Cultureguru's Weblog

Of food, technology, movies, music, and travel—or whatever else strikes my fancy

Coping with 2021

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Feeling that I should blog about something, although it’s difficult with so much going on in the world, and so little going on in my life. I could certainly give my opinion of events, but science says that there’s actually no mental health benefit in ranting about an issue that is frustrating you, but that you have no control over. 

So guess I’ll try writing about the little things in my world that do make me feel better, at least for a while.

Writing about stuff I can’t do right now

Travelling to Europe. Attending concerts in person. Going to the movies, in theatres.

Truthfully, I’m not doing a lot of original writing on these topics right now; that would either be fiction, or nostalgia—and my memory’s not that good. But fortunately, I wrote about a lot of that stuff back when I was doing it and when I have a few hours to spare, I’ve been re-reading, re-editing, and re-packaging it in a new(ish) site.

Frankly, it’s kind of weird that doing this makes me happy instead of depressed, but there you be!

Marking the holidays

I already wrote about Christmas. We also had a good New Year’s Eve, thanks to multi-course takeout from Loloan Restaurant. It was of the “finish the prep yourself” variety, in which instructions were provided via YouTube video. I remarked to Jean that it was kind of a combination of what we used to do for New Year’s—make ourselves a gourmet dinner—and what we’ve done in more recent years—let a restaurant do that.

Green mango and clementine quantro fortified salad and tuna sashimi

The meal included an oyster trio, seafood soup, tuna sashimi salad (pictured), duck three ways, and a s’mores extraganza. Everything was very good, and it had been quite a while since we’d had an extended, 3-hour dinner like that!

Pending: Valentine’s Day takeout from Langdon Hall

Up to the Beat Fit

For some of my daily workouts, I wanted “just” aerobics—with no toning combo. And if it was fun and dance-y, all the better! This was proving more difficult to find than you’d expect, until I came across Gina B and her Up to the BEat Fit! channel on YouTube.

Gina B is super-perky, Australian, former ballroom dance turned fitness instructor. Her workouts are all built around actual popular songs (albeit sometimes remixed and distorted to get the right beat), frequently include some Latin dance movies, and often incorporate steps from videos or movies. It’s ridiculously fun, but also a good workout—really gets the heart rate up! People of my, umm, vintage might want to start with the Retro 80s Hits

Watching of the TV

On the TV series front, there are the ones I watch with Jean (current roster: Queen’s Gambit, Bonding, Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist, The Expanse, and What We Do in the Shadows), and the ones I watch on my own. I’m going to focus on the latter.

The Good Wife is one heck of a time commitment, but man! What a show! Seven seasons, 22 45-minute episodes each, and the darn thing keeps leaving services before I can possibly get through them all.

  1. Seasons 1 to partway through 3, I watched on Netflix. Then it was removed.
  2. Got season 3 DVDs from the library, and watched more episodes there until I saw it had been added to Amazon Prime.
  3. I continued on Amazon Prime through part of season 4. But then it was removed.
  4. Back to library for DVDs, whereupon I finished season 4 and borrowed season 5.
  5. Partway through season 5, I tried to renew the DVDs, but they were on hold (rude!), so I had to return them.
  6. Signed up for a free month of CBS All Access, and thereby finished season 5.

Soon it will be a choice between paying a CBS All Access or trying to wrangle the DVDs away from my library nemesis.

But this show, man. The characters! The twists! The funny! The fighting! I just impossibly love every episode, even the ones with the horrible sub-plots like that Kalinda’s ex-husband thing (what the hell was that?). Maybe because it reminds me of my Mom, who loved this show. Maybe because it’s just a really excellent show.

And why doesn’t Jean watch it? Don’t think there’s a big reason there, other than me early on running ahead on episodes, likely when he was out of town, as I started this series pre-pandemic. (And he ends up watching enough bits of it to have some idea what’s going on anyway. That and me breathlessly informing him: “You’ll never guess what just happened!!!”)

The rest will be briefer.

  • The Flight Attendant (CTV Drama)—Jean did start watching this with me (I had read the book), but then just got too uncomfortable with Cassie’s poor choices (truly, some very poor choices!). Same problem he had with Uncut Gems, but this lasts 6 hours more than that movie, right?
  • You’re the Worst (FX)—I’m in the final season now. Jean’s never cottoned to this prickly bunch of characters (even though they have some sweetness underneath).
  • Halt and Catch Fire (Netflix)—It’s dark, it’s techie, and it’s just never interested him as much as me.
  • Kim’s Convenience (CBC)—I haven’t the faintest idea why he doesn’t watch this. He didn’t watch Schitt’s Creek with me, either—like, never even tried. Clearly a mistake, right?

Watching of the movies

In movies, we’ve had reasonable luck finding ones we both enjoy, sometimes despite the odds. The Prom was recently nominated for a Golden Globe, which is how I found out that it was critically panned. Going in, Jean was dubious that he would enjoy a musical about Broadway stars who decide to advocate for a gay prom. After 45 minutes, I was thinking maybe we should just jump ship on this one—it was so over the top. Only, then it changed course and started giving all the characters a bit more depth. And in the end, we both… Really liked it.

We were also quite riveted by another Globe nominee from Netflix, this one looked on more kindly by critics—The Trial of the Chicago Seven. I just didn’t know this history (and I looked it up later, and some of the most unbelievable events in the movie actually happened), and this was a great vehicle for Arron Sorkin dialog.

Speaking of true stories, also pretty amazing was A Street Cat Named Bob, on Kanopy (a streaming service possibly available from your library, as it is from mine). Bob is one of those rare cats whose temperaments allows them to stay pretty calm in new environments, with new people, as long as they are with their human. Bob’s human was a drug addict trying to get back on his feet, earning his way by busking. The story of how Bob helped him do that is heart warming (though Jean was fretting about Bob’s safety throughout the film). I only found out at the end that Bob the cat in the movie was played by the actual Bob the cat.

Late Night, though (on Amazon Prime), is pure aspirational fiction: A story about a post-menopausal woman who has had a late night American talk show for decades! This was a generally funny and sparkling film, but the most refreshing thing was that it starred a woman of a certain age. Who used that fact to further her career.

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