NOT OPTIONAL takes a quick weekly look at some essential releases, some recent, some not.

Iyanla Fix My Life, “Fix My Rap Star Life”
I’d never heard of Iyanla Vanzant before this week (probably because I’m not a big watcher of the Oprah Winfrey Network), but the second-season debut of her bizarro life-coaching show, Iyanla Fix My Life, made the wider Internet rounds recently because of its reluctant subject, DMX. On the 90-minute episode, Vanzant attempts to reunite the clearly addled and addicted rapper with his son, Xavier. It’s by turns exploitive and dripping with pathos—and the rare example of a reality show actually capturing something real. DMX is in a shitty place, high and belligerent, and there’s no storybook ending to this meeting. I’m not sure how Vanzant’s plea for Twitter hash-tagging (#supportDMX) is actually going to help Earl Simmons get his life together, but perhaps if he sits down to watch this episode—in which he lashes out at the host, then retreats, then shares a loving moment with the son he hasn’t seen in years—he’ll realize there’s a real problem. Let’s just hope he doesn’t end up in the hands of Dr. Drew. [Josh Modell]


Dr Pepper Tall Boys
I was in Palm Springs for Coachella this past weekend, and while I saw a lot of good bands, talked to good people, and ate good food, the one thing that I’ve thought about most since is, weirdly, this Dr Pepper Tall Boy I found late one night at a liquor store. At just $.99, the tall, icy 16-ounce can hit the spot. It wasn’t too much pop, and it wasn’t too little. It was perfect, basically—and they had tall boys of Coke, too, so intriguing. Unfortunately, the information I can find about the cans online is sketchy at best. People have reported seeing them in Tucson and Orlando, but apparently whether or not a larger can of Dr Pepper is available in your area is up to your local bottling company, which essentially franchises out the recipe and rights from the company. So, Chicago-area Dr Pepper bottlers, expect a ton of calls from me very soon. [Marah Eakin]

Flip Flop Fly Ball: An Infographic Baseball Adventure
With baseball season underway, it’s time to celebrate America’s national pastime the traditional way: with dozens of infographics. Flip Flop Fly Ball, based on Craig Robinson’s website of the same name, is a puckish account of the major leagues filled with elaborate charts and diagrams. These data visualizations are used to answer questions about the game that nobody ever thought to ask, like, “If you combined all the pitches from one major-league season into a single huge pitch, how far would it go?” Robinson presents a precise illustration of the globe to show that the mega-pitch would reach from San Diego to Mumbai. While a book of diagrams about America’s most lackadaisical non-golf sport might sound dull, Flip Flop Fly Ball is funny and occasionally profound. Flipping through its pages, you get the sense that the book was born mostly from idle musings that struck Robinson as he watched a game and nursed a cold beer. An illustration of a fan holding up a “John 3:16” sign, for instance, leads to a rumination on pitchers who finished the season with 3-16 records. If the annual Baseball Prospectus is the Bible for dyed-in-the-wool baseball nerds, then Flip Flop Fly Ball is the tome for the more casual dorks in the stands. [John Teti]


Wired iPad app
I subscribe to an aspirational number of magazines, as in I aspire to stay on top of them all, but always fail. The only one I read cover to cover every month is Wired, because the stories are almost always interesting and well-written, even if it’s a topic that wouldn’t necessarily hook me. It took a silly amount of time for me to realize that a technology-oriented magazine probably has a good iPad app, and now it’s the only way I consume Wired. Beyond the extras that a print magazine can’t provide (videos, interactive layouts, etc.), it has a lot of nice touches that similar apps wouldn’t think to include, like short animations of the design components. Yes, it’s a nerdy thing to enjoy, but it speaks to Wired’s attention to detail and overall commitment. [Kyle Ryan]