Pop Culture Pick Me Ups

When I think about the worst moods I’ve been in and what brought me out of them, the images initially surprise me, but they couldn’t make more sense. What with my life’s inextricable link to pop culture, it doesn’t shock me that when I’m sad, I turn not to writing or talking, but to watching or listening. There are specific examples that shine so brightly that just thinking about them now makes me smile. And maybe they’ll do the same for you.

Coldplay’s Parachutes

I don’t do much of the “personal life” thing on here, but for a few seconds here, let’s talk about high school. I was not a particularly happy person at that time and in that place, and there were days spent at home with headphones wrapped around my neck, drowning in music of some kind or another. Despite its generally dreary tone, Coldplay’s Parachutes was my ultimate aural comfort food. The final song on the album, “Everything’s Not Lost,” was such a strong reminder that maybe Hudsonville, Michigan wasn’t the worst place in the world, and maybe there were things worth sticking around HHS for a little while more for.

OK, that’s enough of that.

Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums

It’s odd to think that I’ve been a fan of my two favorite Wes Anderson films for a decade now. I do think there’s good reason for that, though. For me, the appeal of this pair of movies–still his best, I think–is in their simplicity.

So little happens in Rushmore, but all of it is lovely and detailed and entertaining, from Max’s (Jason Schwartzman) opening dream sequence set to Mark Mothersbaugh’s customarily brilliant score to the prank war between Max and Herman (Bill Murray) raging to the sounds of the Who.

And The Royal Tenenbaums, with the outright silliness of its plot (an absentee father and estranged husband convinces his family he’s dying so they’ll pay attention to him again), could fall flat so easily. Instead, it does everything a movie should. It keeps your attention, it touches you, it makes you laugh, and at times, it tugs your heartstrings just hard enough that you’d swear there was something in your eye. It happens to me every time and never fails to pull me out of even the worst kind of mood.

Nick Hornby

It’s a rare thing to find an author whose work consistently leaves you wholly satisfied and happy you’ve encountered it. In fact, for me, Nick Hornby is the only author whose writing does this for me, and I still haven’t finished one of his novels, despite two or three attempts to do so. Hornby is, to put it simply, brilliant. He finds the beauty in the everyday and exposes it with wittiness, drama, and some tempered form of adventure. My go-to pre-sleeping reading material is one of his Believer essay collections, and I suggest it become yours, too.

Billy Joel

See, this is weird, right? Because a lot of Billy Joel’s best music is melancholic, and borderline depressing, you wouldn’t think anyone would consider him a feel good artist. And I don’t. But I find it reassuring somehow, like a glass of milk in musical form, this recurrent thought that no matter what happens, no matter what’s going on or how bad things look, somehow, somewhere, Billy Joel is sadder. Just listen to “Goodnight Saigon.” That’s all the proof you need.


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