What Got Us Through the Week: Blazing Hellscape Edition

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Image: Emmanuel Hapsis / Calendar icon courtesy of Vexels

Did we get through this week? Arguably, no. Lives, homes, businesses and acres and acres of land are lost to the ongoing wildfires in Northern California. For many of us at KQED, this tragedy is more than just a news story, it's also deeply personal. The entire Bay Area is shrouded in a suffocating haze of smoke and falling ash -- a sobering reminder that cities like Baoding in China, Delhi in India and Zabol, Iran experience pollution like this every day.

In Southern California, more and more women speak out about sexual assaults suffered at the hands of deposed impresario Harvey Weinstein. It's staggering to ponder how many have been silenced not just in Hollywood by this "culture of complicity," but elsewhere, by our society's devaluation of women -- their bodies, their experiences and their voices -- in general.

And speaking of devaluing bodies: The current administration continues to steadily undermine the Affordable Care Act, most recently by signing an executive order that allows for the sale of cheaper policies with fewer benefits and fewer consumer protections.

It's been a doozy of a week, here's what got us through it.

Nature's Cutest Real-Life Cartoon Character

I’m tempted to say what got me through this particularly upsetting week was a stiff drink (or three). Sometimes, you just have to let your hair down, you know? But, since my mom knows how to use the internet now (hi, mom!), I’ll go with something else. This week, I learned about the “Dumbo octopus,” an adorable little critter that gets around by flapping its ear-like fins. It’s hard to look at Li'l Dumbo and not smile, and we can all use a lot more of that these days. —Emmanuel Hapsis


And You Thought Your Parents Were Embarrassing

Most folks would cower and cringe if they discovered their dad wrote an erotic novel, but not Jamie Morton. He turned it into a podcast, forthrightly titled My Dad Wrote a Porno. In each episode, Jamie and his friends read and discuss a new chapter from his father's book Belinda Blinks -- and it’s literally the funniest thing I’ve ever listened to. So funny that I’ve had to suppress giggles on MUNI. If you need a laugh and/or an audio book with far too many body parts that ‘quiver,’ give this a listen. It’s the perfect distraction. Oh, and this podcast is super NSFW. (Duh.) —Katherine Manley

The Muppet Cast of 'Sesame Street' Tweets

I'm a little late to the celebrity Twitter game, but this week, I followed not just one, but eight Sesame Street characters, in hopes a more regular dose of America's friendliest, fluffiest anthropomorphic puppets. Oscar the Grouch complains about nice weather, Bert and Ernie banter back and forth, and Big Bird's there for the hugs, but my favorite tweeter is Count Von Count. He simply counts. His first tweet was "One!" His seventh tweet was "Seven! Seven wonderful tweets! Ah ah ah ah!" You get the idea. It's simple, it's meta, it's soothing, it's perfect. —Sarah Hotchkiss

Princess Nokia Taking Down a Racist with Soup

A viral video circulated this week of a group of New York subway riders coming together to kick a belligerent drunk guy off their train after he screamed racist profanities at fellow passengers. Amid this heartwarming display of unity, a young woman hurled her to-go container of bright yellow (butternut squash?) soup at the stubborn racist as others shoved him out of the subway car. The soup-flinging hero turned out to be none other than rapper Princess Nokia, aka Destiny Frasqueri, who owned up to the incident the next day, Oct. 10, on Twitter. Princess Nokia’s excellent new album, 1992, has an anti-racist and feminist message, so it’s nice to know that the artist puts her principles into practice (and that she’s a regular girl who rides public transit like the rest of us!) I’m not sure how many of us would have the guts to throw soup if confronted with this incident, but Princess Nokia commendably demonstrates a way to stand up for our principles IRL instead of just tweeting about them. —Nastia Voynovskaya

Kurt Vile Takes it 'Easy'

A dad-friend took me to a Sadies show last week. Led by the Good brothers, the Canadian band has played their brand of garage-meets-no-depression-country for decades. Their shows are a mix of covers, their own songs and a lot of guitar acrobatics, where the Good brothers take center stage to show how hard they can shred. (I can appreciate guitar virtuosity, but in those moments it felt like the band stopped their set to perform magic tricks.)

That night, they invited a bunch of guests on stage, including Justin Townes Earle, Jon Langford, Sally Timms, Robyn Hitchcock and Kurt Vile (a personal highlight). While the other singers hammed it up, Vile didn't say one encouraging word to the audience. A roadie gave him a tiny, plastic-looking guitar and he sang "Easy Like Walkin'," which he co-wrote with the Sadies. It sounded ethereal. When the song was over, he immediately walked off stage. I don't think he even waved. —Kevin L. Jones

Getting ready for the on-bus drag show in Birmingham, Alabama.
Getting ready for the on-bus drag show in Birmingham, Alabama. (Chloe Veltman/KQED)

Being on the Bus with the Boys

I’ve just returned from a week of traveling through five Southern states with 200 members of the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus. It's surreal being thousands of miles away from home at a time when so many lives in the Bay Area have been turned upside down in the wake of the North Bay fires. Under such circumstances, I was lucky to be stuck on a bus for hours at a time with a bunch of ebullient and resourceful gay men.


Together, we wept openly during a screening of Disney’s The Princess and the Frog, played two rounds of “gay bingo,” and belted out Sister Sledge's “We are Family.” Then there was the on-bus drag show, which took place en route from Birmingham, Alabama to Knoxville, Tennessee and is not something I'll forget in a hurry. It began with one choir member impersonating the Carol Burnett character Eunice while reading a letter from Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City and devolved from there in a flurry of feathers, hot pants, pantyhose and heels. —Chloe Veltman