TV Diary

Twenties

Twenties is the newest show created by Lena Waithe on BET. She doesn’t actually star in this particular show though, which I didn’t realize before watching it. It follows a group of black women navigating their twenties in Hollywood. It’s very stylized with lots of nods to old Hollywood. The characters were great. I liked the relationships and found it quite amusing. I really enjoyed the show and very much look forward to new episodes at some future date whenever TV can actually go back into production.

I Am Not Okay with This

I Am Not Okay with This is a short series on Netflix. It shares the same DNA with The End of the F***ing World, as they are both based on graphic novels by the same author and produced by the same creators. I didn’t care for this nearly as much as The End of the F***ing World. It just seemed like a poor imitation to me. I think the only reason I even finished it was because it was really short both in episode length and count and it came out at a time that there was a lull in other television.

The Sinner

It’s obviously no secret that I am tv lover and watch way too much of it, so I have no idea how this USA show got to three seasons without me even knowing it existed. The only reason I even heard about it in season three was because Matt Bomer starred in it, and I love me some Matt Bomer. As best as I can tell the seasons sort of stand alone with separate storylines connected by Bill Pullman as the detective investigating whatever happens that season. Matt Bomer’s character is very messed up in this show and winds up pulling Bill Pullman’s character down with him. It was an okay show, but I didn’t like it enough to bother going back and watching the first two seasons and I won’t be watching any future seasons either.

Feel Good

Feel Good is a Netflix show following comic Mae who is recently sober and her girlfriend George who is still hiding their relationship from her family and friends. I liked this show while I was actually watching the episodes, but for some reason it just kept falling out of my head when I wasn’t watching it. I kept having to remind myself what it was every time I saw it in my Netflix list and it’s not something I’ve thought a whole lot about since I finished it, but if there’s another season I would watch it.

Unorthodox

I did not read the book this very limited Netflix series is based on. When we started watching the show I didn’t realize it was only 4 episodes and then felt like I wanted to know what happened to the characters so I looked it up and it turns out the show is only very loosely based on the story. Pretty much in concept only with an Orthodox Jewish woman in Brooklyn fleeing her marriage. That’s pretty much where the stories diverge completely. It’s worth watching though.

The Baker and Beauty

Daniel Garcia helps run his family’s Cuban bakery. After publicly turning down his girlfriend’s proposal in a video that goes viral he winds up running into supermodel Noa Hamilton and getting drawn into her orbit and throwing all their lives into disarray. This was some mindless summer entertainment that was perfect for keeping my mind off of COVID-19. It’s based off an Israeli show. I don’t know if the title is literal translation of the Israeli title, but it bugs me that the show is not called Beauty and the Baker like it should be. I did also hear someone say it should have been called Beauty and the Yeast, but that’s probably taking it a bit too far.

Messiah

Messiah is a Netflix show about a mysterious man who appears first in the Middle East and then the United States. Some people say he’s a new messiah and others believe he is a con man. The show ends on what could be considered a cliffhanger, but could also serve as a satisfying although somewhat ambiguous ending since Netflix cancelled the show after one season.

Cybill

If you don’t recall the show Cybil it was a sitcom from back in the 90s starring Cybill Shepherd and was the first acting role that Christine Baranski had as more than a guest star. Cybill is a C-list actress doing guest star roles, commercials, and bad movies. Baranski plays Maryann her best friend, a rich divorcee who spends much of her time plotting revenge against her cheating ex-husband. It’s a goofy show and something I only saw a few episodes of when it originally aired because the humor was too adult for me at the time and I didn’t really get it. Now as an adult I get it, and it was kind of a mindless fun show to watch on Amazon Prime.

New Music Friday: Seeds by Rissi Palmer

Rissi Palmer is a Black female country artist. In 2007 she was the first Black woman to make it onto the country charts since 1987 with her song “Country Girl”. Here newest album Revival that came out last October extends beyond her country roots combining them with gospel, R&B, and jazz in a collection of songs mostly about race and racism, though the very personal song “You Were Here” talks about her miscarriage.

The whole album is great, but I’m going to share the song “Seeds” here. It’s a fantastic protest song and one of the songs that most has a country feel to it.

