Jonny Approved: Rediscovery
Hello, my name is Jonathan and I’m addicted to podcasts. This is no laughing matter. If there is a Podcast Addicts Anonymous group, I should definitely start the 12-step program. I totally overcommit, subscribing to way too many programs, leading to a huge backlog that only sees a slight decrease when I take a road trip. I do try to manage my current event/political podcasts, but I still end up looking like a hoarder. And now that baseball season has begun, it will only get worse due to the multiple offerings regarding America’s Pasttime.
Not that the podcasts are a bad thing. If I had four more hours in the day, I’d probably get through most of them. Instead, I’m always living in the past, which is always the case with the superb “The PosCast” from Joe Posnanski and Michael Schur. Posnanski is a great sportswriter and his sidekick is Schur, a big sports fan who has had great success as a writer/creator of “Parks and Rec” as well as an Update favorite “The Good Place”. The duo usually has a draft on each episode, and often times, it has nothing to do with sports at all. It’s a great sports podcast that is also a solid option for those who know little about sports. Several months ago, they had a draft on classic movies they had never seen. During the podcast, Schur claimed that classic comedies hardly ever hold up over time, losing their shock value and overall laugh ability due to cultural change. I think it’s a great topic of discussion, and I believe Schur is right that often times, generational comedy classics lose their edge over time.
It got me thinking about music. I’ve been going back to listen to albums I loved as a teenager and early college student, and it is helping me discover the development of what I value in music. My tastes have certainly evolved, with my personal musical knowledge broadening through the years and my range of musical tastes increasing. Death Cab for Cutie used to be one of my favorite bands. Now, I hardly keep up with them and though “Transatlanticism” still holds special memories for me, I would no longer place it on my list of all time favorite albums.
With this on my mind, I’m starting a little time travel adventure. In the next few weeks, I’ll start writing on another site as I explore classic albums and see how they’ve “held up”. I’m interested in the historic context of the album, what critics and the general public thought of the album at the time of its publication, and how the album holds up artistically today. Be on the look out for a few mentions on this. Hopefully you’ll enjoy revisiting some music you haven’t had time to listen to in a while, and I’m sure I’ll be having fun bringing you my commentary.
Read: Pachinko by Min Jin Lee. My uncle had a pachinko machine in his garage when I was a young child. I don’t recall it ever really working, but I was always fascinated by it. Honestly, I never understood how the damn thing worked and hadn’t thought about it for years until I found Min Jin Lee’s newest novel on some of those “best of the year” lists in late 2017. It took me a few months to receive the book from the library, but the wait was worth it. The book tells the story of a Korean family through several generations within the 20th century, with the Japanese empire looming over them and greatly directing their path in life. The novel explores themes of community, family, country, love, morality, spirituality, forgiveness, pride, and prejudice. At almost 500 pages, I’d consider it a bit of an epic, but it reads rather quickly. In fact, I found myself constantly picking it up to read more and finished it in less than a week. I can’t recommend this book enough. If you don’t feel like being on a long wait list at the Dallas Public Library, just purchase it at your local bookstore. Or if you want, borrow my copy. I just bought one so I could start forcing it on friends. Every good book should lead you to want to share it.
Watch: Baskets. If you’ve been around me over the last 2-3 months, you’ve certainly heard me reference this show. I don’t have cable, so I watch episodes on Hulu. Season 3 is happening right now, so I’m a bit behind, but seasons 1-2 are exceptional and worth revisits. It’s a bit of a hard one to describe, but Zach Galifianakis plays the main character and his twin brother, and their mother is played by Louie Anderson. No, that’s not a typo. The former Family Feud host plays the matriarch of the show, and his performance is a revelation. The show can be downright dark and the laughs can be a bit painful, but the show is at its best when it mixes charm and humor with melancholy. Highlights for me are episode 4 of both the first and second season. Some episodes can be a bit uneven, but Season 1, Episode 4 set around Easter Sunday as well as Season 2, Episode 4 involving the Reagan Library are must see television. Get on your Hulus and watch yourself some Basket clan. You will thank yourself (or judge me for my quirky tastes).
Listen: Janelle Monae. “Make Me Feel”. Listen to it now. The most danceable track of the year.
I revisited the second musical I ever saw live on Sunday. My junior year of high school, I went with two friends to the Majestic Theater in San Antonio to see Jesus Christ Superstar. I had been a closeted Andrew Lloyd Webber fan throughout middle school and high school, so this was a culmination of sorts. I had seen Phantom a year or two before, but that was with my parents. I felt downright “adultish” going to see theater without parental guidance. JCS was edgy to me and as a very conservative Southern Baptist youth, some of the themes in the musical were a bit beyond my theological comfort zone. I hadn’t revisited the musical in quite some time, but the live musical on NBC Sunday was an absolute treat. The major star power involved John Legend as Jesus, Alice Cooper as Herod, and Sara Bareilles as Mary Magdalene. I felt all did quite well in bringing their own personality to their roles, but to me, the pivotal role in the musical is Judas. In Judas, we see all the confusion and frustration of those who followed Jesus hoping for a revolution and finding His purpose was not to overthrow the Roman government. I love seeing the role of Judas really fleshed out, his confusion on what Jesus was focusing on and fully comprehending his aspirations. As for the live broadcast, Brandon Victor Dixon was everything I hoped for and more. Thankfully, NBC has put some of the clips up online. I’d highly recommend seeking out the vast majority of the scenes from the live performance, especially those with Dixon. And, don’t miss the ending sequence. It’s absolutely awe-striking. Gives me chills just thinking about it.