Pop Culture Comfort Food

What Keeps Me Going When Winter Keeps on Going

It’s the middle of March, the weather has decided to swing cold once again, and I’m starting to feel a bit of cabin fever.

Of course, I live in Ottawa; cabin fever for me means I’m bee-lining from the bus to my apartment as quickly as I can, wrapped in a warm jacket and knitted sweater. And this weather means I’m back in front of my TV more often than not, or picking up a good book.

Because of the cold, I’ve been returning to all things warm, cozy and familiar. The pop culture comfort foods, if you will. Chief among them…

Twin Peaks, David Lynch (1991)

twin-peaksIt was a few years back I took the plunge on Twin Peaks, David Lynch’s massively influential murder mystery/surreal horror/Dallas satire mash-up. It didn’t quite click at first, but I picked it up again last year when a third season was airing, 25 years after the original show came to an end.

The show, about a high school student’s murder and FBI agent Dale Cooper’s efforts to solve it, absolutely captures the spirit of small town life. The interconnected families, friendships, and mysteries ring true, and the early ‘90s styles and Pacific Northwest setting instantly bring me back to my childhood growing up in British Columbia.

But all that aside, there’s a gentle humour that constantly takes the edge off what is otherwise a rather dark show. It’s the characters (and the characters, as anyone who’s lived in a small town can attest) that keep me coming back, and that mysterious edge that continuously draws my attention. Pick it up on DVD if you can!

Dune, Frank Herbert (1965)

dune-audio-bookDune was my first foray into “serious” science fiction (or SF, as some call it), and it’s quite the jump in. I’ve re-read it a few times, but right now I’ve got a nicely produced audiobook that I listen to in the office. Some sections are even voiced with a full cast, which is a fun change of pace.

It’s set in the far-flung future where human society has fallen back into feudal structures, albeit now they have spaceships to get from fiefdom to fiefdom. Taking place almost entirely on the desert planet Arrakis (AKA Dune), at its core Dune is about a young royal taking revenge against the factions that killed his father.

The plot plays out in remarkably familiar beats, but always managed to twist and tweak them enough, leaving the reader intrigued and eager for more.

Thematically, the book touches on how religion and politics play off one another, the nature of self-determination, and how fragile an ecosystem truly is. It’s remarkably ahead of its time while feeling like it could’ve been written about situations in the world today.

Once Upon a Hell of a Time, Matt Mays (2017)

once-upon-a-hell-of-a-timeThough it came out last fall, this album still feels fresh and energetic. Matt Mays writes songs with the energy and insistence of Bruce Springsteen, riffs and chords and melodies blending together to create what might be one of his strongest albums to date.

Crisp, clear drums announce the start of the opening track, Trust Life, before wiry guitars kick in. It’s anthemic, yes, but it’s also wonderfully personal and life-affirming. I’m tempted to call it a breakup album, but it’s more for those days after the breakup where you start focusing on what matters to you once again.

In fact, that’s my biggest takeaway from this album: the genuinely good energy, the positivity, and just how damn good it feels to hear guitars, bass, drums, and an earnest voice creating great music.

If you’re in Ottawa on June 24 this year, by the way, Matt Mays is one of the Dragon Boat Festival’s headliners, and it’s a free show!

That’s what I’m watching, listening to, and reading these days. How about you?

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