I started up a monthly roundup newsletter in August. Right now I’m still working out what format makes sense for me, but this is a free look at September’s issue. If you like it, drop a comment and I’ll add you to the list!
“I love being right,” is a phrase I often like to use when I make a wild guess or broad statement mid-conversation that turns out to be true. Although it is deeply satisfying to know the right answer and say the right thing, it’s important to remember that you don’t have to be right 100% of the time. For one thing, that’s an impossible bar for any mortal to clear.
Plus, there’s nothing more human or humbling than the simple act of being wrong. Owning up to your ignorance can be just as empowering as “being right.”
This month, I started teaching at a new school. I’ve had plenty of opportunities to learn to love being wrong as I navigate my new environment. My challenge to you this month is not to actively ‘be wrong,” but simply to appreciate the inaccuracies and uncertainties in life, and try to see what you can gain from them.
📽️ The AppleTV+ series Little Voice is a bite-sized example of the collaborative magic that happens when Sara Bareilles and Jessie Nelson come together (they also worked on “Waitress”). I’m linking my favorite on-screen performancefrom Brittany O’Grady for your enjoyment, but if you have AppleTV+, I definitely recommend this musical dramedy. 🎵 Aside from the Little Voice soundtrack and Sara Bareilles’ renditions of the same songs, I’ve also been really intolofi hip hop mixes on YouTube, because sometimes you just want to chill out. 📚 Pachinko by Min Jin Lee. The historical fiction story illustrates the 20th-century Korean experience with Japan, following generations of a Korean family who eventually migrates to Japan. For my fellow fantasy lovers, I also have nothing but praise for The Starless Sea. Erin Morgenstern’s writing style is an invitation to escape into a romantic adventure that’s sweeter than honey.
*i.e. anything and everything I’m loving at the moment
Gotta admit, I’m dragging myself across the January finish line.
This month the days seemed to creep on and at times the world felt more chaotic than usual.
Even so, I found moments of enjoyment, from discovering a newfound appreciation for iced cafe lattes to experiencing a Broadway show (The Phantom of the Opera) in Korea. Two things: The Phantom is a total creep despite his tenor, and yes, ‘Down Once More / Track Down This Murderer’ is a top-tier musical fight (read: counterpoint duet).
Reading Started strong for my 2020 Reading Challenge: I wrapped up the Shades of Magic trilogy and was completely enthralled with the storytelling. No idea why I waited years after reading the first book to dive into the others, Victoria Schwab is so good! Revisited To Kill a Mockingbird and still proudly claim it as my all-time favorite book. Checked out some Mainer historical fiction – A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline – and was very pleased with the novel. Another trilogy I picked back up and enjoyed, Chaos Walking. If you’re into sci-fi dystopia, this one’s for you. The tangled and heartening sophomore novel from Mary H.K. Choi, Permanent Record, followed up with her delightfully candid Elle Canada interview. Insights from Jenna Wortham about how social media has irrevocably changed the way we live over the last ten years and getting a handle on that change. A dense yet fascinating read on how sustainable fashion is based around bad facts.
Watching The Good Place final season, which is weird and fun as always. I haven’t watched the series finale yet because I’m not sure I’m emotionally prepared for it to be over. I did finish Atypical (S3), which was surprisingly delightful. Three seasons in, it’s more clear than ever that Brigette Lundy-Paine and Keir Gilchrist are the shining stars of this production, portraying siblings Casey and Sam with depth and heart. I also fell into The Circle (S1) on Netflix, which I found as addictive, yet not as frustrating, as Big Brother.
Listening Old favorites like radio playlists inspired by ‘Life is Rosy’ by Jess Penner and ‘Portions for Foxes’ by Rilo Kiley, plus a collection of all the Fun. albums were on repeat. As far as new earworms, a heartbreaking yet beautiful Kina Grannis cover of ‘Somebody Loved’ by The Weepies, and two very different jams: ‘EARLY TO THE PARTY’ from ASL and ‘Adeline’ by Fever Dolls. Listen here. Also gave the Grammy-winning ‘Saint Honesty’ a few listens because Sara Bareilles is my queen, and fully cried watching this performance.
Writing Lobbying for hobbies, in which I wax poetic about a generation that allegedly “lost hobbies”. Time capsule, a self-indulgent snapshot of where I was ten years ago.
Reading The Royals series from Rachel Hawkins – it’s just fine? I wanted it to live up to Red, White & Royal Blue standards but I’m sad to say both Prince Charming and Her Royal Highness fell short for me. Open to suggestions for other modern royalty books to fit my particular brand of royal obsession.
