This is Staff Picks, a monthly round-up of what staff at The Capital City Weekly and Juneau Empire are reading, watching and listening to.
Every month we’ll recommend our favorite music, movies, TV shows, podcasts and books.
These are our October picks.
What we’re watching
Kevin Gullufsen, natural resources reporter, “Maniac” (Netflix): In this strange, painstakingly-crafted limited series from director Cary Fukunaga (True Detective, upcoming James Bond films), Owen Milgrim (Jonah Hill) and Annie Landsberg (Emma Stone) take part in a pharmaceutical trial which claims to cure patients’ neurosis through a series of mind-bending pills. Half the series takes place in an off-putting, “Bladerunner”-style alternate universe where technology is both more advanced and more primitive than it is now. About four episodes take place entirely within the test subjects’ intertwined hallucinations. Justin Theroux and Sally Field top an excellent supporting cast. Recommended for anyone who liked “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” (2004) or “Inception” (2010).
Alex McCarthy, reporter, “Haunters: The Art of the Scare” (available on Netflix): This 2017 documentary about people who run or work in haunted houses is equal parts laugh-out-loud funny and shocking. People are incredibly committed to scaring people, with some of them spending their life spendings and battling with city inspectors to keep their haunted houses running. There’s some fascinating insight in how haunts have changed over the years. The highlight for me is a split-screen montage of one of the haunted house owners in his day job — a wedding singer — and him at his haunted house reducing people to tears with his intense scares.
What we’re listening to
Nolin Ainsworth, sports reporter,”Dr. Death” (podcast): I haven’t been this glued to a podcast since “Serial’s” first season. The podcast tells the story of a deranged neurosurgeon who can’t be stopped. I listened to three episodes in one sitting. Laura Beil’s vivid reporting makes the story’s characters really come to life.
Ben Hohenstatt, arts and culture reporter, Idles – “Joy As An Act of Resistance” (album): The second album by the Bristol, England, band Idles is on my short list for album of the year. It combines thoughts on personal tragedy with unbridled, untempered contempt for the state of politics in the Western World. “Joy…” is exhilarating in its rage, and while its lyrics include some sloganeering clunkers, the music is wonderfully taut post-punk with plenty of hooks.
James Brooks, state reporter, “The Age of Jackson” (podcast): I’ve been looking backward lately, trying to get some insights into modern politics by looking for parallels in the past. The Age of Jackson is wonderfully arcane and detailed and perfect for folks who already know the basics about antebellum America. It also goes deep into historiography, which is perfect for history wonks.
Alex McCarthy, reporter, Prince – “Piano & A Microphone, 1983” (album): The first major release from Prince’s legendary vault, this collection of raw, stripped-down songs has been in my regular rotation since it came out Sept. 21. If you saw “BlacKkKlansman” this summer, you heard the version of spiritual “Mary Don’t You Weep” that’s included on this album during the film’s closing credits. My personal favorite is the opener, a powerful and bouncy version of “17 Days.”
What we’re reading
Ben Hohenstatt, arts and culture reporter,“Best American Short Stories 2018 (anthology): I started reading BASS collections after being forced to read excerpts from one in a creative writing class in college. I enjoyed what I read, and I’ve picked up the new edition every year since. I absolutely love the scatter shot nature of the long-running anthology that generally lives up to its name. It scratches my itch for strong, fictional prose without binding me to a chair or couch for hours and puts new authors on my radar. The 2014 edition included an excerpt of Jennifer Egan’s “A Visit From the Goon Squad,” and prompted me to buy what turned out to be one of my favorite books.
James Brooks, state reporter, “The Field of Blood: Violence in Congress and the Road to Civil War” by Joanne Freeman: This was released last week, and on the surface, it’s a history about all the acts of violence that have occurred between Congressmen and within the Capitol itself. As author and Yale professor Joanne Freeman explains, the violence within the Capitol was just a symptom of issues affecting the entire country. Deadlock and conflict within Washington D.C. was just a sign of worsening problems domestically.
Are you an author, musician or filmmaker? Want us to see your stuff? Contact arts and culture reporter Ben Hohenstatt at 523-2243 or firstname.lastname@example.org.