I’m not sure how long I’ll be doing these quarantine posts, since it seems that we’ve started the slow transition into normal life (for better or for worse). Maybe another week or so will suffice, but whatever the case, it’ll at least be nice to have some sort of document of this weird 2+ months spent cooped up inside. Also, this week barely felt like there was much return to normalcy. I may have seen more people out and walking than usual, though that may be due to the weather more than any new assurance that this virus is no longer a threat. Hell, maybe my quarantine diaries will come back in the fall with a new iteration of the coronavirus. Though as much as these do keep me writing stuff on the blog, let’s hope not.
I’ll start things off with a music pick, since for once music won’t make up the majority of things I’ve been enjoying this past week. I was due for a Lucinda Williams deep dive for a number of reasons. For one, I’d been thinking about her ever since that new Waxahatchee album came out and Katie Crutchfield had sited Williams as a huge influence, which is especially evident on the new St. Cloud. Also, Williams came out with a new album of her own, Good Souls Better Angels last week, which sees the veteran singer-songwriter in a particularly raw place. The album is about as ragged and bluesy as any Lucinda Williams release I’ve heard, and feels like her most feminist and political album. Really, the whole album feels like it’s about Trump even if each song isn’t overtly (though the scathing “Man Without A Soul” is literally about Trump). This isn’t an especially ground-breaking angle these days, but here it feels quite potent since Williams has always been so good at writing about abusive, insecure men from a Southern perspective.
In addition to this newest album, I’ve been listening to some of Lucinda Williams’ older albums, since apart from 1998’s classic Car Wheels On A Gravel Road, I had a lot of blind spots. 1988’s self-titled album seemed like the best place to start, and while this album’s somewhat polished sheen put me off a little at first, the more I listen to it, the more the album sounds pretty restrained production-wise for a late-’80s country-rock album. Essence, the 2002 follow-up to Car Wheels has also been a nice revelation, as its quieter aesthetic is a nice counterpoint to its predecessor’s heavier sound, and breezily reveals the talents of one of America’s unsung great songwriters.
Like a lot of housebound friends (I’m sure), the four guys at Mildly Pleased have been doing a book club for the past couple months. In an idea that was actually planted on our Most Anticipated podcast back at the beginning of the year, we followed through with reading Dune together while talking about it each week, and we even had the restraint not to record it as a podcast! Anyways, sci-fi has never really been my thing, but I still can’t help but respect the world and scope that Frank Herbert built with Dune, while also crafting a grand socio-political narrative that feels like a precursor to a lot of sci-fi and fantasy epics that have come in its wake. I guess we’ll see if the new movie (supposedly still coming out in 2020) will be able to tap into the novel’s potential to capture an audience’s imagination, or if it’ll just be a disastrous repeat of the 1984 version (which we should be discussing soon on The Pick!).
I didn’t have much reason to revisit Frank Capra’s iconic 1934 screwball comedy, other than that it’d been sitting on my pile of unwatched Criterion blu-rays for a while and classic Hollywood movies of this sort are often comforting for me. Still, any excuse to watch this most sturdy of romantic comedies is always welcome, considering it still is one of the most fun Best Picture winners. It’s easy to get a little nervous when watching any movie about the sexual chemistry between men and women from the far-flung past, since there are always going to be things that don’t exactly hold up. But apart from a few moments, this movie feels forward-thinking enough with its story of a spoiled, recently married rich girl learning to strike out and make decisions for herself. Also, the movie has so many charming scenes, feels so in-tune with Depression-era wealth inequality, and is such a no-nonsense distillation of what’s great about romantic comedies, that it’s hard not to fall in love with the rapid-fire banter of Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert all over again.
Last week, the cast of Parks and Recreation got together (over Skype) to film a reunion episode that saw basically the entire cast reprising their beloved characters. As someone who put Parks and Recreation atop his Top Ten TV Shows of the 2010s, this is obviously something I was excited about, if a little skeptical nonetheless. After all, most of the TV shows that do reunion episodes are stupid. However, the circumstances were peculiar enough and there was enough good-heartedness behind the episode (it took time to promote organizations seeking to help those affected by COVID-19) that it didn’t seem like the worst idea in the world.
And guess what? It was pretty good! Obviously, there was a limit on what they could do in an episode where everyone in the cast was confined to staring at their computer screens. But regardless, it was nice to see these characters again, and nice to see that in one of the most sprawling and inviting TV universes in recent memory, its friends are still there for each other.