Desert Companion

Distance Learning (and Laughter and Music)

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Podcasts
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Culture and entertainment aren’t dead — they’re just in your browser window. Here’s a stay-home list from our experts!

 

A Medley of Podcasts

Gastropod: Each episode of Gastropod takes listeners on a deep dive into the science and history of food. Hosts Nicola Twilley and Cynthia Graber travel the world to bring you surprising sounds and interviews with cooks, scientists, and farmers.

Hello From the Magic Tavern: The premise is delightfully absurd: Fictional host Arnie Niekamp starts each episode by explaining that he has fallen through a dimensional portal behind a Burger King, landing in the kingdom of Foon. The show manages to parody both fantasy genre tropes and the most pedantic of podcast talk shows.

The Slowdown: Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith hosts this podcast, reading a single poem on each five-minute episode. It begins with a short reflection — in a recent introduction to Cathy Song’s poem "Ikebana," Smith asks, “Is beauty more important to us only after we’ve grasped the reality of mortality?”

Flash Forward: Ever wondered what life might be like if we could live underwater? Or what would happen if the internet suddenly broke one day? What if we lived in a future where we could swap bodies? Flash Forward tackles questions like these and explores the issues at stake.

Sonja Swanson, food writer, co-host of the Spicy Eyes food podcast

 

Sing Along, Learn Along

Live Concert Livestreams: Jack White’s Third Man Public Access show offers fans daily livestreams from the Blue Room at Third Man Records HQ, featuring TMR acts and friends free on their YouTube channel daily at 10a. And New York-based event company Nowadays has launched Virtually Nowadays, streaming DJ sets daily from 8p to midnight. (nowadays.nyc)

Master Classes: Many artists have taken to digital outlets to inspire and teach fans their tricks of the trade, and sometimes offer insight on their other passions, like cooking, painting, and more. Google these names for all that and more: TAUK Tuesdays, Mike Messer, Arkells, and Live Lesson Masters.

In Home Sessions: Ever wish you could sit around the fire with Neil Young and his pups as he strummed through Harvest? Or maybe request a favorite tune from Death Cab for Cutie with a bonus backstory? Search these artists offering special online performances: Questlove/The Roots, Ben Gibbard (Death Cab for Cutie), Neil Young, Diplo, Katherine & David Foster.

Classic Concerts: So many to choose from. Try Bruce Springsteen’s 2009 London Calling: Live at Hyde Park, one of the last official recordings to feature the big man Clarence Clemons on sax; Relix Live, in which the unofficial home of the jam community features daily past concert streams; and Insomniac Rewind’s Electric Daisy Carnival Las Vegas, letting you relive the festival’s most iconic performances under the electric sky.

Chris Bitonti, director of marketing, Brooklyn Bowl Las Vegas

 

The Shows Must Go On(line)

Station Casinos At Home Sessions: Station Casinos jumped into the “living room concert” trend by inviting its casino lounge performers to rock the company’s Facebook page. Good things came of it, such as Ray Allaire of Phoenix and the Windjammers using his “unexpected free time” to write a charming song called “No Circus Left in Town.”

Quarantine Cabaret: Burlesque performers got their ostrich feathers clipped, too. With her bookings canceled, L.A.-based burlesque performer Michelle L’amour turned living-room burlesque into an online variety show, featuring separately filmed contributions from the likes of Las Vegas magician Murray SawChuck and physical comedian Jimmy Slonina. (michellelamour.com)

CirqueConnect: Cirque du Soleil consolidated some of its previous ventures into film, television, and making-of documentaries at this new digital hub. CirqueConnect proved the strength of Cirque’s fan base when 500,000 fans logged in for the March 26 launch of an hourlong special that included sequences from O. (cirquedusoleil.com) Mike Weatherford, veteran entertainment journalist

Rev. Eugene DolorMajestic Repertory Theatre: When the shutdown suspended the live production The Garden Party, one character from the ’60s spoof, the  Rev. Eugene Dolor  (Mike Vargovich), made the jump to Instagram with an online show Dial S for Salvation. Majestic artistic director Troy Heard says the first installment drew 200 individual views, as far away as Atlanta and Chicago. (majesticrepertory.com)

Mike Weatherford, entertainment journalist

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Turn a New Page

The Pandemic: If you want to begin to understand why our country is failing to contend with the pandemic, both morally and materially, you might start with Robert B. Reich’s The System: Who Rigged It, How We Fix It. It’s short, direct, accessible — and just might light a fire in your mind.

