My pop culture summer, part 1

Well folks, the eve of summer is upon us. To my mind, it has already passed. How was yours? Mine…wasn’t terriffic. I am looking forward to a new season and am determined to make fall fun. But whatever else I can say about the summer, I have to admit, it was pretty kick ass in terms of pop culture. I saw 4 shows (3 musicals, 1 play); saw my boys play in Chicago; discovered some new bands and podcasts; read great books; went to a great film festival; and even had time to watch (or re watch) some TV. So it wasn’t all bad.

Below is the first installment of my best of summer pop culture picks. Feel free to share yours in the comments!

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Mad Men and more! (But mostly Mad Men.)

It’s been busy ’round these parts lately. Everyone I know had a baby. Well, okay, only two people, but two of the closest people in my life. Hence the lack of blogging.

That doesn’t mean I have been ignoring my pop culture duties. That would never happen. So here are some things I’ve been digging lately.

Mad Men
A few years back, I tuned into a new show called Mad Men, lauded by critics and TV watchers alike. Watched it for about 10 minutes, realized I wasn’t paying attention, turned it off, and didn’t watch another episode until this month. Guys, I don’t know what I was thinking. This show…is SO GOOD. Over the weekend, a friend asked me how it was, and my response was one simple word: “Delectable.” That it is, and not just for Jon Hamm. (Though, lets face it…) Everything, from the cinematography, the clothes, the writing, the acting, the music (THE MUSIC, YOU GUYS. SO PERFECT)…it’s all amazing, and all a feast for the senses. It’s so good that, instead of doing my usual marathon watch, I am limiting myself to one or two at a time. (And trust me, for me, that IS limiting.) So far, I am about 2/3 of the way through season 2, and there hasn’t been one sub-par episode. Also, a word on January Jones: I have not seen her now famous SNL hosting disaster last year. Don’t want to. But in terms of dramatic acting chops? Gal has it. She has Betty Draper DOWN. Do I like her character? Not really, but damn if she doesn’t do a fine job portraying the unhappy housewife.

Also, Jon Hamm is really, really hot. Unlike a lot of hot actors today, he actually has the chops to back it up.

It’s hard to pick a favorite moment (just last night I watched Colin Hanks play guitar; this certainly goes on the list) and, like always I cannot pick just one, so here are a couple of mine from season 1. (Note: All the Mad Men clips disable embedding, so you’ll have to click over to YouTube. It’s worh it, I promise.)

Don’t fuck with Betty Draper, or her kids:

Pete shares his hunting fantasy with Peggy. (How awesome is Peggy, y’all? I love watching her grow professionally.)

Don’s carousel pitch:

Resonates on so many levels, y’all. Also, it’s no secret I am a sucker for nostalgia.

After pitching the carousel, Don thinks twice. (This ties with Matt Saracen driving out of Dillon on Friday Night Lights for best use of a song on TV)

(After this song started playing, I actually said out loud – to an empty room – “Oh, this is PERFECT!” That never happens.)

So yeah, umm, watch Mad Men. Not since Gilmore Girls has a show transported me so fully into another world.

Other things:

* Wednesday night comedies are back! Yay for Modern Family and Cougar Town.
* Sometime over the summer, I started watching Community. Somewhere in the run, I fell in love. Actually wait, I can tell you exactly when I started to love the show. When this happened:

* A few years back, I read what remains to be my favorite book ever, I Know This Much is True by Wally Lamb. I recently read his follow-up book, The Hour I First Believed. While it takes place in the same town, and features some of the same characters, it really doesn’t hold a candle to I Know This Much…  It’s still good, but Mr. Lamb gets a bit too caught up in his own drama for me. Kind of disappointing, because She’s Come Undone and I Know This Much Is True are both masterpieces.

* Is anyone going to the Stewart/Colbert rallies? I kind of really want to. Is it just me?

* Another podcast has been added to my regular rotation: Radio Lab. It took me awhile to get into it, because they have an unconventional style that takes getting used to. But, they do some pretty amazing stories, and actually make science interesting a good part of the time. My favorites so far include War of the Worlds, Detective Stories, and Diagnosis. (Two of which actually aren’t that science-y. Go figure.)

But seriously, guys, go watch Mad Men. That’s really the point of this post.

The best thing you’re not listening to

People of the Internet: After you read this, get thee to Itunes and subscribe.

I recently discovered the best podcast currently running in cyberspace: The Tobolowsky Files, starring the man himself, Stephen Tobolowsky.


You know him. He played Ned Ryerson in Groundhog Day (so I’m told; truth be told, I can’t stand that movie and only saw it once); Sammy in Momento; Hugo Jerry on Deadwood; Bob Bishop the gold man on Heros; and most recently, Sandy Ryerson on Glee. In other words, he is the ultimate “Hey! It’s that guy!” guy.

On the Tobolowsky Files, he tells stories from his life. I know this does not sound engaging, but trust me, it is. Tobolowksy, it turns out, has not only had a fascinating life, but is also a gifted writer and storyteller. I was hooked from episode one, and he had me crying by episode two. My only complaint is that the podcast just started in November, so there are only about 18 episodes so far. I got through the first 11 fairly quick, and have had to force myself to ration the rest out.

Not much else can be said about the show; it really speaks for itself. If you enjoy hearing interesting stories (and who doesn’t?) check out The Tobolowsky Files. It’s in real danger of knocking This American Life out of first place for my favorite podcast. And for those of you who know about my undying love for Ira Glass, well, that’s really saying something.

You can listen to all shows directly here, or subscribe to it on Itunes.

You’re welcome, Internet.

Coming soon

I shall write about most, if not all, of these topics:

1.) The awesomeness of Grey Gardens, and how awesome it was to see Broadway Boyfriend Malcolm play piano on screen

2.) The awesomeness of This American Life Live, and how awesome it was to see NPH on the big screen

3.) My new media love

4.) My new mix of sad songs. (But it’s a good thing)

5.) Watching naked men on stage. No, really. I saw a play last weekend with naked men on stage. I’ll write about the play too, which was excellent.

I’m coming off two-plus weeks of being busy every single day, and just had a relaxing weekend of doing nothing yet managing to be productive. So I’ll be back on track soon, I promise. In the meantime, check out Ira Glass on The Colbert Report last week. Is it any wonder why America loves this guy?

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Feel good video for the day


“That’s cloud. Why would you put a clown above your bed?”

I don’t care what anyone says, I think Music and Lyrics is great. When I worked for a newspaper, I wrote a whole column defending the film, and why it’s secretly really smart and a big joke on the viewer. Unfortunately, I can’t link you to that. (Oh, look at that, I totally can!) Trust me: This movie is secretly brilliant.

And you’ve gotta love a good montage scene.

Attention HBO viewers: Check out Grey Gardens Saturday at 8. It’s supposed to be great. Also, listen to this interview with Drew Barrymore, where she talks about playing Little Edie Beale. You might be surprised how much time, energy, and research she put into preparing for the role.