This week we’ve got psychedelic cartoons, unicycling across the country and a new first-person shooter video game. To make a suggestion for a future issue, send an email to [email protected]

Movies/TV shows:

“Big Little Lies” (Hulu) 
This one’s an oldie but a goodie, as they say. Based on Liane Moriarty’s novel from 2014, the story follows a group of women portrayed by a stacked cast including Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Shaileen Woodley, Zoe Kravitz and Laura Dern, who live in Monterey, Calif. They’re all beautiful and carefree but soon, viewers realize that, of course, dark secrets loom not too far beneath the surface. The show opens with the aftermath of murder scene and then cuts to weeks before leading up to the final event. Told from multiple characters’ perspectives, the show touches on aspects like motherhood, physical assault, sexual violence and infidelity in a way that delves deeper and adds meaning to the characters without becoming just a plot point. Despite her silly titles, Moriarty’s characters always seem to be well-thought out, with realistic motivations and personalities making them perfect for adaptation to the screen. — Sayaka

“Better Call Saul” (Netflix)
The fourth season of “Better Call Saul,” the sequel/prequel to “Breaking Bad,” dropped just before the pandemic, and because it had been some time since we had watched the first three seasons, which we loved, we found ourselves lost in the first episode and so the show got pushed to the back of our coronavirus queue. After we watched the last couple episodes of Season 3, we dove in last week and burned through nine of the 10 episodes like loosely rolled joints. It’s fantastic — the origin story of Saul Goodman as well as an epilogue after the last, frenetic events of “Breaking Bad.” Like its predecessor, “Better Call Saul” is exquisitely shot, written and acted: long scenes without dialogue, meaningful montages, beautiful establishing shots of the Albuquerque flora and fauna, and the absolute best work Bob Odenkirk has ever done — and he’s done everything. I am watching the finale tonight — so no spoilers, please. Don’t mess this up for me. — Brian

“The Midnight Gospel” (Netflix)
This show is very hard to explain, but it is kind of part podcast and part scripted cartoon. “The Midnight Gospel” is the brainchild of comedian and psychedelic advocate Duncan Trussell and creator of “Adventure Time,” cartoonist Pendleton Ward. The surreal art style of the show bleeds into each episode which follows the main character, Clancy, and his explorations in the multiverse. Clancy uses his travels to alternate realities to find unique characters to interview for his interdimensional space-cast. Using this far out concept, the show manages to tackle and discuss issues that span from how people interact with each other in day to day life, to meditation and dealing with loss. The concepts and subjects may be familiar to those who watched “Adventure Time,” but without the restraint of the cartoon network pulling Ward back, everything in Midnight Gospel is handled in a relatively straightforward manner. It has one liners that can make you laugh as well as ones that can make you think and reflect. I was pleasantly surprised by this show and I think it’s one of the first to use this dual purpose format. I suggest this if you want to watch some spacy cartoons to lighten the mood. — Rob

Books/Reading:
(Greensboro and High Point libraries are closed but Scuppernong Books is still taking orders. Forsyth County Public Libraries are still open for pick-up. Readers can also check out e-books using the Libby app if they have a library card)

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd 
Known for her bestselling novel The Secret Life of Bees, Kidd presents a novel set in the early 19th Century in Charleston, SC. The story follows two female protagonists, Hetty “Handful” Grimke and Sarah Grimke. Hetty is a slave who longs for a life of freedom from the Grimke household and Sarah believes that she was meant to do more with her life then satisfy other women’s societal expectations. The story itself is inspired as well as based on the historical figure Sarah Grimke the American abolitionist, Kidd delves into the lives of Hetty and Sarah’s characters as they overcome the struggles that society has set before them. If you enjoy historical fiction about the path to freedom, hope and to have a voice be heard then this book is for you. — Rachel 

Slowspoke: A Unicyclist’s Guide to America by Mark Schimmoeler
Mark Schimmoeler’s 2013 odyssey about his trip across the United States on a unicycle and homesteading adventure in rural Kentucky has collected plenty of accolades, including one from climate change activist Bill McKibben: “This is just the kind of epic we need right now — humble, sweet, and very deep indeed.” But I have personal reasons for diving in: My life has intersected with Schimmoeler’s in some strange ways. The cabin where he and his wife live in southern Owen County is about five miles away from where I grew up. I landed an internship at the Nation in New York City in 1999, and it propelled me into the world. Schimmoeler started an internship at the magazine about 10 years earlier, but quit, explaining that “the shock of going from cow fields to skyscrapers [was] too great.” Instead of completing the prestigious internship, Schimmoeler made up his mind to ride a unicycle across the country, beginning near Hanging Rock State Park in North Carolina — another connection! Ultimately, Slowspoke is a manifesto on how slowness is roadmap for a more deeply experienced and sustainable way of living. For the record, I don’t completely endorse the lifestyle, but it’s an interesting book all the same.  — Jordan

