“How are you holding up?” replaced “How are you doing?” so suddenly that I barely even noticed. And yet, here we are, assuming a baseline of misery that’s completely appropriate given… you know, everything. It’s fair to assume that anyone who claims to be doing well, or — horror of all horrors — ”thriving in quarantine,” is actually just a bad person. Even if you, specifically, are managing decently amid the pandemic, basic human compassion should preclude you from thriving. The correct answer to “how are you holding up?” is either “not well” (and you can elaborate, if you choose to) or “fine, all things considered.” Personally speaking, I am fine, all things considered.
I have, however, found that my attention span is completely shot, which means I’m struggling to get through the backlog of television I have, and I’m not watching any of the must-see movies on my list. It’s kind of amazing that I’ve completely abandoned any pretense of a social life, and I’m still behind on everything, but well, we live in hell, and coronavirus was never going to allow me the satisfaction of being on top of my shit. (I remain employed, and more grateful for my job than ever, so I do at least have some excuse for why I’m not just finally getting through Ozark.) In times of intense anxiety, I find that I can’t really focus on anything for very long. Like, I’m theoretically watching the final season of Homeland, but that’s really more something I put on while I nervously read Twitter, glance in horror at breaking news stories, and count the minutes between texts from loved ones.
One of the many consequences of my inability to get my shit together and watch most TV and movies is that I’m also having a really hard time finding things to write about in this newsletter. I’m behind on all horror, theater is depressingly non-existent, and while I have managed to stay on top of all the Housewives, I haven’t really been able to muster an opinion beyond that this is the worst season of Vanderpump Rules ever, and the timing could not be worse. Mostly, I watch a lot of YouTube videos, which is what I did after I got laid off and was unemployed for the bulk of 2019. YouTube videos are short and easily digestible — which I think is at least part of the mission statement of Quibi, but I refuse to write about Quibi or otherwise acknowledge that Quibi exists.
Because I didn’t want to leave you hanging forever, I thought I’d offer a brief look at the YouTube channels that have been keeping me (relatively) sane. There is no real method to this madness: I can’t explain why I watch the videos that I do. But maybe you’ll find them just as compulsively watchable and distracting. And I promise one day, when things feel a little bit more normal or when I’ve at least managed to repress all the terror, I’ll get back to the content you subscribed for.
Bon Appétit: I love the Bon Appétit YouTube channel more than I love most things in life. The test kitchen chefs are my literal family (with apologies to my literal family reading this). Claire Saffitz is the best thing that’s ever happened to me specifically, and you should read my newly updated ranking of Gourmet Makes episodes if you haven’t already. All of which is to say, these videos are the ultimate comfort food for me, which is ironic because I have not exactly been using my social distancing time to learn how to cook. I’m especially enchanted by the recent videos of the chefs cooking in their homes, which provide the same voyeuristic thrill as therapy over Zoom. There was a time when Bon Appétit felt like a cool, under-the-radar thing, but now everyone knows these videos amazing, so I’m preaching to the choir here. Good!
emmymadeinjapan: Still not cooking, still watching every video Emmy releases without fail. Emmy is a powerful force for good. She may be the purest person on YouTube. (One time she made a dick joke, and I literally screamed.) Her videos are deeply soothing to me, and when she says that we’re going to get through this, I actually believe her. Recently she’s been doing live hangouts where she chats while eating lunch, and I’m getting a little choked up just thinking about it. Without fail, Emmy keeps me grounded. I watch her videos because she makes delightful and exciting things, but also because she’s maybe the best person on the internet.
The King of Random: I’m going to be honest with you, I don’t really know why I can’t stop watching these videos. It feels super off-brand for me. There’s an occasionally unnerving bro-y tone here that I find vaguely icky. But also, fun experiments! Often involving food! I scroll past the “blowing shit up” videos and focus on the videos about freeze-drying things that should not be freeze dried, and making cotton candy out of things that should not be cotton candy. And then I go back and watch the “blowing shit up” videos, because well, I’m only human. Science is neat. So is putting inappropriate things in the microwave.
Simply Nailogical: I do paint my nails sometimes, but I haven’t in months, and yet, I cannot stop watching Cristine’s videos. I understand that she is a very popular YouTuber, and I’m late to the game here. I just think she’s really fucking funny, and I have a crush on her boyfriend, Ben. I can’t really explain it. Her sense of humor just works for me, and I think she has great screen presence. OK, I guess I just explained it. And while watching cooking videos has not made me try to cook more often, and watching nail painting videos has not made me paint my nails, I’m confident at some point I might try to do… something. In the meantime, Cristine mellows me out.
Photo via Bon Appétit.