Entertainment

VICE’s Somewhat Definitive Coronavirus Self-Isolation Recommendation List

You’re doing your part by staying home and preventing further spread of COVID-19. Here are 40 ideas how to pass the time.

by VICE Staff
Mar 27 2020, 12:44pm

This article originally appeared on VICE Canada.

It’s a horrendous time.

You may be worried about your parents’ health, your job, and depending on where you live, your entire country’s social safety net. But you are a good person, and like a citizen in Starship Troopers, you are doing your part in the Coronavirus War Effort, by staying home and tolerating whomever you live with.

And while there are certainly worse situations to be in, it’s incredibly boring. We have all of human knowledge on our phones and infinite streaming services, and it’s too much. We also have that internal voice that says we are being lazy, unproductive humans because we haven’t left the house. Who knows how long this lasts? Two more weeks (if Donald Trump has his way) or maybe months? Is now the time for self-improvement? Definitely maybe.

Anyhow, we’re here to help with a judgment-free list of things our staff from across the globe are doing in self-isolation, or at least, things we are recommending other people do. Hope you find at least one thing useful here and stay safe out there, folks!

Culture

Finally watch The Godfather
Apparently it’s a very good movie and is one of the main films annoying people get really shitty about you (specifically me) admitting not having seen. So, in an act of passive aggressive self-isolation, load that up, and watch the three hours of mobster family drama (I think that’s an apt description but I’m not sure as I still haven’t seen the movie). After you watch it, no matter what you think, text that annoying person (my boss) and say simply, “it was fine.” Feel free to utilize this technique for whatever thing the annoying person in your life is focused on. - Mack Lamoureux, Canada

‘Travel’ around the world through TV shows
Netflix content can get overwhelming and boring but it’s so much better when you watch shows in a foreign language. Or at least foreign to me. It makes me feel like I’m traveling around the world and not actually stuck in my room, overthinking. The best thing to come out of Netfllx’s global expansion is that now, there are shows from everywhere. My current favorites include South Korea’s Crash Landing on You and France’s The Hookup Plan. It’s comforting to know that romantic comedies are the same in every country. And right now, I’ll take all that I can get. - Therese Reyes, Manila

Watch Ric Flair promos on YouTube
I don’t think you need to have watched any pro wrestling in your life to get the appeal of exceptionally 80s legend Ric Flair: He’s the champ, he’s rich, and he rants a lot about how he’s a real man and all his rivals are trash. (“Magnum TA! Riding around on that funky motorcycle! Why don't you get in a Mercedes-Benz like a real man?") Try this one or this one or pretty much any of them; they’re all art. — Tim Marchman, Philadelphia

Watch Jeopardy ! every weeknight
It looks as though taping is a couple of weeks behind: Alex Trebek is warmly shaking hands with the contestants and you can hear the studio audience cheering when a contestant lands all the answers in a category or hits a Daily Double. For those of us who still have cable (shut up) watch this with your friends or family in real-time for some real social distancing bonding! This probably won’t last much longer though, but Netflix has put a ton of old episodes online you can still stream. At 7:30 p.m. Every weekday. - Natasha Grzincic, Canada

Watch Joe Pera Talks with You
Though its second season on Adult Swim finished airing in January, I've only recently started watching Joe Pera Talks with You, and it's the balm I need in any and all uncertain times. The 22 episodes—each a brief 11 minutes—follow Pera, who plays a choir teacher in Michigan's upper peninsula. To describe the show is a lesson in futility, but the episodes are deeply sweet, soothing, and some have made me cry (in a good way). Regulars include fellow comedians Jo Firestone and Conner O'Malley; favorite episodes include "Joe Pera Talks You Back to Sleep" and "Joe Pera Takes You to the Grocery Store." - Kate Dries, New York

Get out of your comfort zone with your Netflix viewing
I’m one of those people who can watch The Office (US) anytime, anywhere, and any number of times, without feeling jaded or even bored. I even laugh at all the funny bits, even though I know it’s coming. I know. I’ve got, what I call, a binge-watch fog. It’s when I’m watching a piece of content but not exactly consuming it. I’m a television zombie. But two weeks ago, I got tired of Western shows on my streaming apps. And I decided to break that. So I went slightly eastwards and discovered the pure joys of Korean romance dramas, and now I’m obsessed. I started with (obviously) Crash Landing on You, and now I’m on my fourth K-drama, My Holo Love. What I have not learned is that these smushy, over-the-top googly-eyed romance make little sense in the real world. What I have learned, though, is that Korean cultures are so similar to India—the societal expectations, gender roles, office politics, love and relationships—and their story lines make so much sense to me, who comes from what I thought was a completely different culture! So yeah, watch something new (preferably in a language other than the ones you know), and you’ll learn something new. - Pallavi Pundir, India

