As we’re already well into March, it’s no surprise that I had a hard time with this Popgirl issue. Even with Leap Day, the month felt incredibly short, so I didn’t think I had a lot to say about February. To trick myself into writing, I forwent the format and ended up saying a bit more than expected. Enjoy:
Having extra time off in February allowed me to watch a lot of movies. Women love women-led content: here’s looking at you, Birds of Prey (2020), Hustlers (2019), and Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019).I even saw Little Women (2019) in theaters and loved it so much I wrote a blog about it. I also experienced the Taylor Swift: Miss Americana (2020) and Homecoming: A Film by Beyoncé (2019) documentaries. Each film is worth watching in my opinion, but Birds of Prey stands out as a joyful proposition for why more female-driven superhero movies should exist.
2020 Reading Challenge update: I read two books in February. Not quite as impressive as the 14 I managed the month before, and even worse, I wouldn’t recommend either book. If you have any “must-read” suggestions to help end this reading drought, drop them in the comments!
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.
Well, here we are! The end of an era. I love how fresh a new year feels even if it’s all in my head, and closing out a decade feels even more significant. That said, I couldn’t miss the opportunity to share some of the most flavorful, buttery pop goodness I enjoyed over these past 10 years.
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful and committed citizens can change the world.
5. Nostalgia trip: The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (2017-) In this decade, Amy Sherman-Palladino returned with A Year in the Life of the Gilmore girls, but also:The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, featuring the ASP signatures I’ve come to know and love set against the sights and sounds of the late 50s/early 60s. For more tv that kicks nostalgia into high gear, watch Stranger Things.
4. Under the wire: Succession (2018-) In 2019, I found a new drama fix with Succession, a delightfully messy family dramedy. The writing on this show is so superb that pretty much every episode is better than the last. It’s a disaster and I love it! A less dramedy featuring a not-quite-as-horrible-yet-still-wealthy(ish) white family that I loved this decade is Schitt’s Creek. Watch them back to back for a truly fun time.
3. Purely addictive:RuPaul’s Drag Race (2009-) I discovered RPDR well after it began airing and it was a definite entertainment highlight for me this decade. It’s camp, high-stakes reality TV where talented, beautiful and hilarious queens battle for a chance at $100,000. Honorable mention goes to Terrace House: Boys & Girls in the City, a Japanese reality show with all the charm and drama you can ask for.
2. Try not to laugh challenge: New Girl (2011-2018) Who’s that girl? It’s just a great sitcom. For a long time, I felt like New Girl was this generation’s Friends until I realized that Friends still holds that title for many people. Still, even with ups and downs in the writer’s room, this show was always warm and happy, like a comfort food I kept returning to. I quote the cookie scene and many of Max Greenfield’s one-liners to this day. Note: If you’re looking for more lighthearted viewing, I also found a happy haven in the likes of Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Bob’s Burgers, Speechless, and The Good Place.
1. Best of the best: The West Wing (1999-2006) In my final years of college, I invested almost as much time studying the plots of The West Wing as I did for my degree. Though the political drama ended well before the 2010s began, it has drive and heart that spans decades.
Note: My top title that aired this decade is Gravity Falls. It’s a wonderfully weird animated series.
5. In the nick of time: Knives Out (2019) Gosh, I loved this movie. We all need a little more whodunit in our lives. Especially with Rian Johnson at the helm. The dialogue, twisty plot, and star-studded cast crackle on screen. It’s a must-watch! PS: Olivia Wilde’s Booksmart earns a very close second in this category.
4. Simply magical. Tangled (2010) It’s hard to believe that Tangled is only ten years old. The re-imagining of the classic tale of Rapunzel is littered with delightful characters and musical numbers. Plus, it has the most romantic scene in any movie ever (secret cupcakes!) and the damsel gets to be the hero in this one. For more magic, watch About Time, Cinderella (2015), and in my personal opinion, Star Wars: The Last Jedi – a very magical movie indeed.
3. A Good™ time:Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (2010) There is so much to love about this Edgar Wright film. It pays beautiful homage to the comic of the same name and has dozens of quotable moments that stick with me even today. Plus, Anna Kendrick. Honorable mentions in this category include Thor: Ragnarok, Pacific Rim, Solo: A Star Wars Story and Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse.
