bew bew bewwwww! It’s The JP Pick Vol. EIGHT — to read vol. 7 click here.
Every Monday, we’ll start with a round-up of things to distract, dazzle and delight you. Between mini-essays on the beauty of the Bravo network, Internet videos that have haunted my brain for 20 years, books you can read, sweets you can treat, anything to help you along as we go through These Times (and beyond). Let’s get started!
Covid Drive-Thru Entertainment That’s Good & Weird
The bar for “Covid entertainment” is woefully low, but what else do you expect when life has drifted into the singular goal of survival as we patiently wait for the Dolly Parton-funded vaccine to tap into our veins? Our brains have been so atrophied by reverting back to life’s simple pleasures that a simple drive around the neighborhood feels like a high-octane thrill. Add a socially-distanced outdoor errand to that? Baby, you got a stew goin’.
Which is why when people asked, “How was that Six Flags drive-thru thing?” I didn’t know how else to respond than by saying, “Good. And weird. Maybe not good, I’m not really sure anymore.” The top-line draw of this attraction is you get to drive through an empty theme park at night.
I shall repeat: DRIVE! THROUGH! AN EMPTY THEME PARK! AT NIGHT!
Worth the price of admission alone (which isn’t even that tasty at $20 a pop!). Like all things Six Flags (and Valencia, CA), it’s always gonna be a little bit shitty. Like the bizarre (and haunting) image of a carnival ride decked out in holiday lights running without any riders, slowly moving back and forth like the ghost of thrill-seekers’ past. Or the wild choice of playing the Mariah Carey slowed-down remix (???) of her signature holiday bop as you slowly careen past cars that look like they’re from Fast and the Furious but are no way affiliated with Fast and the Furious. Or the bizarro choice to over-compensate for a lack of holiday cheer by just putting a holiday performer on stilts and calling it a day.
I was mystified by it. And I loved it. And it wasn’t nearly long enough. At one point, we rounded a corner and there was just a 19-year old woman in a “winter prom dress” waving as the cars drifted past as a rap-heavy version of “Jingle Bells” blared.
By this point in the pandemic, “drive-thru experiences” are common fare. The Halloween season was filled with pivoted haunts that percolated to the top of Eventbrite with declarations of “Covid-safe!”, “Social distance scares!” making me (and maybe you) wonder how the hell do you not get spooked behind the wheel and accidentally commit vehicular manslaughter on a Valencia teen.
But the holiday ones are different. Maybe because we’re different. Used to it now, detached from our March and April 2020-selves, surrendering to the highlight of our days when we go on masked neighborhood strolls. Driving around a theme park filled me with an amount of joy matched with actually attending a theme park. It didn’t matter anymore. I woo’d at the stilts-walkers, wished a dancing teen a “happy holidays” and laughed my ass off when their stage-fright-riddled Mrs. Claus attempted small talk with a car that wanted nothing to do with her besides capture it all on their iPhones.
And oh yeah — they give you free fudge*.
*Free fudge may have just been a part of the media event we attended, but it’s good fudge. Get it, anyway.
The Book I Just Devoured
This is a novel about race, identity, gender, prejudice, class inequality and the triumphs and the tragedies when all those qualities collide. It’s about the path to representation — whether for your community or for yourself. It’s about a set of twins. A town forgotten. A life pursued and pushed aside. It’s one of the best books I’ve read all year. Believe the hype.
The Video That’s Haunted Me for Weeks
What the fuck is happening on our virtual awards show stages? Is it that we’re all facing Zoom fatigue from all of the endless (and unnecessary) TV reunions? Has it become a global game of chicken to see who can creatively wind around the Covid restrictions without reminding the viewer of These Trying Times?
Sure, we all agreed that Lady Gaga in a Mad Max mask was dope. And the recent clip of Ariana Grande and Thundercat at the virtual Adult Swim Fest brought the funk. But — what — seriously WHAT — dear reader is this Doja Cat performance?
She crawls from the TV, she’s got a sweaty Bride of Frankenstein-meets-ending of Heathers vibe. She scream-sings like she’s never scream-sung before. I honestly don’t know if it’s good or bad, all I know is that I can’t stop thinking about it. It’s the epitome of 2020 weirdness and “sure, why not!” creativity in the wake of entertainment uncertainty. Is it made better by not having an audience or is that the most haunting part???? I hope I never find the answers.
The Timeliest Timeless Podcast Pick
Everyone’s all, “Oh The Crown Season 4-this” and “The Crown Princess Diana-that”, but back in Spring 2020 the bad boys of Oh Hello were already on the case. The premise of this 9-part podcast features fictional New Yorkers George St. Geegland and Charmed I’m Sure Gil Faizon hosting an NPR-produced mini-series about the “mystery of Princess Diana” which devolves into shit-talking and name-dropping in their signature ‘too much tuna-style’.
Highlights include a confused and frustrated Ira Glass, a confused and stoned Pete Davidson, a confused and affable Lin-Manuel Miranda and endless fake ads for Square Space-type products. I know you’ve probably already listened, but just in case you haven’t — what a treat awaits you.
The Reason Why You Get a Free Trial of Apple TV+
The Beastie Boys Story
I’m woefully late to the Beastie party. They never seemed “for me”. They were “older brother music”. The soundtrack of cool guys in the ‘90s and early ‘00s who always seemed to be telling the punchline of a joke I wasn’t around to hear the set-up for.
Don’t get me wrong — I always recognized “Intergalactic” as a bonafide jammer. And the video for “Sabotage” was always on repeat by way of the Spike Jonze directing DVD, but still I never knew the full story. I didn’t think I was allowed to. I kept anticipating these cool older brothers to move their group to another lunch table before I had a chance to sit down.
Then this fucking documentary. It is perfect. It is so fun and funny and free — just like them. It made me see the full picture: of their friendship, of their goofball antics, of their ability to side-step the media machine by sticking to their street punk rules from when they were no-good-youths. Of Adam Yauch’s brilliance and the massive loss of his early passing. Of Mike D and Ad-Rock’s brotherly friendship in persevering through that loss. Of this insane stunt that set the stage for the Kanye/Taylor drama:
It made me sad. It made me happy. It made me grateful that Apple TV+ is still offering 7-day trials. Go and get yours and laugh and cry with me.