Almodovar’s Lockdown, J.G. Ballard’s World, Aphex Twin, Hal Willner and Spin-Off Podcasts: 4/8/2020 Links
Are you looking for a trusted, socially-distanced source to provide you with semi-regular cultural recommendation links during this time of pandemic?
Okay, well, I’m not really either. My inbox too is full of check-ins and missives from journalists and curators seeking to maintain a digital relationship by supplying Netflix watchlists and the like during this awful interregnum. So consider these posts as much an activity for me as you as I revive this column by highlighting a few things that may provide some degree of interest, empathy or wisdom. Some things to shift your attention away from the cable news of the day.
Almodovar’s Diary. The read of the day is Pedro Almodovar’s lock-down journal at Sight and Sound, in which his late-night viewing unlocks torrents of memory. (Strangely, his viewing choices, which include Un Flic and Goldfinger, are in my own video queue too.) And while I have kept a journal since 2001, I also am struggling with the same feelings as Almodovar with maintaining it these days. He writes:
I had refused to write till now. I didn’t want to leave written proof of the feelings that these first few days of isolation are provoking in me. Perhaps the reason is because the first thing that I’ve discovered is that the situation is not so different to my daily routine — I am used to living on my own and being in a state of alarm; a not so happy discovery. The first nine days I refused to make one note. But this morning there was a headline in the news that sounded more like one found in a magazine devoted to black humour: “Madrid’s ice rink becomes makeshift morgue.” It sounds like an Italian giallo but it’s happening in Madrid, it’s “One of the Sinister News Items of the Day.”
New Aphex Twin. There are six new Aphex Twin tracks on his semi-incognito Soundcloud page (go to the recent uploads section). Comfort food.
Hal Willner. As I wrote more personally about on my Twitter, great producer, curator and musical impresario Hal Wilner passed away this week from COVID-19. Learn more about him in this wonderful 2017 portrait by John Leland.
J.G. Ballard’s World. At the New Statesman, Mark O’Connell effectively pinpoints why were are now living in J.G. Ballard’s world even as he, in an effective closer, explains why we are not J.G. Ballard characters — at least not yet.
Beating Coronavirus Capitalism. Filmmaker Astra Taylor will be joining Naomi Klein, Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor in a conversation moderated by Hari Kondaboulou about how we might transition from the current crisis to a more just society. The event is tomorrow, 5:00 Eastern, and tickets to the online event are free although those who are able to are requested to donate.
Podcast Spinoffs. I’ve been happy to see in the last week or so a number of podcasts that I’ve liked produce spin-off editions in this time when, even though many of us aren’t commuting, we are listening to more audio. “A Phone Call from Paul”‘s Paul Holdengraber is now with us daily at his “Quarantine Tapes.” Holdengraber’s ruminative, invitingly erudite voice is a perfect balm to start your day with. As Holdengraber talks with authors, filmmakers, philosophers, activists and health care workers, he frames his conversations around a quote by Blaise Pascal: “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.“ Recommended episodes so far include Werner Herzog (‘natch), the existential phenomenologist Simon Critchley, and biologist and research Melody Wainscott.
Cheryl Strayed — the author (Wild) and columnist (“Dear Sugar”) is a voice I’ve missed since the demise of the most recent edition of the “Dear Sugar” podcast. Now, she’s back with “Sugar Calling,” from the New York Times. It also features conversations with creative people about this moment we’re living through. Margaret Atwood (The Handmaid’s Tale) is the guest today. Author George Saunders kicked off the series last week, and his letter to his Syracuse students, which he reads, is very much worth the listen.
Finally, and perfectly timed, Julia Bainbridge is promising new episodes of her “The Lonely Hour” podcast starting this Friday.