2. So powerful you could kill a man: Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) I will never forget how I felt when I watched Mad Max: Fury Road for the first time. The cinematography and soundtrack alone were enough for me to ascend, and the cast brought everything to an entirely different level. For other films that entertain in this very specific way, see also: Gone Girl and A Simple Favor.
1. Cream of the crop: Pitch Perfect (2012) Did Kay Cannon bring modern movie musicals back to the silver screen? Maybe not, but this Anna Kendrick stan sure did love the effort. While the other PP movies released in this decade aren’t worth discussing, I feel like all the joy, music, and rom-com goodness of Pitch Perfect blend together to create my very top movie of the 2010s. Another musical masterpiece from this decade is, of course, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again.
Don’t you want to be alive before you die?
Books Everyone Should Read
10. Scott Pilgrim by Bryan Lee O’Malley For a Good™ time… call the Scott Pilgrim graphic novel series. Scott is a complete mess that you learn to love over the six volumes in his story. And even if you don’t love Scott, I guarantee you’ll enjoy the journey he takes and characters he encounters along the way.
9. The Sky is Everywhereby Jandy Nelson A book for those who revel in the essential mess that is life. Nelson’s I’ll Give You The Sun is another affecting page-turner, too!
8. The Raven Cycleby Maggie Stiefvater Sometimes you just gotta read purple prose about magical realism! You can clutch Blue Sargent and her raven boys from my cold, dead hands.
7. The Hawkeyecomics by Matt Fraction and David Aja Okay, this looks… GOOD. If you’re wanting an entry-point to get into comics, I can’t recommend Fraction and Aja’s Hawkeye enough. Let’s all rejoice for idiot superhero, Clint Barton!
6. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz For a novel, this book sure does read like poetry. Benjamin Alire Sáenz is the undisputed king of coming-of-age stories.
5. The Opposite of Loneliness: Essays and Storiesby Marina Keegan This is a very quick yet energizing read. Laugh and cry at the beautiful words written by the late Marina Keegan. Another posthumous read of a different sort: I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara.
4. The Crazy Rich Asians trilogy by Kevin Kwan Each book in this series is more over-the-top than the last and full of outrageous drama that you’ll have to read to believe. I adore China Rich Girlfriend (book two) the best of all, but found each one engaging in its own way. Kwan describes food so well in these pages that I often wished I could be in Singapore to have a taste-test while I was reading.
3. Good Omensby Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett With lines like “there was never an apple, in Adam’s opinion, that wasn’t worth the trouble you got into for eating it,” this book is an instant classic. Plus, now you can follow up your reading by enjoying the Amazon series of the same title. A win-win.
2. The Defining Decade by Meg Jay, PhD If you’re in your twenties or at a crossroads in your life, you should read this book. I read it not long after finishing college and found it insightful and empowering in a time where I was very much not sure what was coming next. Check out You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb for more thoughtful reading.
1. All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr A World War II novel that draws you in and captivates you until the very last page. I cannot recommend it enough. I used to describe it as The Book Thief for adults, even though I think adults can (and should) read TBT too. All The Light We Cannot See is the most beautiful, stirring book I read in this decade.
Remember that life is not meant to be wasted, we can always be chasing the sun.
And there you have it. My decade in entertainment all wrapped up. A few other odds and ends worth mentioning are as follows:
Austin Rogers’12-day run on Jeopardy!in 2017. You guys can keep Jeopardy James, in this house we only recognize King Austin. Lin Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton, a musical tour de force that I was lucky enough to witness with my own eyeballs at the FOX. The Enneagram, a personality typing system that grows your awareness of how others operate and not just your own. I always tell people to take the longer test. FWIW, I’m a type six. Kelly Mindell of StudioDIY (+ Jeff and Arlo, too!) The Mindells really do make life a party, and I love following along. The ever-nerdy yet incredibly fun New York Times Crossword App that lets you play a mini-crossword for free every day. The UNHhhh webseries because Trixie and Katya are some of my favorite queens around. Dragon*Con, Georgia’s answer to Comic-Con and a genuinely fun experience. I only attended a handful of times, but I always loved the gathering of fellow weirdos to confuse other ATLiens. The Daily Skimm, a useful newsletter from TheSkimm that shares info-bites on what’s happening in the world every weekday. My Favorite Murder, the true crime podcast that we deserve. And the only good thing about Apple products: kids using Animojis.