Social Justice: There’s never been a better time to read the work of venerable leftist Barbara Ehrenreich, whose collected essays have just been published in a volume titled Had I Known. Ever the commonsense radical, Ehrenreich survived the culture wars and is as relevant as ever.

Dystopian Lit: There’s a never-ending catalog of postapocalyptic and dystopian fiction. If you’re looking for an allegorized spin on present-day disasters, why not read the best? Octavia E. Butler’s Parable of the Sower has proven shockingly prescient, and feels like escapism with a purpose.

Horror: I find the horror genre to be a strange comfort food in our strange times — perhaps it’s a relief to be afraid of something that isn’t real? To that end, I’d recommend Shirley Jackson, who’s been enjoying an ongoing renaissance. We Have Always Lived in the Castle is a very on-the-nose novel of domestic imprisonment, and a fitting read for life under quarantine.

Big Fiction: I never decline an opportunity to recommend C.E. Morgan’s 2016 novel, The Sport of Kings. If you’re looking for an epic, big-picture, spiritually capacious novel while you’re trapped at home — this is it. She’s our modern Tolstoy, and if you have a bucket reading list this needs to be on it.

Serious Fun: Samantha Irby is a laugh-out-loud personal essayist in the vein of David Sedaris, and her latest collection, Wow, No Thank You, is coming out right in the midst of our collective crisis. But her earlier collections are just as good, and are worth reading in order.

Drew Cohen, The Writer’s Block bookstore (Note: The Writer’s Block is closed for in-person browsing, but is still fulfilling orders from its online store, and offering shipping specials and curbside pickup.)

 

Out-There Art

Seven Magic Mountains

Seven Magic Mountains: Giangranco Gorgoni, Courtesy of Nevada Museum of Art  and Art Production Fund

Seven Magic Mountains: Part mood-booster, part mind-boggler, Ugo Rondinone’s Seven Magic Mountains (2016) deserves more than a glimpse from Interstate 15. The candy-colored mega-cairns — built from 33 boulders weighing up to 25 tons — are an engineering marvel and playful artistic achievement. Can you spot the pattern in the palette? (sevenmagicmountains.com)

Double Negative: Among land art’s holiest shrines, Michael Heizer’s Double Negative (1969) is worth the pilgrimage. Longer than the Empire State Building is tall, the work spans a canyon, rutting 1,500 feet of mesa and displacing 244,000 tons of rock. While the crisp cuts dulled over decades, the slotted Zen emptiness still mesmerizes. Note: You’ll need a four-wheel-drive vehicle and GPS capabilities. (moca.org)

Sloan Canyon: Sloan Canyon is the Eye Spy of rock art: How many of the 1,700 petroglyphs can you find? Some images are as recent as 1800 AD, others as ancient as 8000 BC. And don’t forget the “petraforms” — centuries-old turtle sculptures gazing across the canyon at Red Rock’s Turtlehead Peak. Note: The parking lot is closed, but street parking is available.

Dawn-Michelle Baude, art critic

 

Scary Good Local Flicks

Art of the Dead: Brothers Michael and Sonny Mahal of B-movie production company Mahal Empire regularly bring C-list stars such as Tara Reid and Richard Grieco to Vegas for scrappy genre productions. The Mahals’ latest, written and directed by Rolfe Kanefsky, features Reid and Grieco in the story of a collection of cursed paintings that turn a wealthy family murderous. (Amazon Prime)

An Irish Story: This Is My Home: Karl Nickoley’s slick, fun documentary follows the grueling yet inspiring quest of Vegas-based Irish rockers the Black Donnellys (Dave Browne and Dave Rooney) to set a Guinness World Record for playing 60 gigs in 50 states in 40 days, while also meditating on the place of immigrants in America. (Digital rental and purchase on various services)

Jezebel: Writer, director and co-star Numa Perrier based this slice-of-life drama on her experiences working as a cam girl in Vegas in the ’90s, and it has a refreshing authenticity about the seedy side of Vegas life. It’s not judgmental or preachy, though, instead showing the title character (confidently played by Tiffany Tenille) embracing her sexuality as she starts to feel empowered in her new profession. (Netflix)

Josh Bell, film critic

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