Pop Culture Ephemera
- Mark Twain / Charles Dudley Warner – The Gilded Age (1873) (Penguin): “If you should rear a duck in the heart of the Sahara, no doubt it would swim if you brought it to the Nile.” To “gild” something is to take a baser metal and put a thin layer of gold over it to give it perceived value. This book is notable for two reasons in particular – it is Twain’s only collaboration and it gave the now common name to the period of industrialization and speculation between 1870 and 1900 known as “The Gilded Age.” Twain’s portion of the book mostly tells the story of the Hawkins family and the fate of their vast tract of undeveloped land, of adopted daughter Laura’s experience in Washington D.C., and the comical Col. Sellers is typical Twain with wry observations and satire of society. His observations about Congress still feel current. The Warner portions are fine on their own but they don’t mix well with the Twain portions. The writing isn’t what he will be in the next decade after this. I am currently reading some Dickens of the same era and this feels influenced by that folksy tone. There are some incredibly funny scenes but the book runs at least a hundred pages too long.
- Mayans M.C. – “Do You Hear The Rain?” (S.5 E.3) (FX) (2023): After losing focus for a couple seasons, this show has been straight down the line for the fourth and fifth season. This episode has Kurt Sutter’s fingerprints all over it. After two intense episodes of gunfire and violence, this episode is comfortable sitting in the quiet moments where characters step back to examine the lives they have created for themselves. EZ and Angel are going in opposite directions and it’s highlighted by EZ and Emily’s meeting that highlights how much has changed since the first season. The M.C. is going Breaking Bad and the episode ends with the brothers in conflict and hints at a very dark finish to this series. There’s a scene between Bishop and Angel talking about fatherhood and why they are in the M.C. that is two minutes of why I will always find time to watch a Kurt Sutter show.
- The Cranberries – “When You’re Gone” (1996) (from To the Faithful Departed): “There’s nothing simple, when I’m not around you.” I’ve come late to my fandom of the Cranberries. Those years in the mid-’90s were filled with having children, working, and watching movies. I first knew this song from an acoustic version done before Dolores O’Riordan passed away. It takes on a much heavier meaning after her death. Apparently written about her grandfather at his passing, the song carries an understanding of all forms of loss, not just death. The lilting waltz melody plays well against the bittersweet lyrics.
- Pickup On South Street (1953) (Directed by Samuel Fuller): “When I come in here tonight, you seen an old clock runnin’ down. I’m tired. I’m through. Happens to everybody sometime. It’ll happen to you too, someday. With me, it’s a little bit of everything.” – Moe Williams (Thelma Ritter). Skip McCoy (Richard Widmark) pickpockets Candy (Jean Peters) on the subway to start the film. The wallet contains microfilm that she didn’t know she was delivering for her Communist ex-boyfriend. She also doesn’t know that she’s being followed by police detectives who are on to the Communist plot. This noir tale ticks off all the boxes. Widmark and Peters are both of questionable character who are also victims of their circumstances who fall in love. Director Fuller has some of the best instincts for cinematography and camera placement. His New York City is gritty and the characters always have a sheen of sweat on their brows. Thelma Ritter received a Best Supporting Actress nomination for her role as stoolie, Moe Williams. It was her fourth nomination in four years. She’s our Greek Chorus adding needed levity and morals to what becomes a darker plot at every turn. Any fan of noir stories should have this on their watch list.
- The Friends of Eddie Coyle (1973) (Directed by Peter Yates): “This life’s HARD, man, but it’s HARDER if you’re stupid!” – Jackie Brown. Eddie Coyle (Robert Mitchum) is a small-time criminal in Boston looking at a long prison sentence after his most recent conviction. He turns informant against a gun runner while still trying to supply guns to his bank-robbing friends. This neo-noir story take on the “aging gangster trying to get out of the game” mixed with the “one last heist” genre is one of the best crime films of the early decade. Director Yates is best known for Bullitt (1968) and this is at least as good as that classic. For a gangster film, there isn’t much in the way of onscreen violence. There’s barely even a punch thrown. What you have is the camera, dirty settings in Boston, and a very active score doing all the work to make this feel tense from the very start. The film is driven by dialogue in a way that mirrors Elmore Leonard crime novels of the era and has a huge influence on the future films of Tarantino. There is a character named Jackie Brown just in case it wasn’t clear enough. The supporting cast of Peter Boyle, Steven Keats, and Richard Jordan are all such Everyman characters that they add to the neo-realism of the plot (including a key scene set in the Garden during a Boston Bruins hockey game). This is a film you’ll want to watch twice to capture all the dialogue.
Best of the Rest
- It’s hard to imagine that I’d skip posting any advertisement with a huge, over-sized bear. This isn’t that day yet. A simple ad that mostly wastes whatever it costs to get Ed Sheeran. That bear though.
