Tag Archives: 2020

Roqué Recommends: New Suggestions for Books, Films, and Music to Enjoy

August 17, 2020

Culture and Society / Reading Books / Roque Recommends

As I noted in last week’s post, we are all stuck in quarantine one way or another in this age of the Coronavirus. Maybe you’re looking to be entertained, comforted, or inspired to help you cope with this new normal? Well, I have some suggestions for you. When I am not making short films for my YouTube channel every week, I seek out various forms of entertainment and inspiration. I generally stay away from television and episodic-style shows because of all the time they take up, but beyond that, everything else is fair game.

The following recommendations align with my tastes and sensibilities. Have a look at some of them and try them out if you are intrigued.


BOOKS:

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous
by Ocean Vuong


I loved this book. It was recommended to me by a friend, and I understood within the first few pages why it became an instant New York Times bestseller. Particularly if you are a poetry enthusiast, you will truly appreciate what author Ocean Vuong has written. This book is a poetic memoir about Vuong’s upbringing as a Vietnamese immigrant who migrated to America with his mom to live with his grandmother and auntie in Connecticut. His entire family lives with the trauma sustained from the Vietnam War, and this book chronicles the healing (or lack thereof) from such a devastating set of circumstances in the war-torn villages of their homeland. Family struggles and an immersive first love between two boys fill this book’s pages with many tense and tender moments. If you’re looking for something fun and lighthearted, this is not the book for you, but if you are looking for a masterful work of nonfiction that is as transcendant as it is honest and brutal, give this book your full attention in a quiet space.

The Night Tiger
by Yangsze Choo

Twists and turns, whimsy, and intrigue infuse this novel that is set in 1930’s colonial Malaysia. There is a mysterious and terrifying beast roaming through small villages at night and slaughtering the bodies of villagers beyond recognition. If this sounds a bit too gruesome, rest assured that it’s only one component of this beautifully written story that intertwines the lives of two separate characters who you will find yourself cheering for and worrying about until the end. I’m not going to give anything away, but I enjoyed reading this book for all of the exotic adventure and rich mystery that it brings.


MUSIC

Seven
by Taylor Swift

I’ll be the first to admit that I have never been a big Taylor Swift fan. I can appreciate her talent as a singer and songwriter, but outside of a couple of lovely ballads and catchy pop songs that I liked from previous albums, there has not been anything in her output that has fully gripped my attention. Fast forward to this summer with the surprise release of her new album “Folklore”, and I found myself listening to many of its songs and buying a vinyl copy of the album. One song in this collection has been on repeat for me, and if the summer of 2020 had a personal soundtrack, this song would be its centerpiece.

Swift’s vocals subtly shift between lilting resignation and plaintive vulnerability in a delivery that finds a tonal sweet spot that is perfect for this song. It is a quiet and pensive marriage between melancholy and hopefulness. Personally, everything about this song is reminiscent of something Tori Amos would manifest down to its engaging piano riff. The lyrics convey a conflicted longing for a childhood past and a desire to recapture the spirit of those times. The song crescendoes at the end with piano and strings taking center stage in a gorgeous melodic outro. This song is a gentle work about innocence lost and the promise of possibility. It is a piece of art from an artist finding new heights in her craft. I was not expecting to find such an unassuming little masterpiece as this, but I am quite happy to have it now.


FILMS

This Beautiful Fantastic

I have a thing for movies that are sweet and whimsical. Recently, I fell down a YouTube rabbit hole that led me to this film, and thank goodness for occasional rabbit holes. This film has a lot of elements that I generally enjoy such as beautiful gardens, intelligent British people, striking and rich set designs, and obsessively neurotic characters. Its story embodies a personal journey that a woman experiences in order to find her own footing in the world . Central to the plot is an elderly and certifiably grumpy misanthrope who becomes a mentor and friend to his neighbor. He teaches her how to become a gardener. An unlikely cast of characters forms a family around this relationship. So much about this film—from its script to its colorful aesthetic, performances, and cinematography—is incredibly well done. If you share my sensibilities, watch this movie. You’re welcome.


There you have it. These are some of my recommendations for you to enjoy. Whatever you choose to do, be safe and kind to yourself.

Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you next week.

My newest film release is a preview of “The Preservation of Self”, which is a short film I created that comes out on my birthday on 08/28 and expresses some more of my thoughts about colonialism. Have a look right here:

Staying Home Update #3

April 13, 2020

Culture and Society

Lately as I shelter in my home, I often feel a push and pull between two forces in my head. One force wants me to be productive and take action on the house projects and creative pursuits that are all waiting for my undivided attention. Another, softer tug wants me to take meandering forays into the deep recesses of my reflections, to be present in stillness and sit with the trauma that is implicit in the act of fearfully hiding from a phantom pandemic.

Honestly, the best I can do at the moment is a little of both. I make small but measurable gains toward my goals and have moments when I simply stop everything, eventually falling asleep or getting lost in a moody reverie.