Games (board games, virtual games, video games):

“Valorant” (PC – Riot Games)
I didn’t grow up playing video games, really. It’s only been in the last few years that I was introduced to first-person shooters and I only play them on PC because I’m pretty much useless with a controller. So, when Riot Games dropped the beta for “Valorant” a few weeks ago, I honestly didn’t expect to like it so much. I’ve been playing “League of Legends,” the global MMO phenomenon created by Riot more than a decade ago but “Valorant” is a whole different type of game. Most closely related to “Counter Strike Global Offensive,” the game is all about moving meticulously, slowly, carefully, so as not to get immediately headshot as you move around a corner. It’s infuriating but completely different from other first-person shooters I’ve had the pleasure and, oftentimes, displeasure of spending hours on. There are about a dozen champions with individual abilities that make them tactically unique as players on two teams go back and forth, trying to plant or diffuse bombs. For now, the game is in beta and you have to win a key to get a copy of the game but it’s pretty simple. All you have to do is sign up for a Riot account and then link that to your Twitch account and stream players who are playing Valorant. I just kept mine up on my computer for about two days and the key appeared in my inbox. — Sayaka

“The Council” (Xbox One, PS4, PC)
I love me a good mystery thriller anything. So, when I found the first episode of this game on Steam for free, I tested it out. Turns out, it’s extremely well-thought out and immersive. You play as Louis de Richet, whose mother has gone missing. She’s the head of the “Golden Order,” a secret organization with members out of high society like duchesses or our own George Washington. Played like games such as “Until Dawn,” “The Council” is less focused on combat and more driven by storytelling and character development in which the choices you make in the game have lasting impacts on how everything plays out. If you love a good mystery and a chance to star in and affect the story like an actor of a movie, this one’s for you. — Sayaka

Music/albums:

This City, This Tulpa — 1970s Film Stock
Eddie Garcia is a longtime friend of Triad City Beat, both because of his journalistic work at WFDD, the Triad’s NPR station, and his side project, 1970s Film Stock, a one-man show of distortion, feedback loops and other pedal-induced heights. This City, This Tulpa is a reissue of a 2017 live performance at Winston-Salem’s Wherehouse Art Hotel. Garcia writes on the liner notes: “I played in relative silence, with a trio of headphones in front of me for folks to listen in on, while a projection of photos of Winston-Salem slowly deconstructed then reassembled behind me.” The 50-minute track, available on Bandcamp, is just the first installment. The second, a tulpa manifestation of the first, will be available in a month or so. — Brian 

Community events: 

Anytime —- UNCSA At Home (W-S)
Though their stages may be dark, faculty and staff from the UNC School of the Arts are bringing their creations to life through a series of virtual performances that can be enjoyed from the comfort of your living room. Free to watch, the performances range from dance to filmmaking to design and music. Find the series online here.

Friday — Virtual Tasting (HP) @ 6 p.m. 
Love tasting different kinds of wine? The Vino Shoppe based in High Point will be holding an online event that guest stars Melissa Pollio from 17th Street Disturbing, a wine distributing company. Hosts will be tasting two different 90+ Point red wines from Australia along with two different types of white wines like Chardonnay and Riesling. Those interested in participating can pre-order the wines for pick-up through the event’s Facebook page. 

Friday — Virtual Voices: The Class of 2020 Celebration (W-S) @ 12 p.m. 
Though the quarantine is still in effect, the students of Winston-Salem State University will still be graduating this Friday online. Spring 2020, Fall 2019 and Summer 2019 graduates are welcome to participate. Graduates are invited to create and upload a 10 second video which will be streamed during the event for families across the globe to watch. Guest speakers including the chancellor will also be holding presentations during the event. All graduates will be invited back to attend the commencement stage when public health guidelines allow traditional graduation to take place. For more information about the event, check out the event on the WSSU website.

Saturday— Quarantunes Variety Hours w/ special guest Emily Stewart @ 5 p.m.
First discovered for her voice in a southern Alabama church, songstress Emily Stewart will be alongside Dan Ray during Triad Stage’s virtual concert this weekend. The female singer’s musical style is rooted from the tunes of the South like country, blues and folk. Ray is a vocalist and multi-instrumentalist known for playing acoustic music but also plays for bands the Clanky Lincolns and Viva la Muerte. Tune in to watch and listen to these two artists perform with one another. Find the event on Facebook for more information. 

Sunday — Mother’s Day Shimmy Happy Free Dance Class 
Looking for something to do this weekend with mom? Shimmy Happy is offering their very first online bellydancing class in honor of Mother’s Day. Bond with your mother over a variety of different belly dancing moves like hip flips, figure -eights, snake arms, crescents and shimmies. The class will be live on Zoom at 2 p.m. Sunday. Find the event on Facebook for more information.

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