Hello and welcome to a weekly rundown of popular culture detritus.
Here’s what I’m loving this week:
Television: I recently blitzed through “For All Mankind” on Apple+. This show imagines what the U.S. space program—and the world—would look like if Russia had landed on the moon in June 1969. I’ve known since I was twelve how precarious space travel can be, and this show leans hard into that element. Most enjoyable to me though, are the almost-missable side conversations and throw away lines that wonder how *would* today’s world be different. I rather enjoy engaging in alternative history thought experiments, and this show does it well. Another quality feature is the time jumps at the end of every season—10-15 years pass from one season to the next, meaning the show doesn’t get bogged down too much in continuing storylines that really ran their course.
Podcasts: If you are sensitive to strong language, skip this one, but an absolute delight has been listening to back episodes of 60 Songs That Explain the 90s. Rob Harvilla, from The Ringer, mixes social commentary, personal experience, and the music from my favorite decade and delivers hour-long monologues that often have me nodding my head in agreement. He didn’t stop at 60, and decided to add 30 more. Currently on hiatus, it’s worth scrolling through the back catalog, finding a song you like, and skipping down memory lane for an hour or so.
Film: I have been slacking on my film-watching as of late. I’ve been consistent with my Sunday Night Comfort Movies (most recently, “Clueless”), but we are in this odd lull of film releases, still recovering from pandemic delays, and people just are not going to theaters anymore to see movies. The company that owns Regal Cinemas filed for bankruptcy last week.
I show my students the weekend box office gross every Monday, and the #1 movie in the U.S. last weekend grossed $10 million. That’s not a lot.
It’s a bit of a pickle right now—I want to support cinemas, and I love love love going to a theater, sitting in the dark unable (or is it unwilling?) to check my phone, and watching a movie on a giant screen. Yet there’s not a whole lot out there that I want to see. With the award and holiday season approaching, I hope that changes. If we want theaters to live, we must make like Annie:
Friday Morning Soundtrack: As crass as it may have appeared, this week I listened to “The Queen is Dead” by The Smiths. I don’t think there’s a better sequence of songs than Cemetary Gates, Bigmouth Strikes Again, The Boy With the Thorn in His Side, Vicar in a Tutu, and There is a Light That Never Goes Out. Maybe it’s nostalgia, but those songs made me quite happy Friday morning.
Pop Culture Lesson of the Week: Last week I started an Internet unit with one of my Pop Culture classes and I kick it off by teaching about online privacy. Do you know how much information is available about you online? Do you know about data brokers? Have you ever Googled yourself? It’s worth a quick search to see where you pop up and what information is publicly available—often for a low price. Most of these sites do have opt-out procedures—it’s worth the peace of mind to jump through those hoops.
Have you ever wanted to undo all of your online sharing and go completely off-grid?
What are you watching and listening to that’s worth your time?