Watching You know when everyone says something isn’t good but you want it to be, so you try to limit your expectations and have an open mind? Yeah, that’s what I attempted to do walking into Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker. Unfortunately, even with low expectations, I was still disappointed. I love Star Wars, I really do – and I even have been known to enjoy JJ Abrams’ contribution to the world of sci-fi entertainment. But this movie gets a big ol’ eye roll from me. It was a production of nothing, and such a dissatisfying conclusion. You (S1-2*) on Netflix. In truth, I did enjoy the WTF-ery of each episode at first, but it starts to wear thin. I don’t get the appeal of static characters and storylines that don’t evolve. *Full disclosure: I haven’t completed the second season, but with two episodes left, I doubt my opinions will be swayed.
Like I said at the opening, I got to see the world tour production of The Phantom of the Opera this month. It was a magical event.
When I watch Broadway shows, or any stage show for that matter, it always makes me so proud. I can’t help but feel joy for the people on and off stage, who are living out their dreams by making art that people like me can enjoy. I always feel better after listening to or seeing a musical. So this one goes to the grand old institution of campy acting, catchy showtunes, and all that jazz.
In the coming months, I expect to make some changes to this blog, which means Popgirl might undergo yet another transformation. In the meantime, let us all bask in the glow that is the 15th issue of this evolving collection of ramblings that I (and possibly you) enjoy so much.
So good you’ll want more.
Watching Surprisingly, I didn’t watch too much in November. I saw Frozen II in theaters and I agree with Elliott Morgan, Olaf is my new favorite comedian. Speaking of Elliott, I also watched For the old Folks, a heartfelt swan song to the Valleyfolk as we knew it, from editor Kevin Plachy. And this delightfully dumb sketch by Brian Jordan Alvarez.
Listening I’ve been going in on the radio playlist pulled from Maggie Rogers’ latest single ‘Love You For a Long Time,’ which I predict I will love for… a long time. Also ‘Motion Sickness’ by Phoebe Bridgers. And of course, my lowkey holiday mix got a lot of play.
Reading I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara, an excellent read for any true crime aficionado. That said, it took me the better part of the year to read this book. I found McNamara’s writing at once beautiful and engrossing, but considering the subject matter, I could only enjoy it in small doses. Still, I recommend any fellow murderinos give it a read. Lauren Robel On the First Amendment and the Times’ followup. Although I *technically* didn’t finish this until early December: Lori Gottlieb’s Maybe You Should Talk to Someone. To say this is a book about therapy would seriously undersell it, but that is the simplest way to describe it. At times Gottlieb made me feel like a fly on the wall in her sessions as both therapist and patient, and as a naturally nosy person, I LOVED it. A fun look into why we’re obsessed with the Bon Apetit Cinematic Universe.
Writing I shared an overdue update on my life in Korea, complete with pictures and purple prose: Rose-colored glasses.
I’m not mad, I’m just disappointed.
Conversations With Friends I finished my Goodreads reading challenge when reading Conversations With Friends by Sally Rooney. As much of a triumph that was, I didn’t get this book at all. I’ve seen Rooney called “the first great millennial author” but, this work was not for me. The writing style drones on and in my opinion, none of the characters were redeemable in any way. It was a joyless read. My favorite part was also a great example of how irredeemable these characters were: At one point, the protagonist sends a two-sentence response to a pages-long email.
Private Practice Early on in November, I dipped my toes into Private Practice (S1-4) because I was seeking more Amelia Shepherd content in my life. But, unlike its Seattle counterpart, there wasn’t much draw to the show for me despite Kate Walsh and the Broadway alums (Audra McDonald and Taye Diggs) keeping her company. Even once Amelia appeared, I didn’t see a reason to keep watching. Learn from my mistakes and just read the series’ Wiki synopsis instead!
Pop of the Month
Colleen Ballinger’s Childhood Cancer Fundraiser
For about three years now, YouTuber Colleen Ballinger has used her birthday and platform as a chance to raise awareness and funds for childhood cancer. It’s one of the many reasons I admire her. This was the biggest year yet, with donations currently at $144,225, and this amount doesn’t include the $20,000 Colleen herself has pledged to add. The fundraiser will be open for another month if you’re feeling extra charitable this season!
All proceeds are split between the LA Children’s Hospital and Family Reach, the same amazing company I donated to when I participated in Frocktober for childhood cancer last year.
The NYT Crossword App Not long ago, a friend of mine shared the Crossword app and I’ve been hooked on the daily mini crosswords ever since. I keep trying to get others to join me by promising “It’s really fun!!!” but so far have only been marginally successful. So, if you’re a nerd like me, please check it out. It is really fun.
