Bob Ross. The music of Enya. Sounds of the ocean. These are classic “soothers,” simple media that is there to put you at ease. For some, they cross over into ASMR. I am not one of those people: ASMR stuff gives me the heebie-jeebies.
But I do enjoy a nice soother. Bob Ross gently, calmly explaining the process of painting a mountainscape is very gentle on the nerves. The sounds of the ocean really even out my breathing and calm my jitters. Enya…is Enya.
These are a short list of my soothers. Please enjoy them.
ChilledCow – Lo Fi Hip Hop Radio
My Office Manager/Nemesis/Dear Friend Michael Curtis turned me on to this. Its soothing, simple beats with few (if any) lyrics make work go by quickly and let your mind focus on the task, not necessarily the music itself. There’s a Spotify version, too, but it doesn’t have this fancy animation of a girl writing in her notebook (as far as I can tell).
The fella(s?) at My Mechanics do these REALLY cool restorations of old machines and tools. Their work is painstaking, from blasting off the rust and restoring the metal to machining brand-new screws to buffing and re-finishing. They conduct their business almost entirely without speaking so you just focus on the job they’re doing. The example above shows the restoration of an old lock, but they don’t stop there: there are lanterns, old saws, oil cans…everything my Pawpaw left behind in his shed, basically. (I’m pretty sure this Boing Boing article is how I found this originally.)
I think BoingBoing turned me on to this one, too. John Plant goes into the wilderness and builds all sorts of useful tools and buildings: huts, water hammers (that one is fascinating), wells, pots, and my favorite, a FURNACE. It’s incredible what he accomplishes. He never says a single word to the camera. Very soothing.
The French Chef with Julia Child
Up till now, you might have noticed that all these videos have one thing in common: no “dialogue”. Here, we make a swift departure. Here, we enter Julia’s Kitchen.
There’s not a dedicated channel, but you can find old episodes of The French Chef on YouTube and watch them and they are WONDERFUL. Julia Child doesn’t have the soothing voice that Bob Ross did (in fact, the non-soothing-ness of her voice is one of her trademarks). But every episode has some practical magic to it: almost all of Julia’s tips are useful in a modern context, right now, today! In the video above, you learn about knife skills and how to REALLY handle an onion.
The best thing about The French Chef is that Julia is fearless and almost always jumps without a net. Every episode starts when she starts talking and very rarely cuts away: she just keeps going until her dish is finished. Later episodes (from the 70s and thereon) have little vignettes where she visits France and her friends abroad to buy fancy olives and fish and such, but by-and-large, she just goes for it and you learn a lot.
Many people have been trying to bake bread since Quarantine kicked off, and there’s an episode for that. Want to learn how to make a killer salad? She does a great episode on Salad Niçoise. Want to learn how to REALLY make killer french fries? She does a whole episode about deep fat frying potatoes and it will change your game forever.
Watch as many episodes as you can. Each one is a pep-talk, a challenge, a study. Julia believes in you, so YOU should believe in you.
I hope you’re doing okay. If you need to, chill out and soothe. If you’re done soothing, go conquer some household task. Try to find some balance. Do your best. I love you (not in a weird way, just in a normal way).