Listen to the 90s music mystery episode of Reply All (again)
Podcast fans, social distancing is our time. Reply All’s “The Case of the Missing Hit” is such a satisfying investigation into one guy’s memory of a 90s radio hit that seemingly everyone but him has forgotten. Simply put, this podcast episode is Better than a bag full of Benjamin Franklins / Better than the keys to a brand new Lincoln / Better than the winnings of a New York Lotto / Even if it came with a new house and an auto / And you're better than a year on a paid vacation / Better than a brand new year celebration / Better than a day full of Seinfeld humor / And you're better than hearing a celebrity rumor. - Jill Krajewski, Canada

Watch Tony Hawk highlight videos
It is astounding how many truly incredible Tony Hawk skateboarding videos there are on YouTube. Watching the Birdman (may I call you that, Mr. Hawk?) do a 900 at age 48, explain the levels of complexity of the innumerable tricks he pioneered, and rip through park skating (he can street skate!) is a delight that you can easily lose yourself in for a few hours. - Jason Koebler, Brooklyn

Subscribe to Pome , Matthew Ogle's daily poetry newsletter
In the morning, it's far more brain-orienting and sweet to take in a frequently timed-to-the-moment modern poem than to collide with the news first thing. Pome, a newsletter by Matthew Ogle, helps me out with that. (Sometimes it's sent out later in the day, still to helpful effect.)

Lots of people dismiss poetry as frou-frou, I know. They are wrong. Consider this recent featured Pome poem from 1988: "Traveling Together," by the eternal don W.S. Merwin. It's short enough that I won't quote it to try to convince you; it takes just a second to convince you all on its own. (I also recommend this Merwin beauty, "Separation," for anyone missing anyone else right now, aka all of us.)

Poetry is like anything—you take what works for you, even if one piece of it doesn't. Two other recent Pome highlights for the still-skeptical:

  1. "Secret Ninja" by Kiki Petrosino, 2009 ("My lunch—mustard. / Straight from the packet. / No one sits next to me. / Keep working my skills. / Keep circling the word blood / in Macbeth.")
  2. This one by Louise Glück,1980, which is about loving someone at very close range, which maybe you are also doing in addition to all the current missing

The best part of this is forwarding poems to people of whom they remind you—like the people you might be missing most. That's always a good idea, but an even better one right exactly now. —Amy Rose Spiegel, New York City

Start a movie club
In The Before Time, my friends ran a beloved monthly movie club. One of them organized a video chat edition using Zoom, and despite its stiff conference call origins, Zoom gave us the closest thing to that fun group hang again. The service lets you share your screen while still seeing your friends and (this is crucial) their pets hoisted up to the camera like Simba. Now that we’ve seen the Barbra Streisand musical classic Hello, Dolly!, I’m determined to spend my first day in The After Time parading around a lush park with 1890s bachelors and cloned dogs. - Jill Krajewski, Canada

Even better - join VICE UK's movie club
If your friends have piss-poor taste in films and insist on watching that film you really don’t like, again, for the third time, or you feel a desire to return to the anon chat rooms of yore, then you can join VICE UK’s film club. Each Saturday evening we’ll be watching and discussing a film together using the Netflix party app. Readers are invited to share their thoughts. We’ll then post the best results every Thursday in a run-down piece. Details here. – Ryan Bassil, UK

Watch Old Seasons of Survivor
Survivor is currently airing it’s 40th season (truly wild), in which all contestants are previous winners of the show. Watching this season has reminded me of previous seasons that I loved in the early-mid 2000’s, so i’ve decided to go back and watch some of my favorites again. Right now i’m re-watching Season 13: ‘Cook Islands’ from 2006, which I bought for $9.99 on iTunes (I could torrent but I’m afraid of getting another one of those emails with the scary font that makes it seem really serious). Anyway, it’s a great season and Parvati is on it in all of her glory. I’ve always found the show comforting because it literally never changes and Jeff Probst doesn’t age and in fact only gets hotter. Highly recommend. - Taylor Rivers, Canada

Get into an author’s entire body of work
In my younger days, when I was a voracious reader, if I loved a book I tended to devour that author’s entire bibliography over the next few months. Now’s the time to read the very best of authors like Haruki Murakami, Margaret Atwood or Elmore Leonard and to get a sense why they are considered the masters of their respective genres. - Josh Visser, Canada

