Things to Be Thankful For

I’ve done a couple posts over the course of the pandemic trying to remind myself that there are still good things in the world because a lot of the time these days it doesn’t feel like it. It’s especially hard to be thankful right now when we’re supposed to be thankful at Thanksgiving because all the usual traditions are being upended. Instead of spending the holiday with family and friends it will just be me and my husband. But I’m trying to put on my thankful hat and do another one of these posts on things that I’ve been thankful for recently. This is obviously not a comprehensive list of all the things I’m thankful for. Just ones that I’ve been thinking about in recent weeks.

  1. Online Game Night – Pretty much every Saturday since the pandemic began I’ve been hosting an online game night with some friends. We play a variety of casual games from board games where no one else needs access to the board, games that have online versions, and stuff inside the Board Game Arena website. There’s a core group of us every week with some other people who have come and gone or occasionally drop in. It’s a nice little social thing I can look forward to every week even if it’s not as good as getting to hang out in person. The benefit is that with these friends having kids and also all living out in Harford county I get to see them every week now instead of just the handful of times during the year we would normally manage to get our schedules to align. Who knows maybe we’ll still do it on occasion even after the pandemic is over.
  2. Thanksgiving food – Even though I will miss out on the other aspects of Thanksgiving, I’m still super excited for Thanksgiving food. I love Thanksgiving dinner and am very excited to dig into a big old plate of stuffing and mashed potatoes and some pumpkin pie which I will eat for breakfast for several days after the holiday. In addition to regular Thanksgiving I’m sad to also be missing all the annual Friendsgivings I’m a part of that allow me to eat even more Thanksgiving food. But don’t get me wrong this food only belongs in November in conjunction with Thanksgiving. That’s what makes it special.
  3. People trying to slow the spread of COVID – There aren’t enough of us, but I’m thankful for the other people that are sacrificing their holiday and many other things in their lives to help keep themselves and others safe. It’s a thankless job, but I see you.
  4. Vaccines – It’s absolutely incredible that we potentially have 3 highly effective vaccines that should hopefully be rolling out in the new year. It’s going to help us get our lives back so much quicker than if we had to wait for people to develop herd immunity naturally. Yay science!
  5. Biden’s Cabinet picks – It’s just so nice to not have to care that much about Biden’s Cabinet picks because he’s actually picking people qualified to do the jobs instead of political cronies who have no experience and/or just want to dismantle the organization they’ve been tapped to lead. Until this year I don’t think I’ve ever been thankful for a Cabinet pick, but now I am.

Iris by Phoebe and Maggie

On election night Phoebe Bridgers tweeted that if Donald Trump lost she would cover the song “Iris” by the GooGoo Dolls. Maggie Rogers responded with something to the effect of she would love to harmonize on it and now they have actually made it happen. They released the song on bandcamp this morning.

I have always loved the song “Iris” by the GooGoo Dolls and will go on record saying that the City of Angels soundtrack, which this song is on, is one of the best soundtracks of all time. This cover by two of my current favorite artists collaborating is wonderful. It is my favorite type of cover song in which artists take a song and make it completely their own and don’t just faithfully rerecord the original.

Weirdly based on Maggie Rogers’ Insta Story it sounds like they’re only making it available for 24 hours. Maybe they mean they’re only making it free for 24 hours? It seems odd to only have it available for 24 hours in total, especially since proceeds from it are being donated to Stacey Abrams organization Fair Fight. Anyway, get yourself over to bandcamp to grab a copy while you still can.

New Music Friday: Autonomy by Stephanie Lambring

Here at this late ate in the year I discovered a new album that is definitely in contention for my favorite album of the year. Stephanie Lambring’s Autonomy is an amazing Americana/indie country album that tackles a lot of really deep issues including faith, the weight of expectations both familial and societal, and suicide through wonderfully crafted story songs. Basically it’s like my catnip.

The whole album is fantastic and you should really listen to the whole thing, but I’m going to focus on the song “Joy of Jesus”, which is the song that drew me to the album in the first place. Ann K. Powers of NPR Music named it her favorite song of October which is how I found out about it.

It, like other songs on the album, “Save Me Tonight” and “Someone Else’s Dress”, addresses wrestling with faith and looking at the moralistic judgement that masquerades as Evangelical Christianity today and wondering if that is the joy of Jesus and if so who would want that?

Based on the lyrics of some of the songs I don’t think she wound up in the same place I did, but I very much connected with her questioning as I too, especially in the last five years, have wrestled with my own faith and being a Christian when the face of Christianity I see in the world is not what I see in the Bible. Thanks to a church family that I do think is focusing on the important things and trying to be the love and grace of Jesus and whose mission is reconciliation in addition to writers like the sadly taken from us way too soon Rachel Held Evans and of course my own personal experience of God I’ve been able to salvage a faith that has certainly at times been precarious at best.

