Everything Our Editors Loved in May
‘Top Gun: Maverick,’ a Woodstock playlist, and ‘Under the Banner of Heaven’
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In May, Outside editors leafed through motivational pages and hit the movie theater for a blockbuster release. Here’s everything that kept us entertained last month.
What We Read
I expected Do Hard Things: Why We Get Resilience Wrong and the Surprising Science of Real Toughness, by former elite athlete Steve Magness, to focus on and celebrate the distance runner’s cherished ability to ignore pain. Instead, his compelling book isn’t really about toughness at all—at least not in the way we usually think about it. Magness argues that our culture’s conventional view of toughness as being callous and insensitive actually leads to fragile individuals ill-equipped to handle adversity. True toughness doesn’t shut out discomfort but feels, identifies, and understands it, and takes thoughtful action to endure and overcome it. The book could easily have been titled How to Survive and Thrive in Life. Readers of today’s positive psychology will find many familiar themes, including a growth mindset, learned optimism, and emotional agility. However, Magness introduces these ideas with apt anecdotes and presents practical applications that I found myself using immediately in my personal life and as a coach. I admit that my own view of toughness has led to injury far too often, as well as a diminished ability to deal effectively with true hardships. I hope Magness’s book will be a step toward softening some emotional callouses and creating the flexibility to be truly tough. —Jonathan Beverly, senior running editor
What We Listened To
How can a 53-year-old musical performance still feel dynamic and red hot? I’ve pondered this question for the past few months, because I’ve been hopelessly addicted to Sly and the Family Stone’s live set from Woodstock 1969. The entire set list is available on Spotify on the playlist titled: “Woodstock 1969: Live Recordings From the Festival.” I played the Woodstock album a few times in college, but for whatever reason, Sly’s act never connected. All that changed this winter when I watched the Oscar-winning documentary Summer of Soul: When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised. The film chronicles the Harlem Culture Festival, a six-weekend concert that occurred the same summer as Woodstock but featured the biggest Black performers of the time, including Stevie Wonder, Nina Simone, and Gladys Knight. The footage of the festival showcases a transitional moment for fashion, culture, and music, and Sly and the Family Stone truly stand out as oddball innovators of the time, with their blend of proto-funk sounds and loud outfits. Alas, there are just two live recordings from that concert online: “Sing a Simple Song” and “Everyday People,” both of which are worth a listen. The Woodstock set, from later that summer, has a full nine songs, and performance is the band’s apex. The jams are up-tempo versions of the studio recordings, only they’re pared down to the basics: fuzzy bass lines, blasting horns, and infectious vocals. My advice: crank the four-song medley encompassing “Everyday People,” “Dance to the Music,” “Higher,” and “I Want to Take You Higher.” If you don’t feel like dancing, check to see if you have a pulse. —Fred Dreier, articles editor
The moment summer reaches a consistent swelter, I find myself craving books that feel akin to gossiping over a bottle of wine. This season my reading kicked off with a revisit of Fleishman Is in Trouble, Taffy Brodesser-Akner’s 2019 novel about Toby Fleishman, a newly divorced father whose ex-wife, Rachel, disappears. The story starts in the present, as Toby precariously balances custody of his kids—an angsty tween daughter and ingenious son—his career as a doctor, and the constellation of interested women he can now access through dating apps. Toggling into the past, the narrative also traces the slow breakdown of Toby and Rachel’s union over the years, undone by a million small actions and words. There’s a vulnerability to the internal monologues from different perspectives, bluntly stating the things we don’t say out loud to our partners and friends. Brodesser-Akner writes salacious details with smart wit, turning an already engaging plot into a hard-to-put-down read. —Daniella Byck, associate editor
What We Watched
I’m not usually a huge action-movie gal, but Top Gun: Maverick was a joy to see in theaters. I hadn’t even seen the first Top Gun, and I watched it at home the next day. I don’t know if it was the rainy weather outside or the audience’s hype for Tom Cruise in general, but the crowd loved it. Yes, Cruise pretty much only speaks in one-liners the whole movie (“This is the only look I’ve got”), but his boyish charm is classic as ever. And though it started a little slow, the last 40 minutes more than made up for it. Mission: Impossible 7, here I come, baby. —Kelly Klein, associate gear editor
Having grown up in Colorado, I was always vaguely aware of the Church of Latter Day Saints—one of my good friends was Mormon, and a handful of students in my graduating class attended Brigham Young University. Still, I never knew much about the religion, and what is out there in popular culture always seems to cast Mormons as backward, blindly innocent others. The Hulu TV series Under The Banner of Heaven, based on the 2003 Jon Krakauer book, avoids this typecasting with a nuanced look at the Mormon community, unpacking its flaws and strengths while depicting a 1984 double-murder investigation in Salt Lake City. As fictional Mormon detective Jeb Pyre (Andrew Garfield) and partner Bill Taba (Gil Birmingham) try to solve the real-life double murder of LDS member Brenda Lafferty (Daisy Edgar-Jones) and her baby daughter, we see how supportive Mormons can be in times of need, yet also closed off and harmful when presented with news that threatens the church. We see how the religion, like others, has a dark foundation filled with racism, homophobia, misogyny, and past atrocities, and how this foundation can be exploited by fundamentalists preaching polygamy, child abuse, and murder. At the same time, we also see how some members of the church are trying to (slowly) adapt to the modern world, listening to pop music, eating chocolate, and encouraging women to have lives outside of the home. Sometimes the murder investigation seems to take a back seat to this wider narrative, and along with it the women who were at the center of the crimes committed by the Lafferty men. (Brenda’s brothers-in-law, Dan and Ron, were eventually charged with the double murder.) Here’s hoping that the final episode, out June 2, will bring these women into the spotlight. —Kelsey Lindsey, senior editor
I recently watched The Lost City in a hotel room while isolating with COVID, and it was the perfect Hollywood adventure movie for when you need something easy and lighthearted. Sandra Bullock and Channing Tatum have great chemistry playing (respectively) a romance novelist and her cover model thrown into a real-life version of her latest book: hunting down the lost crown of an ancient princess while being chased on a volcanic island by an eccentric billionaire (Daniel Radcliffe) who wants it for himself. There is a great scene where Bullock climbs a 20-foot, 5.6-grade pitch in high heels and a sequin pantsuit. Some other fun sequences involve fording jungle rivers and crawling through a tiny tunnel to reach the crown, just as the volcano begins to explode. I was laughing the whole time. —Luke Whelan, senior editor