Fair Food I haven’t been to the Georgia National Fair in years, but every October, I begin to develop a very specific craving for Elephant Ears and a strawberry pineapple drink from that one food stall that plays ‘Kokomo’ on repeat. This year, time and space separated me from that specific experience, however, I was lucky to indulge in a Korean fair food experience instead. The Jinju Namgang Yudeung Festival — hosted in my current city of Jinju — is a lantern festival with tons of gorgeously lit views to appreciate and my favorite, food tents with offerings inspired by different parts of the world. I went out of my way to try the “Tornado Potato” and a churro with customary chocolate dipping sauce on more than one occasion.
Watching Grey’s Anatomy (S15) For years, I have joked that watching Grey’s is a chore that I’m committed to seeing through. It isn’t quite in a Hate Watch category for me, but I generally find myself wishing for the Good Old Days (with Izzie and George, of course). That said, I found season 15 much more enjoyable than I have in a while. As McDreamy once said, it was like coming up for fresh air. Succession (S2) I know I talked about this show in the last issue of Popgirl, so I’ll just say that the second season raised the stakes in such a way that I am genuinely nervous to see if they can continue this streak of excellence with the third. I spent two hours of my life watching Brad and Claire, of Bon Appétit test kitchen fame, making sourdoughnuts and subsequently Starbursts and think you should, too. With the likes of Simu Liu and Andrea Bang, Kim’s Convenience (S1-3) is a good time and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. In preparation for the sequel, I gave Maleficent (2014) a chance and was very pleasantly surprised. I loved the visuals and the overall message of this film.
Listening I discovered the Keep It! podcast from Ira Madison III, which has the perfect balance of pop culture rambling and thoughtful discussion about current events. Similarly, the Just a Tip with Megan Batoon podcast features refreshing conversations with delightful guests, such as Koreen Odiney and Alyson Stoner. I got a wild hair to make a Diet Halloween playlist (featuring songs that aren’t actually about Halloween) and then listened to it exclusively* for two weeks straight. Other music notes include Kesha’s ‘Raising Hell,’ the Bad Ideas album from Tessa Violet, and also ‘If The World Was Ending’ by JP Saxe, because of this:
Reading This month was pretty light on the reading front, but I did devour Confessions of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella, mostly because I love the movie. It was a fun, fluffy read that made me feel much better about my own shopping escapades. Let’s Talk About the Yacht Clothes on Succession, because this show was pretty much all I could think about for nearly a month. A necessary read from Kevin T. Porter on how Ellen DeGeneres has diminished “kindness” to a dinky parlor trick deployed for status and profit. And, because I procrastinate, here’s an article I wanted to read but haven’t — on Instagram’s “getting real” moment.
Movies In true scaredy-cat fashion, the only spooky movie I watched was Shaun of the Dead (2004) which isn’t that scary at all. If you like zombie content that moves as slow as the walking dead, give it a whirl. I also watched Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, which was not terrible in execution but deflates as a solid medium in comparison to the first movie.
‘Nice to Meet Ya’ by Niall Horan I’m thrilled beyond measure that Niall is releasing new music. That said, this single doesn’t do much for me. I find it just okay, and the music video made me even less enthusiastic about it. It is certainly branching away from Flicker, but I don’t yet know if it’s a direction I’m here for — though this article on the subject did give me some hope for what’s to come.
Pop of the Month
Sources say “oh my god, this is the best thing i’ve ever seen, no hyperbole.”
The Kid Who Was Pants for Halloween I firmly believe this kid will do great things. In a continued thread, the dad went on to say they dressed as ‘a big shirt’ and ‘purple hat’ at his request “because we love him very much/ don’t know how to say no yet” which is even MORE endearing. Protect this wholesome Halloween content!
When Billie Joe Armstrong said “Wake me up when September ends,” I really felt that. This past month has been relatively uneventful for me, as I settle into #teacherlife and living alone and all that comes with it. Which means I’ve indulged in more TV than usual.
Over 7 million people participated in the global climate strike to demand action against climate change. The conversation around sustainability is much louder and more relevant than ever these days. Seeing a younger generation take to the streets to protest the climate crisis and inspire adults to do the same is so empowering. These kids really are the future, and what they seek to build is worth applauding.
The Valleyfolk Wins NBC’s Bring the Funny
I’ve written about The Valleyfolk before, but surprise! I still love them! I wanted to shine a little spotlight on this group once more because they competed on a reality competition show over the summer and WON. The win is so well-deserved.
This foursome is weird and wonderful in so many ways, and I know they are going to continue doing awesome things with all this new exposure. They talk about the unexpected win in a very gracious episode of The Valleycast. Give it a listen.