Video Games

Play Stardew Valley
It costs less than $20, is available on basically any gaming platform (including PC/Mac/smartphones), and speaking from personal experience, it’s a great way to lose literal hours in one stretch. If you don’t have a Switch or don’t want to spend $60 on Animal Crossing, but feel like you’re missing out, Stardew has a similarly soothing vibe. And at the risk of drawing ire from Animal Crossing fans, it’s somewhat more challenging and complex, though still great for beginner gamers. I’ve probably played upwards of 300 total hours of Stardew so if you have questions, my DMs are open. - Rachel Pick, NYC

Achieve a science victory as the Scots in Civilization VI
Sid Meier’s Civilization VI was incredibly discounted on Steam on the day I started my self-quarantine, so how could I not pick it up? I’ve always liked this series because it’s sprinkled with enough history and politics that I can convince myself it’s educational. Anyway, the latest entry in the series is ridiculously deep, includes a pandemic DLC I haven’t tried yet, and my Scottish civilization is currently trailing the Brazillians in the Space Race and my partner thinks I’m a big loser, but I am thoroughly enjoying myself and will definitely try using the Canadian civilization when I start my next game. - Josh Visser, Canada

Revisit your favorite childhood video games via emulator:
The quarantine is the perfect time to get into video games. If you can't afford a Switch (or Animal Crossing is still on backorder) a great trick is to revisit the classics via emulator. Nearly every old school game can be played through your internet browser. Simply type in the name of the game and the words "play online." This week I've gone through King's Quest V and Myst. Visiting the electronic puzzles of my youth brought up all sorts of beautiful nostalgia for a time when I chose to stay indoors instead of being forced to. - Graham Isador, Toronto

Food

Learn how to make bread
You know what helps release anxious pandemic tension? Slinging dough. In a bored frenzy, I’ve made homemade pizza dough (good) and cookies (not so good), but nothing will feel quite as victorious as conquering a fresh loaf of sourdough. All you need is yeast, flour, water, and salt—a minimal and cheap list of ingredients, perfect for quarantining or an apocalypse. Here is the sourdough starter I made. Wait 48 hours for it to activate, then Let’s Get This Bread - Anya Zoledziowski, Canada

Get really into your Top Chef fantasy team
I'm proud to say that last year, the first-ever year of this particular league, I won my Top Chef fantasy league (my team name? Martha Chewart). While the $60 was a great addition to my bank account, the pride of being the first to have their name on the virtual trophy lasted for months. This year, as a brand new season started this week, we've got a few new members in the league, none of whom I know, and I'm excited to freak them out with my intensity. Bonus points if you hate-listen to Pack Your Knives, a Top Chef podcast in which the sometimes insufferable hosts and also sports reporters also participate in their own league. - Kate Dries, New York

Quit your diet
Now is not the time to cleanse. Go get food that makes you happy. Bake dessert, dip your fingers in the peanut butter jar, melt cheese on toast—then melt more cheese on top of that. These are hard times and you can’t show off your abs while you’re social distancing anyway. So go ahead, indulge. - Anya Zoledziowski, Canada

Friends and Family Stuff

Have game night and drinks with friends
Online, of course. Make plans with friends on who hosts virtual game night one evening per week. I just hosted Fake News or Not last night (I’m a nerd, I know) and we turned it into a drinking game. By the end of the night, I was happily three bourbons in, learned a ton of new random facts, and felt like I had a full evening out. Best part? Didn’t need a cab to get home. Was in bed within minutes! – Natashya Gutierrez, Singapore

Make vlogs for your friends
We're all FaceTiming up a storm, but I'm also using this time to become a vlogger, and make all my friends become vloggers too. We've done nightly skincare routines for one another, and house tours, and I'm sure we'll eventually expand into closet organizing and what I eat in a day and all that. They're sweet and—like the vlogs we watch of actual influencers—strangely comforting and interesting at the same time. - Kate Dries, New York

Call your mom
My mom’s a widow who no longer drives and won’t go out if it means coming back in the dark: social distancing is probably how she spent most of her “before coronavirus” days. Now she’s fielding calls from family and friends the world over, probably getting more attention in the past week than she has had in months (oh god getting old SUCKS). Extra points if you help her figure out some piece of technology, like getting her on Whatsapp to observe the group family chat (like she knows how to text!) or putting Solitaire on her iPad. You’ll be annoyed in no time, just like old times! As you wonder if things will ever return to normal think about how this will probably be your life in 40 years anyway. - Natasha Grzincic, Canada

