What we’re watching, reading, listening to: Exploring Music, Lady Gaga, The Repair Shop, Unstable Felicity, etc.

I’ve been doing a lot more watching and listening than reading, these days. Working on it!

What are we watching?

The Repair Shop This is a BBC show, five seasons, now streaming on Netflix. A crew of British restoration experts team up to repair and restore cherished items people bring to them. You see the owners come in and give a short explanation about why the accordion or piano bench or whatever means so much to them, and then you see highlights of the various experts disassembling, problem-solving, hunting for materials, and carefully restoring the items, and then the owner comes back to the shop and sees the item made new again. 

We’ve only seen a few episodes of this, and I gather some of the episodes have spectacular discoveries and surprises; but many of them are just straight forward repair jobs.

There are two elements that make this show so gratifying. One is watching people doing what they were meant to do in life, which is something I always enjoy. The restorers clearly get so much true joy out of practicing their craft. I enjoy this aspect of it, seeing people following their vocation, even more than seeing the actual work they do; although it’s also fascinating and emotionally restorative to see shabby, broken, neglected things put to rights again. 

The second element is the “reunion” at the end, when the owner has something precious restored to them. In one episode, a woman brought in a clock made by her father, who had lost his vision. She remembered that the clock used to chime, but she couldn’t quite remember the tune. The restorers made the clock work again, and somehow reconstructed the music it played, so the woman heard the tune again for the first time in decades. These are British people, so they are not extremely effusive and sentimental about it, and you don’t get that “eeek, I’m not sure I should be watching this intense personal moment” feeling. They keep it pretty understated.

But it’s a restorative show in more ways than one, and it’s especially gratifying in late 2020 to watch  skilled people doing worthwhile things for the purpose of making other people happy. 

We’re also devouring The Mandalorian with the whole family, and The Crown for just me and Damien. Both excellent with great use of music; more on those in some other post. Oh, and. GILLIAN ANDERSON AS MARGARET THATCHER. Hot damn. If you ever wondered to yourself, “Is X Files actually a good TV show or not?” just think about what they did to Gillian Anderson for so many years, and you will have your answer. 

What am I reading?

Unstable Felicity

Like I said, I’m a terrible person and hardly read anymore. I know I can make my phone stop giving me weekly reports about how much my screen time has increased over the last week, but I feel like I deserve it. It’s never good news.

I have started Cat Hodge’s (yes, Cat Hodge of Darwin Catholic) new novella, and I love it so far. Very easy to read, light but literate, engaging, and promising, and the only reason I put it down is because I’m terrible and, as mentioned, don’t read anything. The premise is: If you described the protagonist’s life, it would sound exactly like one of those cheesy Hallmark Christmas movies. But when you’re actually living through it, it’s neither tidy nor adorable, but actually kind of Shakespearean, in a King Lear way.

Here’s the official blurb: 

Jill O’Leary’s December has all the hallmarks of a feel-good holiday special. She’s a successful Los Angeles career woman summoned home to small town Ohio to save the family business. There, she’ll have to navigate a White Elephant gift exchange, decorate the tree, and meet not one but two tall dark handsome strangers.
But it will take a miracle to make this Christmas merry and bright. Jill’s baggage is waiting for her at home: Regina, the demanding mother she hasn’t talked to since her father’s funeral four months ago; Reagan and Del, her sisters with their own agendas; Garrett French, a local real-estate mogul trying to snap up her family’s inn; and Heath Albany, the married ex-boyfriend who’s suspiciously eager to reconcile with her. 
Jill is determined to get in, fix the family finances by herself, and get back to the big city as soon as possible. But keeping her mother from turning Christmas into a tragedy proves more drama than she can handle on her own. It’s going to take her conniving sisters, the division of an empire, sudden blindness, a journey through a pitiless storm, and an unlikely hero to give this tragicomic tale a happy ending. 
When you cross a conventional Christmas plot with Shakespeare’s King Lear, you get Unstable Felicity.
Available in Kindle or paperback, with a cover by the talented John Herreid, of The Sinner’s Guide to Natural Family Planning With a Chainsaw fame. 

What are we listening to?

I recently discovered I can use iHeart Radio on our TV, which means when we go screen free from 7:00 – 9:00 (which we do only sporadically), I can play Exploring Music with Bill McGlaughlin. So I guess that’s my first recommendation. 

