What to do when there’s ‘nothing’ to do…

0

Virtual events

Looking Back on the 1918 Flu Pandemic — with Longmont Museum Curator Erik Mason.
7:30 p.m. Thursday, May 7, facebook.com/events/longmont-museum-and-cultural-center.

Join the Longmont Museum’s Curator of History Erik Mason as he looks back at the 1918 flu pandemic in Longmont, drawing comparisons, sharing historic photos, and providing meaningful perspectives on our current situation. In conversation with Justin Veach, manager of the Stewart Auditorium. This is a free Facebook Live program. Visit Longmont Museum’s Facebook page at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, May 7 and click on videos to watch.

Eryn Brooke of Gypsy Sun Barbara Nesbitt (by Eryn Brooke of Gypsy Sun)

Barbara Nesbitt online concert — presented by Little Tree House Concerts.
7 p.m. Saturday, May 9. Reservations can be made at info@littletreeacoustic.com,
303-620-6634. 

Barbara Nesbitt is an award-winning singer-songwriter who has shared the stage with and opened for the likes of Bonnie Raitt, Willie Nelson, Lyle Lovett, Keller Williams, Lisa Loeb, Nickel Creek, Jerry Garcia Band, Hootie and the Blowfish, Widespread Panic, Bob Weir, Robert Earl Keene, Meredith Brooks and more. Lafayette-based Little Tree House Concerts will host Nesbitt in an online concert as we continue to socially distance. The suggested donation is $12 (and up, on a sliding scale) per person. Advanced reservations are required. Please RSVP early so the hosts can let you know how to connect with the show online.

Boulder Opera Company Quarantine Events. boulderoperacompany.com/quarantine-events.

Boulder Opera presents the fairy tale opera Puss in Boots (Gato con Botas) for young audiences with a pre-recorded virtual performance by the original cast, as well as the Diva Concert Duo Azure.

Puss In Boots/Gato Con Botas by Montsalvatge: Xavier Montsalvatge’s take on the classic story of an ingenious and quick-witted feline with magical talents is sure to entertain the whole family. Can Puss win the princess’ hand for his master? Will he outwit the evil ogre? Watch the final dress rehearsal at eTown sung in English, fully staged and featuring an ensemble orchestra. One-hour duration. Or watch it sung in the original Spanish with captions and narration recorded on ACapella! Twenty-five minute duration. Video available from May 8 to June 8.

Diva Concert Duo Azure: Soprano Ekaterina Kotcherguina and pianist Jessica Nilles have long been friends and collaborators, and they frequently perform around Colorado. In their not-so-infinite free time, the duo enjoys going on hiking adventures together. For more information, check out their website duoazure.weebly.com. Saturday, May 9 at 7 p.m.

Virtual Intimacy Retreat. May 8-10, drhazelgraceyates.com/virtual-intimacy-retreat.

This highly interactive, experiential three-day retreat is intended to reconnect you with your body. Intimacy experts will lead a number of panels, from building intimacy during quarantine to grief rituals, pleasure practices and fusion dance. On Sunday at 12:15 p.m., Boulder’s Conscious Burlesque will lead a 90-minute workshop where you can create a burlesque persona, discover authentic movement, and examine what it means to move through the world as a sexual being. Cost is $49-$199. Tickets and a full schedule atdrhazelgraceyates.com/virtual-intimacy-retreat.

WOW! Children’s Museum Littlest Learners @ Home. 10 a.m. Wednesday, May 13 (and Wednesdays through December), facebook.com/wowchrensmuseum.org. 

Gini, director of early childhood education for WoW! Children’s Museum of Lafayette, will share fun at-home activities for children ages 0-3 years and resources for parents and caregivers. If you can’t attend the live event, you can watch the recorded video at a more convenient time. Having a hard time coming up with ideas or ways to expand learning for your 0-3 year old? Reach out to: gini@wowchildrensmuseum.or gini@wowchildrensmuseum.org.

HEAVY ROTATION

If you’re a fan of alternative rock, you’ve heard Alain Johannes. The multi-instrumentalist has played, produced, mixed and engineered albums by Queens of the Stone Age, Mark Lanegan, Arctic Monkeys, PJ Harvey and Chris Cornell, not to mention his influential work with his art-rock project Eleven with late wife Natasha Schenider. With a forthcoming album out this summer, we checked in with Johannes (feature on page 20), and compiled this playlist of hits and deep cuts from his storied career. 