It’s fair to say that there are no right or wrong actions to take. Some decisions may be better or more appropriate than others, but nonetheless, it’s more important to move with intention and awareness.

If you feel tired, then rest. If you don’t feel like doing anything at the moment, then don’t. If you feel like working on a project just to feel some sense of normalcy, then do that. I’ve been learning to cut myself some slack if something doesn’t get finished or if my day is derailed by some kind of nuisance.

Lucky for me, I love to take naps. This happens at least once a day. I have a beautiful deck that overlooks the wild wilderness that surrounds my rural country home. I’ve been enjoying the deck more now that the weather has warmed up. I take naps on a lounge chair out there as much as I can. I’ve also been playing my ukulele lately, and it’s been a quirky little salve to my stressed spirit. I’m continually amazed at how versatile an instrument it is because it feels more like a toy. I am working on some original songs and a few covers, as well as some finger-picked melodies.

Photography is another charming pursuit of mine. It forces me to find perspective and beauty among the seemingly mundane of everyday life. The blooms in our garden are impossibly and delightfully photogenic. Taking photos of them makes me happy.

On the other end of this spectrum are my various projects. I mentioned previously that I am pressure washing our massive wraparound deck. This is ongoing. I am also working on a couple of screenplays and editing a big film project. I enjoy this work, but the learning curve to achieve the results I want is steep. So, I’ve been progressing slowly in hopes that in time I will get it right. I am also reorganizing and redecorating my office and creative workspace. This includes rummaging through an interior storage space to make more room. Again, I am taking my time with this.

Lastly, there are two activities that keep me grounded in my life. One of those is playing the piano, and the other is reading books. I play my piano and two electric keyboards as often as I can. The sounds they make and the way the notes coalesce as I sing feed and nourish me. Reading a book is a quiet, noiseless, but altogether engrossing activity. I can visit other countries and universes and leap into fantastic adventures in the warm coziness of my reading nook. Both the simplicity and the enormity of it keep me engaged and enthralled.

I say all this knowing that the specter of the coronavirus pandemic lingers heavily in my mind. Its devastation saddens me. The irony that I do my part by practically doing nothing feels disempowering, but that is the paradox in these times that we face. I have made a donation to an organization that provides support and equipment for nurses, but it does not feel like enough.

What are you engaging in at the moment? How are you spending these sheltering days?

I feel the need more than ever to be intentional with how I spend my time, even when this means doing nothing. The reality of a pandemic is the gravity of our delicate mortality. I don’t want to waste another day should this virus find its way to me.

My life and all of our lives are far too precious.

-Roqué


Here are a couple of previous posts! Stay a while and enjoy!

Compassion In the Age of the Coronavirus

March 16, 2020

Culture and Society

With the onslaught of the Coronavirus, the realities of daily life all over the world are quickly changing. The traditional ways that we as human beings interact must be adjusted into what feels like an impersonal and counterintuitive model. The life-affirming connections that simple handshakes and hugs foster must stop completely. People have to stay several feet apart out in public while not touching their faces. It seems safer to assume that everyone has it and to let this color how you carry out any interactions with people.

What I find the most troublesome about these necessary precautions is how they might encourage people to harbor a panic-driven fear of the disease and each other. By and large, interactions fueled by fear can open the door to racism, violence, and all sorts of phobias and anxieties that simply do not do anyone any good.

As an alternative, I propose that we proceed into these scary and uncertain times with compassion in our hearts both for ourselves and everyone in our daily lives. This involves a shift in our mindset about the precautions we are all taking to safeguard our wellbeing.

Much talk is circulating about social distancing as a way to combat the exponential viral growth of this disease. Staying indoors and forbidding any interaction with the outside world is a core practice in this ideology. Rather than relegating this behavior to one based upon fear of others who have the contagion, I believe that it is rooted in a far more compassionate framework.

When we practice social distancing, we essentially limit the spread of the virus. This means that our healthcare system, including emergency rooms, respirators, medical staff, and other important resources, can be utilized by people who are truly at a greater risk of dying. The fewer infections there are, the more resources we have to save more lives. In a worst-case scenario, healthcare workers would have to pick and choose who is more deserving of treatment if all the available options become scarce. I cannot imagine having to make those kinds of choices.

Social distancing is an act of compassion because it makes resources more available once Covid-19 hits a critical mass. If I do not get sick, then that frees up medicine and a respirator for someone else (potentially even an elderly loved one) who desperately needs it to save their lives.

This is just one example of how we can understand the compassion behind the preventive measures we are taking to mitigate the rising catastrophe.

Ultimately, we all play a part in saving lives in our own communities with the precautions we take. Let your actions be guided by compassion, and hopefully, even with the inevitable casualties to come, we can prevent the devastation as much as we can humanely, respectfully, and with the dignity we all deserve.

-Roqué