My Pop Culture Digest – August 2020

folklore coverIt’s going to be light this month. It’s been a month of a lot of personal emotional turmoil and change, and somehow in that, I haven’t consumed as much pop culture as usual.

The only TV I watched was some Veronica Mars early this month with my good friend, and I haven’t watched any since he moved last week, and some Better Call Saul for recaps for the site.

I tried to watch the Bachelor GOAT episode for Ali’s season because it was one of my favorites (Kasey has to be one of the most memorable characters of all time on that show) but those GOAT episodes are just TOO LONG and I gave up and listened to podcasts about it instead.

Speaking of podcasts, oh podcasts, this month, I think due to sheer emotional exhaustion that’s been going on for months, I just couldn’t with much other than replaying old episodes of Bachelor-related podcasts from old seasons back in the day.

Most of my pop culture consumption this month was in the arenas of music and books. Some are repeats, and some are new.


folklore by Taylor Swift

Still loving this album more and more, and this month we got the release of the bonus track “the lakes,” a song poem. It’s up there as one of my favorites on the album. I, too, want auroras and sad prose. That whole bridge is giving me life right now.

Other favorites at the moment include “exile” (always) which I referenced a lot in this post, and which you’ll see featured in another post mid-week, “illicit affairs,” “mad woman,” “peace,” “betty,” “hoax,” “seven,” (the poetry of this song is underrated) “the last great american dynasty” (gotta say I never thought I’d hear a Taylor Swift song that mentions someone poisoning their neighbor’s dog with antifreeze but 2020 has had a lot of surprises, so), “august,” “invisible string” and “the 1,” which maybe I can pick out the very first piano chords of? I would love if piano and guitar folklore books were released.

Yeah that’s a lot of favorites, and they keep shifting. I can’t wait to listen to this album in the fall, because it feels like a fall album. I would love to listen to it in the woods. Someday.

Gaslighter by The Chicks

gaslighter coverAnother repeat from last month, I’m loving this album more and more. Current favorites include the title track “Gaslighter,” “Sleep at Night,” (probably my fave fave), “Young Man,” “Everybody Loves You,” “My Best Friend’s Weddings” and “Set Me Free.”

For anyone who likes fuck you songs or mad at an ex-lover songs, this album is great for that.

Such Pretty Forks in the Road by Alanis Morissette

spfitr coverI was at the age for Jagged Little Pill, and album I still have and love, when it came out. I’ve loved a couple of her songs since then but for whatever reason, never got into or even listened to any of subsequent albums in full. I was surprised to see a new one on its release day and thought what the hell, and listened to it. And listened to it. And listened to it. Writing this makes me want to listen to it again.

There are a lot of spiritual themes on the album, which are themes that I have a rocky relationship with, and even some overtly religious themes. Usually that’s not my favorite thing to encounter in a song, but maybe that’s tradition for me with Alanis that started way back in 1995 with “Forgiven.” Whatever the reason, I don’t mind it in this album. In fact my favorite song so far, “Ablaze” has the most overt religious imagery.

Other favorites include “Losing the Plot,” “Her,” and “Smiling.” Like with any and all of these albums, I’m sure that’ll change with time.

Hum by Alain Johannes

hum coverThis one was also a surprise to me (so many surprise albums this year, or at least surprises to me, now that I think about it). And I realize it’s the only one on my list by a dude. I think I’ve been really craving female voices lately, and if I’d been doing these updates earlier in the year, they would’ve been dominated by Fiona Apple’s Fetch the Bolt Cutters and Ingrid Michaelson’s Stranger Songs (which came out last year but which I got into, and I mean really into, this year).

I first heard of Alain Johannes when he and his band Eleven played on Chris Cornell’s Euphoria Morning in 1999. Then I went back and listened to Eleven’s albums (by the way, their first one, Awake in a Dream, is impossible to find now, one of the irreplaceable losses when I lost my CDs at a “friend’s” house many years ago).

Even before Hum, I’d found myself listening to Eleven a lot lately, because I’m working on a writing project, Moonchild, that brings me back to that time in my life when I was discovering their music and on their street team. Then Hum dropped and it was like seeing a friend after a long time away. Alain’s voice and his music, though new, had such a familiar feeling.

Favorite at this moment is “Someone.” Other favorites include “If Morning Comes,” the title track “Hum,” “Mermaids’ Scream” and “Here in the Silence.”

Hayley Williams (of Paramore)

petals coverI just got her new solo album Petals for Armor so I suspect I’ll have more to say about it in next month’s post. So far, I’ve only listened to it once (yesterday) and from the jump favorites include “Simmer,” “Roses/Violet/Lotus/Iris,” “Why We Ever,” “Pure Love” and “Crystal Clear.” Since it’s an absolute first impression, it’ll probably change. I’m looking forward to getting to know this album more.

In the meantime I’ve been a bit obsessed with Hayley Williams’ cover of “Fake Plastic Trees.” I’ve never been a huge Radiohead head (though I know many who are) but this is far and away my favorite song of theirs. Like even if I got familiar with their entire oeuvre, I don’t think anything could touch this song.

Bonus points, from the chemist in me, for working “polystyrene” into a song. Bonus points for being in Clueless. Bonus points for being inspired by Jeff Buckley. And Hayley does more than do it justice, she nails those out-of-this-world notes.

My favorite part might be that she has to start a couple of times, and that she left that in.

Two New Songs from Smashing Pumpkins

This is the freshest, newest thing on here, so not a lot to say yet, just wanted to include them both here.