New Music Friday: Black Like Me by Mickey Guyton

At the beginning of this year I said I wanted to highlight country songs by female artists in my New Music Friday posts because the Nashville country machine does not support women even though there are many fantastic female country singers out there. With the advent of COVID-19 I drifted away from that a little bit to talk about some songs I was feeling in that moment, and then I just stopped writing these posts all together because I just didn’t have the mental energy to do it.

Well, I’m back at least for now and am getting back to my original mission while also trying to promote some black, female country artists which are rare in a music genre that like many others pretty much appropriated the roots of the music from black people and then locked them out of it. Take a look at all the work Rhiannon Giddens has done examining the history of country music and its roots in black music.

Because mainstream country music has the issues it does regarding both women and people of color, I had not heard of Mickey Guyton before last week. She had already written the song “Black Like Me” for a forthcoming project, but in the midst of everything that has been happening recently with the black lives matter movement she quietly dropped it on black out Tuesday.

It’s a very simple song about being proud to be black, but also point out that it makes her life difficult in ways that white people don’t experience. It’s a great song and perfect for this moment. Go take a listen.

Gnome Garden

Remember approximately one million years ago when I said I was going to start blogging about things in Baltimore that make me happy and I then managed to write maybe two posts before never writing another one? Yeah, it’s been so long, me neither.

I actually had a couple of posts in the works way back when that I never wrote but took pictures of things for. I ran across them in my photos the other day when I was looking for something else and thought, hey I should write those posts. They might bring the tiniest amount of joy into our currently hellish world.

This one has a little bit of sad tinge to it in that the Gnome Garden is currently on hiatus because the gnomes have had to social distance, but one day it will hopefully be back. Someone in my neighborhood has created this little Gnome Garden in her front yard and invites little kids to play with the stuff in the garden and to take things home from it for a short time.

She would post updates and gentle reminders about the garden from the perspectives of the gnomes on Nextdoor under the title Gnome News. It was pretty much the only good thing about Nextdoor. For whatever reason, even though my settings in Nextdoor were set to get a daily digest of posts I stopped getting them eons ago and never bother to go to the site because it’s mostly garbage. I did go and search for Gnome News to confirm that the reason the garden disappeared as in fact due to COVID and was informed that that it was because the gnome doctor insisted the gnomes follow CDC guidelines.

It was a delightful little spot in the neighborhood. I always enjoyed walking by it even though I don’t have kids and thus never played with anything in it. I appreciate the joy that it brings to be people, and I hope that it won’t be too long before the gnomes can come out of quarantine.

By the way I took these photos way back in September in case you were wondering how long ago I thought about writing this post originally.

New Music Friday: We’ll Make It Through by Ray LaMontagne

A few weeks ago Ray LaMontagne released a new song called “We’ll Make It Through”. He just posted it online with no other information so it’s unclear if it’s something he wrote specifically for this moment or something he wrote previously that seems to fit it perfectly and thus he decided to put out into the world.

It’s a beautiful little ballad with a message of hope. The plaintive harmonica evokes a nostalgic feel as does the accompanying video to remind us that we as a people have made it through tough times before and even though this time seems particularly challenging and is for sure the most challenging thing most people alive have experienced in their lifetimes, life will go on in some form and we will in fact make it through in some way. I like that it feels hopeful and sad at the same time because even though we as a species will make it through not every individual person will and our lives are all going to be forever changed no matter what. It’s not a rah rah we’re all in this together kind of song that often gets churned out during trying times that I often find cloying. It’s the kind of song that makes me feel like yeah this is hard, but in some way we will be all right on the other side of the darkness eventually.

New Music Friday: Dreamsicle by Jason Isbell

Jason Isbell’s newest album, Reunions, was released today. By now you should know what a huge fan of Jason Isbell I am. I’ve been looking forward to this album ever since he played “Overseas” from it during a couple of concerts I saw him at last summer. Given that was the song he was playing out on the road I was shocked that it was never one of the singles from album released before the album was out. I kept waiting for it because I loved it so much, and I had to wait all the way until today. I still adore that song and I think the opening line “Used to be a ghost town but even the ghosts got out” is such a brilliant lyric. Jason Isbell is hands down one of, if not the best lyricist currently working today.

As much as I love “Overseas”, after he released “Dreamsicle” as the final single before the album release I was pretty sure that was the song I was going to write about here today. I waited to listen to the whole album this morning to make sure there wasn’t anything that stood out to me more. The whole album is great, and I can’t wait to really dig into it and listen more closely to the lyrics instead of having it on while I’m working, but “Dreamsicle” is still the song I want highlight even though you should do yourself a favor and go listen to the whole album.

