Suspension Journal: Quarantine media recommendations for every Toronto Raptor

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The Raptors landed in Toronto on March 10th with a few days off before their next game. Said game never actually happened. And as we all know now, the Raptors had to go into self-isolation for a minimum of two weeks to ensure they did not exhibit symptoms of the Coronavirus. (A note here: it’s possible to be asymptomatic, e.g. not show symptoms, so the isolation is important regardless.)

By my calendar, the Raptors only have a couple of quarantine days left, and despite testing negative for the virus should definitely continue to practice social distancing when and where possible. To that end, I’ve been spinning my (admittedly self-isolated) brain to come up with things for them (and us) to do while indoors. Obviously, my mind skews towards books and movies — and, given the tenor of the situation, it’s leaning towards media with a dystopic slant.

In that spirit, let’s find things for the Raptors to read or watch that fit in with their personality, and offer them a way to put some things in perspective about this whole pandemic slash quarantine situation. Grim stuff? Perhaps, but we’ve got to make it through somehow.

Kyle Lowry

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

For anyone who has already read this book, there’s a bonus connection here — it starts in Toronto! A noteworthy actor has a heart attack on stage in our city, a paramedic jumps in to help, and before the night is over, a pandemic has wiped out large swaths of the global population. From there, Mandel’s novel tells the story of a bunch of interconnected characters as it moves back and forth in time illustrating how each person responds to the global crisis. Something tells me Lowry would enjoy the book’s cerebral, all-encompassing nature, a bittersweet ode to the complexities of the human spirit.

Pascal Siakam

Soylent Green

In my mind, Siakam is Charlton Heston’s Detective Thorn, the man who knows something is afoot in his overheated city (and planet) and won’t stop until he gets answers. The ending of Richard Fleischer’s film has been spoiled many times over by now, but it still has the power to trouble the mind thanks to Heston’s gusto and the overall clarity of its vision. Siakam is closer to the beginning than the end in his career (and it won’t be as unsettling as this film, I hope), yet the mutual drive for resolution here is the same.

Marc Gasol

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

We’re a long way away from the horrors of McCarthy’s book, I admit. But for the Raptors’ player with the most Dad energy, I must recommend the most end of days dad book out there. Typical of McCarthy, The Road is sparse and mean — but also beautiful in its way. If nothing else, Gasol would surely appreciate the story of a father willing to go through hell to protect his son.

OG Anunoby

The Drought (a.k.a The Burning World) by J.G. Ballard

Like much of Ballard’s writing, there’s a distance in The Drought that is both cooling and fearsome. Broken into three parts, the novel tracks the downward arc of a world in which, as the title implies, there is no more rain. With the end of the water cycle, we journey along with Dr. Charles Ransom as he makes due with his rapidly shrinking options and the rise of some truly psychotic characters (Quilter being the one to watch for). For his part, Anunoby lines up well with Ballard’s sense of bleak stillness at work here — and his extreme talent.

Serge Ibaka

The Plague by Albert Camus

This novel actually does parallel our current situation somewhat — even if the severity of COVID-19 isn’t on the level of an actual plague. Camus’ novel captures all of that bad stuff, however — the failing institutions and inaction, the collapse of the civic order, the uncertainty of the future. But then he also revels in what happens when select people come together to do right by society, to work and fight and care for each other in the most trying of times. Ibaka strikes me as that type of warrior, a guy with an enormous joie de vivre who will do whatever’s necessary to keep things rolling.

Fred VanVleet

Children of Men

The above tweet got my wheels spinning on this one. There has been something in the air akin to Alfonso Cuarón’s 2006 masterpiece. It does feel like a lot of us are absorbing a lot of bad news all at once while also trying to remain calm. Children of Men is a lot of things — an allegory, an action movie, a sci-fi extrapolation, a story of loss — but its most powerful element is how it captures humans at their best (and worst). Fred VanVleet vibes easily with Clive Owen’s Theo, the unlikely hero who does his best to stay cool while trying to save the day.

Norman Powell

A Boy and His Dog

I love the idea of Powell tucking into a crass film about, well, a boy and his dog. The “boy” in this case is Vic played by a young Don Johnson, roving the wasteland looking for food and sex. And the dog? He’s a cute terrier named Blood who, uh, telepathically communicates with its owner. Powell’s love for his dog Apollo is known, but one wonders what he’d do if that dog suddenly started giving him shit. A Boy and His Dog is like that and more, building into a wild “be careful what you wish for” endeavour.

