This week I claw myself up from illness-riddled depths, and along with me I have brought a basket of pop culture tidbits! It’s a Friday The 13th miracle!
I’m not going to lie: it was the covers that kept me away from Red Sonja for the longest time. They always struck me as…well, as just not for me. I’m not a prude or anything, but it seemed like the books sold on the idea of the She-Devil With a Sword hanging out in her chainmail bikini and not much else. I eventually got over myself because, hey, the 2013 Dynamite series was written by Gail Simone, and I’ve loved her since Birds of Prey. (Which, come to think of it, was another book I initially stayed away from based on the covers.) In her eighteen issues of Red Sonja, Simone melds action, humour, and heart into a series of adventures that never left me unsatisfied. It’s the epitome of what I’ve always liked best about Simone’s stories: a warrior’s true power coming not from her swordarm, but from her wits, her spirit, and her friends. The art is also a treat, with artist Walter Geovani capable of scenes of shocking violence as well as those where a change in facial expression speaks louder than a sword through the face. Three volumes of Red Sonja doesn’t feel like nearly enough from this team, but they’re really good comics that I am happy to have in my collection and will absolutely read again.
On the first day of this new year I spent my evening recovering from a day of skiing, in a hotel room in Hinton, listening to The Strombo Show’s The Hip 30 on CBC Radio 2. This four-hour tribute to The Tragically Hip, on the band’s 30th anniversary, was in the works long before the announcement of Gord Downie’s cancer and the band’s subsequent final tour. But this special wasn’t a premature eulogy. It was a celebration, pure and simple. Part documentary and part house party, The Hip 30 wove together interviews and musical performances to really examine the band’s place in Canadian music history. The songs weren’t all to my liking, as would be expected after listening to thirty covers from thirty different musical acts, but for the most part they ranged from “good” to “transcendent.” I actually wrote notes about every song as it aired so I would remember everything as it happened, and coming up with five favourites was really hard. But here we go (in no particular order):
- The Cowboy Junkies’ “Little Bones,” an eerie little number which reminded me just how good The Cowboy Junkies are.
- Tanika Charles’ stripped down and soulful R&B version of “Boots or Hearts.”
- Hawksley Workman’s “Emperor Penguin.” The breakdown on that song broke my heart.
- Sarah Harmer’s take on “Thompson Girl” that she played so well it sounded like one of her own original songs.
- The Odd’s celebratory and open-hearted version of “Yer Not The Ocean.”
Out of thirty songs I would say twenty-five of them are well worth listening to. If downloading the set and listening to four hours at once sounds daunting, listen to chunks of it at your leisure. The non-musical sections might seem a little grandiose to those people who aren’t Hip fans, but the music…the music is worth it.
This is a good one, folks. John Moe’s new podcast features interviews with some of show business’ funniest people about how they deal with clinical depression. It might not seem “appropriate” to be irreverent about something that’s often hidden away from the public eye, but that’s part of the point: by talking about it, Moe and his guests try to take away some of the disease’s power. And the interviews are often very funny. The first few episodes include Dick Cavett talking about depression in 60s and 70s Hollywood, Peter Sagal’s views on work and Parks & Recreation as ways to combat the disease, and the incredible Maria Bamford sharing her stories about her battles with Bipolar II. Each episode of The Hilarious World of Depression is funny and sad and a little hopeful too, and a solid addition to my weekly podcast rotation.
Childish Gambino’s 2016 release “Awaken, My Love!” is either an homage to 1970s funk and 1980s R&B, a parody, or something in between. After the first few listens I spent time trying to dissect each song for meaning and musical influence, but then I realized I didn’t really care what it meant. I just like Donald Glover and Ludwig Goransson’s grooves. “Awaken, My Love!” is basically my new favourite Funkadelic album. And I can’t complain about that.
Anyone who happens to be in Edmonton before the end of January should go to the Art Gallery of Alberta to see David Altmejd’s 2011 work, “The Vessel.” It’s a huge plexiglass sculpture that incorporates themes of sensation and perception, air and movement, and art itself, in a mixed-media presentation that merits a long visit to really take in. I loved it and am already planning another visit back just to see it again. (And the picture I selected really doesn’t do it justice.)
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That’s going to do it for me this week. Until next time, take care of yourselves, and don’t get sick. We need you healthy. I’ll see you in seven days.