Watching Succession (S1) I went down this rabbit hole in the span of two days and enjoyed every messy second. Pulling from a season two quote (because yes, I’m already watching the next season), watching these people melt down is the most satisfying activity… on the planet. Alan Ruck and Nicholas Braun rival each other for most underrated comedic timing. In a surprise twist, Rebel Wilson’s Isn’t It Romantic (2019) was very fun! It’s an easy, lighthearted comedy best enjoyed when you don’t know what to watch. For my personal sanity, I avoid Ryan Murphy shows as a general rule, but Pose (S1) reeled me in. The entire cast is superb. I was behind on Schitt’s Creek (S5) purely as a result of not having cable, but I’m so glad I finally decided to catch up. The Rose family continues to deliver joy and growth at every turn. I genuinely can’t believe Dan Levy doesn’t have an Emmy! Atomic Blonde (2017) I loved it and that’s all I have to say. Honorable mention goes to Derry Girls (S2) for its Dead Poets Society inspired episode, and also every other episode in the series.
Listening The Lover album by Taylor Swift, with ‘Paper Rings,’ ‘London Boy,’ and ‘Soon You’ll Get Better’ all tied for my favorite. I still don’t acknowledge ‘ME!’ as a song. A moody new Maisie Peters single, ‘This is On You.’ Eric Nam’s interview with Grace Helbig on the Not Too Deep podcast, which also inspired more than a few listens of Nam’s discography. ‘Kill My Mind,’ a very early 00s-sounding tune from Louis Tomlinson. Orla Gartland’s latest breakup single, ‘Did It To Myself,’ which applies to any relationship ending, romantic or not. Also, this:
At the end of September, I started participating in a “Fashion Rewind” challenge to dress in the style of ten different decades, starting with the 1910s. It’s been a total blast and the perfect way to stretch my creativity while living out of a limited wardrobe here in Korea. The challenge creators, Audrey (@affectionatelyaudrey) and Anna (@akeise) have been delivering some seriously killer looks, too.
Worse than stepping on a LEGO in the dark.
The Neverending “Comedians Can’t Be Funny Anymore!!1!” Saga
Raise your hand if you’re sick of non-apologies. SNL has had plenty of misses in the past, uhhh, forever… but hiring Shane Gillis without a second thought is definitely one of their lowest points. Particularly on the heels of announcing its first Asian cast member in 45 YEARS. The “boundary pushing” jokes that got Gillis fired from his pending SNL gig included tasteless racist, homophobic, and sexist slurs. That’s not risk-taking, it’s just hatred disguised as humor.
Pop of the Month
Sleep With Me
Sometimes ya girl can’t sleep, and when that happens I usually turn on some rain sounds, pop a melatonin and attempt to call it a night. However, now that I live alone, my brain is determined to have me become a full-blown insomniac. In tandem with my tried and true rainfall app, the Sleep With Me podcast has truly put me to sleep. It’s a rambling collection of bedtime stories for adults, I don’t know why it helps but it does! If you can’t turn your mind off at night, I highly recommend this pod. Did I just age about 1,000 years? Feels like it.
Writing my second recap in mere days, *Carrie Bradshaw voice* I couldn’t help but wonder… are monthly recaps the only type of writing I’m capable of?
I know I can write actual articles and essays, but I haven’t flexed that particular writing muscle in quite some time. Part of it is that I am too lazy to think of creative ideas, and the other part is that I’m too lazy to write them out once I do think of something. Maybe a self-imposed writing challenge is in my future? Who knows.
Whatever writing may come, for now, you’re stuck reading the latest issue of Popgirl. This one is 2+ months in the making, so buckle up.
As sweet and satisfying as a boba drink.
Art Museums Spending a few hours enjoying the work of extremely talented humans? Can’t imagine a better afternoon. I’ve visited three separate art museums in the last month alone, all of which were either free or less than $5 for entry. (Thank you, Asia). So, this is my PSA to check out an art exhibit sometime soon. It’s good for the soul.
The 2019 NBA Finals
Once upon a time, I was really into watching Lilly Singh (you know, the only woman hosting a late-night talk show on network TV) and her daily vlogs. As part of that venture, I learned many things, from the right way to pronounce “Toronto” to why the color of your towels is important. Most of all, I learned about the Toronto Raptors. The Raptors are the scrappiest team in the NBA, from my vantage point. They represent not just Toronto, but the entire country of Canada. They have been a team for over 20 years but it wasn’t until this year that they finally advanced from the playoffs into the finals. The six games they played against the Golden State Warriors were all equally stressful and exciting. I’m not usually a big sportsball person – you may recall my Superbowl experience this year – but I’ll always love basketball. And it was immensely gratifying to watch a team with a lot of heart and skill win the NBA Finals. #WeTheNorth 🙂
Picnics You know what’s not overrated? Eating food outside in a scenic setting. I almost can’t believe* I lived nearby the BeltLine for so long and never once thought to order a pizza and just hang out there. Since moving to Korea, I’ve picnicked by the Han River twice now. It has been such a treat to rediscover the simple pleasures a picnic can provide. *Okay, I can believe it. But my indoor kid tendencies really betrayed me in this instance.
