Wednesday, June 24, 2020

A Week's Worth of Media: June 14th-21st

Well, it's certainly been a minute y'all.

I see that my last post was in 2018 so, to catch people up on why I haven't posted since then (nothing serious don't worry): by my last post I had finished up my first semester of grad school and I spent the next three semesters balancing a full-course load, a part-time graduate assistantship (aka, how I didn't have to pay tuition and got out debt-free) and a part-time internship of some sort, in addition to the usual life things like "going to the gym once or twice a week." By my last semester I was also heavily in the job hunt and I did get a job before I graduated in May 2019, I moved in July, then I got a BETTER job offer which I started in September but, since I was starting so late in the year, I didn't have many vacation days for Thanksgiving/Christmas so I worked a lot of extra hours until the new year rolled around. Plus, I had my usual "intensive cosplay work-pushes" for Otakon and Katsucon in both 2019 and 2020 and, relevant to this blog, I was still getting all my review copies for The OASG and while I was putting out a review just about every week my backlog still got pretty big as a result and I'm still dealing with that.

Obviously, things are a bit different now that 2020 is "The Plague Year"! (as I keep referring to it in my mind) Since I've been working from home now my commute (previously about an hour total each way when you added all the different aspects together) has vanished and I've been able to get more sleep and just have more time in the evenings to do things, including reviews! I've been banging out reviews over at The OASG but again, that backlog is still pretty big right now (I think I counted 80 different items on it recently) so I haven't been reading anything except manga and light novels which means there just hasn't been a lot to post about here.

One thing I have also been doing a lot during this social distancing however is watching performances (think theater, ballet etc) that have been made available online for a limited time; as I got settled into my job in 2019 I finally had the combination of time and funds to start exploring the many theatrical opportunities in my area (plus using all of those sweet "young professionals" discounts) and that's honestly one of the things that's bummed me out the most, there were so many that I had in my planner that I wanted to go to. These online recordings have been a cool alternative however and I'd like to be able to look back at everything I've seen so, I'm going to try something.

What I'm going to try is writing up every week a post just about what I've been consuming. I won't talk about currently-airing anime (since I already do that over on the OASG podcast every season) and again, since I'm not reading anything that I don't already review over at The OASG (or talk about on Manga In Your Ears), it'll probably just be movies, performances, maybe some anime from my backlog etc. Who knows, maybe by the time this is all "over" I'll have even found an opera that I like! (no really, so far I've tried operas in English, French, Italian, German, Japanese, and whatever that "native tongue" in Akhnaten "was" and so far I have come to the conclusion that opera is Not Serious, Just Silly and Probably Not For Me).

So for this week, I was quite busy! (In case anyone wonders just how I manage to watch so much, but not have time for reading, I'm still doing near-daily physical therapy exercises for that dumb leg injury I got from wearing heels back in 2014 and since that takes a bit more than 60 minutes a day I end up streaming something or other to at least make it entertaining.) I ended up watching quite a bit of ballet actually, starting with The Royal Ballet's La Fille mal gardée (The Wayward Daughter) which I had previously referred to in my mind as "the one with chickens doing ballet" (hey it's memorable!). It was rather silly and very cheerful but also in an earnest sort of way. When I see people trying to "parody" ballet, by trying to exaggerate the silliness of it, I think  La Fille mal gardée might be what they have in mind but, you can't really make fun of something that's already not taking itself super seriously.

I also saw a few, shorter baller programs, one was the San Fransisco Ballet's Björk Ballet, all set to Björk music of course, and it made me wonder where the line is between ballet and modern dance. I mean obviously this was a ballet company performing, and I wouldn't expect anyone who isn't trained in pointe shoes to dance pointe (so basically, a ballet dancer), but this performance made me wonder where the line between the two genres are with a lot of elements that I (a non-ballet dancer, just a newbie fan) thought looked pretty unorthodox. I had similar thoughts when I watched the Scottish Ballet's The Rites of Spring short performance, especially since I've seen a clip or two of older Rites of Spring choreography (back in 2013 when the National Gallery of Art had a FANTASTIC Ballets Russes exhibition) and this looked different. Also, that performance is infamous for literally starting a riot (mostly with the music iirc) and this very-modern dancing wouldn't have helped matters then! 

The Scottish Ballet is also streaming another short program, The Fairy's Kiss, which was much more "traditional" but also kind of bland, I seem to prefer ballets with a strong story attached and this one was pretty weak. If I haven't mixed them up, I believe that this Scottish Ballet company was actually set to come to DC this past spring and perform an adaptation of The Crucible (yes that play) and I really hope they can come back another time with that, I think that performance would be much more up my alley (or at least, it'd be really different!).

I've also been checking out a number of specials on PBS's website. One was a one-hour special called Prideland which was about LGTBQ+ Americans in the American South (apparently some people don't realize that many do live there and thrive? I wasn't one of them but I certainly have plenty of friends who fit that bill) and the other was a four-hour special about black history during the Reconstruction period after the American Civil War (Reconstruction: America After the Civil War). I'd actually already seen a similar special, black American history since MLK to the current day (Black America since MLK - And Still I Rise), with the same host but I didn't check the production credits to see if there was any other shared creative staff.  Both of those areas are periods where my knowledge isn't as comprehensive as other periods so just trying to consume more information to become more informed!

Finally, a film festival run by a local indie theater, AFI Silver, had to go online because, well, social-distancing y'all, and somehow I was able to view two of their offerings for free. The first was a short film Akashinga: The Brave Ones about the selection process for the all-women team of rangers in Zimbabwe who put their lives on the line against poachers. It was only 13 minutes long but I thought it did a great job at showing why the chosen trainees were chosen, the combination of mental grit and emotional stamina needed for such a risky job. 

The other film I had free access to was the roughly one hour long Sisters of '77 documentary on the 1977 Women's Convention which I hadn't heard anything about before. So, on that hand it was illuminating to know something about an event I hadn't before, but on the other hand, wow some of the things people were calling for action on (like deportation, police brutality etc) sounded EXACTLY like what you'd hear today nearly 45 years later. Also, there was an interview near the end where one of the speakers from the time was lamenting how people didn't go out and protest these days, which prompted some confused noises out of me and lead me to discover that this documentary is from 2005. So, in that sense some parts of it just haven't aged well.

Right, well then, I'd hoped to have this out Sunday but it just took too long to write! Hopefully I'll keep this up AND get better about posting on time next week!