Monday, May 4, 2020

Don’t get too bored during the quarantine — My take on having some fun

Getting cabin fever? Looking forward to Covid-19 no longer running our lives?

Along with taking all the social distancing and cleanliness guidelines suggested by the CDC seriously, it seems like a good idea to use the downtime for something good.

Here's my list of activities for your consideration, to help get through the coronavirus………..

Watch the Oscar-winning movie Parasite  If you watch the film through Netflix, I suspect you’ll get a sense of why it won Best Picture and has been critically acclaimed. It is a great picture. One way I determine great filmmaking is when I nearly forget I’m watching a movie, absorbed in the world created on the screen. Another one is when a turn in the storyline happens, and I think, “What the hell is going to happen now?”

If you saw the movie, did you have that moment when you saw the previous housekeeper ringing the front doorbell, and they see her face on the security camera? I had to find out what would happen next; and watch all the way to the very end.

Director Bong Joon-ho was in awe of receiving the academy award over another nominee, Martin Scorsese, but he is in the same league with that great director — telling stories the best way through that medium. 

The theme of the movie is quite relevant for the United States and many other countries. We’ll learn more about it as the pandemic subsides and stories come out — about the financial hardships many people are going through and how long it will take to get back to what we knew. If you’re wealthy, it will be easier, but no one gets through life anywhere near perfection, as well depicted in the film.

It reminded me of two other great foreign language films from long ago. Rules of the Game (1939), a French comedy-drama satirical film directed by Jean Renoir, exploring the personal lives of the wealthy French and those who served them. The rules of the game were unspoken, but they shaped the relationships of everyone depicted in the film. The other was No Man’s Land (2001), Bosnian writer-director Danis Tanovic’s portrait of the Bosnian War, a conflict that had devastated his life and those of his peers -- with the film plunging into both humor and tragedy. It takes a deep look at where civil war and terrorism can come from, and can be justified in being carried out.

So try watching all three; you’ll be reminded of the power of movies.

Read Vox If you’re wanting to follow the fight against Covid-19, the economic impact, the state of clean transportation and the auto industry, and how advanced technologies like clean energy will get through the crisis — try reading some of the established institutions like the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, Bloomberg, Reuters, NPR, Automotive News, Green Car Congress, and a few of the excellent newsletters and blogs. But also check out Vox, a news analysis source.

Here’s a taste of it, with one article focusing on the mystery of North Korea’s future:  “Kim Jong Un is alive. And he’s ... at a fertilizer factory. Why Kim was absent for three weeks is still a mystery.”………… Then there’s Tesla, a company deeply tied to the personality of its chief. “Truly, what is up with Elon Musk. Musk declared he’s selling all his possessions, and Tesla’s stock price dropped 10 percent in a matter of minutes.”

If you’re wondering what could come next in Covid-19, how the economy is being impacted, and what medicinal solutions are being explored, Vox’s articles will be a few steps ahead, reporting, speaking to experts, and analyzing the facts with a decent amount of logic and reason. It is left leaning, but it’s also in the spirit of the critical importance of journalism in US history — the fourth pillar of democracy, just as important as the three branches of government.

Honor the creative work you love.   Have you been yearning to write that book? Make that video or record your songs? Sculpt from clay? Develop the video game you’ve always wanted to master? Well now is the time to do it. Get back to the creative work you love, and finish your project and share it with the world. And my suggestion would also be to do it from the heart and not the pocket book. Honor your creative process. I find it nearly impossible to see what creative ventures are going to bring in income these days on the internet; but if you get a kick out of doing it, why would you want to wait?

It does help to follow the leads of experts on promoting your work, at least the part about getting your work shared with as many people as possible. There are all kinds of platforms for spreading the news — special interest groups on forums, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Meetup, and Google+, and through blogs and websites. Start an email distribution list for people to join to get updated on your latest work being published and shared. Post an image and link on the social media pages where people with that sort of interest tend to go. Do a promotional video and post it on Youtube and Vimeo, and then share it on Instagram, Facebook, Yelp, Reddit, Tumblr, and Twitter. You can also hire a social media marketing service like Hootsuite to do it for you; it does take a while to learn the tricks of the trade and to do regular daily postings without spending too much of your own time on it. Besides, you want to have fun creating the work, right?

Listen to Pandora.  There’s plenty of music streaming services out there, but I’ve tended to stick with Pandora. I like that I can choose my favorite playlists from artists I like and styles of music I enjoy. Maybe I’ll subscribe to it and cut out the ads, but they don’t overdo it. You can shuffle the stations, or play your Thumbnail Radio station, which collects your most played artists and styles, and the ones you’ve rated with the most likes.

I like hearing a mix of new artists like Post Malone, a hit like Taylor Swift’s “You Need To Calm Down,” or a few of the other established artists of the day — Drake, Imagine Dragons, Katy Perry, Beyonce, Lady Gaga, Arcade Fire, the Black Keys, Foo Fighters, Beck, and Kanye West, stand out.

But I love to hear the mix on Thumbnail. I might hear Stevie Wonder, Al Green, and Sly and the Family Stone; then classic country gets a few spins — Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, and Emmylou Harris; then it goes to reggae for a while, then to electronica, and then to 1950s rock icons like Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry, and Elvis Presley.

