Our Month in Pop Culture: June 2015

We here at The Addison Recorder read stuff. We also watch stuff. And play stuff, even. Sometimes, that stuff is interesting. Sometimes we just need to talk about whatever pop culture ephemera occupies our time. Fling on.


Image of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar WaoIt’s been out for eight years, so this isn’t exactly a new discovery. That being said, it was either talk about The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz or talk about binge-watching my way through Mad Men. Since the latter’s been done by Alex and Becky, I stuck with the former. And it’s really good! Winner of the Pulitzer Prize in 2007, the story interweaves the story of “sweet but disastrously overweight ghetto nerd” Oscar with that of his family, spanning from their days under the Dominican dictatorship of Trujillo to Oscar’s college days in Rutgers, New Jersey. It merges the family’s heartbreaking struggle with fuka (a family curse) with an almost irreverently playful sense of acceptance. Oh, and it also plays off of Oscar’s nerdy love of D&D, comic books, and especially Lord of the Rings. When you hear about Oscar’s struggle to keep a hidden crush secret compared to hiding the One Ring from Sauron, all told in a blithe Spanglish, you know you’ve got something unique and special.

I might have come to the book a little late to be fully topical, but it’s still a great read. Love this book.



Captain Virat Kohli smiling, bowlers Mitchell Starc & David Wiese celebrating after Bangalore’s winning chase in match 52.

I don’t know why it hooked me, but it did. Steph and I were sitting in a neighborhood pub, and the ICC Cricket World Cup was on one of the TVs. I’d always found cricket a curiosity, but it’s so rarely on TV that I never took more than a passing interest. I starting reading rules and terms there in the pub, watching with astonishment as Australian Mitchell Starc bowled a ridiculous 9 overs in his team’s nail-biting loss to New Zealand.

I followed Starc to his T20 club team in the Indian Premiere League, the Royal Challengers Bangalore. The IPL season finished up this month, and though Bangalore fell one game short of the championship, team captain Virat Kohli had an over for the ages in their penultimate regular-season game. If I wasn’t hooked before, that may have done it.




In the past I’ve used this space to talk about BBC documentaries and my desire to expand my historical knowledge beyond the traditional arc of Western progress. So now it’s time to cross the streams! I’ve spent the past week working my way through the Lost Kingdoms of Africa documentary series, which is available on YouTube. The series, which runs eight hour-long episodes, is hosted by Gus Casely-Hayford, a British cultural historian with Ghanian roots. That mixture within Casely-Hayford, his British upbringing and education and his African ancestry, makes him an engaging and enthusiastic host. Like any other Westerner he’s been raised on a historical narrative that almost wholly discounts Africa. Yet his travels through the lost empires of that continent reveal stories, traditions, and monuments that confound the racist belief that ancient Egypt is all we need know about African history. If that’s where your knowledge of African history ends, well…the link is just a few sentences up.


If you’ve never seen Jen Kirkman’s standup (or haven’t in a few years), I strongly urge you to check out her Netflix special I’m Gonna Die Alone (And I Feel Fine), which was released this month. Not only is it wildly funny, but it’s incredibly refreshing to hear a woman talking about her adult life and her choices in an utterly non-Cathy cartoon way. It’s not self-deprecating, apologetic or pathetic – just really, really funny and true. Kirkman’s comedy style is very conversational and natural and it’s impossible not be charmed by her. This newest special is not just lady stuff, though. She also takes on the inherent stupidity of the world at large with equally unflinching honesty. If you’re a fan of comedy, this one is not to be missed.


BeardoAt C2E2, some of my friends introduced me to Chicago cartoonist Dan Dougherty’s Beardoand I don’t think I’ve enjoyed a comic strip so much since Calvin and Hobbes and Achewood. Beardo is a continuing autobiography, as Dougherty documents his post-college adventures working as a barista, deciding to take the plunge into a full-time art career, and (after a lousy break-up) taking the bigger plunge into marriage. The overarching stories are all too relatable for our generation, and perhaps more importantly, Dougherty is a master of the four-panel strip, with clear drawings, superb timing, and genuinely funny jokes. Beardo can be found at beardocomics.com (from which the accompanying picture was taken) and in four published volumes, the newest being Self-Employee of the Month.


I spent part of my Memorial Day Weekend catching up on Orphan Black. I’d plowed through the first season on Amazon Prime last spring, but then was reluctant to pay $2.99 per episode of season two. My cousin brought it to my attention that season two is now available on there for free, and literally minutes later we were watching the first of four straight episodes. If you haven’t seen any of this sci-fi drama starring Tatiana Maslany, I don’t want to spoil anything — just know that if you plan to check out the pilot, you’d better carve out a few hours after. Season three is currently airing — while you’ve got two seasons to catch up on, I promise it won’t take long.

Travis J. Cook

Travis J. Cook is the Editor-in-Chief and one of the original founders of the Addison Recorder. He writes about baseball, movies, and music, among other topics. He resides in a hole in the ground near Wrigley Field.

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