“Hum,” by Alain Johannes

The first single from Johannes’ forthcoming album sets the meditative tone of the record. “When you stop and listen to silence in nature, the hum is underneath the threshold of hearing,” Johannes said in a statement about the album. “It’s a mysterious and magical sense of something existing, beautiful and alive. It’s a blanket word for the sound of the ether — something that’s always been there, always will be there, and everything comes from it. It’s the common connection to everything.”

“Creosote,” by Desert Sessions

Johannes has joined in Josh Homme’s (Queens of the Stone Age, Them Crooked Vultures) musical collective, Desert Sessions, twice now, allegedly writing this number with Dean Ween on the front porch of Rancho de la Luna in Joshua Tree within four minutes of meeting each other. A creosote, if you (like us) don’t know, is a dark brown oil distilled from coal tar and used as a wood preservative. You can almost smell it as you listen. 

“Centipede,” by South City Players (Josh Homme, Chris Goss, Dave Ghrol, Alain Johannes)

Dave Grohl formed the Sound City Players with many of the musicians who appeared in his documentary Sound City about the shuttered Sound City Studios in Van Nuys, California. The lineup was an ubersupergroup: Paul McCartney, Trent Reznor (Nine Inch Nails), Rich Nielson (Cheap Trick) Stevie Nicks, Corey Taylor (Slipknot, Stone Sour) and many more. This track features Homme on vocals and Johannes on guitar, his accomplished fingerpicking front and center. It could easily find a home on Johannes’ forthcoming album.  

“When I’m Down,” by Chris Cornell

Johannes and his late wife, Natasha Schneider, were close friends with the late Soundgarden singer, cowriting, producing and performing on Cornell’s first solo record, Euphoria Morning. After Canadian record producer Daniel Lanois pulled out of the project, Cornell asked his friends if they’d be interested. With Johannes and Schneider lending their art-rock sensibilities to the collection, Cornell shunned the Seattle grunge sound in favor of gentler, more eclectic melodies. Schnieder plays the piano that opens this track. After Schneider succumbed to cancer in 2008, Cornell would often dedicate live versions of “When I’m Down” to her, playing a recording of her original piano accompaniment. 

“Antes de la Nada,” by Hifiklub, Alain Johannes

The French quartet Hifiklub boasts collaborations with some 150 artists, including Johannes, who recorded the album Plans Make Gods Laugh with the band in 2014. The album is actually a soundtrack, accompanying a short film of the same name that chronicles Johannes’ epic — and at times deeply tragic — life. Like much of Johannes’ work, these tracks evoke images of the California desert, where Johannes and other notable musicians of the Palm Desert Scene cut their teeth.

“Endless Eyes,” by Alain Johannes

The first track off Johannes’ first solo album, Spark (2010). A tribute to Schneider two years after her passing, Spark searches for transcendence in the wake of tragedy — and finds it. The track is both powerful and soft, opening with a driving acoustic guitar riff that mimics the desperation Johannes feels in a world without his soulmate. “We used to joke that we made one big, awesome person,” Johannes told BW in a recent interview.  

“Reach Out,” by Eleven

Johannes and Schneider formed the art-rock band Eleven in 1990 with drummer Jack Irons (Red Hot Chili Peppers, Pearl Jam). While this was the only Eleven single to breach the charts, their influence on other bands of the day was evident. “They made me a better musician,” Josh Homme (Kyuss, Queens of the Stone Age) said in the 2018 documentary Unfinished Plan: The Path of Alain Johannes. This track highlights Eleven’s proclivity for darkly whimsical melodies.

“Little Sister,” by Queens of the Stone Age

Johannes and Schneider joined Queens of the Stone Age as part of their touring line-up in support of the band’s 2005 album, Lullabies to Paralyze. Johannes contributed performances to the studio recordings, including this track, which was nominated for a Grammy for Best Rock Performance. 

“The Wheel,” by PJ Harvey

Harvey’s album The Hope Six Demolition Project is based on her travels to Kosovo, Afghanistan and Washington D.C. with photographer/filmmaker Seamus Murphy between 2011 and 2014. Its title is a reference to the Hope IV program in the United States, which was intended to revitalize decrepit public housing complexes across the country. Many people, like Harvey, saw the program as a sophisticated form of gentrification. “The Wheel” talks about the ethnic cleansing in Kosovo, with a fairground wheel near the capital Pristina as a reference point. Johannes contributes backing vocals and guitar (and handclaps) to this haunting and defiantly lively track. 

BONUS: “Luna a Sol,” by Alain Johannes Trio (featuring Mike Patton)

Who doesn’t want to hear Mike Patton sing in Spanish? The vocalist lent his six octave voice to this debut single from Johannes’ Chilean based trio.

