Culture

What To Watch, Read and Listen To While You're Bored and Self-Isolating

Don't lose your head: pass the hours with some picks from VICE UK's culture writers.
16 March 2020, 9:45pm
What to do, watch and read during self-isolating and the Coronavirus lockdown.
Bob Foster

This article originally appeared on VICE UK.

Working from home always sounded like a laugh. Getting all your work done – better, faster – with the added bonus of feeling like you're skiving. Then when the blessed day comes that you get that all-office email telling you to pack up, go home immediately and expect to hear back in a month's time, reality hits. It's coronavirus time. Days roll into weeks and you know with some surety that you'll still be binge-eating, exhausted for no reason and never off the sofa. Don't lie to yourself: you're a slug at the best of times, and here we are in the worst of times.

Whether you're self-isolating for illness or simply one of these WFH fools with no colleagues to bother and lunch-breaks and evenings to fill, here is a brief list of all the culture you should consume. Everything is just a click-away so you don't have to worry about how to access it. Enjoy – and see you on the other side.

WATCH

Inside No. 9

For the small cross-section of people who enjoy a) awful nerd shit like Lemony Snicket, b) character comedy that involves a lot of effort, c) Choose Your Own Adventure media, you will love Inside No. 9. If you’re definitely not that person, still give this strange comedy show a go. Episodes are self-contained, 20-ish minutes and each set in a different world. It keeps you on your toes: you'll watch an episode about about a haunted prank show gone wrong, then in the next one, the dialogue is all in iambic pentameter. None of my mates have heard a peep about this show and I can only presume it’s because it’s not on Netflix. But all the episodes are now on BBC iPlayer for your viewing (dis)pleasure. – Hannah Ewens

'Parasite' still via NEON/CJ Entertainment

Every Bong Joon-ho film that isn’t Parasite

If you, like the gaggle of Hollywood elites and tech bros who didn’t quite get that it was a direct and personal critique of their entire existence, enjoyed Parasite, then you’ll also love all of Bong Joon-ho’s previous films. Issues of class, exploitation and corruption (both systematic and spiritual) have been the bedrock of all the South Korean director’s films, though always presented with a slice of dark humour. I’m still working my way through them, but would recommend Bong’s second film, Memories of Murder (2003), a truly beautiful looking adaptation of a truly harrowing play about Korea’s first serial murderer (who terrorised a rural town in the 1980s and was never caught), but Thrillist have ranked his filmography here. – Emma Garland

Lovesick

I watch a lot of Netflix “for my job” and I can tell you that one of the very best things on that entire streaming platform is Lovesick, a three-season comedy series which may well be one of the best rom-coms ever made. The premise is simple: Dylan (played by Johnny Flynn of being a folk singer and also in the new Emma movie adaptation fame) is trying to inform everyone he’s slept with that he’s got chlamydia. What unfolds is funny, sweet, and moreish. God-tier, frothy escapism at a time when, let’s face it, you’re going to need it. – Lauren O’Neill

Pandemic: How to Prevent an Outbreak

If you want some distraction from anything infection-related, then Pandemic: How To Prevent an Outbreak – which is available to stream on Netflix – is probably not for you. However if, like me, you prefer to know what's going on at all times, then the six-part docuseries is an incredibly illuminating and concise insight into the people behind the scenes working on vaccines, outbreak prevention and treatment. The show primarily focuses on the flu (it was filmed right before the COVID-19 outbreak, which makes its release very eerily timed), but will make you realise that we're a little more prepared for viral outbreaks than it initially may seem. – Daisy Jones

LISTEN

The Oprah Podcast

One thing I like to do when I’m feeling particularly shitty is listen to other people talk about the worst moments of their life and how they came back from them. It’s good for the soul! By now you’ve probably heard all the big podcasts, like No Such Thing As A Fish or This American Life or the NYT Popcast. So why not go fully basic and dive into some Oprah? Her guests are unparalleled, with everyone from megalithic pop stars like Lady Gaga, to Michelle Obama, to spiritual truth seekers such as Brené Brown. This is the kind of thing to listen to when you’re really feeling down about having not left the house for two weeks, literally starved of vitamin D and exercise. – Ryan Bassil

Nocturne podcast, press image.

Nocturne

Nocturne is one of my favourite ever podcasts. It's beautifully produced, relaxing but not boring, and has nothing to do with coronavirus (if incessant headlines about a rapidly spreading virus are making you feel at all anxious). Each episode is loosely based around "the nighttime” but that's about it. One episode, for instance, is about what it's like to be an extreme night owl who hates daylight, while another is about a Norwegian city where the sun never fully rises. There are well over 50 episodes spanning six years already, and I'm really jealous if you haven't yet heard any of them. – Daisy Jones.