McGlaughlin is a composer and conductor with a public radio show that gently and engagingly helps the listener listen better. Each hour-long show has a theme, and he sits at his piano and picks out little bits of whatever recording he’s about to play for you. 

Here’s a representative excerpt from an episode on Schubert. The graphics are pretty cheesy, as it’s meant to be audio only. 

His delight in the music is very evident, and it’s contagious. If you’re looking for a painless way to get your family more connected with classical music, this is a great way. His voice is very pleasant and cozy, too. 

The other thing I’m listening to is, uh, “Sinner’s Prayer” by Lady Gaga. Lady Gaga is so annoying. She has such a wonderful voice and such terrible taste. But this song is pure stupid fun. My kid told me she had made a country album (Joanne), and it turned out to be not really that at all, but it’s . . . something. This particular song is sort of a spaghetti western love song, I guess? Anyway it’s stuck in my head.

Now it can be stuck in yours, too.

Okay, that’s it! What are you watching, reading, and listening to that you can recommend? 
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9 thoughts on “What we’re watching, reading, listening to: Exploring Music, Lady Gaga, The Repair Shop, Unstable Felicity, etc.”

  1. We’ve also been watching the Mandalorian, although so far it hasn’t been as engaging as last season. Episode 3 seemed to connect to the plot, but the first two episodes didn’t do much. I’ve been watching The Crown’s 4th season and enjoying it so far as I can remember it is a totally fictionalized account of all the events and people involved. I’ve been rereading the Anne of Green Gables books; they’re some of my favorite comfort reading.

  2. Fun!! “Repair Shop” and “Exploring Music” sound intriguing. Thanks for the recommendations, Simcha!

    I’ve been watching Leverage re-runs on Vimeo.
    Here’s a good intro:
    httpss://youtu.be/CtzSHOqdISA :
    a Robin Hood thieving crew with great teamwork, & good actor chemistry. I
    hope to listen to the excellently witty (audio) book *Eyre Affair,* by Jasper Fforde (yes, two f’s). Imagine if everything literary were taken literally: a world in which you could jump into a book and meet the characters when they were not being read by someone in the outside world. Fascinating stuff if you’re an English major or at all literary minded! Reading: Ellis Peters’ Brother Cadfael mysteries: not gory at all; set in Shrewsbury in the 1200s; and solved by a monk who used to be a Crusader by using his knowledge of human nature. You get a very decent glimpse of Benedictine life, and in a very gentle way, a few nudges about the nature of God as well; not because Ellis is preaching, but because of Br. Cadfael’s occasional reflections.

      1. I love their podcast! I’ve listened to so many episodes over the last year as I painted various rooms in our house.

  3. If you haven’t read it; you should look up the Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson. The characters are rich and full, with deep and thoughtful depictions of personal growth, physical and mental trauma, and real relationships between vibrant people. It’s such a fantastic ride. The shortest book is like 500 pages long, but the audiobooks are much less intimidating and have brilliant readers.

  4. I recently stumbled upon the album “Indodana” on Spotify and can’t stop listening. It is choral music, sung in Xhosa. Particularly recommended is the title track, which is absolutely incandescent.

    If you like gentle British reality shows about skilled people doing what they love then I recommend “Big Dreams Small Spaces” (on Netflix) in which an expert gardener helps people turn their crummy British yards into places they’d actually like to spend time. It’s unexpectedly touching and the people are normal and interesting.

  5. I’ve been watching lots of cooking shows as background noise to shut my crazy brain up! But I also watched and loved Enola Holmes on Netflix. After a bunch of church music soap-opera style drama the first half of this year, I can it tolerate wordless music at the moment. I’ve been loving KUSC, a classical station out of Southern CA – no ads, little talking. I’ve been reading the Meg Lanslow mystery series by Donna Andrews.

  6. I’m listening to Fiona Apple’s new stuff, particularly “Under the Table,” to which I snarl-sing along. It’s great.

    I need a good book. I just started a collection of witchy stories which I was supposed to read in October but there were delays with the different library branches, so I only got it last week, and the first story annoyed me so much I didn’t want to keep reading. But I was stuck at a doctor’s office for over an hour today, and the next few were good to very good, so maybe I’ll finish the whole thing while I wait for my winter books to arrive at the library (here’s hoping there’s not another unexpected branch closure that throws everything off again!).

    I’ve finally convinced my husband to watch Fargo, and we are in the middle of the second season. My favorite thing about it is that the “heroes” of the story are just ordinary good people with no special or unusual talents, just a dedication to doing the right thing.

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