Creative Sensemaker: What to read, watch and listen to this weekend
A rundown of the books, films, music and more by Tortoise Media, the slow news agency
Friday 18 February 2022 By Nimo Omer
Welcome to the latest Creative Sensemaker from Tortoise Media.
The hit reality TV dating show Love Is Blind is back after two years off our screens. The premise is fairly simple: 30 marriage-minded singles – 15 men, 15 women – are looking to meet the love of their lives. The twist is that they don’t get to see their future spouses – at all – until they have already agreed to get engaged. After the engagement, the ‘successful’ couples fly to a tropical resort, and attempt to live together in an apartment. If they get through all of this, the wedding day arrives in the season finale where they decide whether or not to commit to someone they’ve known for just four weeks.
The creators have taken the age-old idea of blind dating and considerably upped the ante. It’s a formula designed for maximum drama and conflict. The participants sit in pods, which are basically small living rooms, and speak through a blue wall to their potential matches, getting to know their likes and dislikes, childhood traumas – and, essentially, testing their sexual chemistry.
The show is supposed to be a ‘social experiment’, the central thesis being: is love blind? Can the emotional connection between two people be deeper when they meet, as the show incessantly puts it, ‘sight unseen’? Season two is in a uniquely difficult position, as it tries to live up to the hype of what came before. In retrospect, Love Is Blind’s initial success was partly the result of great timing. By the time all episodes of season one were released, the first wave of COVID-19 was hitting British shores. Soon we were all trapped in our own pods, communicating at a distance, trying to foster connection without any physical proximity, albeit primarily through screens and not walls. Audiences connected with the absurdity of Love Is Blind at least partially because of the context that they found themselves in.
The question for the show now, returning to a UK mercifully no longer locked down, is: does it still hold up?
The answer is: mostly. Love Is Blind stands out in this overly saturated market because it picks cast members that seem to genuinely want to find life-long partners. The emotions, the intimacy and the connections that are fostered seem authentic. And the blunders from the contestants – the emotionally manipulative comments or uncomfortable questions around women’s weight – don’t detract from the show. In fact, they make it more relatable by realistically portraying the ugly minefield of modern dating – something most of us are, to some extent, familiar with.
It’s a ridiculous show based on an equally ridiculous premise. It won’t ever really deliver on its main promise of creating a contained reality where dating is free from the superficial constraints of social media and dating apps. It does, however, give us a rare chance of seeing the innermost private moments of people, supposedly, falling in love in a surprisingly uninhibited way. This doesn’t mean it’s any more morally righteous than its counterparts like Love Island or The Bachelor, but it lacks much of the superficiality that characterises the rest of the genre, and is a much more enjoyable viewing experience as a result. Even if reality TV isn’t really your thing, I’d urge you to give it a go.
Here are this week’s recommendations.
This Is US (Amazon Prime/Disney Plus)
Get your tissues ready, the final season of NBC’s hit show This Is Us is here. Dissecting the lives of an ordinary family over several decades, the show masterfully cuts between the past, present and future – and has delivered emotional gut punch after gut punch while doing it. And so, after five seasons of what can only be described as emotional masochism, fans of the show are limping towards the finish line as the characters’ narrative arcs come to an end. If you’re looking to start a new cathartic series that will break your heart and restore your faith in humanity all at once, then look no further.
The World For Sale by Javier Blas and Jack Farchy
If you’re looking for a gripping read that will keep you awake at night, The World For Sale by Javier Blas and Jack Farchy is it. If you’re across stories about energy, trading houses and commodities, you’ve probably heard of them. And if you’re not, this book is an excellent primer of all the exciting and interesting bits. Ostensibly it’s a collection of stories about the shadowy and largely anonymous individuals who trade in the things we need to keep the world moving – food, metal and oil – which, like it or not, we’re all the customers of.
Mark St Andrew, Head of ThinkIns
Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You by Big Thief
Because of a slow drip-feed of tracks over the last year, the fifth album from indie-rock group Big Thief (and leading light Adrianne Lenker) snuck up on me slowly. Across 20 tracks, the record moves deftly between honky-tonk fiddles (‘Spud Infinity’) to sparky guitar riffs (‘Simulation Swarm’). The band have clearly given themselves a great deal of time and creative freedom on this album – and it’s all the better for it. I’ve already grabbed a ticket for their UK tour later this year – and I’d urge you to do the same.
Phoebe Davis, Reporter
Last Thursday, Friends of Tortoise were treated to an early viewing of two exhibitions at the Natural History Museum before its doors opened to the public. We started off with Our Broken Planet, a demonstration of humanity’s impact on the natural world in 40 objects. It was, in parts, sobering: exhibits like the skull of a now-extinct giant auroch reminded us of humanity’s most destructive tendencies. But there were glimmers of hope in the display, too: the blue blood of the horseshoe crab, for instance, is essential for the development of vaccines, including the one used to protect us against COVID-19; and the nodules at the bottom of the ocean contain metals that could be vital for creating emission-free electric car batteries (it’s essential, of course, that these are gathered in a sustainable manner).
Then, the Wildlife Photographer Of The Year exhibition. From the image of a tarantula hawk wasp dragging its hairy eight-legged prey up the side of a fridge, to the battle-scarred snow leopard crouching behind the carcass of a blue goat, the display is an immersion into a hundred different worlds – the level of patience and talent required to capture each on film is hard to comprehend.
Both Our Broken Planet and Wildlife Photographer Of The Year are open for bookings at the Natural History Museum. You won’t regret it.
That’s all for this week.
Best wishes and stay safe,