The light at the end of a tunnel is in view, but forever getting farther. We are still in quarantine, so we are still leaning on art and entertainment to bring some semblance of normalcy to our lives. Last time around, we reached out to several creators of the local scene to ask them to write about the pieces of culture they consumed during their time indoors. This time, it’s the staff of La La Lista — past and present — who chime in to provide some recommendations of our own. Sitcoms, music, experimental films, reality shows, obscure books, poetry — it’s an eclectic mix. Read our words below, click the links, follow the white rabbit; you might find a new favorite of your own.
Quarantine, much like all things in life, is something defined by time. Time, if it is used wisely, is something that should be defined by the memories you create with the ones you love. Separated from my tribe, and incapable of creating a new one, the last few months have been an exercise in self-reflection. Momo, by Michael Ende is the story of time. How we spend it. Why we spend it. Who we spend it with. This beautiful novel forced me to rethink my approach to the uncomfortable chaos that was brewing within as a result of this isolation and my inability to share moments with the ones I love. What Momo describes, in simple, but poignant prose, are the social and personal costs that arise when we lose ourselves in consumption. Sometimes the world is best lived through the eyes of society’s purest – its children. Now, in the midst of new love, I appreciate the fact that time – although limited – is what you make it. Share it with the ones you love.
Lucas De Paoli
During these several months of isolation, my personal recipe for not losing my sanity consisted mainly of musical stimuli to combat anxiety and serve as company during my hours of working indoors. I’ve been favoring instrumental music, reconnecting with jazz and with late-70s Japanese music. Among the things I’ve been rediscovering are Taeko Ohnuki’s Sunshower, perfect for starting the day, and Classical Current, standards adapted to guitar by Laurindo Almeida.
When I need to go on a journey of imagination, I’ve been turning to the Japanese channel TOEI which has released over 70 shows of the Tokusatsu genre from the 60s and 70s, with English subtitles! Robot detectives, Magical Girls babysitters, defenders against alien threats and cyborgs that transform into spaceships, you name it! Finally, for my evening reading, I’ve been catching up with FORMING, the genesis of a universe that is as mystical as it is psychedelic, in a comic book format that’s been uploaded page by page since 2014 by Jesse Moynihan (art director for The Midnight Gospel, also highly recommended).
When things get slower, I tend to look inward. During my twenties I tried just about every possible distraction to avoid ever doing so — but now at 31 I’m beginning to embrace it. I watched The Midnight Gospel on the recommendation of a good friend, and was immediately hooked on its metaphysical subject matter, tackling life, death, meditation, faith, love, forgiveness, and other topics that seem increasingly relevant in apocalyptic times like these. This led me to the Duncan Trussell Family Hour (the podcast from which The Midnight Gospel snags most of its dialog) and a sporadic meditation habit using Sam Harris’ app Waking Up. Reading-wise, I’m currently immersed in They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us, a collection of truly excellent — and often poetic — music writing essays by Columbus native Hanif Abdurraqib.
The main reason I ventured to watch Schitt’s Creek was Eugene Levy’s prodigious eyebrows. After an underwhelming first half of season one, it hooked me. It is hilarious, sporting a wealth of comedic talent. But what I really love is the sweetness of its writing, and the way it very believably develops its characters. SC is about the gradual process of putting one’s life back together bit by bit.
When you watch serialized comedy, you warm up to the characters and you want them to do well. But great comedy comes from frustration, so you need constant conflict; you need the characters to want something, and then you need them to fail at it so they can try again next week. However, Schitt’s Creek manages to treat its characters with compassion and dignity; you get to see them thrive, grow, become better. And the setbacks feel genuine, like moments of potential growth, not like a cruel reset of the status quo in the name of entertainment. It’s breaking conventional sitcom wisdom without sacrificing comedy. This is very unusual and refreshing!
So yes, Schitt’s Creek is very funny, but its humor is only part of what makes it wonderful. It’s a much-needed dose of warmth in the midst of our current bleakness.
