What Makes Us Happy: A Guide to Reading, Listening and Watching on the Weekend
This week the Hocus Pocus cottage now welcomes Airbnb guests, statues on Easter Island were damaged by artificial fire and the 2014 ALS Ice Bucket Challenge paid off.
Here’s what NPR’s pop culture happy hour team was paying attention to — and what you should check out this weekend.
I actually had a piece on All things Considered about it this week you should check it out. Taken shamelessly. Thistle-foot is the debut novel by (big name) author GennaRose Nethercott, and it’s a really interesting reimagining of the Baba Yaga mythos.
If you don’t know who Baba Yaga is, he is a figure of Slavic and Eastern European folklore. It’s that old supernatural that could make you a lost item. Or she could curse you forever. Oh, and she lives in a house that stands and walks on chicken legs.
Nethercott reimagines Baba Yaga as a Jewish woman living in an Eastern European shtetl in 1919, a time of civil war and pogroms. The book goes back and forth between his life, what happened to him during this period, and also two of his descendants who inherit this sensitive house and also the memories that haunt it.
I really liked this book. It’s heavy, but it’s not austere, and it’s just a nice exploration of how folklore helps us understand, remember, and process the horrors of real life in a fantastical and frankly beautiful. —Mallory Yu
“Blessed” by GloRilla
A hip-hop artist from Memphis named GloRilla blew up on TikTok a few months ago for a song called “FNF.” Everyone thought she would be a hit TikTok wonder, but she turned around and produced two back-to-back singles called “Blessed” and “Tomorrow” which really gets the hip-hop community excited for her.
And I’m especially excited about him because I saw a football team, Jackson State, play his song “Blessed,” and they were absolutely thrilled. It was such a beautiful moment to see a woman celebrated in a space like this, to see a group of young black men go all the way for a song made by a woman.
Typically in these locker room environments you’ll hear Future or Drake, but you hear GloRilla blasting from the speakers here, and they give their lives. I was like, “This is the future.” We’re going to see more hip-hop women start playing in these cultural spaces that don’t usually invite them.
So yes, shout out to GloRilla. I am very excited to see her go up. —Kiana Fitzgerald
Tic and Tac: Rescue Rangers film
This is a nostalgia extraction track you can stream on Disney Plus that incorporates some pop cultural artifacts from the late 80s and early 90s that I didn’t experience or enjoy. i’m talking about the movie Tic and Tac: Rescue Rangerswhich came out last May with, I think, very little fanfare.
The film is a reimagining of the 1989 animated television series Tic and Tac: Rescue Rangers. It’s a kind of Who Framed Roger Rabbitmix of live-action and animated style that takes these characters to where they might have been 30 years later, voiced by Andy Samberg and John Mulaney.
It’s full of layered meta jokes that incorporate references and sight gags from the original series as well as intellectual property from across animation history. I was not a Tic and Tac: Rescue Rangers guy at all, so a lot of references have gone past me.
But the density of jokes in this film is very, very high. The more you know about this property and a million other pop culture properties, the more you will enjoy this movie. You’ll know right away if it’s for you, and that was a big deal for me. —Stephen Thompson
More Recommendations from the Pop Culture Happy Hour Newsletter
by Glen Weldon
You can get to know a Broadway show so well that your brain starts processing it like a musical wallpaper. Charming, yes. Beautiful, of course. Deep, you bet. But familiar. There’s comfort in that familiarity, but there’s also, well: familiarity. I didn’t get a chance to see the latest Broadway revival of In the woods, a show I know in my bones, but they released the cast album, and hoo boy. It’s like being reunited with a childhood crush that turned out very good.
Yes we all love Abbott Elementary School and of course, we all love the Ava of Janelle James, the school’s hilarious and unprincipled headmistress. But if you haven’t caught her standing, you have to go to her Netflix special – The stand-ups, Season 3, Episode 4, all on. Lots of comics here talk about how they got past lockdown, which only makes sense – who can’t understand? But James’ take is the sharpest, freshest and funniest I’ve seen.
I listen to a lot of podcasts on power rings and Dragon House, then you’d think I’d be up for doing corny breakdowns of popular fantasy franchises. But I recently discovered rings and kingdomsa weekly YouTube series in which researchers Corey Olsen and Maggie Parke unbox each episode of rings of power with real insight and in-depth knowledge.
NPR’s Maison Tran adapted the Pop Culture Happy Hour segment “What’s Making Us Happy” into a digital page. If you like these suggestions, consider subscribe to our newsletter for recommendations each week. And listen to Pop Culture Happy Hour on Apple podcast and Spotify.