What I watched Kenneth Branagh’s Cinderella (2015). Honestly, I am not sure why I didn’t see this movie sooner. Unlike other Disney remakes we’ve seen recently, Cinderella goes the road less traveled by its unimaginative counterparts. The writing is lovely, the costume department shines, and Lily James is a phenomenal Cinderella. The overall message of the movie is every bit as beautiful as the costumes: Have courage and be kind. Good Omens (Miniseries) – before jumping into this, I was a skeptic. After all, the miniseries is based on the hilarious and compelling novel of the same name by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. But they did it justice, y’all. As a lapsed Whovian, I delighted in David Tennant’s appearance on principle, but quickly found that he and Martin Sheen were ideal scene partners as Crowley and Aziraphale. I was so pleased to see my doubts were unfounded, the performance and writing in each episode is top-notch. Oh captain, my captain. Shortly before leaving the States, I traipsed to my local dollar theater to finally watch Captain Marvel(2019) and I can safely say I would like Carol Danvers (read: Brie Larsen) to murder me, thanks. On a real note, this movie completely delivers. I know it’s crazy, but I’d like to see more female-led superhero flicks. Stranger Things (S3) also happened. Look, I love Stranger Kids. It’s a fun show that can simultaneously gross and creep me out while also making me laugh. Was this my favorite season yet? Not quite. But the 80’s summer nostalgia, complete with a shopping mall, was a dream. Fleabag (Series) Hello. Like Taylor Swift and white women everywhere, I too, love Phoebe Waller-Bridge. She is a gift that keeps on giving. The second season of Fleabag is a wonderful example of just how *much* she gives. For in-flight entertainment, may I suggest the pitch-perfect King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (2017)? Guy Ritchie banter just does the heart good. And finally, RuPaul’s Drag Race (S11). Not watching RPDR when it’s airing? To quote Scarlet Envy quoting Julia Roberts: “Big mistake. Huge.” One of the most enjoyable parts of this show is watching other people share their reactions and opinions online. That said, I genuinely liked most of these eleven-gendary queens and was thrilled with this season’s winner.
What I listened to Orla Gartland’s Why Am I Like This? EP.
‘Worlds Apart’ by Joshua Radin. What’s Inside: Songs from Waitress because Colleen Ballinger is currently playing Dawn in the musical Waitress and listening to Sara belt out ‘When He Sees Me’ is my chosen coping mechanism for not being able to see her perform. This playlist, which is full of indie gems that make the perfect background music for any commute. Sing to Me Instead, a gorgeous album from Ben Platt – I especially love ‘Grow As We Go’.
Four Weddings and a Funeral (2019) Full disclosure: This limited series is still ongoing. As it stands currently, I’d rate the show a solid medium. It’s not bad, it’s just not great, either. I can’t decide if the improv from Guz Khan and overall great acting outweigh the mediocre writing for the series. On that note, who’s up for a Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994) rewatch?
Not Recasting for the TV Adaptation of Matt Fraction and David Aja’s Hawkeye
Aw, coffee, no. When MCU announced they were adapting Hawkeye into a Disney+ show of the same title, I was thrilled. However, my delight over Fraction and Aja’s well-deserved recognition was soured when I realized Jeremy Renner would still be portraying Hawkeye. You only have to read one panel of Hawkeye to see that Renner’s characterization is nothing like the lovable idiot in the comics. Also, Max Riemelt is right there.
Pop of the Month
“For an artist, art is what happens when you let your bizarre, unbidden, unpredictable life steer you into creating things that you weren’t expecting to make.”
I stumbled upon this Amanda Palmer quote (thanks again to the thoughtfully curated Brain Pickings newsletter, this one featuring Palmer on “making art when life unmakes you.”) The entire article is worth the read if you have the time. Palmer’s quote struck me because I read it as I was riding the train into Seoul one day, a fresh American transplant exploring a new city. My life is currently even more bizarre and unpredictable by choice, so I can only imagine the weird and wonderful things I’ll create in this time. What will you make?
Before we get into this roundup, I would like to issue a formal apology to my loyal readers (hi, mom!) who I can ONLY assume have been waiting for the next popgirl issue with bated breath.
At the end of March, I retired to the land of tacos and wildflowers (also known as Texas in the Spring) and decided vacation took precedence over writing my monthly recap. But all breaks, virtual or otherwise, must come to an end. So, I’m back and pop-ier than ever! In this roundup, I’m covering all the notable things I was watching, reading, listening to and just generally loving in the months of March and April.
