Welcome to What’s the Buzz, 25YL’s feature where members of our staff provide you with recommendations on a weekly basis. In our internet age, there is so much out there to think about watching, reading, listening to, etc., that it can be hard to separate the wheat from the chaff, filter out the noise, or find those diamonds in the rough. But have no fear! We’re here to help you do that thing I just described with three different metaphors. Each week a rotating cast of writers will offer their recommendations based on things they have discovered. They won’t always be new to the world, but they’ll be new to us, or we hope new to you. This week’s entries come from: John Bernardy, J.C. Hotchkiss, Caemeron Crain, Abbie Sears, and Sean Mekinda.
John: This week’s podcast recommendation is the Start With This podcast episode “Idea to Execution.” It is the first episode of a new podcast series from the Welcome To Night Vale creators Jeffrey Cranor and Joseph Fink.
Instead of giving us a finished audio drama, this is the two guys talking about the creative process. It is meant to motivate its listeners to create our own things, and it is effective.
The hosts come from multiple angles at the struggle to start a project, and use enough examples from their own careers that it makes you feel like making something is achievable. I’d summarize but I want you to listen to the show.
But I will say this: they give homework at the end: one thing to consume, and one thing to create. They’re small easy steps, nothing too much to bite into your already-filled time. And the podcast itself clocks in around a half hour. Completely manageable.
This show is going to be helpful to me, I can tell already. Hopefully you’ll find something in it for you too.
Caemeron: When The OA came out a few years ago, I watched it, was intrigued, and then was disappointed by the ending. I am pretty sure I said something fairly disparaging on Facebook, which I ended up deleting in light of the response it got. I just thought that this show, which started with so much promise, took a hard turn into the mystical in a way I found to be silly.
But, as the second season approached, I was convinced by a number of my colleagues at 25YL to give the show another shot. I don’t mean directly—I hadn’t even expressed my feelings about the end of Season 1—but through the excitement about the new stuff I was seeing, and then pieces written in the run-up by the likes of Martin Hearn and Paul Billington.
On a second viewing, I found that my issues largely faded away. I knew what was coming, and perhaps the very fact that I knew made it strike me differently. The thing about the “movements” still kind of rubbed me the wrong way, but the end of the season, which had bothered me the first time around, landed with a different kind of force; it landed, I think, as was intended.
I proceeded to watch the second season this past week, and I think the show just gets better and better. There are certainly things that strain credulity, but that’s part of the point; or, better, part of the question.
It’s fair enough to criticize it on plot grounds (but only, I think, if you aren’t taking it on its own terms). What I don’t think can be questioned is the quality of the characters. Each is supremely acted and fleshed out as a “real person.” No one is “cardboard” here, which is a credit to the writers as well as the actors. And we aren’t just talking about a handful of people; The OA proliferates characters, but each feels true to life. It’s a feat I can only compare to David Lynch: even the character with one line in one scene somehow feels like a real person.
The production is also spectacular, from the direction to the cinematography, sound, etc. It’s a hell of a show.
So, if you’re like me and got turned off by the latter half of the first season, I would ardently recommend that you give it another try. And if you haven’t watched the show, do. If you watched the first season and aren’t sure about continuing to the second for whatever reason, you definitely should. It’s amazingly good. I’ve been thinking about it all week.
If you are a fan of the show, we’ve already written a fair amount about it, and more is forthcoming, so watch this space!
JC: Lately, with the barrage of depressing news and anxiety-ridden updates, I look for a welcome escape to get lost in. Last weekend that escape came with some bonding time with my five year old as we went to the movies and watched Wonder Park. With a vocal cast of Jennifer Garner, Matthew Broderick, Mila Kunis, John Oliver, Ken Jeong, Keenan Thompson, and Broadway veteran Norman Leo Butz, I was willing to give this ‘kid’ movie a shot. And boy, did this kid movie turn to be about so much more.
We meet June, a little girl with big dreams of making her own her amusement park. Her mom, her confidant and muse, helps June explore all the crazy, whimsy rides and transforms her room into the real-life Wonder Park. When June’s mom gets sick, June decides that Wonder Park was just a silly childish idea, and destroys what is left of it before leaving for math camp.
