COVID-19 Quarantine Culture Club 6

Each week, The Spyglass Magazine brings you a rundown of the best books, music, TV, movies and more to get you through long days in self-isolation. Whether you’re looking to expand your horizons, make sense of the world or come to terms with uncomfortable truths, there’s something here for you.

Book: North Korea Journal – Michael Palin

The front cover of Michael Palin's North Korea Journal on a wooden desk.

If you’re interested in North Korea (and let’s face it, who isn’t?), this travel diary by the legendary Sir Michael Palin will be right up your street. What is remarkable about it how Palin resists sensationalism and approaches the people he meets with as much good faith as if he was meeting a neighbour from just down the street. He treats the North Korean people with respect, but is always conscious of the fact that he is being presented with an idealised vision of the country.

This is an extremely readable travelogue, charmingly written on an always-interesting subject matter. It never whitewashes the dark realities of the county, but understands that the reader will probably be familiar with them. Palin is delightful company and his non-judgemental approach is refreshing when many find it so easy to mock the people of this secretive state.

Television: Years and Years (Britbox, BBC IPlayer)

Do you remember back then? We used to think that politics was boring.

This website has already chronicled my feelings about this series, so I’ll keep this brief. Years and Years is one of the most striking drama series of recent years. Starting in 2019, it follows a large family from Manchester as their lives are shaped by the cold clockwork of political, social and technological turmoil. With zesty writing from Russell T. Davies, a fantastic cast and memorable characters, Years and Years is a gripping ride into a very real feeling future and delivers some of the most shocking televisual moments in recent years.

Short Film/Music: Anima (Netflix)

Paul Thomas Anderson is one of the most distinctive directors currently working in cinema, and is particularly notable for how he uses music. It’s no surprise then, that he has a very strong track record of producing visually gorgeous music videos for bands like HAIM and Radiohead.

Anima is a collaboration with Radiohead’s Thom Yorke for the release of his 2019 album of the same name, and it is exactly what you would expect from a collaboration between the two. Three tracks from the album have been woven around a narrative set in a grey world reminiscent of Airstrip One or Metropia, where Yorke struggles to return a lost case to a woman (Dajana Roncione) he met on the bus. This superficially simple narrative shouldn’t turn you off this “one reeler” since it is visually stunning, with gorgeous cinematography and mind-bending practical effects. There are numerous visual references to classic silent cinema, both in the shot composition, Damien Jalet’s (choreographer for the 2019 Suspiria remake) hypnotic choreography and Yorke as a surprisingly watchable Buster Keaton-esque lead. It’s a quirky watch, but a treat for your eyes and ears which is definitely worth 15 minutes of your time.

Podcast: The Bunker (Podmasters)

Featuring a rotating cast of regulars and fascinating guests from the worlds of politics, science, philosophy and international affairs, The Bunker is one of the best podcasts to help you make sense of our chaotic world which is independent from any pre-existing news outlet.

Starting as a weekly spin-off from another popular political podcast, The Bunker provides a fearless overview of the week’s news with a panel of expert regulars and guests every Wednesday. Since then, it has branched out into The Bunker Daily, a series of half-hour deep dives into subjects such as the persistence ofnCOVID-19 conspiracies, the ideologies behind the anti-lockdown protests and what our new normal may look like. Why not learn something new every day, and have fun while doing it?

What would you recommend to fellow members of the COVID-19 Quarantine Culture Club? Leave a comment below and sign up for future updates.

For more information on COVID-19 please go to the WHO website or your national health authority.

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