Don’t Touch Your Face

If the anxiety of being plugged into the news cycle during a pandemic is getting to you – fair – but you want to stay somewhat informed about coronavirus and how it’s spreading, Foreign Policy have started a podcast called Don’t Touch Your Face. So far the hosts, one of whom has an extremely calming Stephen Fry-type voice, have answered questions like ‘why have some countries got such minor numbers of infected people?’ and ‘how can we survive during self-isolation?’. This is Proper Journalism. I would recommend sending to any boomer family members who are sharing Corona memes ft. week-old stats and complaining about the media making everyone hysterical. – Hannah Ewens

Reply All, specifically the most recent episode about a lost pop song from the 90s

Reply All is a podcast about the internet in which the hosts, PJ Vogt and Alex Goldman, attempt to tackle listener problems. In the most recent episode “#158 The Case Of The Missing Hit”, they try to help a man from California identify a lost pop song from the 90s and, in the process, make every single one of their subscribers cry.

The problem is thus: the man – 38-year-old filmmaker Tyler Gillett – can recall the lyrics and the melody to a song from his childhood to near perfection, but he can’t identify the song itself. He types sections of the lyrics into Google: nothing. He asks everyone else in his life if they remember it: nothing. He trawls the internet, looking for traces of its existence: nothing. So, PJ and Alex do their best to piece everything together. As their search gets more and more convoluted, the episode becomes – as most Reply All episodes do – less and less about the task at hand. In this case, it becomes a poignant story about the idiosyncrasies of memory, sentimentality and probably the most culturally significant moment for Barenaked Ladies since they appeared on the soundtrack for American Pie in 1999. – Emma Garland

READ

"My Instagram"

Look, OK, maybe I read the shortened version of this essay on the Guardian first but now I miraculously appear to have a lot of time on my hands. N+1 co-editor Dayna Tortorici wrote the very beautiful and smart "My Instagram" about how the app has skewed our thinking, force-fed us ads and manipulated us with algorithms. It’s better than every other essay you’ve read on Instagram culture, so before you keep scrolling into the depths of couch purgatory, give it half an hour and your full attention. Then post about it on social media. – Hannah Ewens

"Man, It’s A Hot One: The Oral History of Santana and Rob Thomas’ 'Smooth'"

In periods of lingering doom and mortal peril, I personally like to i) regress and ii) have a laugh wherever I can. If this also sounds like you, then perhaps you would enjoy reading this recent and comprehensive oral history published on Rolling Stone about the greatest and most inspiring collaborative rock song ever laid to wax. I am talking, of course, about “Smooth” by Santana featuring Rob Thomas of Matchbox 20. I won’t spoil it for you, but here’s a small snippet of the story from the man Rob Thomas himself:

“I think the “smooth” part came first. I was thinking more about Carlos. I was thinking, “You’re so smooth,” about Carlos Santana. And then, “You hear my rhythm on your radio.” But then, I also realized somewhere in the middle of it that I had this wealth of information because I had this smokin’ hot Latin girlfriend already.” Emma Garland

"A Tale of Two Grimes: The Enigmatic Pop Star In Conversation With Both Lana Del Rey and Brit Marling"

I hate Artist In Convo With… Artist! interviews as much as the next culture journalist but obviously the inventors of the format, Interview Magazine, get a free pass, forever. This particular Q&A on their site is my favourite in memory: Lana Del Rey x Grimes x Brit Marling. It's just three intelligent women chatting about everything from creativity and production to wild sci-fi stories and pregnancy, which are basically the same thing. – Hannah Ewens

MISCELLANEOUS SURVIVAL CONTENT

Yoga with Adriene

Obviously staying in the house comes with its challenges, not least: how the fuck am I meant to get to sleep at night if I have burned no energy and done a total of 114 steps – bathroom to bedroom via kitchen for little bit of crisps and back again – all day? The answer of course is YouTube exercise videos, which you can follow on your laptop or telly. Anyone who has ever felt too self conscious to go into a gym is probably familiar with Adriene and her perky YouTube channel Yoga With Adriene, but what better time to remind yourself than during a global pandemic when you’re trapped inside and your body is cramping up from lack of movement? Adriene has yoga videos for all levels, whether you want a long, sweaty workout or just a gentle, relaxing meditation. If you’re a house sharer trapped in your bedroom, there’s also a “dorm room” yoga video that you can do with limited space. Something for every self-isolator! – Lauren O’Neill

8 Minute Abs

Once upon a time I had abs. No other muscle or tone anywhere else, but a four-pack. It was the result of doing this bizarre 8 minute workout video from the 80s every single morning. If you have nothing better to do, why not come back to work in April and give the fans (your colleagues, your manager) what they deserve. – Hannah Ewens

15 Minute Gong Bath

You’ll not see me knocking back cacao while a crusty farts – sorry, releases stagnant energy – on some petri-dish yoga mats. No, no. There are videos of gong baths on the internet. Just plug this in your speakers, ideally have a glass of wine or cigarette, and zone out. – Hannah Ewens

YouTube Healing Music

At some point in the distant future the sun will shine and the clouds will part and the roni will be gone. For now though, embalm yourself in the deep healing measures of Youtube videos with new age tech titles like 528Hz RAISE Vibration and 285 Hz ❯ IMMUNE SYSTEM BOOST. Sure, there's no confirmed health benefit, but you'll feel like you're knee deep in a spa holiday even though you're sat on the couch in your pants. – Ryan Bassil

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