On the way to math camp, June panics at the idea of her Dad being left alone all summer (while June’s mom is in treatment), so she creates a diversion on her bus and treks back home on foot, by way of the woods. Of course, she stumbles upon some oddly placed roller coaster cars, and she soon discovers the real-life Wonder Park that existed to her and her mom is actually real.
It’s a dilapidated shell of what it used to be, but this was their Wonder Park. With the help of a warthog, porcupine, big blue bear, and two beavers, June soon sees the darkness, the anxiety, sadness, and anger over her mom getting sick has decayed Wonder Park, created some “Chimpanzombies” and its main creator, June’s trusty chimpanzee, Peanut, has been lost ever since. More a take on what happens to your creativity when your inspiration ‘dies’, June soon sees that she had the strength within her to keep Wonder Park ‘alive’ the whole time. She lost faith. With her confidant, her mom not able to constantly show her belief in her, June had to learn to trust and believe in herself. I’m not going to give away the ending, because it is so bittersweet and quite emotional, so I’d rather you’re able to witness it for yourself. For a film that I completely assumed would just be a fun romp with some funny talking cartoon animals, it made me quite emotional thinking of all the “wonder parks” I created throughout my own life and how you should never lose faith in your abilities or your imagination. Also for the lessons as a mom, I want to share with my own little inventor. If you can dream it, you can do it.
Abbie: If you’re looking for a hilarious podcast to brighten your day, then Youtuber Drew Monson’s podcast Drew and Drew’s Grandma comes highly recommended.
Drew Monson, otherwise known on Youtube as ‘mytoecold,’ is a Youtube content creator, musician, stand up comedian and actor. Back in January, Drew uploaded the first episode of the podcast which reached #31 in the iTunes podcast charts. Last Saturday (23rd March) the podcast returned with episode three ‘Where in the World’’. In this episode, the comedy duo go into detail about their childhood and experiences had whilst traveling.
Drew and Drew’s Grandma features Drew Monson and his 89 year old grandmother Dorothy; they discuss their lives, humorous experiences and pop culture.
This is the type of podcast that you can listen to when you’re having a bad day, or feeling anxious, and for just under an hour you can laugh and feel like you’re a part of Drew and Dorothy’s lives.
If you listen and become a fan (which you will), then there’s always more Drew to discover. He’s been uploading Youtube content on his channel @mytoecold since 2007, and if you want to discover Drew’s incredible musical talent, you can find his music on YouTube @thepophefakes
You won’t be disappointed.
Sean: Final Fantasy VII is one of those games you don’t stop hearing about. It’s been heralded as a masterpiece for as long as I can remember and everyone who has ever played it has recommended it to me. I’ve wanted to try it, but JRPGs and me just don’t mix. They’re too long and I get bored of the combat easily, especially when I’m asked to spend hours in front of the TV pressing single buttons.
Then, Final Fantasy VII was released for the Nintendo Switch earlier this week and my excuses started to dry up. The port added the ability to speed up the game and remove random encounters. But most importantly it was portable. I could pick it up and play for a bit without having to set up the whole thing on TV. It was time to dive in.
I’ve only played for a few hours at this point, but the experience has been kind of surreal. I’ve picked up a lot about how the games story just from its prevalence in culture, but there’s still a lot that I’m being surprised by. I had no idea the game just started you as an eco-terrorist, and I’m still reeling from the break-neck pace the beginning has been running at. I knew the game played in a 2D space with 3D sprites, but the actual movement was still kind of a twist to me. I wasn’t expecting to have as much range of motion as I did, and I always thought the maps looked confusing to navigate. Yet, I’ve moved through the levels with ease, only really getting stuck on the geometry pathing once.
It’s honestly shocking how much I thought I knew about this game going in, and yet am constantly getting blindsided by elements that are new to me or didn’t fit how I imagined. The whole thing has been a bizarre experience as my mind tries to reconcile with what I expected the game to be with how it actually is. More than anything, though, I think that’s a good thing. I was worried that I was going to have the whole thing spoiled for me and subsequently really not enjoy my playthrough. But with so many twists and turns early on, I’m curious to see what else may not shake out exactly as I understand it to. Looking at you, big spoiler that everyone already knows about!
Those are our recommendations this week, what would be yours? Let us know in the comments! You never know, maybe we’ll check it out and end up writing something about it!