Welcome to the first of our weekly Watch/Listen/Read posts. On Fridays, Adam and I take a few minutes to share with you what we’ve been checking out–or immersed in–during the week. We also invite any writers whose work has appeared on the site during the week to add their suggestions, and we’d love to get your recommendations in the comments, too. You might find something you love there, or perhaps you’ll help Adam and I settle some of our never ending disagreements about things like romantic era composers or viola music.
No Time to Read, and yet…
With so much energy going into finishing things for the launch, I haven’t had a lot of time or energy for reading; by the time I’m done doing the “need to do” stuff, I just don’t have the energy to focus on reading very much… and most of what I have read has been documentation related to WordPress stuff. I did go back and take a look at The Diary of a Young Girl (more commonly called “Diary of Anne Frank,” although that’s not the official title.) It’s been decades since I’d read the book, and it came up when I was chatting with Adam about a piece of writing that I’m working on. It seemed like a good time to revisit the book. Also, if you had told me about the amount of background reading and research I’d do while writing essays about my own life, I’d never have believed you. So many interesting things, but it’s not even rabbit holes, it’s like gopher tunnels for me–one link leads to another, to another until I have to make myself stop! I’m not the only person like this; it came up in one of my ADHD groups just the other day–unfortunately no one had any really good solutions to stop that behavior. At least it’s educational, I guess. I also picked up The Wide Night Sky by Matt Dean. I haven’t gotten very far into the book yet, but I’m enjoying the story so far. It’s a story about discovering your identity and finding your truth, although I really haven’t gotten to that part of the book yet. I’m looking forward to calmer days when I may be able to pick up a book again. I also indulged my love of YA novels, and picked up Molly Snow’s BeSwitched. A teenager and a witch’s familiar switch places? Sounds like fun. It’s very light reading, but it’s also the first in a series, and based on what I’ve read so far, I’m probably going to read the whole series. Definitely a good choice when my mental energy is so in demand for other things.
(Spoiler: It’s all Poutine)
There’s been a lot more listening mixed with watching this week. I’ve been watching a lot of Good Mythical Morning, and the associated shows Good Mythical More and Mythical Kitchen. The episodes are nice short breaks in between tasks, Rhett and Link are mostly silly and the depth of their friendship is one of those things that make me feel good. With the end of the most recent season of The Great British Baking Show, I’ve been watching a little of The Great Canadian Baking Show, which I’ve been able to find on YouTube. Vlogmas began on December 1, so some of my favorite YouTube channels are sharing daily videos instead of just their usual upload schedule. Among my favorites are Robe Trotting (two American expats living in Denmark chronicle their expat experience,) and Jessica Kellgren-Fozard whose videos are about everything from queer history to disability to vintage fashion. She and her wife have a baby and it’s charming to see how excited they are to experience their first holiday season with him.
Rowan Ellis also released a new video this week about Disney Characters who should have been gay.
Holiday movie season also explodes this week. There are plenty of specials and movies to watch. A Rugrats Chanukah is traditional viewing to start the holiday off–it actually does a remarkably good job telling the story of the holiday, too. I’m excited for the new special, too, which I’ll get around to watching soon. And last night, after getting the website launched and getting my first piece posted, I treated myself to the new Netflix movie Single All the Way, which was an absolutely cliche story done sweetly and with a little twist in the portrayal of the main characters.
No, but Seriously, What’s an Ear Biscuit?
It’s really been mostly listening this week. A lot of podcasts. Ear Biscuits and A Hot Dog is a Sandwich from the Mythical team, the new episode (”Chanukah”) of 2 Queers 4 Questions and the teaser for the new podcast from Josh Malina, Chutzpod. And so very much music. I’ve had Counting Crows Rain King stuck in my head. It’s also time for my holiday playlists. The holiday music season starts when I take out Dropkick Murphys “The Season’s Upon Us”, Dar Williams “The Christians and the Pagans” and a long list of Hanukkah songs. I think the first one I played this year was Daveed Diggs “Puppy for Hanukkah.” I also look forward to the release each night of Dave Grohl’s Hanukkah Sessions-where he covers music by all sorts of Jewish musicians–Beastie Boys, Lisa Loeb, Barry Manilow, and so many more that I can’t remember.
