One of Han Solo's best known lines in the original Star Wars isn't one of his many smart-assed one-liners—it's a quiet little prayer to his own spaceship, one that goes like this: "Hear me baby? Hold together." As we face another week of self-quarantine, sheltering in place, and doing what we can to slow the spread of COVID-19, "Holding together" is the task at hand, and if you click the links below you're going to find more than a few amazing ways to help yourself do that. That's sort of what stories, songs, art, and sport are for, right?
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Monday, March 23
Is it a "docuseries?" Is it a "reality show?" Whatever the hell it is, it's compelling—so compelling that Editor in Chief Wm. Steven Humphrey, from the day it premiered until... well, he's still doing it, so until you read this—would begin all conversations with the question "Have you seen Cheer yet?" If you haven't, the pitch is basically "Friday Night Lights, but for cheerleaders," and there is apparently not a single human emotion this show won't wring out of you over the course of its run.
(Now Streaming, Netflix, $8.99 per month, free trial here)
Donald Glover Presents: 3.15.20
It went up on March 15 2020, and came right back down again, leaving some people wondering if they actually imagined it. It certainly wasn't the most surreal thing happening online at the time (conspiracy theories about Oprah, cryptic K-pop hashtags, Trump assuming the form of a human gaslight) but no, it wasn't a mass-hallucination: Donald Glover did drop a new Childish Gambino album out of nowhere. It was real, still is real, and you can listen to it below via his YouTube, or you can visit basically every music platform and stream it there, too. It's not quite as Funkadelic inspired as Awaken, My Love was, but that doesn't mean it's any less soul-filled and funk-fueled, especially when longtime partner-in-crime, Oscar-winning Black Panther and Mandalorian composer Ludwig Goransson is back behind the boards, and special guests Ariana Grande, 21 Savage, and Khadja Bonet are in the booth.
For some, Wilco has become the punchline of a lame joke about music made for settling into 21st century fatherhood. It’s true that the veteran Chicago rock band has a few khaki-Dockers albums in its discography, but 2015’s Star Wars found Jeff Tweedy and company embracing a “less is more” aesthetic: It felt buzzy and squirmy and eccentric and tossed off, in a good way. And Tweedy’s masterful two-night stand at Pickathon 2016 was a good reminder that few (if any) humans have written more great songs in the past three decades. Watch him perform "One Wing" from Pickathon below, and then follow that up with a viewing of I Am Trying to Break Your Heart: A Film About Wilco, a must-see documentary about the band that is, oddly, only available for rent or purchase on Vimeo.
(Now available, Vimeo, $3.99 to rent, $9.99 to purchase) BEN SALMON
In 2002, Brian Shimkovitz purchased Obaa Sima, a cassette of lo-fi tunes by Ata Kak that combined broken pieces of synth-pop, early hip-hop, and African highlife, from a roadside stall in Ghana. Six years later, when he finally got around to listening to it, it became the inspiration behind his beloved blog and label Awesome Tapes from Africa. It took even longer for Shimkovitz to track down Ata Kak to re-release the cassette. But now that it is widely available, the word is out about this one-of-a-kind artist and the buzz is loud. ROBERT HAM
I Can Cook Vegan
In the early aughts—when Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s Post Punk Kitchen message boards cooked and sizzled the internet—veganism was still a post-punk thing to do, and nutritional yeast had barely entered the kitchen. But now that “tofu is now the other white meat,” Moskowitz’s I Can Cook Vegan is a post-post-vegan adventure focused on the cooking challenges of the home cook. (You’ll get to know magic ingredients like nori and kala namak, before going off the page with beet Reubens, beefy tempeh, and chickpea soup.) With over 125 ways to prepare vegetables and proteins, I Can Cook Vegan is making my life easy and deeply satisfying.
(Now available, Order online for pickup/delivery from this list of local bookstores) KATHLEEN MARIE
Wash Your Hands! (Dah-dah-daaaaaaaahh)
Stay safe out there! “Hands... washing hands..” 🎶 pic.twitter.com/QaRB1qZshp— Neil Diamond (@NeilDiamond) March 22, 2020
Tuesday, March 24
It's inarguable: video games long ago evolved into a legitimate and frequently affecting storytelling medium. But unfortunately, "storytelling" in games is too often just an exercise in loosely adapting a developer's favorite movie as a warmed over facsimile of some other thing they love, a thing that isn't really the game you're playing. But now there are a multitude of examples highlighting just how uniquely engrossing and emotionally rewarding games can be, and 2018's Florence is a great one: It originally came out for iOS/Android, and immediately caused a rash of jerked tears on public transit as people opened this puzzle-game on their commute and closed it a half-hour later having gone on a 6-act journey through Florence's love-life. It's still available on mobile platforms, but it's recently been ported to Steam and Nintendo Switch. It's not very expensive, it doesn't take very long, but it's 100-percent worth every minute of your time spent playing it.