Magu Fernandez Richeri
When I was little and people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I’d quickly respond: Japanese. My mom had to tell me this wasn’t possible. But I grew up, and my love for all things Japanese and Asian culture grew up with me. During quarantine I’ve been spending my time with Chinese, Japanese and Korean soap operas — nothing like spending this time indoors watching people who get even less action than I’m getting. 20 episodes building up to a first kiss! These soap operas are built on long shots of the protagonists staring at each other without saying a word. Tension.
I also have a daily date with my friend Tomi to watch Ranma ½, which we used to watch on TV as kids but never really got to understand. It had so many nude scenes that were cut away completely that it never really made full sense. This daily hangout is one of my favorite moments of the day, and I’m accompanying it with food deliveries from some of my favorite Asian restaurants: Mirutaki, with its magic takoyakis; the korean combos by Mr. Ho and Yugane; my love for the neighborhood Chinese restaurant. Thank you, Asia, for saving my quarantine.
Maria Laura Gonzalez
Something that made my plastic quarantine days go by lighter and brighter has definitely been The Big Bang Theory — a feel-good comedy that makes me at ease with myself, even hopeful, with sparkling curiosity for just about everything. It has 12 seasons with 20 minute episodes, and starts with a set of characters very rigid into stereotypes. I was surprised to see how these characters grow in time and become deeper without losing their nature or their jokes. Added to a passion for accurate data, we see love in the building of relationships, using humor as a means to accept one’s own limitations and help each other facing their own. It’s pure fiction in that situations are reduced and simplified in order to characterize deep shit and make it funny and interesting. TBBT has been criticized for its approach to gender stereotypes, and a lot can be said in that regard. However, I see a process of acceptance of ambiguity, openness, and a process of self-deconstruction and group bond construction, and honestly — I feel it’s the real life we deal with every day: lots of ideas and feelings about what is wrong, and finding ways of dealing with it.
I wish my Quarantine had resulted in a new set of skills such as learning Estonian or how to cook something other than fideos; however, my most valuable (a decade late) discovery comes down to Gilmore Girls. Never have I ever thought I’d be able to sit through forty two minutes of non-stop dialogue about coffee, and yet here I am; searching for real-life towns like Stars Hollow to start a new life abroad. What got me? The 2000s nostalgia, the fantastic character chemistry, and Emily Gilmore’s cynical comebacks. If you want to give this series a try (or why not, rewatch the show all over) all 7 seasons (plus the reboot) are now available for streaming on Netflix!
I’m one of those terribly annoying people that tried to make the most of quarantine (for a good month and a half at least). I started learning Portuguese, working on my headstands, and even gave up alcohol for awhile. But going through lockdown by yourself makes you seek out good company, which I’ve found leafing through the pages of Psicomagia (by Alejandro Jodorowksy). Stretched out, taking up every inch of my balcony, I was fascinated by his invention of a new type of psychology based on magical “acts”. Diving into the world of Jodorowsky for the first time, I learned he’s actually a film director (he had a failed remake of Dune, with Salvador Dali, Mick Jagger and Pink Floyd), graphic novelist, actor and poet. When the world around you is this bizarre, why not abandon yourself to magical-realism? Another longtime favorite author, Haruki Murakami (known for his love of cats, ear fetish, and incestual storylines) kept me entertained by reinventing himself as a DJ, sharing his collection of jazz vinyls with the world through a Japanese radio station. You can listen to his oldies-but-goodies playlist here.
If I could use one word to describe what I’ve been listening to during quarantine, it would be “inconsistent.” I listen to anything I can get fully immersed in, which varies heavily depending on my mood that day/ hour. Lately it’s been a lot of angsty mid-00’s music but is sometimes classical piano and could be nearly anything in between. There are no rules anymore.
My most sacred Quarantine ritual is weekly Quarentrivia, which I’ve done every single Saturday (14 Saturdays so far, if anyone’s counting) since Quarantine began. For two hours every weekend I genuinely feel like I’ve gone out even though I haven’t left my sillon, which is the kind of small miracle we all need. In what seems like another lifetime, my brilliant friend used to organize trivia nights at his house and has, in keeping with the times, he brought the party to Zoom. I’ve also been catching up on all the films I’d cringe when I’d admit I’d never seen, like the entirety of the Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Big Lebowski, in addition to staying very up-to-date on RuPaul’s Drag Race.
