A few things currently on the pop culture radar that make me happy, in no particular order:
Where Men Win Glory, by Jon Krakauer. Former NFL player-turned-Army Ranger Pat Tillman was a (perhaps unwilling) poster boy for an America united against terror, and his death in Afghanistan became a political and social football when the coverup about the circumstances came to light--after being posthumously cited for gallantry and even earning the Silver Star, one of the highest combat awards short of the Medal of Honor, his family's persistence forced the Army to admit that he'd actually been killed by friendly fire. It was a horrible tragedy and abuse of trust, but it's also brought about the perfect marriage of author and subject matter. Krakauer's Into the Wild and Into Thin Air are as good as any two nonfiction books of the last generation. The subject matter alone would make this a probable buy for me, but after I learned it was Krakauer behind the keys, Glory jumped immediately to must-read status so high, I'm even planning to break my usual prohibition against hardback purchases when it comes out on 9/15 (the closest release date to 9/11 - coincidence?).
Entourage and True Blood on HBO - I had all but given up on Entourage by the time of this season's (the show's 5th) premiere, and the first few episodes did little to change my thinking -- they felt stale, flat, forced. Once upon a time, the show was a nice, light palate-cleanser after the Sunday heaviosity of Six Feet Under, but then it became a phenomenon and almost immediately started to go downhill. But what do you know, it's gotten a lot better in the last few weeks -- the current Vince's-crazy-stalker storyline is the closest that this typically sunny-side up show has gotten to the dark edge of celebrity. I'm sure the plotline will be played mostly for laughs as it works itself out over the final few shows of the season--Entourage is primarily a comedy, after all -- but it's given the current season some bite that the show has too sorely lacked of late. As for True Blood, whose second-season finale hits Sept 13th, there hasn't been a quality show this batshit in-fucking-sane on any network in, well, maybe ever. The plotting is occasionally as wobbly as a bad shopping cart wheel, but the show as a whole is as pulpy and soapy and bloody and adult and fun as it gets, TB is the unholy offspring that resulted when Dark Shadows and Melrose Place hooked up and moved to the Louisiana bayou.
Football season - the sports doldrums between the final horn of March Madness and the first whistle of football season always bring me down, but this year I've felt it even more acutely than normal. Baseball gives you more games, sure, but it also puts me to sleep. But now that college football is in session with a ton of storylines already -- the power vacuum created by Oklahoma's sudden demise being the juiciest for the moment--and the NFL is hot on its heels, the good sports times are rolling once again.
Melanie Oudin - hailing from right here in Megacity 8, the teen tennis dynamo has reinvigorated the sport. Precocious, adorable, intense, and possessing some wicked groundstrokes, it doesn't matter if she gets any further in the US Open, she's already given tennis a sustained buzz after a pretty punchless season, aside from the Andy Roddick - Roger Federer final at Wimbledon (which was really more like an endurance test than a real blast, anyway). Bonus points: the difference in opinion on how to pronounce her last name--some commentators say ooh-dan, others opt for oh-deen. Whichever is right, she's a phenom.
Backspacer, by Pearl Jam. Anything new from my favorite band ever is a cause for celebration, I don't care if it's Eddie Vedder's spoken-word recitation of the latest Ikea catalog. This new album--the quintet's eighth studio set--promises punk-rock urgency (it supposedly clocks in at just 36 minutes) and already boasts two great new tunes, "Got Some" and "The Fixer." Now if I could only get them to tour the southeast, my life would be temporarily complete. No news on that for a moment, but I'll take what I can get.