This month, I finished two books that I was reading for two separate book clubs. And also finished re-reading Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley, though that will have to be its own post for another because I have thoughts.

atlwcs coverAll the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

This book made me feel things. A lot of things. Maybe the first things I had felt that weren’t about my current life upheaval and turmoil or current events, aside from feeling sadness after a close friend moved away (the same friend I was watching Veronica Mars with).

There’s a reason it won a Pulitzer. The writing is so, so, so good. Stark and sizzling. The kind of good that makes you fall in love with literature and writing and storytelling. The kind of good that makes you believe in humanity and the importance of stories. And the story, well, it makes you feel things.

The chapters were so short, and the style was sparse, with a lot of one-line paragraphs, some one-word sentences, and so it read pretty quickly.

Fatal Invention: How Science, Politics, and Big Business Re-Create Race in the Twenty-First Century by Dorothy Roberts

fatal invention coverThis book was for the antiracist book club at my medical school that a couple classmates and I started up. We’re open to all types of books (I’ve been pushing for including fiction and memoir) but we do want to focus on books that relate to the fields of science and medicine. This first book we read was exactly that.

So some of the material in the book was like, yeah, I’ve learned to do some of these harmful things in my medical training. In our discussion, we talked about ways we hoped to circumvent that going forward.

I’d highly recommend this book for anyone interested in science, medicine, genealogy and ancestry, true crime as the book touches on all of these topics.

Currently Reading

I was deciding between This is My America by Kim Johnson, The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett, The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd, 11/22/63 by Stephen King or Paradise by Toni Morrison. Since I want to read them all by the end of the year, it’s really just a matter of which order.

I already own the last three so that plays a factor too. Last night, with no ongoing book to read, I reached for what was closest, and that was The Book of Longings, so I’m a couple of pages in.

I’m also waiting to see what gets picked next, as both of my book clubs are due to pick a new book soon, so that may shake things up too.

Running List of Books Read So Far in 2020

Books finished this month (as opposed to earlier in the year) are in bold.

Before getting to the list, I think I need to say that I went on some serious audiobook bingeing early on in quarantine, and that’s reflected here in this list, which was essentially blank until mid-March at which began some intense listening. A lot of quicker, thriller type reads, and I discovered and devoured the work of Tana French.

  1. the likenessThe Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
  2. In the Woods by Tana French (first in the Dublin Murder Squad series and ummm, the books are waaaaaaay better than the series, which is what we usually expect, but I mean really)
  3. Into the Water by Paula Hawkins (did not like)
  4. The Likeness by Tana French (loveloveloved this one, didn’t sleep at all one night because I couldn’t stop listening, read (audio) twice and thinking about a third go-round)
  5. Faithful Place by Tana French
  6. Broken Harbour by Tana French (personally my least fave of the Dublin Murder Squad)
  7. The Secret Place by Tana French (loved it, read (audio) twice)
  8. The Trespasser by Tana French
  9. The Witch Elm by Tana French (the only that’s not part of the Dublin Murder Squad)
  10. Little Fires Everywhere (this is going to sound bad but I thought the TV show was better, by a long shot)
  11. The End of Everything by Megan Abbott (ehh)
  12. The Janes by Louisa Luna
  13. Educated by Tara Westover (great, highly recommend this memoir)
  14. The Secret History by Donna Tartt (came highly recommended but I didn’t think it contactwas that great)
  15. The Girls in the Garden by Lisa Jewell
  16. Watching You by Lisa Jewell
  17. Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell
  18. The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell
  19. The Third Wife by Lisa Jewell
  20. Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah (made me cry a lot)
  21. Contact by Carl Sagan (for my NOAH book club, this was a re-read but from over 20 years ago – amazing, highly recommend)
  22. Fly Away by Kristin Hannah
  23. Fatal Invention: How Science, Politics and Big Business Re-Create Race in the Twenty-First Century by Dorothy Roberts
  24. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
  25. Mists of Avalon (re-read) by Marion Zimmer Bradley

And if you want to be friends on Goodreads, you can find me here.


3 thoughts on “My Pop Culture Digest – August 2020

  1. Wow, you are such a voracious reader and music listener! It’s amazing that you manage to fit this all in AND also achieve so many of your own (very ambitious!) creative goals on top of that. Heaven help anyone who stands in your way, girlfriend!!! I love how your passion comes through when you write about some of this stuff…your selections make for such a wonderfully eclectic and meaningful mix.

    • Thanks Claire, I’m glad the passion came through!

      And there’s tons of multi-tasking going on here. I listen to music while I work on writing projects, write posts for the blog, digitize old writing and other projects. I listen to audiobooks (or podcasts) while cooking or eating meals, while doing things around the house, while practicing music, while exercising, and so on.

      I read Fatal Invention as an audiobook, so most of that I listened to while on my “dumb bike” so that my mind could be on the book. We had about two months to read it, so it was something that I got through just by continuing to pair it with being on my dumb bike and accumulating hours listened over time.

      I read All the Light We Cannot See in 15-page-a-day chunks, and since there’s so much white space in the book, with short chapters, short paragraphs (sometimes one sentence or one word) that only took 20ish minutes a day.

      And Mists of Avalon, I’ve been reading, inconsistently, at night before bed since the first of the year, so eight months running! There were long stretches in there where I didn’t pick it up at all but mostly it was a few pages here and there added up over time.

      So the theme in all the reading was a little per day (even if not every day).

  2. Pingback: Tarot, Podcasts, Dreams and a Little Music | April Julia

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