(Now available, $3 on mobile, $6 on PC/Switch, which includes the game's soundtrack)
East Lake Meadows: A Public Housing Story
COVID-19's impact is astounding in how quickly and thoroughly it's disrupted basically everything, and that disruption is going to ripple out for years to come, especially in regards to our housing situation, a situation that is already highly-problematic in multiple ways (not least of which being the guy running the Dept. of Urban Housing is the most clownish brain surgeon in human history), and is only going to become moreso. But as the saying goes, if you don't know your past, you don't know your future, and a great way to learn about your past comes in the form of this Ken Burns-produced PBS documentary by Sarah Burns and David McMahon, about an Atlanta housing complex that local and federal government neglected to a remarkable, criminal degree.
(Tues, March 24, 8 pm, OPB, free)
Few fiction writers understand the ripple effect that big industry can have on a community with as much depth and empathy as John Sayles. That’s been evident throughout his work, from Matewan, his 1987 film about a miners’ strike, to 2002’s Sunshine State, about a Florida island’s mixed response to real estate developers, to his latest novel, Yellow Earth, which might be his most deeply felt work yet. Tracking the boom and bust of a shale oil development in North Dakota, Sayles puts us dead center in the tornado of activity that rips through a small town and a nearby Native American reservation—opening up the minutiae of drilling and fracking through the perspective of dozens of richly drawn characters who he seems to know as intimately as family. (Read our full interview with Sayles here)
(Now available as an audiobook or ebook via MultCo Library, or as an audiobook via Audible) ROBERT HAM
ShanRock's Triviology and Rain Brain Trivia
A big part of Portland's nightlife is its very healthy pub quiz community. A lotta nerds in this city are missing their weekly opportunities to establish trivia dominance and win prizes for it. As basically everyone starts moving along their live-streaming learning curves (Zoom, Google Hangouts, Skype, etc.), two of Portland's finest are two of Portland's first to get online: Rain Brain Trivia is serving up questions via Facebook Live on Wed March 25, and ShanRock's Triviology is throwing down through Zoom on Tues, March 24. Teams are encouraged, but if you want to try and run the table solo, you can do that too (showoff). Of course, the temptation to just Google answers is that much greater this way, but what kind of true pub quizzer would stoop so low and wallow in all that dishonor?
(ShanRock's Triviology; Tues March 24, 5:45 pm & 8 pm, $5 per player; Rain Brain Trivia; Wed March 25, 6 pm, Facebook Live, free)
The only thing more petty and excruciating than an election: high school! Election has both of them at once! This film was going to be one of the crown jewels of the Hollywood Theatre's Feminist March film series before it was unfairly canceled (shakes freshly washed-fist at invisible pathogens), but if you sit real close to the screen while you stream it, it'll almost be (kinda) like being there, and you'll also see the precise moment Reese Witherspoon realized exactly what her lane was, and made a note of it for about 10 years later, when she'd effectively lock up her status as Hollywood's go-to for asking to see the manager. Speaking of which...
(Now Streaming, Hulu, $5.99 per month, free trial here)
Little Fires Everywhere
Hulu's latest big buzzy original drama is this adaptation of Celeste Ng's best-selling book. Reviews have knocked the adaptation for essentially removing all nuance from Ng's novel, and it's hard to disagree that the story is a lot louder than it was on the page, Ng's novel is set in the mid-'90s, but never quite channeled it. This show doesn't feel like the book... but the sour, entitled, pretty-on-the-outside-but-mean-as-fuck-for-no-good-reason vibe it absolutely nails from its first 15 minutes on? That's some genuinely authentic '90s nastiness, the kind of sunshine-covered bitterness these characters would snidely razz as they watched their umpteenth hour of Ricki Lake from the comfort of their couch.
(Now Streaming, Hulu, $5.99 per month, free trial here)
Radiohead Live in Concert
A professionally-shot, never-before-released, one-day-only, completely free stream of Radiohead's 2017 performance at the 2017 Best Kept Secret festival in the Netherla—aaaand you've already clicked on it and aren't reading anymore. Good. You've done the right thing.
Wednesday, March 25
Games Done Quick
Gaming as spectator sport has always been part of the phenomena—everyone has a fond memory of watching from the couch as a sibling or parent fumbled through a game, but Twitch.tv was the first platform to make that experience a big fat moneymaking thing. As with anything popular online, some of its biggest stars are some of its worst people, but Twitch's unassailable saving grace is Games Done Quick, a twice-yearly telethon built around watching people absolutely demolish your favorite games as fast as possible while raising money for charities. The series started as a broadcast from a single couch, and is now barely contained by the convention centers they occupy, routinely raising multi-millions with every new installment. But setting all that aside; it's just plain fun to see what these people can do to a game. Start here, with local speed-run all-star Grand PooBear hilariously and educationally talking his way through some of the craziest Super Mario World levels ever devised while simultaneously raising tens of thousands for the Prevent Cancer Foundation.
Bad news: The Letterkenny Live show at Revolution Hall been sold out, so you unless you had scored a golden ticket way back in the olden days (when Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren were presidential frontrunners, god I miss the olden days) you weren't getting in. Worse news: The live show was one of the first to be canceled due to Coronaviruss. GREAT NEWS: The show is streamable on Hulu. It was always streamable, it hasn't gone anywhere, but just in general, the news that Letterkenny is streamable? Great news. Letterkenny is ostensibly a sitcom about the escapades of small-town Canadian cliques bumping into each other, but it's really just live-action Looney Tunes for linguistics nerds, a love-letter to the silly ways silly people communicate their serious passions. Sure, there's a few duds in its run—you don't hit eight seasons without stubbing your toe once or twice—but when it's good? It's fuckin' great.
(Now Streaming, Hulu, $5.99 per month, free trial here)
One of the most reliably entertaining podcasts on the popular Ringer network is The Rewatchables, a loosely-structured roundtable discussion on films that aims to blend Siskel & Ebert with First Take. As irritating as this might sound in the abstract, in practice it's often a delightful dive into some of cinema's most notable successes, and while those dives never get too deep (It's a Bill Simmons joint, after all) each 90-minute listen really does manage to artfully blend the best aspects of sports-talk bullshit with Film-Twitter-esque comedy takes. A good hop-on point is their No Country for Old Men episode, with special guest star Bill Hader, who reveals that a big part of why his show Barry is successful is because of his love of this instant Coens classic.
Now Streaming; Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify; free)
Speaking of Coens-inspired television that has no business being anywhere near as good as it is: Noah Hawley's ongoing homage to their filmography was supposed to continue this April with a mid-century gangster drama starring Chris Rock as the head of a Kansas City crime organization. But since that's been pushed back due to COVID, it's a good excuse to revisit the three preceding seasons, each set in different time periods and telling different "true" stories of sadly comedic criminal exploits. It's not much (if any) of an exaggeration to say Fargo is responsible for best-ever performances by Billy Bob Thornton, Martin Freeman, and Kirsten Dunst, and features Coens vets like Thornton, David Thewlis, and Michael Stuhlbarg putting in work just as good (if not better) than the work they delivered for the Coens themselves. Season three was, at the time, considered a step down from the previous two, but it's aged very well, very fast.
Now Streaming, Hulu, free trial here)
Young M.A—born Katorah Marrero—is unique among her peers. While her low voice, stud swagger, and off-the-charts machismo may give the impression she uses alternate pronouns, the artist has made it clear she’s perfectly at home in her assigned female gender. She named her 2017 EP Herstory, after all, and followed that up with last year’s critically acclaimed Herstory in the Making. While Young M.A’s sexuality is definitely part of her content, it’s not a gimmick she’s leaning on. She didn’t set out on some heroic mission to pave the way for other queer rappers. She simply came into the game as the real her—for better or for worse. Now M.A is unintentionally changing the narrative for what is and isn’t acceptable in rap, just by being authentically, unapologetically herself. JENNI MOORE
Thursday, March 26
Earthquake Hurricane is one of the best local comedy shows in town (up until recently performing weekly at Ford Food + Drink), and has always featured Portland's top tier talent. Currently, Hurricane is hosted by a murderers' row of great comic talent including some former Mercury Geniuses of Comedy and Portland's Funniest winners and finalists, such as Katie Nguyen, Hunter Donaldson, Steven Wilber, and Kirsten Kuppenbender. Undaunted by the coronavirus, Earthquake Hurricane is taking their live show to Twitch TV, AND featuring an absolutely killer lineup of Portland's current stars and those who have moved on to seek their fame and fortune in New York and Los Angeles, including Ian Karmel, Caitlin Weierhauser, Amy Miller, and Simon Gibson.
