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Conspicuous Consumption II: Covid Edition

Time for a quick update on listening and viewing since part one.

My media landscape has been redrawn this month by working from home, where I haven’t had as many opportunities to listen to music on my own, but I’ve still been enjoying a few new things. First among these have been Michael Kiwanuka‘s three albums, especially his self-titled latest; I had finally caught up with his appearance on Adam Buxton’s podcast, not knowing who he was, and enjoyed what I heard. His albums are studded with instant classics and wrapped in a warm, retro sound with just enough hints of the now—highly recommended.

Apart from those, I spent the first weeks of March listening to Miss Anthropocene, which is now my second-favourite Grimes album and an early contender for best-of-2020 lists. During this last week of March I’ve been enjoying Pearl Jam’s newie Gigaton, although it tails off a bit in the second half. I’ve also given Tame Impala’s The Slow Rush a few spins, but it’s fair to say that my son’s a bigger fan than I am.

I haven’t seen many new movies this month, only old ones I was showing the kids, although while watching a DVD box-set of Austin Powers with my son I realised I’d never seen 2002’s Goldmember (’tis a silly thing, but so were the first two). Last night, though, I did catch the 2019 Irish comedy Extra Ordinary, which was very good; hints of Look Around You crossed with What We Do In the Shadows.

TV has been dominated by current affairs shows about coronavirus, but I’ve watched a few other things in recent weeks as well: the tail-end of the latest Doctor Who (ehh); some of the many episodes I’d missed of Inside No. 9 (series one was great, wasn’t it); making a start on the latest season of Better Call Saul, the BBC adaptation of Noughts + Crosses, and the new BBC sitcom Mister Winner (all very good); and rewatching all five seasons of Friday Night Dinner before the new one started last Friday.

Watching any of those is an odd experience in these lockdown times. A couple of weeks ago, when everything was kicking off, a Kia advert came on—the one where the dad is clueless about a new model, and his whole family slap their foreheads in disbelief, as you wouldn’t—and all I could think was “don’t touch your face!”. Now everything apart from the news feels like a time capsule of pre-Covid life, and I keep wondering what’s going to happen to the schedules as time wears on: to all the shows that would have been filming now that we won’t get to see later in the year. No second series of The Goes Wrong Show; no Olympics; no new series of Taskmaster.

On the latter front, at least, Alex Horne has come up with an isolation-friendly substitute in the form of #hometasking, setting tasks every Monday, Wednesday and Friday for viewers to complete, with montages of winners and runners-up appearing on YouTube. We’ve got the kids doing them, or at least the first task last Monday and the fourth task yesterday, and Alex himself liked our latter entry on Twitter, so they’re well-pleased. Yet another reminder of what a different experience this lockdown would have been twenty or thirty years ago, before ubiquitous home technology and social media.

31 March 2020 · Film

One last movie to add for the month: last night I watched Steven Spielberg’s 2012 film Lincoln with my son, and enjoyed it, even though it’s a marathon seven score and ten minutes long. Tommy Lee Jones was especially good in a key role, and James Spader was enjoyable in a supporting one; we spotted an early Adam Driver appearance, too. Daniel Day Lewis was fine as Abe, but I kept thinking his voice was wrong, until realising that this could only be because my canonical Lincoln voice is the one from Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, hardly an authoritative source (or is it?). The closing shot of Lincoln’s silhouetted stovepipe was a little too cheesy, but otherwise it was one of the better Spielbergs.

Added by Rory on 1 April 2020.