Although Netflix isn’t as culturally enriching in the same respect as traversing historical podcasts, listening to eclectic music, and indulging in the lyrical wordplay of Shakespearean theatre via stream, there is a series that includes all three elements in one neat little package. The greatest cultural behemoth that graced the silver screen and fully competes with watching all LOTR films back to back, I’m talking about the illustrious Indiana Jones trilogy (I’m ignoring the existence of Kingdom of the Crystal Skull). The Indiana Jones series holds a spot in my heart for many reasons but mostly it harkens back to a time where I sat in my print pajamas watching TV with my dad and brother with a much younger Harrison Ford kicking bad guy ass while making iconic quips, meanwhile I’m stuffing my face with sweets. Recently I relived this moment similarly with my girlfriend and it surprisingly held just as much meaning for her because Indy led her to studying archaeology. It’s all good and well consuming New Zealand media to make me feel at home, but what truly makes me feel comfortable is capturing the essence of my past for just one small moment in time.
These quarantine times have had their share of discovering and rediscovering for me. I have dug more into the work of Argentinian Samantha Schweblin, whose Siete Casas Vacías had blown my mind before this whole thing started, and went on to read her Kentukis in which she strengthens her way of writing that is as familiar in her ways as shocking in the twists and turns of her arguments. I have been blown away by the music of Alexandra Saviour’s Belladona of Sadness and “The Archer” and by Nadine Shah’s brand new Kitchen Sink.
As for the rediscoveries, in the midst of my out of control quarantine Netflix binge I re-watched The End of the F***ing World, and fell all over again for its photography, its soundtrack (especially those Graham Coxon tunes), for that world where cell phones disappear causing one to wonder “when is this whole thing is taking place anyway?”, for that constant road trip presence, so uncommon maybe because of its Britishness, and, of course, for these kids’ almost unbearable grown-up angst. I revisited Charles Bukowski’s compilation of poems, Love Is a Dog from Hell, which I will not comment and leave you all just go and read and find out for yourselves.
Lockdown really got me down during the first few weeks. One of the ways I managed to power through was by congregating at a now virtual cinema club called Cineclub La Garra, where we all get together to discuss movies in 4-movie ciclos every month. So I’ve been feasting my eyes on some top-shelf cinema with films such as La Ciénaga by Lucrecia Martel or Chungking Express by Wong Kar-Wai.
In the music department, I’ve been allowing myself to dive deep into some niche genres such as the Belarusan post-punk scene. There are loads of memes about them being super obscure but bands such as Molchat Doma and their curious approach to music production really caught my ear. I’ve reconnected with hip-hop and got into A Tribe Called Quest and subsequently asked myself why I hadn’t paid attention to them before. All in all, exploring pieces of media has helped cope with how static everything seems to be.
I’ve done this workout by fitness goddess Nicole Steen almost every day, since the beginning. I know all the moves (and the accompanying banter) by heart. A workout video may seem like an odd choice for a singer-songwriter who spent the first month of quarantine writing about how to hone your creativity at the end of the world, but don’t underestimate how much artistry and creativity goes into making a workout that is fun, funny, uplifting, effective, and that stands out among the crowd.
I fell in love with fitness last year. I’ve struggled with depression for most of my adult life, and after spending five months ill with chronic respiratory infections and then recovering from the surgery that finally cured them, I was in deep. I got a gym membership, and started going every day. That became my lifeline. When the gym, my levee against depression, closed indefinitely, I felt a sinking feeling. But along came Nicole, yelling “Show me those buns of Steen!” So even though I sometimes spend the whole rest of the day in bed crying, my 30 minutes with Nicole help me keep up hope that tomorrow will be worth living.
In the past few months I’ve joined a book club, a movie club, and a music club. I’ve always been a club person. But it wasn’t until this quarantine that I really had the time nor the accompanying enthusiasm from outside parties to take my true calling and run wild. My book club is my tried and true, the first club that got me through those dark, beginning days. We switch off choosing novels with a rule to pick an author from a new country each time. We’ve checked off Poland with Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk, China with The Garlic Ballads by Mo Yan, The United States with Bullet Park by John Cheever, and India with Ladies Coupe by Anita Nair. While all are fantastic reads, it’s been the diversity of the books that has kept me so thoroughly entertained.
Same with my movie club: each Sunday someone in the group picks a different film from the decade after the previous pick. There have been 2000’s misunderstood blockbusters, Vanilla Sky, dom/sub romance dramas, The Duke of Burgundy, 70’s experimental art films, Stalker, and animated Iranian revolutions explained in French, Persepolis. In the music club we’ve analyzed: A Written Testimony by Jay Electronica, Strange Geometry by the Clientele, Punisher by Phoebe Bridgers, and Tabula Rasa by Arvo Pärt, all of which are worth consuming. But my real recommendation is to diversify your culture intake. Consume varied and consume often. Then surround yourself with fascinating people so you have a space to explore them all. And watch Better Call Saul.
Pablo Damian Pérez
In recent weeks, I’ve gone back to the late great Eduardo Mateo’s Mateo Solo Bien Se Lame (1972). Apart from being one of my favorite albums of all time, it’s an album of a haunting simplicity that just features the Uruguayan musician and his guitar, with the subtle addition of minimalist percussion here and there (also played by the man himself). It’s only 39 minutes long but you’ll find candombe, bossa nova, and even some reminiscences of Indian music in there. For some reason the title (which roughly translates as Mateo Is Better Off On His Own) resonates with me during these times of isolation, serving as a reminder that human contact is important but there’s also a lot of work to be done within oneself, and there’s no better time to do it than right here, right now.
I want to recommend Emily And’s album Alquimia. It really helped me during quarantine because it deals with many subjects that I had in my mind, such as anxiety, not knowing what to do. It also has the added factor of having being made by a dear friend whom I miss very much. It felt like a long-distance hug. I also really liked Traviarca by Susy Shock, a great trans activist and lifelong artist who was very recently touring here in Europe. As a trans person, I found this album very powerful, and I feel like it accompanied me during my moments of angst. She is so strong and so powerful, and she transmits this strength throughout the album. She mixes a lot of different styles such as folklore, milonga, and many others. Given all of this and the beautiful poetry she writes, how could it not be a great album?
And finally, and I’m guessing I’m not the only one who watched this during quarantine, I loved the show The Midnight Gospel. It made me think of a lot of things that I was honestly not expecting when I started watching. I had no idea it would deal with so many things such as anxiety, grief, legalization… it deals with a lot! It made me laugh, it made me cry, it made me reflect, it made me realize I had to stop and breathe a little bit after all the uncertainty and stress of quarantine.
In my quarantine free time, I finally got around to watching the classic Stanley Kubrick movie Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. It did not disappoint. Amazing performances do the screenplay justice and it is hilarious (in a dark way) all the way through. The movie’s title and Dr. Strangelove’s full identity aren’t explained until the last part of the film, and when they are, it’s quite a shocking revelation. I also recommend the 2015 stop-motion film Anomalisa. It’s a trip of a movie that might resonate with people feeling starved of human connection after months in quarantine (heads up, though: it probably won’t leave you in a joyful mood).
Lastly, if you want to spend an evening engrossed in a short horror novel, check out Samanta Schweblin’s Distancia de Rescate (also available in English as Fever Dream). It takes place in the Pampa, the story inspired by the region’s agrochemical-related health problems. I finished it in a few hours, but certain scenes have stuck with me for some time.
