Choices, Choices, Choices

Houston, We Have Recommendations: Round 2

Houstonia staff share what we’re reading, watching, and listening to now, a month into social distancing.

By Emma Schkloven April 27, 2020

Well, it’s been a pretty uneventful month, right? Life’s returned to normal, we’re out and about once again, and hand sanitizer is languishing on the shelves Oh! Must have dozed off there for a second, that was such a nice dream.

We’re still in the same endless loop of bed-kitchen-couch-repeat as we were last month—except that we’ve pretty much abandoned wearing real pants (a video call is only from the waist up!) and our bucket lists of movies to watch and books to read has gotten significantly shorter. We figure yours has too. So, we’re back to fill you in on how we’ve been occupying our time during these last few weeks.

Dance, Dance Quarantine  

I have jammed out to DJ D-Nice’s Instagram Live "Club Quarantine" dance parties several times now, and it’s been nothing short of soul feeding. Not only is he a brilliant DJ, but his antics (sipping wine and calling out to celebs and fans as they comment in the live feed) have become internet legend. People have created bingo cards to play along with the sets that include Prince, ’90s R&B, and ’70s groove. He even created a memorable set honoring the late Bill Withers the day of his passing. D-Nice has created a space that connects people all over the world to the funkiest dance party without leaving our homes. Monica Fuentes Carroll, art director


So. Many. Movies.

I’ve been watching a lot of movies, old and new. I’ve seen about 20 since our stay-home orders. So far, my favorites have been the hilarious and heartfelt Patti Cake$, about a struggling white chick from the suburban slums of New Jersey trying to make it as a rapper, and Swallow, about a young pregnant woman with pica, an eating disorder where a person eats non-food items, which plays out somewhere between a horror and hostage film with quite the unexpected ending (I’d argue it’s really a feminist manifesto, though, so enjoy). The documentary 78/52: Hitchcock’s Shower Scene is a good one, too, exploring in depth this defining moment of cinema with numerous film industry legends and critics—from Danny Elfman to Bret Easton Ellis—detailing the technical genius involved to how the scene (and movie) not only reflected the coming shifts in America in the 1960s, but implanted itself in our collective psyche forever after, changing filmmaking forever. —Gwendolyn Knapp, associate editor

Two Ears in a Pod(cast)

I might be the only person out there who hasn’t watched Netflix since this pandemic started. Shocking, I know, but the reality is that after staring at my laptop all day for work, the last thing I want to do in the evening is stare at another screen. I haven’t really been reading, either. But fear not for my lack of binging, dear Houstonia reader. In the last month, I’ve listened to 60-plus hours of podcasts as I work on a T-shirt quilt that I’ve been saying I’ll make for the better half a decade. Mostly I’ve been listening to Swish and Flick, in which four friends read through the entire Harry Potter series, analyzing the story chapter by chapter. If you are as much of a HP nerd as I am, you’ll love this. I’ve also been mixing it up with Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend and Dax Shepard’s Armchair Expert, both of which feature hilarious and thoughtful interviews with celebrities and experts. Oh, and if you want to know how Dolly Parton has changed the U.S. and the world, I’d suggest Dolly Parton’s America. Your mind will be blown. —Catherine Wendlandt, digital editor

Fun in Failure

There’s no way around it, things are pretty awful right now. So, I’ve been Marie Kondo-ing my TV, only watching the shows that bring me joy. Thank goodness season 4 of Netflix’s zany baking competition Nailed It dropped at the beginning of the month. If you’ve never seen it, three objectively terrible non-bakers attempt to make artistically-edible masterpieces (think pirate-themed donuts or a sculpted cake bust of Napoleon Bonaparte) that even some of the most skilled home bakers would balk at. This celebration of the “I didn’t do it, but I damn well tried!” spirit is non-stop laughs, thanks in part to the show’s host, the equally saucy and acerbic comedian Nicole Byer. What makes Nailed It so bingeable is that it never takes itself too seriously (unlike many reality and competition shows out there)—not the competitors, who admit they’re terrible bakers, not the producers, and definitely not the judges. Plus, there’s something unbelievably enjoyable in watching Byer and chocolate-extraordinaire Jacques Torres, who provides an air of professional credibility, search desperately for compliments as they nibble on true caketastrophes. — Emma Schkloven, associate editor 

Attitude Enters the Ring

As comfort is the name of the game for me, I've been reliving aural nostalgia over the past few weeks in the form of professional wrestling podcasts. Yes, the current product is rife with problems, but for an hour each evening, I can settle back into the halcyon days of 1998 with the Attitude Era podcast. Here, a couple British blokes run through old pay-per-view events, injecting dark humor and a healthy dose of perspective in their recaps. For one, this and other wrestling podcasts make me remember happier—albeit odd—moments of my childhood; also, they confirm to me that I never need to watch another wrestling event for the rest of my life. — Timothy Malcolm, dining editor


Old Is New

While I am still devouring The Mirror and the Light, the final (and incredible) book in Hilary Mantel’s trilogy on the rise and eventual fall of Thomas Cromwell, I can’t read all the time. And when I am not reading after work, I have found myself turning to a few things to distract myself from the strange and stressful times we all find ourselves in.

Film-wise, since the start of the quarantine I have watched the 1940 classic The Shop Around the Corner, starring Jimmy Stewart and Margaret Sullavan, at least six times. The film, directed by Ernst Lubitsch, tells the story of two coworkers in, yes, a shop, who bicker on the job and are unknowingly falling in love as pen pals. Set during the Great Depression, when money was tight and jobs were scarce—even in romantic comedies—something about this film just makes me feel better. Plus, I catch some new bit of business, or a cleverly delivered line with every viewing. If you decide to go down this rabbit hole yourself, spend at least one viewing just taking in the stellar performances from character actors Frank Morgan (The Wizard of Oz) and Felix Bressart (Edison, the Man, To Be or Not to Be). Together, the people who created this made a practically perfect thing.

My other obsession right now is all things Tudor England thanks to The Mirror and the Light, so imagine my delight when I discovered the Historic Royal Palaces Podcast. I know it doesn’t sound that appealing, but if you’re a fellow Tudor history junky, this series, which offers up episodes based on the various guest lectures that have been recorded at Hampton Court and other ancient royal abodes, provides fascinating info on everything from what your clothes said about you in the Tudor court to how Henry VIII became the “blot of blood and grease” on English history, as Charles Dickens described him. There’s even a fascinating talk by Mantel herself about Cromwell’s first master, Cardinal Wolsey. Anyway, it may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but if you’re interested in this stuff, go download it pronto. —Dianna Wray, interim editor-in-chief

Show Comments