We love all sorts of media and we want to share some favorites to fill up your February.
The Vanity Fair Diaries by Tina Brown (Book)
My pick gives you: glamor, glitz, back-stabbing, social climbing, legendary authors and ladies trying to get it all done
This month, I polished off the The Vanity Fair Dairies. I first heard Tina Brown being interviewed by Preet Bharara, former U.S. attorney, on his brilliant podcast (another recommendation). I loved hearing about Tina’s experience being a young woman and editor-in-chief of Vanity Fair in the 1980s. She spoke about getting the best from her writers and being a wife and mom while trying to build a business (Vanity Fair was flailing when she took over).
I related to her passion for telling true stories, both in the magazine and in her life, so I grabbed her book. As you’d expect, the pages are full of juicy celebrity tidbits (I distinctly remember the hubbub of the Demi Moore cover) and the male power plays in the publishing world.
It’s lovely and fun, but what really drew me in were her moments of truth, like when she trusted her gut and went after the position of editor-in-chief, or when she lamented over not spending enough time with her kids and juggling so many work nights out.
Xenoblade Chronicles (Video Game)
My pick gives you: classic JRPG, great graphics and excellent British voice acting
This game is a few years old now (it came out in 2010 — positively ancient in gaming terms) and its sequel has just been released on the Nintendo Switch to mixed reviews, but it’s the original that’s really got me hooked at the moment. Released on a platform not known for its “serious” RPGs, Xenoblade received a limited release in the West and as such, has become a cult classic amongst JRPG nuts like me.
With great graphics (for the Wii), excellent (and very British) voice acting, and expansive, lovingly created environments (the entire game world is set on the back of two giant robots), Xenoblade Chronicles has everything and more for fans of the genre. It’s a classic JRPG that I’d rate in my top 5 of all time — right up there with Final Fantasy 7.
Northgard (Video Game)
TL;DR: “If Oden played RTS’s, he would be pleased with Northgard.” — Some dude on steam
Northgard is a super fun and engaging RTS game that is currently in early access. It’s a bit slower paced than some traditional RTS games, such as Age of Empires. The slower pace –combined with beautiful, artistic graphics — renders it almost relaxing. It is Norse-themed and revolves around expanding territory, surviving harsh environment changes, balancing economy, conquering other tribes, and many other meta game mechanics.
Although the game moves at a lesser rate, it consists of rich gameplay dynamics and varied win conditions that give way to a plethora of strategies. If you enjoy RTS games, you should definitely check this one out. It’s currently available on Steam. Despite being in early access, it is a complete game with a few minor glitches here and there — but hey, that’s half the fun of early access!
The Worm’s Heart by The Shins (Album)
My pick gives you: classic indie sound with an interesting twist
This is a really interesting concept album. It’s essentially a “flipped” version of their most recent album, Heartworms. Frontman James Mercer said in a news release that he wanted to make “an alternate version, an opposite version” of that album.
Basically what that means is that the track listing is reversed: slow songs are now fast, fast songs are now slow. I really like to see bands experiment and play with their music, treating it like a raw resource rather than a final and solid object. I was a fan of The Shins already, but I’m especially impressed with them after this recent effort.
The Shape of Water (2017) (Movie)
My pick gives you: spies, spunky cleaning ladies, stunning visuals, a new kind of swamp monster, and a trip back in time to the 1960s
This is maybe a pretty obvious recommendation — movies generate so much buzz that I’m sure you’ve heard all about it already. But it would be terribly misleading if I were to pretend that anything else had had as great an impact on me this month as The Shape of Water did. I saw it twice, it hit me that hard.
Del Toro and his incredibly talented team have created a beautiful film in every sense: cinematically, narratively (is that a word?), musically, and dramatically. It manages to be fantastical yet grounded, and it wasn’t just the creature and the main character that I fell in love with — I also loved the supporting characters: Giles, an elderly gay artist, Zelda, a caring cleaning lady, and Dmitri, a Russian spy/scientist.