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 2019. This is your opportunity to get caught up before we start a fresh new year!
The Great British Sewing Bee (TV Show)
In Short: Season 5 of the Great British Sewing Bee aired
February 12th, 2019. Tune in for a good laugh and to learn more about the world of sewing!
If you read my Pop Culture Picks with any regularity you might pick up on a theme here: my love of British reality shows made by the BBC.
This year’s Bee has a new host, Joe Lycett, a British comedian. I’m not too familiar with him but was sent this clip (NSFW) – ha! Season 5 sees Joe in the sewing trenches with the contestants, while Patrick Grant and Esme Young circle the sewists like great white sharks, literally picking at their stitches. Patrick loves a well-made garment and Esme loves some flair – they are such a perfect pairing.
I started watching the series when I took up sewing, hoping to pick up tips. But in fact, the show has taught me much more about the history of fashion and why garments are constructed in certain ways. If you have any interest in clothing you’ll come away with an appreciation for a well-made garment and most likely look a little closer at the clothes you purchase. Better yet, try your hand at making your own!
Joe Lycett posted this Season 5 trailer on his Twitter. Give it a watch if you aren’t already convinced!
Fall; Or Dodge In Hell by Neal Stephenson (Book)
TL;DR: Full disclosure, Neal Stephenson is probably my favorite author. I have been swept away by his ability to tell such expansive stories, amazingly intertwined across different eras and covering historical fiction, possible futures, and parallel worlds. His newest novel Fall; or Dodge in Hell is a deep exploration into the human perception of reality.
Fall; or Dodge in Hell is somewhat of a sequel to a prior book called Reamde. Stephenson takes the same characters but quickly projects out to a possible future for humankind that is quite fantastic but also eerily possible.
The start of the book begins around ‘current day’ and describes the aftermath of the death of a wealthy game designer, Richard Forthrast (AKA Dodge). His will explicitly states that he is to be preserved beyond death via the best technology available so that he may be revived later. While this was thought to be using existing cryogenic techniques, there actually exists the ability to scan his brain (“connectome”). Basically a brain in a computer instead of a brain in a jar. Various legal battles occur between main parties but in the end, Dodge and others are scanned until such time as the technology emerges to utilize that scan.
…read the rest of Jeff’s review in August’s Pop Culture Picks!
1984 by George Orwell (Book)
TL;DR: 1984 is the ultimate dystopian novel which dives deep into topics such as the treatment of humanity, freedom, thought, language, perception of reality, and history.
My pop culture pick this month is the classic novel 1984 by George Orwell. I thought I knew what I was getting into and hooo boy, I was not ready. This book is intense.
The story is set in the year 1984, following decades of war that has redefined the world. A mysterious “Big Brother” leads the nation, and everyone is watched 24/7; words, actions, and even thoughts are monitored constantly. There’s propaganda, rations, and constant reports of a war that is happening with one of the other two continents (the world is now Oceania, Eurasia, and Eastasia). If anyone shows even the slightest hint of rebellious thought, they are severely punished (tortured) and eradicated.
Read the rest of Jenn’s review in April’s Pop Culture Picks!
The Outer Worlds (Video Game)
This is the Fallout game that fans have been asking for for years, but in a new galaxy with a variety of beautiful environments to explore. The idea is that this galaxy has been taken over by a number of mega-corporations, all of whom have established their own branded colonies on each planet. You play as a character who is awoken from cryo by a total stranger after your ship has a mysterious accident, only to be thrown down onto a foreign planet to fend for yourself.
What I love about this game is that it gives you a chance to be whoever you want in a weird, backwards world. I’m personally a low-level ex-bureaucrat who is highly skilled in persuasion, charm, and one-handed weapons. But you could also be a janitor who excels at melee, lying, and sneaking around!
The game is just ridiculous, over the top, funny, and gorgeous to look at. If you’ve ever enjoyed a Fallout game and want to expand your horizons, go get The Outer Worlds.
Bonus points if you have Xbox Game Pass, since it launched day 1 on that service and is available for free download right now.
Fire Emblem: Three Houses (Video Game)
TL;DR: An RPG with a fun strategy and an excellent introduction to the Fire Emblem series.
This game is my first experience with the series – while I love JRPGs in general, Fire Emblem is a tactical RPG – meaning the battles are fought Risk-like on a battlefield with various units etc. – something that never hugely appealed to me.
Fire Emblem: Three Houses is a little different from previous games in the series in that it introduces a school mechanic. Think Hogwarts meets the Persona series: you’re a teacher at the school whose lessons help to improve your student’s stats in battle.
It’s a fun little twist and much to my surprise I found myself really enjoying the strategy elements as a result. There’s also a whole lot of fun to be had getting to know the characters. Further, choosing one of the three titular school houses to align with gives the game a lot of replayability. It’s also given me the incentive to go back and explore previous games in the franchise as I’m having such an enjoyable time with this one.
The Beyond Burger (Food)
What you need to know: The Beyond Burger is a delicious way to reduce your carbon footprint. Keep reading to learn more!
Companies are getting crazy innovative to bring us food that satisfies our cravings while minimizing harm. Lab-grown tuna anyone? Or how about some eggless scramble? Nah, I’ll just stick with my non-dairy Ben & Jerry’s.
My pick isn’t about any of those tantalizing treats though. It’s about the Beyond Burger- an epic, plant-based alternative to the traditional hamburger. Using ingredients like pea protein, coconut oil, and beet juice extract, the resulting burger “looks, cooks, and tastes” the same as a regular beef burger.
I tried a Beyond Burger for the first time a few months ago and was happily surprised. It was delicious and very, very convincing.
…read the rest of Odette’s review in February’s Pop Culture Picks!
Rewinder by SB Nation (YouTube Channel)
In Short: Rewinder takes a deep dive into the background, context, and important events preceding those moments in sports history that have become so legendary and so iconic that people might forget what made them so important.
I came to this blog through one of the greatest world series games in baseball history: game 6 in the 2011 series. As they say in the video, the walk-off home run by David Freese deserved a deep rewind. The details of the moves during the season, during the playoffs, during the series, and during this game that led to this fantastic play are fascinating for a baseball wonk like me.
The rest of the series, from Michael Jordan’s final shot to the butt fumble, includes tales of greatness and infamy across all sports. Moments are rewound for fans to understand every little thing that made the moment magic.
Here’s to another year of Pop Culture Picks! Check back for fresh picks at the start of every month.