Turn Your Home Into a Tiny Desk Concert
The very first installment of our sheltered-in-place Things To Do roundup made sure to shout out NPR's Tiny Desk Concert series as a must-subscribe on YouTube, and that's still true. But in the meantime, the Tiny Desk Concert has become the most reliably great place to see live performances from a music-star's living room, much like it was already the most reliably great place to catch live music online (seriously, I have yet to stop the Anderson .paak Tiny Desk when it comes up, and it always comes up, one of the only times YouTube's algorithm hasn't proved itself to be a noxious tire-fire of pure hate). The lineup already includes Yacht Rock commodore Michael McDonald, Tarriona Ball of Tank & the Bangas, and Ben Gibbard, but check out this stripped-down set from King Princess, who former Music Editor Ciara Dolan said "artfully subverted the status quo of mainstream pop."
Make Your Own Beats!
Give someone a beat, they'll vibe for a few minutes. Teach someone how to make beats, they'll vibe forever. Another thing we made sure to call out in the early days of coronavirus shutdown was the Chilled Cow channel, forever churning up laid-back, dusty hip-hop beats perfect for relaxing and letting go of some stress. It's so big, Will Smith even cooked up his own "chill" channel (Why he didn't name it "Chill Smith" nobody knows. We'll get to him in a sec). Serato is a company that your favorite DJ probably owes a ton of debt to, since they're one of the biggest providers of software for break-blenders, beat-makers, and record-spinners—and thanks to their most recent (and free!) release, Serato Studio, now you can make your own dusty, crunchy, vibed-out beats. You don't need a keyboard or a DJ deck (if you have one, that helps tho) and you don't even need a big bank of samples to pull from, they got you covered there, too. Check out this tutorial and see if a download and a couple hours worth of mouse-clicking work doesn't result in a blissed-out head-nodder (or three) you can call your own.
(Now available, Serato.com, free)
Will From Home
Okay, now let's talk about Mr. Smith. Before Bad Boys for Life blew up big earlier this year (it might end up being the biggest film of the year, depending on how theaters rebound from COVID-19), Will saw a lot of success carving out a second career as a livestreaming dynamo. You know, jumping out of helicopters, learning how to do stand-up, shit like that. Give Will a camera, Will can entertain for hours. And quarantine is nothing but another opportunity for Will to prove that, with a 12-episode season of Snapchat programming called Will From Home, broadcasting straight outta his garage, starring special guests, his family, and regular folks also doing the right thing by staying safe and staying at home.
(Now Streaming, Snapchat, free)
John Mulaney & the Sack Lunch Bunch
People like to talk about Saturday Morning Cartoons as if it's some big tragedy they aren't really around anymore. But early-morning entertainment for kids and families back then was pretty much pure junk, just like the sugared cereal that fueled many a kid through the three-to-four hour blocks of commercials for commercials of commercials (God bless the '80s). Kids today have it so much better now. For one, kids entertainment is now basically everyone's entertainment (see: Star Wars, Marvel, Harry Potter, Pixar) and even when it's being specifically aimed at kids, it's miles better than what we had. Take John Mulaney & the Sack Lunch Bunch. Ironically, Mulaney disagrees with this assessment, he states right up front his intention is to make a kids TV special like the kind when he was growing up. Unfortunately, he failed in the funniest, most adorable way possible.
(Now Streaming, Netflix, $8.99 per month, free trial here)
Cheryl Strayed is the award-winning, best-selling author of Wild, Tiny Beautiful Things, and Brave Enough, and she's also Dear Sugar, one of the country's most listened-to advice columnists. COVID-19 has led to podcasts becoming somehow even more intimate-feeling than its best shows already were, and Strayed's latest venture for The New York Times is a great example of this phenomenon. Sugar Calling is an opportunity to listen in as Strayed calls some of her most-admired friends at home while they're sheltered-in-place, and talks to them for an hour or so. So far, her friends include authors George Saunders (Tenth of December) and Margaret Atwood (The Handmaid's Tale). Wisdom abounds. Listen in.
(Now Streaming, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, free)
One of the benefits of the platformer being most people's formative gaming experience is that familiarity allows for solid and unique storytelling possibilities; When your audience is fluent in the non-verbal language of run 'n' jump taught by years (decades!) of Mario, Sonic, Mega Man, and more, that can be used to poke at much deeper ideas than just "I saved a princess!" 2009's indie breakout hit Braid was one of the first to do just this, but GRIS, Devolver Digital's game from 2018, garnered much well-deserved acclaim for using beautiful art design and simple-yet-intricate gameplay to investigate how people navigate their way out of trauma and grief. It never flat out states its themes verbally or literally like that, but as the inkwashed, watercolored landscapes flow by, the metaphor makes itself clear, and the reason we're recommending you give it some playtime now should be just as clear.
(Now available, Steam and Nintendo Switch, 16.99; Android and iOS $4.99)
Grow Your Own!
To clarify: we're speaking here about herbs and vegetables, not herb. So if you're looking for that, we kindly direct you to the pros, who have already grown, harvested, and are selling you the kindest deals they have in our takeout/delivery dispensary roundup. But if your restlessness has you wanting to develop a green thumb, why not give into that impulse? The Pacific Northwest is a verdant agricultural wonderland for a reason, and there more than a few tutorials on YouTube with pleasant folks patiently stepping you through growing delicious food in your own backyard (or on your balcony/back porch if you're apartment-bound). It's not as if becoming a little more self-sufficient in the middle of a shutdown is a bad idea or anything...
Now streaming, YouTube, free)
This might seem like a weird one, considering it's best known as being a box-office bomb starring a mumbling Robin Williams before he became Robin Williams, but stay with us for a second: This weekend, the Clinton Street Theater was all set to host StageWorks Ink's live stage adaptation of Robert Altman's 1980 movie before the shutdown. The performances are postponed to yet-to-be-determined date, so this is good time for getting up to speed with one of the most...unique comic-book movies ever made, in an era long before anyone knew what "comic-book movie" was even supposed to mean. The fact it's a Robert Altman comic book movie, starring Robin Williams and Shelley Duvall (still maybe the best comic-book movie casting in film history), makes it must-see alone, but throw in the fact Altman literally had a town built in Malta to film it (it's still there!) and got Harry Nilsson to write the songs? Oh, that's right: This is also a damn musical too. Some movies are described as being "ahead of their time," some movies are called "timeless," and then...there's Popeye. (Now Streaming, Netflix, $8.99 per month, free trial here; Crackle, free w/ ads)
Take a Break and Read a Fucking Poem
Rich Smith of our big-sister publication The Stranger has been writing an ongoing column called "Take a Break and Read a Fucking Poem," and it consists of Rich... doing exactly that. He selects a poem, and we all read it together. Or in the case of Franny Choi's "Pussy Monster," we hear her read it. From Smith's notes: "One of the many great vagina poems, which you can find in her 2014 collection, Floating, Brilliant, Gone, available at local bookstores. The poem, which was first published in PANK, is a remix of a Lil' Wayne song called "Pussy Monster." She's taken his lyrics and rearranged them in order of their frequency, saving the word with the highest number of uses for the end.