The first few weeks of quarantine, I only slept and watched movies. I felt very depressed and just wanted to wait it out. But then I realized this was on track to be quite long (I wasn’t expecting it to be this long!) so I bought the book En Medio de Spinoza by Gilles Deleuze to read along with a friend. They are a series of lectures that this philosopher (who my mom had been reading since I was in her belly) gave in 1980-1981 about his favorite “VII Century colleague”, the curious and almost mystic Baruch Spinoza. I immersed myself in the concepts and worlds between the two thinkers. Everything I read was talking about the current global moment, my inner velocities, the different ways of being, love, dancing, routine, the infinitely small and the infinitely big. They put words to things I can only experience as physical certainties. Thanks to these great philosophers, the Capricorn (materialism) and Sagittarius (idealism) for studying the composition of relationships present in the Earth and in the Universe.
The hard truth of the matter is that for the past week I have been enjoying watching plastic surgery GOATs Dr. Terry Dubrow and Dr. Paul Nassif fix failed cosmetic procedures on their show, Botched. I tried to educate myself, I tried to the watch movies I swore I always would. I rewatched the quarantine classic Rear Window and marvelled that pelotudos were still pelotuding even in 1954. I watched The Talented Mr. Ripley and furiously googled Jude Law’s hair loss. I binged all of Peaky Blinders and reasoned that if Tommy Shelby married whatsherface, I would probably stand a good chance with him too, right? One night with me, no more tunnel dreams. Men, we are here to heal them! But, in the end, I returned to my good friends, Dr. Dubrow and Dr. Nassif. Their bickering soothes me, their tiny stitches dazzle. After long days of um, experiencing reality — our collective reckoning with the murderous outcomes of racism, the systemic inequalities revealed by a global lockdown — well, all I want to is watch a lopsided breast augmentation be corrected, watch a patient cry as he sees his new nose for the first time. I, dirty hypocrite.
Sometimes, I put on Novos Baianos, Jacques Dutronc, Django Reinhardt, and dance around my bathroom to remind myself that if I wanted to be watching a foreign film, I would like totally get it. You all can already tell that I would get it, right?
I’d already seen all the “cult” shows, and I didn’t want to think too much, since being in quarantine really affected my mental health. I only wanted to watch things that made me laugh, so I decided to watch popular shows that I’d never seen. I started with The Office (US version) and I can honestly say it’s the best comedy series I’ve seen so far. It’s simple, but the script and cast are terrific. I liked it so much that I would watch 3 or 4 episodes a day. I’ll never forget Michael Scott’s epic “that’s what she said”. I highly recommend it if you’re bummed out and want to laugh your ass off. I also started watching a Chilean show that I used to watch as a kid called 31 Minutos. It’s incredible but I still remember many scenes and characters after all these years. It has a childish humor that also feels very bizarre and makes me laugh really hard, despite the fact that it’s a silly kids’ show featuring puppets. Highly recommended as well.
Back in April during a cold sweat of boredom and unemployment, I signed up for Criterion Channel, half a dozen newsletters and website subscriptions (highly recommend New Republic and Alicia Kennedy) and scoured the collective websites of the city’s few English bookstores. I have enough books to get me through the incoming swine flu pandemic. I spent most of April and May reading; James Baldwin’s Another Country, Toni Morrison’s Tar Baby, Sally Rooney’s Normal People, Kenzaburo Oe’s Nip the Buds, Shoot the Kids and Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita are the ones that have stayed floating in my mind. And it was when I watched The Lighthouse and Da 5 Bloods one night after another that I realized my mind is seeking out information, art and creators that reinforce and expand the immense self-reflection that defines my last 100 days. The world has long been fucked up and unpredictable and humans have always been resilient. And it took me a minute to focus on the latter and not the former. So when everything you’ve built crumbles around you, when your identity is challenged, when nothing makes sense and you have to learn a new world order, it’s time to get creative, replant and till the soil until the new harvest comes.
Every Saturday since quarantine started, Hernan Casciari has been doing a live reading of some of his short stories via live streaming. His stories, most of them based on his own experiences, helped me connect with this beautiful city, and he has mastered the art of creating beautiful and often heartbreaking endings (which eludes many writers). Also, his magazine Orsai collects short stories of many up-and-coming argy writers, which is a great way to support local culture and acquire a magazine so well crafted it’s almost a book.