Pop Culture Ephemera
- Stephen King – Hearts In Atlantis (1999) (Scribner): “Sometimes when you’re young, you have moments of such happiness, you think you’re living on someplace magical, like Atlantis must have been.” As part of my Stephen King Project that I started in February 2019, I first read the novels, filling in the novella collections for breaks along the way and then going through the short story collections. It’s hard to know where to place this book. It’s an interconnected book of two novellas and three short stories that share characters and an overarching theme of the loss of innocence for a generation surrounding Vietnam. The two novellas do all the heavy lifting for the story. The short stories left me cold and only served to let King pontificate more on the tragedy of the Vietnam War on his generation.
- “Low Men In Yellow Coats”: It’s funny that this is the story that was turned into the Hearts In Atlantis movie in 2001 and yet it is directly connected to the title of the book. It reads mostly as another one of King’s wonderful coming-of-age stories from the 1950s with a good nod to the Dark Tower series. There are moments for Bobby Garfield here that give me such joy as a constant reader. King nails the feeling of discovering a love of reading or following baseball through the box scores in the paper.
- “1966, Man We Just Couldn’t Stop Laughing”: Fast forward ten years and we are no longer following Bobby Garfield but Carol Gerber and what feels like the most autobiographical King character ever. The story relates to the title with a group of college men who become obsessed with playing Hearts in their dorm (their Atlantis). Their term for Hearts of “hunting the bitch” serves to be an allegory for Vietnam. And the campus experience is a backdrop for differing attitudes about the war in 1966 among the youth. It would itself make a good film where you could find a way to segue into the next two of the short stories. These two novellas make the book a memorable read all by themselves.
- The Muppet Show – “Lesley Ann Warren” (S.3 E.15) (SYND) (1979): “If at first you don’t succeed, fail, fail again!” – Waldorf. The ultimate variety show is just about to take a huge jump in popularity as The Muppet Movie will be released just a month after this episode. This demonstrates what I love about the show. Lesley Ann Warren was not a huge household name like Steve Martin, Harry Belafonte, or Vincent Price. She’s featured here as a singer and dancer. The show has two main long jokes. Gonzo is attempting to jump his motorcycle into the balcony with Statler and Waldorf. Kermit is confused because he thought he booked a knife-throwing duo called Lesley and Warren. There’s a funny “Pigs In Space” with a Dummo Ray. Lesley and Rowlf do a touching version of “Just The Way You Are” and Lesley sounds a bit like a young Olivia Newton-John. The episode finishes with the appearance of the group Les, Lee, and Warren. This was high quality entertainment.
- Kermit the Frog – “Rainbow Connection” (1979) (from The Muppet Movie Soundtrack): “Have you been fast asleep / And have you heard voices.” – Paul Williams. This brilliant song sung by Jim Henson was his second charting hit after “Rubber Duckie” a decade previous. The role of music in The Muppet Move is vastly underrated. This song gives depth to the Kermit character of the film that was not present in Sesame Street. This version of Kermit is a dreamer who looks for something better in life and is in sync with the nature around him. This is the same role as “Over the Rainbow” plays in The Wizard of Oz and reflects similar themes as “When You Wish Upon a Star” in Pinocchio. Those first few notes on the banjo and I’m back to being 11 and sitting in the theater to watch this film.
- In Bruges (2008) (Directed by Martin McDonagh): “A great day this has turned out to be. I’m suicidal, me mate tries to kill me, me gun gets nicked, and we’re still in fookin’ Bruges!” – Ray. The first thing is that now I need to go to Belgium. Ken (Brendan Gleeson) and Ray (Colin Farrell) are hitmen who find themselves in Bruges, Belgium (the world’s most preserved Medieval city) after a hit goes way wrong. Their boss, Harry (Ralph Fiennes), has sent them there awaiting instructions on how they are going to handle the botched killing. The characters are quickly established and surprisingly little happens for most of the film and yet you can’t take your eyes off of it. Playwright, McDonagh is a talented writer who can almost out-character Tarantino as far as quirkiness. The characters seem to go in multiple directions and as a talented writer will do, you can start to see a couple steps away how all the strings are going to end up tied together. This isn’t a feel-good film but it’s impossible to turn away when you feel in the hands of such competent hands. The supporting cast is memorable including Ray’s romantic interest, Chloe (Clemence Poesy, Fleur from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire). Amazing that this was 14 years ago and that McDonagh hasn’t broken through even more.
