Ling Ma's novel made plenty of year-end lists when it was published in 2018, but now it feels eerily relevant. Severance alternates between a zombielike apocalypse—brought on by a virus that originated in, oh God, China—and the pre-contagion life of its main character, Candace, who continues to work her soul-sucking office job while society slowly crumbles around her. Strange, haunting and full of bleak humor, it's hard to think of a book that better captures the dissonance of dealing with everyday malaise in the middle of a pandemic.
Stream: Happy Endings
Save your 17th rewatch of The Office for when the CDC installs a giant biodome over the city and get acquainted with the best sitcom axed before its time. Happy Endings didn't have a particularly distinctive premise—it's basically Friends for the single-camera era—but the preternaturally compatible cast sprayed oneliners like machine-gun fire, achieving a higher joke-to-LOL ratio than a lot of its late-2000s peers. Stream on Hulu.
Most of us have already spent plenty of time mining Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu for entertainment. But Multnomah County Library's streaming service is packed with arthouse gems—and anyone with a library card can watch up to six free movies per month. There's tons of stuff on Kanopy you'd have to pay extra to rent on streaming services, from Tarkovsky's weirdo sci-fi classic Stalker to Iranian vampire spaghetti-Western romcom A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night. There are plenty of titles that aren't available at all on the major streaming platforms as well, including Wong Kar-Wai's opus In the Mood for Love and the feel-good nihilism of Daisies. Find at multcolib.org/resource/kanopy.
Listen to: William Tyler’s Music From First Cow
It may be some time before you can actually see First Cow, the Portland-filmed anti-capitalist parable that's become a favorite on the film festival circuit. But in the meantime, you can listen to the sparse, wistful score by ambient Western guitarist William Tyler. Conveniently, Jay Electronica also dropped his dense, long-awaited debut album a few days ago, and the No. 1 album in the country right now is Lil Uzi Vert's tripped-out behemoth Eternal Atake. Do we really need a two-hour emo-rap album that's arguably just a second-rate Astroworld? You now have plenty of time to figure that out for yourself.
Explore: Chinese Cooking Demystified
Stocking your pantry for quarantine feels pretty bleak, but Chris Thomas and Stephanie Li of Chinese Cooking Demystified manage to make cooking in social isolation look exciting. The couple behind the popular YouTube channel has been living under lockdown in Shunde, in the Guangdong province, for more than a month, and have started tagging their Instagram posts #cookupinlockdown—making everything from stir-fried pulled noodles to Chinese pork tacos and homemade steamed buns. Some of the ingredients are a little obscure, but hey, at least you'll know what to do with bags of dried fried shrimp when everything else gets cleared out of the grocery store. On Instagram:
Read: Flagrant Magazine
This is a trying time for everybody, but it's particularly disappointing for hoops heads. March Madness got called off, and the NBA season is currently in a state of purgatory. It'll be a while before anyone returns to the hardwood, but for now, fill the void with Flagrant, a Portland-based, women-run magazine not just about basketball but the vibrant culture surrounding the sport. The beautifully designed inaugural issue includes stories on everything from the WNBA to mental health struggles to net repair to "NBA astrology," which may or may not inform us how long it'll be before games resume and the Blazers inevitably win the championship. Available at Deadstock Coffee, 408 NW Couch St. Suite 408, and Laundry PDX, 140 NW 4th Ave.
Watch: Whitmer Thomas: The Golden One (HBO)
Accurately summarizing the premise of this hourlong HBO special from comedian Whitmer Thomas is…a tad difficult: A squirrely emo singer-turned-L.A. comic returns to Alabama to scream self-effacing, New Order-style ruminations about his dead mother's quest for pop-music stardom. It reads like utter word salad, but the ramshackle combination of standup, documentary and live music is an oddly poignant examination of how we deal with grief. Stream on HBO Go.
Play: Dreams (PlayStation 4)
Less a game than a truly immersive, ever-expanding creative universe, Dreams gives users the tools to make their own games, then upload them for others to play. The creators promise you'll spend hours getting lost in this living rabbit hole, which sounds like just the distraction we need right now. With so much of the future uncertain at the moment, what's better than a concept with infinite possibilities? Available on PlayStation 4.
Stream: All Fantasy Everything
It's probably not healthy to view the entire world through the prism of sports, but in the right hands, it can be pretty funny. Beaverton's own Ian Karmel started his All Fantasy Everything podcast—in which he and his comedy friends get together to draft everything from fictional athletes to Seinfeld characters—as a side hustle to his day job writing Emmy-winning material for The Late Late Show With James Corden, and its since taken on a life of its own. With the way things are going, this might be the closest thing to "sports" any of us are going to have for a while, so dig in and get to arguing. Stream at headgum.com/all-fantasy-everything.
Read: Legendary Children
Give your eyes a break from hours of reality television to read about it instead. Podcasting duo Lorenzo Marquez and Tom Fitzgerald have penned the definitive cultural analysis of RuPaul's Drag Race. Legendary Children argues that the show is a museum of queer social history, pulling from traditions to sketch a portrait of queer life in the modern age. Drag Race mines the lives of the LGBT community for material, lending itself to a thorough—and glitzy—representation of relationships, friction and discipline within queer spaces.
Watch: On Location (Destination America)
If you're practicing social distancing by barricading yourself at home, there's still a way to appreciate the state's beauty without setting foot outside. On Location, which airs on the Discovery-owned Destination America, is a weekly program that follows host Sterling Fiock and his Scottish terrier sidekick, Dogmatix, as they journey across Oregon. The duo participate in a range of activities, from kiteboarding on Floras Lake to fishing for bass in the Umpqua River to mining sunstones in Plush. Airs Saturdays on Destination America.