In the early days of gaming there were a lot of attempts to emphasize the "video" part by trying to make movies playable. In the '80s and '90s, this meant janky exercises in laserdisc frustration (Dragon's Lair), CD-ROM pixelation, and failed titillation (Night Trap). By 2020 they had figured out how to make movies actually playable (the Black Mirror movie Bandersnatch being a good example) and one of the best entries in this genre is Telling Lies, a game that creator Sam Barlow calls a "desktop thriller," starring YOU as a former FBI agent who is going through two years of electronic surveillance on four suspects, (played by Logan Marshall-Green, Kerry Bishé, Alexandra Shipp, and Angela Sarafyan). Since the conversations are all one-sided, you have to piece together who is talking to who, and when, and then you have to figure out how much of what they're saying is true, and solve the ever-expanding mystery sprawling out in front of you. The highly-engrossing game debuted on PC in August 2019, but only just yesterday became available on PS4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch for $19.99.
Halt and Catch Fire
As it turns out, Telling Lies isn't the first bit of extraordinary entertainment focused on the advancement of video gaming that Kerry Bishé has been involved in. She was also one of the leads (although you wouldn't know this was the case in season one) of Halt and Catch Fire, an AMC drama that found a second life on Netflix. It had a lot of things going against it in that first season: It was being sold as as Mad Men-esque drama about a brash anti-hero in the Don Draper mold, and that's... kind of what it actually was at first, but with a much clunkier title, and a much less attractive milieu (the personal computing industry in the early '80s vs. the advertising industry of the '60s). But as the first season came to a close, its showrunners realized what the show needed to be was the story of two very complicated women fighting themselves and a closed-minded industry to reinvent basically everything they ever interacted with, and make it better for everyone. Halt began as a cynical look at damaged men laying waste to the '80s, and ended as possibly the most human, empathetic, and rewarding drama that AMC has ever produced. It might sound hyperbolic, but the four seasons that make up Halt and Catch Fire? It's a journey, and one absolutely worth taking.
Another show that began life as sort of a pale (pale-er) imitation of a prestige AMC program? This current mainstay in the Netflix top-10. Yes, Ozark really isn't much more than "The Arrested Development guy does Breaking Bad"—at first. But the show slowly becomes something more than an "unassuming family becomes cog in a crime empire" story. A huge part of its appeal is due to the "Arrested Development" guy; not his work in front of the camera, but behind it. Jason Bateman the director is so, so much more interesting than Jason Bateman the money-laundering anti-hero (Julia Garner and Laura Linney are the real stars of the show), and as Ozark starts lifting whole chunks from the backwoods-gangster epic Justified, Bateman begins applying a horror-film sheen to the proceedings that fits the show's off-kilter strengths perfectly. It's weird to say that the star of Teen Wolf Too is this good at working in John Carpenter's wheelhouse, but these are strange times, indeed.
Dinosaur Jr. at Pickathon
And speaking of cool things happening in the woods, Pickathon's "Concert a Day" series isn't just trucking along fantastically, but it's presenting an extra-special treat for today: Dinosaur Jr's full set from the Mt. Hood stage in 2017. Pickathon themselves describe the sound they made back then as a "grungy, jangly, mesozoic wall of sound" that "went down in the annals of Pickathon history," so if they're offering you an opportunity to literally relive that day in history for free, why the hell would you pass that up?
Silent Reading Party
A lot of people are taking the opportunity to turn the online version of The Stranger's super-successful words 'n' vibes experience into a weekly online destination, a respite from (waves hands exasperatedly at basically everything) and an opportunity to simply... slow up, sit down, and just listen to live piano music while sinking into a good book. If you haven't tried it out yet, tonight's the night, and we'll see you at 6pm. If you have tried it out before? Welcome back. It's a damn nice oasis of low-key bliss, isn't it?
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
If you're looking for a book to read while you settle in for that reading party, why not try Rebecca Skloot's award-winning detective story/science story/true-life-mystery The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (link goes to the Multnomah County library's ebook). Skloot creates a fascinating narrative out of the story of the first ever cell line to survive indefinitely in culture, and deftly blends scientific history with the life of the Black woman who (unknowingly) provided the cells and her family's (mis)treatment by the scientific community. From there, Skloot reaches out to address topics in the history of tissue research, medical ethics, and exploitation of research subjects—especially African Americans.