- Banshees of Inisherin (2022) (Directed by Martin McDonagh): “If punching a policeman is a sin, then we may as well pack up and go home.” – Colm. On the island of Inisherin in Ireland in the 1920s, two lifelong friends, Colm (Brendan Gleeson) and Padraic (Colin Farrell) are at odds when Colm suddenly ends the friendship. The supporting characters are mostly just Padraic’s sister, Siobhan (Kerry Condon), and the enigmatic Dominic (Barry Keoghan). The chemistry between Gleeson and Farrell continues to be strong even after 14 years between films. McDonagh has a beautiful ear for dialog and an even better sense for how to direct the quiet moments between words. The setting is idyllic, the score is comforting, and the plot addresses universal issues that reflect today’s world. How does Colm find meaning in his life if he is hanging out with Padraic at the pub every night. Is there something deeper that he was meant to do? The characters are all thoughtful and trying to figure out what their futures should become. Farrell and Gleeson have great comedic timing but overall the film is not an uplifting holiday romp. It’s easily going to make my Top Five of the year.
Best of the Rest
- It’s the time of year for a turducken but what do you call a 5-foot gator found inside a 18-foot Burmese python? This isn’t some story from Australia or India – this is freaking Florida! More than 230 Burmese pythons have been removed from the Florida Everglades this year. Florida is a long ways away from Burma, so either they are being bussed in or fools are losing their pets on their trips into the Everglades. Either way, let’s all agree to keep the 15-foot snakes out of our country.
- The second Taika Waititi-directed advertisement of the season is an early leader for best holiday-themed ad of the year. I’m always going to have a soft spot for an ad that highlights the love of a father for his daughter, so it’s already got a leg up. The song “You Hold Me Up” by The Bones of J.R. Jones takes this ad to the next level. I predict big things from this artist in 2023. Well played, Amazon.
- There are so many covers of “The Rainbow Connection” because of the timelessness of the themes and lyrics. I love the duet with Debbie Harry and Kermit, the Sarah McLachlan version is subtle, and lots of love is given to the Kenny Loggins cover. For me, this Willie Nelson cover is emotional. Sung from the end-of-life perspective instead of the start of the journey, the idea of the other side of the rainbow takes on a much different meaning. And c’mon, it’s Willie.
Sunday Morning Tuneage Flashback
- On the Sunday Morning Tuneage of 7/1/2007, I was lamenting the cancellation of the local 4th of July celebrations because of all the rain and flooding that summer. It’s still amazing to think back to the lake levels and amount of rain we got between May and July in 2007. My Top 100 Movie of the Week was Fist of Fury (1972) at #100. I can definitely say that while it’s a very good film, it might not make my Top 200 any longer. On television there was a 4th of July Fireworks Spectacular and a Live Earth concert for Climate Change and fans of Al Gore. There was another concert on television that week.
- Concert for Diana (NBC) (2007): The concert on what would have been her 46th birthday, was also amazingly ten years after her death. Organized by Prince William and Prince Harry to honor their mother at the new Wembley Stadium. William and Harry are awkward and charming as young men here. Elton John opens and closes the concert. There is a decent selection of performers in-between including standout performances from Duran Duran (one of Diana’s favorites) and Lily Allen. Over five hours of music to digest here is probably why I didn’t watch it back in 2007. There were three big concerts on television during this week in 2007. It is hard to remember any similar music events airing on network television in the past five years.
Flash From The Past
What the Hell Did I Put In My Mouth?
The cinnamon-flavor creme is pretty subtle compared to how much the cookies smell like Snickerdoodles. The sugar crystals are green and red to add holiday-time festivity to the cookie. It’s a good cookie but despite the scent doesn’t completely taste like a Snickerdoodle. They definitely need more cinnamon. A good cookie that won’t be missed when the season is over.
Mountain Dew: Fruit Quake
This year’s Holiday Dew is oddly “fruitcake flavor.” I’ll admit that I don’t think I’ve ever eaten a full slice of fruit cake in my life. I wasn’t sure what to expect. It wasn’t unpleasant as it is a mix of fruit punch flavor with a touch of spices as the aftertaste. The can shows nuts in the picture but I didn’t get any of that in the flavor. This is much more palatable than last year’s Gingerbread Snap’d flavor but only because of the first fruit punch blast of flavor. Get one at least before the season is over.
Pringles: Hot Honey
I don’t think I had heard of “hot honey” until the past year or two. It works well on potato chips and I might even like it better on a Kettle chip. The initial taste is a sweet, almost sugary honey flavor followed by a very mellow heat that doesn’t add up to much even with a mouthful of chips. Pringles just aren’t the right consistency to pull off such a subtle mix of flavors, it needs a thicker and crunchy chip. Don’t be fooled though, I finished this container in just a couple sittings.
“Someday we’ll find it
The rainbow connection
The lovers, the dreamers, and me” – Paul Williams