Again this is just such a brilliantly written song. Jason Isbell can evoke a mood and a scene in a song like no one else I can think of. This song is a perfect encapsulation of that. The chorus and the melody evoke this sweet nostalgia of summer nights sitting outside and eating Dreamsicles as a kid, but if you dig into the lyrics of the verses it paints an entirely different picture of a broken family. I just love it so much. It’s perfect. Who knows how much more new music we’ll even get in the latter half of this year, but even if its an avalanche I suspect this is going to be my favorite song of 2020 and everything else is going to have to work really hard to unseat it from that place in my heart.

Virtual Game Night

With our stay at home orders due to COVID-19 obviously social lives have been completely upended. Thank god this is happening in a time when we have plenty of options for staying connected even when we can’t see each other in person. In order to give myself some sort of social interaction with people I have been hosting a virtual game night every Saturday night via Google Hangouts. It’s worked out well. It’s kind of funny to me that I am now spending every Saturday night with a lot of friends who I usually only see a handful of times per year due to our normal busy lives. Now that we’re all stuck at home we have time to get together online every weekend.

So far we’ve played a different game every week. I’m sure we’ll cycle back through some of these eventually if this goes on long enough. But here’s a list of things we’ve played in case you’re trying to come up with ideas for your own game nights.

Trivial Pursuit

We did this with an actual Trivial Pursuit game board. We set it up so that my iPad camera pointed down at the board. Every team had a die they could roll for themselves in their houses. I just moved the game pieces around the board on everyone’s behalf and also read all the questions. I promise I didn’t cheat and read the answers when it was my team’s turn to play. The version I had on hand that we played was made in 1994 so the questions were really old at this point. After starting by playing by the actual rules we soon pivoted to the quick method of you get a pie piece every time you get a question correct if you don’t already have that color otherwise we would have been there all night.

Code Names

One of my friends knows some people who programmed their own online version of Code Names, which is what we used to play. I think you could very easily play this with the actual physical version of the game as well if you again had a camera pointing at the words and then texted photos of the key card to the two clue givers for each round.

Scattergories

This was a fairly easy one to play. I just took photos of all the category cards and sent them out ahead of time. Then during the game I controlled rolling the letter die and setting the timer. I talked to another friend who tried playing with friends who all had copies of the game, but they discovered that having bought them at different times sometimes the category cards were not exactly the same. So fair warning if you go that route. My sister also found some online generator that will provide you a random set of categories along with a letter that we used to play with my nieces.

Family Feud

We used this online version of Family Feud that I found to play. We divided everyone up into two teams and then made my husband the emcee since he doesn’t care that much about playing games. You could also switch the emcee every round if you don’t have someone who wants to do it for the entire time you’re playing.

Drawful 2

Drawful 2 is one of the Jackbox Games. They are a set of games you can buy online and then play with friends over the internet. I actually managed to snag this particular one for free. Only one person needs to own the game in order for up to 8 devices to also be logged into the game. To play via Google Hangouts or Zoom you just share your screen to the game. Everyone does need a second device to actually draw and answer the questions. In this particular game everyone gets their own weird clue that they have to draw. Then everyone is shown the same drawing one by one and they have to provide a title for what they think the drawing is of. Then you get a list of all the titles people came up with plus the real title and people have to choose which one they think is the actual title. You get points for every time someone selects one of the titles you created instead of the actual title and if it’s your drawing you get points for every person that selects the actual title rather than one of the made up ones.

Other Future Options

We haven’t played any of these games yet, but they are possibly on tap for future virtual game night.

Additional Jackbox games

Someone else offered to buy some of the additional Jackbox games, so I think we’re going to do another one of those this coming weekend. There are a number of those we could cycle through if we want to pay for them.

The Game of Things

I think this game should also translate fairly easily to an online interface with answers being texted or emailed to the reader rather than submitted on a piece of paper.

Five Second Rule

This is a game I’ve never played in real life before, but I saw it when I was buying myself The Game of Things and thought it sounded like it would also be able to be easily played online with only one person owning the game. I bought a copy so we can try and attempt it. We’ll see how it goes.

