Not Just Books: November 2021

While we do love us some books, believe it not, we do have a life outside of reading. So to highlight our other pop culture interests, on the last Monday of each month, we each will highlight three other “happenings” from the last month. Big events on favorite TV shows, new movies we’ve watched, old movies we’ve “discovered,” etc. Pretty much whatever we found of particular interest outside of the book world during the last month. Share your own favorite things in the comments!

Serena’s Picks

Movie: “Dune”

It was a rare day when my husband and I looked at each other and realized we an entire afternoon free from children with nothing planned to do. And so ushered in our grand return to theater going and “Dune” was the perfect film to reinforce the additional experience that is seeing a movie on a huge screen with all of the sound effects and ambiance that comes with that. This movie was gorgeous and the use of the sound effects in the theater were particularly effective. I haven’t read the original book or watched the David Lynch adaptation, so I knew only a few basic facts going in. That said, the movie does an excellent job of setting itself up for new viewers while also not dumbing down any of its story. If you have a safe way of doing so, I definitely recommend checking this one out in a theater if you have the opportunity!

Documentary series: “The Last Dance”

This is a bit of an odd one fore me. While I am a pretty big sports fan, basketball and the NBA have always been way, waaaay down on my list of priorities or interests. That said, as someone who grew up in the 90s, there’s no deny the absolute phenomenon that was Michael Jordan on the culture of my childhood. This is a ten part series, so it’s quite a commitment, but it was well worth the time. I knew most of the bullet points of Jordan’s career and life, but this added so much detail to his life and time in the NBA. It also went well beyond Jordan, diving into the experiences of many of the others involved in the Bulls’ historic run in the 90s. Here, there was a lot I didn’t know which threw a lot of new light on just how remarkable that entire time period was. Fans of sports documentaries, especially, should check this one out, though I think it might also be of interest to many who remember Jordan and the Bulls well.

TV Show: “Australian Survivor”

I’ve been pretty disappointed with the current season of U.S. “Survivor.” While there are interesting characters, the game is too bogged down with random twists and advantages to be much fun to watch. Enter: “Australian Survivor.” There are three seasons available on Paramount+ and man, what a refreshing experience they were! The show is largely the same, but it runs over 50 days instead of 39 (29 this season). This leaves it with a lot more emphasis on camp life and the interactions and strategies of the contestants. There are also a much more reasonable number of twists and turns. On top of that, all three of these seasons had fantastic casts. The last two had winners who I think are probably my favorite two winners of ANY “Survivor” season, so that’s really saying something. I definitely recommend it to fans of the show.

Kate’s Picks

Video Game: “Animal Crossing: New Horizons”

While it is true that I highlighted this game back in March of 2020, when it dropped, I’m coming back to it as a non-book highlight this month. I’ve been playing AC:NH since it came out, though it had been far more casually than it had been in the first few months. And then, Nintendo dropped a significant update at the beginning of November! And boy was there a lot to explore! My character’s island has a bunch of new things to toy with, from a coffee shop, to a new island tour involving a boat captain, to a new shopping and services feature where you can get your fortunes told, to my favorite new thing, FARMING AND COOKING! Yes, you can now grow your own crops, something the game kind of had already with fruit trees and pumpkins, but now it’s added more vegetables as well as recipes you can create with the bounty you grow. And given that November saw the start of explosive COVID growth here in Minnesota, having this escape to help soothe my anxiety has been much appreciated.

TV Show: “CSI: Vegas”

Back in high school my family had the TV shows that we would all sit down as a family and watch, specifically “The X-Files” and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”. But there were a couple that were uniquely shows that were for me and my Dad to watch together, and one of those was the original “CSI”. He recently told me that they had rebooted the show with new people called “CSI: Vegas”, and when I started it I was immediately a high schooler again, obsessed with this techy (if super unrealistic) procedural involving a crime lab in Las Vegas. As mentioned it’s a new lab team this time around, but we do have extended appearances from Gil Grissom and Sara Sidle, two of the original characters who are now married and helping the lab go through some old cases in order to help exonerate the lab from accusations of malfeasance. I love seeing Gil and Sara, but I also like the new team members. Especially Allie Rajan, a CSI who is determined, sweet, and possibly harboring feelings for a colleague. Sounds a lot like Gil and Sara, to be honest. Hope this show sticks around, because I’m loving it.

Podcast: “National Park After Dark”

I talk a lot on here about how I’m not really an outdoors person, but I do have to make exceptions when it comes to the National Park System. I LOVE OUR NATIONAL PARKS! I’ve been to a handful across the country and hope to visit many more. I also love real life mysteries and true crime stories, so “National Park After Dark” is obviously a podcast that I fell in love with. It’s hosted by National Park enthusiasts Cassie and Danielle, and covers stories of survival, tragedy, and the just plain unexplained in our National Parks. From the Yosemite Killer to haunted trails to a plane crash on Mount Rainier/Tahoma, they cover a lot of interesting stories that I am eating up like popcorn. And I’m adding more and more parks to my list of ‘must sees’. Well, they’re ALL must see, but perhaps bumping a few up in terms of priority.

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