If brevity is the soul of wit, writing a lengthy pop culture decade recap is the soul of egoism. Thanks for reading, and see you next year! 🙂
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?
My calendar says it’s June now but I just don’t believe it! We had five whole weeks of May but it feels closer to five days, and I am in no way exaggerating. Perhaps the busy nature of the month is why I wasn’t as tuned in to pop culture for May, we just don’t know!
Something Great (2019) I’m grateful to this movie for making me laugh and also for gently letting me know that I needed to listen to Lizzo’s latest album. I need more female-focused movies written and directed by women, please and thank you.
Killing Eve (S1) Listen, Sandra Oh is a brilliant presence and I have not enjoyed a fictional psychopath like Villanelle since Luther’s Alice Morgan – though Killing Eve’s freshman season was thankfully not as dark as early Luther. All things considered, Killing Eve brought some welcome variety to my standard sitcom fare.
Shazam! (2019) I may be a Grinch about most superhero movies these days (Age of Ultron really did a number on me) but I’m always up for a cinematic adventure with my brothers, and Shazam! was on the agenda. Having recently fallen in love with Zach Levi – thank you, ASP – I knew at the very least I’d enjoy watching his face on the silver screen. But I was pleasantly surprised by Shazam! with all its heart and glory. You guys can have the Avengers, I’ll take the Shazam Family any day.
Chef’s Table: Pastry (E1)
“I think the world is more often your oyster when you approach it with more of a childlike sensibility. The world is a more curious place. It’s a more beautiful place. It’s not always sunshine and rainbows, but within any given day in life, there should always be a moment where the weight of the world is just a little bit lighter on your shoulders.”
The Christina Tosi episode of Chef’s Table: Pastry is magical and wonderful and will definitely make you want to eat a cookie. I loved learning about Tosi’s journey as a chef and how she started working with Momofuku restaurateur and champion of ugly food, David Chang. It’s always refreshing to see successful people be transparent about how much hard work and courage to fail it really requires to make it, whether that’s with a popular bakery or something entirely different.
The Creative Types Test I’ve always loved surveys and personality quizzes, so when Adobe released a test to help individuals better understand who they are as creatives, I immediately took it. With different animations for each question, the test itself is a fun experience and unique tribute to creativity all on its own. Whether you realize it or not, everyone has a creative type, so I highly recommend you check it out! P.S. I took the test multiple times, and each time I was ID’d as The Artist with strength in my ability to bring ideas and concepts to life. Fun!
Superstore (S4 Finale) Y’all ever watch something with the perfect balance of lighthearted idiocy while still tackling real social issues? May I introduce you to the season four finale of Superstore?
What I listened to Cuz I Love You, Lizzo’s thoroughly enjoyable third album. ‘Like a Girl’ inspired me to create a playlist of similarly-themed tunes. On Mother’s Day, I played Sara Bareilles’ bonus track from Amidst the Chaos and definitely Did Not Cry. This cover of the classic Lizzie McGuire Movie hit, ‘What Dreams are Made Of’. While driving to Elliott Morgan’s home state, I checked out a few episodes of The Fundamentalists podcast (Pete’s accent is dreamy). New CRJ, ‘Too Much’ is just enough for me. ‘Stay Young’ by the talented Maisie Peters. Also, this.
What I wore I maintain a very lazy style Instagram and these were two of my favorite looks from last month:
This ain’t it.
99 Percent Mine by Sally Thorne Yet another book that just uses twinhood as a device even though I fully went into it expecting to read a Twin Book.
ME! by Taylor Swift I’ll admit it: I am stuck in the not-so-distant past and long for every Swift endeavor to be as phenomenally fun as 1989. That said, this is not a great song. Thanks.
Pop of the Month
Michael Buckley (former YouTuber, current life coach, all-around great human) went on the Valleyfolk’s podcast and I loved every minute. Particularly here for the last 20ish minutes or so, where Michael shares so many gems about this human existence we all share. In the words of Alana Fickes: “Big fan, first time realizing what you’re about and I’m so excited.”
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!