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quarantine life, week 1.

kat kourbeti
kat kourbeti
welcome back to honest to blog (working title), a hopefully-weekly newsletter with thoughts about writing, movies, music, science fiction and fantasy stories, and general creative process blah.

/straps self in for the long haul
on a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being hunky dory and 1 being an endless cosmic scream into the void, how’s your sanity holding up in quarantine so far?
i’d say i’m at an 8 at the minute. like, i’m a bit miffed and ever so slightly anxious, but overall i’m fine. for now. i managed to go on a walk today, and the weather was lovely and sunny, and i quite enjoyed it, though stepping into a couple of shops and being super mindful of all the other people there got me real weary real quick… plus i just got word my workplace will stay closed till end of june, so i’m a bit like—
sooo just so i don’t go crazy, i’m keeping myself entertained and, crucially, busy af. because if i’m not occupying my brain, i’m going to wither and die. SO! let me throw some things at you real quick.
entertainment-wise, this last week i’ve mostly been binging fullmetal alchemist: brotherhood, which i’ve never seen before (shock! horror! bad weeb!) and am honestly really enjoying now that we’re past all the bits that were rehashed from the 2003 original anime (which i personally loved, unfaithful as it was to its source material). the animation in the new series is definitely better, though the soundtrack is decidedly worse (how do you even come close to the melancholy magnificence that was bratja?)—but at least the setting (and its politics) is different enough to keep me riveted. i’ll do a more detailed review when i’ve finished it, but basically: so far, so good.
it’s also gotten me into some bizarre reading, which in my world is always a good thing. in my relentless search for MORE READING THAN I CAN POSSIBLY KEEP UP WITH™️, i’ve amassed a sizable collection of academic essays, dissertations, and books on paradise lost, demons, and various eschatological beliefs from across the world (naturally). scrolling down my google drive last night i noticed a book on “alchemy and apocalyptic discourse” which contains some pretty interesting information on the birth of alchemy as a concept, and its links to eschatological beliefs in protestant reformation canon. so when i’m not watching alchemy anime, i’m reading this book about alchemy and the end of the world. clearly, i’m having too much fun in quarantine…
i have also, in most kat-like fashion, picked up a rather large new project since last we spoke: helping to organise a virtual sci-fi and fantasy convention, á la worldcon/eastercon (r.i.p. 😢), but thematically focused on pandemics, both in science and fiction. we’re calling it #ConTamination2020, and i put up a google form on twitter to gauge interest last week. so far, it’s been kinda staggering; the amount of authors, artists, and other genre people i greatly respect who have responded positively and pledged to speak at a panel or help out is SO exciting, and i can’t wait to see where this goes. we’re collating info and brainstorming possibilities at the moment, so if you’ve signed up to volunteer you’ll be hearing from us soon, and if you haven’t yet but are interested, please drop us your email in the form!
of course, spectrum continues with its online activities, notably a couple of write-togethers a week, plus a creativity workshop we are holding tomorrow (saturday 28/3) at 4.30pm gmt. it’s going to be a fun time of generating ideas, thinking outside the box, and kickstarting creativity, geared towards science-fiction and fantasy concepts because that’s how we roll. if you like the sound of it, hop onto meetup and sign up!
i’ve also joined zoom and discord, and thus managed to have all sorts of social meetings, from birthday catch-ups with my pal amy to online zoom drinks with my anime chums. between my digital social life and my two friends/housemates at home, it’s the wonderful people in my life who’ve managed to keep me as sane as i am. thank you, friends 🖤 and if you, reader, ever want to hang out and grab a virtual coffee, just drop me a line. let’s help each other de-isolate, one zoom meeting at a time.
art links for the (self-)isolated
some resources and recommendations to make those long stretches on the couch a bit more interesting. for one, theatres are offering livestreamed archive performances for free! my highlights:
  • the national theatre here in the UK is launching it’s ‘NT at home’ scheme, where a new performance will be streamed every thursday, and will remain online for a week until the next show is on. they’re starting with ‘one man, two guv’nors’ next thursday, april 2nd. i’m personally looking forward to ‘treasure island’, which is probably my favourite piece of theatre i’ve seen there (and yes, that includes hadestown), which will screen on april 16th. highly recommended! maybe we can even do a watch party?? let me know if you’re up for that.
  • similarly, the legendary german theatre company schaubühne berlin will be livestreaming their iconic productions of hamlet, richard iii, the oresteia, and more. one new play every night, at 5.30pm gmt. a lot of it is in german with no subs, so i’ll be picking and choosing my viewing based on what i can understand… today and tomorrow they’re showing ‘peer gynt’, which i think we can all safely skip—but monday onwards, the programme looks awesome!
  • for ballet lovers, the bolshoi ballet in russia is premiering some of their archive performances on their youtube channel! they started with swan lake tonight, which is now available to watch on demand, and tomorrow they’re premiering sleeping beauty (which is one of my favourites… gotta love some tchaikovsky!)
  • ‘55 shades of gay: balkan spring of sexual revolution’, a kosovar absurdist play about gay marriage in a small balkan town, previously performed at the Arcola theatre in 2018, is available on youtube now. i’m here for anything Arcola-related—it’s the most exciting fringe venue in london imo—so i’ll definitely be checking this out.
if you’re feeling more movies than theatre/live performance, my film buddy scott has penned a couple of cool pieces on cinematic gems you can catch on streaming, from hidden gems on netflix to the best comedies on UK streaming services—hundred percent agree on colossal, by the way; that movie is fan-ta-stic and you should watch it pronto. it’s got anne hathaway, a kaiju, and jason sudeikis in his most surprising-yet-appropriately-cast role yet. what’s not to like?!
and finally, if you’re looking for something cute and fuzzy to make you feel warm inside, the superlative ada palmer has us covered with a guide to manga and anime in which no bad things happen. i think we all needed a list like this for desperate times, and those times are now. thanks, japan, and ada for putting this together 🖤
secret corona-tiktok for website readers only:
that’s it from me this week. as always, feel free to share your responses to anything above by twitteremail, or messenger koi fish. most importantly, stay healthy and safe. looks like we’ll be in this weird limbo version of our world for a while, so let’s keep checking in with each other. hit reply to this email and let me know how you’re doing, what you’re watching/reading/playing, and who your favourite thundercat is.
and if you ever feel like tossing a coin my way (about to be furloughed soon! fun fun fun!!), you can do so by buying me a coffee.
speak soon,
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kat kourbeti
kat kourbeti @darthjuno

writing, media and arts commentary from a queer g(r)eek writer of science fiction and fantasy works.

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