What constructive spells can we cast?

While we’re staying in, many of us will be enjoying the fruits of creative people’s labours. Spending time in imaginary worlds. In the real world, those people are losing revenue at the moment, and if we’re able, it’s a good time to support writers, musicians and those who make our lives a bit brighter. Giving to the Patreon of a favourite author, or Paypal-ing local companies (give Oxford’s finest small business, Daily Info, a donation by following this link) here are some ways to fill your head without defaulting to Spotify…

I Only Listen To I Only Listen to The Mountain Goats

Today (Friday 20th March), bandcamp.com, artists’ favourite site for purveying their wares, are waiving their fees. So instead of the generous percentage the musicians usually get for bandcamp purchases (c. 85%), today it’s 98% (I think banks still need to take a cut). With tours cancelled left, right and centre, musicians have lost their main income source, so do help out!

Bandcamp is so busy today that the site has been down now & again, but it’s well worth a browse. Tracks, vinyl, t-shirts etc are available from the majestic Wye Oak, the joyous retro abandon of Ex Hex, previous blog mentionee Batch Gueye, and an entity so big that it’ll get its own paragraph…

The Mountain Goats have existed for a quarter-century now, throughout which only one guy, John Darnielle, has been constant. For some tracks to sample, maybe try this, that and the other. What’s bonded me to the Mountain Goats is not primarily these songs, but my favourite podcast about songwriting: I Only Listen to the Mountain Goats gives Darnielle free rein to discuss his craft and whizz through anecdotes at breakneck speed. An episode from season one runs thusly: he and host Joseph Fink introduce a track from the first MG record, talk about making a living off words, and unleash their beautiful nerdery, and a new artist will be welcomed on to cover the song. Some great things have resulted.

Thousands of People Tweeted the Same Word at the Same Time

Studio Ghibli. These words are magic in themselves. The Japanese animation studio helmed by Hayao Miyazaki has produced some of the most inventive story-worlds of my lifetime, twentysomething films that’re hugely popular round the globe. Collecting these was my sole substantial reason for continuing to buy DVDs, but now they’re being batch-released onto UK Netflix. On hearing this, my imagination breathed a sigh of relief, knowing that for the next couple of months it needn’t be arid.

The last my partner and I watched was Laputa: Castle in the Sky (yes, it’s had several different names), a colourful, eco-conscious tale that looks back to Indiana Jones and Gulliver’s Travels and forward to Wall-E and the Northern Lights trilogy. Its most spellbinding moments offer pure escapism, wordlessly illustrating mythical worlds where robots tend gardens, or where a boy awakens the dawn with a trumpet solo. If you’re a Ghibli newbie, I’d suggest Kiki’s Delivery Service as a great primer. In Netflix’s settings, you can easily change the language to Japanese and switch on English subtitles – the English dubs are good, but cheesier.

During one famous TV screening of Laputa, viewers were responsible for the biggest simultaneous tweeting of all time – they tweeted the magic word ‘Balse’ in time with its appearance in the film as a destruction spell. These being times for collective action from the seclusion of our homes, what constructive spells can we cast?

Spoilers: the destruction spell works.

Poetry Out Loud

Yes! You can hear poets read their own work out loud, in the Poetry Archive. Here’s Carol Ann Duffy doing just that. Poets from centuries past have their work read out by those living. It’s a different approach, and many prefer the intimate silence of the page, but give it a bash.

Let’s read things out loud to each other. Let’s film ourselves doing cover songs, but do it better than Gal Gadot and chums. This moment will be of historical interest, so hopefully future historians will have records of us being caring and creative, and finding ways to care for each other and our mental health.

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