5 Things You Missed This Summer When You Were Backpacking In Europe With No WiFi

The rest of us spent our summers on the Internet like normal people, and now we have a bunch of fun new things to talk about that you aren’t in on. And while we’d love to hear for the dozenth time about the wild goats you fed and the sunrises you saw, we’d like to talk about what we did over summer, too. Here’s a quick briefing on the new media pieces you missed so you can fake your way through a conversation:

1. Welcome to Night Vale (podcast)

Just accept it, podcasts are officially a legitimate and popular form of media. Sure, no one talks about them on TV, but everyone else in the real world is tuning in to these modern radio programs, so listen to your friends and just start already! And go ahead and start with Welcome to Night Vale —a comedy podcast in the form of bi-monthly news report from the strange, fictional town of Night Vale. If you’ve been lamenting for the past 30 years that nothing is quite as good as Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, lament no further. Slip into the world of Night Vale as your host Cecil Baldwin guides you around dog parks (where no one is allowed), Carlos (his hair is perfect), and the City Council (they are watching you, always). You’ll laugh, you’ll sigh, you’ll question your miniscule existence in this vast, vast universe. Currently the number 1 podcast on iTunes, downloads are free and mandatory (the Council will know).

2. Orange is the New Black (TV)

Via Jill Greenberg photography

Surely one of the couches you bummed on in the European countryside had Netflix—in which case you’ve heard of their new break-out original series Orange is the New Black. A comedy-drama that takes place in a women’s prison, the show is based on the memoir of Piper Kerman’s real incarceration experience. Piper (in the series, last name Chapman, portrayed by Taylor Schilling) is a recently engaged upper-middle class white woman whose past life as a drug smuggler (one time, ten years ago) lands her in prison. The show is at it’s best when it strays away from Schilling’s horrified reactions to prison life (though she is, admittedly, very good at that) to instead exploring the other prisoners’ backgrounds through LOST-style flashbacks. The sheer range of diverse women you get to know, including the first trans* character on TV to be portrayed by a trans* actress (Laverne Cox), would make it worth the watch even if the writing wasn’t superb, which by the way, it is.

3. Orphan Black (TV)

I know. It’s confusing. “Can’t I just watch one of the O- Black shows,” you say? No. You must watch both. Starring Tatiana Maslany, this new sci-fi drama from the BBC America follows one young woman, Sarah Manning, as she discovers people who, mysteriously, look exactly like her. Clone drama ensues, and while the show is sexy, funny and smart, the real gem is Maslany, who has so far played six characters on the show and portrays at least four almost every episode. Her performance is truly jaw-dropping, from the accents she flawlessly switches between to the different mannerisms she adapts for each clone she plays. Unfortunately for Maslany, those people over at the Emmy’s don’t seem to watch anything besides Modern Family and Breaking Bad, making her possibly the biggest nomination snub of the season.

4. Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” Video (music video)

If you’ve been within 100 feet of a radio this summer, you’ve heard the catchy R&B hit from Robin Thicke, “Blurred Lines”. It’s a fun song (perhaps less so after the 20th listen), but the hot topic of conversation is the accompanying music video that is full of some good ol’ fashioned objectification of women. It features Thicke—somehow convinced he is the smoothest thing since Cary Grant—awkwardly shuffling about in a three-piece suit, while thin, beautiful, naked women dance around him. Later, Thicke called his video a “feminist movement”. Not entirely sure how he worked that one out. The video, depicting Thicke grabbing at whichever beautiful, naked woman he should desire, will doubtlessly be shown in “Sexism in Pop Culture” units of women’s studies classes for years to come, and therefore is probably worth a watch.

5. Man of Steel (film)

Haha. Just kidding.

5. The Cuckoo’s Calling (novel)

“Huh?” you say, “JK Rowling’s secret book,” I say, “Ohhh,” you say. Yes, The Cuckoo’s Calling is the most talked about, least read book of the summer. All you really need to know is that internationally-famed Harry Potter author secretly published a murder mystery novel under the pseudonym of “first-time author” Robert Galbraith in April 2013. Unfortunately for Rowling, “secrets” haven’t really been a thing since “Snape killed Dumbledore”, and through an anonymous Twitter tip she was revealed as the novel’s author this July. The book had sold a little over 1,000 copies before Rowling got busted, and after which it unsurprisingly shot to the top of bestseller lists. Good news for Potter fans—before Rowling’s name was revealed, The Cuckoo’s Calling received positive reviews from critics, so SEE Mom, I’m NOT just blindly worshipping everything she writes, who’s unstable now?! Man, Muggles, you know?

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