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Elayne Klasson: What locals in quarantine are watching, reading, listening to now
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Elayne Klasson: What locals in quarantine are watching, reading, listening to now

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For some, there is more time now. For others, maybe not more time, but more anxiety — worrying about our individual and collective fates.

In a very unscientific survey conducted of Santa Ynez Valley residents, I asked people of varied ages, backgrounds and tastes these questions: How are you handling this? What books are you turning to? Which podcasts are you listening to? What shows are you watching? 

Thanks to the respondents for their thoughtful replies below.

Brother and sister Max, 17, and Francesca, 20, Davis are quarantining at home with their mom. They’re distance learning in order to finish the respective school year. Max is a rising senior at Santa Ynez Valley High School and Francesca studies in Boston at Northeastern University. They put me on speaker and enthusiastically interrupted each other with their suggestions.

Francesca follows the podcast by Brené Brown, Unlocking Us. She likes this social worker’s intelligent and straightforward comments on emotional well-being. They both like the soothing, repetitive quality of Law and Order. Also, they like Ozark, which takes them out of the current reality. Francesca says her guilty pleasure is Bravo Television — particularly the antics of The Kardashians and the Housewives of Beverly Hills.

The whole family agreed that Schitt’s Creek provides needed laughs. The silver lining to the quarantine, Francesca says, is hitting the “pause” button and slowing down. Max optimistically added that now, without so many school activities and sports, he is taking up new pursuits — music, painting and baking.

Joan Singleton, a screen writer from Solvang, likes the podcast My Favorite Murder. It’s true crime, which somehow the writers make humorous. She’s reading to keep up with her book clubs, having just finished Pat Conroy’s memoir, My Losing Season.

Singleton found the Southern author’s description of his troubled childhood riveting. Speaking of Southern, Joan recommends a show her husband was involved with. Ralph’s job is to bring movies and shows to the city of Savannah. Council of Dads has not only Savannah’s luscious scenery, but is an engrossing family drama. Lately, she’s loved the new Jerry Seinfeld Netflix special. Its laugh-out-loud moments are sorely needed now.

Dr. Bill Otto, 67, a semi-retired small animal veterinarian living in Santa Ynez, is one of the most productive people I know — relaxing a bit in the quarantine as he recovers from partial knee replacement. During the pandemic, he says he’s not reading many books, but has found a publication called Epoch Times. He feels the newspaper gives him straight facts without editorializing. He’s also a fan of Netflix detective shows — especially from abroad.

Among these are: Body Guard and Line of Duty from England, Wallender from Sweden, The Bridge from Denmark, and the Valhalla Murders from Iceland. He’s always liked these dark mysteries, but he has more time now to indulge— watching several episodes a night.

Pamela Hawes, a 69-year-old recent transplant to Solvang from Santa Barbara, says that historical fiction is her favorite now. “I’m enthusiastic about Creek Mary’s Blood, by Dee Brown, the author of Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee. The book’s title belongs to the elderly narrator’s grandmother — a full-blooded Creek (Muskogee) Native American revered by her people.”

Pamela finds it sad that today, the COVID-19 outbreak among Native Americans is worse than in almost every other population. In addition to reading, she takes viewing and listening suggestions from her adult son, also quarantining at home. He recommends Pod Save America, a witty, political podcast. However, Hawes adds that crafts are the more effective activities for her stress-reduction.

I got a nice surprise when my own, recently released novel was recommended by our county Supervisor, Joan Hartmann. I won’t deny that I was thrilled when she said, “I read a wonderful book, Love is a Rebellious Bird. I HIGHLY recommend it. It spans the entire life of the main character, bringing my own era and locale to life, raising fundamental questions on change, experimentation, and devotion."

She says she is also reading a book, The Nordic Theory of Everything, by Anu Partanen, who compares the style of life in the U.S. and Finland, showing how some values, such as autonomy, are undermined by the U.S. social system. Joan added, "I am watching My Brilliant Friend, based on the Neapolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante that, like Rebellious Bird, spans the lifetime of the protagonists. It is one of the best and most faithful adaptations to the screen that I have ever seen.”

Alan Hirsch, a recently retired physician, says that he “likes the dark stuff.” He’s watching Ozark, but now says he has the time to seek out older film noir favorites to re-watch — like Kansas City Confidential. He’s also watching the Israeli drama Fauda (or Chaos). He likes the intensity of that show, plus the satisfaction of watching good guys win.

Alan’s a voracious reader, liking history. He’s recently completed the third part of Hilary Mantell’s trilogy about Thomas Cromwell, The Mirror and the Light — a door stopper at over 800 pages!

Then he gave me a terrific listening suggestion: music by contemporary composer Max Richter. I sampled a bit today and fell in love with “Sleep”— an eight hour piece that Hirsch and his wife Katherine say they put on before they go to bed and is often still playing in the morning when they wake. I’m ready for the peacefulness of that and plan to download it tonight!

Readers, how about sending me your suggestions, and let me know what you are reading, watching and listening to?

"I don’t think Joe envisioned that his funeral would have been live-streamed to his family on the central coast of California, to Denver, to Chicago and other places around the country."

Elayne Klasson, PhD in psychology, is a writer and recent transplant to the Valley. She was formerly on the faculty at San Jose State University. Her recent novel, Love is a Rebellious Bird, was released in November 2019.

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