Heads Up

Again I think this should work out okay as long as people can have a camera pointing at the phone on their heads so people can read the clues that they need to be getting the person that is it to guess. Thus I think this will probably be a better game to try when we have a night where it’s only couples and no single players so that one of them can train a camera on the other. The the single person could obviously set up something stationary as well.

Pictionary

I think if we ever do actual Pictionary we will need to do a modified version of it because I don’t think the all draw plays will translate well to an online format. It would be hard to see both people drawing at the same time and the potential internet lag time might disadvantage one team over the other. Otherwise I think it should work to have a phone or tablet camera propped up so that it’s pointing down on the piece of paper someone is drawing on.

Charades

I’ve been a little reluctant to try this one since I’m not sure how clear it will be to see what people are doing, but it might be worth trying at some point. I’ve seen some online charades clue generators that people could use to get their clues.

I will also say that depending on your set up for playing it may or may not be helpful to have a couple of options in your back pocket and to test things out ahead of time if possible. For instance the first night we tried to play Drawful 2 we ran into some technical issues that I hadn’t foreseen because it was difficult to test the game fully on my own. Luckily I anticipated there might be problems and already had Family Feud in my back pocket, which we were quickly able to pivot to. Also at least the way I’m running my game night is that whoever expressed interest in joining has been getting the weekly invite. Not everyone shows up every week so there may be instances where we need to switch things up depending on who comes on a particular night. For instance the Jackbox games can only have 8 logins at a time. Sometimes we’ve had more people than that. The virtual game night has definitely been a great way for me to keep some semblance of a social life though and gives a little bit of structure to what we’re doing online rather than just awkwardly staring at each other through little online boxes.

New Music Friday: Country Lady Roundup

I really have no motivation to write these new music Friday posts at the moment. I’ve been mostly trying to keep my life on a similar schedule as before we all had to start isolating ourselves, but my mental energy to do anything that I don’t have to do is just not really there, especially since I know only a handful of people read my music posts. I haven’t even been listening to any new music lately. I still have a big backlog of female country artists to write about in these posts though, so it’s not like I don’t have plenty write about for awhile even if I don’t start listening to new music soon. I feel bad like I’m giving the ladies of country short shrift like everyone else does, but at the moment I kind of want to be able to write about whatever I want to write about in these posts and not stick to the vow I made to give the women of country the spotlight they deserve until I ran out of songs to highlight. I will hopefully feel inspired enough to get back to that one day. For now I’m going to do an entire round up of songs that I had in my docket. At this point a lot of them are starting to be not so new anyway. Then hopefully next week I’ll start fresh with whatever is inspiring me then.

Ten Year Town by Hailey Whitters

Red Flag by Chelsea Williams

Holdin’ On by Alexis Wilkins

Magic Containers

I’ve been in awe of these Rubbermaid Freshworks produce containers for years and had previously thought about writing about them here as something that makes me happy but never did. Now in the midst of this COVID-19 crisis I feel like it would be remiss of me not to share my knowledge of them with you. I’ve always been skeptical of any specialized stuff like this claiming to keep stuff fresher longer. In my experience they never work. So when my husband bought some of these containers a couple of years ago I kind of scoffed at him and was like whatever. Those were probably a waste of money.

Boy was I wrong! These things are amazing! They totally do make our produce last longer without getting wilty and sad. With our new reality of trying to go to the grocery store only once every two weeks we bought even more of these to try and extend the life of the fresh produce we’re buying. I highly recommend getting some for yourself. Now if only someone could figure out a way to make it so bananas didn’t get ripe so fast. There’s no way I can buy two weeks of bananas at a time.

“Live” Music Getting Me Through Isolation

I missed out on my normal New Music Friday post yesterday. I’ve been really busy with work this week, and it’s also just been an emotional and draining week so I honestly just didn’t feel like writing it. I still have plenty of new music to write about. I just didn’t feel like it. Since I didn’t write about anything yesterday I thought I would share some of the musical things that are bringing me a little bit of joy right now.