EXISTENTIAL CINEMA

by Michael J. Casey

Who doesn’t want to hear Mike Patton sing in Spanish? The Faith No More singer lends his six-octave range to this debut single from Johannes’ Chilean-based trio. 

Comfort watching comes in all shapes in sizes. Sometimes it’s a chubby little cubby all stuffed with fluff. Other times it’s Gene Kelly dancing with an umbrella and splashing around in puddles. Diversion, you could call it: A moment of pure cotton candy. It zaps you with sugary sweetness, wipes the blues away and makes you hum a little ditty.

But diversions work best in small doses. Like a sugar high, they’re difficult to sustain, and too much will leave you feeling sicker than when you started.

You’ve probably watched plenty of comfort movies in the past two months. And they’ve helped with the initial shock of losing your job, losing your friends, maybe even losing a loved one to the dreaded virus. They put a smile on your face while the news put the fear of god into you. They brought sunshine through the screen while cold, wet snow covered freshly bloomed tulips. And for a while, it worked. But the power of comfort films has weakened. Kelly can prance in those puddles all he wants, but the blues are here to stay.

The time has come for something else, something that doesn’t divert your emotions but embraces them. You want to empathize with characters who are going through what you’re going through, surviving the struggles you’re surviving, and asking the deep, difficult questions keeping you up at night.

You need existential cinema.

Lucky for you, foreign and art house films are loaded to the gills with existential ennui. From fears of individual erasure to planetary annihilation, these movies look for meanings behind meaninglessness, the fluidity of right and wrong, and the celebration of the individual. Here are four to get you going, but there’s plenty more out there if you’re hungry.

‘High and Low’

Though most point to Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard as the progenitor of existentialism, the movement wouldn’t have made it half as far if not for novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Between each page of prose, you can feel Dostoyevsky wrestling with his desire to be a moral man in a world littered with immoral attractions and addictions. Add highly structured tales of cause and effect, the ever-present element of chance, and it’s no wonder filmmakers have been drawn to his work.

King among them: Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa, who counted the Russian as one of his primary influences. And few of Kurosawa’s films wear Dostoyevsky on its sleeve like High and Low, an acute criticism between the disparity of the haves, the have nots, the have lesses and the have nothings. It’s like walking in a strange city without a map: You have no idea where you’re headed, what’s around the next corner, and where the touristy part of the city ends, and the red light district begins. By the time the steel curtain falls, you’ll never look at the world the same again. Streaming on The Criterion Channel and Kanopy.

‘The Trial’

Based on a novel by Franz Kafka, The Trail is filmmaker Orson Welles at his most Wellesian. Anthony Perkins stars as K, a man accused of a crime he neither committed nor comprehends. K can ask all the questions he wants, but only riddles come back. Welles stacks the deck through the majesty of set design: Doors dwarf K while ceilings close in on him. Hallways offering escape extend into the infinite. And just when he thinks he’s making headway, another government official steps out of nowhere to block him. It’s like K’s trying to run a marathon through a tub of glue. Welles thought it was one of his best, and he might be right. Streaming on Kanopy.

‘Winter Light’

The second installment in Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Bergman’s unofficial trilogy (Through a Glass Darkly, Winter Light, The Silence) is by far the best. Pastor Tomas (Gunnar Björnstrand) has misplaced his faith. He’s not sure where, and he’s not sure he wants to find it. Märta (Ingrid Thulin) loves Tomas, but he does not reciprocate. So, she waits and bears his silence and his cruelty. Then Jonas (Max von Sydow) enters and confesses to Tomas — he lives in fear. The atomic bomb will destroy everything, obliterate existence and erase man from the universe. What, then, is the point? Tomas has no response, and it costs him dearly. Sounds bleak, doesn’t it? It is, but the trick of Bergman is that he finds his way from god’s silence to Tomas’s despair to Molly Bloom’s heart going like mad announcing affirmations in triplicate without an ounce of comprise or concession. Streaming on The Criterion Channel and Kanopy. 

‘First Reformed’

You could pick any movie from Paul Schrader’s oeuvre and find healthy doses of existentialism, but First Reformed might be his most fully formed. Continuing the conversation Bergman started in Winter Light, Schrader tosses in a dash of Travis Bickle — arguably the most Dostoyevskyian character this side of Notes from the Underground — and updates the crisis from atomic to ecology. Streaming on Amazon Prime, Hoopla and Kanopy.

