Everything Our Editors Loved in April


Some Outside editors spent April climbing Mount Everest and exploring the Amazon tepuis through books and movies. Others have turned to shows chronicling scams and scandals. Here’s everything we enjoyed last month.

What we read

It’s officially Everest season, one of our favorite times of the year here at Outside. If you need something to dig your crampons in between mountain news updates, grab Amy McCulloch’s debut adult album, Breathless. It’s a high-altitude thriller (“death in the death zone”, as she describes it) about what happens when you can’t trust your team members on one of the highest peaks. dangerous in the world: The 26,781 foot Manaslu in Nepal. It may be fiction, but the story is built around real mountaineering experiences: McCulloch began writing it while she was still in Manaslu herself, fresh off her first summit of 8000 meters. Start reading now and you can finish just in time to listen to our podcast episode with McCulloch on May 18! —Maren Larsen, podcast producer

I’ve been ripping through some weird fantasy fiction this month, including The Strange Case of Rachel K, a collection of short stories by Rachel Kushner set in Cuba. The pieces give the impression of having been written with a knife: precise, sharp and powerful. Then I read nobody talks about it, by Patricia Lockwood, which looked like it had been typed into a text bubble on an iPhone. The main character of the book is a woman who is constantly online and whose brain seems to have been fragmented by the use of social media. Reading it felt like I was in an alarming mirror – my own thoughts jump, jump and scatter like his. Finally I read Daryl, by Jackie Ess, which looked like it had been scribbled in a journal. The narrator is a white man whose sexual inclinations and complicated relationship with masculinity bring him into marginal communities and experiences in his hometown of Eugene, Oregon. Warning: this is explicit and strange. But it’s also awesome, and Ess is quickly developing a cult following. —Abigail Barronian, Editor-in-Chief

What we listened to

Spoiler alert: everything going on these days is really stressful. I’m grateful I started the escape podcast Low culture boil last month, losing myself in the pop culture zeitgeist with hosts Rax King, Courtney Rawlings and Amber Rollo. Each episode delves into a specific, often somewhat mundane topic: Evian, the Outback Steakhouse, Lisa Frank and the mall staple, Spencer’s. Rather than smirking at these topics, the hosts opt for a tone of delight and curiosity. There’s a historical element to every episode (did you know the first selfie was taken in 1839?), but I appreciate the rabbit holes of tangent detail the most. Do I need know that Yankee Candle has a Bavarian Christmas village with faux snow all year round? Do I need know that Santa Claus is airlifted to this village every winter? No, but that’s the fun of a nostalgic podcast that doesn’t take itself too seriously. —Daniella Byck, Associate Editor

What we watched

Hollywood seems determined to prove the crooks right – that’s what I take from the recent series of shows about famous crooks. Netflix is ​​ridiculously bad Invent AnnaElizabeth Holmes biopic on Hulu The stalland Apple TV’s WeWork drama We crashed all spend a great deal of time and energy exploring the apparent societal forces that drove each protagonist toward deception. So much so (in my opinion) that all three ignore Occam’s razor of crimes: some willingly steal from others to get rich. This yin and yang takes center stage in new Netflix documentary bad vegan, which chronicles the high-profile demise of Pure Food and Wine, a trendy raw vegan restaurant in Manhattan that was a haunt for health-conscious celebrities. The restaurant’s founder, Sarma Melngailis, and her ex-husband, Anthony Strangis, were arrested in 2016 for illegally embezzling $2 million from the business to pay for lavish trips and gambling debts. The documentary explores the Melngailis’ claim that she was an unwitting co-conspirator in the fraud and was actually under the cult charm of Strangis, a Florida con man and answering machine for Alec Baldwin’s Twitter. Of all the explanations for the fraud, bad vegan is the weirdest yet. Melngailis, a statuesque blonde with an Ivy League upbringing, says Strangis convinced her he could grant immortality to his beloved dog Leon. She trusted him when he said he was a special forces agent with access to millions, despite eating fast food and being overweight. And when Strangis ordered her to take ten-day trips to Italy — and wire her hundreds of thousands of dollars — Melngailis said she had no choice but to obey. There are of course a few problems with this explanation, not the least of which is that Strangis comes across as an incredible Svengali. And that Melngailis’ description of the prison she apparently lived in sounded pretty fancy and funky: a constant vacation eating amazing food and not working. Is Sarma Melngailis a fraud or a victim? At the end, bad vegan try to leave the question unanswered. But really, it’s not that hard to figure out. —Fred Dreier, Articles Editor

Since the 14 seasons of Degrassi: the next generation arrived on HBO Max in March, I relived most of the show”peekaboo bananasmoments. The Canadian teen drama is one of the longest-running TV franchises in the country, starting with Degrassi Street Kids in 1979. I started watching The next generation (2001 to 2015) in fourth grade, so seeing the show’s tweens and teens navigate middle school and high school was a formative part of my teenage years. But now that I’m a few years away from proms and pep rallies, I’m enjoying Degrassi’the campy absurdity. There’s a short-lived group called PMS, which stands for Paige Michalchuk and the Sex Kittens. There’s a girl who decides to stop faking her pregnancy, saying on school video announcements, “I had a miscarriage – such a shame.” Among DegrassiGuest stars are Billy Ray Cyrus, Perez Hilton and Alanis Morissette. The acting isn’t great, and the show becomes much less watchable after season seven. But it’s at least worth seeing where Drake, who played basketball star-turned-rapper extraordinaire Jimmy Brooks, got his first chance at fame – you could say he “started at the bottom”. -Isabella Rosario, Associate Editor

I watched The Last Tepuis, a National Geographic Earth Day special, which chronicles an expedition to the Guyanese Amazon to help a veteran biologist named Bruce Means identify new species of frogs. The species in question, however, resides above dramatic tepuis: thousand-foot cliffs never climbed. Enter Alex Honnold and a team of support climbers, who hatch a plan to transport 80-year-old Means to the cliffs so he can catalog the wildlife there. The ending is a bit anticlimactic – it turns out it’s quite difficult to carry an elderly person up a lonely jungle wall – but there are some very cool climbing scenes in stunning landscapes, and Honnold and company collect tadpoles to take to Means. —Luke Whelan, Editor

Anatomy of a Scandal, streaming on Netflix, is a how it’s gonna end series pressing many of the buttons viewers will experience in these times: privilege, power, #MeToo and the victimization of rape victims. I was first drawn to the prospect of watching Michelle Dockery (who played Lady Mary in Downton Abbey) portray someone modern and boast an equally well-chosen cast of actors whose characters take sides in the case of a British parliamentarian accused of sexual assault. The court scenes (and those white lawyer wigs worn by the women) were entertaining, the premise of how wealth and title can harbor someone believable, and the plot split into six well-paced episodes with a lasting story arc. While I didn’t feel like the ending was completely plausible, it was unexpected and provided some kind of victory for the despised women. —Tasha Zemke, associate editor

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