A while back, out of nowhere, I got the urge to fill out one of those surveys like the ones that used to circulate in my Hotmail and Myspace inboxes back in middle school: you know, the 100-line long questionnaires with annoying font colors and *~*wRiTiNg LiKe ThIs*~*.
Mostly I wanted to have something to fill out because it’d be an interesting snapshot of Life During Quarantine. But that was back in spring when everything still felt new and weird, and by now (apocalyptic skies aside), this pandemic lifestyle seems like the new normal. Wearing a mask is as second nature as grabbing my phone and keys when I walk out the door. Running essential errands or going on walks are pretty much the only reasons we go out. Seeing people hug on TV shows makes me uncomfortable. I’d say we’re in it for the long haul.
My personal journal (the one not on the Internet) used to be where I wrote about vacations and get-togethers; now it’s where I document the Netflix shows we’ve gone through and new recipes we’ve tried. I figured I’d pull out some of those mundane details and compile them here in a non-comprehensive list: newish and relevant movies, shows, albums, books, and other random things Alex and I have consumed since March of this year. Use it as a list of recommendations if you want, but mostly it’s just here to serve the same purpose as those middle school surveys: as a time capsule.
- THE VAST OF NIGHT. Quirky low-budget Amazon Prime movie with surprising shifts in pace and a couple of genuinely chilling scenes. The setting is in a small New Mexico town in the atomic age, which gave me real The Return Part 8 vibes (not a bad thing).
- DA 5 BLOODS. Hard to finish, but worth it. Chadwick Boseman plays a central role even though you only see him for about 20 minutes total.
- STRANGERS ON A TRAIN. Watched this one as part of a virtual movie night hosted by our favorite neighborhood theater, the Balboa. A thoroughly enjoyable Hitchcock film with an insane climax. (The experience of watching with a chat room full of people—and everyone pressing play at the same time—had a very 2000s feel to it.)
- MOONLIGHT. I regret that I didn’t see this when it first came out. It’s everything I love in a movie: the slow unfolding of a character arc, extremely aware of its setting, sad and beautiful all at once.
- THE CONVERSATION. Paranoia in 1970s San Francisco? Say no more!
- SHIRLEY. I just love that this movie exists. Plus, Elisabeth Moss as Shirley Jackson is a mood.
Documentaries and docuseries
- THE BOOKSELLERS. A documentary about antiquarian booksellers, how very up our alley.
- THE LAST DANCE. I don’t like sports and I don’t like drama, but somehow loved this docuseries about the 1990s Chicago Bulls?? A+ editing and interviews. And Alex got to relive the height of his basketball card-collecting years by naming every player who appeared on the screen and their team.
- 13TH. An essential watch and another one I wish I’d seen sooner. Can’t recommend highly enough.
- TAKE THIS HAMMER (DIRECTOR’S CUT). This was my proper introduction to James Baldwin, which I’m very grateful for. It’s also an important glimpse into San Francisco’s history with race. (Warning: it’s not pretty.)
- A PEOPLE’S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES. I need to read this book!!!
- REMASTERED: THE TWO KILLINGS OF SAM COOKE. I naïvely didn’t know any of the history behind Sam Cooke and his music. A fascinating and depressing story.
TV shows and limited series
- DARK. Just a great mind-bending, post-apocalyptic German show to watch in 2020.
- GODLESS. A quick little miniseries featuring an intimidating Jeff Daniels, a bunch of badass women, and some excellent western scenery.
- WATCHMEN. Perhaps the most relevant thing in this whole post, and also one of my favorites even though I was hesitant at first to watch it. (It helped that Alex could explain the nuances of the DC universe to me while we watched, but that’s not necessary to enjoy it!!)
- RUSSIAN DOLL. V easy to binge. Relatable in the sense that every day lately feels the same.
- MANIAC. Weird/spooky/good.
- THE X-FILES. We’re currently on Season 6 (a very alien-heavy season so far) and it’s been a ride. Not gonna lie, I’m mostly in it for the fandom, and so I can watch supercuts on YouTube without spoilers.
- TRICK MIRROR, Jia Tolentino. A collection of essays that hit hard.
- THE OX, Chris Rees. a.k.a. John Entwistle’s authorized biography. Nothing too groundbreaking, but some good stories to be told.
- THE MADDADDAM TRILOGY, Margaret Atwood. I would highly recommend reading this in 2020.
- THE VANISHING HALF, Brit Bennett. A character-driven story set in some of my favorite places.
- THE FIRE NEXT TIME, James Baldwin. An important read. Baldwin discusses ugly topics more eloquently than anyone I’ve ever read.
- LITTLE WEIRDS, Jenny Slate. An apt title, and the kind of book you can read in bite-sized pieces. Depending on my mood during each chapter, I either loved or hated it.
- SONGS FOR PIERRE CHUVIN, the Mountain Goats. I feel like I’m not a real Mountain Goats fan because I’m not as into the early stuff, but this came out at just the right time (April 2020) and the return to lo-fi was so befitting while we all stayed cooped up in our homes.
- FETCH THE BOLT CUTTERS, Fiona Apple. Sonically transcendent.
- WOMEN IN MUSIC, PT. III, HAIM. Every track is just so good. Snippets of Fleetwood Mac, Joni Mitchell, Sheryl Crow, Ace of Base, and Uncle Kracker(?!). Fun fact: When it comes to Famous People of Our Generation, I’m one degree of separation away from Este Haim, who was in my classes/Bachelor’s program/graduating class at UCLA.
- SET MY HEART ON FIRE IMMEDIATELY, Perfume Genius. So dreamy. Will probably always remind me of cooking dinner with Alex and Coop (who likes to sit on the fridge supervising us), one and a half glasses of wine in, thinking about how even though everything else in the world was a disaster, our tiny little family couldn’t be happier.
I’ve been lowkey making a pandemic playlist on Spotify, which you can find here. It’s mostly stuff that has come out since March, but also includes some older songs by artists we’ve lost since then, and some others that for whatever reason remind me of these strange times.
- Red pepper, potato, and peanut sabzi. Bon Appetit may be cancelled, but I’ll be forever grateful to the Test Kitchen squad for introducing us to some great recipes. This one from Priya is SO GOOD.
- Sourdough crackers and sourdough biscuits. Thanks, King Arthur Flour! And thanks to my coworker Alysia for sharing some of her sourdough starter with me at the beginning of all this.
- Homemade spaghetti and sauce from the excellent Pasta Grannies book. Our ultimate comfort food.
- Char siu chicken banh mi. Ever since we learned we could pickle food, the idea of making our own banh mi has been so enticing. This was so fun to make (and eat)!
- Turkish couscous. A refreshing dish made during the heatwave in early September.
- Soyrizo burritos. I’ve eaten…..too many of these to count. Basically just involves cooking up some soyrizo with egg and potato, sometimes adding rice and beans, and making a burrito out of it.
aaaand just for fun…
New names we’ve developed for Coop
The nicknames have evolved so much that it’s impossible to try and explain them.
- Cross Finster
- Combination Lock
As a bonus, here’s a snapshot of the view from my desk at 9am on September 9, 2020, the day that San Francisco skies were on fire: