t read, or don’t remember, Tommasini’s obit.

Nomadland

Frances McDormand is Fern, a widower struggling to let go of her past. She’s hard working and resilient. Her van makes for a precarious home. She befriends other “nomads” also living on the road, but only to a point, because she isn’t fully in the present.

Nomadland has the feel of a compelling documentary. A thoughtful window into a vulnerable, but resourceful community of non-conformists prioritizing personal freedom and nature over material comfort. If you enjoy films firmly based in reality, you may like it as much as I did.

Thursday Required Reading

1. Hiking Is an Ideal Structure for Friendship. Love stories like this.

“As soon as we complete one hike, we immediately establish when the next will be. We rotate the organization and planning duties, eeny-meeny-miny-moe style.

That person has complete authority and responsibility to organize the hike, select the location, provide the beer and other refreshments, and make any other side-trip plans. We’ve done breakfast, dinner. We sometimes hit various local watering holes, or we just plop down with a cooler in the woods somewhere. The organizer is responsible for setting up all the logistics, soup to nuts, and is not questioned on the decisions made.”

2. This game has surpassed League of Legends, Fortnite and Valorant as the most-watched gaming category.

3. 2021’s Best States to Retire. I know, I know, how can any state known for the blog ‘PressingPause’ be ranked 31st? Spurious methods.

4. Inside a Battle Over Race, Class and Power at Smith College. Don’t know where to start on this one.

5. Mean tweets may take down Biden nominee. If only Neera Tanden had shown the same tact and diplomacy as The Former Guy. Has nothing to do with “civility” and everything to do with political power. It’s a tad bit ironic that the R’s are channeling Malcolm X. “By whatever means necessary.” (credit: DDTM)

6. The most important Western artist of the second half of the twentieth century. (credit: Tyler Cowen)