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Daily distraction: Tomie dePaola, films from the Met vault and TikTok dances

Welcome to your daily distraction, our recommendations for ways to stay engaged and entertained while we socially distance ourselves to combat the novel coronavirus outbreak. You can find our past recommendations here; many of the opportunities we’ve highlighted are ongoing.

And… it’s April. We hope that if you’re staying home with others they have not used their ample time indoors to make you the victim of an elaborate April Fools’ prank. Rather than indulge in this strange holiday’s antics — it’s an odd time to have a holiday devoted to jokes — I’m observing April Fools’ by watching some things that embody the wagish spirit of the day, specifically “Mr. Bean.”

Here’s what else you might want to look into today.

1) Revisit the work of Tomie dePaola

Tomie dePaola, the prolific children’s book author and illustrator, died March 30 at the age of 85. If you’ve never read his books,or it’s been awhile since you have, we recommend you pick them up now. With a charming, folk art-style, dePaola’s work is a treat for the eyes, while his stories are playful and bighearted.

The decorated author worked on over 270 books, but I will be revisiting what is perhaps his best known: “Strega Nona,” about a friendly witch and her assistant, Big Anthony, who floods a southern Italian town with way, way too much pasta. It’s a great read for adults and kids alike, especially now, when many of us are ridding our homes of hametz in preparation for Passover.

2) Explore video from the vaults of the Met

As part of its 150th anniversary celebrations, the Metropolitan Museum of Art has been releasing a handful of films from its archives each week since January. So far, the museum has posted 10 shorts to its website, including a fascinating 1977 profile of sculptor Louise Nevelson, a documentary on Indonesian art from 1990, a 1925 silent film in which a student visiting the Met imagines himself reenacting the myth of Perseus and an examination of depictions of cats in the museum’s collection. The picks from the vault are set to be posted weekly through of the year.

3) Learn a TikTok dance

This weekend, my roommates forced me from my bedroom to participate in a dance choreographed to The Weeknd’s “Blinding Lights” for the short-form video app TikTok, which has given rise to a number of viral dances. While mostly populated with teenagers, in this time of self-quarantine and cancelled schools, we’ve entered a golden age of intergenerational TikToks. A number of parents— and even some grandparents — are learning TikTok choreo from the youth; if you’re quarantined with family, it’s a great way to bond, have fun and stay active. If you have a TikTok user in your life, ask them if they want to record a mini dance number — or start an account of your own and try to learn a cool new move.

PJ Grisar is the Forward’s culture fellow. He can be reached at grisar@forward.com

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