Every month at the AE offices, we choose our Pop Culture Picks. It could be an album, a band, a book, a movie, a TV show, a podcast, or anything else we enjoyed over the previous 30 days. In this special edition, we bring back each of our favorite picks from 2018. This is your opportunity to get caught up before we start a fresh new year!
The Great Interior Design Challenge (TV Show)
In short: If you like interior design, British accents, and contestants under pressure, this show should be your next Netflix binge.
When you’re jet-lagged and up at 1 am you want to find some “easy” watching. With great delight I opened up Netflix, after returning from Australia, to find a new season of The Great Interior Design Challenge was available. Oh, joyous day!
The British contestants get two days to complete massive room re-designs. That is not nearly enough time and Daniel and Sophie (judges extraordinaire) have very high standards. It’s stressful for the contestants but I find it incredibly relaxing to watch the old carpet being pulled back…will it be beautiful hardwood or plywood?
The British know how to do a reality show. It’s not focussed on the rivalry between the contestants (I’m looking at you American reality TV) but instead focuses on struggles the designer has to overcome. Grab a cup of tea and settle in for high design drama.
Dirty Computer by Janelle Monáe (Album)
TL;DR: This album shows a true and rare talent. It’s worth taking the time to listen in full without distractions — it will enrich your day, I promise.
In this day and age, Janelle Monae is the hero we need. That’s why I chose this album as my pop culture pick of the year.
Her messages are about self-expression, freedom, and being treated well (re: equally). Her style is unique and speaks volumes. Most of all, I’ve loved listening to her for years now and the growth from her previous albums (which were also awesome) to this one is incredible.
Janelle is a true artist and I really enjoyed this album. I also saw her perform the album live in concert and it was the first time I thought to myself that I really should have splurged on seats closer to the stage!
NOFX: The Hepatitis Bathtub and Other Stories by NOFX (Book)
Long story short: It’s not for everyone, but if you’re a fan of the band or just great rock ‘n’ roll biographies in general, this is a must.
I’ve been a fan of the punk rock band NOFX for a long time now — they’ve been around for over 30(!) years and I’ve been there for close to 20 of those. They’re still going strong, but given their DIY attitude and aversion to interviews, it’s been hard to piece together a history of the band until now.
Written on a chapter-by-chapter basis by current and former members of the band, this book tells their long and fascinating story in what many might consider disturbing detail: drummer Smelly’s battles with heroin addiction, singer Fat Mike’s weird sexual habits, and the band’s well-known enthusiasm for illegal substances all get written about here.
NOFX are one of my all time favorite bands so it’s great to see them finally getting some of the recognition they deserve after all these years. I’m also a sucker for music biographies and this is an excellent one!
Insight Timer (App)
What you need to know: Insight Timer is a mobile app that offers thousands of free guided meditations, courses and, of course, a timer for your meditations. It is a game-changer for those looking to start a meditation practice.
I know I’m not the only one wanting to get back on track after the holiday season. And for many that looks like writing down a few New Years Resolutions. So what if 90% of your resolutions never happen. I think they are still a valuable tool for self-reflection!
One that has been on my list for at least 5 years is starting a regular meditation practice. Success has varied considerably, but last year I progressed the most. And that is partly due to my discovery of Insight Timer. The other helpful element was going on a meditation retreat, which I highly recommend if you can get the time off!
Ethnos (Board Game)
In short: This game is a nuanced combination of earning points for playing card sets and controlling the map. It’s quick, lots of fun, and full of replay potential.
Ethnos was recommended to me as a bit of a dark horse for board games and I was told it was surprisingly addictive. This indeed turned out to be true, and I have had many great sessions with friends since getting it. Of those friends, a few have even bought the game themselves as they enjoyed it so much. This includes friends who have played a wide variety of challenging board games for years, and friends who have just started getting into board games. The fact that it appeals to such differing levels of gaming experience says a lot.
I fully expect to get years and years of enjoyment from Ethnos.