British rock bands do seem to be a recurring theme on my Thumbnail station. Certainly I like hearing the Beatles and the Stones; but I’ve had a particular fondness for the Kinks, the Who, Badfinger, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, and Supertramp. There’s a lot more I could list, but the best part is listening to them, occasionally singing along, and feeling pretty good. Music makes life a little bit better, but I probably don’t have to convince you of that.

Learn a foreign language.  I'm a big fan of Duolingo as a foreign language learning and practicing tool, but there are plenty of other good apps you can use. By the way, I’m also a fan of Google Translate, which allows you to translate words and sentences into just about any language you can think of. That can really help if I need to find a quick translation.

The apps are practical — I can practice while I’m sitting in my car, at a park bench, or at my house — when I want to get into practicing translation and speaking from that second language. I’m yet to be fluent, but sometimes it becomes a necessity. A few times, I’ve needed to speak Spanish because that’s all that’s being spoken around me; or I know the answer to what’s being asked about and I can share it — if I can speak the language well enough to be clear. So practicing is a necessity.

Research what really matters to you.   Changing careers? Considering selling your house? Planning your next trip? Moving? Doing some consulting work? Becoming active with a cause you really care about? Well, you’d better do some effective research. During my days in market research, and doing market intel analysis for publications where I worked, I got to learn some of the tricks of the trade. How do you find out about main competitors in your industry? Or maybe your employer is considering opening up in a new area. What you do you need to know about that marketplace?

Why not use this extra time for some in-depth research on what you really care about? Maybe you have a political or social cause you’re passionate about, and want to do some real research on government policies and major players in the field. You can always tap into the resources out there, like Dun & Bradstreet, annual reports, public quarterly filings, news reporting, and social media. You can also look into surveys and ratings of the companies. How do they treat their employees? Do they have sustainability policies and provide community service and donations?

What about contacting an employee from the company or organization that’s heavily involved in something you’re fascinated with; or that you’d love to work for? Eventually you could do a lunch meeting, but for now, a phone meeting, Zoom meeting, or trading emails, could be fine. They’ll know the inside scoop on what it’s like to work there.

It’s good to think like a detective, or a lawyer filing a case that must pass scrutiny and attacks by the enemy. What type of methodology will you be using? It’s good to get some guidance and training in research resources out there these days. You’ll get to the point where you start honing down your list and focusing on the people, places, and things that are vital to accomplishing your goal; and deleting the ones that shouldn’t be on your list. Like me, you’ll probably enjoy the journey.

One more news source that will grab your attention.  If you’ve scanned the News app on your iPhone or Android, you might have seen an article with the headline, “26 Popular Movies with Awful Endings;” or a photo gallery and captions called “18 Dogs Who Haven’t Let the Quarantine Stop Them From Being Utterly Ridiculous;”  or how about, “No, the CDC Did Not Revise Down the Number of Covid-19 Deaths.”

That would be BuzzFeed. Interested in quizzes, videos, celeb news, recipes, news analysis, photo galleries, ridiculous and hilarious tweets and text messages, and the latest buzz on trends? Another good one to follow is how generational tension is playing out between Millennials and their parents, who are usually Boomers. It may not be straight journalism from one of the media institutions. But it’s an entertaining read. You will get hooked on it.

Enjoy the work of a great filmmaker, or an old movie series you used to love.  I was disappointed to see the 2019 film Knives Out not making it to that many Oscar nominations or gaining other kudos. It did get a 97 percent critics’ score on Rotten Tomatoes. I’ve also thought that movie fans have been missing out on following one of the best directors out there, Rian Johnson. Put some of his movies on your Netflix list, including Knives Out, Brick, Looper, and The Last Jedi (an excellent addition to the Star Wars movies).

I’d also suggest you add a few other directors and actors to your list for Netflix mailings or streaming services. A couple of friends have told me about recently joining groups of movie fans who would check into Zoom and watch one or more movies on Netflix together -- then discuss it. One of these folks set up a Quentin Tarantino festival, starting with Kill Bill.

Now if I were to make a few suggestions, they might sound strange. What about a Charlton Heston sci-fi series with Planet of the Apes, The Omega Man, and Soylent Green? What about some great rock concert movies such as The Last Waltz, Stop Making Sense, and MTV Unplugged in New York. And 1970s gritty crime classics such as The French Connection, Dirty Harry, and The Godfather?

I can't wait!

Don’t forget to exercise.  Why do we always hear a lot about the need to get exercise? Stress reduction, health, weight loss, strength and stamina, and having a helluva lot of fun, just to name a few. 

If you’re in Long Beach, watch out for bike riders, especially if you’re driving a car. One of them might be me. Gyms might be closed along with beaches, but there are plenty of places to take walks, bike rides, run, and to do yoga and pilates. In fact, there are some groups meeting in parks since their exercise rooms are closed for now. Swimming, surfing, and paddle boarding is a bit tricky right now. Some beaches are opening up, but caution is still being advised.

Anything you’d like to share on getting through Covid-19?  Please leave your comments below……………

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