I can’t close out the week without remembering Stephen Sondheim, either. I knew West Side Story before I knew Romeo and Juliet, and music from many of his shows is part of the soundtrack of my childhood.
Rest in Peace, Live on in your Pieces
I guess I’ve been listening to a bit of Sondheim this week, too. One of my last experiences in musical theater was as Cinderella’s Prince in the kids’ version of Into the Woods (they made a version that basically leaves out the second half, which is the part with all the adultery). The song “Agony” is still such a great character-moment. It’s just so silly. And I still remember, all these years after our rehearsals and performances, how skeezy the guy who played the wolf was. Of course, he was skeezy in real life, too. I also remember how the guy who played Rapunzel’s prince was in the brass section of the high school band with me–he played trombone, I played tuba. I knew how to sing; he couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket, but he practiced and did a really good job. I wish there was a recording; wait, no I don’t. I’ve also been listening to some of his songs here and there. He really does the best mad-scenes:
“Epiphany” from Sweeney Todd,
“Not Getting Married” and “Ladies who Lunch” from Company…
Sondheim reminds me a bit of J.S. Bach, or Chopin. His craft is so precise and yet when you listen to his work, you don’t think first and foremost about the craft; you think about the emotion the craft is designed to convey. Ok yes I’ve also been listening to Bach and Chopin. But you would too if you got this ear-worm stuck in your brain (not to be confused with an ear-biscuit).
Chopin, a Retrospective
One of the musicians I’ve been listening to this week is myself. I actually listened to some recordings of my own piano-playing from about 20 years ago. My late piano teacher used to organize recitals, and my mom recorded my performances (this was back in the days when if you wanted to take a picture or a recording, you had to bring an actual camera… but it was recent enough that the camera in question was digital) and so it is that there are videos of me playing Waltz in Db Major and Prelude in e minor, both by Chopin, and Sonatina in C major by Clementi. The waltz is a shit-show, which is really sad, because listening to it, it’s as if my brain made all the right musical decisions and my fingers just wouldn’t go where they were supposed to. I kept thinking: “oh, I like that staccato.” Or “oh, I like how joyful and exuberant that trill sounds,” but then the left hand would miss a note, then another, then the train would come off the tracks. I got through the piece, but just barely. The funny thing is that’s kind of still how I play. I am currently practicing a Chopin Ballade, so right there my skill-level has risen astronomically, but the effect is still the same: touches of beauty, punctuated by train-wrecks. I need to practice more.
If Loial isn’t your Favorite, We’re No Longer Friends
I’ve been trying to avoid the Amazon adaptation of The Wheel of Time, mostly because I hate all things Amazon, but I have been rereading the first book, The Eye of the World. It’s made me think a lot about what sucks you into a book. The very first time I started The Eye of the World, something about the prologue turned me off and I put it down. Then, around the time the pandemic started, I thought to myself “why not?” and got through the whole thing on my nightly walks, using audiobooks borrowed from the library. I think a big part of its appeal is that it gives you time to get to know the characters. Before they even leave their home-village, it’s clear that they’re good people who are just trying to do right by the world they live in. But they’re also fallible. More than anything else, it’s that they’re established as a group of mutually supporting friends. The Eye of the World is heavily influenced by, if not based on, The Lord of the Rings (the similarities are by design; I’m not crying ‘plagiarism’) and this is one of the easiest things to overlook when calculating the incalculable appeal of Lord of the Rings: it starts slowly enough to get the reader rooting for the main characters, then picks up speed afterwards.
I’m not sure what Erika means about disagreements regarding romantic composers and viola music. Everyone knows that romantic composers are basically the best and viola music is an oxymoron, right?