Teach your grandpa how to video call
In the BC era (Before Coronavirus), my 90-year-old grandpa would go with his friends to this one centre for senior citizens, where they could play carrom, billiards, cards, bridge and generally chat, every afternoon. Now that it's shut, he's become quite lonely, with nothing to do but watching TV to fill his hours (quite like all of us, ya). But the other day, I video called my dad who passed the phone to him, and suddenly, I had the idea of having him temporarily swap his brick phone for a smartphone, and teach him how to video call his friends. All of them now get on to a video call each afternoon and have long-distance tea together. They’re all quite worried about the virus attacking older people, so this helps them think they’re all in this together. - Dhvani Solani, India

Have a walking meeting
Working from home and tired of seeing your colleagues wearing the same outfits they’ve been too lazy to change out of? Get out of the house and work at the same time while imagining them in their pre-work-from-home-care-about-their-personal-hygiene days. It also forces you out of your PJs and up the remarkably low steps you actually need to get by (1,749). - Natasha Grzincic, Canada

Self-improvement

Get really good at Skype sex
If you're single or not self-isolating with your partner then this is going to be a very… celibate time for you. And honestly, there are only so many PornHub videos you can watch on repeat before the whole thing starts to feel almost medical. To that end, get really good at Skype sex! When we spoke to couples who are self-isolating apart, they suggested thinking outside of the box and not putting too much pressure on each other. “Use toys on yourself while your partner watches, tell each other what you want to do to each other down the phone, find ways to get each other off on video – whatever!” says Kat, who lives in Iceland while her girlfriend remains in Manchester.

“Less 'active' versions of intimacy are fun too,” she continues. “Send them a nude before you go to sleep, so you can wake up to theirs. It's hard to feel sexy when everyone's talking about hand washing and isolation, so little acts like these make me personally feel like sex is still an important part of mine and my partner's relationship.” – Daisy Jones, UK.

Finish that rude cross-stitch
Or some other arts and crafts hobby that you started because you realized you have no hobbies and what have you been doing with your life that makes you unique? I recently went to a free rude cross-stitch at the local library (rip) hoping to stitch out “May you have all the confidence of a mediocre white man.” Apparently you’re meant to start in the middle; after an hour I had “den” artfully displayed. When I find where I stashed it away (when doing that other popular isolation activity of successfully cleaning out one drawer) time to revive it and turn that den into confidence, at least. - Natasha Grzincic, Canada

Get really into full-body exfoliating
I never really believed that a sugar scrub would do more for my skin than a regular loofah, plus, fully and thoroughly rubbing down your entire body sounds time-consuming and like work. But since I bought a tub of sugar scrub and self-tanner for a vacation I can no longer go on, I finally gave it a shot for the hell of it. Not only was it the semi-mindless mild physical labor and “something to do with my hands” that I’m craving right now, my whole body was MARKEDLY softer afterwards. I was shocked; I’ve been going around with dull skin caked in way more of my own dead cells than I realized all this time. Never again! As small indoor-only self-isolation excitements go, I’m looking forward to this weekly activity. - Casey Johnston, New York

Finally finish your home improvement projects
This is mostly advice I’m giving myself, because I’m currently working from a “desk” that is also a defacto kitchen counter crammed with everything from my microwave to a bag of dog food. Gross, I know. Anyway, the reality is you’re going to be spending a ton more time at home, so you might as well make it as nice—and functional—as possible. If you’ve been putting off hanging that gallery wall, or assembling a kitchen island, you may as well get on it. It’ll give you immediate gratification and when this is all over and we can finally be within six feet of each other again, your friends can enjoy it too. - Manisha Krishnan, Canada

Read history
When I extol the virtues of reading history, one of the most common responses I get is something along the lines of, “I find history boring.” That is almost certainly because the person is thinking of high school history class, which was indeed excruciatingly boring. It was also misleading or flat-out wrong in important ways. Part of reading history is correcting that. But, more importantly for our purposes here, history is, as I have written before, a form of therapy: “It’s oddly comforting to learn about times when people thought they were experiencing unprecedented circumstances, when they were scared out of their minds about what had become of their society, when they were afraid they had lost all control over events. Things may be different today, but not that different.” At its best, history is a bunch of theories about what really happened. Not only is that aggressively not boring, it is the greatest story ever told. - Aaron Gordon, Brooklyn

Those live online workout sessions that are actually quite great
If you’re an obsessive runner (like me) or a workout fanatic who can’t catch a break even during the stormiest weather (again, like me), the state of self-isolation will not only give you mental and physical cramps, but can also lead to some pretty reckless behavior. Like stepping out when your country is under a lockdown in the wee hours of the morning, thinking nobody can spot you, only to be turned away by the patrolling police van (yes, this happened to me). So try out those online workout sessions that are cropping up literally everywhere, especially on Instagram fitness influencers’ feeds, or see if your gym has gone live (mine has!). Maybe try something new, while you’re at it. For instance, I would never have gone for a dance class at my fitness studio, because I have two left feet, but thanks to self-isolation and live classes, I can now dance, and look terrible while at it, but nobody gives a shit. But I still get a workout out of it. — Pallavi Pundir, India