BOOKS

Who better to recommend your next book than a librarian? This week we explore a few recommendations from the staff at Boulder Public Library. 

Barbara recommends: ‘Less,’ by Andrew Sean Greer

A sweet, comical read with a fun, quirky character. Arthur Less bumbles his way around the world, trying to figure out what love is about along the way.” (Editor’s note: Less was awarded the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for fiction.)

Laura recommends: ‘Night Boat to Tangier,’ by Kevin Barry

“This is a short book set in Ireland and Spain, which contains colorful characters, family mental health issues, fairy rings, and a string of bad luck. Two lifelong friends who are waiting and talking, telling stories and reassuring each other of past exploits.”

Steve recommends: ‘The Nickel Boys,’ by Colson Whitehed

A novel based on a real Florida ‘reform school’ that operated for decades in the Jim Crow south, where children were deprived, abused, tortured, raped and murdered by the school staff. The discovery of a potters field of unmarked graves of children on the grounds of the real school was the catalyst for the novel. The Nickel Boys is horrifying, devastating and important.” (Editor’s note: The Nickle Boys was awarded the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for fiction.)

Dillon recommends: ‘Leah on the Offbeat,’ by Becky Albertalli

“Friends, graduating, questioning your own sexuality. Things are not going great for Leah Burke. Her last year of high school is not the perfect senior year that she thought it would be. But just like drumming, she will need to learn how to put her life back on the beat.”

Melissa recommends: ‘Love Lettering,’ by Kate Clayborn

A sweet book about the signs and symbols we see every day and what we choose to do when we see them. Do we just keep on doing what we were doing? Do we stop and take another look? Meg and the people in her life all have to stop and see the signs and think about what they are looking for in their lives. This was the perfect book to read in March 2020, when we all had the chance to stop, look and think.”

PODCASTS

Back to School

The things that happen in high school stick with us, shape us, long after we toss those caps in the air. Who doesn’t remember their high school crush? Their first heartbreak? The classmate who upstaged us no matter how hard we worked? Those were formative years where we were more than children but less than adults. In Back to School, Seth Rudetsky — a musician, Broadway aficionado, and writer who’s done everything from penning the opening number for the Tony awards to crafting dialog for The Rosie O’Donnell Show and several iterations of the Grammys — interviews celebrities about their high school experiences, revealing that even those of us destined for fame cried between classes once in a while. Turns out Allison Janney was deeply into figure skating as a youngster but her height kept her from executing some of the more extravagant jumps — figure skating’s loss was Hollywood’s gain. Rosie O’Donnell’s mother died before the future movie star and talk show host went to high school, so she and her brothers took care of each other — and their father and aging grandmother — buying groceries, cooking meals and getting themselves to and from school. O’Donnell says that she still struggles to keep her kitchen stocked with health foods to this day. Rudetsky’s warm personality and conversational interviewing style comes across as therapeutic for his guests, who often express as much. In between questions about high school, Rudetsky teases out which pop culture mainstays of the day celebrities loved and hated, and gets them to read inscriptions from their yearbooks. Celebrities may not be just like us, but Rudetsky proves that at one point in time they were, siriusxm.com/podcasts

Bad Batch

There’s legitimate scientific research that supports the use of stem cells — cells from which all other cells with specialized functions are generated — to treat various illnesses, like cancer and blood-related diseases such as leukemia, lymphoma, neuroblastoma and multiple myeloma. Independent companies around the world are touting the benefits of stem cell therapy for everything from arthritis to anti-aging, and supplying doctors with stem cells for treatments. Sounds great, but there’s a problem: Currently, the only stem cell treatments approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are products that treat certain cancers and disorders of the blood and immune system. You see, stem cell therapy isn’t regulated the way other drugs are. The FDA doesn’t view stem cells as drugs because they’re essentially a part of the human body, moved either from one human to another, or from one part of the same body to another part. But that hasn’t stopped companies like Liveyon from claiming stem cells are the answer to a wide array of health problems. In Bad Batch, host Laura Beil — the journalist behind the endlessly fascinating and terrifying Wondry podcast Dr. Death — calls the legitimacy of the multi-billion dollar stem cell industry into question via the story of John Kosolcharoen, the charismatic CEO of stem cell company Liveyon. Kosolcharoen got into the stem cell industry after both he and his mother experienced life-changing results from stem cell injections. But when a batch of stem cells from Liveyon makes people in two states sick, the finger pointing begins and the race is on to find the source of the problem before more people get sick, wondery.com/shows/bad-batch