It’s like Christmas in July came early, I know. Let’s dive in!
March was the last month of my self-induced 90-day social media detox, and instead of completely unplugging as one might expect, I got very into The Valleyfolk. I’d never heard of Sourcefed and only vaguely remembered BaratsAndBereta, but there I was, watching hours and hours of Your Show. Described as “the lovechild of Joe Bereta, Steve Zaragoza, Elliott Morgan, and Lee Newton,” The Valleyfolk is (to me) what happens when comedy goes right. Also, friendship!
Romance is a Bonus Book (2019)
*Stefon voice* This kdrama has everything: A publishing company run by a wacky yet endearing CEO, the beautiful moon, Lee Jong-suk’s permanently cracked lips, intrigue surrounding a famous author, a green onion plant, the Gangnam Leopard, best friends who also date, and did I mention books and people who love books?
Unicorn Store (2019)
“The most adult thing you can do is failing in what you really care about.”
Brie Larson’s directorial debut is made up of everything good and right in this world: color theory, glitter paint, and a great wardrobe. Also the message of resilience and personal growth. Chef’s kiss.
Queer Eye (S3)
Do you ever cry? This show is full of so much pure, top-of-the-line sincerity and generosity that it is difficult to take in large doses… but always worth the sugar rush.
Life Itself (2018)
Full disclosure: This movie is a trip. It takes you on a journey through multiple characters’ lives and ties them all together in a semi-cheesy manner, but I loved it. Pitch-perfect airplane entertainment in my opinion.
Robin Hood is always a good time! JK, I know this is more cut and dry con-artist shenanigans than robbing the rich to give to the poor. Still, Imposters hits all the right notes, with a bumbling found family coming together to take down the bad dude, Parker Young’s face, and a plot that (usually) stays one step ahead of the audience. I’m sorry to see it end.
I’m just a girl, sitting in front of her laptop, asking you to go see live theater. Last month I impulsively bought tickets to see Hamlet at the Shakespeare Tavern® (a playhouse in Atlanta that ALWAYS puts on a good show) and it was a treat with a capital T. I love watching theater kids shine onstage, pouring their heart and soul into the thing they love most. Also Shakespeare = a permanent pop.
What I listened to
Sara Bareilles released her sixth studio album at long last and it does not disappoint. Fast faves: ‘Poetry by Dead Men,’ ‘Armor,’ ‘Orpheus,’ and ‘Saint Honesty’. I made one of those nifty diagrams of all the songs and how they align because I have waaay too much time on my hands.
The This Might Get Weird podcast, consistently funny content that is perfect for the mid-week blues. Cheers, Grace Helbig and Mamrie Hart! Pomplamoose’s cover of ‘Shallow’ that made me remember how much I love their early tune ‘Expiration Date’. Kacey Musgraves’ Golden Hour, which is just perfect. And on another Grace Helbig pod, Not Too Deep, I watched/listened to her hilarious “conversation between friends” with Joe Bereta & Elliott Morgan (of The Valleyfolk, wow, full circle!) and insightful interview with Chelsea Handler.
I guess people love being sad? Most of A Star is Born was a miss for me because I don’t usually enjoy Oscar bait-y titles and generally speaking, I want to watch things that are uplifting or fun or if I’m lucky, a mixture of both. Yes, Gaga and Cooper have undeniable onscreen (and offscreen) chemistry. But I don’t find the “hardcore” alcoholic musician and insecure, singer/songwriter ingenue romance particularly compelling. Don’t @ me 🙃
Pop of the Month
Like I said earlier, I went to Texas in March/April. The purpose of the trip was to visit my dearest twin, but I also got the chance to have a fried avocado taco on two separate occasions. My kingdom for Atlanta to open a Torchys!
When I first started watching The Americans, I was still in college, and though I’ve since graduated, I have yet to complete my education in Russian espionage. Despite my lackadaisical viewership, I genuinely love The Americans – and I cherish Erik Adams’ A.V. Club reviews of the drama just as much. I can’t decide if the penultimate season is my favorite, but it is definitely a contender. Kerri Russell and Matthew Rhys are undeniably electric on-screen. I know the show is long over, but I want Russell to win every possible award for her portrayal of Elizabeth. I don’t think this is too much to ask.
John Wick (2014)
I don’t know why it took me five years to watch John Wick. After all, who doesn’t enjoy watching Keanu Reeves doing things? In this instance, he’s driving fast, having mumble-offs with Willem Dafoe, and killing bad dudes with athletic finesse and untempered aggression. I loved it.