There is so much new music coming out all the time its rare that I listen to an album more than once, but this will be one of the few albums that I’ll be listening to over and over again.

TV Diary

The Path

The Path is a Hulu show about a cult that is I think supposed to be somewhat of a take off on Scientology, though not entirely the same. It stars Hugh Dancy as the new leader trying to take over the cult as the original founder is dying (or most people believe off writing the final parts of their bible). Michelle Monaghan plays a woman whose parents were part of the original founders and who grew up in the movement. Aaron Paul plays her husband who has begun to have doubts, which strains their marriage. I really enjoyed this show. It’s set in what I believe is the Hudson Valley area of New York and especially in much of the first season it is set in fall and has a beautiful fall feel to it that I was really digging just as it was starting to be fall here as I was watching. The characters are really well drawn and the show looks a lot into questions of what makes us believe things and why we hold onto them. I didn’t like the third and final season as much as the first two. It got really plotty with a bunch of side stuff that ultimately had no bearing on anything and spent way too much time with all that nonsense. It also retconned some things about the founding of the cult in order to introduce some new characters that I did not love as well as made some of the other characters, especially Aaron Paul’s character act in some ways I didn’t buy. Overall though I liked the show a lot and even though the third season was weaker than the first two I still enjoyed spending time with the characters. Whenever I finish a show where I really love the characters it takes me awhile to start something new because I’m not ready to let them go. It’s been a week and I still haven’t started binging a new show, so I know this is one that is still sitting with me.

Emily in Paris

People seem to be very mixed on whether they love this show or think it’s terrible. The answer to whether it’s good or terrible is yes. It is in fact a stupidly written show where the writers seemed to barely care enough to keep up with their plots (Emily says her Masters degree is in something different every time she’s asked), it’s entirely unrealistic with Emily somehow brilliantly saving the day in every episode, and it writes French people in a ridiculously stereotyped way. And yet it was beautiful to look at, it was nice to sort of know that everything was going to work out well every episode, and it was just stupid enough to be fun. Basically Lily Collins plays Emily an American who gets sent at the last minute to represent her company in the Paris marketing firm they just acquired after her boss, played by Kate Walsh who appears for like 30 seconds in the entire show, gets accidentally pregnant and decided not to go herself. (Seriously someone get Kate Walsh an actual show or bring her back to Grey’s. I always really liked Addison and she and Meredith can be besties now that Derek is gone.) Emily doesn’t speak a word of French and her boss in Paris hates her and is always trying to get rid of her. She also befriends her neighbor who she winds up in sort of a love triangle with as he already has a girlfriend who she becomes good friends with as well. So in short the show is dumb but also a pleasant distraction in these terrible times.

Watchmen

I have no experience with any previous Watchmen property like the graphic novel or the movie, so I came into this show cold. For most of the series that resulted in me having very little clue what was going on, which I really didn’t mind. In fact once they started tying things together in a way that actually helped explain what in the world had been happening in the first 3/4 of the show I thought it got worse and much less interesting. Regina King and Jean Smart were absolutely fantastic in this show. I liked it’s commentary on race and it felt like a very prescient show for 2020. Overall I enjoyed watching it, but I found the last few episodes a little bit of a letdown though the very end ties everything up nicely.

Song Exploder

Netflix turned the popular podcast Song Exploder, in which artists break down one of their songs and how they wrote it, into a tv show. I’m not entirely sure why. They only made four episodes and I don’t really think the visual aspects add much to what you get in the actual podcast. The episodes were still good and I will watch more if they make more, but ultimately I think the show is unnecessary. Just go listen to the podcast.

Lucifer

We’re about halfway through season 2 of Lucifer. I think they’re up to season 5 now. Lucifer as one might guess is the devil who has escaped hell and come to earth where he runs a night club and somehow winds up working as a consultant with the police. There’s a sort of will they or won’t they romance with his detective partner. He also has a therapist as he’s grappling with living as a human and developing human feelings. It’s an average but entertaining network show. It’s got your case of the week, but also ongoing storylines for the season which I always find a nice mix and something that seems to be rarer and rarer these days.

Travel Man

Travel Man is a British Show that is now on Hulu. It’s a travel show starring Richard Ayoade. He travels to some location for 48 hours with a rotating cast of fellow comedians. They usually go to some popular tourist location in the destination and then do a lot of non-standard things including often eating some kind of terrible local food. It’s quite amusing while also making me really want to travel and wondering if we’ll ever be able to do that again.

