April 2020 Culture and Media review

April 2020 Culture and Media review


So this month was a bit different. The whole COVID-19 thing had me sit more at home and “space out”, to that end, there was way more TV than books this month. Especially one series I got into. More details below.


The Story of more by Hope Jahren

This was an interesting read and a pretty good account of the consumerist world we live in today and how it drives climate change and the destruction of the environment.

Nothing in there is really new if you are already aware of the challenges, but if you are looking for a handy primer. The book isn’t only doom and gloom but also shows our ingenuity and how creative we can be at problem solving.

Rating: 4/5

Caffeein by Michael Pollan

Admit it, you had some caffein today. Almost all of us do. And in this short book / audiobook Michael Pollan does a good job of diving into our relationship with caffein and how it has influenced our world.

Great short read.

Rating: 4.5/5

Opus X - Book 4 - Cabal of Lies by Michael Anderle

There is not a whole lot to say here really. This is a solid fourth entry into the series and I still find myself enjoying it. It does strike a good balance between the personal / character development and driving the larger story forward and building the world.

Rating: 4/5

On Immunity, an inoculation by Eula Bliss

A timely book, even though it’s out for a few years. Why vaccines? Why are they good? Why should we take them if we can?

What made this book interesting to me is that it is told by someone who doubted the vaccinations once herself, yet did her research and came around.

If you have any doubts about the benefits of vaccinations and why you should get one if available, read this.

Rating: 5/5

The Precipice - Existential Risk and the Future of Humanity by Toby Ord

The “funny” thing about books that talk about the future is that often they age badly. In this case, current events really have partially overtaken the book by now. Ord does address a potential future pandemic, one we all get too “enjoy” at the moment.

But this does not take away from the rest of the book. It is an interesting analysis of where we are and how we got here to where we could go depending on our choices.

Rating: 4/5

Providence by Max Barry

I like Max Barry. I think “Jennifer Government” was an excellent and biting satire. “Providence”…. solid. But it didn’t wow me to the same degree. It has solid writing and characters but I think I have read too many similar books lately to really appreciate his style.

Rating: 3/5


1917 (2019)

It is interesting how war movies have changed over the last 30 years, probably starting with Platoon, where Hollywood got away from the John Wayne era of propaganda war movies and more into a realistic, almost anti-war like stance.

1917 is more than latter than the former and much like Dunkirk a small story set in front of a large background that manages to humanize war. Both the good and the bad.

Rating: 5/5

Sonic the Hedgehog (2020)

As a kid I was def. a Sega owner, not a Nintendo one and Sonic still resonates with me. Actually, last year I even bought the MegaDrive Mini to replay some of those games in the way they were originally intended.

Having said that, the first trailer they released for the movie was a giant WTF? Moment considering the Sonic design and the cynic in me wonders if they did this on purpose just to gain attention. Either way, they re-did Sonic who now looks much more like he does in the games and we get a sort of origin story of Sonic’s nemesis Doctor Robotnik, played by Jim Carey.

Is it a cinematic masterpiece? No. But much like Detective Pikachu it’s entertaining enough and doesn’t just exploit the source material.

Rating: 3.5/5

Contagion (2011)

With the current events ongoing, lots of people remembered this movie, so I figured I give it a shot as well.

It’s… okay. Some of the stuff really doesn’t make any sense, even back in 2011, but others obviously ring true.

Is it a “prophetic movie”? No, not really. It’s pretty much a standard “End of the World” Hollywood version of a pandemic. Entertaining but forgettable.

Rating: 2.5/5


Forged in Fire

Someone mentioned the show for me and now it’s been on in the background a lot. I have always been fascinated by metal working and the show really is an interesting insight into how knives, blades etc. are being made.

I am not a huge fan of the ‘drama editing’ that is so common in these types of shows, but there is only so much you can fudge the forging of a piece of metal so it’s tolerable.

Having said that, I noticed that they greatly shortened the actual forging process in later episodes and seem to be leaning more heavy on interview segments. Which is a bit disappointing, especially for the final challenge when they get to make usually an ancient weapon. I really enjoyed the more detailed showing of that in the first season.

As I write this, they are in the midst of Season 7 of the show. I am still somewhere in Season 4.

Rating: 3/5

The Plot against America

I read the book more than a decade ago so I was curious to check it out and…. It holds up. HBO has done a good job adapting the book and I def. do dig the way they brought back the 40s.

If you don’t have time to read the book, the six hour mini-series will make a decent replacement.

Rating: 4/5

Tales from the Loop

This snuck up on me and is based on a Swedish book (I haven’t read). I admit I am a sucker for these aesthetics, similar to the way they drew me in with CONTROL.

The pacing of the show I find a bit uneven and somewhat open ended, though I think this is by design.

I wouldn’t mind getting a second season, there is potential there for the writers to explore more.

Rating: 4/5

Red Dwarf: Special 23 - The Promised Land

I’ve been a fan of Red Dwarf since the ‘90s and it has been interesting to see them bring it back for mini series and now specials.

“The Promised Land” mostly stands up to it, though the aging actors def. had them tone down some of the stuff. It’s still quintessential British, thing old Doctor Who, and for that alone I have to love it.

Rating: 4/5

Night Court - Season 1

I got reminded of this recently and decided to rewatch the first season. I remember watching it when I was a kid and, it surprisingly still holds up.

Rating: 4/5

High Maintenance - Season 4

This has become one of my favourite shows. Whereas earlier seasons focused a lot on “the guy”, in the last two seasons it has morphed into small vignettes with the guy just acting as the glue to tie it all together.

There is a lot of heart and charm in it and Season 4 was just as strong as previous ones.

Looking forward to season 5.

Rating: 5/5


Too much to share here this month. With clubs closed a lot of them in Germany started to stream session every day on “UnitedWeStream”. Greatly recommended.

Internet Videos

Red Letter Media - Quarantine Catch-up Part 1 & 2

Forgotten Weapons

See the metal working theme further up, the history of firearms is also quite fascinating and Ian over at Forgotten Weapons does a really good job at delving into the history of a lot of (often not so) forgotten weapons.

The Chieftain

Continuing with my “weapons theme” here, there is an interesting chap on the YouTubes who is a former tanker with the US Army who goes through the history of armoured vehicles. Regardless of what you think of war or weapons, it’s fascinating to see just how cramped / scary the inside of a lot of these vehicles is.