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. Keep scrolling to find out what caught our attention this month!
Wizards Unite ⚡
In short: The wizarding world of Harry Potter meets Pokemon Go in a location-based augmented reality game.
Several years ago I remember reading that an augmented reality game for the Harry Potter universe was in development. Ye gads I thought, no Pokeman Go for me. I’ll wait impatiently until a wizarding world arrives.
Hello Wizards Unite which launched June 20th in most countries. It’s my third day playing the game and I’m already that person standing in the drizzle at the ferry terminal try to win a battle against a death eater.
I was captivated by the books in my 20s and now I’m re-captivated by the potions, battles, and skill training inside the game. I’ve just selected my profession as Auror and I wonder where my wand journey will take me.
Lately, I’ve been trying to disconnect from my phone when I’m in a lineup or at the park, but now I feel an ache on my forehead and a need to pull out my wand, um phone. While I will try to keep this habit in check, you’ll likely see me wizarding my way around Victoria this summer, it’s that addictive.
If you love Harry Potter you’ll love this game. You’ve been warned.
Kakegurui (Compulsive Gambler) 📺
TL;DR: If you are looking for something different in an anime not involving ghosts, demons or giant robots then check out Kakegurui. As Yumeko would say – “Let’s get our gambling freak on!”
Hyakkaou Private Academy appears to be a prep school for the very wealthy. However, below the surface, everything revolves around gambling and games of chance.
Those students who excel in the art of gambling and manipulation sit at the top of the food chain, the most influential of those sit on the shadowy student council which controls everything. Students who sit at the bottom of this hierarchy, because they are not great gamblers or because they have lost high stakes games, are treated as indentured servants and referred to as “house pets” At least until they can gamble their way back up the ranks again.
The main protagonist is Yumeko Jabami. A recent transfer student who appears to be your typical sweet, naive schoolgirl about to become victim to the gambling hierarchy. But, who is, in fact, a compulsive gambler and not just gambling for monetary gain or social status. Addicted to the thrill of it, she seeks riskier and riskier stakes. As such, Yumeko is a true “wild card” who disrupts the social order the student council is trying to maintain. This sets up a series of showdowns as they try to stop her chaotic journey.
This is my latest anime consumption on Netflix, and I have to admit I really debated writing this up as a pick. Not because I did not enjoy it, but because I know it’s definitely not for everyone, and there are some elements of the show that will put some people off (if taken in isolation).
Some of the sexualized animation of the characters, especially Yumeko, has turned a few people off the show. But, in my opinion, this is a minor aspect of the show that serves as another way to highlight how “off” Yumeko really is. While typical for this style of animation, the sexual themes in Kakegurui are pretty tame compared to other well-liked shows on HBO.
What I really enjoyed about it is the plain craziness of it. Characters will transition from being sweet schoolgirls or pop stars drawn all cutesy and sweet, into dark conniving schemers, truly insane gamblers, and even borderline homicidal maniacs. The animation on the show is excellent and is used to highlight these personality shifts in very extreme ways.
I also enjoyed the gambling set-ups and the games themselves, learning how the game works and the ingenious ways the players (often Yumeko) will use to win. This creates a bit of a thriller/mystery and puzzle-solving element to the series.
Whose Land 📱
TL;DR: Whose Land is an awesome website and app where you can learn about the territory your home or business is situated on.
Living in BC has really opened my eyes to the Indigenous cultures that are all around us and how our/their history is NOT history at all – it is ongoing. I grew up in Ontario where the experience was quite different. We were not taught anything of Canada’s history from the perspective of the Indigenous peoples, other than that they existed when we first arrived.
When I moved to the coast, I saw that the Indigenous culture is way, way more visible and intertwined with modern society. It is all around – as it should be! I was really amazed to learn that Indigenous cultures are taught in school as part of social studies (ie. current, not just history) and that schools have Elders who visit the kids often. We still have a long way to go to right our wrongs in history, but things like this really give me hope.
My pick this month is an app called “Whose Land” that shows you a map of the world overlayed with the lines of traditional territories. It’s really wonderful to see all the different communities mapped out like this, and very cool to see how many of them overlap. The map shows Victoria as being the lands of the Lekwungen (Songhees) First Nation, Esquimalt First Nation, and W̱SÁNEĆ First Nation Communities. There is also additional information about the communities on the website, including land acknowledgment videos, lists of the Treaties signed, and even further education, such as how to acknowledge and be responsible in your business practices.
I love how technology can bring us new ways to learn and connect. Please take the time to check out this wonderful map and see your home through another lens. Territory acknowledgment is a small but powerful way to acknowledge ongoing indigenous land rights issues.
“Doin’ Time” by Lana Del Rey 🎵
TL;DR: Lana Del Ray covers Sublime and it’s great.
It’s good to see Sublime finally getting some of the respect they deserve. Those who are old enough to remember the summer of 1997 will recall a new wave of ska bands on the radio – some great, most awful – one of the most prominent of which was Sublime. Sadly, the success came too late for frontman Bradley Nowell who died of a heroin overdose on the eve of their breakthrough, and the subsequent lack of new material somewhat cemented Sublime in that era. They will forever be associated with surfer bros with bleached blond hair and boardshorts. It was a simpler time.
But where Sublime stood out from their peers was their amazing songcraft. As well as fusing ska and punk rock, they seamlessly blended together elements of hip hop, reggae, and classic rock. They seemed to understand the genres they borrowed from and treat them with reverence. It would’ve been fun to see what they did next, but alas, we’ll never know.
I can’t think of a better contemporary artist to cover Sublime than Lana Del Ray (maybe Best Coast?). Her breezy California sound meshes perfectly with Sublime’s hip hop inspired hit “Doin’ Time.” I’m constantly impressed by Lana’s output, despite there being a similar sound to all of her songs. Still, every time you think she must’ve exhausted the limitations of this concept, she releases a fresh new album or song that is somehow better than anything she’s done to date. Looking forward to her new album Norman Fucking Rockwell in August.
Foxwarren (self-titled) 🎵
Long story short: Childhood friends from the Canadian prairies release an album after jamming for 10 years or so….and it’s actually pretty good.
Is it just me, or is YouTube becoming a great place for music discovery? Thanks Google for your creepily powerful AI-based algorithms…
It was quite a shock, really, when I recognized the unmistakable vocals of one of my favorite Canadian artists. My first thought was: there is no way that Andy Shauf has released a new album without me knowing?!
What I was listening to was Foxwarren: a collaboration between Shauf and 3 childhood friends that was released last year in late November. The band’s name comes from the Manitoba family home of two band members, where the album was recorded.
As a whole, the album retains the relaxed, almost meditative nature of Shauf’s solo work that I love so much. “Lost In A Dream” is reminiscent of his early album, The Bearer of Bad News, with cascading piano, strings, and vibrating synth. The overall mood can be described as melancholic-cheerful, making it the perfect life soundtrack no matter what you’re doing or how you’re feeling! Poetic lyrics are plentiful: “Smooth talker sells another good line with a mouth full of steam,” as found in “To Be.”
Foxwarren stands apart from Shauf’s solo work in the looser, indie-rock-band-feel of tracks like “Everything Apart” that feature heavier guitar and drums. There is less white space overall and tracks stand alone, rather than as part of a greater story arch, such as in Shauf’s album The Party.
This collaborative project is a subtle divergence from the usual “written, performed, arranged and produced by Andy Shauf,” that I am used to. Nonetheless, it is a stellar album and I highly recommend you give it a listen. 😊