Sing On

Sing On is a karaoke game show on Netflix hosted by Titus Burgess. Contestants basically sing karaoke to songs and some machine measures how close they are to the original artists. The one with highest score automatically gets to stay and up until the final two rounds the contestants get to vote on which of the other people competing are voted out in that round either because they didn’t sing well enough to earn them money towards their final jackpot or they are worried they are too much competition. There are new contestants every episode so it’s a really easy show to throw on and not think much about if you’re looking for something like that to watch. Whenever a contestant gets kicked out they go stand on a balcony to sing along with the crowd. As they’re leaving Titus always asks them if they want to stay and sing on. Just once I want a contestant to throw down their mic and say absolutely not. They never do they. They always act really excited to stay.

Muppets Now

Muppets Now is the newest reboot of the Muppet Show that is on Disney+. It is sadly not good. It’s basically written as the Muppets producing sort of YouTube like series. Miss Piggy has a lifestyle show. The Swedish Chef has a cooking show. Bunson and Beaker have a science show. Pepe has a game show. Scooter is in charge of uploading everything and there’s always an issue with that. None of it is particularly funny and the way that it’s written leaves them all very segmented and not interacting at all. It’s only 6 episodes that are less than 30 minutes so if you’re a Muppets completist for some reason by all means, but otherwise don’t bother.

New Music Friday: Duets

I took last Friday off not because I didn’t have a song I wanted to write about but because I just didn’t feel like writing. I’m back this week and originally planned on writing about the song I was going to talk about last week, but then some other songs popped up that I felt like writing about more. I thought about doing a threefer post, but I also really want to devote a whole post to last week’s song so I will probably wait and write about it later in the year when new music releases really start to trickle off in December.

Instead today I have two duets for you, one a cover and one a brand new song.

Under Pressure by Karen O and Willie Nelson

Earlier this week Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Willie Nelson released a cover of Queen and David Bowie’s song “Under Pressure”. Apparently she connected with him in trying to find people to do stuff to support NIVA, the association working to save independent music venues. It’s unclear to me if money from this song actually goes to support it or not. I assume so, but I’m not 100% sure. Anyway, it’s my favorite kind of cover in that it really adds a new feeling to the original song and is not just recreating it. It’s definitely going on my playlist of cover songs.

A Beautiful Noise by Alicia Keys and Brandi Carlile

Last night there was some get out the vote type special on CBS and as part of it Alicia Keys and Brandi Carlile performed a new song called “A Beautiful Noise”. It’s about women coming together and using their voices to fight for a better future. It was written by a cavalcade of fantastic songwriters: Ruby Amanfu, Brandy Clark, Lori McKenna, Hillary Lindsey, Hailey Whitters, and Linda Perry. It is indeed a beautiful noise. Alicia Keys and Brandi Carlile sing beautifully together.

New Music Friday: Wildflowers & All the Rest by Tom Petty

It’s no secret on this blog that I love Tom Petty and that Wildflowers is my favorite album of his and one of my all time favorite albums period. Several years ago it came to light that Tom Petty had originally recorded Wildflowers as a double album, but his record label at the time didn’t want to release a double album so 10 of the original songs were left on the cutting room floor. I immediately wanted to be able to hear those songs but thought that it was probably never going to come to pass.

For awhile Tom Petty said he had no interest in releasing those songs as a separate album because they were written at a certain time that he was no longer living in and he only wanted his music to keep moving forward. Apparently though as he was doing his 40th Anniversary tour he began planning a project to revisit Wildflowers and bring those songs to light. Obviously he was never able to bring that dream to fruition as he sadly died a few short weeks after ending that tour.

But happily his dream has been brought to life by his daughters Adria and Annakim, his wife Dana and two of the Heartbreakers Benmont Tench and Mike Campbell. Today they released Wildflowers & All the Rest a box set that includes remastered versions of the songs on the original album and the 10 songs that were cut from the original album. It also includes early home recordings of some of the songs as well as live versions so that you can get a sense of their evolution.

I immediately skipped to the songs that were cut and haven’t even managed to make it through those yet. There is going to be so much to dig into here. I know what I will be doing this weekend. 2020 isn’t all bad, just mostly. Here’s a YouTube playlist of the 25 album versions of the songs. You’ll have to pop over to somewhere like Spotify to hear the home recordings and live versions or you know do something crazy and buy it.

New Music Friday: The Highwomen Edition

I was already planning on writing about Maren Morris’s new song “Better Than We Found It”, which actually came out a little over a week ago but which I had not yet heard in time for last week’s New Music Friday post. In keeping with the tradition I seem to have started over the last few week’s for my New Music Friday posts it’s another song about thinking about the world we’re creating and leaving for the next generation. It’s a song Maren Morris wrote for her son and the video very sweetly includes him and a little love letter to him at the end.

Then I woke up this morning to a surprise drop from Yola, who is one of artists that sang on some of the songs for the Highwomen album, the country super group mainly composed of Brandi Carlile, Maren Morris, Amanda Shires, and Natalie Hemby and also featuring Yola and Sheryl Crow. “Hold On” features Brandi Carlile and Natalie Hemby on backing vocals, Sheryl Crow on piano, and Jason Isbell on guitar which he also played on the Highwomen album. According to Yola “‘Hold On’ is asking the next [generation] to take up space, to be visible and to show what it looks to be young, gifted and Black.”

I usually try to post YouTube videos rather than Spotify links because I know not everyone has a Spotify account, but for whatever reason there doesn’t seem to be a legal version of the song up on YouTube yet. Though somehow there are already multiple illegally uploaded versions. It’s available through all the streaming services so go listen wherever you have an account.

Deep Creek Lake Vacation

This past week for the first time since the pandemic started we went somewhere other than our house. It’s the longest period of time I can think of that I didn’t travel somewhere. I wanted to stick somewhere within driving distance and staying in state meant we didn’t have to worry about any quarantine rules between states should there be any major outbreaks by the time our trip rolled around. So I found a house in Deep Creek Lake in Western Maryland.

It wound up being a nice little place to stay, though it was a bit stressful right before our trip when I got a call that the place had been listed on both VRBO and AirBnB and had somehow been double booked. Luckily they had another property available and the other family that had this house rented was able to shift their trip by a few days and stay at the other house. For a minute though I was thinking that it was going to be very 2020 for my trip to get snatched out from under me at the last minute.

Based on the photos I thought the house was right on the lake, but really the photos were from the boat slip they have that’s a couple of blocks away. If you squinted really hard between some houses and trees you could see a little bit of the lake from their yard. It would have been nice to have more of a water view from the house, but it wasn’t that big of a deal and it was way too cold for us to go swimming or anything.

View from their dock slip

Luckily the weather wasn’t as bad as originally forecast. It was warm when we arrived on Monday afternoon and we took advantage of that evening to make a fire in the nice fire pit they had outside. It started raining before we went to bed on Monday and poured rain all through Tuesday and into Wednesday morning, but after that it cleared up aside from a little bit of additional rain late on Thursday evening.

Since it was rainy on Tuesday we just stayed inside and read, watched TV, and played some board games. They also had a wood burning fireplace inside so we took advantage of that the rest of the trip since it was too cold for me to want to do one outside the other nights we were there.

We did a couple of short hikes on Wednesday because my husband had a work call he wanted to jump on so we did some quick hikes so that he could go home in the middle to take the call. We did a hike in New Germany State Park that was 2 miles round trip and had a nice view at the top. Since we wanted to grab dinner at a restaurant in downtown Oakland we found some walking paths near there that wound up to be less nice than the description made them seem. It said there was a path along a river between downtown and some park and then a loop around the park. The river was more a small stream and the other side of the trail was next to a busy road, so it did not seem very nature like. It also took you by the waste water treatment plant. So not the most picturesque walk, but got me the rest of my steps for the day. Thursday we did a 4.5 mile hike in Deep Creek Lake State park, which was much more woodsy.

It was a nice relaxing trip. It was nice to get away from our house for a few days since between working from home and no longer having much of a social life that doesn’t happen over a screen I spend almost all my time there. As I wanted it was also somewhere where we really didn’t have to interact with a whole lot of other people aside from running into restaurants to grab take out for dinner and walking by a few other people on hiking trails. I was pleasantly surprised that pretty much almost everyone we saw was wearing masks as I had prepared myself for people there not complying with the state laws on that. I also cut myself off from news and social media while I was gone. I highly recommend doing that for a few days. I won’t be doing any big trips like I normally do for at least another year at this point based on how things are going, but I’m already thinking about somewhere else to travel close to home where there won’t be too many people. Maybe a winter beach trip.

New Music Friday: Making Do by Lake Street Dive

I just got back from a nice little getaway in the woods so I haven’t been paying much attention to new music this week. I know Dawes has a new album out today, which I have purchased but not even had the time to listen to yet. I saw Lake Street Dive premiere this song to fans during an online concert the other week, and I see that it is out to the whole wide world as of a few days ago so it’s what I’m going with. It’s about thinking about what kind of world we’re leaving future generations to “make do” with.

New Music Friday: Look the Other Way by Katie Pruitt

Katie Pruitt has been teasing this song, which she released on Wednesday, on her Instagram for weeks, so I’ve known for a while that this song was going to be New Music Friday post for today. I wrote about her new album, which this song is not a part of, back in the spring. It’s one of my favorites of the year, and I’m really bummed that I didn’t get to see her in concert this summer as that show was of course one of the many that I had tickets to that got canceled due to COVID-19.

I think this song speaks for itself, but it’s all about breaking out of our own comfortable lives to fight for justice instead of just looking the other way because it’s easier and/or it doesn’t affect us personally. It’s a great song and one I definitely need to be better about applying to my own life because it’s far too easy to feel defeated and feel like I have no power to change anything.