Wok of Love
In the Wok of Love synopsis, viewers are urged to tune in and “learn about the passion and love that can be found in the hectic working environment of a kitchen.” It’s perfect. I realize that with every new drama I watch, I say ‘this is my favorite drama,’ but WoL is just so good! The comedy is on point and I fell in love with every character, especially the suspenders and sunglasses-wearing loan shark. Very on brand.
After I finished WoL, I was made to watch this art and I think you should too, for scientific purposes. Because February is all about love, I indulged in a few listens of this Valentine’s inspired playlist. Sara Bareilles released not one but two music videos in anticipation for her upcoming album. ‘Fire’ features the beautiful sounds I’ve come to expect from the artist while also delivering something altogether different. I fell hard for Superfruit’s cover of this 80s classic:
On Being with Krista Tippett
I think we’re such Pavlovian creatures, and we thrive on constant positive reinforcement. We live in an era where the tangibles of that have become very readily available. You can see things like Facebook likes and retweets. And it is so tempting and so easy because they’re concrete. They’re concrete substitutes for things that are inherently nebulous. It’s so easy to hang your sanity and your sense of worth on them. I have certainly suffered from that earlier on when these metrics first became available. They’re right there, and I think it takes a real discipline just to not hang the stability of your soul on them.
It’s no secret that I love podcasts, and I usually gravitate to the comedy genre. Early on in February, I came across Krista Tippett’s “On Being” podcast, and it quickly became a favorite of mine. Krista is a warm yet sharp interviewer and her guests often bring new and interesting ideas into focus. Here are a few episodes I enjoyed most:
A page-turning (er, scrolling) look at book covers that do it for the ‘gram. The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson, for those who revel in the essential mess that is life. I dipped my toes into fantastic realms with Naomi Novik’s Uprooted and an indulgent re-reread of A Series of Unfortunate Events. “A passing glance at this peculiar genealogy reveals how deeply these women’s faces and voices are integrated into technology, even as their names and thoughts and lives are so often ignored.” The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison and a color story on Navy Blue that describes the former as Morrison’s meditation on beauty and pain. I cringed and laughed my way through the painfully realistic portrayal of teen female friendships in Not the Girls You’re Looking For by Aminah Mae Safi.
Listening to Popova’s “On Being” interview made me curious for more, so I’ve joined the Brain Pickings newsletter list. It’s quite dense for a newsletter, but every issue I’ve read has been worth the time-suck. Here’s a small glimpse at what she delivers each week: on art and technology, Popova writes, “Murdoch counts among the ‘multifarious enemies of art’ not only the deliberate assaults of political agendas and ideologies, but the half-conscious lacerations of our technology — that prosthetic extension of human intention, the unforeseen consequences and byproducts of which invariably eclipse its original intended uses.”
PS. I’m halfway to my goal to read 52 books this year. You can follow along on Goodreads.
It’s not that I didn’t like John Wick: Chapter Two. It’s just that I enjoyed John Wick much, much more. Though it was cool to see him fight off multiple offenders with a f’n pencil.
Meet Cute: Some People Are Destined to Meet by various authors
The TL;DR review: Dead family members is a *very big thing* for the authors of Meet Cute. I found this anthology just okay, although some stories were very sweet, Nicola Yoon’s “The Department of Dead Love” and Nina LaCour’s “Print Shop” were two standouts and the others sort of faded into each other.
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (S2)
If you’re familiar with ASP & co.’s fast-talking, coffee drinking mother/daughter duo in Gilmore Girls, it should come as no surprise that I sought out her latest venture. I celebrated the success of Maisel‘s debut and cheered when it was met with all the awards. However, in season two, Midge’s stand-up and many parts of her personality became unfathomably tedious. I began to look forward to the respite of whatever hijinks Tony Shalhoub’s Abe or even the unlikable Joel was getting into. It was a treat to witness a broody Zachary Levi surrounded by the pastel perfection of the Catskills; but when the best part of a sophomore season is the introduction of a new character in an entirely new environment, something is not quite right.
Pop of the Month
I’m not saying a footwear corporation made me cry, but I’m also not not saying that.
My favorite January story is that Hulu and Netflix both planned to release docs on the same subject this month and in a sneak attack move, Hulu dropped “Fyre Fraud” days before “Netflix’s Fyre Festival: The Greatest Party That Never Happened”. Delicious pettiness aside, the Fyre Fest docs provide plenty of entertainment and eyebrow-raises. Personally, I am of the opinion that you should watch both. Each one explores a different side of the story in perfect contrast with the other. Do it. Right now.
Sure, it ended up being more like “RENT: Only a Little Bit Live,” but I loved it anyway. The entire cast shined in both the pre-tape and live editions of the show. I sighed wistfully with every appearance of Jordan Fisher, sang along to every single Roger song, and watched Vanessa Hudgens opposite Kiersey Clemons with rapt attention. In the words of my friend Kathleen, “RENT: Live was good, you guys are just mean.”
