Rose Byrne and Rose Byrne's Wig as Gloria Steinem in Mrs. America

Image: Courtesy Hulu

News about coronavirus is coming hard and fast, and the Portland Monthly staff is working to bring you up-to-date information about how the crisis is affecting Portlanders. It’s vital we all stay informed and figure out how to help each other through this surreal, challenging moment.

It’s also vital that we take some breaths. Every week, in lieu of a “top things to do this weekend” post, we’re going to pause and share the pandemic-free content that’s keeping us sane (or somewhere close).

Mrs. America

I am four episodes into this Hulu/FX miniseries (new installments drop every Wednesday), and I still cannot believe there is a TV show where Rose Byrne has to diffuse a fight between Uzo Aduba and Margo Martindale, and then in an entire other plot, Cate Blanchett is wearing cardigans. Mrs. America—the new nine-parter from Mad Men writer Dahvi Waller—tells the sprawling story of the Equal Rights Amendment with a fairly tight focus on two ideological factions of American women that emerged in its wake. On one side: conservative Illinois firebrand Phyllis Schlafly (an icy, perfect Blanchett) and her army of anti-ERA housewives (Sarah Paulson and Melanie Lynskey among them); on the other, the National Women's Political Caucus, headed up by Bella Abzug (Margo Martindale in what I like to call Some Hats), Gloria Steinem (Byrne, in a wig I cannot stop tweeting about), and Betty Friedan (Tracey Ullman, wiggéd as well). 

I realize how glib it is to say this incredibly moving, nuanced show about American womanhood was made specifically for me, but it feels like this incredibly moving, nuanced show about American womanhood was made specifically for me. Actresses actressing (I have not even MENTIONED Elizabeth Banks as a pearl-clad moderate Republican), needle drops from Etta James to Hair, a cavalcade of wigs that each deserve their own exhaustively sourced oral history. And OK, yes, it's also moving and layered: you never totally sympathize with Blanchett's Schlafly, but Waller refuses to make her a paper-thin Stepford Wife. She's brilliant and power-starved and a worthy adversary for Steinem and co., and Mrs. America shrewdly shows how the same rotten social dynamics can drive women to her side as easily as they might flock to Steinem's—and how those dynamics threaten to collapse both movements. –Conner Reed, Arts & Culture Editor 

Eden Dawn's "Portland Forever" Playlist

Becoming an adult in Portland is the best. As soon as I was old enough to get squashed into a sweaty music venue, that was it. Most of my fondest memories past the age of 16 take place at a show. The couple that seemed to have 10 tongues as they made out in front of me at a packed Violent Femmes show at the Crystal, dancing with elbows in face as Electric Eye played at the Blackbird (RIP), being crammed into the tiny green room at Doug Fir before a Menomena set with half of Portland eating off the hummus platter. I’m an extreme extrovert. I’ve never been apart from my friends for long, and today is Day 60 of Stay at Home for me. This is a playlist of people I love. Some as friends, some as bigger memories of moments in time, but all of them make me think of this dear city I love and miss. I count the days until we are sweatily squished together again, drinking overpriced cocktails, hurting our ears, and cherishing every second of it. –Eden Dawn, Style Editor

TED Radio Hour

It’s been, what, six, seven, eight weeks of quarantine? (Who’s counting anymore?) Between everyday anxiety and COVID-19 dreams, if life feels lonely right now, you’re not the only one. I’ve been particularly interested in how this pandemic is affecting social behavior and mental health. One thing I gathered from my research, and from various stories about this very topic: this is a collective experience. Yes, we’re all hunkered down, dealing with our own individual emotive responses, but this is a collective trauma, one that has impacted every single person. And whatever you’re feeling—anger, sadness, anxiety, depression, loneliness—is an entirely normal response.
Of course, this is a complicated time, with complex emotions and no simple solutions. But it helps to gather some perspective and explore new ideas. And the TED Radio Hour’s most recent episode “Meditations On Loneliness” takes a deep dive into the feeling of loneliness and how, as a social species, we’re adapting to this new way of life. Host Manoush Zomorodi talks with author and illustrator Jonny Sun, psychologist Susan Pinker, architect Grace Kim, and writer Suleika Jaouad about how to make peace with loneliness. Bring a tissue or a few. –Gabriel Granillo, Digital Editor

View From My Window 

I fell down a Facebook rabbit hole this week on a new-to-me group called View From My Window. It's 2.2 million people from around the world and growing, all of us dutifully staying home, and sharing pictures of—you guessed it—the view from our windows. Scrolling through it, I initially got some of the same voyeuristic thrills I get every time I accidentally go on a House Hunters binge and emerge muttering about how I need a She Shed and a wine fridge and why I can't have a walk-in closet anyway?

There are picture-perfect yards and porches from around the world, a craggy castle visible through the fog from Inverness, Scotland, a rainbow slicing into the Pacific in Honolulu, tumbling, terraced gardens from Camigliano, Tuscany, the sun rising over the mountains of Paraparaumu Beach, New Zealand—each one added to my list of someday wish-list places, for a day when it feels safe again to get on a plane. And of course, there is the porch porn—the cunning string lights in Vancouver, BC, the just-so hammock in Bali, raised garden beds in Budapest. But go deeper and read the messages of solidarity, of hope, of people thanking healthcare workers and wondering who is out there seeing their pictures. Deeper still: some of the pictures are views from hospital rooms, from COVID-19 patients or health care workers, sharing their stories, wishing, and willing themselves to another view, another time, their messages different but, at the core, the same. It's true: it really is a small world, after all. –Julia Silverman, News Editor

Middleditch & Schwartz

Let’s travel back to the Before-Fore times, early in the fall of 2019, when I followed Ben Schwartz on Instagram after going down a TV nostalgia hole. (A clip of Jean Ralphio from Parks & Rec had popped up somewhere, as happens every once in a while.) In his IG I discovered his current project: Middleditch & Schwartz—a two-person improv show with Thomas Middleditch, lead nerd on Mike Judge’s HBO comedy Silicon Valley. Cool idea, I thought. I do like improv, I also thought. I enjoy both of these actors, I thought as well. And the show was passing through Portland this very winter! Sometimes the stars align just right. I excitedly failed to explain the concept to my wife and put the show on our shared Google calendar. Months of anticipation went by, as well as other things.
 
The night of the show, Saturday, January 18, we were dressed up and ready to drive downtown to the Keller. Literally, we were standing by the front door in our coats and shoes with car keys in hand when I decided to dig up the tickets in my email.  The house walls shook with a thundering womp womp. I had forgotten to buy the actual tickets. The show was long sold out by then, of course. We went and had Thai food instead.
 Anyway, now it’s April, almost May, and I’m just finding out what fun, what joy, what pure, raw creativity we missed that night. Middleditch & Schwartz released three full-length tapings of their live performances on Netflix. Longform improv is what they’re calling it: the duo takes a cue from the audience at the beginning of the show and craft an entire show around it, creating characters and scenes and impressively coherent story arcs out of that initial inspiration. It’s wildly hilarious and I haven’t laughed that hard or that long in many moons. Who knows what magic was created on the Keller stage in Portland in January? I'm sure someone who was there will tell me and it will kill me. —Marty Patail, Editor in Chief