- If someone asked me if I wanted a mammoth meatball, I’d say, “bring it on.” But I didn’t imagine there would be a wooly mammoth meatball. Vow, from Australia, has worked with scientists and wooly mammoth DNA, Jurassic Park style. This won’t be available at T.G.I.Fridays or Bennigan’s anytime soon. This mammoth meatball is headed to the museum.
- One of the best results of our handheld technology is the ability to inspire everyday people to spend hours and hours making two minutes of very entertaining video and/or music for us based upon the works of people who inspire us. This recent trailer for Extraterestrial Expedition, imagines Alien as directed by Wes Anderson and it’s a hoot.
Sunday Morning Tuneage Flashback
- On the Sunday Morning Tuneage of 12/30/2007, it was the Best of 2007 week and here are a few highlights. I had predicted that my favorite movie of the year would be Spider-Man 3 and it ended up being my sixth favorite. I only saw eight films in the theaters in 2007 and my favorite was Superbad followed by Ratatouille. My number one “Didn’t See in 2007” film was No Country For Old Men and I would see that early in 2008. It would have cracked the top two at that point. I predicted the best movie of 2008 would be Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. I would probably call it as Iron Man or Wall-E off the top of my head now. My Best TV Shows were The Office, Lost, and Heroes. Looking over my “Best Movies I Didn’t See in 2007” list, there was a surprising one on the list that had still eluded me until this week.
- Grindhouse: Death Proof (2007) (Directed by Quentin Tarantino): “Well damn if you ain’t so sweet you make sugar taste just like salt.” – Stuntman Mike. Kurt Russell as Stuntman Mike feels like a dry run for the characters in Once Upon a Time . . . In Hollywood (2019), especially Cliff Booth. Set in Austin, which is movie Austin because it would never rain as much as it does in the film, the plot has a fun Grindhouse feel. My instinct is that a Grindhouse film should be set in the 1960s or 1970s, so the appearance of cell phones throws me off. The pacing just isn’t right for me. It’s got too much Tarantino for the sake of Tarantino especially in the first hour.
- Grindhouse: Planet Terror (2007) (Directed by Robert Rodriguez): “I’m gonna eat your brains and gain your knowledge.” – Tony. Go-Go Dancer Cherry Darling (Rose McGowan), her ex-boyfriend El Wray (Freddy Rodriguez), and a band of survivors set off to fight zombies created by an experimental nerve gas released in a small Texas town. Rodriguez gets to have fun with tons of gore and zombie makeup. The plot is relatively boilerplate and brings to mind 1980s horror films more than Grindhouse releases. This is a good romp but much like the previous film, it could use thirty minutes edited out. Maybe that’s secretly their tribute to the Grindhouse Era.
1973 in Review
- June – Batman #249 is written by Frank Robbins and art by Dick Giordano as Batman takes on gun smugglers in “The Citadel of Crime.”
- June 18 – Roger Delgado (55), best known as the Master in the Doctor Who television series was killed in an auto accident in Turkey.
- June – You can get down with a cheeseburger but I’m worried that he made his a double cheeseburger because she doesn’t appear to have a patty in hers.
What the Hell Did I Put in My Mouth?
H-E-B Black Pepper Ketchup Thin Potato Chips
H-E-B follows the ketchup trend of salty snack flavors of 2023. I’m a fan of their actual Black Pepper flavored ketchup. I also like the Canadian release of Lay’s Ketchup chips. There’s a decent crunch to these even though they are a very thin chip. I did enjoy the bag but it might have been improved in more of a wavy variety.
Mountain Dew Energy: Major Melon
Mtn Dew has mostly ignored their Energy line since its launch. They did bring attention to the brand earlier this year with a Pitch Black version. This release has a similar flavor to the regular Major Melon, a flavor that just hasn’t ever caught on in the regular version. The caffeine content here is noticeable as it equals about two cups of coffee. I notice more of a Zero Sugar aftertaste and the extra caffeine doesn’t do much for me. I don’t see this catching on beyond this limited release.
Baked Lay’s: Buffalo Chicken Sandwich
The only complaint I have about these is that the bag I purchased was about 75% broken pieces so I couldn’t get the full flavor of the actual chip. I’m not a huge fan of Baked Lay’s in general but they are good with a sandwich. These aren’t Buffalo Chicken flavored but they’ve added “Sandwich” to the title meaning there’s a very pleasant pickle aftertaste to the chip. Had the bag been full chip sized chips, this might be the best flavor of a cast of non-memorable flavors from the brand. I’d like to give them a second chance before they are gone this summer.
“But I miss you when you’re gone,
That is what I do.
And it’s going to carry on,
That is what I knew.” – Dolores O’Riordan (The Cranberries)