Free HBO!
In a move that is equal parts "Hey, you're cooped up, enjoy some stuff we already licensed to Amazon, but for reals free this time!" and "Enjoy this taste so when we drop HBO Max next month you'll say fuck it and stay signed up" HBO has made about 500 hours of content available on their HBO Now app with no paywall. Included is the best TV show ever (The Wire), the other best TV show ever (The Sopranos), the best ending to a TV show ever (Six Feet Under), the best show about an assassin who wants to be an actor (Barry), the amazing McMillions documentary that's about 15x better than Tiger King ever was, and (squints at list) uh... My Dog Skip, starring Malcolm in the Middle and a cute doggo. Click here for the full list of programming.
(Now Streaming, HBO, free)

Make Yourself a Couple Gallons of Beer
City Brew Tours, the company behind Brewvana's beer tours, is switching up how it shares the craft beer experience now that it can't shuttle people around Portland's wonderland of beer-making establishments. Instead, it's going to help make you a homebrewer, with "The Live Homebrew Experience" an online class that includes a specially prepared beer-making kit shipped to your house. In two and a half hours the class should have you safely on your way to making two and a half gallons of either pale ale or amber ale—although for $40 extra, you can make another two and a half gallons of IPA or brown ale.
(Thurs, Sat & Sun 1 pm, Through April, citybrewtours.com, $99)

Bad Boys For Life
Michael Bay's absence behind the camera (although he briefly appears in a cameo that I reflexively booed) is immediately apparent in Bad Boys for Life, which finds Will Smith and Martin Lawrence coming together one more last (?) time as they cautiously descend the sunset slopes of their mountainous careers. The action—still glistening, swooping, and forever circling, as directing duo Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah do some damn good Bay-raoke—is slower and mostly coherent. But even more remarkable: For the first time that I can remember, this is a Bad Boys movie primarily fueled by emotion as opposed to disdainfully rejecting it. And get this: That emotion? HUMILITY! I know. What the fuck, right? But fucks are abundant in Bad Boys for Life, and given often, flying just as freely as the one-liners, bullets, and grenades going off frequently and everywhere.
(Now Available, Amazon, iTunes, $19.99)

Battlestar Galactica
HBO isn't the only entertainment conglomerate getting on the "free is a very good price" thing: NBC/Universal has returned one of the best sci-fi shows ever made to free streaming. Battlestar Galactica isn't some sort of underappreciated gem in this corner of the country: Portland once held sellout screenings of episodes at the Bagdad Theater (Starbuck herself even showed up to one); one of Portlandia's biggest sketches was built around how bingeworthy Battlestar is. Galactica's reputation has diminished due to (bad) "conventional wisdom" about its (good, actually) ending, but the show has aged tremendously well in the meantime, and that blend of mysticism, religion, politics, and pressure is maybe even more potent here in 2020 than it was back in 2004. Plus, as Emily VanDerWerff correctly states in her essay: Bear McCreary's score for this show is the best score ever written for TV. So even if you're not that drawn in by the images, at least your ears will be happy.
(Now Streaming, SyFy.com, free w/ ads)

Support The Portland Mercury

Pearl Jam
You know it's been a really busy couple of weeks in the music world when Pearl Jam drops a new record and it gets a little lost in the sauce. But that's okay: the band has always been at their best when they're playing the underdog role, and that's definitely what's going on with Gigaton, a long-gestating (and just plain long by Pearl Jam standards) attempt to seriously shake up their sound after about 30 years. Load up the LP in your music app of choice and let 'em stomp around your headphones for an hour to see if they succeeded.
(Now Streaming, Apple Music, Spotify, YouTube, etc.)

Lidia Yuknavitch
Lidia Yuknavitch is a creative force in Portland’s literary scene. Not only are her books award-winning best sellers, but they’re often groundbreaking, like her Oregon Book Award-winning anti-memoir The Chronology of Water, or her novel The Small Backs of Children in which she strove to break the novel’s form. Her latest book is a short story collection titled Verge, which she described in an interview with Arts Editor Suzette Smith as "a whole book of big flame. These stories are all catching a character on the edge of something. They’re either gonna make the worst choice ever or the best choice ever. Change or grow or die. And they’re vibrating. All the times in my life when I was about to do something that was either gonna blow up my world or bring something great, I felt a vibration." Feel that same vibration by clicking on any of those links to read the Mercury's reviews of those titles, and then click on the links below to order any (or all) of her works from Powell's.
(Now Available, Powell's.com, $9.95-29.95)

Rethink All the Bad Things You Thought About Guy Fieri
At the bottom of this post, I'm going to link to a much-seen stand-up clip from hometown hero Shane Torres, who went on Conan one day and did more to rehab the reputation of Guy Fieri than maybe any single person on this planet. An extremely-specific and somewhat dubious distinction to place on Shane's shoulders, you might think, but nevertheless... If you haven't watched it, watch it. If you have, watch it again. It'll ring even truer when you discover that the aforementioned Mayor of Flavortown recently launched a relief fund for restaurant workers hurt by the impact of COVID-19 (i.e. all restaurant workers). The fund has been alive for less than a week, has cleared $10 mil already, and is aiming at a $100 million goal. We know you're doing your part to help keep Portland eateries alive and well through deliveries and takeout orders, but if you think you've got the spare funds to kick down to Mr. Fieri's noble endeavor, please do so. And why not check out some old episodes of Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives while you're at it? It was a good show.