Media That Matters to Add to Your #MustList!

Last week, I wrote about some new books, podcasts and movies that I am excited about and wanted to share with you. So many of you expressed interest — and I had more recommendations than I had time to include — that I've chosen to write another posting this week with additional suggestions that are "musts" for the "must read/must listen/must watch" lists which fortunately are getting longer when it comes to women-led, women-written initiatives!

We have so many media choices and with our always connected phones and computers, the challenge for all of us is TIME to get through the good stuff — the media that matters — and to be sure we have the right balance between online and present time. Luckily, a new book recommends one way to rebalance.

Internet pioneer and filmmaker Tiffany Shlain’s 24/6: The Power of Unplugging One Day a Week explores how turning off screens one day a week can work wonders for your brain, body and soul. This practice, which she’s done for nearly a decade with her husband and kids (16 and 10), has completely changed their lives, giving them more time, productivity, connection and presence. Drawn from the ancient ritual of Shabbat, living 24/6 can work for anyone from any background.

With humor and wisdom, Shlain offers lessons she has learned and provides a blueprint for how to do it yourself. She also delves into the brain science, philosophy, psychology and history of a weekly day of rest across cultures, making the case for why we need to bring this ritual back.

For a stark reminder of what life was before we had 24/7 connectivity, I recommend a new documentary, Sing Me a Song, from director Thomas Balmès and Participant Media that premiered at the Toronto Film Festival earlier this month.

The feature-length documentary is a provocative follow-up to Balmès' first film, 2013's Happiness, in which he chronicled the life of an 8-year-old Bhutanese monk in a town with no electricity, no television and no internet. Ten years later, he returns to find that rapid development and the internet have transformed the young monk's sleepy village, and his life couldn't be more different.

Peyangki and his girlfriend, Ugyen Pelden, in  Sing Me a Song.

Peyangki and his girlfriend, Ugyen Pelden, in Sing Me a Song.

Eighteen-year-old Penyangki is still a monk, but he spends his free hours playing games on his phone and video chatting with his perspective girlfriend. The boy monk, who we see in flashbacks reveling in nature and studying in his free time, is no more. He has been completely transformed by the phone he can’t seem to put down, even during prayers, and so have his fellow monks. This new way of life in his country — once a haven of "no media" — is a compelling and disturbing reminder of the dark side of our digital revolution. 

Congrats to Participant Media's Diane Weyermann, award-winning chief content officer, and CEO David Linde for once again using the power of storytelling to activate important conversations and actions.  

Of course, what digital makes possible for all of us is undeniable, and for me, one of the best deliveries of value is through the many podcasts I am enjoying. One that I have particular affection and admiration for that is always at the top of my playlist is Women’s Media Center Live with Robin Morgan! The award-winning program has been called “talk radio with a brain,” because it aims for the highest common denominator. In full disclosure, I am the co-chair of the Women's Media Center board and very proud of the podcast we were able to launch because of the generosity of many "sister" philanthropists — a special shout out to Regina K. Scully who is the force behind so much media that matters!

Sex, politics, religion — every topic your parents termed unfit for polite dinner-table conversation and which are largely missing from the daily media diet for most — all are engaged regularly and intelligently. And who better to originate the concept and carry it forward than Robin Morgan whose books gave the feminist movement so much of its language and fueled the concept of "global sisterhood," so much a part of my value system and activism.

Recently, I had my own conversation with Robin which will be broadcast this Sunday. We talked about my book, of course, but mostly about why this is the time for the sisterhood (and the men who support us and share our concerns about the current power structure and the need to dismantle privilege and the barriers to full representation everywhere) to step up, speak up and show up.

If you haven’t already subscribed to this podcast — available on all major platforms — I hope you will. Robin has an unexpected and welcome perspective that can make us laugh and call up righteous anger (or as I call it, “situational turbulence") at the same time. You’ll also hear news stories others don’t report, voices unheard elsewhere and Robin’s legendary commentaries. The show is progressive and unabashedly feminist!

Speaking of Robin, her most recent fiction book, Parallax, is out in paperback next month. It's a story about storytelling — a set of shorter tales which, like Russian dolls, nest and fit together to reveal a larger one. A fable for the future, a prediction about the past, and resplendent with Robin's always radiant prose, it's a story that enfolds and surprises you, inviting you to play with the patterns inside its paradoxes. Its characters will accompany you for the rest of your life. And certainly, they will give you plenty to think about during those "no digital" times.

Some of the consequences of postings like the two this week and last is that I am reading more, tweeting less and connecting more with my awesomely talented and productive friends whose work I am honored to celebrate!

— Pat