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Culture Notebook

Our Editors’ Culture Picks of the Month

The books, movies, music, and podcasts we couldn't stop talking about in July

Oh, don't mind us—we're just sitting around the bonfire talking about our sophisticated pop culture interests. (Kimson Doan)

The books, movies, music, and podcasts we couldn't stop talking about in July

This month, Outside staffers have been listening to happy music, watching scary movies, and reading 150-page prison-escape reports for fun.

What We Read

I’ve been reading a book lately by Anders Halverson called An Entirely Synthetic Fish. Its cover blurb would have you believe that it’s about how the rainbow trout became the world’s most stocked game fish, but it’s about so much more. As a fly-fisherman, I have always loved how the hobby lets me escape into nature, but this book has made me realize just what damage we’ve done to native species in our pursuit of the all-mighty trout.

—Nicholas Hunt, assistant editor

I recently came across this official investigation report on the notorious 2015 escape of two inmates from a high-security prison in New York and haven’t been able to put it down. The 150-page document is surprisingly well-written and reads almost like a true-crime novel. It’s a fascinating look at the failings of a prison system and is a solid read for anyone who loves a good escape story.

—Marie Sullivan, associate video producer

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The “Do” books are a great collection of handbooks for anyone curious and in search of inspiration. Do Design: Why Beauty Is Key to Everything provides wonderful insight into the design of our lives and how it affects our creativity and consumption. Alan Moore discusses why beauty should not go unnoticed, urging makers and consumers to create or purchase with the basic principles of simplicity, utility, and honesty.

—Petra Zeiler, deputy art director

I recently finished reading Jen Sincero’s You Are a Badass, and I’m obsessed. As the subtitle reads, it’s all about “how to stop doubting your greatness and start living an awesome life.” The takeaways are simple but profound: Sincero talks about overcoming fears, shutting down the lies we tell ourselves, amping up relationships, and dominating our biggest goals. While it can be a bit cheesy, it’s also hilarious and relatable (at least for anyone trying to figure out how to be the best version of themselves in a way that benefits the world around them).

—Olivia Harlow, editorial producer

This New York Magazine article on climate change is required reading for all Homo sapiens.

—Aleta Burchyski, copy editor

What We Watched

I watched The Summit last week. It’s a 2012 documentary about the deaths of 11 mountaineers on K2 in August 2008. The plot is hard to follow at some points—there were random interludes from a member of the original Italian expedition, and I couldn’t recall all 11 alpinists’ death scenes—but that’s to be expected since a lot of what happened that day is still a mystery. The producers did a great job weaving in actual footage from the expedition with almost-to-a-T reenactments of some pivotal scenes, and they did the legwork of tracking down and interviewing every key player that would cooperate, resulting in some emotional interviews.

—Will Egensteiner, associate editor

Oh, baby, did I love Baby Driver. Cheesy in every way you want it to be and perfectly choreographed. It’s a contemporary take on the classic car-chase action flick, with a healthy helping of humor and a dash of romance. If nothing else, give the soundtrack a listen and thank me later.

—Jenny Earnest, assistant social media editor

Everything from Oats Studios—the new media project from District 9 director Neill Blomkamp—is terrifying and wonderfully weird. His second short film, Firebase, a sci-fi story set in the Vietnam War, blew my mind. And I really am obsessed with all the surreal infomercial-style Cooking with Bill shorts. What are they building to?

—Scott Rosenfield, digital editorial director

I watched Given on Netflix—it’s the story of a surf family who travels around the world in search of waves and the one big fish. The story is told from the perspective of the eldest son, Give, and really gives you a lens through a child’s eyes when they’re exploring.

—Mitch Breton, video production curator

What We Listened To

I’ve got Dan Auerbach’s happy, upbeat “Shine on Me” on repeat on my running playlist. That and Jason Isbell’s “Hope the High Road” are getting me up the hills. At home, it’s Valerie June’s new album, The Order of Time, all the time.

—Elizabeth Hightower Allen, features editor

The new ESPN podcast 30 for 30 is a few episodes in and consistently good so far (if not better than the beloved documentary series). The first episode tells the behind-the-scenes story of decathletes Dan O’Brien and Dave Johnson, the subjects of an expensive Reebok ad campaign leading up to the 1992 Olympic Games that went horribly wrong. The latest installment is an oral history of the first female expedition to reach the North Pole, the members of which had never set foot in the Arctic. A worthwhile addition to your podcast diet!

—Luke Whelan, assistant editor

I used to hate Malcolm Gladwell. He would take a theory and try to explain the entire universe based on that one viewpoint. Now that he’s running his podcast, Revisionist History, I’ve come to love him. He’s still keying in on one piece of social science, but he’s using that science to explain a much smaller piece of the world, and it totally works. Case in point: His recent episode about golf, “A Good Walk Spoiled,” in which he takes a critical look at the sport and links it to everything from bad business decisions to bad public policy. Listening to the episode, I actually found myself audibly cheering him on. You go, Gladwell!

—Jakob Schiller, online gear director

I’ve been listening to Rapidgrass’ 2017 album, Happy Trails, on repeat since I discovered it two months ago. It’s classic bluegrass mountain music. You don’t just sway to this stuff—you dance. It’s fun and energetic and makes you want to swing around an alpine meadow with a partner and a beer. Favorite songs: “Passing Days,” “Jed’s Jam,” and, of course, “I-70.” I’m a Colorado girl, after all.

—Axie Navas, executive editor

I love starting my morning with The Daily by the New York Times and Up First by NPR. It’s a quick and dirty of everything I should know before I get on with my day. (Sometimes life passes me by in the bubble that is New Mexico.)

—Madeline Kelty, assistant photography editor

I first listened to the Blow in 2010, right after senior prom. “Hey Boy” is prominent in my remembered soundtrack for a summer of final beach days and camping trips in my home state of Florida. Then I left for college and haven’t really returned for the past seven years, and it’s been nearly as long since the Blow came out with anything new. They released a new single, “Get Up,” earlier this month, and it’s exactly what I didn’t know I needed this summer. I won’t be making it back to camp at Fisheating Creek anytime soon, but revisiting the Blow will take me back to the days of getting attacked by no-see-ums and thinking that this was the edgiest, weirdest music I’d ever heard. Actually, it’s still kind of weird.

—Erin Berger, associate editor

What We Looked at Adoringly

I received an original print from Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone by Olly Moss as an unexpected gift from a friend, and it has quickly become one of my favorite pieces of art. I’m currently dreaming about someday having a theater room in my home covered from ground to floor in his film-related prints.

—Erica Clifford, junior designer

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