Monday, July 04, 2022

Return of 7 Days in May

I'm getting bored with using this space only as ads for various podcasts, so I want to try something different. More exactly, I want to bring back something that I tried a while ago and lost interest in. Which is a weekly recap of what I've been doing the previous seven days. Putting the 'log' back into blog, so to speak.

I like the format of the discussion on After Lunch's Lounge episodes, so I'll follow that for these recaps, too (which will also let me use them as reminders when preparing for Lounge discussions). I expect the blog will mostly be what I've been watching, reading, listening to, and recording, but I hope to also include personal thoughts when I have them. I'm making an effort lately to lead a more integrated life. I've always been fairly open with stories about my family and whatnot, but there are topics that I've purposely held back on - politics and religion, for instance - and I'm going to try removing that barrier. 

My thoughts on politics and religion are complicated and I don't want to spend a ton of time each week trying to explain myself perfectly, so it's going to be a bit of a struggle for me to find the balance between brevity and clarity, but I'd like to try. And I won't have something to say about every hot topic of the day. A foundational belief for me is that people and issues are complicated and nuanced and conversations about them are best had in person and with as much specificity as possible. I'm not a fan of hypothetical situations or trying to extrapolate someone's entire character and motives from a contextless quote. So when I don't think I have enough information to talk about something, I'll keep quiet about it. But I'm also going to try to be braver about expressing opinions that I'm pretty confident in.

What I've Been Listening To

I mentioned on the Lounge a couple of times that I'm going to see a couple of my favorite bands in September: The Ocean Blue and Echo and the Bunnymen. To that end, I've made a schedule to let me relisten in depth to both bands' discographies by concert time. I'm listening to an album from each band every day, repeating Ocean Blue's album for a couple of weeks while changing out the Echo and the Bunnymen album every week.

Ocean Blue's album this (and next) week is See. It's a departure from their first three, which were made while the band was under contract with Sire. See is the first album from Mercury Records and the band is experimenting a bit. It still has David Schelzel's beautiful vocals and clear guitar that I love, but some of the tracks have a harder, fuzzier sound that would worry me if I wasn't already familiar with where the band headed from here.

The current Echo and the Bunnymen album is their self-titled release, which was their fifth studio album. A lot of bands release self-titled albums as debuts, but it takes guts to do it later in the band's career. Naming an album after the band is a statement: 'This is us. This is who we are.' That kind of bravado is expected right out of the gate when the band is working to be noticed. Making that statement later on suggests (at least to me) that everything that came before was more or less practice. Now we've arrived. And in Echo's case, that's absolutely correct. I love individual tracks from their previous four albums, but Echo and the Bunnymen is perfect. Every song is great and memorable. Every song sounds like what I think of when I think of the band.

What I've Been Reading

I haven't read at all this past week, sadly. Been trying to catch up on TV, which leads me to...

What I've Been Watching

I went on a week-long road trip with my family over Memorial Day weekend just as new seasons of both Stranger Things and The Orville dropped. And that was only the first drops from a firehose of new TV and movies that I've been struggling to catch up with the past month. In addition to things I needed to watch for various podcasts, I really wanted to rewatch the first three seasons of Stranger Things before starting Season 4. I didn't rewatch Seasons 1 and 2 before watching 3 back in the day and I think it affected my opinion of that season. I wanted to go into Season 4 with the rest of the story fresh in my mind.

And I'm so glad I did, because it reminded me how much I love the show and El in particular. Millie Bobby Brown can put me in tears with just a look. It took me a long time to catch up, but I did and now I've seen all of Season 4, too. Without spoiling anything, I'll say that I mostly love Season 4. We can talk spoilers in the comments, if anyone wants to, but I do have gripes. The fourth episode though, 'Dear Billy'... I watched that thing three times and it wrecked me all three, in the best way.

Saw this week what is currently my favorite movie of 2022. I loved Downton Abbey: A New Era. Way more than the previous Downton film and I think that's only partly due to seeing this one in the theater (I watched the earlier one at home). But that is a factor, I'm sure. I teared up just seeing the estate on the big screen as the theme played. That wasn't the last time I wished I'd brought a tissue, though. I had a bit of a headache by the end from trying not to audibly sob.

The dual plots work great. Half the cast goes to a villa in France to uncover a mystery there, leaving the rest of the characters to work with a film crew using Downton as a shooting location. Both plots are charming and dramatic and more believable than the royal visit of the previous movie.

I had an issue last movie, too, with Tom's new love interest coming out of nowhere, but now that that's been established, I love her. I love every character in this thing and they all get their due. Big sigh.

I also watched a documentary called Bitterbrush about a couple of women who work as hired hands on various ranches. The movie covers mostly their time on one, especially remote ranch and I loved spending time with them; getting to know them and what their lives are like. The loveliness of the relationships is second only to the beauty of the film's photography.

I spent a little time early on confused about the actual work and business of what they were doing, but the film reveals enough about that by the end that I felt up to speed. Just an exquisite piece of work.

Finally, I checked out The Bob’s Burgers Movie. I've only seen one episode of the show, because Evan picked the 100th episode to watch in After Lunch's 100th Episode celebration, but that one episode was enough to make me want more, including seeing this in the theater. And what a delightful experience. It's sweet, funny, mysterious, thrilling, and a great musical to boot.

What I've Been Recording

After Lunch welcomed back old friends Carlin Trammel and William Bruce West to discover who the Ultimate Fictional Musician is in a Battle of the Fictional Bands. We each nominated four bands or solo musicians to face off against each other, Sweet-16 tournament-style. It was a super fun episode and I especially loved editing in musical samples from each artist (huge thanks to Rob for tracking most of those down). 

I'm caught up on the current season of The Orville, but didn't mention it above because all my thoughts are captured on the Planetary Union Network podcast where we're commenting on each episode as they come out. TV episodes are released on Thursdays and our podcast discussions come out usually the Tuesday after. So this past week's podcast was on 'Gently Falling Rain' and its humongous revelation. 

Finally, the latest episode of Seriously Felicity came out on Friday, about the Season 1 episode, 'Happy Birthday.' This is such a personal, passion project that I don't ever really even imagine that we have much of an audience, but I'm learning that we do. As I was finishing editing this one, I got a very nice email from a listener telling me that he likes the show and wondering when the next episode was coming (the release schedule has been pretty sporadic, especially lately). And then once I released it, I noticed that we got a lovely Apple Podcasts review from a fan. I'd be doing this one even if we had zero listeners, but it's so great to hear that people are listening and connecting with it. 

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