Obviously if you know me or have been reading this blog for any amount of time you know how much I love music and how much I love to go to concerts. Obviously that’s not possible right now. It’s been sad to continue to delete more and more shows off of my calendar. I’m also trying to come to terms with the fact that even after this initial self-isolation period is over and concerts resume I’m probably going to have to refrain for the next year or so until there’s a vaccine or we’ve reached a high enough transmission rate for there to be a decent amount of herd immunity due to my multiple underlying conditions and immunocompromised status. It breaks my heart because live music is one of the things that brings me the most joy in life. Even if the show goes on I’ve already committed to abandoning my trip to Washington State the first week of June to see Brandi Carlile in a fan club only show in Seattle followed by seeing her at The Gorge, one of the venues on my bucket list. I haven’t completely come to terms with it yet, but I’m starting to think through the fact that the Newport Folk Festival is also probably going to be out for me this year as well.

Meanwhile I’m consoling myself with some of the many musical things that artists are doing from their houses. There are way too many of them to even think about keeping up with, especially the ones that are being done only on Instragram and have to be viewed within 24 hours. I’ve watched a few of those things, but obviously I can’t share those with you now so I’m going to concentrate on the ones you can still watch. Also, I was feeling overwhelmed with feeling like I was missing out on something I would love so committing to some of these and just watching other stuff when and if I can has made me feel less bad about missing out on things.

I So Lounging with Amanda Shires (and Jason Isbell)

It is no secret around here how much I love Jason Isbell and his wife Amanda Shires who has her own band, plays in his band when she can, and is the founding member of The Highwomen. Every day at 5 pm Central Amanda performs for about a half an hour from a barn on their property outside Nashville. Sometimes it’s just her. Sometimes members of her band who are quarantining with them show up. Sometimes her mom shows up. And in most of the later episodes Jason Isbell shows up. The format they’ve seemed to settle into is one or two of Amanda’s songs, one of Jason’s songs, or sometimes some covers. Kelly Bueno, so is married to one of Amanda’s bandmates and who works for but does not play in the band, is producing the daily shows and keeps an eye on the chat and passes them questions that people are asking that they then answer. They obviously have a plan for the songs they’re going to play, but otherwise things are pretty loose and can get a little silly. It’s very much a bright spot in my day. You can catch them live on Youtube each or go back and watch the previously recorded episodes.

The Kat & Dave Show

The Kat & Dave show is Katharine McPhee Foster and David Foster doing performances and being silly together. It started out a little loose and they have since gotten much more planned with themed episodes. They even say that they’re rehearsing for these for a couple hours, so they’re obviously putting a decent amount of work into them even though they still seem a little off the cuff, which I find fun and really enjoy. They’ve done 10 episodes so far and are now on a little hiatus to supposedly plan more shows. Hopefully they do return and soon because I really love them. You can go back and watch the already recorded episodes on YouTube. They go live from both of their accounts so that both of their fans can follow along, so there are two versions of every episode listed. You can just pick whose phone you want to watch it from.

Choir! Choir! Choir! Distan-Sing-Alongs

If you are unfamiliar with Choir! Choir! Choir! is a weekly drop-in sing-a-long in Toronto hosted by Daveed Goldman and Nobu Adilman. They also tour now so you can potentially sing with them wherever you live. I saw them perform at the Newport Folk Festival a few years ago. What they’re doing online is different from the live shows where you only sing a couple of songs and they walk through teaching the songs to everyone with half the room doing the melody and half singing harmony. In these obviously you aren’t singing with a whole room of people. You can only hear them and yourself and whoever else might be in the room singing with you. They are still a lot of fun and just seeing the people participating in the chat from all over the world while you know we’re all singing together makes me feel way less alone through all of this. We’re literally all going through it together. They’ve done two so far the Choir!intine: Epic Social Distan-Sing-Along! and the Epic Love Song Social Distan-Sing-Along. They’re doing a third one tomorrow at 3 pm Eastern where we’ll be singing songs about spring. You can watch either on Facebook Live or Youtube Live. I highly recommend. It will definitely brighten up your day I promise.

Christopher Paul Stelling

Christopher Paul Stelling has played a couple of times in the past week just sitting down with his guitar and playing for a good long time. The first one was an hour and half and the second was two hours. He’s just an amazing guitar player and I find his music so calming. His song “Scarecrow” with its chorus of “So breathe, breathe it out, lay your burdens down, to rest. Breath, through the doubts, never let them get the best, the best of you.” has long been one of my go to songs when I’m having a bad day and is moreso now than ever. I was really happy that he played it during the second show and was highly amused that it has obviously been awhile since he had to stop, figure out what the lyrics were, and then start again. If you just want some music that give you a little peace in these troubled times I recommend some Christopher Paul Stelling.