Since its unceremonious move to Friday nights (aka where shows go to die) I can only assume Speechless is circling the drain, which is a shame. I love the DiMeo family like they are my own. We’re three seasons in, the writer’s room keeps delivering one hilarious, heartwarming moment after the next. Plus, Minnie Driver’s perfectly styled curls continue to be an inspiration.
The Good Place (S3)
My official, TL;DR review? The Good Place is the good place.
In this season, we were witness to such greatness as Ted Danson flossing, Chidi and Eleanor falling in love (again), D’Arcy Carden delivering a pitch-perfect imitation of Manny Jacinto and all her other cast-mates, more horrible yet delightful puns, Kristen Bell saying the line “I’m a legit snack” (she is), and dozens of other astronomically great moments in TV history. In summary:
While You Were Sleeping
While You Were Sleeping has everything: beautiful leading actors who see each other in their dreams, murder investigation plot holes, and Kim Won-hae, a fixture in practically every drama I’ve seen. I was completely blown away by a major reveal at the end of the season, a twist that secured the title of ‘favorite K-Drama of all time’ in my heart.
A Conversation Between Bill Simmons and Aaron Sorkin
In 2018, I rewatched every episode of The West Wing (well, except for the 9/11 one, sorry guys) so when my brother suggested I give a listen to Aaron Sorkin’s interview on The Bill Simmons Podcast, I didn’t think twice. Most of the sportsball discussion went over my head, but I did get a kick out of hearing Sorkin essentially out himself as a serial plagiarist. Skip about 55 minutes in to circumvent the sports talk.
Full disclosure: I actually enjoyed this season more than its debut. It was weirdly refreshing to pick up with these characters a whole year after the first season ended in flames, and I felt true kinship with Max trying to write. That said, overall, Friends from College lands somewhere in the middle for me. The Friends try too hard to be on the same trashbag level as, say, Jimmy and Gretchen of You’re the Worst, but they never feel quite genuine enough to be likable characters that you want to root for.
The Slack Rebrand
You can tell I’ve been in marketing for a few years because I now geek out over things like a software company rebrand. Speaking as a slack user and design dabbler, I’m not a huge fan of the rebranding, but I did thoroughly enjoy the article they penned on the logo change. Again, marketing nerd.
Taylor Swift Reputation Stadium Tour
In a perfect world, Netflix and TSwift would have partnered up during the 1989 era and we’d all be spared the gratuitous snake imagery and “look, I can dance!” choreography. Admittedly, I had lukewarm expectations when I pushed play on Taylor Swift Reputation Stadium Tour. The concert missed the mark for me, but then again, so did the vast majority of the Reputation album – ‘Delicate’ and ‘Getaway Car’ notwithstanding. Taylor’s enthusastic backup dancers and rainbow sequined dress made entire thing watchable.
The Girls by Emma Cline
This book was a choice. I can’t believe WaPo praised it with “Debut novels like this are rare, indeed.” The 20 horrified minutes I spent reading Manson’s Wikipedia page years ago was far more suspenseful than anything occurring within these pages.
Pop of the Month
“When you find yourself jolting awake in the early hours of the California morning, just know that you have helped mold the world that people like me were born into decades later.” Stephen Aichele to Duane Sherman
Duane Sherman, World War II veteran, received over 50,000 birthday cards after his daughter asked Facebook friends to send a card. Sometimes the internet gets it juuuuust right.
*Gwen Stefani voice* I’m just a girl… who loves to write roundups.
Here’s my collection of Greatest Hits from 2018.
The 150+ Survivors Who Testified Against Nassar
“… as you get stronger, as you overcome, because you will, he gets weaker and he will wither away. Prison is no place for a human being to live.” – Judge Aquilina
Watching the sentencing hearings of serial child molester Larry Nassar was one of the most horrifying yet deeply inspiring moments I’ve witnessed. With immense strength these women stood in the same room as their abuser and told their stories, delivering impact statements in painful testimony against him. Aly Raisman’s statement was one of hundreds of voices speaking about the injustices that occurred at Nassar’s hands. When I watched her speak, I felt so proud and hopeful for the future.
Aly Raisman’s statement is a must-watch. She not only faces her abuser with strength and poise, but also demands accountability from USA Gymnastics, the US Olympic Committee, and every adult who ignored and shamed numerous victims over the years. THIS is what change looks like 🙌 https://t.co/PPpEOKs0Du
The winter Olympics were a highlight of the year. Watching veteran competitors in their likely last Olympics ever is always emotional, just as it is to watch first-time Olympians swoop in and steal the show.