Become a synth god for free
As a Rush fan, I’m both a defender of Geddy Lee’s galaxy-brain 80s synths and adept at social distancing to watch 10 live versions of the same song. You too can become lord of the bleep bloops: per Resident Advisor, Moog and Korg made their synth apps for iOS and Android free (albeit Korg is for a limited time) to get you through this. Whether you have some keyboard background or your skill level is more cat-sitting-on-stuff, the Minimoog Model D and Korg Kaossilator are extremely cool ways to kill time. - Jill Krajewski, Canada

Learn to play that instrument that's collecting dust
I've had a ukulele for six-and-a-half years and have yet to learn any other songs than "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" and "Hallelujah," both of which are way too depressing for the current vibe. The uke was a birthday gift my first month after moving to New York, and when I was jobless, bored, and lowkey freaking out about it all, I used to take it down to Prospect Park and sit by the lake and teach myself new chords. I was 23 and corny. But two weeks ago, my partner and I moved in to our first apartment together, and while he was hand-scrubbing laundry in the bathtub to avoid going to a laundromat (which would be fine to do, but we're paranoid), I passed the time by wandering around pretending to be a medieval traveling bard, badly strumming the same four chords. It would be nice to be able to strum less badly, soon. My goal is to possess the same slightly unhinged inner peace as Tulsi Gabbard sitting in an airport, losing a presidential run, and waiting for a delayed flight. Or like Nero fiddling while Rome burned, but maybe less evil and more mentally stable. I bet a lot of us have instruments we've been meaning to pick back up and annoy our roommates and neighbors with. Now's the time. - Sam Cole, Brooklyn

Try a Masterclass
Look, I'm not advocating for productivity during this time period. I don't think you should be writing King Lear in quarantine. It is not the best time for getting abs. But if you're looking to learn a new skill—and you aren't into making bread—now might be a good time for Masterclass. Masterclass is a video series where experts offer insight and practical advice about their field. You can learn cooking from Gordan Ramsay. Neil Gaiman teaches a class on storytelling. Helen Mirren offers tips on acting. Each course is broken up into segments and is easily digestible. Right now it costs 20 bucks a month for access to their entire catalog. Their classes are a great way to shake up your streaming between binge watching reality shows. — Graham Isador, Toronto

Cave to the demands of the Duolingo Owl
I downloaded Duolingo in a storm of productivity a few months ago, devoted myself to learning German for all of a week, and then dropped it when I broke my first streak. But Duolingo refused to drop me. The initial flood of emails and push notifications reminding me to practice eventually slowed to a trickle, but every so often, I’d see the Owl’s face, read its message, weigh the option of returning to my studies before dismissing the impulse and looking at tweets instead. Now, though, I’ve got nothing better to do than to capitulate to its demands. Wow, yes, now that everything about life as we know it has been temporarily but radically altered, I actually DO have five minutes to “ace my learning” and practice now. The Duolingo owl has got its talons in me, and it won’t be letting go any time soon. I’ve switched to French. When this is all over, I’ll be able to ask a stranger if they’re from Belgium with an impeccable accent. - Katie Way, New York

Learn how to DJ—kind of
There are countless DJ software options like Traktor Pro 2 or Serato DJ Pro that’ll take your playlist game from Tired to Wired. I started learning how to use Traktor back when I was unemployed, but gave up when I got a real job. Now that I can’t go out to hip-hop shows in Toronto, I might mess around on digital turntables again and (hopefully) DJ some Zoom or Google Hangouts sessions. Or I’ll get wine drunk alone and channel my inner Lindsay Lohan. - Anya Zoledziowski, Canada

Roll coins
Time to crack open the piggy bank or sort out the change jar and start counting your rainy day savings. You might even have enough to treat yourself to a lux takeout meal. (If you have kids this is a great way to keep them occupied for several minutes and maybe even teach them some math.) - Natasha Grzincic, Canada

Stop and smell the tulips
There’s something exhilarating about spring and being in a position to take it all in: tulips and crocuses popping up, robins chirping, raccoons defiantly strutting about, house centipedes making an appearance… All reminders that life goes on even in these times and we can still celebrate that with our first jacket-free bike ride of the season. - Natasha Grzincic, Canada

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