Cloister Commentary, Day 337: Thaw Out

We have begun thawing out.

Made a run out to the Boone County History & Culture Center on a tip from my friend Brian Flanagin that they were selling official DVD copies of John Turner’s fascinating film, Korla, a documentary about St. Louisian/Columbian John Redd, a Black man who, passing for an Indian from Delhi, came to fame as keyboard mesmerizer Korla Pandit. I’d seen the film at Ragtag Cinema, been intrigued by the scholarly discussion (with fire and rhymes added by Tyree Paladon Byndom), and recommended it yesterday on Instagram as a great local Black history document. That’s where Brian learned of it, as he stood in front of the Center’s display class where it lay. It was the last film I loaned to my late friend George Frissell (I had a preview disc), so I had to snap up an official copy. My birthday’s coming, after all–I don’t think DVDs qualify under my New Year’s Resolution ban…or do they?

For Saturday Movie Night: J Blakeson’s I Care a Lot, on Netflix, with one of the most repulsive reptiles of a protagonist I’ve seen recently. At first, when I recognized hints of black comedy, I was fairly engaged; during the second half, when the film became ridiculous and was resolved by a deus-who-had-been-obviously-planted-earlier-ex-machina, I didn’t care very much.

A party during an episode of The Durrells really made me miss celebrating with people while records play, booties shake, bodies sweat, and liquor flows. Really made me miss it. Damn TV shows…

Streaming for Strivers:

They say it’s your birthday…

Cloister Commentary, Day 22: Grasshopper

As I mentioned yesterday, I videoconferenced with the two Mizzou teacher interns I am supervising this year. Their student teaching journey was abruptly truncated by COVID-19–they are still assisting their as they are able with grading and virtual lessons–so we discussed the possibilities they’d encounter next fall: content challenges and limitations, stressed students with fragile economic support, explaining what is happening right now in the context of their instruction, isolation (if teachers can’t yet work in person in the fall). The potential environment is daunting, and I do not envy them. I usually let them do the talking, but I did offer them each these words of advice: try to find a crusty old veteran who still has ahold of their joy and sidle into a “grasshopper” role. Nothing helped me get my footing better; it’s not that I avoided my fellow greenhorns, but “the older guys know what it’s all about,” as someone once sang. They helped me dodge several potholes–right, Bob Bilyeu?

Nicole and I started some new shows: HBO’s adaptation of Richard Russo’s novel Empire Falls, which I just finished reading; Netflix’s The Stranger, recommended by our go-to Anglo-American TV critic Susan McDermott-Griggs; and another Netflix item, Self-Made, an impressive limited series tracing the life of Madame CJ Walker, who’s played by the always-great Octavia Spencer. It’s got fire, spunk, wit, and a surprising style and soundtrack–plus Tiffany Haddish, who threatens to steal every scene she’s in.

Streaming for Shut-Ins:

Sample an early ’80s album by Nina Simone that was just reissued and might even surprise big fans if they haven’t heard it.

And: if you want to sample Self-Made‘s soundtrack?