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Verge Favorites: Ben Popper

Verge Favorites: Ben Popper

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The Verge staffers aren't just people who love technology. They're people who love stuff. We spend as much time talking and thinking about our favorite books, music, and movies as we do debating the best smartphone to buy or what point-and-shoot has the tightest macro. We thought it would make sense to share our latest obsessions with Verge readers, and we hope you're encouraged to share your favorites with us. Thus a long, healthy debate will ensue where we all end up with new things to read, listen to, or try on.

The Feelies - ‘The Good Earth’


This was a tough call. There were a lot of obscure soul and reggae albums I wanted to name, something to impress the crate diggers. But this little gem from The Feelies, which a friend introduced me to last year, kept popping into my head. I think it's the way the album, released in 1986, sneaks up on you. It begins as an understated indie rock record and morphs into this atmospheric adventure, full of clever, psychedelic arrangements, courtesy of co-production from R.E.M’s Peter Buck.



Transplant the Robin Hood myth into the slums of Jamaica, transform it into a narrative fueled by ganja and live music, then wrap the whole thing in a verite docu-drama that mixes untrained actors with improvised scenes. Sounds like a recipe for disaster, true, but it somehow came together into a perfect slice of roots reggae culture at the pinnacle of its art and power. It all makes sense when you learn director Ted Bafaloukos went on to work as the production designer for Errol Morris, helping to craft standout documentaries like Thin Blue Line and The Fog of War.

The Orphan Master’s Son


This surreal trip through North Korea was riveting from start to finish. Every time I thought the story had veered into a bout of magical realism, the author cleverly reminded me that no, life in North Korea really is that absurd, a fitting achievement for a book that won the Pulitzer Prize… in fiction. It’s the most original novel I’ve read in years and the only one with a detailed description of how to survive prison camp on a diet of dead moths and bull semen.

Vintage 'Wired' Magazines


My late grandmother bequeathed to me a dozen vintage issues of Wired running 1995 through 1997. Aside from reminding me that she was a uniquely tech savvy octogenarian, these issues serve as stark reminder of how quickly cutting edge technologies become obsolete, and how wrong even good journalists can be when it comes to predicting the future. Whenever I’m feeling a little down about a piece, I browse through the lavish advertising for fax machines and 56k modems, or stories on the death of Apple and how Nanobucks will soon replace debit cards, and feel a little more optimistic about my own reporting.

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu


I’m the weird guy at the office who arranges his workload in order to spend an hour in the middle of each day rolling around on the floor getting beat up. I train at the Renzo Gracie Academy, a ten minute walk from Verge HQ, and there is little in life that gives me more joy. Jiu Jitsu has a history stretching back to 16th century Japan, but remains ever changing as one of the pillars of modern mixed martial arts. Nothing cures a case of the Mondays like tapping out an opponent twice your size.

Photo by John Lamonica

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