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So this is just life now?

I’m sure this is the thought many of us had this week, as I know I found myself getting used to the routine of working from home, doing indoor activities at night, and going for the occasional walk as long as I keep my distance from strangers. It’s a strange thing for the world to be so quiet when it’s simultaneously falling apart. I guess this period gives a whole new meaning to the phrase “dying on the inside”. But enough moroseness. Yes, things are tough, but there is still enjoyment to get out of life’s little pleasures, and I’ve found that the most enjoyable time has been when I’m not looking at the news. Which of course brings me to the various distractions that have been keeping me sane.

The Replacements – Dead Man’s Pop (2019)

It probably shouldn’t come as any surprise that my favorite band ever has been a source of comfort in these trying times, though I’ve been listening to one particularly overlooked period in The Replacements’ career lately. Dead Man’s Pop is a box set collecting outtakes and remixes from the band’s divisive 1989 album Don’t Tell A Soul, which was one of the band’s more overt attempts at mainstream success. However, the original Matt Wallace mix featured on this box set is quite the revelation. It’s far more representative of the ‘Mats late period sound in a way that’s less dated than the original version, and makes the already solid collection of songs on that album even better. I’ve always suspected Don’t Tell A Soul was a better album than 1987’s considerably more revered Pleased To Meet Me, and this newly released, roots-ier version of the album seals the deal.

High Fidelity (2000)

After finishing the Hulu series based on Nick Hornby’s novel as well as the 2000 John Cusack movie, I felt compelled to revisit the movie. High Fidelity has often been a good “comfort food” movie when I’m feeling down, maybe just because it depicts a world of pop culture geekery that’s very familiar while also exhibiting a light and playful tone. Though on this rewatch I was a little more mixed on the fact that this very male perspective on relationships doesn’t exactly feel vital these days, and there are probably a few things that are problematic about Rob Gordon’s approach to women. But the movie does make a point of pointing out that Rob is kind of an asshole (as does the gender-switched TV show), so maybe it’s fine. If nothing else, it’s always a joy to watch Jack Black’s career-making supporting performance. Long live Barry Jive & The Uptown Five.

The Manchurian Candidate (1962/2004)

After listening to the Blank Check podcast covering the 2004 remake of The Manchurian Candidate in their Jonathan Demme series, I felt compelled to watch both film iterations. The 1962 version is a borderline perfect political thriller, so it is odd that a director of Demme’s caliber felt the need to remake it, and after watching it I’m still not entirely sure why it was made. The remake’s attempts to update the original by swapping it’s Cold War themes for a post-9/11 context are admirable, as is Denzel Washington’s much more sloppy performance as Ben Marco, the character originally portrayed by Frank Sinatra. I’m not sure that either of these versions are great “comfort movies”, but perhaps there is something comforting about being reminded that America has weathered weird times before, and will of course weather them again.

Nancy Wilson/Cannonball Adderley (1962)

Speaking of something great from 1962, I’m not sure how I originally stumbled onto this collaborative album between master pop vocalist Nancy Wilson and jazz saxophonist Cannonball Adderly, but I’m glad to have it in my back pocket at the moment. Right before all of the COVID-19 stuff started going down, I started a new job that I’ve been working from home the past two weeks. I always have a hard time finding mellow enough music to put on in the early hours of the morning while I’m working, but this one hits the spot. Wilson’s vocals are wonderfully silky smooth, while Adderly’s sax playing is just as soothing, while building this nice bridge between more mainstream vocal jazz and the headier jazz of the bop era.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons

Yeah, I know. Me and the rest of the world are playing Animal Crossing. Though I suppose my Animal Crossing experience was unique in that it accompanied me buying a video game system for the first time in at least a decade or so. Actually, that’s probably not that unique either. Spending this much time indoors felt like a reasonable excuse to buy a Nintendo Switch, and so far I’m enjoying my time in my Animal Crossing town even if the constant feeling of debt follows me everywhere. I don’t want to say too much about the game, since it seems possible Sean, our resident video game guy, will have something to say about Animal Crossing and how well-suited it is for this cultural moment. (Photo courtesy of Sean btw)