Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
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5-Minute Star Wars Stories


My 4-year-old daughter has never seen any Star Wars movie, but when she started hearing about them from some older kids at preschool, she became deeply fascinated with the stories and characters. At first it surprised me, but the films are fundamentally a “good guys vs. bad guys” tale, which matches how little kids see the world. While she’s still too young to watch the films—though we’ve watched the various Rogue One trailers a couple dozen times—she can make do with this genius book from Disney and LucasFilm. First, each of its 11 stories can be read, as the title suggests, in five minutes, which helps at bedtime. Second, the stories turn a scene or scenes from each of the seven Star Wars films into kid-friendly stories. (A couple films, like The Force Awakens, get more than one.) The pod race from The Phantom Menace, for instance, is perfect for that. Ditto Rey meeting BB-8 in The Force Awakens. 5-Minute Star Wars Stories isn’t afraid to go a bit darker, too, but avoids getting scary. When Obi-Wan and Anakin fight Count Dooku in Revenge Of The Sith, Anakin doesn’t kill Dooku; he “defeats” him. (Older kids and adults will get what that means.) They’re all richly illustrated and full of the Star Wars spectacle that easily engrosses young minds. Just be prepared to answer lots of questions about Star Wars mythology and plot when you’re done. [Kyle Ryan]

Very British Problems

A TV show based on a Twitter account lands very low on the list of things I could ever imagine myself enjoying. (Remember $#*! My Dad Says? Stop remembering it! It was awful!) So I’m surprised to confess that I’ve gotten a very big kick out of Very British Problems, a U.K. television series spun off of the Twitter phenomenon. The show, which is available on Netflix (the only reason I ever gave it a shot—gotta go to sleep to something), assembles celebrities like James Corden to discuss the eccentricities of British culture, focusing heavily on the mundane rules governing everyday life. Thing is, a lot of the social quirks and niceties they note aren’t specific to Britain; if you’ve ever apologized when someone spilled a drink on you or silently agonized over the awkwardness of holding an elevator (do you privilege the person running for it or respect the time of those already in it?), you’ll appreciate Very British Problems, which could easily be retitled Very Type-A Problems. Although the format is obviously different, this is a series that taps the same comedic vein as Seinfeld, poking fun at the daily frustrations and social neuroses of modern life. I’m a sucker for that kind of precise, observational humor, regardless of which side of the pond it’s ostensibly addressing. [A.A. Dowd]

White-noise machine


I have no trouble falling asleep—I nod off on the bus once a week—but I’m a very light sleeper. Any and all nighttime sounds can and do wake me: breathing, snoring, rustling. (Big thanks for all the fireworks the other night, Chicago neighbors. You can keep your W.) Several years ago, a friend of mine who’d become a first-time parent told me about a white-noise machine she used to drown out ambient noise to help her baby sleep. I’ve since tried a couple of models, but nothing beats the price or efficacy of my HoMedics Sound Spa relaxation machine. I prefer the “waterfalls” setting, which sounds a lot like white noise (that might be why the setting is now just called “white noise”). You can set it for an hour or less, just enough to send me off to dreamland—that is, until the next Chicago sports win. [Danette Chavez]

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