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Daily distraction: Honor Adam Schlesinger, recreate a masterpiece and explore haggadot

Welcome to your daily distraction, our recommendations for ways to stay engaged and entertained while we socially distance ourselves to combat the novel coronavirus outbreak. You can find our past recommendations here; many of the opportunities we’ve highlighted are ongoing.

I recently learned something that makes me feel a lot better about everything going on right now: Dr. Anthony Fauci, who is leading the United States response to the coronavirus pandemic, is 79 years old and used to run seven miles per diem. Nowadays, he’s still clocking three and a half miles each day. With that kind of energy, I think this is definitely the guy we want running things.

While he and his team work to keep us safe, here are ways you can keep yourself sane.

1) Listen to Adam Schlesinger

Schlesinger, a wildly prolific songwriter, died on April 1 from complications resulting from COVID-19. His death is tragic; honor his remarkable career by listening to his music, an extraordinary gift. If you like thoughtful, catchy and not-too-loud rock, I highly recommend the album “Welcome Interstate Managers” by Fountains of Wayne, one of Schlesinger’s bands. If you like musical theater, you owe it to yourself to watch one of Schlesinger’s other projects, “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” for which he wrote or co-wrote over 100 songs as the executive music producer. Every season is available on Netflix, and you can also watch a playlist of the show’s greatest hits on YouTube. If you’re so inclined, you can also download the sheet music and have a singalong. Finally, if you’re the type who likes music that sounds a bit like Americans trying to be the Beatles — the prompt Schlesinger was famously given for writing the title song of the film “That Thing You Do!” — you have to give the tune a listen. Here he is playing it live with his friend and collaborator Mike Viola:

2) Take a look at the history of haggadot for some Pesach inspiration

Haggadot are ever-changing texts, with new ones issued each year to reflect the times. But before they came with Maxwell House coffee, they used to be really, really fancy. The National Library of Israel, in partnership with Google Arts and Culture, has created an online display of their haggadah holdings, including the hand-painted Rothschild Haggadah dating to the mid-15th century, the illuminated Wolf Haggadah from the 14th century and a 19th century haggadah with Judeo-Arabic translations. Most of the haggadot are strikingly illustrated; one of them, traced back to Bohemia, even has those 18th-century-looking lions with weird human faces.

3) Get creative and recreate a masterpiece

The Getty Museum in Los Angeles threw the gauntlet down late last month, challenging their Twitter followers to restage a classic painting using the objects and people in their home. The internet, bored and perhaps a bit stir-crazy, rose to the occasion. Why not give it a go yourself? These two nailed it:

But you needn’t be quite so attentive to detail. Use what you have on hand. You might, for instance, chose to go abstract or get your pets involved:

After all, in internet art replication, there are no rules.

PJ Grisar is the Forward’s culture fellow. He can be reached at [email protected]


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