This month, the AE team is bringing you our Pop Culture Picks from our home offices and, as things begin to reopen here, our office office too! This month we’re focusing on things that make us laugh or bring us joy. Keep scrolling to find out what’s helping us through these challenging times – we hope they can help you too!
Tiny View (app on iOS and Google Play)
In short: Bite-sized comics for your phone!
My joyful pick this month is Tiny View. Tiny View is a comic reader app that formats comics into a scrolling format instead of your old school zig-zag order. It’s one of those tiny innovations that makes the biggest difference.
I originally discovered the app reading Gemma Correll’s comics. Her comic on “How to Practice Worrier Pose” made me giggle and was my gateway to other authors like Matt Bors’ political cartoons that explore America’s journey into a dystopian future. And as a parent myself I’m partial to F*wl Language: Comics For Imperfect Parents by Brian Gordon because we can all relate to “The New Homework”.
So many of us are experiencing anxiety and feelings of helplessness right now. Tiny View is bringing me joy because I love seeing how the authors explore the things we’re all struggling with in different ways. Enjoy the comics!
TL;DR: Hades is a fun, fast-paced dungeon crawler with a great story and excellent gameplay.
My pick this time around is the “rogue-like action role-playing video game” Hades. Hades is published by Supergiant Games, the developer behind other popular indie titles such as Bastion and Pyre. Hades has just come out for full release, but I have been playing via early access since the beginning of the summer and it’s been a staple of my game time since.
You play as Zagreus, the son of Hades, who is attempting to break free in search of his mother Persephone. Each run sees Zagreus take his weapon of choice (sword, bow, shield, spear, gauntlets, or gun) and make is way through the various levels of hell as he tries to make it to the surface. The room order is randomly generated, and will be full of a random collection of enemies that must all be defeated in order to receive the reward for that room and to progress to the next. The player is usually presented with two or more choices of exit from each room with the reward for each indicated.
As Zagreus progresses he will gain more and more power and abilities, as well as collecting differing currencies that can be used for later upgrades. One of the main types of abilities are ‘boons’, these are special granted abilities provided by the differing Greek gods, such as Zeus, Poseidon, Aphrodite, etc. to help Zagreus on his quest.
If he dies, he is regenerated from the River Styx at the beginning ‘lobby area’ and must start his journey again, although he can use some of the spoils acquired during the run to upgrade.
This may sounds repetitive, but I have to say it is very hard to resist that ‘just one more time’ pull of doing another run. Each one presents a new experience. As mentioned the rooms and monsters are randomized, but furthermore, the weapon chosen by Zagreus combined with differing boons creates a unique ‘build’ or gameplay experience. The boon choices per God are random as well, so I don’t think I have even had the exact same combination twice.
Overlaying the gameplay just described is an engaging story with a collection of great characters and fantastic, humorous dialogue. Another mechanism of each run is uncovering new layers to the story (multiple stories really). I have been really impressed at the lack of repetitive dialogue, it seems like almost every interaction with a Greek God or other character presents different dialogue with superb voice acting.
If you are looking for a game that is easy to jump in and out of, has a great story combined with fun fast-paced arcade action then give Hades a try.
Radio Garden (app on iOS and Google Play)
TL;DR: Access over 10,000 radio stations from around the world!
Radio Garden is a simple app, yet powerful in how it connects us to anywhere in the world. The app shows a globe with all the radio stations that broadcast through an internet stream. The list is currently over 10,000, and you can submit more if you find one not there yet. You can spin around the globe, search for a station, and save your favourites. The search option also comes with some of their current recommendations in categories like Independent Sounds, Energetic Rhythms, Time Travel, Weird Frequencies, and Ends Of The Earth.
Some of my favourite stations lately have been Radio AkuAku in Hanga Roa (Easter Island has some great jams!), Seoul Community Radio, Bossa Nova Brazil, WWOZ FM 90.7 in New Orleans, 105.9 Classical WQXR in New York, and our office fave, KCRW Eclectic 24 out of Santa Monica.
This app warms my heart when I read reviews about how people listen to the radio stations in their faraway home countries and from when they grew up. Music and radio is a way to stay connected and Radio Garden makes it easy to both stay grounded and expand your horizons.
TL;DR: More Partridge antics form the brilliant mind of Steve Coogan. Can be an acquired taste but worth the perseverance.
Alan Partridge is a long running character of comedian Steve Coogan, who you may know from the likes of Tropic Thunder, Despicable Me, 24 Hour Party People and more. His Alan Partridge character started as a parody of British TV and radio personalities in the mid 90s but evolved into something altogether it’s own – think the dryness of Blackadder meets the awkwardness of The Office UK and you’re halfway there.
It took me a while to really click with the Partridge character, despite being a huge fan of British comedies in general. It wasn’t until 2010’s Mid Morning Matters series that I really fell in love with the character, and that remains the best point of entry for anyone interested in finding out more. His recent TV series This Time is also well worth checking out.
From The Oasthouse is the latest Partridge vehicle, this time in the form of a podcast; his first, although he has done a couple of excellent audio books, also available on Audible. The podcast follows his daily life and struggles, from his encounters with an internet troll, a pet magpie, his racist dog and his long suffering assistant Lynn. A must for fans of British comedies and the character alike. Simply brilliant.
In short: Three hilarious brothers bring chaos to their hometown under the guise of providing advice to their audience.
“The McElroy brothers are not experts, and their advice should never be followed. They’re just three brothers who created a podcast. And now they’ve returned to their hometown to tape a TV show. Also, this show isn’t for kids, which I mention only so you babies out there know how cool you are for watching. What’s up, you cool baby?”
The McElroy brothers, Justin, Travis and Griffin, have been taking listener questions and turning them, alchemy-like, into wisdom on their podcast My Brother, My Brother and Me (MBMBaM) for over 10 years now. Since 2010, the podcast has gotten, in the words of Justin (the oldest brother), buckwild. And in 2017, they made 6 episodes of possibly one of the greatest TV shows to exist.
This short-lived, but totally iconic show never fails to make me laugh. Whether the brothers are attempting to get hired at their old high school summer jobs, tricking the Mayor of Huntington, West Virginia to sign over honorary mayoral rights to them, or convincing the audience that there’s a secret augmented reality component to the show, I promise you will be entertained.