(Thurs, March 26, 8 pm, Twitch.tv, free) WM. STEVEN HUMPHREY
The Joy of Painting
Look, sometimes the obvious choice is the obvious choice because it's the right one. It's probably not correct to say we're "settling in" or "getting used to" whatever this whole thing is, but we're definitely starting to feel it. And Bob Ross is like Calamine lotion for your nerves. (Editor's Note: Calamine lotion is Calamine lotion for your nerves, bright eyes.) The man is an absolute legend, and inspiration, and it's almost impossible to watch and not feel some level of comfort as he pulls a landscape out of thin air with a brush, a knife, and that weird blue he always uses (Pthalamo? Prusha-flush? Whatever). Is it cliche to suggest this balm for the anxious soul? Maybe. Who gives a shit. It's The Joy of Painting.
(Now Streaming; Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime w/ subscription; YouTube and Tubi free w/ ads, all ages)
..aaaaand on the other end of the spectrum, this hypnotic, sinister fever-dream of a TV show that I still cannot believe ever existed, much less lasted three seasons on prime-time network television. NBC aired this crazy shit for three years straight! Ironically, that it was on network television probably led to its being mostly ignored while it was on, and being mostly forgotten once it left—if it had been on AMC, or HBO, hell, even Starz, people would still be writing 10,000-word thumbsuckers about it. But instead, it's just this quiet, unassuming, completely bugfuck nuts work of mad art from showrunner Bryan Fuller, effectively rewriting almost the entire Hannibal Lecter canon and making it all his: His Hannibal is the best Hannibal (Mads Mikkelsen), his Will Graham is the best Will Graham (Hugh Dancy), his Jack Crawford is the best Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishburne), and there is maybe no TV show that has ever looked as flat-out amazing as this show always does.
(Now Streaming w/ Amazon Prime subscription)
It seems like forever ago, but way back in February 2020, Broadway star, Kimmy Schmidt hero and friend of Dolemite Tituss Burgess performed a one-off show at the Schnitz and snatched everybody's edges. If you missed it, make up for it by checking out Burgess' 2019 six-track EP Saint Tituss, pulling inspiration from musical theatre, R&B, pop, as well as his own journey through depression, homophobia, heartbreak, and self-acceptance. Perhaps the most affecting track on the project is the epic ballad “I’ll Be Alright,” which sets fire to a past relationship, with self-love emerging triumphantly from the ashes. Lead single “45” (featuring Daniel J. Watts) sees him crooning about the crisis of the Donald Trump presidency, the state of American politics, and our need to come together and do something about it. (Read our full interview with Tituss Burgess here) JENNI MOORE
The Plausible Impossible
Almost everyone who has had Disney+ for longer than a couple weeks has bumped up against the "now what" question that comes once you run out of new Baby Yoda episodes. Well there are a ton of hidden gems on Disney+, you just have to work to unearth 'em. Like this 1956 episode of Disneyland/The Magical World of Disney that is categorized as its own stand-alone movie, whose thumbnail makes it look like an animated feature, but is actually a documentary hosted by Walt Disney himself, breaking down the concepts and principles that make animation even work. It's remarkable for how cleanly it gets across some pretty complicated ideas, and even more remarkable when you remember this fairly-sophisticated behind-the-scenes documentary was a throwaway hour of disposable mid-century television. Thankfully, it's been resurrected on Disney+, and is one of the best hours you'll spend there.
Now Streaming, Disney+, $6.99 per month, free trial here)
World of Warcraft
Blizzard is inviting you to while away the hours in self-quarantine by
falling off the wagon happily returning to the realm of Azeroth, and firing up World of Warcraft once again, and to sweeten the deal, anyone who does make their way back to those magical MMORPG lands will get double the XP from now until April 20th. Also, I don't understand what any of this part the following actually means, but it sounds important, so make of it what you will: "Players will also be able to take advantage of this experience boost while still using their favorite heirlooms. It won’t take long before you’ll be facing off with the Old God N’Zoth and his minions in Ny’alotha, the Waking City." Got that? Good. Godspeed to you, warriors of Azeroth.