Patrick McCaw

Sweet Tooth by Jeff Lemire

One of the stand-out titles for Vertigo, Canadian Jeff Lemire wrote and drew this beautifully moving tale of a boy named Gus, inexplicably born with antlers. As he navigates a scary post-virus world and tries to discover who and what he is, we meet a cast of characters also trying to figure out how to survive. There’s something there for McCaw, who also feels a bit out of place on the Raptors. Like Gus, McCaw could unlock something great within himself and for the team. But we’ll have to take the journey together to find out.

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson

Mad Max: Fury Road

I’m hard-pressed to decide which of these two — Mad Max or Rondae — contains more chaos energy. George Miller’s wild ride is in actual fact a carefully controlled cinematic symphony, but it’s also pure mayhem. Hollis-Jefferson is a bit like that too (OK, a lot like that). He vibrates with wild energy at all times, and really, really wants to just go. This was an easy, albeit obvious, pick.

Chris Boucher

The MaddAddam Trilogy — Oryx and Crake, The Year of the Flood, MaddAddam — by Margaret Atwood

First of all, we have to do whatever we can to keep Boucher indoors for a few days more so he gets the longest reading list. Second, I feel like he’d relate to different parts of Atwood’s well-regarded extrapolative series. Boucher’s got a bit of Oryx and Crake’s Snowman, a little of Flood’s Toby, and, sure, he sometimes looks like the next evolution of the basketballer — like the Crakers of MaddAddam. Third, if we recommend this one, we don’t have to hear about him mainlining that Handmaid’s Tale TV show.

Terence Davis

Age of Apocalypse from Marvel Comics

I won’t even pretend to have read all of this 90s mega-crossover event, but to have lived through the X-verse at the time of its running was to have some knowledge of what the hell was going on. It was that big a deal. The real short strokes: Legion goes back in time to kill Magneto, but kills his dad Professor X instead, which kicks of an alternate timeline that is… bad. Davis is not bad, but he is a world-altering figure for the Raptors, a guy of unknown and unstable power, someone who could create a big mess — or not.

Matt Thomas

La Jetee

A short film about a man whose travels through time allow him to collapse the past, present, and future into one singular moment. Forget 12 Monkeys and go straight to the source, this compact work from the dearly departed Chris Marker. For Matt Thomas, whose picture perfect focus is his whole raison d’etre, I can think of no better artistic synergy.

Stanley Johnson

The Thing (1982)

Oh, you thought I was going to go through this exercise without bringing up The Thing? At the edge of the world, 12 men are locked in a research base in Antarctica and confronted with a shape-shifting alien that could be anywhere — or anyone — and could become a global threat. For a player like Johnson, who looks the part but can’t quite play the part, director John Carpenter’s movie is, aha, just the thing for him.

Malcolm Miller

American War by Omar El Akkad

My guy Miller is definitely reading El Akkad’s novel on a future in which the United States is collapsed by a second civil war and the rest of the world moves on without it. The book’s main character Sarat goes through all kinds of trials and tribulations (some too tough to get into here), and the story’s throughline is a perfect bit of speculative fiction. What would the world look like if America was no longer a superpower? Miller has been righteously tweeting as of late, and I think this book is on his current wavelength.

Dewan Hernandez

Blade Runner

Let’s just start off Dewan with the basics. Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner is not the first film of its type — it borrows from noir films of the past, and robot sci-fi narratives from all over the place — but its legacy now feels like part of our cultural bedrock. If you’re telling a story about what it means to be human in a dehumanizing world, you end up starting with Deckard in a ruined Los Angeles and going from there.

Paul Watson and Oshae Brissett

The Crysalids by John Wyndham

Set in a post-nuclear wasteland, the main characters of The Crysalids are, as always seems to be the case, on a quest. Young David is having visions of big cities and “horseless carts”, things that no longer exist. He befriends Sophie, considered a mutant because of her six-toed foot. But that’s only the beginning for these two: David’s mutation is the power of his mind which allows him to telepathically communicate with others, people with similar abilities who may be able to provide safe haven. Let’s get Watson and Brissett together (but not too together) so they can learn, grow, and potentially reach their ultimate goal. It’s an uncertain outcome — as in the novel — but they’re going to try for it anyway.

Nick Nurse

The Dark Tower series by Stephen King

I haven’t actually read this series (or even much of King’s work, to be honest), but come on, it’s a medieval western featuring a mythical order of gunslingers. It’s dystopic, right? Whatever. Nick Nurse is all over that.