… you win or you die. There is no middle ground.” Yeah, well, shut up, Cersei.
Remember that global pandemic? In so many places, people act as if it’s a thing of the past, but at the same time numbers have been spiking again – just the cases were much more manageable, both individually and in sum. So many people who hadn’t yet contracted the virus were getting ill, and even some that had been ill already.
My wife and I had thus far been spared by COVID-19, but almost two weeks ago she started feeling under the weather – and the next morning, BOOM. Two purple lines. A fairly high fever, coughing, and man, was she tired. The weird thing is that, if anything, I should have been the one to catch it and pass it on to her, because I am out of the flat and among people more often – but no, she was positive before me, and a couple of days later I joined the club as well.
The way people are talking here, it sure sounds like the pandemic is over, or at least has turned into something less, well, pandemicky. How much of this is based on facts, data and our understanding of epidemiology? And how much is more a case of wishful thinking blended with people being tired of the last two years? Whichever it is, things have started to change, and they will change a lot more over the next couple of weeks.
By which I mean less the whole mask-wearing thing. No, for me the main change will be this: work will expect me to get my ass back to the office.
It is July – and in many countries, cinemas are open again, albeit with some restrictions. Have our intrepid cultural baristas already been back to movie theatres – and if so, what has it been like to be back after several months? How have they coped with half a year without cinemas? How has COVID-19 affected movie theatres and cinema goers alike? And how will the cinema landscape change after the pandemic? Even if we’re looking at a summer and autumn with open movie theatres (fingers crossed!) and upcoming blockbusters like the new James Bond and Denis Villeneuve’s long-awaited, often-postponed Dune, will cinema be the same? Join Alan, Julie and Matt as they discuss these and other issues concerning post-pandemic cinema!
Here we are, Sunset and Camden: yesterday, for the first time in almost half a year, I sat in a movie theatre, watched the lights go down, the curtain open, and the film begin. Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds and Donald O’Connor, all wearing yellow raincoats, begin to sing that iconic song. Sitting in the satiny dark of the cinema felt like coming home – but, like so many homecomings, there’s a note of ambivalence.
We’ve had this before: video games can be many things, but one thing they are particularly good at is escapism. A video game can be extremely effective at taking you out of your current situation, when you need something of a getaway.
Join us every week for a trip into the weird and wonderful world of trailers. Whether it’s the first teaser for the latest instalment in your favourite franchise, an obscure preview for a strange indie darling, whether it’s good, bad, ugly or just plain weird – your favourite pop culture baristas are there to tell you what they think.
Last week it finally happened: A Damn Fine Cup of Culture was deemed too raunchy by Facebook. Okay, that may not be quite accurate – truth be told, we will probably never know why Facebook suddenly decided that we’d violated their T&Cs with the name of our page. Was it the “damn”? Was it that we made claims to the extraordinary quality of our cups of culture? Or was it something else entirely, like the wrong number of capitals? Anyway, we are now back on Facebook, complete with what some people might consider naughty words in our name. Let’s see what Mark Z comes up with next, shall we?
All of this happened on the same day that Sam posted another wonderful instalment of Six Damn Fine Degrees, in honour of two of the Grande Dames of dubbing: Marni Nixon, who featured in many a film musical without getting the credit she deserved, and Nikki van der Zyl, the woman who gave a voice to so many Bond girls. We can hear a (sadly, very small) handful of her lines dubbing Ursula Andress in the trailer for the Bond film that started it all, Dr. No.
Mid-February in the Swiss capital: as the pandemic grinds on it’s definitely getting to me more. Differently from many, it’s not the relative lack of social contact: I’m not the most social animal at the best of times. I would even say it’s been quite good for me and my wife that we’ve both been working from home for much of the last year, which means that we don’t just see each other in the morning when we’re still tired and in the evening when we’re tired again. I have been seeing a friend once a week for coffee, but beyond this I don’t acutely miss going out and meeting people in larger numbers than what I can count on one hand; I can get most of the social interaction I need via Skype, Zoom and Tabletop Simulator – the latter of which allows us to rule at the boardgame Pandemic during an actual pandemic. What times we live in!
I felt a range of different emotions when the COVID-19 crisis began, and a lot of different thoughts went through my head. One was a profound sense of unreality: this kind of thing happens in movies, not in real life, and definitely not here, in Switzerland, in one of the wealthiest, most privileged countries in the world. Another was constant, low-level stress and the feeling that my brain and its usual processing power was off, somehow, that my thinking was constantly woolly and my ability to remember things (never exactly my strong side) was pretty much shot.
However, not all of what I was feeling was confusing, confounding or plain bad. There was also a sense that for the first time in my life we were experiencing something as the whole world. Even if we were stressed, anxious and confused, we were sharing this. No other event I’d ever experienced felt as truly global, and that was a good feeling: we were all in this together.
This is Matt again, so don’t expect the artsy playing with structure you get from Mege. Things here have been looking up for a week or two now, pandemic-wise. The numbers are great, almost disconcertingly so; listening to This American Life or Radiolab podcast episodes describing the situation in New York, for instance, feels like listening in on a parallel universe where COVID-19 struck fast and struck hard, while here, in Switzerland? Well, since we’re all about damn fine cups of culture, let’s put it in cultural terms: I’ll be able to go to the cinema on 6 June.
Warning: There may be spoilers for the video game Red Dead Redemption 2 in the final paragraph.
Dear Diary, it’s Matt again. How have you been? Going out, having a cappuccino, a glass of wine, going to the cinema? What, me? No, I’ve been a total homebody. Barely left the house, except for the occasional brief stroll. Though that’s not entirely true: I did leave the house – just virtually.